Archive for July, 2011

BIKER SUBCULTURE: “RIDE TO WORK M.C.”

July 30, 2011

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Photo by Genghis

DISQUALIFIED AS BIKERS?:
In NYC we walk or take mass transit to work.

lit-mus test


: a test that relies on a single indicator

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I work as a practice manager of an ophthalmology office at the edge of Greenwich Village in NYC, just where the East Village–which is really a subsection of the Lower East Side—hands the ball off to Greenwich Village (often referred to as the West Village). My office is approximately two miles north of where I live. I live right next to the East River and the FDR Drive. The FDR Drive is the main highway in Manhattan, which unwinds along Manhattan’s east coast. The FDR Drive’s old name was the East River Drive. Yesterday, when both my boss and our secretary Doris were on vacation, I rode my Harley 74, Mabel to work. A heavy downpour had just receded, and the streets were still drying. Mabel and I blasted through and around traffic, which was moderately heavy. We blasted through and around, and it was a blast. I got to the office around 8:00 AM, and finished some paperwork before I closed the office early, and rode home. Needless to say, the highlight of the day, was riding my bike.

Let me be perfectly clear on this (don’t ya hate it when Professor Obama says that?): Riding to work is a pure pleasure, and a privilege. That being said, yesterday was one of only two times that I rode my motorcycle to my office in the West Village. The time before yesterday, was 20 years ago.

After I got to within a block of my office yesterday, I parked Mabel and walked to the parking slip dispenser (the slip shows the time it was issued and the expiration time, and one displays this on a car’s dashboard) at the middle of the block. NYC used to have parking meters for each space, but has recently transitioned to these parking slip dispensers. These dispensers, called “Muni-Meters” take coins, dollar bills or credit cards. I put three bucks worth of quarters into the Muni-Meter, and the machine spit out my slip for one hour. Ya see, there’s a one hour limit per vehicle, so if ya want to park for more than the one hour max, then you have to repeat this drill every hour. Since my Harley doesn’t have a dashboard, I Scotch-taped the parking slip to Mabel’s gas cap.

Lessee, there must’ve been a reason I never joined the Mathematicians M.C. Three bucks an hour times eight hours, that comes to $24 a day, a hundred and twenty bucks a week. Who can afford that? Not to mention that you’d have to run out to the Muni-Meter to get a new slip every hour. After the initial hour, that’s seven trips the Muni-Meter a day? You gotta be kidding me. That’s too hassle-intensive fer me, man. Is it any wonder that bikers in NYC don’t ride to work?

There was a campaign a few years ago whose slogan was “Ride to work, work to ride.” Cute slogan, man–but it is a denial of urban reality. Let me state the obvious: The ability of a biker to ride to work depends on logistics. If I lived in a suburban or rural area, there’s no doubt that I’d be riding to work. The great distances between homes and jobs, and the lack of mass transit in these locales, would necessitate riding (or driving) to work. Besides denying urban realities, “Ride to work, work to ride” implies that bikers who don’t ride to their jobs, aren’t worthy bikers. Besides the implication, many commentators of that time editorialized just that contention: That any biker who didn’t ride to work, wasn’t a real biker. I call these people the Ride To Work M.C.—which were absorbed into the larger Litmus Testers M.C.

You’re all familiar with the Litmus Testers M.C. The Litmus Testers M.C. have a whole list of “litmus tests” that must be passed in order for candidates to be considered bikers. Prospects beware. You know the list: Gotta ride every day, gotta ride hundreds of miles a day, gotta wear the approved uniform, ad nauseum. Bikers, who are supposed to be free spirited, have assessed an encyclopedia’s worth of rules, regulations and prerequisites to prospects for the Litmus Testers M.C. The Ride To Work M.C. is merely their nomad arm, attempting to enforce “riding to work” as the chief indicator, of whether you’re a real biker or not.

