We attended a Poker Run, a charity event involving music, auctions, and motorcycles. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any hint, not the least whisper of Poker. Though, it seems the poker isn’t played, it’s implied. Each biker pays an entry fee to participate. A playing card is handed out to each bike at every stop, whoever has the best poker hand at the end wins one half of the combined entry fee. The other half goes to the charity.
In this case the “charity” was a charming young person. A child who was wheelchair bound and had been through several grueling and exhaustive surgeries. She had managed to shed her braces, through arduous physical therapy sessions. In a way that adults could never duplicate she still managed an obviously sincere, genuinely beautiful smile. Children have a magic, a powerful resilience, that defies understanding by practical, pattern addicted, logical, reasoning adults. If we could find a way to capture just a little of that wellspring of optimism our jobs would seem a lot more pleasant, our relationships would be simpler and most of our wrinkles would be laugh lines.
It was a beautiful day, and the event was held on an outdoor patio. Bright, pleasant sunshine, cool with a slight breeze, a few high clouds dashed across the sky, so pale and formless they were almost invisible.
Train tracks ran a few feet from the patio, partially blocked by a two-story brick and stone building. It used to be a train depot. Now it’s a bar, with a huge patio, and a food truck selling barbecued and smoked meats. Giant sandwiches filled with tender pork or beef, covered with a tangy sauce, and wrapped in sheets of paper covered foil.
A band played on the small stage in the back corner of the patio, in front of an eight-foot-tall privacy fence. A drummer, a guitar player, a bass player, and a singer, who played acoustic guitar occasionally. I forget, sometimes, how different live music is, how inclusive, how absorbing. Most of the songs they played were foreign to me, but I was still swept along by the joy of the sound.
“People joining hand in hand, while the music played the band.”
We arrived before the bikers. We watched, and listened, to them roar in from the street. Enter stage left, a chorus line of rolling, screaming machines. It echoed off the fence, the music and engines created a modern, rolling chorus, a harmony of electricity and internal combustion, the joyous sound of modern life. Sometimes, only two or three times, but a train would rumble past, the rhythm of freight transportation, you could feel it almost as much as you heard it.
There were several different knots of riders. One group was peopled with older gentle souls who sat inside the patio drinking Irish whiskey and smoking huge, aromatic cigars. In an odd counterpoint, there was a band of mostly younger guys, bearded, and boisterous, who stood outside in the parking lot drinking aluminum bottles of beer and partaking in the ancient ritual of passing the lighted, burning herb. It made me a little nostalgic for the old days. Not the cigars and motorcycles.
After the roaring, boisterous entrance the band packed up and left and the auction started. Bidding was lively and spirited. Most popular where power tools, cordless and portable, people went crazy to get their hands on drills, all-purpose Sawzall (which aren’t really all purpose, my neighbors, a group of young men, tried to trim a tree with one, and it fell short of their expectations, I loaned them a branch saw, no motor or battery, but sleek and purposeful). I managed to grab some tickets to the Dead and Company show in Cincinnati, it is a farewell tour and I wanted to see a performance.
I’m not sure how much money was raised, it seemed to be successful, but what do I know about money? I am positive it’s a shame this family, and I didn’t get a chance to meet them, have to rely on the kindness of strangers to save their child. It’s bad enough that unkind fate has dealt this poor, young girl such a burden, but it is criminal that our national health care forces them to make such enormous sacrifices for the health of such a beautiful, tortured, young soul.
We should have fund raisers to send a class to Washington DC on a high school field trip or buy uniforms for a marching band. A family shouldn’t have to rely on auctions to save a child from an early, awful departure. There is no argument strong enough to counter the suffering of countless families carrying such tragic, unwieldy burdens. Theirs is a terrible toll, all the pain, and fear dragging ragged strands of a terror and disappointment most of us will never understand. Having to pay the ticket cost of such a long, painful journey shouldn’t be required.
 The Music Never Stopped, by the Grateful Dead
This Post is republished on Medium.
Photo credit: iStock