July 17, 2016

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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.






July 10, 2016

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Photo by Genghis


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.




July 3, 2016

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


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.


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.



June 26, 2016

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Photo by Genghis

AT SIXTH STREET SPECIALS: Why was Mabel running rough?.

I’m a fairly smart guy. Hey, I don’t belong to MENSA, but I’m no moron either. That’s why it surprises me when I do something stupid with the bike.

The day began innocently enough. It’s a glorious day for riding, one of those days that bespeaks of sunshine not of the orange sort—but euphoria-inducing enough if yer a biker, man.

I went to Mabel’s (my ’71 Stroker Shovelhead) outdoor parking lot, and removed her brand new bike cover. It’s amazing how quickly NYC’s unforgiving winters can destroy a motorcycle cover. Between the harsh whipping winds ( I live near the East River) and the sub-freezing temps, the weather in New York City is a bike cover killer. Mabel’s previous cover was only two years old, yet it was in tatters as I threw it way.

Mabel started right up, and settled down to that hypnotic “RUMPITY-RUMP…RUMPITY-RUMP…RUMPITY-RUMP” Harley cadence that we all know and love. Let’s go, baby!

My plan was to ride around to find a nice, scenic place to take some photos of The Mabes, without a lot of traffic around. I settled on Sixth Street Specials, on Sixth Street between Avenue C and Avenue D in the Lower Beast Side of NYC. But first, I wanted to fill up Mabel’s 3 1/2 gallon Super Glide banana tank.

After gettin’ gas, I started Mabel up. Curiously, she was running rough. Hey, she was running fine when I pulled into the gas station off of the FDR Drive. Fouled plugs? I took off and got back on the highway, to blow off any fouling on the plugs. By the time I got to Sixth Street Specials, Mabel was still running rough, threatening to stall if I didn’t blip the throttle at red lights. When I got to Sixth Street Specials, I shut ‘er down to take a look at what might be wrong.

I pulled the plugs. They didn’t look bad, but I changed to new plugs anyway. After I changed to the new plugs, Mabel kept on running rough. Then I pulled each plug, grounded each against the cylinder to check for spark. No problem there, each was producing a spark.

Could it be fuel starvation? I pulled the fuel line off of the carb, and gas was flowing freely–so the problem wasn’t fuel related. Hmm..what was it?

Then I spotted it. Mabel’s S & S Super B’s enrichener was pulled up! I was in effect, riding around trying to clear the plugs, as if running on choke! It occurred to me that I had inadvertently pulled the enrichener up (muscle memory?) in the gas station, without realizing it—before I turned Mabel over! Ha! Man, did I feel foolish. I missed the forest for the trees! This was one time that I should have heeded Occaam’s Razor: check the simple things first.

Goes to show ya man, that Harleys like Mabel are far more reliable than their human operators. Later.



June 4, 2016

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Photo by Genghis

HEART OF THE CULTURE: Not the biker.

I just read a treatise on the biker subculture, a long-winded screed by a Dartmouth college professor. It made my hair hurt. This college professor qualifies himself as an authority on the culture, by declaring….

“I ride a Harley….it’s a Road King….I have drawers of Harley t-shrts, and a garage full of leather jackets, leather pants, bandanas, wrap-around sunglasses, helmets, boots, knives and skull rings. And on my favorite motorcycle jacket (it’s black, orange and white: Harley colors) I have a patch that says: ‘I RODE MINE, STURGIS ’08’…..”

Is your hair hurting yet? I was actually relieved when I read this tedious piece of officious crap, because I don’t own a single Harley t-shirt, any leather pants and haven’t worn a “motorcycle jacket” for decades. Thank God that I’m in a different sociological classification than this obviously, hardcore outlaw biker with all of his approved accessories.

I ask ya, why would I want to be in the same subcultural boat as this loser? I’d rather be a Loner With A Harley, than a mindless clone who follows all the accepted dress codes, of what this college professor describes in his scholarly essay as, “A sustainable subculture model.” He also classifies his type of bikers, as members of “A new type of subculture–the Super-Subculture.”

At first, there was the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The Biker Subculture began over a century ago, when ordinary citizens who loved machines on wheels, walked into their Harley-Davidson dealerships, and inquired about the price of the Harley cycles they were interested in.

