Look, the Mayans obviously weren’t able to foresee the downfall of their own civilization, so why should we think they could predict our own demise? Actually, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even have the wheel. I simply can’t believe that a race of people that had to drag shit from point A to point B could in any way know when the world was going to blow up. What blows my mind is the fact that the Mayan calendar is in the shape of a wheel, but none of them ever said “hey, if we turn that thing on its side instead of sacrificing virgins on it, we could have an ox cart or something”.

Furthermore, for the end of a calendar to be correct, the beginning of a calendar must be correct. The Mayans started their calendar 5126 years ago; that’s when they knew for a fact that mankind walked out of the underworld after being created by a lizard-like deity or something. Modern archeology has proven that we were around thousands of years prior to the beginning of the Mayan calendar, ergo, if what they knew to be true about the beginning was bullshit, so too is what they “knew” about how it’d all end.

It’s a bit arrogant to think that any civilization could divine an end date by reading the stars or figuring out the lunar calendar or observing the solstices. As a side note, it really should be “solsti”; there’s no point to these grammatical rules of plurality if we aren’t going to obey them. The fact is that this stoic universe of ours just doesn’t give a damn when it comes to convenient dates or round numbers. If there really is an end coming, if Armageddon really is a possibility, we’re all going to die on some random Tuesday that nobody, Nostradamus and that retarded lobster included, saw coming. It’s as if we as a species never figured out that whole tree falling in the woods thing. It really does make a noise, and that noise is in no way dependent upon man being there to hear it in his infinite awesomeness.  Existence isn’t going to hand out some sort of prescient warning just so we can see it coming. Think about it.

I say all these things from the comfortable perch I have atop my own smugness, but maybe, just maybe, I bought a little extra ammo for my arsenal lately. I might have plans to stock up on canned food come December 20th. I might have thought about borrowing twenty dollars or so from a few friends the day before Mayan calendar ends; what could it hurt? In truth, I’m just a bit envious of all those crazy-ass “preppers” that have stockpiled huge amounts of whatever for when the shit hits the fan. Have you seen that show? All those crazies have one thing in common; morbid obesity. Sure, they have enough canned bacon to survive a nuclear winter that might never happen, but what are they going to do when that coronary comes knocking in two years max? Those five thousand rolls of toilet paper in the basement aren’t going to do a damn thing for diabetes.

We’re all flockers; there’s no use in denying it. We form little herds of cars on the freeway when there’s plenty of open road to go around. We complain about the dude riding our ass and the minivan that won’t move over when in reality, we’re just more comfortable driving in little groups. We’re genetically predisposed to suffer from mob mentality. If some stranger starts believing something and shouts about it loudly enough, every one of us will at least consider his opinion, and if there’s a neat little conspiracy theory tied into it, like a mystical race of man that mysteriously vanished long ago, shit-tons of people will invariably hop on the doomsday bandwagon. (P.S. the “doomsday bandwagon” is a short bus covered in camo paint and driven by Ted Nugent).

There’s something intoxicating, enticing even, surrounding the possibility of an end of days, right? Anarchy offers equalization of a sort to many, especially those of us suffering from mediocrity. There are plenty of gung-ho dumbasses out there that are not so secretly hoping that they Mayans were right. I’ve seen a few army surplus stores around my shitty little town that are actually having sales and advertising “12/21/12” warnings. Rednecks in camo are buying cases of ammo and MRE’s by the truck load all the while wearing that “those yuppies are gunna be sorry” expression on their faces. And for the record, camouflage pants only work in the forest; when you wear them downtown, they just highlight the fact that you’re an asshole.

Again, I talk a good game but I might be a bit of a hypocrite. I was walking through the streets of downtown Durango, Colorado recently when my family and I were assaulted by a heard of about two-thousand Christmas carolers. They were walking in the opposite direction and wearing puffy down coats and bemused smiles and twirling glow-sticks. So what did we do? Me and my family changed our direction and melted into the crowd. Boom, my flocking gene kicked in and I started singing “we wish you a merry Christmas” even though on any other day I’d scoff at the idea. I even started worrying that someone might notice that I didn’t have a glow-stick. Who knows, if those same carolers had been running in a panic towards an army surplus store to stock up on explosive camouflage toilet paper, who’s to say that I wouldn’t have ran with them?

