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.