Sunday, February 17, 2008

The New Brotherhood

I wrote this a few years ago, a phonebook-thick Harley-Davidson Motor Clothes catalog open on my desk. You do not have to be familiar with every reference in this piece to understand what's going on. Our Hero is a particular type of motorcycle owner, but attitude and behavior like his is not limited to biker bars, Sturgis, Daytona and Laughlin.

He backed the FLSTF against the curb, kicked the stand down with his heel and stepped off. He raked his hair back and settled the chrome pilot sunglasses on his nose. Slipping off black fingerless gloves, he glanced at the stainless and gold GMT Rolex.

“Right on time," he thought, crediting the 45-degree, 96-cubic-inch Vee-twin that provided the Fat Boy's locomotion and its traditional, real-steel, feel.

Stretching his legs, he settled his butt onto the Fat Boy's saddle, only 27.5 inches from the ground. The sun beat down on his H-D Bootcut Leather Jeans, warming the soft black top-grain leather, nylon-lined to below the knee.

He checked the Rolex again. He wiped the smeared Swiss crystal on his Sturgis T-shirt. He turned, catching his reflection in his left mirror. He noticed that his hair looked maybe a bit too windblown.

"Shouldn't have left home without the Willie G. bandanna," he said to himself. Thinking about American original Willie G. got him thinking about his country.

He thought about Yankee know-how, the Code of the West, crab cakes, grange halls, Dixie Beer, 8-cylinder automobiles and grits 'n gravy.

He looked down at the massive, dull gray, cast aluminum 17-inch disc wheel hung at the bottom of the massive, polished, 50s retro 41mm Showa forks.

Gosh, he thought, I love America.

His eyes traveled down his long Gary Cooper legs to the tops of his "D" width 17-inch H-D Motorcycle Boots. Their gloss reflected his chrome-shaded impassive face and the hour he'd spent applying H-D Leather Care, cleaning, polishing and preserving their surfaces.

"I buy the best; then I take of it," he thought, "and it takes care of me." He yawned in the afternoon sun. Profound thinking made him drowsy.

He covered his mouth as he yawned, feeling the weight of the 14-k H-D Gold Wrench Bracelet on his wrist, good gold weight. He thought, for the 100th time, that he should wear that bracelet to the office. He'd never been able to nerve himself up to go to work wearing that bracelet, the linked Gold Wrenches and H-D "Bar and Shield" logos.

Let alone the tattoos. Monday mornings, Zest and water took care of those.

Hiking up the front of his soft, conchoed leather Willie G. Vest, he pulled the brass-finished Willie G. Signature Belt Buckle away from his soft belly. A red welt revealed itself where the top edge of the conchoed, tasseled, deep relief-sculptured collector buckle had pinched him.

He rubbed the sore red mark on his belly, already planning to add another buckle, smaller this time, to his collection.

He’d bought that buckle, the jeans, the vest and the Fat Boy, all of it, down at the Harley store in one evening. They'd had everything he wanted in stock. He just slid the card across the counter and walked out of there a biker, same as if he'd been one all his life.

It's a head shaker, he thought, and shook his head.

None of it would have happened if Andy from the DA's office hadn't told him how ok it was, how times had changed. How membership in what he'd thought was a distasteful private club had opened up. And seemed pretty cool, after all.

How guys like him and Andy were the new brotherhood, the BlackBerry Gypsy Jokers of the new century. How things might really be different, on a Harley.

He resolved to email Andy a thank-you in the morning. I'll buy him a Bud Light, he decided.

He’d seen the Fat Boy in Andy’s Harley catalog. Whatever that machine had, he knew he wanted it, right now. And he had no illusions: he knew the Fat Boy wasn't a road racer. He wasn't any road racer himself, not any more.

A man has to set that stuff aside, he thought, when he reaches a certain age. Not that he couldn't drive or ride or make love or whatever just as well as ever, when he felt like it.

But, hell, at 33, a guy's got more to think about than chasing around the countryside risking life and limb on some rice rocket. It's called maturity.

A biker. Who'd ever have thought it? Not that he'd never known anyone into cycles. A neighbor had that 160 Scrambler that always had a flat battery. And someone said a black-sheep cousin on his mother's side kept a Cushman Eagle stashed at a friend's house for years, out of sight of his parents. Wild guy for those days, he thought.

Be fun to meet that guy today, have him tell me old-school Cushman stories, he thought. Maybe I got my taste for American Iron from him.

He heard the unmistakable rumble of an Evolution Vee-twin. He turned his head and, sure enough, a guy on a brand new XL 883 Sportster Custom waved and turned into the Burger King parking lot across the street.

He looked at the Sportster and at the guy's shiny new leather outfit. He noted the Willie G. conchoed gauntlet gloves and stroker-style Willie G. hat. He watched the guy park the pristine black 883 and start walking toward the restaurant.

He watched the Sportster rider adjust his chrome aviator sunglasses, brush back his hair, grin and wave again. He sat there, leaning on the Fat Boy. He decided not to wave back.

“This being an individual's not always easy, bro,” he thought as he watched the Sportster rider enter the Burger King. “Enjoy your Whopper.”


No comments: