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Head for the Hog

Boar's Nest West is a deep and wide bar, with bare-bones, beer-advertisement décor. When I visited one night last week about 8 p.m., slathered in makeup and leather, a few scattered groups of manly men with bountiful sprouts of facial hair were sitting side by side around the large central bar. They held their beers indifferently and spoke to one another without turning their heads. Out front were several road hogs.

At the back of the bar (381 W. Prospect Rd.), one of my companions, Betty, introduced me to Drew, a medium-height bulky man with wild black hair. He was wearing a sleeveless leather vest and had an eagle tattoo running down his shoulder and arm. He gripped my hand and said, "I like tall women." He took off his baseball cap for a moment, and upon second glance, his broad features and shiny black eyes cut an imposing, even handsome, figure.

He smiled at me as he gripped his pool stick and said, "Short women seem to like me, but I always worry that I'm going to break them in half." He nodded for emphasis.

Smile and nod, just smile and nod.

Then Drew walked back over to the pool table. I began throwing Michy Lites back like Kool-Aid while playing game after game of darts with Betty and her friend, Slick, a writer of sorts. I wanted French fries, but to my dismay, I learned there was no kitchen.

Sometime during the two hours that we played, Johnny walked up behind us and leaned on the wooden half-wall that sectioned the dart room off from the rest of the bar. He was a sturdy silent man wearing a leather vest like Drew's and a bandanna on his head.

When I stepped into the parking lot, Johnny had his Harley cranked. Big Game Bar and Grill (2935 N. Federal Hwy.), I had heard, had spicy curly fries, so I put a hand on a hip and asked him for a ride. He gave me a silent nod and handed me a pair of sunglasses. Soon Drew, the merciless flirt, walked out of the bar and started giving Johnny a hard time about stealing me.

Johnny said, "You're too popular for your own good. You're in there talking to people while she's out here looking for a ride."

Drew grumbled playfully as he put his shades on, and before I was quite prepared, we were pulling out into traffic. We shot out onto Prospect and made a U-turn, then stopped at a red light. Drew pulled up next to us and said, "We have to make a pit stop."

I was suddenly hyperaware that I'd been separated from my escorts, Betty and Slick.

Over the roaring engines, Johnny started joshing about what it will be like when Drew has his way with me. What he said exactly, I could not hear, but Drew disagreed, saying, "No, it will be more like a symphony."

Teetering between amusement and fear, I chose the sunnier of the two and screamed happily as we started tearing through the quiet night. Though I was terrified of approaching cars and intersections, I couldn't stop smiling. I yelled to Johnny: "How long have you been riding?"

"All my life," he replied. "I used to do drugs up until six years ago, but this is my drug now."

That made a lot of sense to me, because this ride was certainly mind-altering. I know this city pretty well, but we were flying through neighborhoods and down back roads that passed too quickly to be recognized. My arms were resting on the crest of Johnny's belly, and I was comforted by the manly mass of him, happy that my fate wasn't balancing in the hands of one of those waifish men who are so in vogue these days.

Then all of a sudden, we were sitting at a stoplight on Federal Highway. We shot across to Boar's Nest East (4520 N. Federal Hwy.), and Johnny said not to get off on the right side 'cause his pipes would burn right through my pants and skin. So I dismounted on the left, and we went into the small dim bar and ordered another drink. I'd given up on the fries, having learned that bikers like their alcohol undeterred by a nourished system.

Johnny ordered me a Smirnoff Ice, very gentlemanly, I thought. Then I slipped off to the bathroom, where a girl was bent over the toilet. She stood just as I was coming in. I asked if she was all right. With a truckload of attitude, she replied, "Yeah, I'm all right. Are you all right?"

Not wanting to get a bottle over the head, I silently went about my business in the doorless stall.

Then Johnny and I went outside, again on a quest to find another bar. Drew, who had arrived after us, was sitting at a table and having a serious conversation. When Johnny stood up to leave, the question of whose bike I was going to decorate came up again. What it means to have a girl ride on your bike, I did not know. I did not inquire.

Johnny didn't seem to care what I did, and Drew wanted me to ride with him. So I slipped on Drew's extra pair of sunglasses, and he said something about riding's being akin to Buddhism. Then I climbed on the back of the bike, and we took off down a back road. We went over a speed bump, and I clung more tightly to Drew.

Soon we arrived at Big Game, which turned out to be a poolside lounge at a motel. It seemed that Betty had been watching for us, because when we arrived, she came out and scolded the pack before throwing her arms around me. Then we scurried off to the bar to put in my French fry order. But the hubristic glory-courting that I'd been doing all night turned the gods against me, and they willed the kitchen be closed.

I sat at the bar nursing a kamikaze. It went to my head fast.

Drew had his arm around my chair, telling me he never expected women to sleep with him. It was more like an ebb-and-flow thing, really. He divulged his life philosophy: It was sort of like what Eddie Izzard terms "the relaxed and groovy" ethic of the great spirits, whose words are misinterpreted again and again by the power-hungry. What I wanted to say was that I too ascribed to "the relaxed and groovy" thing, but my jumbled thoughts were resisting the discipline of formation. So I smiled vapidly through my painted lips.

Wrapped in Betty's leather halter-top, I felt like a piece of grade-A biker beef. Then Betty said, "I gave her a biker-chick make-over." Upon hearing this, one of the guys shot me a reproving glance and asked, "What do you usually look like?" The question was tantamount to, Who the hell are you?, implying the further question, Do you even know who you are?

It was too much for my French fry-deprived system to contemplate. You think you can innocently adopt the image of a scene, but sometimes a penetrating eye peers through the masquerade and spies you for the impostor that you are.

Betty rescued me by offering to whisk me away to the next biker location, Smith Bros. (2651 N. Federal Hwy.), which, I was informed, had no kitchen.

So we cruised through a Wendy's drive-through, and instead of the curly fries I'd been lusting after all night, I ate four or five fast-food fry husks. The booze was in control of my system by this time. It was, alas, too late to restore my faculties.

When we arrived at Smith Bros., Drew and Johnny were there, but I was too exhausted to resume our playful banter. Barely able to stand, I dialed a ride. I needed to get horizontal immediately, and not in the way Johnny and Drew had suggested.

Betty and Slick and I stood outside of Smith Bros., recapping our evening. Slick advised me on what was printable, alluding to Hunter S. Thompson, whose ass was stomped by the Hell's Angels. He said something about spitting teeth, after which I assured him I'd choose my words carefully.

Then the parking lot came to life with growling engines. Drew's machine joined the chorus as he revved it up to depart to some unknown locale. He threw us one more gleaming grin as his engine roared and shot him out into the street. Slick looked at me, pointed his cigarette toward the disappearing hog and rider, and said, "There's your ending right there." He lifted his Jack and Coke in a gesture of nuff said, and I nodded silently in Durstian agreeance, suppressing a senseless smile.

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Courtney Hambright

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