I should have gone home on the Thursday before the Fourth of July. Or, technically speaking, I had intended to do so. The Gap Fire destroyed these plans, however, and I spent that weekend and that whole Fourth of July Friday posting stories about the wildfire that, at the time, was edging ever closer toward Goleta neighborhoods. Rationalizing my unfortunate circumstances later, I decided that the timing actually worked out well. You see, The Fourth of July in my hometown is usually ruined by the Independence Rally, a celebration of a overblown motorcycle invasion that inspired that Marlon Brando movie The Wild One, even though it shouldn’t have. (It’s a long story.) With good reason or not, the event brings thousands and thousands of bike enthusiasts to Hollister — and not the neo-hippie variety that I’m more used to seeing nowadays in Santa Barbara.
You could imagine then how surprised I was to find that, upon arriving in Hollister, that this year was the first that the city arranged for the bikers to show up the weekend after July 4 — or, in other words, the same time I planned to be there. Nonetheless, my cousin and I went out to look at the rally, which this year brought more sweaty, leathery, leather-clad moto-nuts than any previous rally that I witnessed. And their old ladies. In a way, it was nice to see that many people seem to be having a good time on the typically windblown streets of my hometown — even if it was for an event that celebrates awkward clothes and the kind of personalities that make my mother uncomfortable.
I took pictures. These are those pictures.
Above: The cousin, in the beer garden, looking a little more in place than I felt the entire afternoon. Seriously, I think I may have been the only guy wearing flip-flops in the entire downtown area. They carry more of a stigma than I expected.
The performance stage, which was empty when I took this photo. I thought I should record, however, the fact that anyone in the beer garden was separated from the stage by yards of pavement and a chain link fence, which kind of made me feel like I was in some kind of oddly themed refugee camp.
The wall of death, which cousin and I survived by not attending.
I wondered at first why I took this picture. Then I realized that the featured girl has a tail. For the record, that is no way to build a resume.
On biker weekend, even the churches pretend they like bikers!
Not every religious person does, however. Above, see the poor man’s televangelist, who walked the streets extolling the virtues of Jesus. “There’s a lot of sinners here,” he said as I walked by. Me: “No shit. You’re at a biker rally.”
Some people were very friendly, such as this beefy gentleman, whose freakish Popeye biceps encouraged both me and my cousin to enlist. She’s holding his elbow as that is all he’d permit the public to touch.
Walking around downtown also afforded me a few opportunities to observe the strangeness that pervades the Hollister business community.
For example: Raven’s Pet Safari, whose logo features not a raven but an iguana. It’s hard to see in the store windows in this shot, but know that no animals were to be seen.
Or the sushi place, whose placement of the American flag in their logo leads me to think they know nothing of raw fish cuisine.
“Toxic Ink Clothing,” huh? Because there’s nothing I want to think about when surrounded by tattooed throngs than the possibility of those tattoos infecting them all with crazy-inducing toxins.
And then there’s poor city planning decisions — like stationing the port-a-crappers to block the pretty mural of blossoming fruit trees. Classy move, Hollister.
We found the mannequin horrifying, for reasons I can’t explain now.
This sign completely baffled me. Is the specialness of the events an illusion? Or the events themselves? And what the hell is with “Sweet XV”? Did someone miscount the Roman numeral for “Sweet Sixteen”? Or did they simply balk at writing the world “Quinceañera” or its lower-class cousin “Quince” on the sign?
Eventually, cousin and I made our way to the luxury RV show — which, for some reason, existed. The RVs on display were bigger than most of the apartments I have ever lived in. My cousin, in the above photo, displays a natural photogenic quality that I can only dream of.
Also: a previous attempt at photodocumenting the Hollister Independence Rally.