Harley Horror


Sunday September 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   By all accounts, I should be a fanatical fan of Harley-Davidson and everything they are about. I have always been a student of marketing, and they’ve done one of the best marketing jobs of any company I have ever seen. They rose from the ashes to create a brand that has worldwide appeal. Actually, they’re more than a brand. They’ve become a way of life. Not many products do that.

   They sell the idea of high adventure, being a free spirit and having fun. I’m usually all about all of that as well. And on top of everything, their home office happens to be located in the very city where I was born. In theory, we should have formed a symbiotic relationship that lasts a lifetime.

    In reality, I can’t stay far enough away from a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I’ve never owned one, nor have I been tempted to buy one. If I won one in a raffle, I would unload it the same day. It’s nothing against Harley-Davidson per se, as I would be equally against any motorcycle brand.

   That’s a direct result of my childhood, and I don’t deny it. I know it shouldn’t have any power over me now, but it totally does. Every time I hear that disgusting roar of a Harley motor it takes me immediately back to my childhood when my old man or one of his unwashed maggot cronies in the Outlaws would pull up to the house on their scooter.  It sets off a Pavlovian reaction in me.

   Every time I heard that sound as a kid, it reminded me that the old man was coming home, and that was rarely a happy event. If he was in a foul mood – and he usually was – someone was sure to get a beating. It wasn’t always me, but even still hearing that sound made my bunghole wink.

   It’s loud, obnoxious, annoying and it disturbs me to the core. I want to be as far away from it as possible – just like all the oozing humanoid slime that used to hang out with my father. I realize it isn’t the fault of Harley-Davidson, and I don’t hold it against them. But I can’t stand that sound.

   This weekend was the 110th anniversary of Harley-Davidson, and as has been their tradition for years there was a huge event in the city of Milwaukee where riders from all over the world came to celebrate. Again, in theory I should have been all over this. In reality, I avoided it like herpes.

   I couldn’t avoid it totally, as there were all kinds of riders on the highways of Northern Illinois where I live. They rode in packs, and that damn sound was everywhere all weekend. I tried not to think about it, but it was impossible to ignore. Every time I hear it it shoots me right back to that place in my childhood I’ve been trying to escape since I was there the first time. It’s pure torture.

   I’m not saying everyone who rides a Harley is a maggot. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I would bet most Harley riders are doctors, lawyers, yuppies and other weekend wannabe warriors. They are entitled to their fun, and I don’t begrudge it to them. On paper, the event was a huge success.

   I wish I could enjoy it with them, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t get that sound out of my brain. It has tainted my viewpoint forever. I hope the throngs who attended the event had fun, but I for one could not be any more thrilled it’s over for at least another five years. I like it quiet.

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