Photo courtesy of Steven Yee
TRUE BIKER TO THE CORE: Steven Yee.
Picture this: You’re suddenly ripped way from your normal life by the establishment, and imprisoned, probably for life. Your Harley-Davidson will never again feel your heavy presence on her saddle. No longer can you feel the warm summer wind on your face, as you guide your motorcycle down the highways and streets that you’d previously made your own, by sheer habit and repetition. You had up until then, taken this simple pleasure for granted. No longer can you revel in the blast of your straight pipes, as you downshift and brake simultaneously, as you get ready to round a sharp curve on the road. You can no longer look forward to walking through your door at the end of the day, to be greeted by your wife, who is all smiles with promise. You can never settle into your own bed at night. Your entire life has been turned upside down, with little hope of returning to any sense of normalcy. Just how do you cope?
Steven Yee is a friend who was in just such a position. Steve is an Ohio Hells Angel who is incarcerated, and is easily one of the most inspirational bikers I’ve had the honor to know. Steve has been in jail since 1989. Steve has shown the resiliency of the human spirit that is possible if the person is strong enough, with what’s he’s accomplished. He’s created a freedom inside walls, liberataing himself from the mental confines of prison, through music. His music has become His Harley within the walls of prison, freeing his mind with rides of artistic achievement. Steven Yee is a True Biker.
True bikers have an inner strength and unstoppable resolve. Steve demonstrated these qualities by being determined to teach himself how to play the guitar while in prison. This was how Steve coped with his loss of freedom. This is no easy task in prison, as The System will allow prisoners to have equipment or not, depending on its whim at any given time. Steve persisted however, and gave himself the expertise in guitar playing that only applied discipline can achieve. The grim determination of a hardcore Harley rider that’s intrinsic to Steve’s nature, allowed him the incremental gains in playing proficiency that he displays today. Here’s what Steve said about the work that he did, to get to where he is today:
“I started teaching myself….and continued playing for hours every day until my fingers would bleed.”
There aren’t many Chinese-Americans in the biker subculture demographically, and even fewer in the one percenter ranks. In fact, there was only one other Chinese-American Hells Angel that I know of, and he was referred to in the literature over 40 years ago. Hunter S. Thompson in his book about the HAMC, mentioned a Frisco Chinese Angel named Mel.
I once did a survey of Chinese bikers in Iron Horse, and received approximately ten responses. Interestingly, almost half of those came from San Francisco, which is not surprising. San Francsico has the largest population of Chinese in America, because this was one of the two main entrance points for Chinese immigrants at the turn of the last century. The other main immgration entry point was Ellis Island New York, where both of my parents came through in the 1910s as children. New York has the second largest population of Chinese-Americans.
It is generally conceded that San Francisco was a generation ahead of New York in terms of Chinese-American immigration. My old martial arts teacher Dr. Richard Chin once said to me…
“If you go to San Francisco now and ask a Chinese grandfather there something in Chinese, he’ll tell you to go to someone older, because he doesn’t speak Chinese at all. He’ll point to Great-Grandpa down the street”
Keep in mind, that Dr. Chin said this to me, 30 years ago. One of the Chinese-American bikers from Frisco who rides a Harley 74, was nicknamed “Da Butcher.” We still keep in touch. I found it interesting to exchange stories with the Chinese-American IH readers who responded to my survey. In my conversations with Steve Yee, he related that he didn’t know of many Chinese-American bikers. I’m pretty sure that I asked Steve once if he spoke Chinese (I don’t), but to be honest I don’t remember his answer.
Steve is my hero, because of his unassailable determination to become the best in his music. Would you expect any less from a hardcore Harley rider? Lucky for Steve that he has such a beautiful and dedicated wife, Lynn Yee—who took the tapes that he made in prison to a professional studio, to have a CD made of the music. The CD is called “The Last Ride Home” and Steve’s band is called Deadly Synz. Check out their website, to appreciate Steve’s genius at music, honed under the most dire of conditions. Later.