Yesterday I went to meet a sculptress friend at A’ali Mall. I saw a few bikers on Harley Davidsons speeding on the highway outside, enjoying this month’s mild morning weather. But when I went in to the coffeeshop, I saw that the place had been taken over by hordes of leather-clad, bandanaed, tight-jeansed bikers. In a case of bike-induced harmony among the races, the “born-free” bikers included in their number Bahrainis, Saudis, Jordanians, and (literally) red-necked Americans (probably caused of the Gulf sun during their ride over the causeway from Saudi Arabia.) Their leather jackets were bristling with patches and medallions, illustrating fantastic symbols: wings of liberation, the fire of passion, and skulls of death. I was fascinated; the whole symbolica involved transports one of a chthonic world of dark and almost sickly freedom presided over by a patch-eyed Dionysos. Even more arresting was the attire of some geniune, veteran bikers: one of the American fellows was tall, slim, ruddy, with the weathered face and grey sailor’s beard, crimson-red bandana, tigh leather black jacket, and some of the most colorful skulls, wings, birds, snakes, and girdles I had ever seen. I cautiously asked to take his picture, whereupon I was surprised that his voice was gentle and his smile kind. And there I was expecting this spawn of the vikings to go bezerk and come at me with a battle-axe.
What is it that makes these full-grown adults, who in their normal mortal lives are probably cubicled company employees, what makes them sacrifice their weekend riding on ridiculously expensive bikes, dressing up in ludicrously impractical outfits and sporting ancient pagan symbols on their chests? The sight of these riders brought to my mind the words “an adult halloween.” There seems to be someting deeply transformative about the outfits and symbols, and most of all, of course, the helmet and the metal horse itself, the venerable Harley Davidson. At any rate, the symbolica involved is exceedingly ancient and exceedingly powerful. The metal horse seems to attract self-imagined warriors, which is probably why most of the guys involved seem to be tough fellows, and not a few have muscles honed by exercise. But there are also baby-faced young adults who just the day before were most likely sitting on their backsides for hours in their favorite coffeeshop discussing their latest gadgets. Also, I dare say many of the gals involved hardly looked like gals at all. Still, the attraction of all the paraphernalia is considerable. Would these guys go out iron steeds, with the wind in their hair and riding into the sunset, if they had to do it on scooters and wearing slacks and sweaters? I doubt it, for if you want to make the statement that you were born to be free, you have to do it in style.