Forever in pursuit of deeply accurate and meaningful categories in which to pigeonhole people, I am now prepared to argue that there are only two kinds of American men: Harley Men and Vespa Men. I am a Vespa Man suffering from Harley-envy. Worse still, I’m a Vespa Man without a Vespa. Where is Dr. Freud when you need him?
Now before you go ballistic on me for reducing all men to their wheels, New Scientist magazine, reports on a study of male rhesus monkeys (these are monkeys made from a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter for you scientifically challenged readers) who, when given a choice between playing with dolls or trucks, ignore the dolls and choose the trucks every time. Darwin rules! Men are evolutionarily designed for motorized locomotion. If that doesn’t prove Intelligent Design nothing does.
The problem with my peanut butter filled primate cousins is that they cannot distinguish between cool wheels, i.e. a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and metrosexual wheels such as a Vespa. I, on the other hand, can and do.
I have ridden a Harley once and sat on one twice. When I was a student at Tel Aviv University I had a friend who looked like the rock star Meatloaf and who owned a Harley. I would sit behind him, my arms wrapped tightly around his ample middle, as we sped through the streets of the not-so-holy city. I think he would have preferred it if the person pressed against him was wearing a miniskirt or bikini but I refused.
My second Harley experience was at the Jewish Community Center in South Miami-Dade when I sat on the bike of a friend. Unaccustomed to being in the driver’s seat I pressed a bare leg (I was wearing gym shorts not a bikini) against the hot muffler and burned myself badly. If only there had been a dragon embossed on the side of that muffler I would have had a cool tattoo ala Kwai Chang Kane, but, just my luck, there was only a welt. It was then, I suspect, that I knew I was a Vespa Man.
Why am I bringing this up today? Because yesterday I read a full page Harley-Davidson ad in USA TODAY: We don’t do fear. Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we’ve seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance, and revolutions. We’ve watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-view mirror. But every time this country has come out stronger than before. Because chrome and asphalt put distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the spin on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it’s that fear sucks and it doesn’t last long. So screw it, let’s ride.
Yeah! Let’s ride! I said, LET”S RIDE! CAN YOU HEAR ME? I HAVE TO SCREAM OVER THE SOUND OF MY EN… Oh, yeah. Vespa Man. I’m riding a scooter that whines rather than roars. And while those Harley Men are racing away from whatever it is those other men are throwing at us, I keep getting hit in the back of the head.
Actually it’s worse than that. I can’t afford a Vespa, so I’m walking. It is easy to throw stuff at a guy whose walking. I move at about 3.8 MPH, and I go from 0 to 60 in about, well, never. I guess I will just have to make my peace with fear.