August 25th, 2021
Tour De Franzia With The Greasy Butts Of Benson
I’ve always been a late bloomer. I begin things when others are already on their way out. From career plan right down to growing hair on my undercarriage.
Maybe it has something to do with being the youngest of four children. Maybe my broad view of the playing field caused me to deviate from the proper path. Perhaps I was born on the off-beat as a disturbance to the regular flow of rhythm. In essence, I am a syncopation.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for starters, consider the day I’m starting this column. It’s August 25th, the nearing death of the month. The decay of Summer. You can almost feel Autumn creeping in your bones. Under normal circumstances, a well thought out marketing campaign would strategize. It would draw statistics for the most effective way to capture the attention of an audience in order to push a certain product and drive sales. There would be preparation. A release date. Anticipation would follow a linear path drawn towards the finality of the thing. This was not my course of action in providing a space to vomit my observations.
The idea struck me and my mind went to work, my body obediently following in toe. Time has no hold on inspiration. It matters not what day it is, what month, year. Only that it has happened. An ethos watered by the soul. It flowered outward from my innermost being without regard for any external limitations. This is probably why I’ve always been drawn to people living in a similar vein.
In literature I always respected those authors who lived a long and quarrelsome life before finally finding their vocation with the written word, the ones who fought through the mundane in order to make a place for themselves in the world.
I like the Beats. Bukowski. Mooney. I like the outcasts. The freaks. Weirdos. Those who have chosen to bend reality to their will and separate themselves from the common clay. There is no doubt this is why I was drawn to the Greasy Butt gang and participated in their annual Tour de Franzia.
It was Sunday. The holy day of hangovers. The last attempt at recovery before the long week ahead. Guff and I were entertaining her childhood friend from California and I woke up foggy from a long night of drinking and dancing at Capitol Gallery down on Vinton. I could barely read the newspaper. I remember bits of an article on the futility of colonization. Mainly a quote by Charles de Gaulle warning Kennedy that any attempt at invading Vietnam and establishing diplomacy wouldn’t last for long. It was a lesson De Gaulle learned from Algiers and a premonition for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan . . . That’s as much as I picked up before putting down the paper. The coffee had little effect so I turned to beer to get greased for what was to come.
The three of us arrived at O’Leaver’s a little after 5:30 in the afternoon. A congregation of bikes already lined the railing around the front patio. We entered the bar. A few of the Butts were standing at the counter, waiting for another can of fuel before heading out back. I ordered a Red Stripe and followed their lead. The sun was still high in the late afternoon and the blue sky breathed easy.
The Greasy Butt gang were sucking down Hamm’s and shoveling burgers and wings into their mouths at the far end of the place, a colorful array of personalities, ranging in a wide display of extroversion and individuality.
Each one of them a world and a megaphone and a delight, their appearances a mixture of fishnets and spandex, braids, cycling caps, glittered nail polish, sandals and tattoos. The boisterous bunch welcomed us and we sucked down a couple more before the ride began.
“Ride the night! Question the morning!”
“Yea, you bunch of dumpster sluts!”
And then we were off.
The Tour de Franzia is as serious as the Tour de France without the competitive edge, and the only accolade that means anything is that you were part of it, that you road the fractured route with your chain and gullet greased, your saddle situated against your grundle, and your legs pumping with abandon, cutting up into the neighborhoods, down alleys, and around downtown to the likes of Willie Nelson and Doo-wop hits with pit stops at parks and bars before the long slurred ride back to Benson.
When it comes to the ride there are few rules, but the most important is simple: Good vibes only!
It’s about camaraderie and love and a damn good time without inhibitions and embarrassment.
Between the bars there’s the bladder of cheap white Zinfandel, and the art of “the slap” of the thing. It’s a ritual, really, much like sacrificing to a sun God, or losing your virginity. Style matters. The weirder, the better. Each approach to the slap is an extension of personality. There’s intensity. Combination. Perhaps a lick of the fingers. The double wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am. Then, of course, the pour. Head tilted back, assuming the position. The grape nectar splashing from mouth to chest and then mixing with sweat. The Greasy Butts howl. Hoot. Crow! They breathe it in. Exhale. Guffaw and quaff some more of the refreshing wine.
If it’s one thing I learned, it’s that no amount of Ajax could possibly clean the grease off the seats of these fun-loving freaks. Heed the Greasy Butt gang’s call and you will find yourself hanging upside-down from the chainlink pedestrian bridge on 42nd and Grover, the black nozzle pouring out the clear pink juice into your mouth, then singing Deana Carter with attitude or Poison by Bev Biv Devoe at the Grover Inn. And when the decrepit karaoke host sings
“I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here!”
You’ll be singing with him at top of your lungs only to soon find yourself back in the saddle pointed north on Field Club Trail as the night comes on, the shadows retreating into the dark foliage from the flashing of the bike lights, then finishing off the final remnants of the bladder behind Ponderosa before flying down the new bike lanes on Harney (now kiboshed by the city), weaving between the cones with the rare cool air, feeling infinite, headed to the Green Room for one more beer before last call shots of tequila at Cali bar.
After six hours the fifteen miles feels like thirty and in the morning there is only confusion and wonder as you crack another beer on a Monday, intoxicated by the purity of this clan that seems to get in your blood, never wanting the fun to end.
Ride on, you slanted beings of light. Ride on.
*Remember to drink plenty of water.
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