Friday, November 11, 2016


…a good news story…

Ukiah, California is an old-school town and in the heart of downtown Ukiah stands MacNab’s, an old-school haberdashery.  In business now for over seventy years, walking into MacNab’s is like walking into the past. 

I’d set the big T-bird on her side stand in MacNab’s free off-street parking, sauntered around the corner and walked in.  Pushing the door open rings a bell and immediately, though not directly related to the bell, all of the other senses are embraced.  First, there’s the aroma.  Like fine wine, it is layered: wool and denim with hints of leather and dust.  Then the sights: racks stuffed tightly with shirts, dungarees and jeans folded and stacked on shelves around the edge.  Belts near an aged checkout counter smack-dab in the middle of the store.  Figures are calculated on a working, antique Monroe with row upon row of numbered buttons and a right hand side lever that when pulled, crunches the math.  The transaction is handwritten on a pad from which the customer gets the original and the MacNab folks keep the carbon.

I was on the hunt for a khaki tan work shirt, sized large and tall.  If anyone were going to have what I was looking for, it’d be MacNab’s in Ukiah.  I explored the racks and rows of sardine-packed shirts working my way deeper into the dark recesses of the old store until I found the large-tall collection.  Knowing that if I came home with another plaid – my favorite color – I’d be sleeping with it in the garage, I found first one, then another, then another solid.  Greens.  Grays.  Navies.  And then, Khaki!  I glanced at the tags once, then twice to confirm the size.  Eureka!  My heart leapt as I fingered the shirt’s sleeve and began to pull it away from its brethren. 

At just that moment, a fellow, younger and shorter than myself, peered around the corner of the rack and asked politely, “Excuse me?”

I stopped wrestling with my quarry for a moment.  “Yes.”

“Is that your motorcycle outside?”

Uh oh, I thought.  This rube’s backed over it.  “Yes, it is.”

“Well it sure is beautiful.”


“How long’ve you had it?”

“Bought it in January.”

“It’s a Triumph.”

“Yes it is.”

Now this is the problem with the Thunderbird LT.  When you go stop to get gas, somebody’s going to ask you about it.  When you park it on the street, a passer-by will tell you his grandfather used to have a Triumph.  If you’re at the rest stop and you really need to pee, sure as shootin’, someone is going to mention Steve McQueen or Marlon Brando or their great Uncle Leo who used to own a Triumph.  “…or was it a BSA?”  Allow twenty minutes.

Such interludes don’t often happen often when I’m inside a retail establishment, but heck, this was MacNab’s.  And truth be told, I’m just proud enough of it – or vain enough – to enjoy the attention the big Triumph garners.

“My dad had a Bonneville that leaked oil a bit.  I rode it once when I was in high school,” the fellow continued.

“I think the build quality is much better now than back then.  I’m not expecting to leak much oil.”

“Dad didn’t know I’d took it to school.”

MacNab’s is never full of customers, but a tall fellow, about my size, bumped into me, excused himself and rustled through the rack finally pulling something off.

“I’ve had a few Harleys and some dirt bikes,” my new best buddy shared.  “Been off ‘em a while, but yours sure makes me want to get back into it.  Where’d you get it?”

I explained that I lived some thirty miles distant and that my closest motorcycle dealer actually sold both BMWs and Triumphs.  “The cruiser style is completely new to me.  Something different,” I said.

“That thing is beautiful.  What’d you have before?”

I explained my BMW and Guzzi history and my most recent ride and the seat’s comfort and the purr of the exhaust and on and on.

The conversation was pleasant, lasting the requisite twenty minutes, ending with, “Mind if I look at it some more in the lot?”

“Course not.”

As he left, I took a moment to reorient myself to the task at hand only to discover, to my horror, that the khaki tan long sleeve work shirt was gone.  Gone!

I checked and double-checked then resolved to settle for a different color.  I found something in gray.  A nice soft gray.  But not khaki.  Approaching the checkout, the proprietor asked, “Find everything, okay?”

“Well, I had my eye on a tan one, but somehow, I can’t seem to find it on the rack any longer.”

The clerk began to write my goods on the pad he kept at hand. “Big fella, just left with it.  All I got is what you see on the rack.” The clerk punched a few numbers into the antique calculator.

“This’ll be more than fine,” I said.

Completing the transaction, the counterman thanked me when, from behind the standing rack of denim overalls, someone asked, “Is that your bike out there?”


“I had me a 500 Tiger twin when I was a kid.  Got a minute to chat?”

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press