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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 3, 2003

Behind every great guy project lies a battlefield of parts

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By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

All I really needed was a new gasket — just a cheapo little rubber thing to keep the oil from leaking out of the camshaft cover of my motorcycle.

Oh yeah, my buddy Gary said, that's nothing. Easy as Sunday morning. And while we're at it, he said — thumb rubbing chin in time with the turning of his mental gears — while we're at it, why not change that crooked brake lever, maybe brush off some of that rust, put a little clear coat here and there.

You know, I said, this might be a good time to bleed out those brakes for once. And change the oil. ...

Sure, he said. And what about that dent in your tank? We could fix that with a little bit of putty and some fresh paint. Nothing major."

(Guy-talk lesson for the day: "Nothing major" = "Woo Bubby, we go'n have some fun now!")

Isn't this how every Great Guy Project starts out? A gasket replacement turns into a transmission inspection turns into an engine balancing on a jack, 19 individually labeled zipper-lock bags of nuts and bolts, and a dozen trips to NAPA?

Time out while I submit to the Nobel Prize Committee my theory that the Big Boom, and the subsequent ongoing creation of the universe, was actually initiated as a weekend project by a pair of bored male pre-matter nano-bobs. Roll the dramatic re-enactment, please:

Proto-Gary: Yo, wanna come over and nail together a couple of atoms?

Proto-Mike: Yeah, cool. We can futz around with some electrons, maybe make us a nice molecule or something.

Proto-Gary: Yeah, yeah. Fuse this, fission that. Take us an afternoon, tops.

Proto-Mike: What's an afternoon?

Proto-Gary: I dunno. We'll figure out that time thing as we go.

The scary thing, for those who know us, was that one of us chuckleheads would have to be the brains of the operation. That choice, if nothing else, was easy. Gary once attended a motorcycle repair school. I high-five the Aloha Gas cashier if I put my gas cap back on correctly.

We've been working on the bike for a month now. Schedules permitting, Gary comes over at the crack of dawn with his Volkswagon-sized toolbox and we spend a few hours trying to follow the assembly and disassembly diagrams in the Honda service manual. (Note: "Clutch center lock nut removal" isn't nearly as painful as it sounds.)

We're actually really good at the disassembly part — even if we do have to push the issue with the occasional drill or hammer. The hardest task so far was when we tried to remove the engine from the frame. Even with the help of the aforementioned jack, it still took a good hour of "1-2-3-lift!" to get it out.

(I'm telling you, even on his best day Eminem couldn't unleash as impressive a riff of uninterrupted, paint-blistering profanity as we did that morning.)

As I write this, my bike is lying in a thousand pieces in the middle of my garage, surrounded by a growing stockpile of tools, aerosol cans and, heh, Band-Aids. The neighbors smile sympathetically. Friends try not to show any alarm. But it's cool. We'll get this thing done soon enough.

I suppose this is the part where I'm supposed to write something poignant about what this big project really means, some trite business about how we two longtime friends, our life paths slowly diverging year after year, keep finding ways to reconnect, to — ugh — bond.

Well, forget it. Save it for the next Pat Conroy book.

This is serious business.