The question is not what to write about Fred, but where to start. ( Yeah I know ! How about the beginning )The year was 1996, or was it 1995. Well at least I know the month was August. ( September ? ) Hell, at this rate I’ll never get started.
I was attending the monthly board meeting of the Oregon Motorcycle RoadRacing Association ( OMRRA ) and Fred was there as a visiting journalist. Fred was small with a distinct Asian look about him. After talking to him, I learned that his father had escaped from Vietnam in the Fifties and taken the family to Paris. ( the one in France, not Texas ) Fred was given a good education and he learned several languages. His father made sure Vietnamese was not one of them. The French, like the Americans who came later, had their fill of a war they could not win, so the people who could afford to get out, did so.
So here was this little French/Vietnamese journalist working for the French motorcycle weekly publication Moto Journal. The several languages he spoke came and went depending on the situation. ( they mostly went when he was speeding and being pulled over by the local patrol ) Fred had a motto; “Get stopped in America, give up your Brazilian license.” If he got pulled over in Mexico; “Whip out some cash man!” When speeding in Canada; “There is nothing like a good ol’ Oregon drivers license to sacrifice.” Oregon, in 1996, was the home of the same day instant license. Fred used my ’78 Ranchero and ’76 Moto Guzzi to earn his piece of laminated plastic. I always thought Fred’s plan was well thought out. I wonder which one he would give up if he was down to only two. Let’s say his French license vs. his international license. Maybe someday I’ll find out.
Meanwhile back to the meeting. I noticed that Fred was wearing a t-shirt from the San Francisco YMCA. Having lived there in the early seventies, I asked him if that was where he called home. “No”; he said, “That is just where I stayed last night and plan to tonight in Portland”. Well, Oregonians don’t let visiting V.I.P.’s from France stay at the Y, so I invited him to bunk in with my girlfriend and me. ( she loves it when I bring home drunken strangers late at night ) But Fred was different because he knew how to get drunk in several languages. After he was with us for a few days, I began to notice that there was never enough liquor in the house. Even all that homemade peach brandy, cherry schnapps, & berry wine, the stuff that we kept getting for Christmas was being consumed. Actually, a houseguest such as Fred could be viewed as a blessing. I mean, someone else might have been desperate enough to drink some of that swill. You know that time of night when the party you’re throwing is really rocking and the revelers turn to the host for more booze. I might have said; “Sure ! , I just happen to have some really good peppered vodka”. ( Scary Thought ! )
Fred stayed for few weeks until the next race we were having at the track. During this time he would hang out in the garage, ( only place he could chain smoke ) sitting at the workbench writing his stories on a laptop. It only took two phone books to raise him high enough. He had a weekly column called ‘Postcards From Fred’. He wrote about getting his Oregon drivers license, fixing my girlfriends pick-up ( whom he called his girlfriend ) and general stuff that was going on in the local motorcycle world. The Fed-X guy dropped by to pick up a floppy disk every week and Fred would get a direct deposit for $1200/month to the Bank of America. Not a bad deal for a guy with no overhead and a six month supply of our Christmas booze. After the race week-end was over I happened to mention that OMRRA was having it’s annual Vintage Race in another four weeks. Fred saw the opportunity to do a five-page spread for the magazine, so we invited him to stay over. The article turned out great and Fred made a cool $2500 smackers. It had lots of candid photos of the race gang and stories about the various machines they were racing. It only took me two years to get it translated from the ‘street’ French he wrote in. Now that this second race week-end had passed, my girlfriend and I were looking forward to returning to a normal household routine ( you know, running around naked and stuff ). Now, “What to do with Fred?”
I’m sure you’ve tried to tell a joke to someone from another country, and it doesn’t always go over. It’s the timing, tonal quality or language barrier that gets in the way. Such was the case when I had the talk with Fred regarding his future plans. I believe his direct quote was; “Oh, I have no plans, I’m happy here”. “Ah…., yes “, I said, “Ya know Fred…, sometimes a couple needs to have the freedom to, ah…, you know…, run around naked and stuff”. This line of reasoning got me nowhere because I had forgotten that Fred was French, so of course it was OK with him if my girlfriend and I ran around naked and then needed to do stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the little guy. He was very entertaining to go out with in public. He wasn’t much to look at, but he always went right up to the hottest babe in whatever pool hall or beer joint we were in and started babbling in one of several languages. He never seemed to notice that most of the ladies were sitting next to some redneck logger/ex-biker with no sense of humor. I got many a chance to hone my diplomatic skills while hanging out and drinking with Fred. Now I was facing my biggest challenge of all. How do I get rid of the ‘Little Pest’?
Eventually I opted for the direct method and told him to scram. Fred loaded up his laptop and headed for Canada. We never heard from him again, except when he mailed us a copy of the article. To this day we wish he would drop by for a visit. It’s not just that we miss him, ( and we really do ) but we also seemed to have amassed another collection of pomegranate wine and homemade Kahlua. Every now and then I catch myself eying it, while thinking thirstily, “How bad could it be?”
“If it’s messy, eat it over the sink” by Paulie