According to Bregstein’s note, the cigars were hand-rolled between the thighs of beautiful 22-year-old Honduran women, who had yet to experience the falsehood of men. Yet he also expressed caution, which took me by surprise.
“Jack (he wrote), these cigars are exceptionally spicy in nature and will leave a lasting impression. The smoke is especially dense and may actually numb the senses. Please do not attempt to smoke one of these when operating a motor vehicle.”
The note also went on to say that he was in the final stages of preparation for the annual ride to West Virginia, and that the guys were very sorry that I would not be riding with them this year. The cigars were meant to be a kind of consolation prize, and he hoped I would keep them handy, and light up the first one when he and the others called me from the cabin on the first night of their trip.
There was also another paragraph in which he hoped I would finally realize what a man and rider of significance he was, and give him the kind of respect that I might afford no less a personage such as “Donald Trump.” Trump has risen to the kind of social prominence that has resulted in the media referring to him as “The Donald.” Apparently, Bregstein wants to be referred to as “The Dick.”
Well, I like my cigars the way I like my women, spicy enough to leave my tongue scorched for weeks. And despite the fact I was driving a pick-up, I pulled one from the bundle, bit off the end, and lit it. The first few puffs were indeed satisfying. The cab filled with a dense, blue smoke that looked like fog over the ocean, and which left a peppery sensation on the roof of my mouth.
I pulled up at a stoplight and the cigar exploded in my face like a hand grenade.
I was stunned... Then I realized the extent to which I’d been set up. “Don’t smoke them while driving,” said Bregstain. “Save them until we call,” said Bregstein.
Bregstein had finally earned the title “The Dick,” and payback would be a bitch. This was not the first time that I had fallen victim to one of his pranks. Once, after eight hours in the saddle on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I found myself hunched over the handlebars, wracked by arthritis pain. Dick had noticed my bootlace was undone, and called it to my attention.
“Screw it,” I said. “We’re fourteen miles from the hotel. I’ll deal with it there.”
Bregstein got off his bike, and in an act of kindness between men, tied my boot.
“That was good of you,” I said to Dick.
“Look down,” he replied. “I tied your boot to the brake pedal.” Then he took off. There was no way I could raise my left foot to get the side-stand down. I had to sit there and struggle to untie that boot without dropping the bike. On another occasion, he sprinkled itching powder in my riding pants. And finally, he placed a large rubber tarantula in my top case on our last ride together. (I have an allergy to spiders with fur, which causes me to scream like a little girl.)
My plans for vengeance had failed before. Every time I concocted a plan to pay Bregstein back for something, he ended up smelling like a rose. Nothing stuck to him. In essence, he had become “The Teflon Dick.”
Yet I would not rest until I’d paid him back in spades for the exploding cigar. I returned to the house to ruminate.
The evening was evolving into a blazing rosette of a sunset, accompanied by unseasonably warm breezes coming off Delaware Bay, laden with the scent of the ocean. The aroma of the ocean makes me think of two other distinct fragrances: one comes from sausage and peppers sizzling on the boardwalk grills of Seaside Heights, NJ; and the other is cocoa butter sizzling on the tans of curvy women. It was the memory of this second one which caused me to mix a rum and Coke the size of my ass. And it was the strength of this cocktail that drove me to the streets in search in search of romantic adventure.
While early April temperatures in the high 70’s (F) warmed the beaches of Cape May, thong-clad women have yet to take to the sand. And in truth, my days of charming the thongs off tanning beach candy are about 10, or even 15, years behind me. As the rum coursed through my veins — rejuvenating my sense of poor judgement like the first taste of blood to a vampire — I realized I wanted a biker chick. And we are not talking about a BMW-riding woman either... I did not want someone who had just ridden in from the Yucatan Peninsula (24 hours in the saddle on her GS Adventure with smoking tires), wearing a Kevlar® workout bra, and who would measure a man’s sexual potential by first glancing at the odometer on his bike.
I wanted a woman who carried the scent of stale beer, cigarettes, and motor oil as a sexual pheromone... A woman with a tramp stamp of a rose, the thorns of which were tattooed in braille, inviting a man to prick himself by running his fingers over them. I wanted the kind of woman who appreciated a man whose eyes were broken stained-glass windows to a tortured soul. Specifically, I was seeking a good-looking brunette in her late 40’s, divorced at least once, who understood that anything in life with tires or testosterone will eventually let you down. Preferably, one who was not recently acquitted of killing her boyfriend or who was a former knife-thrower in a circus.
Sixty miles north of Cape May, I found a biker’s bar with a line of Harley’s outside. The name of the place was “The Iron Clam,” and according to a buzzing neon sign, it had cold beer, hot dancers, and loud music. Standing on the rickety wooden steps out front, the sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” were nothing less than encouraging. I went in with a mouth watering for “a beer and a ball,” and the company of those beyond social redemption.
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to darkened saloon atmosphere. The place was a regular joint, with the regular crowd of Harley guys at the bar, speaking in low tones, and occasionally glancing up at the dancer, who was gyrating around a brass pole with ill-disguised disinterest. She was more beefcake than cheesecake, and dropped her top to reveal breasts that needed a couple of years off. I wouldn’t look in that direction again, or so I thought.
I hadn’t taken a step or two before I was issued a challenge that was more of growl than a statement... Which was perfectly natural considering it came from a Jack Russell terrier.
“Betsy, shut the fuck up,” yelled the bartender. “Don’t mind her,” he said to me,” without looking in my direction.
