1969 and Then Some – A Memoir of Romance, Motorcycles, and Lingering Flashbacks of a Golden Age
It was 1969 and America’s restive youth still had a hangover from 1967’s summer of love. Nineteen sixty-eight had seen the assassination of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the nation had a migraine over a thing called Vietnam.
The year 1969 had many significant events across culture. It was the year Led Zeppelin released its first and second album; My Lai made it a pivotal year in the Vietnam war; it was the year Woodstock would become a key event in rock history; and Nixon became President.
But it was also the year that author Robert Wintner spent the summer in a motorcycle journey of discovery in Europe.
Wintner had crafted a book–1969 and Then Some-A Memoir of Romance, Motorcycles, and Lingering Flashbacks of a Golden Age—that is at times more manifesto than memoir, more rant than retrospective. He shares not only that seminal motorcycle journey, but a critique of how things were then that led to the things gone wrong now.
There is no mincing of words on the drugs and sex and rock and roll of the times he lived in, but there is also introspection on what it all meant to him and, in a way, to everyone.
There are times when the motorcycle journey itself fades into the background of the story, but there are also times when Wintner’s prose puts you in the saddle of his 1967 BSA 650 Lightning. Some of the technical details may stretch things a little, but they add dimension to the story, such as this excerpt from his soliloquy on the BSA while shopping for motorcycles in London:
“The Beezer was renowned for vibration, and a day of cruising at sixty could shake your brains looser still. But it could get up and go faster than anyone should go. Back then, BSA made a one cylinder model, the 441 Victor, with a panache all its own. No motorcycles had electric starters; all required a kick-start. And the 441 Victor’s one big jug could catch on the compression stroke and not only kick you back; it could throw the unwary over the handlebars. Then again, taking the handlebar vault on a 441 kickback was the mark of experience. I took the dive and came up laughing about it and still laugh at the utter hazard and unnecessary risk of the thing. But then, unnecessary risk was the risk most valued. The 441 Victor came only in yellow, and actually owning a 441 was a yellow badge of machismo—a pogo stick with incredible low-end torque.”
The story rolls on through Europe and even into the Middle East with abandon and there is little let-up in Wintner’s narrative, with some of his sentences spewing commas like a machine gun spraying rounds during the Tet Offensive.
Later, back in the States, there would be brief stints on a Norton Commando, some Harley-Davidsons and a Triumph, but some of those were as fleeting as some of Wintner’s romances. Still, the brief encounters on bike trips he describes take you along in vivid detail and may make you recall camping and traveling experiences of your own. There are no photos or other graphics in the book, though there is some graphic language.
The narrative wanders at times; transitions from one thing to the next are fast if they are there at all. You have to pay attention or you fall behind—very much like the times he lived in. Riffs from the songs of the day pepper the tale linking the music to the life being lived and setting up a soundtrack in your mind as you read, at least it did for me; a most unusual feature.
The switchbacks in the road of life Wintner experienced could be common to any of us, but some were definitely unique to his skill set—or the times, as may apply. From loss of friends, to loves lost, to fortunes made and fortunes lost to just trying to live a good life and trying to stay alive by staying out of the draft and Vietnam, there’s a little bit of everything. Just like life is and was.
If you were a teenager and paid a little attention to what was going on in the world in 1969, Wintner will likely jog some memories—some poignant, some not so much. His journey may well make you envy him for the memories he shares and make you wish you were along for the ride. Fortunately, you can still get aboard and go along in the pages of “1969 and Then Some.”
- Title: 1969 and Then Some-A Memoir of Romance, Motorcycles, and Lingering Flashbacks of a Golden Age
- Author: Robert Wintner
- Published: 2014. Hardcover, 251 pages. $24.95 U.S.D.
- Publisher: Yucca Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. 307 West 36th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 www.yuccapub.com
- ISBN: 978-1-63158-019-2 PRINT
- ISBN: 978-1-63158-021-5 Ebook
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