Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bottom Rocker

I've been riding motorcycles now for most of my life, and as long as my carcass can handle it, I intend to keep doing so.

There are many reasons for it, but primary among them is this:  I like the freedom of it.

I'm not in a cage of steel and systems, not wrapped up in fifteen speaker surround and telematics.  I cannot be reached by text or by email or by phone or by Facebook.  The endless demand of social obligation is on hold, and I am at liberty.

What I know instead is the road and the world around me.  I know the heat or the cold.  If it's raining, I get wet.  I know to be cautious, how to move so that I cause no harm to myself or others.

I am going where I am going.  I am doing my own thing in my own time, as Peter Fonda once said.

Which is why I have never understood pack riding.  I know, I know, it's probably kind of awesome, you and your tribe rumbling across the landscape like a vast herd of iron bison.

But the more human beings there are, the more rules there are.  They begin simply, as all rules do.  You think about lane position and formation.  You think about pace, not your own, but the pace of the group.  There is planning, and more planning, and conversations and negotiation and the next thing you know, there's a committee.

And then the rules and regs pile on, one after another, until suddenly that libertarian vision of open-road freedom looks a heck of a lot like just another bunch of laws.

That was cast into light by the recent deadly explosion of violence between rival gangs in Texas, after an effort to negotiate a truce between the Cossacks and the Bandidos descended into gunplay.

It was such a strange thing.  Outlaw bikers, one would think, would be fighting over something nefarious and dangerous.  A turf war over meth distribution, perhaps.  But knives and guns came out and blood was spilled and hundreds arrested because of...patches.  Patches.

Grown up men died over who could wear a Texas "bottom rocker" on their vest, which seems no less bizarre than had Brownies and Campfire Girls gotten into a brawl over their bicycle merit badges.

The irony is mind bending.  Here, fiercely freedom-talking "outlaws," and yet they shed blood over the minutia of their own rules, the laws of their tribes, the peculiar pride human beings show in the systems and structures of the social dances we create.

We humans are so weird.