Then, if these ordinary citizens who loved machines on wheels had enough cash to meet the price of the Harley cycles they coveted, they forked over the bread to make their purchases. They then managed to learn just enough on the showroom floor, about the operational intricacies of their new machines, to ride them home.

A BIKER: Taking his new Harley home in the summer.

These citizens who went to buy their Harley motorcycles, wore what was season-appropriate. It all depended on what the respective weather conditions were, at the time. Nobody showed up at the dealership, wearing motorcycle jackets, leather pants, and wrap-around sunglasses. There simply was no need to. They merely had to wear what was appropriately comfortable, for the task at hand: Riding their motorcycles home.

Then, decades later, motorcycle clubs formed after World War II, with the clubs adopting uniforms that identified them as members of their respective clubs. Colors were adopted (we don’t call ’em “cuts”–that’s TV bullshit), and away we go. The Uniform Race was on.

Fast-forward a half a century, and we now have Dartmouth college professors, replete with their black, orange and white motorcycle jackets, leather pants, and pirate bandanas, parading around on their Road Kings, declaring themselves as members of this “Super-Subculture,” an attempt to replicate the uniformity of one-percenters in their colors—but looking foolish and stupid in their Me-Tooism.

Photo by Genghis


So, did the century since the First Bikers walked into their Harley dealers and brought their Harley cycles home, witness an evolution of our biker species—or a devolution into a miasma of mindless copycatism?

We’ll just ask that self-satisfied college professor in his biker uniform, and I’m sure that he’ll tell you with wordy arrogance, that his Super-Subculture of Bikers, represents the highest development of our kind. My hair still hurts. Does yours? What this college professor fails to grasp, is that The Motorcycle has been, and always will be, the heart of the biker subculture, not his sartorial accessorizing. Later.



May 28, 2016

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Photos by Genghis

H-D NUMBER 3 PLUGS: Old plugs for an old girl.

Before I took Mabel (my 1971 Shovelhead Stroker) out this morning, I decided to change her plugs. Not that there was anything wrong with the old spark plugs. Every couple of years, I change to new plugs just for the hell of it, and because the ‘ole girl deserves ’em. My Harley is the Queen of The Highway, and like all royalty, she deserves to be pampered.

I’m extravagant that way.

All I’ve ever used in Mabel for the past three decades, are Champion J12YC plugs. There’s nothing wrong with other brands of plugs. I am just a creature of habit. It’s just part of my personality, that I feel a comfort level in using the same things, that I’ve always used. I hate change.

CHAMPION J12YC: The spark plug I always use.

When I rummaged around the tool box this morning, I found something that I totally forgot about. There, ensconced in an orange package, were two pristine Harley-Davidson Number 3 spark plugs! Holy shit! What relics! I must have bought these at the Harley dealer around 1985. Hey man, why not? Thirty-one year old spark plugs for a forty-five year old Harley!

FOUND 31 YEAR OLD PLUGS: H-D Number 3 spark plugs.

There’s nothing dramatic to report about what transpired, when I started Mabel up with her 31 year old Harley plugs. Just the same as always, that exhilarating roar and rumble, that never gets old. That’s okay, man. I hate change, remember? I would have expected nothing but the same sound and musical fury, that I always hear when I start my bike up.

Doesn’t matter. What I had in my bike, were rebranded Champion plugs, and this did make me think about the Champion-Harley connection, a connection that began with The Firm’s introduction of the J Series bikes in 1915.

1925 CHAMPION AD: Made plugs for H-D since the 1920s.

Champion was a company founded in 1908, that has made specialty spark plugs for Harley-Davidson since the J series bikes of the 1920s. In 1948, Harley switched to the standard size 14mm (from the previous 18mm) spark plug, with the 1948 introduction of the Panhead. Champion continues to make spark plugs for The Firm.

CHAMPION’S “HARLEY” PLUGS: 14mm H-D plugs from the ’60s and ’70s.

I have a great appreciation for the spark plug. It is amazing how such a small item can bring great joy and satisfaction, when our bikes are firing fine with a pair of clean plugs—and conversely, how miserable we are when these miniscule items are dirty. Electrodes rule, man! A Biker’s Happiness Quotient, is directly related the the spark plugs’ Cleanliness Index. Change to new Champion plugs man, and you’ll happy. Later.



January 13, 2016

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Photos by Genghis

MABEL: Silent for five months.

