The vest extender is a clever and decorative means of upsizing your treasured leather vest to match your girth once your six-pack abs have turned to twelve-pack flab in mid-life. As far as I know, these little appliances are unique to bikers since nobody else has the guts—or more to the point, the gut—to wear them. To us, however, they make a proud statement. They say: “I am prosperous, content and released from the bonds of vanity, which is a deadly sin,” and who wouldn’t want to say that? That’s what I thought, anyway, when years ago while at Sturgis with My Personal Nurse, whom I’d only recently met and successfully wooed, I asked her if she’d still be hot for me if I wore vest extenders.

“No, Terry, I wouldn’t,” she purred. “That’s repulsive. I can do better.”

That was over 20 years ago, and I got the message, so throughout my forties and fifties and right into my early sixties I kept my midsection tamed and my vest snapped without tethers, but that all changed over the course of last winter when I fell victim to America’s tirelessly reported obesity epidemic. There are a lot of epidemics these days—an epidemic of epidemics, is what we have—and I’d managed to avoid being infected by almost all of them over the past few years, including the child pornography epidemic, the methamphetamine epidemic, the prescription opiate epidemic, the gambling epidemic, the identity theft epidemic and, alas, the teenage oral sex epidemic. I even dodged the binge-viewing epidemic, but I couldn’t beat the obesity bug. The insidious aging process and a miserably long winter had compromised my immune system, and suddenly there it was: The Gut.

How could this have happened to me? I wondered, lying abed with a bag of breakfast Cheetos binge-viewing Pawn Stars. Feeling suddenly like a bloated doppelganger of Chumlee, I figured it was time to do something about it, and then and there I started in on a set of leg lifts to tighten things up. But every time I lifted my legs I couldn’t see the television through my size 14s, so I changed my strategy, resolving to do leg lifts during commercial breaks, which didn’t work either since I instinctively surfed away from the pawn shop whenever a commercial came on and that window of fitness opportunity slammed shut. Then I got depressed about it and grabbed some Cheetos to comfort myself. About this time, My Personal Nurse comes into the room and says encouragingly, “Why don’t you do some crunches?”

“Oh, all right,” I sighed, and crunched a mouthful of Cheetos.

Clearly another tack was called for here. Pushups, that was the thing. There was a time not so long ago when I could pump off a quick 50 high-style reps, body rigor-straight, abs taut, a few on the fingertips, even a few showboat one-arms if I had an audience, but that was before a run of bad luck debilitated my shoulders and elbows. The left elbow bit it in a bike unloading incident when, while helping a buddy (isn’t that always the case?), I backed his bike down a plank out of the back of a pickup unaware that the front brake’s hydraulic line was detached. I grabbed the brake to slow things down and keep the bike under control and the lever pulled effortlessly back to the grip as I shot off the edge of the board and landed—me and the machine—smack on my elbow. The other elbow met a similar fate in a spectacular highway spill, again caused by a mechanical malfunction that landed me square on the funny bone. My right shoulder lost its strength when I hit a pothole on a hardtail and herniated a disc in my neck, and the other shoulder succumbed to a rotator cuff injury of unknown origin, but was probably due to waving at other bikes too much. I won’t be doing that anymore.

The use of my damaged joints returned in time—marginally—but my pushup routine didn’t because I’d gotten out of the habit and was spending more and more time in sedentary pursuits, like staring at this computer all day. Now, however, with my girth getting gross and my leg lift regimen a smashing failure, it was time to get on the floor and get busy.

So down on the carpet, elbows cocked like an arachnid, nose pressed into the deep pile, I prepared to begin the long journey back to fitness with two thoughts: 1) Phew… the dog’s been lying here, and, 2) Who the hell’s sitting on my ass?

Sixteen ungainly pushups later I collapsed and called it a workout, and between gasps and wheezes I began to consider alternative coping mechanisms for my obesity. Something less strenuous, perhaps. Something with more immediate results, like, say, rationalization.

That was a stroke of genius, methinks, and instead of stressing out about The Gut, I embraced it as part of my biker persona, bought a set of vest extenders, and presented myself in all my overstuffed glory to My Personal Nurse who remained silent while I made my case, noting defensively that Harley had long encouraged obesity with subliminal enablers like H.O.G., Fat Bobs, and Fat Boys. Heck, I said, there was even a sales campaign some years back for the XL1200L targeted at women that described the bike thusly: “Big gut. Low butt.” What woman wouldn’t want that?

You guessed it.

Thank God for the meth epidemic.

It’s all right here in the diaries. 


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