Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nagging Yen

Lately, I've been completely consumed with Clay. This is a man I met while researching a motorcycle story, due to come out next year. Clay works as an HVAC dude at UPMC during the day and, every evening, he scrounges around for motorcycle parts. He takes his treasure back home to his house, where the walls are lined with sheet metal, and uses his spare bedrooms as an autobody shop. He welds in one room, constructs in another, and builds custom choppers into the wee hours.

Clay has tattoos and long hair and a pink Razr cell phone with a heavy metal ring tone. He makes one bike each year. Just one, and he doesn't even keep it. He auctions it off and sends all the raffle ticket proceeds to Operation Troop Appreciation, a group that mails care packages to US troops stationed abroad. They mail over things like books and shaving cream and hand sanitizer. Sometimes beef jerky. All Clay wants to do is help out.

When you talk to him about his gorgeous creations, he repeatedly says, "I don't do this for a living! I'm not a professional!" But I have never seen such a beautiful motorcycle in my life as the one he built this year. For someone to create a working machine out of nothing is just short of miraculous to me, and to look at the care Cay takes in his work...well I think professional is of course the wrong word. Clay is an artist.

He leaves no detail unfinished when incorporating the themes on his bikes. Some dood with a one syllable nickname helped Clay get permission from the military to use their custom camouflage print for this year's chopper. The only civilian vehicle in the world with this pattern.

To top off the military-themed bike, Clay obtained an actual combat jacket from his buddy, who was in Iraq and used it to upholster the seat. The underside of the seat has the jacket pocket, which Clay thought riders could use to store an ID or some cash while out for a cruise.

I want to write about Clay, to let this man shine on the page with all his swear words and beautiful, honest, passionate parts included. I want to hang out in his dining room while he carves drive chains for his motors. This is a dude who hosts a huge biker party every year with free beer and heavy metal bands, and who loves motorcycles with all his soul. This is a man who cares about something, and I want to write about it.

But I just can't seem to find a venue other than this one.


Amanda said...

Hi Katy -

You don't know me, but I've been reading your blog for almost a year now. I'm a childhood friend of Corey's (did he ever tell you about how he LOVED to draw airplanes in Kindergarten?). Somehow I found your blog through his facebook page and I've been hooked ever since!

I always enjoy your thoughts, but have never felt compelled to write a comment - until now. Clay sounds like an awesome guy - someone who often stands in the shadows, but is a true hometown hero of sorts. I'm glad if no where else, you got to write about him here, because I sure enjoyed reading about him!

Keep it up with the awesome blog, and good luck with your plants and their fornication!

Amanda (from Montclair)

Anonymous said...

"He auctions it off and sends all the raffle ticket proceeds"

I'm confused if he auctions the bike (eBay?) or has a raffle? If he has a raffle, would you please get a ticket for me? Perhaps more depending upon price. I'd gladly support this man's work and generosity. I'd bring you a check/cash to training.

P.S. Did you know that in my undergrad days I owned a motorcycle? Most of your teammates prob. would never guess it. I miss my bike!

Katy said...

i guess that does sound confusing! he sells raffle tickets for the bike, but announces the winner auction style at the win clay's chopper party, august 23. you can buy tickets online at his website! http://winclayschopper.com

that's so cool that you were a biker! did you wear leather chaps?

pghrugbyangel said...

Katy - write something for the newsletter! I'll put it in there!! I'll put anything you want to write in the newsletter!

(I am not commenting on you-know-who's biker days, nor on your chaps inquiry) lol.

Valtastic said...

I've been reading your blog longer than Amanda and I want to say for the first time in my life I noticed a typo!!! You spelt Clay as Cay in one paragraph... I'm just proud of myself because I never notice types and worried because you never make them!

I love the story today!

PS Work is using Pittsburgh paint.. when can I come back and visit? :)

ninny said...

val - she also spelled dude dood! i think she learned that from betsy...