.words by paul henry harrington | photo by scott toepfer.
There is still today, amongst fabricated man, some who ebb and flow through life against the grain, holding fast to the ideals of a time that was not their own. Refusing to get lost in a sea of plastic affinity, they understand the intrinsic value of clutching a warm cylinder head on a cold day in the desert; they feel the importance of pursuing the road less traveled. The vengeance of their lost generation shakes their souls an in a series of moments strung together by chance and risk they are rediscovering the elements that once defined man. These are the men who know it is better in the wind.
Your eyes haven’t opened to the point of surrendering to the light of the breaking day. It is cold, 27 degrees and dew formulates on the inside of a worn leather jacket sufficing as makeshift shelter for a wayward traveler. For a moment you call this desolate piece of the American landscape your home. To experience these precious moments is to exist as Scott Toepfer and his brethren as they roam the barren landscape searching for what was once lost. Steadfast yet driven, they are defending the authentic and righteous aesthetic that is the quintessential experience; movement.
Armed with only a camera- wearing a ¾ helmet, Raybans and a smile that tells a tale of the road, Scott Toepfer pushes westward, comrades flanking him on all sides. Like the pioneers of yesterday, they plunge into the expanse of the unknown aiming to tell the story of their generation. Neither rockers hailing from Bristol, nor members of the Beat Generation’s counter-culture movement against the beliefs of their baby boomer parents; we are something different.
As our society pushes forward for the sake of “progress” and as we continue to refine and expand our offerings one cannot help but notice that individuality or spirit of things has become lost. When a high-school quarterback can walk into Urban Outfitters as a model of the all American boy and walk out in black skinny jeans, a drop v-neck shirt and slip-on shoes complete with fake Raybans and a Holga Lomo Camera hanging around his neck headed for the nearest coffee house instead of practice, one cannot help but take note that the idea of personal freedom in itself has become homogenized. We no longer need to be ourselves, we can be anyone for a few bucks and some help at the mall. Quite an irony, modern American individuality is.
At what point did it become uncool or apropos to be a man who could actually produce things with his own two hands and mind rather than pull-up isufferfromwhoiamdisorder.com and buy what he needs to feel complete? When was it no longer en vogue for a man to exercise creativity through his own means of resurrecting old machines, getting his hands dirty and causing a little trouble with his brothers? I will tell you when- when the masses sold out for the taste of a five dollar latte and the portrayal of cheap-tricks sold as “Reality TV” like The Kardashian’s to captivate their tormented and overmedicated selves. When it became easier to watch people living the lives they didn’t have the tenacity to pursue. When they lost sight of what it felt like to stand up in a world of complacency and say “Fuck you. I won’t do it your way. It’s not the right way, it’s not my way.”
With our clenched fists wrapped tightly around the throttle screwing it on and our souls clamoring for indifference , we’re on the brink of something great, something we will be able to call our own. Albeit an amalgamation of the intricacies of generations past, ideals colliding that have no appointment with one another and our naivety, we will discover what it is that we have been searching for. A place in this world for us and or ideals to flourish and an opportunity to not necessarily thwart progress or stop the machine, rather to learn how to manipulate it so that the finality of our existence will be for more than merely searching, selfishly, for our own answers, but those of the collective good.
The idea of progress doesn’t necessarily need to be offering us the same product produced in another country for 15% less; served up on every street corner for mass consumption. What we need is to pull away the engineered veneer which has been applied to life and uncover the importance of simple things such-as riding off into the desert with your best friends, experiencing the visceral relationship between man and his machine.
By not accepting the boilerplate special and embracing the wind of adversity our generation will, like another, attempt to “gather no moss” and continue to “roll” forth under the power of our two wheeled freedom machines. Scott’s project and the favoring of the iconic café racer platform provides the perfect metaphor for our location on the long road; created in our own image we are stripped bare of all things that once weighed us down and we press forward, fast or the shear desire to experience movement. Welcoming chance and risk with open arms will allow ourselves to break away from complacency and forge a world of our own based on new creative ideals that will set the tone for years to follow.
So the next time you have the opportunity to lean into your bike, chin on the tank, while you’re reaching through the bars, adjusting the headlight at speed and have a rigid grip on the person you are- take a moment to relish in the fact that you’re one step ahead of the game. Remind yourself that despite not having a 401K, a house with a white picket fence or a subscription to GQ that it’s all right because you are one of the last remaining true men who hasn’t bought into the Soho bullshit.
Take care, though, and remember that with the throttle screwed all the way on that there’s little margin for error, none really. For many, going to the edge is the end. There is no coming back because once you’re there it has to be done right- and all too many aren’t up to the challenge and at their moment of weakness they take the high-side, the easy way out. As the last possible great “garage” generation struggles to keep our balance on the ever changing and rapidly flowing bed of lies they give us, we must remember one thing; what a man creates is his commitment to life. Be it a photograph, a motorcycle or an idea that goes on to inspire another- these are the values that cannot be lost. Whatever your method or madness is, never surrender and know that it truly is better in the wind.