Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Just back yesterday from a mini vacation to Orlando and while on the trip I read Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider.” I devoured 200+ pages on the flights from Providence to Orlando, in approximately 4 hours of flight time. Then I finished the rest while lounging by the pool at the hotel on Monday. This is one of those books that has kept me up at night with my mind racing for the last two nights.

See, I was a Rush fan when I was a teenager. “Presto” was in my car’s tape deck for some ungodly amount of time that can only be measured in months. “Hold Your Fire” was in my walkman, and got me through my jogs and psyched me up for field hockey and basketball games and track meets. I memorized every word, and Neil Peart wrote almost every one of them. Then when I’d learned that he’d written this book, I saved it for a time when I’d be in a “forced inactivity” situation, like in an airplane, so I could focus in larger chunks at a time. (As opposed to my normal lunch hour and before bed reading times.)

The book was about how Peart rode his motorcycle all over Canada, the western US, Mexico and Belize in the year or so after his teenage daughter and wife died just months apart. It’s an honest, yet guarded, account of his travels. He wrote about every thing he’d seen, hiked and ate with a slight taste of his grieving process.

And it was just that—his grieving process. I read the reviews of the book on, and read the critiques which said that he “wrote the book for himself and not for his fans.” And now I pose the question, why does everything he does have to be for his fans? Yes, he’s made a name for himself as a fantastic drummer in a very successful rock band. But this was a book a man wrote about what he needed to do to get over a massive loss. It was personal for him, just like any grieving process is for anyone.

The first six months after I lost my mom, I was a useless, spontaneously sobbing mess. It didn’t help that I’d been laid off from my job the week before she died, so I didn’t have anything in my life that forced me into a routine. In those months, getting out of bed often took a Herculean effort. Lying in bed and staring out the window always seemed a more compelling way to spend my time. I shopped for a house as a way to give myself some purpose, because searching for a job and grad school weren’t enough to get me vertical every morning.

When I lost Mom, I lost my link to my past. I also lost the link to that one person that I could ask “So, what were you doing when you were my age? What did you think of life and the world then?” I am 35 now, and I would love to ask Mom, who had 4 children at the age of 35, her youngest not even a concept (surprise!) and ask her how her life was compared to how mine is now. But I can’t. And that’s the part of my loss that haunts me. And that’s the loss that I still grieve for nearly 8 years later—that I never really got the chance to experience Mom as a fellow woman, and not as just my mom.

But Peart lost his link to his present and his future when he lost his family so many years ago. I can live without being able to discuss history with Mom. I still have a future that I can look forward to. What did he have? His life as he knew it ended, and he didn’t know what to do next.

I look at my life now, and the concept of losing my husband or even one of my dogs scares the living hell out of me. And if I had a motorcycle and the means, I sure as hell would take off on the bike too.

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Anonymous Taoist Biker said...

I read it last year. And reading your description makes me whack myself for not having bought my own copy yet.

Seriously, it's one of the best books I've read in the last five years. Beautiful, thought-provoking, and uplifting stuff.

April 16, 2009 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

TB, you're the one who told me about it.

I slid it into the drop box at the libe this morning, and I felt a little sad doing it. I've requested his others from there.

And on Tuesday when I got back from FL I bought 3 Rush CDs. Tell me, how the hell did I miss "Vapor Trails"? Love it. Though you can hear how angry Neil is through his drumming on it.

April 16, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

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