I once wrote a column for Snow’s Iron Horse, stating that in my case and situation, my Harley was more of a leisure vehicle, a recreational vehicle, than a necessity. I was roasted in the Back Talk section of IH in letters from readers, who felt that it was blasphemy to call a righteous Harley a recreational vehicle. Guess they didn’t want their Harleys lumped in with Winebagos and Airstreams. But the truth has a way of turning out to be the obvious: In NYC, nobody needs a Harley, or a car. Proximity to work and the availability of subways and buses means that a New Yorker can go through an entire lifetime without a drivers license.

Now, I need my Harley, but in a spiritual sense. My Harley 74 Mabel, is the centerpiece of my existence, and I would never be without a Harley—but that is an entirely different issue. In NYC, all one needs is food, water, a roof over one’s head, and the means to get to work. Nowhere in that description of absolute necessities, is a motorcycle. The people that criticized me for calling my Harley a recreational vehicle, were just reacting badly to the connotation of “RV” and ignoring the reality of urban life. These people, were charter members of the Litmus Testers M.C.

There were other times when I did ride to work. There was the time that my good and departed friend Tony DiBartolo got me a one day gig at a construction job on Long Island. I rode my ’68 XLCH “Sally The Bitch” to that job. Tony was my sister Dottie’s boyfriend. When I worked for the Quick Trip Messenger Service in the late ’60s, not only did I ride Sally to work every day, I rode her for work every day. Gotta admit, it wasn’t fun to use her in the grueling tangle of NYC traffic. I did get to ride out of state, to Pennsylvania , Jersey and New England occasionally.

Bikers live in many geographical areas, where each location dictates the practicality of riding to work. In my case, walking the two miles each way is the way to go. Besides, if I didn’t walk that 20 miles a week, I’d need a gift certificate for a Jenny Craig program. Now, which of you bikers readin’ this, isn’t wearing a leather vest? Raise your hands, boys. Who’s not wearing boots? Who didn’t ride today? And did you ride less than 700 miles? Nah, just kidding. Later.

BIKER SUBCULTURE: “THE WINEHOUSE SYNDROME”

July 27, 2011

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Photo by Genghis

DEAD END: The O.D graveyard

AMY WINEHOUSE:


They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no’

Yes I’ve been black but when I get back you’ll know know know

I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine

He’s tried to make me go to rehab but I won’t go go go

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We’ve all known people like Amy Winehouse. Sometimes these were people we were close to. These people were addicts and died young, to us—for no good reason. After a premature death of someone like this, there is a mixture of grief and anger, anger toward that person for senselessly aborting life when life is so precious. It is a curious but natural human reaction to feel angry at those who inexplicably leave us. It is survivor’s anger. These people have everything to live for and nothing to die for. Yet, they toss life in the garbage in fits of self-pity and self-destruction. There is no rationale for it. There is only a personality that is addiction-prone, an attempt to dull psychological pain, and the pharmacological means to to the end. Sometimes drugs give a wonderful and ecstatic high, and sometimes it crosses the line into deadly territory.

When the line is breached, then life ends, probably unintentionally. Most overdoses are involuntary. The run-up to this point is motivated by an uncontrollable urge to escape pain. Of the number of people I’ve known over the years who’ve O.D.’d, the most painful for me was my friend Mike “Big Mike” Mercurio’s passing. Big Mike was a biker. In Big Mike’s case, he died in his early 30s. There was so much to live for, so many miles he could’ve ridden on his panhead, so many women to love, all gone in one rash act of seeking pleasure or peace. Death is a heavy price to pay for an escape hatch from demons.

VAFFANCULO!

“Fongool, Mike—what the hell were ya thinking?” I was sad and mad at the same time. That’s the way I felt when I heard that Big Mike had died of an O.D. Mike was my paisan. Didn’t know I was Italian, did you? Yup, I was indoctrinated as an Italian by all of my Italian friends I grew up with in Queens, who were really Italian. I wasn’t, but I could curse ya out with the best of ’em. What am I, a stugots? My “chin flick” gesture was as authentic as those executed by my paisan buddies. My up yours umbrella gesture, was done with flair and passion. “May your blood leave you, stunad!”

