To write something about Tom took longer than i though it would. I actually wrote a little thing for Ripper the other week about Tom, so i wanted to give that its own time to digest in my thoughts before writing something here.
My first thoughts about this man usually start with his life long dedication to his craft..... which is a slightly ambiguous term in reference to what Tom did with most of his life. Was he a bike builder...?? kind of. Was he a leather worker...? I guess, yes. Was he a painter....? Yeah, he painted. But i guess more coming from my eyes and my knowledge of the man he was just Tom. He was so many things. But not in that flash in the pan way, to jumping from one trend to another type person, but a highly adaptable person. If there was something he wanted to learn or to do, i think he just went after it and perhaps not in the most conventional techniques. I saw him stamp leather belts in a turn of the century(like 117 years ago) letter press, he made me a pair of shoelaces from a paper cutter with leather in it, that was the size of a table, he was willing to glue or melt just about anything on to a tank or frame and resin over it to achieve the look he wanted. His ways were far from pragmatic, and as far as any order in his workspace that would be highly debatable, but most likely inside of Tom's brain he knew it from A to Z. This lack of rules that Tom applied was very attractive, but really his own self taught way, the beauty in this it can't be duplicated, Tom can't be duplicated, the definition of -one of a kind-. With all the crap we deal with today, phones, cyber bombardment, fake people, trend humping, hyper criticism, and just false information...... how fucking refreshing it is to know someone that is completely real.
Once while riding through Arizona Tom and Jeremiah were side by side riding in front of me, Tom took his hand off his throttle and grabbed Jeremiah my the left arm and yelled " ride fucking closer Jeremiah"........ it startled me, but i had to laugh, Tom had these ideals and if you were going to ride with him you were going to ride close to him, in a tight pack. Needless to say i throttled a bit closer to Tom as well. On that point, there are so many people that will criticize people to say saying "do you think those old guys cared about how they looked, or getting noticed?"
Well yes, abso-fucking-lutely.... Tom had told us a story when they would go on long rides with few gas stops,and they all had peanut tanks. He said when they pulled into a town the locals couldn't figure out how they had just come 100 miles from the last town with this tiny little tanks... Tom said this " well we'd dig through the dumpster at the gas station, and find old gallon milk jugs or anything to hold gas, we'd fill them up and tuck them in our jackets, so when we were well down the road and had used up a gallon, we'd pull over and fill our tanks back up and ditch the container" Tom would follow this up with a laugh or a " ha ehhh" and maybe go into his story about his mom sending him a motor in a garbage can on a greyhound bus.
It's a real loss with him, but damn i feel lucky to have known him. He literally cleared bikes aside in the El Forester parking lot when we showed up for their 50th. I'll never forget that night, those days, that trip. His face was alive and he was so proud we rode there on choppers. I was so surprised he even cared. But there you have it..... he did, and he loved his passions and the people involved in them. His resurgence was not needed for him to continue to build bikes or make his art, but it was undeniable how much he appreciated it.
For all we learned from Tom, and how many people put him on blast, even profited off his name, I have to admit it was shocking how few people showed up at the funeral. You can go half way across the country to go to a bike show, or buy a bike, but you can't pay your respects? Maybe that sounds harsh but it's true.
In closing.... Long live the King.
max schaaf feb.16 2017