Every single time that I have put music on while riding, I get pulled over. Without fail. Whats more is that each of those times has been Rage Against the Machine. ’Bomb Track’ had just come on the mix and my helmet instantaneously exploded into perhaps the most epic of live air guitarring-drumming-base slapping-lyric rapping-one-man–band-slay show of madness-while driving a motorcycle, that has ever been performed in the history of motorcycle air bands. The intro to ‘Bomb Track’ creeps steadily in with a grimy, up-to-no-good base line, the tempo just fast enough, building just so in volume to foreshadow the inevitable earthquake crescendo. The track came on as I crested the valley hill. My throttle hand wrung out every last drop of RPM from the adrenaline drenched climax as I leaned the bike into the long left swing of its descent. Oh the sweet sweet nectar of ignited adrenaline coursing through the veins of a junky. My conception of reality and thereby laws blurred as steadily as the roadside sage brush and fruit stands. Until the cymbals crashed to silence and he waved me to the shoulder of the highway with his finger. The finger summon. Classic. The bass line matching the sudden release of the engine. I pulled the clutch and rode the brakes as Morelo’s guitar took us to our final stop. I killed the engine. This ought to be good. More often than not however, the bike cops pull you over out boredom and curiousity; to have a chat, perhaps, with a fellow biker and if you have all your paperwork in order, talking shop is all it ends up being. I can remember a hand full of times never even pulling out my passport. My riding partner even got a lady cops number one time and a date to the local Chinese eatery later that night. But this guy had a radar gun and a shit eating grin on his face comparable to that of a dog wagging its tale awaiting a belly scratch. I didn’t even have time to get my helmet off before I had the radar in my face. 105. Bull.Shit. 105km??!! What’s that like 65mph, practically offended at the faulty clocking of my speed. I may have been without a speedometer since El Salvador but I know for damn sure that red lining the KLR in 5th is a heck of a lot faster than 65 miles an hour. But who am I to judge the effectiveness of his brand new toy. He was feeling so proud and gitty about his radar gun. I didn’t want my ego to get in the way of his joy. He told me that the gringos had just thrown down a bunch of cash to the Panamanian military and task force, with that there radar gun being part of the care package. I played along with as many engaging questions about the radar gun as I could possibly muster. And when the next car came over the ridge and down around the swooping left hand turn, he aimed, clicked the trigger, and showed me the results of his modern marvel. 105 it read. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that those radar guns were probably the outlet defects that were second handed down to him, broken. In fact, the number 105 never actually reset itself between my apparent speed and that of the white Ford Escort barreling down the hill. He hit it with his hand a couple times in his own confusion of the coincidence, pulled the trigger again, this time aiming at the ground. 105 in the same digital red. He quickly dropped the gun to his side. As he made a quick call to his buddy up the road about the speeding Ford Escort, I eyed his immaculate 2015 BMW 1200 sitting under the cypress tree. Sick bike if you’ve got 30 g’s sitting around. Apparently the US did. I was told that the US also sponsored the new fleet of Mustang GTs and Hum Vs for squad cars. Probably no strings attached in that relationship. We talked about The Canal, Obama and blond chicks for a while after that. He bro’ed me down so hard underneath that cypress tree that I ended up giving him my can of coconut juice, a banana, and 7 bucks for a post-work beer. We agreed on these terms like friends over a poker debt. Or like tipping your bartender for the enjoyable experience. It was cordial and consenting. Maybe it’s all part of their strategy, come to think of it. That way when the chat is over and the new friends have exchanged their Facebooks and gone their separate ways, the bribe doesn’t feel like a bribe anymore. It feels more charitable. Like a Christmas gift to your new best friend; the underpaid, over worked, recently divorced, Panamanian transit cop. And if that’s the case, then well played. Well played indeed, sir. After it was all said and done, and the firm hand shake to bro-hug maneuver was complete, we both put our helmets on, started our engines, and pulled out of the cypress shade, onto the Panamerican highway, side by side. Like fucking bosses. It was from then on I stored a folded 10 dollar bill in the back page of my passport, and erased Rage Against the Machine from my iPod. TroyanoNewton.2014.
- The Panama Files: A choose your own adventure (an excerpt)
- A Question for Allen Ginsberg