One of the best lessons on writing came from my dad and Hunter S. Thompson.
“Don’t be boring,” my dad said, tossing me his latest copy of Cycle World. “The world is full of boring writers.”
I opened to the article he wanted me to read, “Song of the Sausage Creature,” probably the greatest motorcycle review of all-time.
Hunter S. Thompson is the definition of anything but boring. Think of all the ways you could start a motorcycle review, then read his intro:
There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, hunch-back, warp-speed 900cc cafe racer is one of them — but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one. That is why they are dangerous.
Everybody has fast motorcycles these days. Some people go 150 miles an hour on two-lane blacktop roads, but not often. There are too many oncoming trucks and too many radar cops and too many stupid animals in the way. You have to be a little crazy to ride these super-torque high-speed crotch rockets anywhere except a racetrack — and even there, they will scare the whimpering shit out of you… There is, after all, not a pig’s eye worth of difference between going head-on into a Peterbilt or sideways into the bleachers. On some days you get what you want, and on others, you get what you need.
He went on to describe the bike that was loaned to him for the article, the Ducati 900.
My neighbors called it beautiful and admired its racing lines. The nasty little bugger looked like it was going 90 miles an hour when it was standing still in my garage.
We all love Torque, and some of us have taken it straight over the high side from time to time — and there is always Pain in that…But there is also Fun, the deadly element, and Fun is what you get when you screw this monster on. BOOM! Instant take-off, no screeching or squawking around like a fool with your teeth clamping down on your tongue and your mind completely empty of everything but fear.
No. this bugger digs right in and shoots you straight down the pipe, for good or ill.
On my first take-off, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit on a two-lane blacktop highway hill of ranch traffic. By the time I went up to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4000 rpm….
And that’s when it got its second wind. From 4000 to 6000 in third will take you to 95 in two seconds — and after that, Bubba, you still have fourth, fifth an sixth. Ho, ho.
This is a shameful admission for a full-bore Cafe Racer, but let me tell you something, old sport: This motorcycle is simply too goddamn fast to ride at speed in any kind of normal road traffic unless you’re ready to go straight down the centerline with your nuts on fire and silent scream in your throat.
He was given full reign to write about his experiences with the bike in any fashion he wanted. The magazine just wanted his byline. He delivered some stories, including some perhaps too good to be true.
After recounting a “bold and reckless move” that made him feel like Evil Knievel and almost brought him “face to face with the Sausage Creature…”
Whoops! What am I saying? Tall stories, ho, ho… We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever’s funny. We shit on the chests of the weird….
But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when it’s right. The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. If you go slow and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles.
Because that’s how you become a Sausage Creature. And what’s a Sausage Creature?
I was hunched over the tank like a person diving into a pool that got emptied yesterday. Whacko! Bashed on the concrete bottom, flesh ripped off, a Sausage Creature with no teeth, f*#cked-up for the rest of its life. …
Try 90 mph in fifth at 5500 rpm — and just then, you see a bull moose in the middle of the road. WHACKO. Meet the Sausage Creature. …
It is a little like riding the original Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the takeoff runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again.
If bad things happen, you are the Sausage Creature.
Whenever I find my writing getting too bland and boring, I pick up that article and remind myself, “If you’re going to write, at least don’t be boring. There’s plenty of that out there already.”
It’s a goal to aim for, at least.