PART 2/3 – BLENDING IN….IN HARLEY HEAVEN
With a name like Knuckleheads, its location should not have come as a surprise and – in hindsight – its clientele probably should not have either. Glowing profusely in the scorching midday sun and humid 35C degree heat – having been shivering in the taxi’s air conditioning just seconds before – and dragging our weekend bags behind us, we made our way toward the heavy beat. A simple gate entrance led us into a dusty bit of road, temporarily turned into the Knuckleheads parking area.
Knuckleheads, Kansas City
Over a hundred Harley Davidson motorbikes stood glinting in the blinding sunshine, guarded by a heavily tattooed man wearing black wraparound shades below a bandana-covered head and sporting an impressive handlebar moustache. As he was busily tucking into what looked like half a fried chicken and had both his large muscular arms and his mouth full, I thought John and I might just be able to take him on. Thankfully we never had to find out as he gave us an apologetic greasy smile as he wiped his mouth, said “Howdy” and waved us in.
The entire hangar wall at the entrance to Knuckleheads was a shrine to musical greats – with huge black and white graffiti type paintings of artists ranging from Prince to John Lennon, and Johnny Cash to James Brown.
A shrine to musical greats
John and I eventually tracked Witek down – our concern that he might have been taken round the back and filled in was unfounded – and were able to dispose of our travel bags in his hire car. Relieved that we would now be able to truly blend in, we made our way through the throng of black Harley Davidson T-Shirts, bushy sideburns and ponytails (the men), rhinestoned bandanas and unfeasibly tight and trendily torn jeans (the ladies) and lengths of skin adorned with garish tattoos depicting skulls, American flags and what looked like scenes from horror movies (both).
Beards, beer and bandanas
Inside, Knuckleheads had a basic outdoor stage constructed from what looked like scaffolding poles and wooden slats, facing a small gravel dance area and a collection of wooden picnic tables and benches. Further back and under the shade of a protruding roof, were long bar tables with stools down either side. Further back still, was an indoor warren of smaller rooms with stages and seating areas. Dotted inside and out, were bars cluttered with neon lights and rows of different types of beers and Bourbon, and a brightly lit hatch where you could order the ubiquitous Kansas BBQ food. Every wall was covered from top to bottom with music memorabilia, cowboy hats and plaques shouting philosophical statements.
As I stood trying to read a sign that was perched upside down over a doorway, I came face to face with a T-Shirt that read ‘Harley Fucking Davidson” stretched over a very large pair of breasts. I stumbled out of the way feeling thoroughly inadequate, un-motto’d as I was in my patterned linen shirt. I needn’t have worried. John, anticipating my unease, reappeared having bought me a memento of our visit – a bright pink T-Shirt with ‘Knuckleheads’ emblazoned across it. I resolved to wear it on Monday back at Fort Leavenworth for our first session back in class, as an adviser to the US and UK military on their joint military planning exercise.
Next Part 3/3: A Musical Privilege…