I hadn’t heard it since November. Man, that’s five months since I’ve ridden Mabel, my ever-lovin’ Stroker Harley. Today was the first day in 2016, when I got to hear that HARLEY BLAST of Mabel’s, that distinctive and unforgettable sound of a Harley-Davidson used in anger.

And anger it was that motorvated me today. Anger about two consecutive, lingering colds since late December, that delayed my first ride of the year.

We’ve all heard this from our very sensible female companions, emphatically stated with an accompanying sneer:

“But it’s only a cold!”

SPOUSAL SCIENCE: Colds are worse for men!

A scientific double-blind study of 346 couples in which both partners had colds at the same time, shows that invariably, the men suffered more severe symptoms, as well as having those symptoms last four times as long as their spouses.

It was also demonstrated, that the men complained ten times as much as their fair partners! Of course, the scientists who conducted this highly questionable study were male. (*COUGH*)

And so it was with me. With both colds—the second cold rapidly following in the footsteps of the recovery from the first cold—the actual virus left my personage within a week. However, what lingered for weeks on end, were a cough. (*HACK*)

Could I have ridden while I had the residual effects of the colds? Yes. Did I feel like riding during that time—no. Okay, I admit it. I was a wussy. These days though, since I’m not 20 years old anymore, I tend to wallow and follow my adult instincts with regard to doing nothing. If I don’t feel like doing something—whatever that something may be, then I don’t do it.

Riding the bike has always been a compulsion with me, but age has a way of softening compulsive urges. In other words, I’m more lazy than I used to be. Okay, so I’m a sissy! You gotta problem with that? Huh? Whaddayou lookin’ at?

Another example of this post-viral lethargy, is this week was the first time that I’ve taken pictures outside since late December. Ordinarily, I carry my camera with me all-year round. Since my colds started in December however, I just didn’t feel like it. So I didn’t. Hey man, looks like the common cold won the contest!




So, the common cold virus wins this round. Big deal, man. Who’s still standing, huh? Who’s the last organism standing after this battle, ya damn bug? ME! That’s who. Ha! It’s not over till the fat lady sings, baby!


Hear me cough!

Not riding until today this year, was bad enough, but what made it worse is the fact that this winter has been one of the mildest in recorded history. There have been days within the last month, when temperatures in NYC flirted with 70 degrees fahrenheit. It has been a very spring-like winter. A benefit recipient of the very warm winter, was Mabel’s battery.

BATTERY STRONG: She cranked right over.

Man, Mabel cranked right over today, as if we’d ridden yesterday! Outstanding! R-R-Rrrrrr….Waaaackaaa…… Love that sound, man. There isn’t a sound as exhilirating as a Harley-Davidson starting up from a drowsy winter sleep–and the sound of a biker riding his Harley in anger! But it’s a righteous anger. Hey Mabel, we’re back and we’re bad! Later!




January 12, 2016

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1898: A Malamute in Alaska.

I first created the ALASKAN MALAMUTE: THE MAHLEMUT DOG group, with the intention of celebrating our wonderful Alaskan Malamutes, these affectionate beasts of burden that aided and indeed, enabled the Mahlemut Inupiat Natives of Kotzebue Sound, to subsist. We all know the story of Mahlemut dogs, who came across the Bering Sea Bridge with their Mahlemut masters from Asia to the Kotzebue Sound of Alaska—where this dog remained a genetically pure strain of Arctic dog—or so I thought..

I was an innocent in these matters when I created this group, fully believing the romantic story of how the Alaskan Malamute stayed “pure” until the demand of the gold rush for great numbers of working dogs, sullied the purity of the breed, by the interbreeding with other breeds from the lower 48 states of America.

The Malamute in Alaska shown, who was photographed in 1898, by God—looked just like the Malamutes we have on our contemporary leashes! This photo constituted to me, proof that the early breeders of our Malamutes like Eva Seeley, rebuilt the lines directly from the bloodlines found in Kotzebue Sound.

Then a funny thing happened. More information filtered into our group, as wiser (but not older) heads than mine in the breed joined, and graced us with their wisdom and knowledge.

We found out that the foundation parents of our modern Malamute line—Yukon Jad and Bessie who Eva Seeley mated to start the replenishment process—may not have been directly linked to Mahlemut dog bloodlines in Kotzebue. Documents show that Bessie was on the roster of one of Robert Peary’s expeditions, and she was apparently shipped from Labrador, in eastern Canada. Yukon Jad’s origin is less well known, but some individuals have said that he originated from Dawson City in the Yukon.

