Sometimes you just need to step out of character for a spell for the perspective that’s in it. A break from the identity grind, a quick recess from the pigeonhole. At least that’s how My Personal Nurse laid it out, and what it meant in practice was that she wanted to go on a real date, the type that doesn’t involve tri-tip, porta-potties and a 50/50 raffle. I had trouble envisioning it, but as a writer, I had to concede that perhaps a little stirring of the stimuli might not be such a bad thing. It’s not like she was asking me to cross-dress, she was just asking me to dress. Shed my crusty biker persona and put on some decent duds, maybe a shirt with a collar and without any lurid graphics of eagles or anatomically unlikely women or leering, rebel flag bandanna’d skulls on it. And once in costume, a whole evening without talking or even thinking about bikes. Why the hell not? I went along with the idea; even got excited about it.

We were sitting at an intimate two-top in a tony Thai restaurant on the plaza in a tony Wine Country town, and I was doing good. I’d used the right chopstick to poke at the soup, maintained an interesting and lively conversation without ever once lapsing into a discourse on the benefits of fluid cooling the Twin Cam motor or what Harley has planned for the LiveWire once the hoopla’s over or whether body paint is nudity (it is). I was dressed nice in Wine Country casual, the white linen shirt I’d gotten married in one time, and a swell pair of khaki slacks I got from The Gap during a riot. I’m pretty sure my socks matched. I felt good about myself, the clothes make the man, and I didn’t cause a scene when the waitress was agonizingly, maddeningly slow in keeping the goddamn Singhas coming in a timely fashion even though I was damn near perishing of thirst and I’d skipped anger management that week. You would have been proud of me.

I was sitting facing the window on the plaza and out at the curb sat a couple of bikes, a Dyna Wide Glide and an 883 Sportster, I couldn’t help but notice. I paid them no mind and continued my well-behaved and engaging repartee with My Personal Nurse, noticing only idly and peripherally the two guys walking up the sidewalk to the bikes, presumably from the bar up the street. I had pretty much talked out the weather about the time the guys saddled up, and I was well into flattering My Personal Nurse’s shoes about the time the two guys fired up, stomped first, and rode out. Sort of. Actually it was only the Wide Glide that rode out. The guy on the Sportster got crossed up turning into the street and dumped it.

In the crisis center of my psyche all the alarms went off. Bike down! Bike down! Take corrective measures! My response was as instinctive as anything I do. I bolted from the table, trailing the tablecloth, which I’d shrewdly tucked into my belt to keep spicy pork pad gra pao off my khakis, and whipped out the door.

A bike down is a pitiful, heartbreaking thing. It’s a beached pilot whale wheezing air through a sand-encrusted blowhole; it’s a sad-eyed coyote in a leg-hold trap; it’s a big innocuous beetle on its back, legs kicking helplessly. It is the world out of balance, the horizon skewed. It is primal stuff and the adrenal reaction to the sight of a bike on its side is indistinguishable from that which empowers the mother to lift a Buick off her baby where normally she barely has the strength to lift her baby off a Buick. And because we’ve all been there with our own bikes, and in all likelihood will be there again, a down bike is also a personal thing. All bikes are but atoms of the One Bike, the Brahmacycle, and when one has fallen down and lays on its side bewildered and quietly spilling gas, in a very palpable sense they have all fallen down. Never send to know for whom the fuel drips, it drips for thee.

And that’s just the type of moto-psycho-babble I wasn’t supposed to be thinking or talking about that night on the plaza, but as you can see, I was helpless to resist. So out the door I flew, and I had the Sporty righted even before the red-faced rider had pulled himself up off the pavement, and I held the bike steady while he composed himself enough to throw a leg over it. “It happens,” I consoled, as he thumbed the starter. “That’s the first time it’s ever happened to me,” he said with obnoxious bravado. “Really?’ I replied skeptically. “Well, get used to it.”

He snorted, blipped the throttle, planted his left foot right in the parking space oil patch, and down he went.

It’s all right here in the diaries.


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