Big Mike was a little over ten years older than me, and was one of the older bikers in my neighborhood who I looked up to when I was coming up. The other was Steve Biondo. Both Big Mike and Steve rode panheads, and they’re the ones who solidified my loyalty to Harley-Davidsons. Big Mike was the one I called, when I blew out my kicking knee, on my Sportster “Sally The Bitch” when Sally’s kickstarter slipped through without resistance. Because of my injury, I was unable to kickstart Sally to get her home. I called Mike, and he showed up and kicked her over for me. Kickstarting for Big Mike was no problemo, because Mike weighed in at 270.

Big Mike was a natural mechanic, who could disassemble his panhead or his car, and rebuild ’em just like that. My father often called Mike to weld stuff for my father’s store, or repair machinery for my father—and Mike would never take payment. He did it for friendship’s sake. My father had a tremendous regard for Big Mike, who was always generous with his time and talents. Many were the times when Big Mike would help me diagnose problems with the Sportster. Mike was also a handy guy to have around when things got rough.

There was the time when Mike and I stopped on the Long Island Expressway to help a woman whose car broke down. This was at the juncture where the Northern State Parkway merged with the LIE. This was something Big MIke did a lot of: Stop and help motorists with their cars, and he never took any of their money for his time and trouble.

While Mike was at the end of the median helping the woman with her car, a car full of hecklers at the other end of the median started to hassle me about my long hair. I threw a rock at their car, and they emptied out, one guy with a tire iron, the other two empty handed. The guy with the tire iron faced off with me, and I planted a well-placed engineer boot into his genitals, flooring him. Unseen to me, one of the other guys circled around me, and sucker punched me in my right ear just right, and broke my eardrum (I lost most of the hearing in my dominant right ear from that, which is why I always use my left ear for the telephone).

That threw me off my equilibrium, and the two guys were about to stomp me, when Mike noticed and ran over. With this hairy behemoth descending on ’em, those two guys picked up their friend and they took off back to their car and they peeled off. I spent the day in the emergency room of a hospital having my broken eardrum attended to, but without Big Mike, it would have been far worse. Of this I was certainn, though: I wouldn’t have traded injuries with the guy I floored. To this day, he probably hasn’t fathered children.

That’s the kind of dependable friend Big Mike was. After I got married to my first wife and moved to Manhattan, I spent less time with Big Mike and saw him infrequently. Mike was a sportsman of sorts. We used to go flounder fishing in the Rockaways together. He was big on fishing, often going on fishing boats off of Montauk, Long island. It would be at Montauk Point, where he would ironically die of an overdose of heroin.

After not seeing Big for several months after I got married, I returned to Queens and ran into him. He had totally changed. He got involved in a bad crowd of heroin users. he looked emaciated, probably weighing under two hundred, which was nothing, for him. He acted out of his mind, and talked erratically. I couldn’t believe my eyes aand ears. Shortly after this, I heard through a mutual friend that Big Mike was found dead in his car at Montauk Point, dead from a heroin O.D. The Winehouse sysdrome had struck Mike down for the count.

Vaffanculo, Mike! What were you thinking? I miss ya, buddy. I hope that yer riding your panhead up there—at least, I hope that you’re up there. Peace be upon you, paisan. Later.

FINITO

BIKER SUBCULTURE: “ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER”

July 22, 2011

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Photo by Genghis

ONLY THE LONELY: Do you get lonely on your bike?

THREE DOG NIGHT:


“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Two can be as bad as one

It’s the loneliest number since the number one

No is the saddest experience you’ll ever know

Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know

‘Cause one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”

GEORGE THE PAINTER, AUGUST 2011 THBC:

“So we ride ’em, not to shows or events, but we ride ’em just to get that feeling of control of the things around us….Nothing else in life is as simple as one man riding his machine. Life is supposed to be simple…so just ride.”

