Monday, September 16, 2013

This Girl's Guide to Sturgis Part 2

I found myself driving up Interstate 90 toward Sturgis.  The drive was spectacular.  Rows of cycles, calmly, courteously heading forward. No jockeying for position or cutting each other off.  No showboating or grandstanding.  All shine and muscle and revved up pride.  There seemed to be this communal respect that one doesn’t generally feel in ordinary traffic or the queuing up of any sort.  It made me feel more certain that this was a good decision.  Continuing into the center of Sturgis, I started worrying briefly about how far out of town I may need to drive to find a place to stay should this plan not work.  I let it go, offering it up to the gods or the saints, patronly and watching.  I am certain.  I provide a great deal of entertainment for the otherworldly, which I have come to believe is perhaps one of my more defined purposes in life. So offer it up, I do.  Continuing on slowly, I was able to gaze around and notice hand painted parking signs in miscellaneous yards.  I noticed tents propped on random lawns.  I wasn’t ready to commit, I hadn’t seen the center of town yet, or had a clear sense of how far it might be.  

I continued past the heart of Sturgis and notice a sign for parking within walking distance. $10 SEE THE PARKING ATTENDANT TO PAY  Where, I wondered, and how formal, a parking attendant?  Across the field, I noticed a modest home with a deck adorned with lanterns, and the sound of quiet music playing.    As I approached, I saw a young girl heading into the yard and inquired about parking, and what the hell? I asked if they had any room on their lawn for my tent.  It is, I might say, a minor production, a kite style one woman light-weight deal, utilized for my occasional wilderness treks.  They would hardly know I was there.  Young girl left to find out, older woman appeared, sized me up, asked how many were in my party, was surprised and pleased when I told her I was alone.  She smiled, briefly.  She then sternly informed me there would be no drugs or drinking, when I agreed to the terms she said, “OK $20, for parking and camping.  What are you driving?” When I told her, she looked like she wanted to dance.  She showed me where to pull up right on her lawn as opposed to the field, that may or may not have been hers.   Pulling my car onto her lawn opened up another spot, I could almost see the dollar signs forming in her eyes.   I parked, grabbed some things from my duffel bag, and changed on her lawn.  In that way you learn to change at a beach, under a towel or sundress, pulling things off and under and on and over until you have changed your clothes without exposing a thing. I am getting good at this quick costume change technique.  I throw my small camera around my neck and grab my camera bag loaded with the larger camera and assorted lenses and head into town like I own this night, this rally.   Or at least with a wide smile and a skip in my step.

I follow the road back into town about a quarter of a mile into the center of action.  Where to begin? What to focus on?  There are tents and vendors.  Frog legs, chicken wings, onion rings… Frog legs? Interesting.   People everywhere.  Music, pulsing from many directions.  And motorcycles all abuzz, streaming into town in a never ending line of hot metal and chrome.  Girls, glisten and shine, not so many, but those you notice, are lets just say, quite noticeable.  Shiny.  Thonged, Chapped, Pastied, seemingly chained, or  leashed, a few at least.  The seemingly chained are ogled, observed, gawked upon and drooled over.  Where am I? How did I end up here?  Why am I not outraged and disgusted and running the other way?  I am instead somehow amused.  Honestly.  Unbelievably.  Open to the otherness of it all.  Amazed even.  Bewildered for sure.  But it’s Sturgis.  It’s not the Mormon Tabernacle or the Church of Divine Restriction and Uptightness.  Those that come, that plan their visits with purpose and direction are here to bask in the freedom, albeit pastied, as opposed to total freedom.  A law, new, and I’ve heard enforced, the pastyless, must pay.  Otherwise this is the place to hang loose, let it all hang out, sparkle and shine.  And those like me, are their others here like me?  I can’t tell, but I am trying to blend and slip through almost unnoticed. I don’t have chaps. Or bedazzled, grommeted, spiked, or fringed garments or accessories.  I don’t have a bike.  I don’t have a biker.  I have my cameras.  I have found, having cameras sets purpose.  Provides a disguise of sorts.  Allows me in and keeps me separate, safely.  It also allows me to observe and capture a view that is otherwise out of reach.  My lens allows me to get up close and personal.  It often provides an opportunity for interaction, the start of dialogue, an invitation to worlds that are not my own, or at the very least a quiet respect. 

