Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An SOB Christmas

Dunkin' Donuts with the Bagel Boys

They like bagels and they like bikes.

Christmas Day. I'm meeting my friend - and Vincent Libretti Tribute Artist - Dave Cawley (pictured right) at the Lutherville Dunkin' Donuts for our annual Holiday Gift Exhange/Potlatch. As my long-suffering girlfriend Amy and I approach the entrance, we notice the parking lot is crammed with shiny chrome motorcycles ("America runs on Dunkin'" - apparently even its Easy Riders). Uh-oh, we gasp, are we gonna have to rub elbows with an unruly biker gang inside? (I secretly count my blessings that I didn't don my usual metrosexual headgear, a Scottish Tam topped with fuzzy pom ball) and walk in, expecting the worst. But all is well, as the bikers seem a genial sort not likely to dunk a mild-mannered librarian (me), a meek Baltimore County records clerk (Amy), or a wild-eyed insurance claims adjuster (Dave) while we are enjoying our donuts. In fact, our apprehension turns to amusement when Amy points out the gang's logo on the back of one member's jacket: "SOB, Semites on Bikes," accompanied by a grinning shades-and-yarmulke adorned skull head.

I was relieved by this sign of light-hearted humor, because at this point a well-caffeinated Dave was boisterously raving about why Jack "King" Kirby was the greatest comic book artist of his generation and what a "crime against humanity" it was that his DC Comic editors "re-drew" his Superman heads to conform with DC Code - the kind of fan-boy talk that one would expect badass biker dudes to find perhaps a tad "geeky." But no, they were a jovial crew, merrily chowing down on bagels and lox and having a decidedly cool yule amidst Lutherville's goyem.

Kirb Your Enthusiasm: King Kirby deconstructed by Archoids

What a happy happenstance running into these guys! I had never heard of this gang, but when I got home and Googled "Semites on Bikes," I saw that the Baltimore City Paper's best gal reporter, Violet Glaze, wrote a great profile of the SOBs last year ("Gimme Shtetl," City Paper, 11/1/2006). I should have known, as Violet seems to be one step ahead of most people when it comes to Baltimore pop culture.

But there was more merriment just outside the window, as we turned to spot a long-haired middle-aged man in running shorts and what appeared to be big boxing gloves on his hands "prancing" (you certainly couldn't call this "running" or even "jogging") down the sidewalk with a most unusual gait.

"Look Tom," Dave said, "It's Pony Man." The name was no doubt a reference to the way this curious man picked up his feet like a clip-clopping pony, but could also have referred to his mulleted hair, which flopped up and down like an over-excited pony tail. "I see him sometimes when I'm running at the Dulaney High track. He's a character," Dave observed with unusual understatement.

Secure that we were among friends, we concluded our discussion about Jack Kirby (who could have been a SOB, given his birth name of Jacob Kurtzberg) and proceeded with our gift exchange. Dave gave me the perfect "occupational hazard" book, Don Borchart's buzz-worthy expose of the trials of tribulations of public librarians, Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library. This "Library Confidential" is the talk of the library world (an exciting place to live, Earth peoples!) and deservedly so, but even "normal" (non-librarian) people dig it. Dave admitted that he read it himself before wrapping it for me (and I thought I was the only one who "previewed" Christmas gifts!).

And, knowing Dave's Bantam Boy Interests, I gave him a spy book, a Honey West pulp paperback, a Mutt & Jeff comics collection and, saving the best for last, the Holy Grail of discarded library promotional materials: a mullet-era Michael Bolton "Read Books" poster for the American Library Association. I don't think Dave was as excited by this score as I was. Clearly embarrassed, he quickly covered up the oversized poster and hid it under our table.

"Gee thanks," he said, "I'll be sure to put this up in my cubicle at work. I'm sure my Celine Dion-loving co-worker will be so jealous."

When I asked Dave what his girlfriend was getting him for Christmas, he mentioned her sister was making him a Gingerbread House modeled after Hunt Valley Mall. Now that's an ambitious project! Not only that, but kaiju eiga-loving Dave had even requested that his prospective sister-in-law add a menacing Godzilla figure to tower over the gingerbread diarama. Leave it to Dave to add a terroryaki touch to his holiday treat. (Actually, someone's already posted a YouTube clip of Godzilla attacking a gingerbread house; I guess great minds think alike!)

After Amy finished her fourth donut ("Save a little room for Christmas dinner!" I suggested), we bid one another adieu, with Dave making sure he covered Michael Bolton's beaming mug with as much wrapping paper as possible as he made his way out the door.

"God, I hope no one sees me with this!" he muttered with holiday "cheer," as he walked briskly to his "vintage" Toyota with a pace that would easily have overtaken Prancing Pony Man.

As my friend Cody commented upon hearing this tale, "Oh, when will the harsh and unrelenting humiliation of Dave Cawley ever end?"

Don't hold your breath, Cody! As Linus told Charlie Brown, "That's what Christmas is all about."

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