a biker, who I called Easy Rider and an 86 year old former biker, who I called The Kaiser. I always work the names in easy like, “You remind me of the old movies of Ma and Pa Kettle,” or, “Say, how are things on the road, Easy Rider?”
How are they going to respond to something like that, to a guy with a camera around his neck? I watch people, notice their eyes and body language.
I can tell when they are more curious than dangerous and these people were looking at my camera. In half an hour, and one beer, I gathered no names but lots of background. Ma and Pa have been married over 50 years. He was in the Air Force, served in Vietnam, was stationed in Guam and many other places. Easy Rider has been to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where he was invited to stay with a family of strangers, where he witnessed a shootout between gangs, where he would like to go again. The Kaiser walked with agility and ease, drank with experience and ease, talked like a 50 year old and quit riding motorcycles a couple years ago. So, here is this out-of-the-way place, on the banks where the Alafia River is near its widest, where people shared information about their lives, their loves and their politics with a complete stranger. We all chatted and wished the best of luck to a couple of crab trappers and a couple other boats full of fishermen who strolled up the dock.
I have to consider whether these people were simply a bar full of tongue-wagging drunks, or just friendly, everyday folk. I think it was the latter. In fact, not one ordered a drink while I was there. Dixie’s is a place where seafarers, rednecks, bikers, rebels, carnies and others, including suburbanites like me, can gather and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of our obvious differences. Each of them made a comment, or comments, about the current ignorance in Washington, DC, and all the others agreed. These are not the privileged, wealthy or lobbied. They are ordinary folk, either working or retired, but each one concerned and worried about this country. I don't know about their religious beliefs, and don't give a damn about those beliefs. Nobody ran out to their car and strapped on a bomb vest or grabbed a weapon. In a way, I felt like I was in Boston, a couple centuries ago, huddled beneath the Liberty Tree, talking about how things are and how they should be. I felt like I was in the company of genuine Americans, people who are getting near to the end of the rope of patience and ready for the gong of the bell to strike their way. Damned if it wasn’t a good feeling, and it had nothing to do with that nice cold beer.