Night was falling.
A little preface before dinner--Journalist event rule #1: don't take pictures. The opposite of what you'd think, right? Journalists spend their lives taking pictures and/or having their pictures taken. But apparently it’s all about time/place. More on this later.
I exit the elevator on a low, even floor, walk past two security guys who were eyeing me to see if I thought I belonged there. A nonchalant glance fended them off as I successfully impersonated someone who wasn't an imposter.
Oh, I wanted to be there, wanted to talk with all the journalists from around the world, wanted to talk with all the Ducati guys I'd met--and hadn’t yet met--and had been invited. But that didn't stop me from thinking I still didn't belong. Some of the greatest minds of the industry were present. If 'knowledge of motorcycles' gave off a faint glow of light, Austin could be seen from Europa that night. Yet I was there. Sublime. Walking in, a glimpse of one of the loneliest stretches of road I was on in South Dakota or Nebraska flashed through my thoughts. The sun was setting low, I stopped on a bridge to take a picture of my 700' shadow on the soy fields(?) below. I remember thinking at the time, that my ‘adventure’ was just something experienced in a vacuum. It meant everything while it was happening, but each energy filled moment died the next. It was an inevitable sign that the end of the ride would be fatal. It’s part of the reason why I ‘kind of freaked out’ at the end of my trip, jumped in my FJ and took off again for another 4000 miles--experience would die and I just wanted one more day, one last gulp of life, one final surge of blood through my veins. But the Ducati event proved that actions great enough carry on by momentum. That even though the trip had stopped, it set in motion a series of events that would reveal themselves in time, events that would continue to inspire and conspire.
When I came out of my reverie the ‘imposter syndrome’ was there to greet me. So I grabbed a space at the end of the bar, ordered a drink....said ‘fuck it’ turned around and honey-badgered my way into a conversation with two journalists. In a room full of experts who know everything about bikes you're in good company if you're a fly on the wall. What the hell do you say to people who know everything about the subject that brought you all together? My refusal to have an opinion about shit I don't know anything about and my passion for the things I do know well saved me from coming off like a moron. I relaxed and began to enjoy myself.
A few moments later the organizers instruct us to find our seats. I wander among the tables, searching for my name. But before I find mine I see names like Michael Neeves, Simon Hargreaves and Paul Carruthers. Fuck me. Inadequacy is back. (I wish I could be one of those people who holds a key that unlocks the “deserving” compartment in my brain. Instead, I only have access to the ‘unworthy’ chamber, which is more like a freezing outhouse filled with spiders. I don’t have a key to that, either. Not that it matters, because it's locked from the outside.)
A slight pang of satisfaction rises when I spot my name. Then, the undulation of anxiety and relief reaches an apogee. I see who’s next to me. Kevin Duke on one side, Ben Spies on the other.