Thursday, December 4, 2014

Motorcycles as a Metaphor

Today we welcome Michael Sears as a guest blogger. This may be a bit surprising because he's being introduced by none other than ... Michael Sears.  Rather amazingly we both have exactly the same name - no middle name - and both of us write mysteries.  Michael's first novel, the best-seller BLACK FRIDAYS, a thriller with a financial twist, introduced financial investigator Jason Stafford and a wonderful new character - his son, the Kid, an autistic boy.  It took the Shamus award and was short-listed for four other major awards, including the Edgar.  MORTAL BONDS, the critically-acclaimed second novel in the Jason Stafford series, won the Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville this year.  Continuing the series, LONG WAY DOWN, is due out from Putnam in February, 2015.  Michael lives in Sea Cliff, NY with the artist and poet, Barbara Segal.
Here Michael takes a look at the other attraction at Long Beach in November and what it might mean...

Thank you, Michael Sears, for inviting me to participate here at Murder is Everywhere.  I am a fan of crime novels set in alien cultures – whether it’s Henry Chang’s New York Chinatown, or your and Stanley’s view into Botswanna, or Jeffrey’s sun-baked Greek isles.  It feels a bit like a vacation when I visit this way.  I come away with a taste of what makes our worlds different – which can be challenging, educational, or simply amazing – and what makes them similar – because in the end, humans murder each other the world round for all the same reasons.
But it took a trip to Long Beach – the site of this year’s Bouchercon, the biggest of the mystery readers and writers conferences – to reveal the heart of my own country.  No, not in the throngs who came to meet such great American authors as Lee Child, Stanley Trollip, and Stuart Neville.  The great metaphor for the melting pot that is the United States was next door to our convention.  At the motorcycle show.
Unless you ride, or know a rider or two quite well, it may be easy to dismiss the whole phenomenon as a fringe movement, populated by criminals, crazies, and sufferers from male menopause.  While the purchase of a motorcycle may be -- along with decreased libido, weight gain, and depression – a symptom of early dementia among men, I discovered that the world of motorcycle lovers encompasses so much more.
The first stereotype to fall was the idea that motorcyclephilia is solely a male condition, the only women involved being the babes in black leather bustiers and Daisy-Mae shorts who pose for the ride-customizing ads in the back pages of some of the rougher magazines.  Imagine my disappointment, that after spending good money on a ticket to the show, I discovered that there were remarkably few women like that in attendance.  What I did find was that the crowd was about forty percent women, with many of the same demographics as the men.  There were slightly more gray ponytails on the men than on the women – and considerably more facial hair -- but I saw women of all ages, ethnicity, and varied social background, exploring the bikes, sidecars, clothing, jewelry, and safety gear, with as much interest and enthusiasm as their counterparts.  While the overwhelming number of riders one sees on the road are men, there were plenty of avid women soaking up the energy at the show.

Indian Motorcycle beautifully restored
I hope I look this good at 75
And as to ethnicity, the cross section of humanity from white to black to brown to yellow and all shades in between was both amazing and heart-warming.  Riding – in all its many forms – welcomes all comers.  There may have been more denim worn than one would find at the local country club, and more black leather, too -- metal studs were the leading fashion accessory – but there were hipsters with beards and berets, and X-treme dirt bike riders in day-glo spandex. 
The bikes were as diverse as the riders.  There were big Harleys, of course, and plenty of Japanese rockets-on-wheels, but there were also bikes from Europe, antique bikes lovingly restored, electric bikes that looked like they’d been designed for the next Star Wars movie, dirt bikes in electrifying yellow and orange like 3-D cartoons. 
If the cowboy is the quintessential American hero, then bike riders are the modern equivalent.  The motorcycle has replaced the horse for the man – or woman – who rides off into the sunset in search of freedom and the next challenge.  And so, I thought, why not bring this diversity into the mainstream?  It’s really already there, we just need to acknowledge it.  I think that it’s time for a motorcycle-riding President of the United States.  Someone who can bring us all together again.  Can you imagine the leader of the free world relaxing by doing smoking-tire figure eights, or popping wheelies on Pennsylvania Avenue?  Visiting dignitaries leaning back on the sissy bar while cruising with the Prez down Skyline Drive?  Dirt-biking through Rock Creek Park?  Out pressing the flesh and kissing babies in Myrtle Beach or Sturgis, South Dakota? 

John Kerry - No helmet.
Risky but very cool
Vladimir Putin. No helmet,
 but riding a three wheeler. Not cool.

It’s nothing but a dream, I know.  John Kerry rides and lost the election, though I don’t think that’s why. (Putin rides, but he rides a three-wheeler which is not the same thing at all.)  There have been other American politicians who ride, but none who have made it the centerpiece of their platform.  Maybe it’s time.


  1. I think it would be a great idea to place into our constitution a requirement that ALL members of Congress MUST travel by motorcycle at ALL times, and may NEVER wear a helmet nor leathers.

    It couldn't help but improve the quality of Congress... for a number of reasons.

    Thanks, Michael! (Both of you...)

  2. Michael, welcome to MIE. Everett said what I think. (This is not the first time this has happened.)
    On second thought, the members of the House of Representatives seem all to have been bumped hard on the head already. They all walk around and seem stunned--but instead consider themselves stunning.

  3. Michael, I heard the motorcycles all day, took peeks inside the convention center while passing through to Bouchercon's opening ceremonies, and promised Marc Cameron--who'll be riding to Raleigh from Alaska--that I'd make it there with him. But every time I tried to get over to the big show someone or something dragged me back to Bcon (Imagine that said in Al Pacino's Godfather voice for the full effect). That's why I was delighted to see you'd covered everything about it so well, both pictorially and sociologically. The one observation I found particularly inspirational was yours on the Indian. "I hope I Iook this good at 75." Thanks, my friend, great post.