Intended NTKOG: The kind of devil-may-care tattooed badass who speeds down the open highway with a chopper between her legs and a yearning for freedom in her heart.
I am: a bit ashamed to admit that I cannot even ride a bike. I tried to learn how in college — I’d sneak out of my room at 4am and practice riding around the quad for hours, then, sweaty, sneak back into the dorm and mock-casually ask the roommates who was up for a little bike ride. Apparently the practice didn’t pay off, though, as I usually fell.
I am not: confident that adding a motor and gasoline to this equation will be an improvement.
The Scene: Strolling the streets of New England College Town with Muscles and Justice, we happened upon a little outdoor fete held at a local organic market. Lining the streets in front of the event: scores of lovingly cared-for vintage motor scooters in a rainbow of pastel and neon hues. The owners of said scooters — men, mostly, with long hair and at least two articles of leather clothing emblazoned proudly with patches from their respective towns’ scooter clubs — crowded around one man who was standing on a chair and barking out orders:
Charismatic Leader: Look, we’re leaving soon, and you won’t have another chance to gas up for 35 miles! Gas up now! And look, guys, let’s maintain a strict formation. Don’t be assholes! Pass on the left, not on the right. You assholes.
Invigorating words. As the crowd broke up, I scanned the scooter enthusiasts for one who broadcasted the pitch-perfect blend of “I may or may not gnaw on baby bones” and “I will not kill you for asking to get on my bike.” And before you spit-take at the word scooter, let me tell you, these guys were seriously intimidating. As I sighted my prey, Muscles stalked him on a photographic safari:
Something tells me impatient drivers don’t give this guy any shit for driving 50mph on the freeway in his scooter.
“Um, hey,” I ventured, voice a-quaver, “Can I take a look at your bike?”
Okay, guys, I realize you can’t see the front of my interlocutor in this photograph, but allow me to clarify: the tattoos on his scalp extended to his forehead. His eminently dudely jewelry ran in a skulls&death motif. His nose was pierced with a bull ring in a thickness one rarely sees outside of the later stages of ear gauging. Are you getting a mental imagine of just how TOTALLY FUCKING EXTREME this dude looked? Okay, good. Now imagine the bike that such a dude would own.
His was even more hardcore.
The dragon’s eyes light up when the engine is on!
We chat for a little bit about the purpose of the scooter rally, how far people travel down for these things, and the most miles he’s ever ridden on this bike in one trip (316, it turns out, from Rhode Island to New York City.) The first thing that strikes me is how sweet and extremely articulate he is. He sounds, more than anything, like a graduate student, eager to explain the minutiae of years of intense research. He even goes so far as showing me how all the gears and knobs work on the (hand-etched silver!) handle bars. Then it all gets too technical for my understanding, so I ask how the rally is going so far.
Scooter Badass: It actually started last night. What usually happens is we all meet up at a bar on the first night. Although sometimes people are a bit intimidated when we all show up together. But scooter people are generally pretty gentle. Not like motorcyclists, who can get aggressive.
Wow. Not what I expected to hear? I guess these badass, hardcore scooterists are more like Hell’s Cherubs.
The Verdict: After we had chatted a bit, I made my move: “Do you think I could sit down on it?” I asked, “Just for a picture?” And in my mental fantasy he immediately responded, “Of course! Here, you can get on behind me and I’ll take you for a ride down the block!” But alas, reality snapped back when he gently but firmly told me, no, it was too close to the rally take-off, and besides, he was the only one who rode astrode the ferocious beast. Fair enough.
Where Did I Go Wrong? Okay, say it with me: rule number of one being a crazy-ballsy dude: DO NOT ASK PERMISSION FOR ANYTHING! Just do stuff, then apologize (and pay bail, if necessary) once you’ve already made an incredible memory. Although obviously in this case, permission was the only way to go, as I had evening plans and it would have been too much of a bother to get locked up for Grand Theft Semi-Auto.
Sometimes it just isn’t your day. But at least we all learned an important lesson about not judging people based on appearances! And about how much cooler tattoos and leather make everything — including scooters.