Leatherballs V: Sportsters, Keillor, and other things

WHEN YOU GOTTA GO, you gotta go:

OCALA — Lisa Bess could not figure out why the front door to her home on West Silver Springs Boulevard was locked and the key was missing Tuesday afternoon. She couldn’t figure out why her bathroom door was locked and water was running. She called the police.

When Ocala police officers kicked open the door to her bathroom at about 5 p.m., she had her answer: A man had found the extra key outside, let himself in, picked out a new outfit of her clothes to wear and took a long hot shower. They found him sitting naked on the bathroom toilet.

 “There was still a stench of my body lotion; actually, water was still draining from the bathtub,” Bess said. “And he was refusing to get off the toilet until he finished doing his business.”

Sure that stench was “body lotion,” lady? 

IN OTHER NEWS, when you gotta screw, you gotta screw:

An Antarctic fur seal has been observed trying to have sex with a king penguin.

The South African-based scientists who witnessed the incident say it is the most unusual case of mammal mating behavior yet known.

Obviously these scientists have never hung out with me after cocktails and a couple of lines—luckily for them.

The incident, which lasted for 45 minutes and was caught on camera, is reported in the Journal of Ethology.

The bizarre event took place on a beach on Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic island that is home to both fur seals and king penguins.

Why the seal attempted to have sex with the penguin is unclear. But the scientists who photographed the event speculate that it was the behavior of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced young male seal.

Ain’t it always the way?

Equally, it might have been an aggressive, predatory act; or even a playful one that turned sexual.

“At first glimpse, we thought the seal was killing the penguin,” says Nico de Bruyn, of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Yeah, I bet the penguin thought so too. And LOVED it.

EVER HEAR OF A GUY named Garrison Keillor?

Because as unlikely as it may seem, he knows all about you—or thinks he does. Which, in that insufferably smarmy, corked-sphincter way common to oleaginous eggheads everywhere, amounts to the same thing, in his own tightly-closed mind. Here’s what he had to say about bikers generally, and the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder run in Washington DC specifically, in a column that ran in the St Petersburg Times this past May 28:

A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti; the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing. Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push.

You don’t quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys. After hearing a few thousand bikes go by, you think maybe we could airlift these gentlemen to Baghdad to show their support of the troops in a more tangible way.

It took 20 minutes until a gap appeared and then a mob of us pedestrians flooded across the street and the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by looking at exhibits at the Smithsonian or, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you’ve watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization.

A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won’t get off. You stroll down past the World War II Memorial, which looks like something ordered out of a catalog, a bland insult to the memory of all who served, and thousands of motorcycles roar by disturbing the Sabbath, and it depresses you for hours.

 If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War or Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945 or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger, other than getting drunk and falling off a bike.

Thus Keillor haughtily dismisses the many thousands of American military veterans who participated in this year’s Rolling Thunder rally, did so in previous years, and will be there again in years to come, to pay their respects and express their appreciation and love for their brothers in arms. The stupid no-ball sonofabitch neither knows nor cares that Rolling Thunder was the brainchild of and is put together and run each year almost entirely by vets. All this prissy shitheel cares about is that all of you who attended were in his way and making too much noise when he wanted to go make himself feel superior by meditating deeply, in a way you boorish Harley-riding troglodytes could never possibly grasp, over some pretentious painting or other that has about as much to do with soldiering as my Aunt Tilly.

In case you didn’t know, and I can’t think of a single reason why you should, really, Keillor is the stupefyingly soporific host of a deadly-dull, too-precious-by-half radio show on NPR called “A Prairie Home Companion.” Its central conceit is that it’s a sort of everyday Everyman saga, a diary of life on the modern-day frontier where, to quote his signature line, “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Keillor purports to revere the common folk and their plainspoken wisdom, but his contempt for them is more than obvious, and this column is but another example of that. He’s exactly the kind of pompous phony real frontiersmen and women would have booted out of the covered wagon to be left on the prairie to starve or freeze to death, according to the law of survival of the fittest.

I’ll guarantee you that there are way more soldiers, both current and former, in the ranks of bikerdom than there ever will be in any NPR studio—or in all of them put together. But that doesn’t fit with the worldview nurtured by the comfortable sense of superiority and entitlement that Keillor wears around like an old sweater. At next year’s Rolling Thunder run, if you see a cranky, bespectacled geek looking disdainfully down his nose at you as you pass by, be sure to stop and allow him to waddle across the street in front of you. After all, weak, whiny milksops like Keillor can’t possibly survive without the indulgent tolerance of their betters.

CALL ‘EM WHAT YOU WILL—dirt bikes, half-a-Harleys, women’s bikes, Piglets—but I love ‘em. Sportsters, I mean.

There are many different breeds of Pig-iron out there in the wide world, and at one time or another I’ve owned most of ‘em. But somehow, I always come back to Sportsters; I’ve owned four of them over the years, and loved every one—even the Ironheads, which aren’t noted for being much of anything besides a general pain in the ass. Or, if it’s kick-only, in the leg and ankle (old joke: what does the “CH” in XLCH stand for? “Charley Horse”).

Sportsters, to my way of thinking, are the slickest, sleekest, simplest Harleys in existence. They’re light and agile, perfect for barhopping, and can be made into fire-breathing horsepower monsters with not a whole lot in terms of money, effort, or even mechanical moxie relative to their bigger, heavier brothers. Even one of their disadvantages, fiscally speaking anyway, is actually a strength: when you buy cams, an excellent bang-for-buck performance mod that’s fairly easy to do yourself with only moderate wrenching skills and standard tools, you have to buy four of ‘em instead of just one, making it more than twice as expensive as with a Shovel or Evo. But the Sportster’s straight-line-angle pushrods also mean those four cams are more tightly keyed to overall valve train performance than any Big Twin can be. Like I said, bang for buck.

The Sportster is still the loud, snotty younger brother in the H-D family, and as such is, and has always been, looked down on by riders of its older, more venerable and venerated siblings. But that’s okay; most of ‘em have to wait till they catch up with me bar side to start ribbing me. I’ve never yet lost one of those last-guy-in-pays bar bets, and don’t intend to start anytime soon.

I will admit, though, that Sportsters are no fun at all on longer trips, especially for a tall guy like me. In fact, I just got back from a four-hour-each-way ride to Myrtle Beach Bike Week and back (a full report on MBBW is elsewhere in this issue), and I’m not ashamed to admit it was murder. Add to the basic stove-up Sportster riding position years of back trouble from working in the trucking industry for two decades, and you have a solid reason to consider such distasteful things as long-bed pickup trucks and trailers and suchlike. I haven’t succumbed quite yet, but with the inevitable continued advance of old-fogeydom, I’ll probably have to yield up my iron-butt status sooner rather than later, more’s the pity. But it’ll most likely still be a Sportster in tow behind me when I finally do reach that sad, sorry state.

Sportsters, to me, exemplify all the light-hearted fun and light-headed exhilaration I’ve looked for from riding since I was a ten-year-old, and if I live to be a hundred I’ll still want that thrill I get from snappy throttle response and effortlessly tossing a quick and responsive bike into a properly-cambered turn on a tar-patch country lane. They ain’t superbikes, and I wouldn’t want them to be; they’re Harleys through and through, even if they’re half-sized. But the enjoyment I get from every minute I spend on one is full-bore and big as life. Hey, if it’s good enough for Sonny, it’s good enough for me.

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