I went to a friend’s party the other night and a few of my buddies were sitting around the fire out back having a discussion on the difference in aftertaste between barfing up tequila verses barfing up whiskey. I didn’t say anything as I flashed back to my younger days when I didn’t have any reservations about imbibing liquor until I was awash with the stuff. On looking back to all that insanity I now realize how much I DON’T miss it. I guess this old dog should just stay on the porch these days. But every now and then I forget this and do the dance with the younguns. Of course the next morning after I do I usually realize that THAT part of my life is winding down. I just forget sometimes. One good thing about getting older is ya learn to avoid some of the nonsense. At least when ya have yer wits about ya anyway.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that getting older automatically makes you some kind of holier than thou wise man. Some times I amaze myself with just how immature and ignorant I can be. I’ve been told that’s part of my charm. What I AM saying is that sooner or later repeated events teach you that life’s too short to spend most of your mornings hung over, or to spend your evenings throwing your money away on the quest for the ultimate party.
I specifically remember a night in the late 1970’s. I had just finished straightening out a 1972 Sportster XLCH. It came home in the trunk of my car from the guy I bought it from in crates, like every other bike I purchased back then. The dude did a pretty good job of replacing most of the stock parts with chrome, but the guy didn’t have a clue how to make the damn thing run right and some of the things he did to this bike was just downright hard to understand. For instance, for some reason he had a Triumph front wheel assembly on ‘er with the appropriate lacing converting it to a Harley rim. That Trumpet drum brake gave me so much trouble I finally switched over to all Harley. Also the 8” over tubes had compressed and locked, so although it LOOKED like a stock front end, it rode REALLY hard. When I finally got that right I suddenly had an un-raked, long, chopper looking bike I had to stand on tip toes to ride. But it sure looked purty! I painted it a dark oxblood red that was probably the coolest color for a bike I ever used. For some reason I’ve never been able to find that specific color again.
Anyways….Like I was saying, I had just got her on the road and it was a beautiful warm summer night. The stars seemed to cover the sky and it was so warm you could ride all night and not even get chilled in a T-shirt. I remember Ohio’s mandatory helmet law had just been repealed and whenever ya passed another bike [which wasn’t as often as ya might think] you and the other rider would raise your fists in a brotherly salute. I rode away from the small country town I lived in and headed to the big city for a taste of loud music and short skirts. It seemed every bar I entered that summer had either Bob Seger or ZZ Top playin’ on the jukebox, and this particular night I entered a lot of bars….I was on a mission to PARTY!! After a few stops I walked into “The Cove”, a biker bar where I usually knew a few people, and sat down next to a woman I was familiar with named Red.
“Red! How’s it goin’ Scrumptious?”
“Far out! What’s happenin’ Bum? How’s it hangin’?” [Everybody used to talk like that].
“Hey Tony, give her another of whatever she’s havin’ and give me a Yukon Slammer.”
Now, a Yukon Slammer consisted of pouring a hefty shot of Yukon Jack into a small bar glass, splashing an ounce of soda or seltzer water into the glass, covering it with the palm of your hand, slamming it on the bar and chugging it while it was foaming. The satisfaction of making the loud noise by slamming it and making everyone in the bar jump was only topped by the long burp ya made after drinking it. This wasn’t only accepted, it was mandatory to do it properly. That burp was a rush in itself!
After a few drinks, Red and I climbed onto the Sporty and headed uptown to a fancy yuppie bar called “The Brass Elephant” so’s she could hook up with her sister about something. The parking lot there was full of Mercedes and Beemers. I had never been there before and smiled to myself when I overheard two women outside the bar bitching about their dates.
“All he does for a living is he manages a McDonalds!”
“Hey, that’s better than mine! My guy runs a damned garage! I mean, he has grease under his nails!!”
She said “garage” with the same tone she’d say “rotting dead thing in the road”. It never ceases to amaze me how people who have real jobs aren’t as respected as those who just sell things that other people make or do. The two women looked at me and actually sneered, but I noticed they looked at my bike with their eyebrows raised as both of ‘em said, “Oh yes!”. Don’t even have a clue what THAT was about. How can ya like bikes but not the people who ride them? Hell, I wasn’t even fat back then!
After we entered the club I walked over to the bar and was getting ready to order a drink as Red looked for her sister. A bouncer walked up to me and quietly asked me aside to explain to me that they had a dress code. I looked around and told him I didn’t understand.
“It’s the shirt.”
“That guy over there’s wearing a T-shirt.”
“No motorcycle themed clothing allowed. Sorry. You can stay, but ya gotta take your shirt off and reverse it so the bike stuff doesn’t show.”
I didn’t know what to say for a minute.
“Ya mean ya want me to take off my shirt, turn it inside out, put it back on,THEN you’ll LET me spend twice what’s normal for drinks in your establishment? Ya don’t even have a band!”
“Hey buddy, I just work here. Do I need to get some help here?”
“No, that’s OK. I’ve been asked to leave classier joints than this. All yer doin’ is saving me some bucks asshole.”
By this time Red had talked to her sister and was ready to leave.
“C’mon Bum. Let’s just get outta here.”
I fired up the scoot and layed a patch on the blacktop as we pulled out. As we tooled on down the road I thought how glad I’d be to get to one of the few biker bars I knew in town where we could relax. I wasn’t embarrassed of course. This kind of thing happened all the time back then. Restaurants, bars and even other places of business would refuse me service relatively often just ‘cause I was a biker. I sorta dug it to tell ya the absolute truth. And I wasn’t pissed. I mean the guy really WAS just doing his job.
In five years or so “The Brass Elephant” would be suffering losses from bad management and would miraculously burn down. It would take fifteen years after THAT before the idiot owners of that establishment would open up ANOTHER bar and end up having one of the area’s biggest bike nights! The really funny thing is, that very same night that Red and I was thrown out, “The Brass Elephant” was the scene of a grisly multiple murder when a furious wife walked in knowing that her cheating husband was there with his secretary and started throwing bullets around. Strays killed three innocent bystanders. The husband and his girlfriend weren’t even scratched, but of course the wife ended up going to prison.
Way later in the evening after we pulled into “The Bottle and Cork” we sat with some of our bad ass biker friends watching the local news about the shootout at “The Brass Elephant” on the TV. Amused, I thought how true something my dear old dad told me was: “Bum, the safest bar in town is usually the baddest bar in town. If everyone knows that everyone ELSE in the bar is totin’ a gun, then chances are nobody will get stupid.” I’ve noticed that most biker bars are usually pretty tame, even if they are outwardly loud and rowdy. It’s the damned yuppie bars full of frustrated macho testosterone and female drama that’s usually where people get ignorant with each other and someone gets really hurt.
I snapped back to the present and focused on the discussion at hand. Now one of my buddies was preparing to demonstrate the proper way to light a fart. I groaned and went back inside the kitchen to hook up with Julie and get something to eat. On the whole I’d rather smell pizza.
Well, I’ll be yappin’ at ya next month,