Was the “romance” of the Mahlemut dog morphing into our contemporary Malamutes, beginnimg to crumble?

Not at all!

If we accept the likely premise that the Mahlemut dog was simply one member, one specialized type of a family of northern dogs spread throughout the Arctic, then like many things in life, the Malamute comes full circle.

I do accept the premise that the Mahlemut type dog—familiar to all of us because of his exceptional and distinctive looks—is merely one part of the greater whole of THE ARCTIC DOG. It doesn’t really matter whether Jad’s and Bessie’s hailed from Kotzebue, Alaska or not. They may or may not have.

Because Arctic dogs adapted to their regional environments, to develop into a physical “type,” then the Malamute “type” of our modern Malamutes is exactly like the “types” of Arctic dogs, that the Mahlemut Inupiat in Kotzebue bred and raised for the last 4,000 years. That is what matters. Type is everything, baby!

This one observation, from a definitely older and wiser head than anyone involved in the Malamute breed today, has given me comfort, and has restored that sense of wonder at the Mahlemut Type Dog I had, before my “loss of innocence.” This observation about the Malamute, comes from a long-departed Arctic explorer, Hudson Stuck. It is excerpted from his legendary 1914, “Ten Thousand Miles With a Dog Sled”:


Here’s the thing: Our Malamutes, all descended from Jad and Bessie, look like that dog of Admiral Peary’s. Our Malamutes also look like that sled dog of Hudson Stuck’s from the early 1900s. Our present-day Malamute, is also of an Arctic dog “type” that causes it to look like the Malamute in Alaska, shown in this 1898 photo.

We may have lost our innocence, but we have regained the romance of our Malamutes, linked back to the past Mahlemut dogs, because everything comes full circle. Our Malamutes of are of a specific geographic “type” of Arctic dog—the Arctic dog found in Kotzebue Sound.



January 2, 2016

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RAT PACK M.C. IN 1969: Where are they now?

For years now, I’ve felt compelled to write an annual “New Year’s Message,” probably prompted by a deep-seated narcissism, and an inflated false sense of self-importance. But ya know what folks, deal with it America. It is what it is, and here it is—but a day late in 2016.

Whatever the underlying reason for my writing these things year after year, there they are, like a broken clock that’s right at least twice a day. This year, however, that New Year’s Message was delayed by a bad cold I’ve had for the past several days, a good enough reason for you treasured readers to forgive my lateness in presenting you with this year’s message. But as Patty just said to me…..

“That’s not a reason, it’s an excuse.”

Hey, mebbe, mebbe not. Doesn’t matter. The cold has been especially resilient, making me think that it might be the flu. Oh, well—life goes on, then we write.

The tardiness of this New Year’s Message, like a crescent wrench thrown into the space-time continuum as one travels in a time machine, has landed us not into an inspiring screed about looking forward deeper into 2016, but a look backward into the distant past.

While researching the ‘Net for photos to post at THE SEEDY X-BAR & GRILL, I came across this photo of the Rat Pack M.C. taken in the 1960s. This happens to be a photo of my friend Steppenwolf (real name Arthur Sellers), and his Panhead. Arthur is on the right in the photo, holding the handlebars. Iron Horse Magazine readers will remember my mentioning Steppenwolf and his club, in the magazine. This was the very first picture, I’ve ever seen of the club.

Another former Rat Pack M.C. member, whose name might be more familiar to you, is that of Spade George, who is shown in this photo taken around the last time I saw George in 1970, in front of his house in Daly City in California.

SPADE GEORGE: I last saw him in Daly City.

George and his motorcycle shop, have become somewhat of an icon on the West Coast. Few there however, will remember him as a member of the Rat Pack M.C. in New York City in the 1960s.

The Rat Pack Motorcycle Club, was one of those “second-tier” MCs in the NYC area, in the 1960s. The club, which had its clubhouse in Brooklyn, was well represented in Manhattan. In fact, my friend Steppenwolf, lived on East 6th Street in the East Village, only three blocks from the Hell’s Angels’ clubhouse on 3rd Street.

There was a time when Steppenwolf had the rolling chassis of his Panhead, stored in my parents’ Chinese laundry in Queens, while he had his Panhead motor being rebuilt.

