May 29, 2010

A Bikini Brief Encounter With Hell's Angels

Sheri is blogging about her Harley-ridin' badassery and it's a great fun bit of cultural clashing of stereotypes.

Unfortunately, as much as I love the idea of my Peggy Hill dream of a Harley, I must say that my earliest encounter with them as a young teen left me scarred for life. An image seared. . . seared in my memory.

Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachie River was one of those pristine and undisturbed little gems of old Florida. Weeki Wachie was a jungle-like river that had attracted lots of homesteaders and was graced with a small park made with lovely beach sand and carved into an area where the main road crossed over the river. We spent our summers in our own little fish camp just around the bend from the three-acre park.

Brown as a berry and in no small danger of growing gills, I lived at that park for several summers. I swam until my ears grew fungus and would slay me with pain and fever. When not there, I was to be found fishing from our dock, hanging out with my cousins at their dock, or rowing the boat upriver only to splash over the side and float back down with it, diving amongst the silky river grass and ogling the mullets and bream and crabs. Could I have sprouted fins by dint of sheer oneness with the silent deeps I would have.

Every summer a group of bikers would descend upon the park for a weekend. My little Catholic girl/river-rat self regarded them with equal parts pious umbrage and redneck curiosity. My older sister and her friends were quite intrigued by the spectacle and would hike down to the park and laugh at all the mysterious "old guys" and their wrinkly girlfriends. My dad assured us all that most of them were businessmen and lawyers and thus upstanding citizens (my dad was full of mixed messages), but in my imagination they were Hell's Angels and one stop away from breaking bad on some unsuspecting citizenry that looked at them sideways. Bad people for sure.

But it would take more than the prospect of unsavory types to keep me from my appointed morning at the beach and so I went to the park that fateful Saturday to behold the party animals. Beer, music, cigarettes, weed, and various states of dress were all there waiting for my 14 year old self to witness. I wished to appear unmoved by the mob so I coolly laid out my towel to bask in the sun for a few minutes to get properly braised before leaping into the 74-degree water. I was enjoying the warm sun, I remember how it felt on my stomach when the warmth would reach way down into my insides and sooth my nerves and synapses into a malleable state of emotional nirvana.

So, I was handling the situation pretty well, I thought, until I heard a man's voice saying lewd things to me while his girlfriend laughed. I kept my as-yet innocent eyes closed for another moment, but when I opened them to espy my tormentor I saw that he was wearing a tiger-striped fur bikini. With some sort of huge misshapen lump in the front! Not! Not! No! He was about 40 years old. . . old. . . with a deep tan, gold chains and a small beer belly over long, skinny legs. And a tiger-striped fur speedo.

He and his chick kept walking and I tried not to gape in horror and a little fear as they walked away. In all my years growing up and living near water in Florida, I had never witnessed such a sight to dismay all my prudish and proper avoidance of all things sexual. I am not sure I even knew about such things at that time except for a few whispered amazements from my older sister. of a night while we drifted off to sleep. I didn't believe any of it anyway, and yet here was disturbing proof of Hell's Angels just waiting to drag my soul to perdition!

I gathered up my towel and my bare feet fairly flew over the stony road back to home, a short block away. Decidedly, it was a day to scurry back to our place around the bend and catch some bream and mullet for supper. I did see the sight once again as I was riding my bike to the store. As I crossed the bridge and looked down at the revelers I was safely far enough away to take in the scene and there was tiger-fur-speedo man laughing and swilling beer amongst all the other old people and gleaming chrome and leather and right there and then I felt sure that I had met an unnamed disquiet and I had escaped with my soul intact.

I would go on that summer to be approached by all sorts of guys with all sorts of intentions to distract my virtue, but the drugs were declined and the kisses scorned and I already knew about alcohol and didn't enjoy it. I still knew little or nothing about sex, except that it was Wrong. My encounter with tiger-fur-speedo guy just confirmed it.

No, my youthful rebellions were always much more idealistic and principled. They still are, I guess, but I came pretty damn close to buying a sweet little Harley a few years ago. And I would have gone and bought it but for that first and unfortunate imprint still rotogravured into my psyche.

Oh hey there, Conservative Carnivores! Welcome to the Slack.


Jean said...

Those first impressions just don't erase.
I remember my first Bike Week in Daytona, 1975. Hell's Angels and the Outlaws still battling in the open. I lived in a small apt. one block from A1A. Spent every evening that week crouching by the window, lights off, watching the paddywagons loaded to the rim heading across Broadway to the jail. Scared as hell to come home after waitressing those nights at Red Lobster. Not much sleeping was done, either, while all those bikes roared around the neighborhood. Welcome to Daytona.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I was at Bike Week there a few years ago. It's devolved (or evolved) into a bacchanal of epic proportions. Still, not a place to hang out on the fringes, fer sure.

Dick said...

:Last time I went to bike week, 2001, I became tired of the crowds the same day I arrived, and continued down the highway another 600 miles+- til I ended up in Key West.
Stayed there for two weeks that trip.
Pure heaven...

Anonymous said...

". . . huge misshapen lump in the front! Not! Not! No! He was about 40 years old. . . old. . . with a deep tan, gold chains and a small beer belly over long, skinny legs. And a tiger-striped fur speedo.

OMG I just wasn't ready for the tiger-striped FUR speedo man. Scarred now. Thanks.

Aaaand from our FWIW and BTW and GOESWITHOUTSAYING DEPT.: You write *so* beautifully, Joan, I gotta say. Sometimes you remind me of Harper Lee maybe, a tiny bit? Of course TKAM is a favorite book AND movie of mine. I'm still kinda like Scout in the vegetable costume running in the dark. (Wait. Whut.) Then again, I'm sorta Boo Radley.

Um. OK. Back to our normal commentage. I did a quick search and there are dog-related fun-in-the-sun meetups up at that river now! Happy people. Good times and NOODLE SALAD! Prolly no dog owners in fur thongs.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Dog owners in a fur thong would present an ironic redundancy.

The little street that runs next to the park is so insignificant that the Google vehicle didn't bother to go all the way down the street. If I still lived there, I'd be safe from the googlebots!

Scout's fears were so much like my childhood, so many unknowns-don't wanna knows- that the movie haunted me for years and I read the book (like so many classic books) years before I could understand it. I would revel in the quietude of Heidi for my escapism.

Thank you for your kind words. It only encourages me. . .


jlbussey said...

Yikes! Where the brain bleach?

Very well written, yes. But I still need the brain bleach.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Well Jan, I would advise my readers to click over to your brilliant photography for respite!

JihadGene said...

I kept committing Jihad (crashing or otherwise committing suicidal acts) on my bike and the wife made me sell it. Now you know who wears the tiger-fur-speedo's in our house!!!
Great story! Now pass the bleach.

pamibe said...


I do fear the appearance of tiger fur speedo man in future dreams...


You're a gem, Joan.

Holder said...

good story...maybe I'll post my story...

Jim - PRS said...

During the week, the fur Speedo guy was probably a tax lawyer.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Jim, I defer to your learned wisdom on that!

Holder, go on, girl! Write!