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An interesting philosophy, as outlined by George The Painter. One that I can heartily endorse, as I am an unabashed loner when it comes to riding. There is basically one reason I buy THBC. You can be assured that it isn’t for the logjam of featured hacked-up Hondas, Kawasakis and Suzukis, punctuated by a few Harleys and Limeys in-between. It’s not to see the latest dumb trend being celebrated, like exhaust wrap. It’s not even for the self-aggrandizing editorials by THBC’s editorial director. It is for George The Painter’s writing. There is a good reason for my sole focus on “GTP” in the magazine.

He is compelling.

GTP is compelling because he advances compelling ideas. One such compelling idea is that riding a motorcycle, is a biker’s restorative exercise to feel whole, to feel in control of himself and his environment. No wonder I relate to his idea so much. It’s a sentiment I’ve voiced many times in my writing. Riding a motorcycle is therapeutic. It is a way for a person to feel whole, by balancing one’s life on two skinny tires at 80 miles per hour, dodging cars and challenging life itself—and succeeding.

A motorcycle is a vehicle designed for one occupant, optionally for two. I say “optionally,” because riding’s best when it just you on the bike. One’s best, screw the rest. The “motorcycle-and-biker” equation, is the purest form of motorcycling. One (the bike) plus one (the biker) equal two. Three Dog Night states that “Two can be as bad as one,” but I’m not sure that two can be as good as one, when it comes to riding on the bike. Two-up on the bike equals three, and three can be a crowd.

There’s no doubt in my biker’s mind, that a biker alone on his bike, is the purest expression of motorcycle riding. It’s just you and your bike negotiating the blacktop, as cathartic for the biker as an hour on Doctor Melfi’s couch, for Tony Soprano. Contrast this idea of solitude on the bike, with this description of a bike rally in the August 2011 Cycle Source:

“The event was burnouts, random massive explosions, an occasional rainbow trout, and stage diving off of cain roofs….good old-fashioned bike games…with hardcore partying around campfires….”

WTF? The contrast between the two ideals, is as stark as black and white. It’s as vivid as a contrast between national fiscal responsibility, and the 4.1 billion dollars America’a debt is increasing every day during Obama’s presidency (the national debt rose at a rate of 1.6 billion per day, during W’s presidency). One ideal embodies the irreplaceable experience of interacting with one’s motorcycle where it counts, and the other celebrates socializing on a heightened scale, using the bike as a prop.

There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with motorcycles. Here’s a useful theoretical exercise for you. Mentally substitute the people at a bike rally with say, minivan owners. So it’s a rally for minivan owners instead of bikers we’re rappin’ about. These minivan owners can still “dive off of cabin roofs” and various other stupid human tricks. The common denomintor for both of these demographic groups, is that they use their vehicles, as an excuse to party. It really has zip to do with motorcycles, or minivans. You can mentally picture a rally for equestrians, and their horses would be the excuse to socialize.

There would be many in the culture who impose their idea of what it means to be a biker, as a litmus test for the rest of the subculture. “Hey. You don’t go to Sturgis? What’s wrong with you, man?” There are those who insist that enduring extreme pain while riding their bikes, is the prerequisite for being a biker. These types sound like candidates for prospecting in the Masochistic Bikers M.C. “One’s gotta be hurtin’ at the end, man.” I find this so ridiculous, as to be openly laughable. 707, man (“LOL,” flipped). Any biker that believes that being a biker consists of a series of “toughness tests” that have to be passed in order to qualify, has deeper issues to deal with than his bike.

There are no tests, only enjoyment.

Think back to when you were young, and you started riding motorcycles. The only motivation was that it was enjoyable to ride the bike. Bruce Lee once said of the martial arts….

“When I first got into it, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. After a few years, it became more than that. When I finally became good at it, a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick.”

It’s the same thing with being a biker. It was just plain fun to me when I was young to hop on a bike, and just go—and it still is just plain fun to hop on the bike “and go.” Some things should never change. Some things change because of peer pressure. Some things change, because of pressures from within, that reflect more about mental states, than riding bikes. The Masochistic Bikers M.C. are filled with riders without true identities. Ya gotta have confidence, man. The biker trip is this, and just this:

Just hop on the bike, and go.

Later.

