Meir Shalev (left) and Guy Ben Barak with Honda CBR motorcycles in 1994 (photo: courtesy of those photographed, Guy Ben Barak Archive)
On April 11, the writer, journalist, playwright and publicist Meir Shalev died. He was 74. The novels he published, the children's books he wrote and his weekly column in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper made him one of the most read writers in Israel, and in the world, after his books were translated into more than twenty languages.
But we car enthusiasts got to know Meir Shalev, the handlebar and steering wheel man, who combined his love of the Land of Israel, its landscapes and vegetation, with frequent journeys, whose experiences he shared over the years with readers of Moto, Auto and Yedioth Ahronoth.
Meir represented Israeli motor evolution. An ambulance driver as a student, a motorcyclist, the owner of a Fiat Uno Turbo and Peugeot 205GTI, and later when he stepped away from the roads and speed cameras into the field, the owners of Suzuki Samurai, Land Rover Defender, Toyota Hilex and Landcruiser who knew many trails and degrees.
He published the next column in June 1988 in the monthly magazine Moto, as part of an exchange between him and journalist and publicist B. Michael, who was then on the editorial board of Yedioth Ahronoth in Jerusalem. We thank Motto for permission to publish it here.
And nevertheless - a motorcycle will move
Why do I deserve it? Weary and grumbling, I return from a trip to the Galilee, park my motorcycle in the yard, go home and start perusing the new "motto" - and here I see that my friend B. Michael took advantage of my flock to drain a whole cassette of battery acid. Slander and slander article about motorcycles and their riders.
I would like to compliment the editors of Moto who agreed to host such a viper species under the shadow of your birth, but I must make it clear to readers something that might explain the motives for his unrestrained writing: I am to blame for everything!
B. Michael's hatred of motorcycles began about two years ago, when I added the motorcycle to my meager collection of driver's licenses. Until that time, we were both considered brothers to the idea. The motorcycle clouded our friendship and caused a serious ideological divide. I still remember Michael's curled face when I came and announced that I had passed the test – (the first, I will humbly note) – and I still remember his grimaces as I purchased my Suzuki DR-250.
A very modest motorcycle, but suitable for my size, age and ability.
I also know that Michael and my wife talk about me and the motorcycle behind our backs. I therefore feel a responsibility to the readers of Moto. Michael meant to hurt me more than you. With his great talent he wrapped his disgraces in the flourishing of general theories that were full of verbiage and rhetoric. He quoted from the sources and marveled, as usual, with sharpening his language. But, all the glory of humor and style will not cover his slender nakedness. The enemy has invaded realms that are transcendent in his understanding and experience. Creating from this - he also does not want to understand. Why? I'll tell you a little secret, a secret from the writer's past.
A few years ago, so the bad tongues say, Michael got into a two-wheeled motorized vehicle. Forty seconds later, he found himself in a head-on collision with an innocent planter. (By the way, the fault lay with the planter, who forgot to signal before turning.) Michael was not injured, but the incident is still remembered in insurance company circles. This was the first time a third-party lawsuit had been filed regarding Geranium's transformation from a blooming messiah into a total-loser. (The demagogue will probably tell me that it's better to destroy plants than to become one yourself – but let him talk.)
By the way, the story does not end here. To the affable reader, who thinks that my friend tried his hand at an unbridled Ducati or a weighty Harley-Davidson, I will reveal another little secret: it was a simple moped. Some say: even an automatic moped. Regardless. That's when Michael realized that motorcycles weren't made for him, which was a shame. Had he tried to get a license, he could have provided for a driving teacher, that teacher's wife and their three voracious children for several years.
So much for the mental background, ability and personal history behind the evil Plaster writing. We understand them very well. Who among us hasn't slandered a coveted maiden who shook him off and left him sobbing in the ditch? Things are known and do not need elaboration. Now - to the reasons themselves.
What time is it?
About half of B. Michael's rant is devoted to a situation in which he asks a biker, "What time is it?"
This is, as we know, an everyday situation. Every day, thousands of concerned citizens approach motorcyclists, urging them to tell them what time it is. With great skill, my good friend described how the biker freed himself from his suits, helmets, gloves and scarves to answer Tarzan's question. The writer then notes that the question "What time is it?" is nothing but an illustration of any attempt to have a dialogue with a biker.
Well, my friend, how shall I put it politely? You have to understand that one of the reasons we ride a motorcycle is that we don't want to tell anyone, including you, what time it is. We don't want to have a dialogue, we don't want to talk to anyone. We want to be alone!
