A few days ago, I spent the day with my brother and sister-in-law at the track. Shawn races motorcycles in the Super Bike class. There’s Street, Top-Fuel, Pro-mod–I don’t know what all. A lot of very loud, very fast bikes. Every year for the past four or five years they’ve come on the same weekend in August. Every year I go to see my brother race.
What a world the track is. whew. Good things: The men were kind to each other. The spirit was one of collaboration, even though they were in competition with each other. Even when it is an individual sport, they know they need each other. So when one guy’s clutch blew out, a bunch of other fellas gave him parts and help to build a new one so he could race the next day. He won runner-up in his class and thanked all the men who helped him. Shawn has a patch on his jacket commemorating a friend of his who died a few years ago, I think he killed himself. Shawn loved him, and learned from him, and tried to hold him up. but he couldn’t. now his name is on my brother’s arm every pass down the track. One of Shawn’s racing buddies came with them, pulling both their bikes behind his truck so Shawn wouldn’t have to. He was a bit older, in his 50s, blue-eyes and smile-lined face. He and my brother were tender with each other (in a man-biker kind of way).
Not so good things: In the women’s washroom there were stacks of flyers advertising a bar in Maple Ridge. There was a list of drink specials, a different one every day of the week. Featured on the card was an exhortation to enter a draw for $6,000 in cosmetic surgery. I gathered all of them up and threw them in the garbage. There were t-shirts the men wore–one man had a stylized picture of a naked woman on a pole and around it were the words “Support your local pole worker”. I wanted to rip it off his chest and stuff it down his throat. I don’t know what to do in those situations, so I didn’t do anything. I have approached men who wear hateful t-shirts like that, I’ve told them what I think. I’ve given them shit. Sometimes their friends come to their defense, and then i’m on them too. “What kind of friend are you, letting him leave the house wearing something that so clearly proclaims him to be an asshole who hates women?”
But Sunday, at the track, I looked at this man and fumed. I don’t know. I don’t think he was one of my brothers’ friends–and Shawn would have been embarrassed had i said anything. I don’t know why i will confront men in the gym or the grocery store but I couldn’t screw up the courage at the track. There was so much. the young woman with the bikini top and the tiny denim shorts worn un-buttoned to show her underwear. She walked around in stiletto heels. She wasn’t the only one. There were a number of women in various stages of undress, but wearing those punishing shoes. Walking beside men with full beards, big bellies under Hell’s Angels t-shirts or muscular arms and six-pack abs under leather vests.what is that? Hyper-hetero-normativity–except it’s not normal–well, I guess it is, at the track.
the bike gangs were there. The Hell’s Angels set up tents to flog their t-shirts and pumper stickers. “Fighting solves Everything” said one, and “Those who talk are lined in chalk” said another, a picture of a chalk tracing of a body in the middle of the t-shirt. there were lots of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The Harley colour is orange. I saw a gathering of men wearing Harley Orange shirts, and thought the colour is very similar to the colour of the robes that Buddhist monks wear. Also a brotherhood. Also protective of men. Also a masculine institution…Harleys and incense. Prayer bowls and throttle cables.
At the end of the day, everyone packed up their bikes and their shade tents; took off their leathers and put on shorts and t-shirts, and waited around for the award ceremonies. Shawn went around to each little encampment to talk to his friends, offer congratulations or condolence, and find out when the ceremony was going to be. He didn’t get a plaque this year, but he did win a bit of money and he wanted to applaud for his friends. We went to one cluster of racers, back in the shade closer to the river. There were groups of men drinking beer, talking to each other about engines and racing. under the tent in a camp chair, sitting alone, was an elderly woman. She’s Gerry’s mom, and she goes to every one of his races with him. She was the only woman among all those men, and it was if she was invisible, (as women of a certain age are). Shawn went right to her, and squatted down to talk to her. I followed and he introduced us. He didn’t tell me her name, though, “This is my sister Erin, this is Gerry’s mom,” he said. Maybe he doesn’t know her name. We are only known among men in relation to men. I was Shawn’s sister, (when he introduced me, which was rare); she was Gerry’s mom. Mind you, everywhere else, it is my brothers sister who is most clearly remembered.
Later I told him I liked that he went to her first. He said, “I like to talk to her. She comes to every race.”
We live in such different worlds, my brother and I. I wonder what his will be like when we are all free? Come to think of it, what will mine be like?