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May 27, 2007

Rolling Thunder

It's an armada of motorcycles, thousands of them, the mufflers removed from every one, it seems, so a low steady cyclical growl floats over the whole city -- and from the horizon, for the bikers are across the river as well, in the neighborhood close to Arlington National Cemetery, which is the magnet pulling all this metal to Washington, D.C. each year during Memorial Day weekend. It's called Rolling Thunder (which was also, not so coincidentally, the name of a bombing campaign during the Vietnam war).

The usual tourists wander around, of course, taking the usual pictures of the usual monuments. But more awe-inspiring is the temporary installation of artwork on the streets downtown. There are long rows of parked motorbikes, customized to the point of mutation, parked at angles that seem like a temptation to gravity and the domino effect. The place is full of sweaty, beer-swilling, heavily tattooed bikers. And you should see their husbands.


Posted by smclemee at May 27, 2007 10:27 AM


A few years ago, I reviewed the official Harley-Davidson company history -- naturally, it was a coffee table book with an immense number of fetishistic photos. I noted that the official Ford Motor Company history, another coffee table book, did at least contain one shot of the Pinto with a caption acknowledging the little clunker's publicity problems but claiming its fireball dangers had been greatly exaggerated by the press.

The HD history, on the other hand, was a peculiar hymnal in that the "American bad boy" image is, of course, precisely what has sold the pig iron over the years, and it's why what my wife terms the "Hell's Accountants" -- the well-trimmed greybeards at the diner down the street whose hawgs probably cost more than our house and who occasionally whip down our street, endangering the children and pets -- it's precisely why they've recently taken up riding these gleaming farters. But that same "Wild One" image is what the company wants to play down because, obviously, it doesn't reflect the great many middle-aged, "recreational" outlaw/customers.

So I noted that among the book's more than 100 photos of Harleys and their "ride free" riders, only one biker was even smoking a cigarette.

Posted by: book/daddy at May 27, 2007 5:30 PM