FINITO

BIKER SUBCULTURE COLUMNS

July 20, 2011

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Photo by Genghis

CLICK ON THE LINKS FOR THE COLUMNS:

“H-D OUT OF BUSINESS?”

“HARLEY LOW RIDER: THE DRAW OF THE SEVENTY-FOUR”

“ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER”

“THE WINEHOUSE SYNDROME”

“RIDE TO WORK M.C.”

“THE LOOKING GLASS”

“FADS”

“X-MEN VS. MAGNETO”

“KAWASAKI HACKERS MC”

“CONTRADICTION”

“DUMB THINGS I’VE DONE”

“THE LAST RIDE HOME”

“WHY BIKERS FALL IN LOVE WITH BIKES”

“FOUR MACHINES OF THE APOLCALYPSE”

“LOOKS RIGHT, FEELS RIGHT”

“HIPPIE HANGOUT”

“GEM SPA LIVES!”

“ILL REPORT YOU DECIDE”

GUEST ARTICLE: “WILLIE G.” by Halfway to Hell

“IT’S FAMILY BEEF”

“BIKERS WHO LOVE CARS”

“WOULD RATHER DRIVE HIS CORVETTE”

“WAITING FOR SANDRA DEE

“SHE WASN’T SANDRA DEE”

“CONSEQUENCES OF BEING A LONER”

“MEMOIR”

“NICKNAME GAME”

“JUNK BIKE LITES

“SISTER IN A WHOREHOUSE”

“OBJECTS OF POWER”

“UNATTACHED”

“ROSABILT”

“KEYS TO THE HARLEY KINGDOM”

GUEST ARTICLE BY MIKE WILLNER: “BOUNCER’S WEAPONS”

“ADVANCED TECHNIQUE IN THE MARTIAL ARTS”

“HOW IMPORTANT IS MARTIAL ARTS LINEAGE?”

“I CAN TEACH ANY STYLE”

“JOW GA KUNG FU’S DR. RICHARD CHIN”

“KARATE-INFLUENCED JOW GA KUNG FU”

“APPRECIATING FORMS”

GUEST ARTICLE BY “HALFWAY-TO-HELL:” “MY MOTORCYCLE SPOKE TO ME”

“GOING 15 ROUNDS”

“POST-RACIAL BIKER”

GUEST ARTICLE BY HORSE: “PASSION RUNS DEEP”

“NUCLEAR WINTER

“MY LITTLE WORLD”

“CLUB OR LONER”

“NOT ABOUT THE BIKE ANYMORE”

“RIDING OUTLAW”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “MAMA GRIZZLY”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “PROM DRESS”

“DON’T YOU WANT SOMEBODY TO LOVE?”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “JUST ANOTHER BLACK HARLEY”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “BEGGING TO BE CUT LOOSE”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “BLACK IS THE NEW METALFLAKE ORANGE”

“MY GRANDPA THE BIKER”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “ANIMAL MOTHER UPDATE: ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE”

“NYPD GIVES A THUMBS UP”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “ELDER STATESMAN”

“INDEPENDENCE DAY 2015: I’M GOIN’ FOR A RIDE”

GUEST ARTICLE BY MOSEY: “MOSEYING ON MY SHOVEL IN THE SPIRIT OF ’76”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “OUTLAW IMAGERY IN THE BIKER SUBCULTURE”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “XLCH RANCH”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “ANIMAL MOTHER AT WORK”

“SLOW BURN”

GUEST ARTICLE BY MICHAEL “ZAP” ZAPUTIL: “THE MORAL RELATIVISM OF BIKER LITES”

“WHAT IS THAT, A SPORTSTER?”

GUEST ARTICLE BY DAVID SNOW: “ANIMAL MOTHER’S BOOTY MAKEOVER”

“BLOCKHEAD OR EVO?”

“THANKSGIVING MESSAGE 2015”

“SUCH A SIMPLE PLEASURE”

“MY CHRISTMAS VILLAGE–JACKSON HEIGHTS”

“RAT PACK M.C.—A LATE NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE”

“THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE”

“RIDING IN ANGER”

“THE TEAM NEEDS A SPARK”

“HEART OF THE BIKER SUBCULTURE”

“DOES IT SAY STUPID ON MY FOREHEAD?”

