“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood / Won’t you be mine?” I hum to myself, as I skip through The Trails or along Granada, a cartoon bird landing on my shoulder every now and then to rest and sing me a song.
It’s just that kind of small town. Clean. Friendly. The kind of place you can’t visit without first slipping on a comfortable old cardigan.
Let’s face it: This city is Sesame Street, but for people who don’t need that condescending vampire around, constantly trying to teach them how to count to 10.
As I drove home from work last Friday, though, all that changed. Engine roar replaced the usual peace and quiet. Where there used to be trees, now there were 50-foot-tall blow-up bottles of Jägermeister.
Right around the place I normally wave hello to Bill Cosby and Big Bird on their afternoon strolls, strippers stood in stilettos, holding sale signs.
It was Biketoberfest. The bars were packed and black leather was king. I may not be a biker, but this is a local tradition, one I couldn't help feeling I owed it to myself to give an honest shot.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Normally, I’d be hesitant to roll into a biker bar. I’d be the guy politely nudging his way through the crowd, squeaking out lines like, “Pardon me, sir” and “My apologies” and “Don’t mean to raise a kerfuffle” to massive bearded dudes with tattoos of them and their friends beating the pulp out of guys who bear an uncanny resemblance to me all down their arms.
When I finally reach the bartender, it would take me a second to regain my composure. And then, finally, I'd order my milk.
So I knew that if I was going to survive this, I’d have to adapt. Lucky for me, I recently invested in a brand new bicycle, and let’s just say I’ve already put quite a few miles on that bad boy.
“Scram, pinhead, you’re blockin' me,” I planned to growl to the first wiseguy that gave me trouble. (Note: Tough guy dialog in my head is mined almost entirely from movies about 1920s gangsters.) This, ultimately, would lead to an arm wrestling battle, which would then lead to the earning of mutual respect and my acceptance into the greater biker community.
“So what you ride?” a giant Harley man named Tiny would ask, as he pounds a shot of something dark and smelly.
“Me?” I’d say, adjusting my leather skull cap, rolling up my sleeves to better show off my farmer-tanned chicken arms. “See that princess-blue beauty out there? The Trek seven-speed. She’s mine, alright. Wouldn’t trade that rig for the world.”
To fit in, this is when I’d pour my milk into shot glasses and throw a few down the hatch, dramatically wincing after I swallow, saying, “That stuff don’t mess around. Talk about bite!” Then I’d use my whole arm to wipe away the white mustache before slapping my new buddy’s back and saying, “Hogs, right? Closest you can get to flying without leaving ground.”
It’s around this time, Tiny and I would become best friends. I’d tell him about my plans to organize a local biker gang, and he’d tell me about his dreams of one day playing classical piano at Radio City Music Hall.
It would have turned out that I’d misjudged Biketoberfest completely. My whole life would change. I’d get tattoos. I’d form an unhealthy obsession with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I thought about these possibilities the entire way home, as the crowds and cops and bikini tops of Biketoberfest disappeared in my rearview. I mean, I already had my revelation, right? I grew.
It’s not like I needed to stay for the experience — not when my shipment of Mr. Rogers DVDs was scheduled to be delivered to my house while I was at work, anyway.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR