A letter to Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, etc.
Dear Mr Wolfe,
I recently was made aware of a book which you edited in the '70s or '60s, or maybe in the '80s, I'm not sure, called The New Journalism. It was full of examples of the so-called "New Journalism", by writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Esterhaus, Adam Smith, et al. In that book, you explained what the New Journalism is. Well, I have written an article which I think qualifies as "New Journalism." Although I realize it is probably too late to get this article into your book, since it was published several years ago, I would still like to get your opinion on its merits, and maybe you could pull some strings and get it published in "Rolling Stone" or "Esquire", even though I haven’t liked "Rolling Stone" since they published all those different *Nsync covers.
My article follows some of the precepts of the New Journalism. For instance: It covers a major event, it features lots of observations by me (it is written in the first person), and at the end of the story I reveal what I’ve learned from the experience. It also starts off with a sentence that grabs the reader's attention and compels him to read it until the end.
So, I think if you will read my article without prejudice, you will find that it is the greatest article you have ever read, and you will want to help me out. Thank you in advance for all your great help, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
MY EXPERIENCE AT THE “BEAN BLOSSOM BOOGIE”
By Ricky Sprague.
Men love to look at women's titties.
Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Ricky, I already know that. Why are you wasting my time telling me something that I already know?" Well, if you'll just shut up for two seconds, I'll explain.
On July 21, 1998, I went to the "Bean Blossom Boogie", in Bean Blossom, Indiana, which is just about 7 miles south of Fruitdale. Its actual title is the ABATE. ABATE is an acronym, which stands for American Biker Association Something Something, which actually spells ABASS. I don't know what ABATE means (I think it has something to do with children's hospitals), but everybody calls it the "Bean Blossom Boogie," or just "The Boogie" for short, which is what I will call it from now on.
What happens at the Boogie is that a bunch of motorcycle people (“Motorcyclists”), get together and hang out at the Bean Blossom drag strip for the whole weekend. There are like 10,000 of them, and that's a lot of people. They all turn the drag strip into this big carnival for perverts, which sounds good on the surface, but let me tell you it was a little unnerving for me!
First of all, I should tell you that I was staying in a cabin about five miles away from the drag strip, so I decided to walk over there. That was mistake number one. I did not realize that there was a short cut through the trail over by the Roadhamel trail that cuts the length of the trip by about three miles. I had to walk all the way down on the 135, which was heavily-trafficked by, you guessed it, motorcycles. I don't know if you've ever walked down a highway when a bunch of loud motorcycles are roaring by, and there's only about a foot of space on which to walk on the edge of the road, but if you haven't, trust me, it's not the most fun thing you can do.
Anyway, after awhile (I forgot to mention that one of the “motorcyclists” honked his horn at me. It was louder than I expected, and gave me quite a start!) I made it into Bean Blossom. I only had a mile to go! But first, I wanted to check out the IGA grocery store, to see if they had a new issue of the national magazine in which my writing regularly appears (I forgot to mention I am a published author, but you could probably tell that from reading this article). I was shocked to see about twenty "motorcyclists" just sitting outside the grocery store, looking menacing. I was unsure whether I wanted to go into the store or not, for fear of having to face the gauntlet of “motorcyclists”, but I decided that if I could not face these men sitting outside the store, then I had no right to enter "Motorcyclist Ground Zero." I went into the store. They did not even notice me. Or if they did, they made no mention of it.
In the store I noticed that they had only one copy of my magazine. Usually, they have several more than that. I decided that probably a bunch of “motorcyclists” had bought the other issues, and were enjoying them. It gave me quite a thrill to think that they were reading my words, getting a nice laugh out of them, perhaps coming to some greater understanding of the ways of the world. Maybe I would ask some of them if they'd heard of me.
I walked the rest of the way to the Boogie. I only had about four dollars on me, and it had not occurred to me that there might be an entrance fee. I decided to by-pass the front gate altogether and sneak in! I found a space between where the wooden gate met the wire gate. I walked in. It was a secluded area, very few people. My years of sneaking in to movie theaters had taught me that if you just keep your head straight and keep on walking as if you belong there, no one will question you. So in I walked.
Let me tell you, I was stunned by what my eyes beheld! Have you ever seen a group of thousands of “motorcyclists” hanging out in tents and under canopies, drinking beers, smoking, cursing, etc? Well, if you haven't, let me fill you in. It was plenty wild.
First of all, I saw this guy-- actually, there were three guys, sitting under this canopy. They had a sign up that read, "Show Me Your Tits!" This sign struck me as extremely funny, and I decided to be a smart-ass about it. I walked up to him and said, "Does that sign of yours work?"
He answered my question by signaling two women who happened to be walking by at that particular moment. "This guy here wants to know if my sign works!" he shouted to the two women. They looked at the sign, then at me, then picked up their tank-tops and flashed their melons at me. I tell you, they almost put my eye out!
Well, as you might expect, that got a very positive reaction from all the men around, who started hooting and hollering at the women. Ordinarily, I'd probably have joined these men in their appreciation of these women, except that I was so shocked by what had just happened. That, and the women were uggoes.
Anyway, when I left that canopy I realized that every other canopy/tent in the whole place had a sign up that said exactly the same thing, or a variation on that. (Some signs substituted the word "Titties" for "Tits.") It seemed like it might lose its impact after being used literally thousands of times, but who am I to judge them?
I should point out that I could not have been more out of place here. Let me describe what everyone was wearing. The men all had on blue jeans, black shirts (with either "Harley Davidson" or "Hank Williams Jr" on them), and boots. Most of them also had bandanas. Several had beards, and huge beer guts. A lot of them felt no compunction about their horrid physiques and showed them off by removing their shirts. Actually, I shouldn't make fun of them, because if any of them read this, they could probably break me into two separate pieces and not even break a sweat.
The women were all wearing cut-off jeans that just barely covered the top-half of their butt, and either a tank top, bikini top, or half shirt. One woman had a tampon string hanging out from her shorts.
Here's what I was wearing: A green baseball cap which I got at Lands' End, a blue, long-sleeved T-shirt and kakhi shorts I got at Old Navy (gift certificate), and an old pair of blue and white Asics running shoes. I am 6'2" tall and weigh about 160 pounds. I am one of the biggest gorks in the whole world.
So I was walking along through the throng of people. Occasionally, a woman would flash herself or something and all traffic would stop, as the men stood slack-jawed, staring at the boobies. Some men had video cameras. Some snapped photographs. There was no shame anywhere. Isn't it funny how the only people in the world who have no shame, are exactly the people who need it the most?
Well, as I was walking among these people I realized that I wasn't even at the Boogie yet! Oh, no! I was just in the campsite! The Boogie was well ahead. As I got closer to the Entrance I saw a sign that read, “PLEASE HAVE YOUR ARMBANDS SHOWING.” I looked around at all the people. For the first time I realized that everyone else had either a yellow or green armband! Boy, let me tell you, that was when I really started to feel out of place! I decided to just “keep on keepin' on,” and act as nonchalant as I could. "Nonchalant," incidentally, is my all-time favorite word.
I was about 25 feet from the Entrance when one of the members of Boogie security stopped me. He started yelling at me, "Excuse me, sir? Sir? Excuse me! Sir! Sir!" I knew he was talking to me (there were no other "Sirs" within a mile of us), but I just kept walking. My thinking was, if I ignored him, eventually he'd just say, "Oh, well. I guess he didn’t hear me. I'll just let him go on. He looks like he knows where he's going. Besides, I see some titty over yonder." I probably don't have to tell you that my plan to ignore this man was a bust, and he caught up to me and informed me that I needed to show my armband to get in. I told him I wasn't sure where my armband was, and he told me I needed to make sure where my armband was; maybe I should go buy another one or something. To be perfectly honest with you, I'm not certain what was said, because I was so totally intimidated by him. Can you imagine what a tough guy you have to be to work Boogie Security? He could very easily have killed me, while all these other titty-freaks watched.
So I turned around and started back. My plan was to try to sneak in some other way, although what other way I don't know. I'm not exactly the smartest person in the world. If I'd had any sense at all I would have counted my blessings that that guy didn't open up a big ol' can of "Whup Ass" on me, and gone home. I did not do this, as you can probably guess. Instead, I got the bright idea to take one of those little yellow flags they had tied around the ropes that hold the tents in place, and rip it up and tie it around my arm. I know; I can't believe I did it either. But since I'm writing this, you know that they did not kill me.
I felt like one of those people in the "Mentos" commercials. You know, like the one where that girl who drives the little gremlin or something gets parked in by this asshole who won't let her out of her space, so she creatively solves her problem by popping a Mentos and having a bunch of big, beefy painters from across the street come over and pick up her car and carry it out into the street for her. The guy who parked her in sees how she solved her problem, and smiles and gives her a look like, "You did it! You solved your problem and that's very clever!" Come to think of it, my situation is a lot closer to the other commercial, the one about the guy who kicks his soccer ball over a fence and into this yard where they're having a wedding, but he can't go in and get it because he's not part of the wedding party. Well, he solves that little problem by popping a Mentos, then putting on a dinner jacket and kissing the bride. He gets the ball back and when he does, the guy who wouldn't let him in gives him that look. The one I already mentioned before. That's how I felt when I tied that strip of yellow flag around my arm. It didn't look anything like one of those armbands, but at least it was the right color. I thought the security guy would give me one of those looks, and in a way I sort of hoped that he'd see how cleverly I'd solved my problem (I thought he might be proud of me), but as it was he didn't even see me at all when I went into the Boogie.
I tried "Mentos" once, by the way. I didn't like it very much.
Anyway, as bad as the campsite was, folks, the actual Boogie itself was about a million times worse, and I'm not saying that for hyperbole, I am 110% sincere when I say this. The very first booth as you walk in was a booth that had a bunch of sex toys. I have seen and used a number of these items, from body butter, to French ticklers, to leashes and collars, (I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging) but I have got to tell you that there was a bunch of stuff at this booth that I didn't recognize. The woman who ran the booth came up to me and said, "You've never even ridden on a motorcycle before, have you?"
I could not argue with her (Actually, my father owned a motorcycle when I was in third grade and I once rode on that, but why split hairs?). I smiled at her. I asked her how she could tell. She just laughed.
I felt more out of place than ever, but at the same time I felt as though I’d made some kind of connection with the sex toys lady, and that through her, kinship with all the “motorcyclists” was possible. Perhaps, they would make me their mascot, and let me ride around the country with them, forgiving me my softness and lack of beer belly. Perhaps I could be the eccentric “motorcyclist,” the one who doesn't drink or smoke or actually ride a motorcycle, and only asks women to show him their tits in private. I smiled and continued along.
As I turned to head deeper into this demented 4-H fair, I spotted a woman walking toward me wearing a very short leather skirt. She gave me a sort of a "come hither" look. (Although I am extremely dense about such things, even I recognized this look.) She then hiked up her skirt to show me that she was not wearing anything underneath! I am not kidding you! She showed me her twat! (Or, "hairpie," as is the preferred term in Indiana.) Only her “used-up” look stopped me getting aroused.
Well, at this point, I decided I'd had about enough excitement. I was starting to wilt under the oppression of my ridiculous surroundings, and people were starting to stare at me. Much as I would have liked to stay and “Get Lucky” by watching Loverboy perform, I decided I'd tempted fate long enough. They'd pretty much left me alone so far, but who knew what they'd do as they got more drunk? I got out of there, but not before picking up a flier from the sex toy booth. From this I learned that a lot of the toys I was unable to identify were specially designed for use by bikers. Based on this, I have concluded that riding a motorcycle for an extended length of time does some truly odd things to one's physique.
Anyway, I walked back up 135. When I got to my street where I had to cross, the European woman who worked as a nanny for the family down the road from my cabin pulled up to the corner, right across from where I was standing. Don't get me started on her. Sometimes I would wave to her and she’d pretend not to see me. Sometimes I’d wave to her and she would just give me a sort of half-wave, as if to say, "Leave me alone, freak." Other times I’d wave and she’d give me a hearty wave back, which is what she gave me on this particular day, I'm very happy to report.
I was bolstered by this, and thought that if she hadn't made her turn onto 135 before I crossed, I would say something funny to her. As I was trying to think of what to say, I noticed that she had the three kids that she babysits in the backseat of her car. I thought it might be funny to say to her through her window, "You're not taking those kids to the Boogie, are you?" It would have been funny first of all, because the Boogie is obviously no place to take children, and second of all, because she was turning away from Bean Blossom, not toward it.
In the end, though, I decided not to say that to her, because I was afraid it might freak out those kids. But that is a stupid reason not to talk to a pretty girl, and I regret that fact that I didn’t say anything to her.