I was stoked to get an invitation from my rockabilly buddy Steve to join him for a Sunday afternoon of motorcycle riding and biker bars basically a biker tradition but a previous commitment kept me from the fun. I suggested we reschedule for a Friday night, and in the intervening days, I did some thinking: Were drinking and biking the wisest mix?
Even a sober ride with a guy who plays in a band called Slip and the Spinouts began to scare me especially when I recalled Steve's scars from an accident where he'd rear-ended a truck with his face. And there was also the nagging voice of financial responsibility reminding me of those pesky student loans that would require a fully functional brain to pay off.
Hoping it wouldn't compromise me too much with the badass crowd, I made the chicken-shit call to my tattooed friend to tell him that I planned to ride in a vehicle to the bar. As a concession, I offered to pick up the tab at whatever bar he chose. So I tried not to gripe too much when a long drive to Hallandale Beach seemed to promise little action: Jake's offered an ear-blistering, aging blues band and "Sexy Natalie's" lingerie show/raffle, and Steve was flipping through Wheels on the Road for other biker culture options.
While I discreetly eyed the 40-something in the bandanna and a gilded cocktail sword through his earlobe, Steve settled on Cagney's (because he'd never been there before) and used the magazine to quickly catch me up on the drama of biker life.
I discovered a lot about biker values, which besides bikes, boobs, and barbeque included family, the good Lord, an English-speaking USA, and tax write-offs. I also found out which biker liked underaged Costa Rican virgins and which had a stripper pole in his living room.
On our way to the next spot, I grilled my buddy on the stuff in the magazine that didn't compute like "What's a 1%-er?" (the 1 percent who give bikers a bad name) and "What's an independent?" (someone who doesn't belong to a club). My curiosity prompted Steve to issue a handful of warnings.
"Don't go poking people and asking them about their patches [on their leather jackets and vests] and shit," he admonished, knowing me well enough to predict my nosy reporter's habits. "You'll get us in trouble."
So with a gag order (and finger restrictions) in place, we sailed past a couple of dozen bikes on our way into the Davie dive. We entered with questioning looks on our faces when we heard what, in a previous column, I had established was Boca's anthem, "Play That Funky Music."
"I can't believe they're playing this shit at a biker bar," my musician friend grimaced.
With two pool games in progress and a crowded dance floor, at least the place was lively. We claimed space behind the cash register across the bar from the James Cagney poster (just to make it clear the bar wasn't named for Cagney and Lacey). I figured I'd make it clear from the get-go that I was every bit as tough as my "Bad Kitty" T-shirt suggested, so I ordered a shot of bourbon and a round of beers and nabbed the busted barstool as my seat of choice.
"He went to school with Johnny Depp," Steve told me, introducing me to Billy, his friend in the CBGB T-shirt.
"Betcha don't know what OMFUG means," interrupted a guy with a hooked nose and New York accent as he walked past, gesturing to the tagline beneath the club's name, so that I didn't get to hear anything further about the only celebrity I'd ever fantasized about.
"Other Music for... ," Billy faltered.
"Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers!" Hook Nose spouted, satisfied.
Now that we had that settled, Mr. Trivia introduced himself as Tony, and when I told him I was a reporter, he decided to challenge my word knowledge.
"Name a word that has all the vowels in the order a-e-i-o-u," he commanded with a contagious nervousness and jittered away to let me think about it while he began a game of pool.
Whether it was the deafening groove of the band's cover of Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" or the convulsive undulations of the women in response, I couldn't think of anything. When Tony returned, I shrugged. He took my notepad and wrote down arsenious, abstenious, facecious.
"Arsenious: prone to arson," he claimed matter-of-factly, by way of explanation when I raised an eyebrow.
Actually, he misspelled abstemious and facetious, and arsenious actually means "containing arsenic." But we're sure he's still a genius.
"My mother went to Barnard and has several master's degrees. My father is a biochemist in cancer research. Can you imagine the dinner conversation around that table?" he said before prattling on at earsplitting volume about how his family knew everyone from Daniel Day Lewis to Isaac Asimov. "I retired from Wall Street when I was 25."
It was his turn at the pool table again. I tried to get some side conversation in with Billy, whose claims to be a guitarist and biker were easier to believe. With his girlfriend Peggy behind the bar, he'd become a regular, but he didn't have any colorful biker-bar stories.
"Craziest thing that's ever happened?" he repeated to give himself time to think, his heavy-lidded eyes glazed with indifference. "Old men fighting over a fat chick."
Meanwhile, Steve was babe-shopping from the dance-floor showcase. But he wasn't buying.
"The one with the black hair has a good body, but she dresses tacky," he said, assessing the woman whose narrow hips were wrapped with a gypsy scarf, slender legs ended in suede ankle boots, and ridiculously enlarged melons were hammocked in a halter-top.
With conversation like that, it almost made Tony's return welcome.
"I'm a financial negotiator and a world-class juggler. I'm the guy you don't want to sit across the poker table from," he said as he pulled at the front of his conservative plaid shirt. "Oh, and I was an announcer at a strip club."
"Is there anything you haven't done?" I asked as a Santa-looking biker with a big belly and white beard pushed up to the bar.
"Haven't jumped out of an airplane," he confessed at top volume and launched into another story. "But I've bungee-jumped. I've even reverse bungee-jumped."
Unless I was talking to Tireless Tony, conversation was nearly impossible, so I sized up the crowd as I resisted the urge to elbow St. Nick, who kept bumping into me. Pretty much a 30-and-up crowd with a lot of bikers, the place was somewhat diverse if you count the fact that many were also car or truck people. You could tell by the hair: too tidy to have been in a helmet or exposed to high winds.
I amused myself with the array of bad dancing, including a woman in fruit-striped pants who spasmed in time to the Bon Jovi song the band was playing. I gently elbowed Steve instead, nodding toward a dancing threesome, where two aging bikers both with vests I was prohibited from asking about had a woman sandwiched between them.
Steve shook his plaid-capped head.
Tony was back once again. This time, it would be a parting exchange: "OK, you'll love this. Knock, knock."
"Who's there?" I grudgingly offered on our way out.
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"Fuck who?" I said, pretty sure I was walking into a come-on.
"No, fuck whom!" Tony sang, delighted.
It was far from the night of bourbon-slinging badasses I had expected. Sure, there were tattoos and leather and lots of graying ponytails and beards, but I'd expected some danger even if I kept my poking fingers and nosy questions to myself. On our way out, I wondered aloud if there was such a thing as a young biker. And Steve just laughed.