Archive for July, 2016

“ESSENCE”

July 24, 2016

Click here for Home

Photo by Genghis



BASIC: The motorcycle.

Bangin’ through the gears, man. Mabel’s stoker motor bellowing like an enraged monster between gear changes—that characteristic “clunk” from the four-speed tranny so comforting, as I progress from first to fourth after entering the highway—as I grab a handful of throttle and bury it at its stop at full gas between gears. No thoughts of projects, because I don’t have one. I just have my faithful Shovel, to ride and enjoy. No thoughts of a club, ’cause I don’t belong to one. Always, it’s just the thought of The Moment and The Motorcycle, as I put my 74 through her paces, happy as I get lost in the process and privilege of riding. That’s all there is, man—going for a ride.

Occam was a pretty smart guy. Yeah, just do the simple thing in any situation, it’ll always be the best way. In this case, being a biker when boiled down to its gritty essence, consists of this:

Going for a ride.

I don’t want to label everything else except going for a ride, bullshit, because that would not be fair or logical. But all else besides going for a ride, is superfluous, even relatively unimportant—when compared to going for a ride. The simplest thing is always the most important thing.

“Going for a ride” sounds like something trivial, as it rolls off the tongue—like “goin’ ta get some pizza.” But, consider this. Isn’t going for a ride, what got ya here in the beginning, and ultimately, what keeps ya going the distance in the life? If not, then let me suggest that it should be. Firing up the Harley Girl, and taking off never gets old.

The trip is you and your bike, “going for a ride.” You can enjoy the trappings of being a biker, but don’t let the distractions of those peripheral concerns, trap you into being unmindful of what counts. What counted after you got your first bike when you were 19, 20 or 21—is what counts now—going for a ride. That never changes, man.

It’s just you and her, baby. That’s what the trip boils down to, as the redundant fluids evaporate above and around it—going for a ride. That’s the essence of this thing of ours. Later.

.

FINITO

Advertisements

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

July 17, 2016

Click here for Home


SHEEPSKIN JACKET: “Harley-Davidson, huh?”

MAY 1969

I had just moved to The City, from Queens, where I had grown up. This was my first apartment in NYC, and it was on East 3rd Street in the East Village, between Avenues B and C. This area colloquially, was colorfully known as “Alphabet City” because of the letter assigned streets of Avenue A, Avenue B, Avenue C and Avenue D—all of which were sandwiched between the East River in the east, and First Avenue in the west. Alphabet City was sandwiched along the south-north axis,, between Houston (pronounced “how-ston”) in the south, and 14th Street in the north.

Alphabet City in perspective, was a smaller part of the “East Village,” and the East Village was in turn, a smaller part of the “Lower East Side” of NYC.

The East Village in the late 1960s, was known as a ethnically mixed area ridden with drugs and crime, and was considered a low-rent district. Hey man, check it out. The rent for my first house (in New York, “house” is used generically as a synonym for “home,” whether one lived in an apartment or actual house.) was sixty-nine bucks a month. That’s how undesirable the East Village was, which is not the case now. Now, the East Village has been gentrified, with condominiums going for millions of dollars.

But not in 1969. However, in the late ’60s, the area was infused with bohemian luster, as the hippies moved in after the “Summer of Love” in 1967. The East Village in short order, became second only to Haight-Ashbury, as a haven for hippies. Any time counterculturists inhabit an area, there are bikers alongside–primarily because of the low rents of these areas. This was true of the East Village as well. Bikers and hippies coexisted–along with longtime ethnic residents who consisted of Eastern Europeans and Puerto Ricans, in the East Village. Places like Gem Spa on St. Marks Place and 2nd Avenue, became hangouts for hardcore bikers.



CHAIN BANDOLERO: Could not be identified as a deadly weapon by cops.

This was the world I’d moved into, in May of 1969. I too, hung out in front of Gem Spa on St. marks Place. One day, I was walking down St. Marks Place with my ex. I was wearing a sheepskin jacket, and a bandolero of heavy chain from my shoulder to my waist, that I used to chain my Harley up when I parked her. My Harley at the time, was Sally The Bitch, my ’68 XLCH. This heavy chain was useful in another way. It could not be identified as a deadly weapon, unless one was caught in the act of beating someone with the chain.



ARTHUR “STEPPENWOLF” SELLERS: Carried a 12 inch crescent wrench.

One night, my friend Arthur “Steppenwolf” Sellers and I, took a midnight ride up to The Cloisters. Arthur at that time, was a one percenter and member of the Rat Pack MC. We parked our bikes–Arthur had his Pan and I had my Sportster—in the park and were wandering around. A cop came up to us and said that we couldn’t park our bikes in the park, and we were there after closing. The cop then asked me what my chain was for, and I told him that it was for securing my bike. The cop asked Arthur what the 12 inch crescent wrench was for, and Arthur said, “It’s for making repairs on my bike.” Of course Arthur carried it as a bludgeon, but the cop couldn’t arrest him for possession of a deadly weapon, because it was a legitimate tool.



HARLEY PATCH: It was on the back of my jacket.

Back in Queens, I didn’t have any exposure to one percenters. It was when I started to hangout in The City, that I encountered and met one percenters. Shortly after I moved to the East Village, I was walking down St. Marks Place. I was wearing my sheepskin jacket, with a Harley patch on the back. A member of the Hells Angels MC caught up to me, conspicuously looked at the Harley patch and said, in a mocking and humorous tone, “Harley-Davidson, huh.” This biker was older than me. His comment and supercilious tone reminded me of how young I was—I was only 22—and gave me pause, to think about the hierarchy of greater age that confers more experience.

I can remember being in my 20s in the East Village, and wanting to be taken more seriously, as an older man would have been. I also felt this many times in California, as a young man in San Diego, after I moved there. It is quaint now, to think of those times. It is a truism that younger men want to be older, as older men want to be younger again. Later.

.

 

FINITO

“FRIENDLY BIKE”

July 10, 2016

Click here for Home

Photo by Genghis



MABEL THE FRIENDLY BIKE: “User friendly.”

I had this thought the other day, when I was riding my bike:

“Man, I love this bike.”

It seems like I’ve been in love with this motorcycle forever. Then again, I’ve had Mabel, my 1971 Harley Super Glide for 30 years now, and that is a lifetime for some. The overwhelming feeling of loving warmth that I feel for this bike, speaks to Mabel’s friendliness.

AUGUST 1989:

I was on my Harley 74 Mabel, and we were headed to west 4th Street in the West Village in NYC, to meet the Editor of Iron Horse magazine. His name was David Snow. David responded to letters I’d written about my bike to the “Back Talk” section of the rag, by inviting me to have my bike featured in Iron Horse.



IH ISSUE 100: The issue Mabel would be featured in.

We had agreed to meet at a certain time to have my bike photographed by the rag’s staff photog, Rob Sager, and to have Snow get some kind of story idea for the feature article. I however, decided to get there early, to watch a photo shoot that David and Rob were doing on another bike.

I ran into David and Rob at West 4th Street (actually, this section of West 4th street is known as Washington Square South) and Sullivan Street, where David had his Shovelhead parked in front of a grocery store. David’s wife Shawn, was there too.

As Rob was going through his photographic paces with the other feature bike, David began asking me questions about Mabel, trying to get an angle for the feature article he was going to write about her. One question he asked was, “So why did you name her Mabel?” I replied….

“Because it fits her personality. Mabel is a friendly bike, so easy to get along with. Mabel is a friendly name, free of guile.”

If that was 2016, I probably would have used the term “user-friendly” about Mabel’s personality. That’s what she is, user-friendly. I’m not saying there haven’t been moments of adversity and drama with Mabel over the 30 years I’ve had her. But those moments were few and far between. That is to be expected of old motorcycles, but overall, life with Mabel is easygoing—a fluidly enjoyable man-machine relationship. She really is as easygoing and reliable, as any new Harley is.

The primary goal that I’ve set with Mabel, is to keep her as new and reliable possible, and I believe that Mabel and I have met this goal. After all, if one is planning to be Going The Distance with a Harley for the rest of one’s life, one has to be mated with a reliable Harley—and that’s who Mabel is, an easygoing, dependable and friendly motorcyce.

Photo by Genghis



MY MOTORIZED LIFE PARTNER: Strong, sexy and dependable.

It’s not fashionable these days, to declare how much one loves one’s motorcycle. I doubt if you’ll ever see articles in today’s chopper rags, about how much a biker loves his or her bike. But this love for one’s bike, is at the very root of the biker subculture. In Hunter S. Thompson’s book on the Hells Angels, Thompson interviewed a Hells Angel, an interview in which he asked the biker to describe what love meant to that biker. That biker said….