I enter the first venue I approach.  Balconies surround the makeshift courtyard.  Temporary bars are scattered around, manned? Wo-manned, definitely womanned by barely clad women, girls, the young, fresh eye candy types.  Displayed motorcycles are cordoned off.  A bandstand with musicians is front and center.  Crowds are gathered throughout.  After attaining a Corona at the bar, I climb the stairs to the balcony and find a stool.  One side faces the street, the other side faces the crowds and the music.  I am smiling widely, still.  I prepare my camera with the appropriate lens and before taking any pictures, I dial my aunt’s number, you may recall, the biker babe from way back and even not so long ago.  The music is blaring, the bikes are roaring past.  I can’t have a conversation, it is way too loud.  She answers the phone, and my smile is now as large as is physically possible.  Without attempting to speak, I hold the phone out above the brazen bustle that is Sturgis.  I hear her and laugh.  “So, I guess you made it to Sturgis.” She laughs deeply and heartily.  I am laughing too and can barely speak.  I manage “Yup”  As though I am five again and she is 15 or 16.  Goofy for certain.  I then hear her talking to her husband.  “She’s in Sturgis, I hope she isn’t calling in need of help, I’m not sure if that’s screaming or music”  I laugh louder and hang up happy in the absurdity of me in Sturgis, and the sharing of this news. 

I send a quick message to my loving friend, to let him know I have made it to Sturgis.  I have not yet found a boyfriend but I am happy.  And, well, the night is young.  He tells me to have fun,  enjoy, et cetera, and so on, good bye.  It is bittersweet and much more, but I find myself suddenly less weighted with sadness than I had been earlier regarding our timing, mismatched and otherwise occupied.  My smile, wide, is now growing, assured of possibility and joy and the new freedom of no expectations.  I am suddenly experiencing a lightness and a joy that I have not fully felt in a very long time. I owe no one an explanation.  I have no obligations, no commitments, no responsibilities, at least for the time being.  And I am in Sturgis.  This combination fuels my laughter and my spirited sense of adventure.

I notice a text from the man that prods me to let my hair down, to relax, to breathe deeply and stop worrying.  He believes me to be a neurotic ball of angst and episodic, frenetic, fear mongering.  He knows not that I have driven far away from that intense, desperate, and fearful woman that had just left the false safety of a nightmarish and barely lived life when first we crossed paths.  He is perplexed and intrigued to hear, or read, it is texting, that I am now standing on a bar stool and photographing a small slice of Sturgis with a shit-eating grin and the bravado of a cowgirl with her lasso loosely hanging at her side, and her spurs, jingle jangling at the ready.  When he prompts me to have fun, he fails to pay attention and misses that I am by now deep in fun.  He doesn’t know what to make of the already relaxed tone, of the laughter coupled with me in Sturgis.  He jokes and prompts and teases and encourages me to go for a ride.  Now it is safe to say, this man has been the recipient of all sorts of angst and post divorce projection, transference and all around screaming desperation, that I truly believed, at the time, was hope and maybe even some girlish sense of love and absolute attraction.  I may have believed him to be the antidote for loneliness. I treated him like the second coming of you-know-who, Almighty, on occasion and at other times like my biggest nightmare.

I just recently realized how fine the line between hope and desperation was.  Like very recently.  As in this morning recently.   But at the time I met this guy, it felt much more like hope even if it smelled like, and sounded like, and even looked like that other side of the coin.  Heads it's hope, tails it's desperation. There was a time when girls once had hope chests filled with quilts, and maybe silver, or china, and an eyelet lace covered ball and chain. We were reared to hunt out men and use our hooks baited with purity and white-lace promises of chastity and virginity.  But wait, enough of that I am in Sturgis, and the man that I once convinced myself was magic and joy has just told me in so many ways to go get…..well, let’s just say lucky.  And because there is some magic occurring for me in Sturgis, this does not break my spirit or feel devastating, it actually frees me.  I like this guy.  And I know I have been crazy over the top hopeful, ummm maybe nearly desperate for his attention. What can I say, really?  I do “hope” like some women do their nails, or their hair, or their wardrobes.  Big. Sparkly. Rainbows and unicorns, twirls of hope, because up until Sturgis,  I thought that is what girls were supposed to do.  When he tells me to go have fun, I hear, calmly, all that hope or desperation was not meant to amount to anything, and I am finally available to hear it, and well I still have my lasso and spurs and he is far afield and well, I’m in Sturgis and from where I was sitting, and even standing on the stool, there are more than a few cowboys that seem rearing to go and open to the slightest suggestion. Giddy up!

