Duke’s President sure does love himself a big fat honkin’ two-wheeler.
I sat down with Vincent Price last week to chat about his fiery passion for all things motorcycle; a passion that Duke’s 10th president admits himself is an unexpected one considering his quaint little glasses and soft temperament. He’s particularly enamored with the old-school kind of choppers you might find parked outside a rough-and-tumble saloon owned by rugged, leather-clad danger-seekers. Raring to rev up, I spark the ignition on our conversation:
MM: Beyond empty platitudes, what is Duke doing to further the Black Lives Matter movement?
VP: Wait, I thought we were gonna talk about motorcycles.
MM: Sure. But first, what is Duke specifically doing to further the Black Lives Matter movement? Your statement vaguely gestures towards increasing diversity on campus, but it ignores Duke’s part in gentrification and the displacement of Black communities in Durham.
VP: Aw geez. I don’t know anything about any of those things. C’mon! Let’s just talk about choppers! Boy I sure do love choppers! Vrooom! VROOooOM!
President Price continues to make engine-revving noises with his mouth. There’s fear in his sputters; a terror behind his eyes. It’s clear I’ve blindsided him. When I walked into his office for this interview, he was standing at attention beside his seat like a schoolboy. A nervous smile peaked across his face as he fidgeted with his fingerless biker gloves and tried to keep his feet planted to the floor. That’s right: he dressed up specifically for this interview. He wears a leather jacket and one of those german novelty motorcycle helmets with a silver spike poking out of the top. This is not the conversation he thought he was walking into, and if the duration of his sputters is any indication, he’s starting to get dodgy. I steer us back to safe waters.
MM: Hey President Price, what do you love most about motorcycles?
VP: Oh man! I love motorcycles! They go so fast! They’re so badass!
MM: Cool! What about Duke’s continued employment of Tallman Trask despite serious allegations against him of racist behavior? You said, “Tallman will rightfully be remembered at Duke for his steady transformation of our campus.” What did you mean by that?
His smile evaporates. He is silent for fifteen seconds straight. Then:
VP: Mm-mm-mm! Boy do I just wanna roll around in the mud! ‘Cause I’m a hog-daddy! I’m bad to the bone!
He breaks into a full-on rendition of George Thorogood and The Destroyers’ “Bad to the Bone”. He pounds his chest with his fist and emphatically scats the bassline. Tears well in his eyes. I’ve cornered him into every white man’s worst nightmare: a conversation about motorcycles that turns into a conversation about race politics. In earnest, I was only able to secure this interview under the guise that it would be motorcycle-centric. Reading the room and realizing that my interview may be cut short, I throw a Hail Mary.
MM: Do you consider the repackaging of an author and performer’s work under the guise of “racial justice” yet another example of performative allyship that does more harm than good, or are you about to say something about motorcycles?
VP: Vrrrrrrrrrrr! Screeeeeech! Pfffffffffffffffffff!
Price has fetched two hot-wheels motorcycles from the coffee table’s drawer. He plays with them, crashing them into each other.
MM: What about alleged DUPD harassment? You haven’t acknowledged that as-
President Price’s eyes glisten with righteous fury. He has pulled down his mask so that I can see his mouth. His fingers tremble as they hold it down. He slowly mouths the words “Please...stop…”
He pulls the mask back up. It’s a sports mask with exhalation valves, which I find appropriate. It appears on the surface to promote goodwill for all, but it really only insulates the wearer themself from damage. It doesn’t actually protect anyone. It’s the only type of mask worse than a bandana, which ironically would’ve been more on-theme. One last question:
MM: Larry Mo-
Price sprints out of the room.
I’m left alone to contemplate our dire future. I get up and walk towards one of the windows of the office. I lean my left forearm against the frame and peer out of it like I’m in a noir, just to feel something. After a couple of minutes, to my surprise, I spot Vincent Price out on the road, a speck in the distance, burning rubber on one of the gnarliest hogs I’ve ever seen.
I raise my fist at him, like Mr. Fox does to the wolf in the 2009 Wes Anderson stop-motion animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox. I don’t know why I do this. I don’t stand in solidarity with any of Price’s actions. It’s like muscle memory for something I’ve never done. Just before he crosses over the sunset horizon, I see him raise his fist back at me. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve chased him; if things might’ve gone different.
Monday Monday’s column, “Monday Monday” runs every Monday. Monday doesn’t sound like a real word anymore. Monday. Monday Monday Monday. Monday Monday Monday Monday Monday Monday.
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