T-slut

By Terry Roorda

I once prided myself on having a wardrobe of generic blank T-shirts that promoted nothing, commemorated nothing, espoused no point of view, bore no pictures of Che or Manson or Mickey Mouse, and asked no one whether or not they had milk. I refused on principle to be used as a textile billboard or to trivialize myself with empty slogans. That was maybe 15 years ago. It was, I felt, a principled stand against crass commercialism and tacky dress and I was pretty smug about it.

But every man has his price, and as it turned out my price was “free.” Every job has its perks, and for a motojournalist these days those perks consist almost entirely of free T-shirts. T-shirts for products and poker runs and press events began to pour into my closet, and I was powerless to turn them down because there’s just something irresistible about a free tee. I’m not alone in my weakness, I know, and for most of us the enticement of a free tee is wildly disproportionate to the thing’s intrinsic value. They make strong men weak and virtuous women change clothes in public, and the promise of a free tee will draw out the motorcycling masses like the Eloi to the air raid siren.

I ended up with about 100 of them stacked perilously in my closet and another 100 stuffed in shopping bags on various shelves around the house and to all appearances I had become one of those bizarre hoarder types who can’t bear to part with anything, not even the McNuggets boxes. A sickness is what it had become, and at long last My Personal Nurse intervened and laid down the law: No more T-shirts. Ever. (Though she did acquiesce somewhat and agree to revisit the issue in a few years when my current stock has grown threadbare, but only if I agreed not to outgrow them in the interim.)

I’ve been good about it, but it hasn’t been easy. I routinely turn down free tees these days, though I’m usually shaking uncontrollably as I do it, and the last time I actually purchased a T-shirt was two years ago, and that was a sequined Las Vegas Harley-Davidson babydoll tee for our newborn great-niece in Amsterdam where both Vegas and Harley hold a hip cachet, and thus the child became an instant celebrity. It was about the size of one of my socks and cost… gulp… thirty bucks. That aside, I’d become a T-shirt celibate, a virtuous study in self-denial.

That all changed unexpectedly at Daytona Beach this year, and it wasn’t because I caved to the desire for a Bike Week logo’d souvenir. See, me and my wingman, Editor Filla, strolled off a few blocks from Main Street one night to score a pizza, and espied what appeared to be an authentic neighborhood Irish pub called, authentically enough, Tir na nog. Feeling a raging thirst upon us, we entered the establishment and quickly surmised that the place was also the local rugby bar, and that the Daytona Beach rugby teams—both men’s and women’s—were all there after an afternoon of knocking heads and barking shins on the pitch, and partying like only rugby players can.

As you might expect, the appearance of a pair of middle-aged bikers in their rowdy midst was the source of some curiosity and even suspicion. Hard stares and beery askance glances were thrown in our direction, but we weren’t concerned about the possibility of a fight breaking out. That’s because one already had. A guy and a gal were going at it with UFC-style full-contact ferocity, slamming one another to the unyielding plywood floor and grappling in the barroom detritus a few feet away from us. The guy was getting the worst of it, and finally tapped out. No one paid them any mind, and the combatants rose from the floor and got back to their amiable heavy drinking.

Meanwhile, a guy with guns like whole hams had taken up position at the bar beside my elbow and launched an investigation into what, exactly, had brought the likes of us into the Tir na nog. It was tense for a moment, but armed with nothing more than our sparkling wit, good looks, and disarming charm we quickly won the approval and respect of the rugby crew in a Group W bench sort of way, and after that we couldn’t buy a drink. Pitchers were constantly produced and our cups ranneth over, and the point of this story is their T-shirts. Dark Kelly green affairs with “Daytona Beach Rugby” emblazoned on the front and the enigmatic “Wanna Ruck?” on the obverse. Cool.

My T-lust exploded from its enforced exile and I demanded to know how I could get one of these gems, and Mr. Whole-Ham Guns took it upon himself to line one up from the club’s T-shirt guy, who actually left the bar to check his supply. He returned with the sad news that the XL shirts were sold out, and I think it was the visible disappointment on my face—the quivering boo-boo lip and solitary pitiful tear—that inspired the ham-gun guy to give me the shirt off his back. For $10. Good deal, even if the sleeves are a little stretched out.

I snuck it into the house when I returned home, but My Personal Sleuth discovered it anyway and was not pleased. She’s not speaking to me just now, but I don’t care. I’m stoked about my new tee and I intend to wear it proudly and often—just as soon as I figure out what the hell “ruck” means.

It’s all right here in the diaries.

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