I, for example, own two cars. When I drive the automatic Subaru – which I registered in my wife's name out of concern for my good name) – I'm willing to tell Michael what time it is, have conversations with any neighbor at traffic lights, direct
stray tourists to hotels, move old women across the road and make contact with pedestrians. When I drive the 205 GTI, or the Uno Turbo I had before it, my hatred of man grows in me and I am not willing to look at mankind except through my own mirrors.
And when I'm on the motorcycle - that's another story. I don't want to be talked to. I don't want to talk to them. I want to be a lonely misanthrope, and certainly not bother myself with all sorts of annoyances for forgetting the clock at home. (Usually the situation is slightly different, they have a watch, but they want to ask you what time it is to look at the motorcycle and drool, but in this I do not blame B. Michael, who was forbidden by the doctor to even look at motorcycles).
So, my friend, when I'm riding my motorcycle and someone asks me what time it is. I don't take off gloves. I don't open helmets and I don't absentmindedly let go of the clutch and flick backwards," as you write. I let go of the clutch very pleasantly, leaving the dialless fuss behind. Let him ask his kind what time it is.
I remember you from the grocery store
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I remember you from the grocery store
Then he tries to annoy us with a few small ones. "Has anyone ever seen a motorcyclist over fifty?" He asks.
I saw. Nehemiah Sirkis, for example, who writes in Motto.
"What does the motorcycle do to the prostate gland?" he asks.
What does he really do? I won't go into in-depth explanations here, because children also read the newspaper, but you should try, surprise yourself.
"The hardships of organizing every trip to the grocery store on a motorcycle," he hints.
Where do you live, Michael? What are you talking about? Who goes to the grocery store on a motorcycle? Here the hater is exposed in all his shame - we talk to him about motorcycles and he talks to us about groceries. That's what it's all about. You don't go to the grocery store on a motorcycle. There are a few other pleasures in the world besides transporting a carton of eggs, yellow cheese races and a bread cross rally. I'm beginning to believe that you're going to the supermarket to practice slalom on a shopping cart. (Four wheels. Of course, as you like).
However, the matter of principle is much broader. He hates motorcycles and is afraid of them. I don't hate cars. Every vessel and its pleasures. I, for one, can even enjoy a tractor. Anyone who is familiar with the separate brakes for the rear wheels of a tractor and knows how to turn on the spot when locking an inner wheel - knows what I'm talking about.
I keep the feelings of terror and horror in me for those who drive the big motorcycles, from the thousands of Nissutas and Rs. I could have embraced Michael's niche and solved my inferiority complexes easily – announcing that these people were brainwashed or hot-hit. But it's too easy a solution – they just know how to do what I don't know how to do.
Evolutionary from HMO
The thought-scientific part of my colleague's article deals with what he calls "the motor evolution of man." He writes as follows: "The same route can be described according to the mode of transportation developed by man at each stage: tail, four legs, then two legs, horse. Then came the great revolution: the wheel was invented. After thousands of years, man discovered that the two wheels are better than one, and after a mental effort of several thousand years he reached the optimal number of wheels: four."
Thus, with the power of this twisted logic, the amateur Darwinist Halsa tries to convince me of his thesis. Let us continue the evolutionary logic of B. Michael. From one wheel we moved to two, and from two to four. Beautiful. A great evolutionary achievement. But why did you stop? After that, according to your theory of development, we continued to evolve.
The Six was invented, followed by the Semi-Trailer, and then the Full Trailer. Why you're stuck in the lagging phase of four wheels, on the roads today you can find the pinnacle of motor evolution: a huge tank tug that will ask its kind what time it is. Wheels, (forty-two, if I'm not mistaken), which is the most suitable car for you and your neighbors.
Indeed, in an unfortunate slip, Michael revealed his fondness for wheels in another sentence he included in his work: "The motorcyclist insists on using only 50% of the minimum number of wheels necessary to maintain physical and mental health."
Secretly, then, the gent owner Halsa, masquerading as a lover of motor pleasures, dreams of health. No speed, no acceleration, no layers and rolls. Justhealth. Why does he read "Auto" and "Moto"? Let him sign "Eitanim" and find excitement there to consume it.
And wonder about you, my friend Michael, after all, these health arguments are voiced to you by your parents, uncles, wife and father-in-law, as you enter your Uno Turbo
and sail away with an impressive whistle. In the name of that "health," they implore you to sell this frenetic dwarf and buy yourself a Volvo or any other Zelda. And you reply that you didn't buy this wonderful car for health, but for fun. And I'll be the last to argue on that point. Except I went with the fun on another front. A front you fear to face, and rightly so. As far as you're concerned. Herrer more planters, potted plants and shrubs lurk there, by the roadside.
Yours in spite of everything,
- Meir Shalev