So let’s recap for a moment.  Fashion Week is supposed to enhance a woman’s life.  Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Dancing at her son’s weddings, ok, fine, maybe being introduced to their partners first, and then dancing.  Being sought out by her daughter for advice.  Lunch with girlfriends.  I’m sure there is a list available of the top 10 most enhancing moments in a girl’s life, a woman’s life.  I am also certain Sturgis does not make the cut.  And yet, somehow, Sturgis becomes this turning point in mine. A definite enhancement.

I order a whiskey, straight… neat even, what the hell, I’m not driving and I have secured sleeping arrangements.  The men surrounding me on the balcony are visited by the barely clad bar maid, a few times.  As I witness this, again, I wave over this  very same bar maid and order myself that whiskey.  Maybe it’s a regional thing.  She doesn’t understand.  People don’t order whiskey, alone, as in straight up.  I repeat it.  She is thrown, but obliges.  When she returns, she laughs.  She tells me the bartender wants to know if she is off duty, why was she ordering whiskey straight up? The cups are labeled, Two Ginger’s Whiskey.  C’mon?  How often are cups labeled with YOUR name?  I had to indulge. 

I drink up, chat up my black leathered neighbor and jump down off the barstool to find my way back into the crowd.  I find a spot near the stage and take some photos of the band.  I continue around the perimeter and take more photos of the crowd.  I am watching as another pastied smiling specimen walks by, leashed to the trailing grim faced owner?  That’s certainly what it appears from the outside.  I notice the men watching.  I laugh lightly and snap photos, the expressions priceless.  There are two men sitting on a bench, their eyes are lit up and their gazes are, I guess I’ll say appreciative.  I can’t help but take this photo, the look, the moment, priceless.  As my flash goes off their eyes meet the lens, and my eyes.  They look, caught, hands in the cookie jar, but happier for it.  We connect and share the moment across the courtyard, laughing and smiling. 

I can’t help but feel amused by this odd connection.  As I readjust my camera, someone approaches from the side and is laughing at what just transpired.  I size him up, big and not quite burly but light and smiling, I address him, knowing he will partake, “OK, what the hell is that?”  He looks slightly puzzled as he anticipates my brazenness, his smile getting wider, shit-eating in it’s own right.  “What is it with the girls on leashes, how the hell is that Ok? And why are their owners so grim faced and angry?” I implore.   He sizes me up and laughs out loud, “Yep, that’s about it, and you? What are you doing with all the cameras?  Why aren’t you taking my picture?”  Without skipping a beat I respond. “Oh, you want your picture taken, OK smile”…I take one and start up again….  “Wait a minute, no, no, no, if you want me to take a photo of you, you’re going to have to show me a little Sturgis”… I laugh at my spirit, my audacity, and boldness and his willingness to indulge and play along.  He pulls up his shirt, no pasties, but I’m not here to conduct a citizens arrest, I take the photo and we continue talking, easily, lightly.  He shares some strange and funny propositions he has been approached with.  I laugh and share a tale of my own.  He does that once over thing, again, so now it’s a twice or three times over thing at best.  He smiles and blurts out, "How old are you?"  I groan, and tell him, "50, but that’s a bit of a buzzkill, we were just having fun".  He smiles bigger, all dimples and sparkle.  “How old am I?”  More laughter, I am somehow, suddenly in the playground with a fellow eight year old.  I say, "Oh damn…I don’t like this game" He proclaims, "51!" as though he scored.  I start laughing.  He presses, before I can react, “How old did you think I was? Older?"   “No, actually, I thought you were too young for me.”  He’s charmed, and he can see it was an honest reply.  

