Sheri is blogging about her Harley-ridin’ badassery and it’s a great fun bit of cultural clashing of stereotypes.
Unfortunately, as much as I love the idea of my Peggy Hill dream of a Harley, I must say that my earliest encounter with them as a young teen left me scarred for life. An image seared. . . seared in my memory.
Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachie River was one of those pristine and undisturbed little gems of old Florida. Weeki Wachie was a jungle-like river that had attracted lots of homesteaders and was graced with a small park made with lovely beach sand and carved into an area where the main road crossed over the river. We spent our summers in our own little fish camp just around the bend from the three-acre park.
Brown as a berry and in no small danger of growing gills, I lived at that park for several summers. I swam until my ears grew fungus and would slay me with pain and fever. When not there, I was to be found fishing from our dock, hanging out with my cousins at their dock, or rowing the boat upriver only to splash over the side and float back down with it, diving amongst the silky river grass and ogling the mullets and bream and crabs. Could I have sprouted fins by dint of sheer oneness with the silent deeps I would have.
Every summer a group of bikers would descend upon the park for a weekend. My little Catholic girl/river-rat self regarded them with equal parts pious umbrage and redneck curiosity. My older sister and her friends were quite intrigued by the spectacle and would hike down to the park and laugh at all the mysterious “old guys” and their wrinkly girlfriends. My dad assured us all that most of them were businessmen and lawyers and thus upstanding citizens (my dad was full of mixed messages), but in my imagination they were Hell’s Angels and one stop away from breaking bad on some unsuspecting citizenry that looked at them sideways. Bad people for sure.
But it would take more than the prospect of unsavory types to keep me from my appointed morning at the beach and so I went to the park that fateful Saturday to behold the party animals. Beer, music, cigarettes, weed, and various states of dress were all there waiting for my 14 year old self to witness. I wished to appear unmoved by the mob so I coolly laid out my towel to bask in the sun for a few minutes to get properly braised before leaping into the 74-degree water. I was enjoying the warm sun, I remember how it felt on my stomach when the warmth would reach way down into my insides and sooth my nerves and synapses into a malleable state of emotional nirvana.
So, I was handling the situation pretty well, I thought, until I heard a man’s voice saying lewd things to me while his girlfriend laughed. I kept my as-yet innocent eyes closed for another moment, but when I opened them to espy my tormentor I saw that he was wearing a tiger-striped fur bikini. With some sort of huge misshapen lump in the front! Not! Not! No! He was about 40 years old. . . old. . . with a deep tan, gold chains and a small beer belly over long, skinny legs. And a tiger-striped fur speedo.
He and his chick kept walking and I tried not to gape in horror and a little fear as they walked away. In all my years growing up and living near water in Florida, I had never witnessed such a sight to dismay all my prudish and proper avoidance of all things sexual. I am not sure I even knew about such things at that time except for a few whispered amazements from my older sister. of a night while we drifted off to sleep. I didn’t believe any of it anyway, and yet here was disturbing proof of Hell’s Angels just waiting to drag my soul to perdition!
I gathered up my towel and my bare feet fairly flew over the stony road back to home, a short block away. Decidedly, it was a day to scurry back to our place around the bend and catch some bream and mullet for supper. I did see the sight once again as I was riding my bike to the store. As I crossed the bridge and looked down at the revelers I was safely far enough away to take in the scene and there was tiger-fur-speedo man laughing and swilling beer amongst all the other old people and gleaming chrome and leather and right there and then I felt sure that I had met an unnamed disquiet and I had escaped with my soul intact.
I would go on that summer to be approached by all sorts of guys with all sorts of intentions to distract my virtue, but the drugs were declined and the kisses scorned and I already knew about alcohol and didn’t enjoy it. I still knew little or nothing about sex, except that it was Wrong. My encounter with tiger-fur-speedo guy just confirmed it.
No, my youthful rebellions were always much more idealistic and principled. They still are, I guess, but I came pretty damn close to buying a sweet little Harley a few years ago. And I would have gone and bought it but for that first and unfortunate imprint still rotogravured into my psyche.
Oh hey there, Conservative Carnivores! Welcome to the Slack.