By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Aug 30, 2008 at 1:19 PM

I was out of town during Harley's 100th Anniversary bash five years ago, so this weekend is my first real introduction to the festivities. I don't ride so I wasn't a part of the collective rumble, but I did go out last night and it was pretty cool seeing our city celebrate two things it does better than anyone else: motorcycles and summer festivals.

Wisely assuming it to be a terrible idea to bring a vehicle into Downtown last night, we hopped on the 15 bus to get to Nanakusa, 408. E. Chicago St., for dinner. We'd never eaten at the Japanese restaurant before and were surprised to see the first menu item, The Wisconsin Roll, included chunks of bratwurst.

Our waitress quickly informed us that was their Harley special for the week: Bratwurst sushi. And why not?

We sat in the small, separate room where you remove your footwear and dangle your legs down into cut-outs in the floorboards to create the effect of sitting on the floor without actually having to sit cross-legged. We faced the large picture windows that look out onto Chicago Street and it was interesting feeling so quiet and isolated -- Zen? -- in opposition to the constant parade of rolling thunder passing by the restaurant.

But as I gazed out upon the moving masses, I couldn't help but notice that almost no one was wearing a helmet. Men, women, wild young things and older cool riders alike; almost all took to the streets sans head protection.

Bandanas, yes. Helmets, rarely.

After we finished our meal (and I know I'm likely one of the last Milwaukee sushi lovers to dine at Nanakusa, but if you've never been, it's unlike anything else you'll find around here. All of the interesting new flavor combinations our waitress suggested made it a downright educational eating experience) we headed, by foot, to Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St., for drinks.

I took this opportunity to watch the bikes bustle around Water Street and further confirmed that the majority of Harley's 105th Anniversary attendants were not bothering with helmets, despite the insane traffic and abundant beer.

I know it's not a law in this state -- and many states -- to wear one, and I don't necessarily think there should be. It should be a rider's choice. But, I'd like to hear from some of the riders as to why they choose not to protect themselves, if not all the time, but at least during this week's wild ride?

It's strange because most local riders I see from day to day wear helmets. So, is this just a festival allowance?

Just curious.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”