That says it all, doesn’t it? Later.

.

FINITO

“PEOPLE LIKE ME”

July 3, 2016

Click here for Home


BIKERS IN THE 194Os: Made of the same cloth as us.

FOREWORD

You may have noticed, that all of my recent writing has been on this WordPress hosting server, that I have my “BIKER SUBCULTURE” website on. I switched to WordPress a couple of years ago, when it seemed that the Tripod hosting server that I had my “GOING THE DISTANCE” website on, might go out of business. I couldn’t take the chance of losing articles beyond the articles I already had stored at Tripod, if Tripod did not survive. WordPress is a stable platform, that seems like it will survive and thrive in today’s competitive blogging world.

Just last week, all of my “GOING THE DISTANCE” articles disappeared without a trace, and without explanation! There was no notice from Tripod about the company’s disappearance from the ‘net. Chat on the internet for a couple of days after Tripod disappeared, formed the consensus opinion, that the Tripod server finally bit the dust, and suddenly went out of business.

I lamented the loss of my over two hundred GTD articles I had stored at Tripod, but what could I do? After a few days, Tripod was inexplicably restored to the internet (maybe they got bought out, or found a financial backer), along with all of my old GTD articles, which you can once again, find at “GOING THE DISTANCE”. I’m grateful for that, but am still going to err on the side of caution, by confining my writing to this WordPress site. But at least all of those old GTD articles are available for viewing.

PEOPLE LIKE ME

I give a lot of thought to the bikers who preceded us, our forebears who populated the Biker Subculture since the early 1900s. I tend to date the Biker Suculture to 1936, when the first of the “Big Three” (the Big Three being the Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead), the Knucklehead, was introduced to the world. I guess you could say that I’m an OHV chauvinist.

But to be fair, the Biker Subculture should be dated back to 1903, when The Firm first opened it’s doors, of that little Harley-Davidson shack of a factory that materialized out of nowhere. I will say this about the relative significance of brands other than Harley in the culture: I believe that Harley-Davidson motorcycles, have been the very backbone of the Biker Subculture, rendering other brands insignificant by comparison. Which is why I date the true birth year of the subculture, as 1903.

Even though I feel a more intimate familial relationship with bikers who first rode Knucklehead OHVs in the late 1930s, it is undeniable that Harley riders of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s–displayed the same type of True Biker dedication to their motorcycles, as their descendants who rode the later Big Three bikes. The punched ticket to the membership of the Biker Subculture, is a total and unyielding love, attachment to and riding of one’s bike. Who am I to say, that a Flattie rider of the early 1930s, did not demonstrate this type of dedication to his Harley?

Photo by Genghis



LOVE FOR MY SHOVEL: Replicates earlier bikers’ feelings.

A biker’s placement of his motorcycle as the epicenter of his existence, is what separates the biker from others who may ride motorcycles, but do not venerate their bikes. A biker’s motorcycle is alive in a way that is unfathomable to mere enthusiasts, who view their machines as dispensable and inanimate objects. Bikers’ naming of their motorcycles, is commensurate with how bikers perceive their bikes: as members of their human families.

Bikers of today, have a linkage to the earliest members of the Biker Subculture of the early 1900s. When I look at my venerable 1971 Super Glide “Mabel,” I see what fired up the hearts and minds of bikers who looked lovingly at the Harleys of their era. When bikers today ride their Harleys, they are experiencing the same mystical and magical emotions and thoughts, that bikers felt, when they rode their bikes in the past.

Bikers belong to a vast family, stretching back decades into the distant past. This is a past rich with superlative machinery and a strength of human character that renders bikers as a tribe apart from general society, even though bikers are a part of general society.

This is a familial linkage back to the past that you can feel, when you ride your bike. It is emotional and real. When your bike eats up the blacktop, it harkens back to a time when some Knucklhead rider of the late 1930s, might have traveled over the same territory as you, rejoicing in the sights and sounds, much as the way that you do.

I often have this fantasy, of my bike and me being transported back to 1910 in a time machine. In this fantasy, bikers of the 1910s are blown away by my 1971 Shovelhead Stroker–how she sounds, how she boogies down the roads of the era, and yet—these bikers recognize this Harley sister in a genetic way–and recognize me as a biker brother in the same way—that only a familial linkage can explain. This is because, these bikers are people like me. Later.

FINITO