I chose my seat carefully, and found one toward the end of the bar with a vacant stool on either side. I put my cash down (a New Jersey tradition) and waited for the bartender to head my way. There was one or two women drinking alone, but I knew better than to move in that direction. I’d just kill a little time, savoring a couple of snorts, and see if anything came my way. Sometimes it’s possible to chum the waters with your expression. I had my chum face on.
A “beer and a ball” is a double shot of Bourbon, Scotch, or Irish Whiskey, with a small glass of whatever piss they happen to have on tap. I don’t much care for Bourbon, but in a Harley bar, I’d rather drink this or sour mash, than to call undue attention to myself. The first sip of Bourbon when down my throat like silk, and exploded in my gut like one of Bregstein’s cigars. I put the fire out with a gulp of beer, which happened to be Budweiser. I am not a beer snob, but the best thing about Budweiser is that you don’t have to waste any time converting it to urine (in my opinion).
A woman approached me from the shadows and said, “Buy me a drink and I’ll show something special.”
I turned with a smile... And nearly screamed. There before me was an aged woman who looked exactly like the “Crypt Keeper,” from “Tales from the Crypt,” a bi-monthly horror comic anthology series published by EC Comics from 1950–1955, and then a popular horror movie series.
Above: The "Crypt Keeper" from "Tales Of The Crypt." Picture from the Internet.
“It’s a really good trick,” she said, grasping my arm with one of her talons.
“Fuck me,” I thought, realizing there was no escape. “How do they always find me?”
The woman was between 95 and 150 years old. Her sallow, tobacco-stained skin clung to a frame that weighed less than my last saddle from Russell Day-Long. But her eyes glowed with a crazed passion... The kind of passion you find in person who can tell a really good story. The trouble was I didn’t want a story... I wanted to lick a tramp tamp over a hot ass and mail it to myself. (See above.) But I am a sucker for the lonely, the destitute, and the cast-off, and I collect good stories.
“What’ll you have?” I asked.
She cackled, pointing to the glasses in front of me. I signaled the barkeep, indicating I needed another.
“A beer and a ball for Grandma,” he yelled, which caused every head at the bar to look in my direction... And everybody bust out laughing. Apparently, this was a local tradition. Whenever fresh meat walked in the door, “Grandma” would rise from her grave and solicit a drink. “Fuck it,” I thought. “I’ll play along.”
Grandma didn’t have one round. She had three. And during the consumption of these, she told me her life story. She was the first woman in these parts to ride an Indian motorcycle (a 1928 Indian 101 Scout), “when that son of a bitch Calvin Coolidge was in the White House,” said Grandma. “He was a real prick.” She claimed to be the first woman hereabouts to buy an old biplane from the army and fly it around the lighthouse at Cape May — topless. And then she learned welding, “Because there will always be a need to join two pieces of metal together,” said Grandma. (Her toughest welding job had been on a locomotive that blew a steam line, somewhere on a spur track in the salt marshes. “And I made them pay me the same as if I was a man,” she said. “Otherwise, I’d have welded that fucking locomotive to the rails.”)
About this time, the first dancer left, to be replaced by a real beauty, whose movement was as fluid and as intoxicating as the amber liquor in my rocks glass. It became difficult to listen to Grandma rattle on with her litany of past life over my left shoulder, while attempting to watch the dancer over my right. The dancer was blond, slightly built, and with a smile that seemed to have a healing effect on my soul. And her tramp stamp was a rose! Grandma started to get up, and I thought my reprieve was imminent... But she merely moved to the empty stool on the other side! And kept touching my arm to guarantee my attention.
“I promised you a trick if you bought me a drink,” she said, “and you’ve bought me three.”
I was amazed she could still stand.
“All men like this,” she said, taking he teeth out of her mouth, and getting down on her knees.
“Oh no!” I thought. “Not a trombone solo at the bar.” Question — What does a trombone solo from an 95-year-old woman have in common with walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope? Answer — It is certain death to look down.
Grandma then scampered around on the floor, chasing the Jack Russell terrier, attempting to bite it in the ass with the full set of teeth in her hand. The bar exploded in laughter. The look on my face must have spoken volumes, as Grandma returned to her stool, popped her choppers back in, and asked, “What did you think I was going to do?”
She finished her drink, and whispered, “How would you like to have a meaningful romance from a woman who’s looking for a real gentleman?”
I laughed, expecting another “trick.” But the look in her eyes said something different this time. There would be no polite way to get out of this one. But an idea occurred to me that would say “no” with dignity, while spawning revenge.
“I can’t tonight,” I said. “But let me give you my name and number. And on a bar napkin, I wrote, “Dick Bregstein,” over the number to his cell phone. She jammed the napkin in her pocket, and giving the finger to the rest of the guys at the bar, she disappeared through a door in the back.
The second set was over, and the hot-looking dancer had disappeared, to be replaced by a pudgy colleague who was as disinterested in dancing as the crowd was in watching her. I was getting ready to leave when a slightly-built blond with long hair, came out of the back room, carrying a gym-bag over her shoulder. It was the smoking-hot dancer on her way home. Not one guy at the bar attempted to chat her up.
She stopped where I was sitting, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, “Thank you for listening to my grandmother tonight, Mr. Bregstein. She owns this place and she said you were a real gentleman. That’s quite an endorsement from Grandma. Most guys just brush her off or give her a false name. I hate that. I’ll call you soon.” And with that, she was gone.
I got another package in the mail from Bregstein yesterday. It contained a rare bottle of Irish Whiskey and a note that read, “Thank you... Thank you... Thank you...”
He is not “The Teflon Dick” for nothing.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012