Ride or Die - Easter 2022
Sarah and her roomie Olivia flew home from Boise State on Friday to surprise us for the Easter weekend. On Saturday morning we hit the Midtown Farmers Market and then headed for Evangeline’s, a popular novelty and costume shop in Old Sac.They needed masks for some upcoming Greek life masquerade party–I’m coming to understand there's always an upcoming themed party in the Greek life.
We climbed to the second floor and browsed around so many racks of costumes and accessories—Gothic warriors, demons, dandys, chain mail, zombies, wigs, beads, glasses and everything in between. There was an Adults Only room and just outside of it hung all manner of slinky boudoir outfits. It’s just a touch awkward for a dad to be checking out the “slutty” Halloween costumes with his daughter. The skimpy, racy costumes in this pioneer-era building echoed a bygone age when The Lady Adams Building had been a brothel. This historical background (1) was noted on the plaque mounted to the building by the E. Clampus Vitus, the infamous “Clampers” fraternal order that dates back to the Gold Rush.
Amid the top hats and canes and fake beards Meg spotted a display of costume jewelry containing an item she knew would interest me: skull rings. I raced over to have a look. My fixation goes back a few months to when we were passing through Palm Springs. Strolling down the main drag, we stopped into a tourist junk shop where the skull rings caught my fancy. The guy behind the counter humored me with a fun little conversation about whether or not I could pull off such a menacing Keith Richards style accessory. We inventoried the prerequisites:
Do you own a Harley Davidson? No.
Do you play the electric guitar? No, no axe.
Do you even like heavy metal music? Um, no.
Do you have a criminal record? No…not yet.
Do you have any tats or piercings? Nope and nope.
Clearly a no-go for this buttoned-down plaid shirt guy who wears sensible shoes, and who’s working productively at his desk by 8 every morning. Access denied! But now, at Evangeline’s, after percolating in my mind for a few months, the skull ring seemed do-able, and for some reason my wife was actually facilitating the purchase. Done. Purchased for a mere seven bucks. Pinky ring even. The goth girl behind the counter was no doubt judging me harshly…but a guy with a skull ring doesn’t give a shit, right?
That evening our older daughter Audrey and her boyfriend Alika came over for dinner. I was trying to convince them to join us for services in the morning. I turned to Sarah’s friend, needing to qualify: “Hey, I’m not God Squad or anything. I just like the music and pageantry of church on Easter morning.”
The skull ring was, if nothing else, a boon for my pathetic dad humor. I kept flashing it, wondering aloud if my pinkie would burst into flames when I entered church. The vision of me writhing on the floor, my pinkie burning with God’s punishment, got a little smile from even Audrey, who is stern and disapproving on all matters of organized religion.
I kept flashing it, wondering aloud if my pinkie would burst into flames when I entered the church. The vision of me writhing on the floor, my pinkie burning with God's punishment....
The Episcopal church on Capitol Avenue offered up just what I look forward to every year. The choir and officiants processed down the aisle belting out the soaring Gothic hymn Jesus Christ Has Risen Today and the guy playing the pipe organ went for broke. The resurrection is the high point of the Christian faith and this tune captures that energy. It reminds me of my mom, who found a home at the Episcopal church after her divorce and rejection by the neighborhood Catholic priest. Near the end of the hymn, just when you think it’s peaked, they kick it into another gear and reach an even higher register. Powerful stuff even for a non church-going guy like myself. The minister followed up with a sincere welcome where he mentioned how they “workshopped” the service this year to provide a kids interlude. I’ll give the Episcopals credit–they’re more low key and humanist than the Catholics…and they got us out of there in an hour flat!
Afterward, we went over to Meg’s sister’s house for brunch in the yard. I held out my fist showing the skull ring to get a rise out of everyone, telling them, “That buttoned down guy with the sensible shoes is gone. This ring has changed everything. It’s the center of a whole new alter ego and sense of meaning for me.”
Skeptical follow up from one of the auties, “Oh yeah, what’s the meaning?”
“It stands for everything I’m all about: kicking ass, freedom, riding my 10-speed…I’m going to get some tats now, and another ring on the other side, maybe a kraken, or a serpent or gargoyle. Something menacing. And a Ride or Die tattoo, cause I love cycling. Check it out, it’s real metal…go ahead, you can touch it!” The ring was already giving me a new sense of confidence. Lots of laughs and poses with the ring and talk of potential tattoo designs. Uncle Ron, a retro guy, referenced the “LOVE and HATE” ink on Robert Mitchem's fingers in Night of the Hunter. He’s one of the all-time fearsome movie characters.
It stands for everything I'm all about: kicking ass, freedom, riding my 10-speed...I'm gonna get some tats now, and another ring on the other side...
My little lark does raise some questions, the first being can we even tell what’s a lark and what's real anymore? Everything about identity is fluid and open to instant change and reinterpretation. Who’s a real tough guy in a culture full of posers? Everyone has a personal brand now that they festoon with various down-and-dirty cultural signifiers. Harley, Von Dutch, PBR, Hell’s Angels, Slayer, MegaDeath, the ripped jeans, worn leather jackets…on and on.
Really, why not me? Why not the plaid shirt guy? Why do posers like Brando and Vin Diesel get to be the bad guys? Hey, I’m a bad man…I mean in my own mind I’m a bad man. Yeah right, until someone wants to fight me and I’m running away pulling the ring off and throwing it back at them…”You can have the ring…just don’t kill me!!!”
I'm going to actually follow up on my threat to get some tats. Everyone else is doing it, right? And Ride or Die seems like the right sentiment, maybe some medieval lettering floating in a goddamn field of hellfire and grim reapers. The internet offers two definitions for the phrase…yes the plaid shirt guy is the type who looks things up on the internet. Originally for the biker gangs it meant if they couldn’t ride, they’d just as soon die. And it has come to be a sentiment of devotion for couples: I’m (riding) with you otherwise I might as well die. Either way, it works for me. And just to wrap this Easter story up in a neat bow, I’ll say the motto applies directly to the prophet of Nazareth, because many consider Jesus to be the original Ride or Die dude. So yeah, Fuck it. It's a good day for a resurrection. Ride or Die, baby!
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