Bikers Bring Thunderdome To New York City

On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed.

So begins the 1981 grind house stunt epic “Mad Max 2, The Road Warrior.” See, back when Mel Gibson was handsome and sane, this all seemed like science fiction. But this past Sunday in New York City, it became impossibly real.

A young couple in a Range Rover was celebrating their anniversary with their daughter in tow. They had sun in their eyes and a world of joy before them when they were set upon by a pack of motorcyclists bent on chaos. Determined to make a point of his existence and emboldened by hundreds of comrades, a young buck on a motorbike pulled in front of the happy couple in their black Range Rover. He turned his helmeted head to see innocent faces shining with success and promise. He was jealous and spiteful. Obliged to show them just who he thought he was, he slammed on his brakes.

The SUV bumped the cycle’s rear tire. Like anyone would, the gentleman stopped his car. Then he was surrounded. Within seconds, fists and words rained down upon him and his family, protected now by just a quarter inch of black paint and British sheet metal. Sensing the immediacy of violence, he took off. In a scene right out of “Road Warrior,” the truck leapt into the air over a tangle of cycles and flesh. Speeding up the Henry Hudson Parkway, he was pursued and chased down. He was beaten to within an inch of his life when the bikers caught up to him. Wife and child were mercifully spared.

As the roads have become battlegrounds of balls and money, weapons have been chosen. SUVs are the armored sort. It’s no coincidence that the 1998 Lincoln Navigator was advertised with the tagline “Urban Assault Vehicle”, which is to say nothing of the military-derived Hummer, so thankfully out of business now. Still, if you need five thousand pounds of steel and glass to pick up Kaitlin and Tyler, GMC will take your money just fine.

Others have forsaken armor in favor of speed, maneuverability, and a high-pitched whine. These are motorcycles, and they find strength in numbers, you know, because they’re individuals. And freedom. You can always buy your tough in America if you don’t have any.

In the movie “Road Warrior,” the battles that took place were over a few drops of the guzzoline. No shortage of petrol here, but it was still about juice. It was over a few precious drops of high-test testosterone. It’s easy to feel tough with four hundred friends behind you. These are the same types that cross the street against the light, as slow as they like, looking right into the eyes of the oncoming and law-abiding motorists. “What are you going to do? Hit me?” Here in New York it’s known as the asshole stroll. It’s how the powerless exercise power.

And so two ordinary men lie in hospital beds, battered and smashed, drained of testostoline. The right to keep and bear arms is alive and well on American roads. Buckle up, and pray that Mel Gibson doesn’t find his sanity and produce a crappy sequel. Damn, he was handsome then.

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