The weather on Halloween can be tricky. Sometimes damp and blustery and other years as crisp as a Macintosh apple, I find the best combination is a sunny day for the early trick or treaters, with a rising wind at night, to make the moon a ghostly galleon on storm-tossed skies (the perfect backdrop for zombies, witches, and ghosts going door to door). Yet on this Halloween day, the temperature would peak in the high 50’s (F) with conditions perfect to release the beast within my sinister 1995 BMW K75. Wingman Dick Bregstein, astride a pristine 2002 BMW R1150R (with the iconic whale oil-cooled boxer engine), followed me through a series of picturesque loops and Amish-infested back roads in and around Lancaster, Pa, the epicenter of the straw hat and horse-drawn buggy conspiracy.
Our early morning run had taken us through fields picked clean by the harvest, through little towns where buggies were tied up at the local hardware store, and through some forested spots, where the deer peered out from cover with the apprehensive look of rats on stilts. At one point, we paralleled the steam train out of Strasburg, which matched the death whine of my K75 (and the hell-spawned sewing machine sound of Dick’s “R” bike) with the angry chuffing of spent steam and coal soot from the stack. Yet the time had come for the solace of coffee, and eggs (sunny-side up) on slabs of toast carved from bread that had been baked fresh that morning, and we headed off for a diner on US-30, before that route is corrupted by rank Amish huckstering in the tourist void of “Paradise.”
That last line sounds good, but there are damn few decent diners in Pennsylvania. As I have written before, New Jersey is the diner capital of the world, with the greatest number of stainless-steel beaneries, staffed by armies of buxom blonds with great asses, serving the fastest and best coffee in the world. There are maybe two “very good diners” in the 2000-square miles in and around Philly... But “very good” doesn’t quite cut it by New Jersey standards. There were three diners within our easy range on this Halloween day, and one was in the rare “excellent” category, but Dick and I were not in a mood to backtrack, nor to wait in line until a couple of seats popped up at the counter of “Jennies.”
So we headed off to the least objectionable of the other two.
Dick and I pulled up like two World War I aces fresh from a Jagstaffel sortee and dropped our kickstands with unintended precision. It was after 10:30am and this place was doing a thriving business in mothers and children headed off to various Halloween functions. Bregstein removed his helmet to reveal a smirk that translated to, “Swell, breakfast with screaming, squirming pint-sized versions of Spiderman, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and Bart Simpson.”
But I saw something else. Standing in the diner’s doorway was a kid about five years old, dressed like a biker. Not exactly a BMW rider in full ATTGATT (All The Gear, All The Time), but a young, aspiring Harley jockey in a little leather jacket with studs and chains, topped by a skull and crossbones “do” rag. And behind him was “Mom,” a cougar if I ever saw one, dressed like Pippi Longstocking. But Pippi Longstocking never looked this hot.
The kid was staring at my K75 like it was the Holy Grail. (It is.)
“He just loves motorcycles,” said his mom, impaling me with the kind of smile that Nordic goddesses traditionally used to harpoon elephant walrus.
“You like motorcycles,” I said to the boy.
He just nodded and smiled.
“C’mere,” I said.
He looked at his mom. who nodded, and before running over.
I picked him up and sat him on the bow of the Russell Day-Long Saddle.
“What’s your name,” I asked.
“Carl,” answered his mom.
“Did you ever sit on a motorcycle before, Carl?”
Carl shook his head “No.”
“This motorcycle is sleeping,” I said. “Should we wake him up?”
I turned the key in the ignition, which fired up the little LED Christmas Tree that is the aftermarket voltmeter, and said “Press that button,” indicating the one with the little horn on it.
Carl pressed the button with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old who understands that another chance like this is not likely to come along anytime soon.
The Steble/Nautilus compact air horn sent shock waves rolling through the parking lot, Carl wore the satisfied look of an anarchist who had just blown up the Czar’s train.
Checking to see that the little number “0” was in the gear shift indicator window, I then told Carl to press the starter. No one was more surprised than this kid, unless it was his mother, when the K75 snarled into life with a very satisfying “thrum” (different than errant vibration) that swept through the bike. I could see this kid’s face clearly in one of the mirrors, which remain rock steady as the bike idled at 1200 rpm.
“Now put your hand here,” I said, steading the kid with my left arm, while placing his pudgy little digits on the throttle. Then we twisted old Fireballs by the tail. The tach shot up to 5 grand with a whine of pistons in perfect Teutonic agreement. The kid busted out laughing... And twisted the throttle again on his own.
I shut the engine down and pointed to the roundel on the gas tank. “Do you know your ABC’s?” I asked Carl? “Because the three most important letters in the alphabet are “B...M...W.”
I handed Carl back to his mom, flashing her a famous look of my own, and asked, “Have you ever been on a motorcycle?”
“Once or twice,” she said, with a different kind of smile.
“Aaaaaaahhh, well,” I replied.
She loaded the kid into a mini-van and drove off with a perfunctory wave.
“I was waiting for that kid to kick the bike in gear while it was revving up,” said Bregstein. “It would have rolled right over his mom and gone through the diner’s plate glass window.”
“You’re just pissed that the kid wouldn’t look at your ‘R’ bike.”
“I wouldn’t let a kid near my “R” bike,” hissed Bregstein.
The ride home was fast and furious, as many of these runs with Bregstein tend to conclude.
Dealing with the trick or treaters at the door used to be my responsibility in my last relationship, as the love of my life didn’t share my enthusiasm for the holiday of the dead and undead. My routine was simple. I rigged my computer stereo to blast scary wolf howls on demand, and taped a sign to the front door that read: “Do Not Ring Bell For Candy. Scream!”
This guaranteed that our normally sedate, boring cul de sac d’ordinaire would be punctuated by blood-curdling screams up until 10pm. But that was only half the fun. No one got a single chocolate bar without a “trick.” This meant that kids had to scream louder, in a kind of contest, or sing a song, or dance, to get access to the candy basket. I can assure the gentle reader that it used to be mayhem at my former residence — when I ran the Halloween festivities.
The first screams came in around early dusk, and the feeble nature of the staged terror told me these were little kids. I pulled open the door with a exaggerated stage presence, and startled a flock of ghosts, goblins, pumpkins, princesses, super-heroes, and the ever popular flesh-eating zombies. And in front, was one tough looking little Harley rider, with his little leather jacket, complete with chains and studs, and his skull and crossbones do-rag.
I raised my eyes and scanned the crowd of parents in the background, and found Pippi Longstocking — standing next to Mr. Longstocking, I presumed.
“These kids are so cute,” squealed my former significant other. “Let me take their picture.”
“Get one of the parents too,” I suggested. “Some of them dressed for the occasion as well.”
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011