End of Days

The Gremlin Bell

One of my coworkers is a quintessential biker. He’s a gentle giant with political views far right of center and a Copenhagen circle worn into his Wranglers. He rides a purple Harley with a shag carpet seat cover, and thanks to the neon lights mounted to the undercarriage, he’s been accused of being a Village People impersonator with assless chaps by a few of my other coworkers (usually behind his back). He’s a great guy that doesn’t even like disco music, but that’s not the point.

I was smoking a cigar by his motorcycle when the sun reflected off of something silver on the bottom near the front wheel. I’m a sucker for shinny things like all other mammals so I bent down to get a closer look. It was a little bell about the size of a pecan. I remember snuffing out my cigar and running inside to ask what the hell it was for (running, because I have an OCD way of dealing with curiosity) and I was told that it was a bell to keep the road spirits, the gremlins, away. Yes, he said, almost every biker has one.

Holy shit; what a strange superstition. I guess there are all sorts of peculiarities that go along with the bells as well. You can’t simply go out and buy one; it has to be gifted to you by a loved one (preferably a woman) but she can go buy one whenever she wants. They’re about ten bucks online. It has to be fastened on the bottom near the front. I guess gremlins are really short and don’t attack from the rear.

I remember the first time I saw a motorcycle accident. I was ten or so riding with my dad through an Alaskan summer day in his shitty Honda Civic when we came upon the scene. It looked as if the biker had run into the back of a BMW and a few police officers were following him around trying to get him to lie down on a stretcher. He had no idea where he was and blood was streaming down from a crack in his skull like yoke from an egg. His subconscious had taken rein and he was moving around like a confused robot. We drove on.

There was a recent accident in southern Colorado that everybody’s been talking about. I spoke with five members of a Mexican rig crew that saw it first hand and I guess it was a gruesome travesty. A man and woman from California were riding their Harley on a road notorious for its twists and turns when they ran head on into a pickup truck. I was told that there were “body parts all over the road”. Those weren’t my words, but when someone says “body parts”, it invokes a deep seated visceral response that I try to shut myself away from. It dilutes the human aspect of the wreck in some way. C3PO faced the same fate numerous times only to be carried around in a black mesh sack on the back of a wookie so he could be put together again humpty-dumpty style. And that’s where my mind goes after hearing of such a thing; to childhood toys and PG rated movies.

I know it makes no difference in the real world, but I wonder if either of the bikes in the two accidents I just described were equipped with gremlin bells. I’ve been looking at every Harley I come across in parking lots or at gas stations and every single one of them has had little silver or golden bells dangling upfront near the asphalt. I imagine the riders smiling as a sister or a daughter or a wife hands them a small gift wrapped box with well wishes for their safety.

I’ve also noticed something else. None of the bikers I’ve seen with the little bells on the bottom of their bikes wear helmets. I guess a tiny silver bell is manly but a “brain bucket” isn’t. I even asked once, and the rider said “all a helmet does is give you an open casket funeral”. I’m nearly positive such a sentiment is bullshit, and simple physics will prove that a helmet is infinitely more effective than a shinny bell, but whatever. Superstition is an ignorant bitch and my arguments will never convince one of these badass Harley straddling road warriors that they should wear a helmet. I wonder how many of those daughters or sisters or wives would rather give their loved one a slightly larger gift wrapped box that could actually save a life instead of appease a superstition.

There’s a completely different type of rider on the streets as well; the fast and furious crotch rocket type on their Ducati’s or their Kawasaki’s. I’ve yet to find one with a bell on the bottom. A helmet with a dark black visor actually completes the aerodynamic look these guys are going for. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence but I’m pretty good at finding irony where there isn’t any, but do you know which brand manufactures most of the helmets I see this second type of rider wearing? Bell Sports. I guess if you’ve got “BELL” stenciled on the back of your helmet in big bold black letters, you don’t need a little shinny one to ward off the gremlins.

I took this picture of a Harley between two gas pumps, and if you look closely at the bottom near the foot peg, you’ll see the gremlin bell.

The Gremlin Bell