“PEOPLE LIKE ME”

“FRIENDLY BIKE”

“BIKERS IN THE EAST VILLAGE IN THE ’60s”

“ESSENCE”

“PURITAN BIKERS?”

“THE AUDIENCE”

“FATE 1969”

“WINTER IS DESPAIR”

GUEST ARTICLE: “MEMORIES OF ALASKA” BY MIKE SMITH

BIKER SUBCULTURE: “HARLEY LOW RIDER: THE DRAW OF THE SEVENTY-FOUR”

July 17, 2011

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Photo by Genghis

LOW RIDER INFLUENCE: The H-D Low Rider led me to get my ’71 Super Glide Mabel.

SNOW UNPLUGGED:

“…..‎’course you know I like whatever you write! I have a thought experiment for you: what would you do if Mabel were totaled? I know you both (you and Patty) bounced back after that horrific wreck in Queens in the ’90s, but what if Mabel were terminal, fubared, kaput? I think you’d probably spend an appropriate amount of time grieving…. but I think you’d scout out an older FX; do’er up as a tribute to your deceased love…

Another Low Rider memory for you: Fall/Winter ’78 I’m working at a full-service Texaco filling station along the freeway in Jacksonville, which is the home of Little Rock Air Force Base. Everyday at 5 PM, an airman on one of the first Low Riders blasts down the access road on the way to the base. That guy was the coolest, his bike, the best. He always wore a sleeveless Levis jacket with a big HD eagle patch on the back. When it was warm, it was just the denim, when it got colder the vest wwhen over his leather. He stopped by the station a few times & I got to see the bike & biker up close. I was on my Honda CB 360T at the time, and this airman, with no bravado or bluster, just his quiet cool, is something I’ve always remembered. I feel really blessed to have become infatuated with Harleys before they became fashionable, when they were Trouble, Real Trouble, in all its connotations. You knew a guy on a Harley knew what he was getting into.

One more thing (hey I’m sitting at B and N using their wifi, drinkin mocha, so I’ve got time), re: your previous Low Rider blogpost, you mentioned the Bay Area style. I always thought the Bay Area look, popularized by Arlen (before he became a Mess) was a swingarm BigTwin with drag bars and 3 1/2 gallon fats, no? Then HD, as they always did, appropriated the look for the Low Rider (as they later did with Duc Dufour’s Low Boy, redone by the factory as the Fat Boy). Frisco Style was, as I understand it, rigids with midrange (FX) controls & frisco’ed XL tanks & Z-bars…?”

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NEW YORK COLISEUM 1982

Certain events are pivotal in bikers’s lives. In my life, this was one of them. This was the year when I met my wife, Patty, when she became one of my martial arts students where I held my classes at the Third Street Music School on 11th Street, in New York City. I know, there are contradictions in that statement. For one, a martial arts class being held in a music school? What you don’t know is that the Third Street Music School has dance floors where ballet is taught. I rented out this dance floor, two nights a week, when the sound of bashing of ribs took place instead of the whispered flurry of little ballerinas’ feet. The Third Street Music school is America’s oldest community school for the arts and was established in 1894. I’ll give you three guesses, as to what street it originally resided on. This year was pivotal for me for two major reasons. One, I met Patty, and two, it was the year that cemented my resolve to finally move on to a shovelhead from my Sportster. Until recently, I didn’t know that one particular motorcycle model was of prescient importance for me and David Snow, in shaping our views on how the Harley 74 would play a role in our lives. This motorcycle, was the Harley-Davidson Low Rider.

In 1982, Patty and I went to a car and motorcycle show at the now-defunct New York Coliseum. If this old venue rings a familiar bell, it’s because it was the site in the late ’60s when the New York Chapter of the Aliens M.C. had a ferocious turf battle with the Pagans M.C. They really tore the place apart. Because of this nationally publicized occurrence, the Aliens were absorbed into the HAMC and became the New York Chapter of the Hells Angels. This car and bike show would prove fateful with regard to my Harley future, and tie me with Snow in coincidental ways that could be considered Orwellian.

