A few years ago I called the VA Hospital here in Denver to ask a health question. The guy answering those calls turned out to be a longtime reader of my motorcycle stories in CityBike, a San Francisco Bay Area monthly newspaper. He is a member of a "patch-club," one of those clubs in which the riders wear vests, usually black leather, with the club insignia sewn or embroidered on.
He invited us to attend the club's anniversary party, and Tamar and I did. I've gone to several now. My Kawasaki is always the only four-cylinder Japanese motorcycle in the clubhouse parking lot, surrounded primarily by Harley-Davidsons plus a few Gold Wings and smaller Japanese cruisers.
This past Saturday night was anniversary night. I got in line for food and saw that there was plenty of it, but I could not find the plates. The guy in front of me was wearing an Iron Order vest, black denim. In the middle of the Iron Order emblem was the number 8. What does that number stand for, I asked him.
That's for the eight original members, he said, in Louisville, Kentucky. He busied himself filling a plate with food, and dammit I still couldn't see the plates.
Where'd you find that plate?, I asked him. He put his own plate down, reached over and got me one and a cellophane-wrapped pack of picnic plastic-ware and a napkin. Thanks, I said, realizing as I did that I was the only person in a sea of black leather, black denim and black cotton wearing a white t-shirt with a BMW shop's logo on it. Honest to god, no one cared.
I know the papers and TV news broadcasts are full of stories about gang violence and motorcycle clubs that have turned to drug crime and mob-style enforcement. I've read those stories. I know how these guys look, alien and menacing.
Nonetheless, I've hardly ever felt safer than I did at that patch-club anniversary party. Must be something soothing about all that black leather....