I am not so good at this game of guessing ages, in his favor it is a good thing.   At 50 it seems everyone is potentially younger if not obviously so.  We go on talking and laughing.  "Where are you from, What’s your name?  Wait here a minute, I was on line for the bathroom when I noticed you.  What are you doing next?"  He is excited and I am enthralled.   Maybe because that has been my role, that excitement, I find it humorous, and sweet, and I can’t help giggling and talking and trying to keep up.  Somewhere along these exchanges, he decides I am a wild chick from New York, and well, I’m OK with that assessment.  He seems enraptured. I haven’t felt like that “wild chick from New York”, in around about 30 or so years, I welcome it, as a compliment, as any wild chick from New York would.  Damn straight, unnnhumm, that’s right.  Maybe I walk a little taller, maybe there is a little swagger…well no, probably not, I am all bubbling over and bantering with this man, this big, almost burly, biker from Scottsdale.  We fall into this playfulness with ease. 

He shows me his bandages, he just got a tattoo and needs a place to clean it.  I tell him I know where there are bathrooms and he asks me to take him there. Of course, I will, no problem.  Suddenly I am able to help care for bikers with tattoos.  I don’t even question it, I fall into place, as though this is a place well known to me.  As I lead him into the inner sanctum of Sturgis, or at least the clean and private bathrooms of the lounge, he suddenly stops and looks a bit more intensely, as he asks me if I’ll wait.  I smile and reassure him.  As he gets closer to the men’s room he turns and looks for me.  I am still there, and it occurs to me that he is afraid I will leave. How sweet is that?  He is genuinely concerned I will not be there when he returns.  OK, I know, I am in Sturgis, in a biker bar, helping a stranger clean up his tattoo, and suddenly it strikes me that that is one of the sweetest, compliments I’ve had in a while.  Me.  Someone is looking at me, like he won a prize, concerned that I will not be there when he returns.  When he returns, he is practically pinching himself, he has a great big smile and asks if I want to head out into Sturgis to see the sights.  He asks who I am here with.  When I say, calmly and confidently, “No one.”  He stops.  He determines from that, I am not with a man, but he wants to know who I came with, where are my girlfriends? When I tell him again, “No one, as in alone.” and smile, he shakes his head and sizes me up again.  What? Women don’t come to Sturgis.  Women definitely don’t come to Sturgis alone.”  He laughs again saying, “Wow, you really are a wild chick from New York”, happier each time he says it. 

We share some pertinent facts, children, marriages, divorces, OK my pertinent facts.  He has a son, grown, he was never married... Tattoos, his, now 4.  He tries to convince me to get one.  I laugh and tell him my plan, or at least the plan I have been sharing as a joke when asked first by my mother, recently, when I was going to get a tattoo.  I told her when I meet my third husband.  Her face fell. I thought to myself, why push or tease?  I am pretty good occasionally at dishing it right back.  Of course my son's face dropped too, but he regained his composure when he saw I was joking.  Anyway, I have by now actually considered it, although, I don't have a prospect for my third husband.  For reasons I can't explain, in the past year, prior to Sturgis, I have been asked by several people about getting a tattoo.  And I think, by now, the more I have answered this question, with a slight edge, the less I think it preposterous.  So I have considered getting a tattoo, when I find my third and final installment.  I will get a trinity tattoo to commemorate the affair I imagine.  And why the hell not?  Three is an important number in my life, even without the third husband, so it will be a bonus all around.   There are some really cool trinity motifs to choose from, well, sure I have looked.  I am leaning towards the cross of Brigid, that fiery, spirited Celtic Goddess, in a trinity design.

We move through the town, easily.  Talking and laughing and acting like we have known each other for awhile.  We sit down to talk, and a woman approaches and sits down. He strikes up a conversation and she assumes we are married, we don't correct, falling into conversation regarding our long and beautiful life.  Later he asks where I'm staying, how long.  He tries to convince me to stay longer.  Another night at least.  I assure him I can't, saying,   "It's probably for the best.  I'm a little clingy, and if you push, well, there's no telling what will happen, but I'm pretty certain we would have to get married, and I would need to get the tattoo, and why ruin a good thing?"   We both laugh and continue into the center of Sturgis, uncertain of how this night will unfold.  Just like that, I am here in Sturgis practically planning my third marriage and my tattoo.....

More to come....

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