Short Story by Percival Campoamor Cruz
Translated by Lilian Matic Cruz
You’re all familiar with the physical appearance of a biker. Burly, long-haired man. With a bandanna tied around the forehead so that the hair is not swept by the wind and obstruct the view. He wears a moustache or a beard. A real man. Somewhere between 35 and 60 years old. He has a wife and family. A homeowner with one or two cars or trucks, aside from the motorbike. A high-income earner.
During the 1960s, he was among those referred to as “hippies”, a “counter-culture” people. Freedom-loving. Passionate about personal interests and beliefs. Usually contradicting customs and norms. A movie, “Easy Rider”, depicts the counter-culture. “Easy Rider” is the story of two motorbikers. They traveled on their bikes from California to New Orleans, encountering a rich amalgam of people and experience. Generally, they were regarded with bias because of their appearance, language, and philosophy. At a restaurant, for example, the owner refused them service and asked them to leave. People, including the police, regarded them as “troublemakers”.
The movie shows the contrast between city life and country life. It showed the use of marijuana as nothing out of the ordinary. In the end of the movie, the “hillbillies” killed the two bikers. Wyatt, portrayed by actor Peter Fonda, one of the movie’s main characters, said: "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." He observes that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it.
Motorcycle-riding on the roads and freeways, driving fast – with the winds slamming on the rider’s face and body, in total disregard of heat, cold, rain or the elements, far from the city, work, family and all of daily lives’ cares – this is real freedom!
While appearing physically unscathed, many soldiers who returned to America alive after having fought in Vietnam, brought back with them a kind of mental impairment. Haunted by the cruelty of the fighting in Vietnam, watching fellow soldiers meet horrible deaths, and continuously living in terror, drove many soldiers to insanity. Many sought refuge and peace from the madness by riding their motorcycles.
Fellowship and brotherhood come about at the rides with other motorcycle enthusiasts. Some refer to the groupings as “gangs”. Riding together as a team, they agree where to go, where to pause to rest. At the untravelled places, where people and homes are few, the riders stop to cook, share meals and stories, puff grass, drink beer, and sleep…
Some of the bikers do become troublesome. There are those who become involved in criminal activities, including drug-dealing and illegal weapons. Now and then, gang wars ensue among competing groups.
As a whole though, the bikers are honorable members of society. They help maintain peace. They raise money for the sick and the hungry. Every time a war veteran is laid to rest, the bikers lead the procession, in civic parades, as well. Meticulously aligned at the head of the parade, with an American flag on each bike, the motorcyclists in unison bike up at civic celebrations.
The motorcycle has a microphone and headset enabling the bikers to communicate with one another, while travelling. Equipped, too, with a stereo radio or cassette player they enjoy listening to their favorite music while travelling. “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen is one of their favorite songs.
"Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when
I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
spend half your life just covering up
"Born in the U.S.A.
"Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A. Born in the U.S.A.
"I got in a
little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to
To go and kill the yellow man
home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"
"I go down to see the V.A. man
He said "Son don't you understand"
"I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
"They're still there, he's all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a
picture of him in her arms
"Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years down the
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go
"I'm a long gone
Daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the
Born in the U.S.A."
One warm, bright and sunny day, people saw twelve bikers sitting on the grounds in front of the church. This scenario was seen, repeatedly, in front of many churches in all of Los Angeles.
The bikers did not move for two hours. They were silent, nobody spoke a word. They just sat quietly under the sun.
The policemen arrived to see if there was any trouble brewing. Seeing something like a silent demonstration, the police just stood by and waited. Church-goers and passersby wondered about the meaning of what was going on.
The TV news crews and newspaper photographers arrived . . . they got busy taking “clips” and pictures of the bikers . . . then went on to broadcast over the airwaves the unusual happening.
After two hours, the bikers quietly arose together and left without explaining what they just did – a demonstration? A protest?
Seen on the ground, in each of the places the bikers sat down, after they left, were twelve pieces of bread and fish.
It was Easter. The message, the secret message, only the bikers knew . . .
(Twelve Bikers • this English Translation by Lillie Matic Cruz)