You see how David’s exposure to the Harley Low Rider has caused a simmering desire for that model, culminating in a delayed search for the right Low Rider. As Snow says, “I’ll know it when I see it.” The Harley Low Rider caused a similarly fateful gut reaction in me. As we ambled along the aisles of the New York Coliseum, we came across a silver Low Rider, which I sat on. The effect was electric. All of my repressed desires for a shovelhead were suddenly and volcanically awakened. It was like a religious experience. I felt my face flush with pleasure, as I sat in the saddle of this low-slung beauty, her shovelhead rocker boxes winking up at me like two seductive, glistening eyes. I put my feet on her foward pegs. I reached for the handlebars, and I was hooked. That did it. I had to get a shovelhead. I spent the next three years saving enough money to buy a shovel, and the resulting purchase was Mabel, my beloved ’71 Super Glide.

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How uncanny was it that a single model of Harley-Davidson, was the game-changer that it was for both Snow and me? The big difference of course, is that I didn’t maintain a fixation on the Low Rider. I was happy just to have a shovel in a classic four speed swingarm frame. Snow on the other hand, seems intent on finding a original, unmodified Low Rider. Who knew, considering Snow’s well-documented predilection for changing his bikes over the years, as chronicled in Iron Horse? Snow won’t settle for a good-condition but modified Low Rider. He wants a Low Rider that is original. As he says, “A Low Rider is only original once.

That’s how I ended up with Mabel, my Harley stroker. I love my bike, but Snow posed an interesting question. What would I do if Mabel were beyond repair, what would I replace her with? Simple. I would look for another shovelhead in a swingram frame in good condition. I would in fact, depend on Andrew Rosa of Rosa’s Cyles to find me one, to cull excellence from the pack, that’s how much I trust Andrew.

Snow mentioned Bay area style bikes, I would think that David has a more concrete idea of what the the Bay area style is than I do, but here’s what comes to my mind when I hear “Bay area.” My mind harkens back to the late ’60s, when Arlen Ness built these spindly little swingarm Sportsters, constructed on spindly little custom frames with small diameter tubing, and spindly little springers made with small diameter tubing. The frames may have been stretched, but horizontally. The necks of these bikes were kept low. Some of the bikes had a rake, but in all, these Ness Sporties all hugged the ground and looked small and fragile. The controls and pegs were always mid-positioned, highway pegs were an expleteive deleted, as far as Ness was concerned with these bikes. The bars were usually of the tiller type, kept low and reaching back to the rider so it seemed as if the rider was gripping the bars at waist level. The tanks always seemed to be custom diamond tanks, very small and never Frisco mounted. These bikes always looked laughable to me, especially with a rider on board. With a rider in the saddle, the bikes looked (to me) pitifully outclassed by the street. The street demands strong looking Harleys, that dominate the street, not the other way around.

I hated these bikes.

The closest association I can dredge up when I saw pictures of these little bikes, was of “children’s tricycles.” These Bay area Ness bikes weren’t small-looking in a righteous way that an old Knuck in an original, unraked rigid looks. To me, those Ness bay area Sportsters, looked small in a way that would cause dispepsia. Just around that time, someone offered kits—I can’t remember who—that featured a frame with no top tube. Therefore, the gas tank was moved elsewhere on the bike, and there was nothing but air above the Sportster motors. These looked even more ridiculously childish, than the Ness Sportsters, like Vespas on mild steroids.

Some experiences in life leave permanent physical creases in our brains. How else to explain Snow’s burgeoning and consuming love affair with the Harley Low Rider? I know that my sitting on that Low Rider at the New York Coliseum in 1982, left measurable crevices in my cerebrum, that led my lifelong appreciation for the shovelhead-powered four speed swingarm. I believe that the physical changes in Snow’s cerebrum, will eventually lead to his scoring a cherry Harley Low Rider. The saga continues. Later.

FINITO