A Twisted Roads reader — a woman rider of the Harley Davidson persuasion — recently asked me, “Why do so many of your stories focus on women and how is it you always get the girl in your tales? Has there ever been a time when your “battered baby seal look” left you standing by the side of the road with your tool in your hand? And if so, how is it those occasions are never the subject of your stories?”
These are really good questions which I usually get at parties, rallies, and on runs from biker women I meet for the first time, who are determined to be the exception to the “battered baby seal look” rule. I’m afraid the answers are deceptively simple.
I got my first motorcycle when I was 19-years-old (38 years ago). I had never ridden a bike before and did not have an overwhelming compulsion to charge around on two-wheeled nuclear reactor... But I did have a near-suicidal interest in getting laid and thought the motorcycle mystique might go a long way toward making this happen. And it did, to an extent. The bike I got was a 1975 Kawasaki H2 (in a purple-ish red) which lacked the appeal of the typically black Harley’s, Nortons, and Triumphs of the day — though not every woman knew that. Yet most every time I mounted this machine it was with with the hope of meeting a woman who was as fast as that damn bike. So nearly all of my early bike stories entailed the pursuit of romance.
Now the sad truth is that I did not get the girl as often as my stories imply. Consider the batting averages of the most successful baseball players: they strike out all the time. But it is the sensational hits and resulting plays that make the headlines. Why would I write up the stories where my best attempts at seduction resulted in getting dumped? These use to happen all the time and there was one year when I thought I might as well donate my organ to science, as no one else seemed interested. The following narrative is a classical example of the romantic curse that used to follow me around.
I present: The story of “Kim”
One of my friends was a philosophy major at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and found himself in a dorm renown for great parties. (I had no idea why anyone would be a philosophy major, considering philosophers ranked second only to poets in the job market; and this was back in the mid- seventies, when there were two jobs for every American who wanted one. Then again, I was an English major in a country where speaking English was destined to be regarded as the height of unsophistication.)
He’d invited me to this party, where it was alleged there would be a sexually charged atmosphere which could be easily ignited by philosophers and budding writers alike. I began the evening by getting tuned up at the watering hole which had launched so many of my previous “passion” runs. The truth was that I felt uncomfortable crashing parties in which I only knew one other guy, and my pal — Jimmy B. — was the only other loser I knew who was getting laid less than I was that year. So it was my hope I’d find some other action in the saloon which would preclude a 60-mile ride to New Brunswick (NJ).
There were two unattached dollies sipping variations of gin at the bar, and one was a blond knockout. The other was a serious bowser looking to feed on the carcasses on the runner’s-up who got half-bagged buying drinks for the good-looking one. The blond had her pick of the strongest and biggest sperm donors, and I would have to be drinking a solid eight hours before her friend triggered any kind of a primeval response other than flight.
A fast shot of Jamison’s Irish Whiskey and ten minutes later found me getting on the New Jersey Turnpike in Secaucus. Once a community of pig farmers and horse knackers (within 15 minutes of 5th Avenue in Manhattan), Secaucus used to be one of New Jersey’s better known jokes. Now it is recognized for outlet centers and the kind of traffic (on Route 3) that breeds serial killers.
The Kawasaki H2 was the kind of bike that loved the New Jersey Turnpike. The engine wound up for the pitch and unleashed its fast ball as I paralleled the runways of Newark Airport (now called “Liberty International”). Glancing to my right, I found myself racing some commercial jet clawing its way into the air. I didn’t think we were so unlike in our respective flights — just that mine was about three feet off thew ground. The plane was carrying faceless passengers behind each oval window to some destiny... As this motorcycle was hopefully carrying me to the arms of some coed I had yet to meet.
Many have compared the sound of the last great Kawasaki two-stroke street motorcycle to that of a lawnmower on steroids. That is not quite fair nor accurate. While the motorcycle lacked the throaty growl of a Harley or a Norton, it struck the tone of a large outboard motor attempting to carve a rooster tail out of the asphalt. The H2 easily held 90 miles per hour without straining and I made short work of the run to Rutgers.
The party was the college standard, with LED Zeppelin and traces of pot filling the air. Beer hissed and bubbled from kegs covered in ice, while a select few of the cognoscenti sipped cheap wine from plastic cups. As I anticipated, Jimmy B. didn’t know a soul there and we were essentially the ambassadors from Douche-land. He headed off to drain some hose and I retreated into the farthest recesses of the party. Specifically, I was looking for a remote corner that was adjacent to two or three women by themselves. There’s always one spot like this — at least for awhile.
Finding it, I pulled a doobie the size of my forefinger out of my pocket. These were the days when the average joint was thin, skinny, twisted, and about 45 seconds from becoming a roach. I lit the end and puffed on it like it was a cigar, releasing about $10 bucks worth of smoke into the air, and then I let it go out.
“I’ll trade you some of this for a little of that,” said a brunette with a ponytail. She was holding a pint bottle of Bicardi over a cup of Coke.
“There’s barely one drink left in that bottle,” I replied. Then I gave her a smile and a shrug that said “Deal.”
Her name was “Kim.” Dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and a nice build — complete with an accent that suggested a sunset in Georgia — she was a political science major from nearby Douglas College, who’d wandered in with a couple of friends now lost in the party shuffle. We sipped rum... Passed the joint a few times... And spoke for an hour. Kim claimed the party had bottomed out and that she was headed back to her place, an off-campus apartment in the next town.
“Can I give you a ride?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied with a smile. “Can you?”
I took her by the hand and led her down to the street. We passed Jimmy B., who was talking football with three other guys. He and I made the kind of split-second eye contact that guys exchange when they need to say, “It was fun, bro. ‘Till next time...” without saying a word.
“You have a motorcycle,” Kim exclaimed.
I couldn’t tell If she was thrilled, nervous, or having second thoughts.
She stood still, smiling, as I ran the strap through the “D” rings on her helmet. And then I kissed her. It wasn’t the kiss of the century, but it didn’t have to be either.
The bike fired up on the first kick, as it always did, and she jumped on. I took it easy, never getting beyond third gear as we were on city streets, and she was either yelling directions or pointing the way every few minutes. She seemed comfortable to have her arms around me as I backed the bike into a parking spot in front of her place. The silence is always palpable when you switch off the bike’s engine, and I wondered what her first words would be.
“That was different,” she said.
She fumbled a bit with the dismount, but did so laughing.
I got the side-stand down, dismounted myself, and helped her with the helmet. I followed her up the steps to the front door. She had the key in her hand, then in the lock in one fluid action. She spun around in the door, kissed me on the mouth, bit my ear and whispered, “Wanna get fucked?”
“Yeah,” I said.
She laughed, took a step backward, and closed the door. The last thing I heard was the click of the lock.
I was stunned... I thought it was a joke and pressed the doorbell. The response was to have the porch light go out.
I made it back to the saloon in Jersey City in time for last call. It was a slow night and there were only three people at the bar — one of whom was the bowser, who looked at me with renewed interest.
“What can I get you,” asked Vinnie the bartender.
“A shot... In fact, I want the same shot they gave Kennedy... Behind the ear. And get one for the bowser too.”
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011