The Rat Pack M.C. had a good relationship with the other area clubs, including the HAMC. The Rat Pack M.C. was also well-respected in NYC in the 1960s, until a particularly nasty event took place in 1969.

Photo by Genghis

MITCH “HIPPIE” DIAMOND: A biker friend killed by a Rat Packer.

Mitch Diamond was a good friend of mine, who I met in 1968. Mitch was the guy by the way, who gave me my nickname of Genghis, When he said one day, “Hey, you look like Genghis Khan on a Harley!”

I first met Mitch–that is, the first time I saw Mitch—was when I saw Mitch riding past me on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, on his gold Panhead rigid. I was riding east, coming from The City (Manhattan), and he was riding west to take the 59th Street Bridge back to the city. He waved at me. I was on my ’68 Sportster, “Sally The Bitch.”

I didn’t meet him proper, until we were both hanging out in front of Gem Spa on Second Avenue and St. Marks Place in The City. But I recalled seeing Mitch in Queens, when I finally met Mitch in The City, because believe me, Mitch was an unforgettable presence on his gold rigid Panhead.

IN FRONT OF GEM SPA: Me on Sally The Bitch in 1969

When I met Mitch face to face in front of Gem Spa, we introduced ourselves, after I told Mitch that I remembered seeing him riding his Harley in Queens. Gem Spa is an iconic candy store that sold reams of magazine, the greatest assortment of magazines in the New York City Area. It is still open today. Back in the 1960s, its was a local hangout for bikers, who parked their Harleys in front.

Mitch lived in a long railroad apartment on 2nd Street in The City. When you did a walk-through in Mitch’s house (“house” is used universally in New York City to refer to a home, whether it’s an apartment or a house), you had Harleys and Harley parts as an obstacle course, strewn among glass tanks housing his snakes. Some of the Harleys there, belonged to others who paid Mitch for garaging their bikes there.

One of these bikers who kept his bike in Mitch’s house, was a member of the Rat Pack M.C. This club member had a dispute with Mitch, when Mitch wouldn’t let this guy have his Harley, until the Rat Packer paid Mitch the money he owed him.

A fight ensued, resulting in the biker stabbing Mitch to death. It was a grisly scene ( as I was told), with blood stretching from one end of the railroad apartment, to the other end. It must have been quite a struggle.

Shortly after that, The Rat Pack M.C, disbanded. Rumors abounded on the street, that the club had to break up, because another club in the area who was tight with Mitch, was after the Rat Pack because of Mitch’s murder. The photo I found of the club, was taken—as they say—in a happier time, when harmony reigned between certain clubs in NYC, and Mitch was still alive and riding his Pan.

This tale is hardly an inspiring message of hope for the New Year. However, let me say that in order to look forward with hope and optimism to the future, one must view the past with an appreciative and thoughtful eye. Happy New Year! Later.



December 24, 2015

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Photo by Genghis

CHRISTMAS MAGIC: Just for the young?

Christmas was magic for me when I was a kid, and the reason has nothing to do with Harleys. This phenomenon predated my obsession with motorcycles by two decades, and had to do more with where I grew up.

I grew up in my Christmas Village.

My Christmas Village consisted of my town—okay, so it was my neighborhood—of Jackson Heights, in Queens, New York. But make no mistake about it—neighborhoods in Queens were perceived by its residents, as small towns with their own autonomy and individualistic charms, that set them apart from neighboring “towns.” Being from Jackson Heights, whenever I visited Steinway Street in neighboring Astoria—it felt to me like I was visiting a whole other town. A town that was familiar, yet slightly less close to my core as a Jackson Heightser.

My town of Jackson Heights took on a mythical, magical quality to it at Christmas. With Northern Boulevard—also known as New York State Route 25A—covered in a silent and majestic coat of pure, driven snow, hushing the tires of cars driving on Northern Boulevard, to a “Shee…shee…shee…” as the bias ply tires pushed snow aside, Jackson Heights became magical. It became my Christmas Village. One could easily picture Santa and his sleigh, being pulled by powerful reinder, shooshing down Northern Boulevard through the snow.

The effect was especially vivid at night, when the street lamps illuminating the boulevard, cast a blue tint on the white snow. The houses on adjacent streets in those days, were gloriously and abundantly decorated with Christmas lights, more so than now.

Of course, youth played a big part in this perception of Jackson Heights as a Christmas Village. That whole secular/Santa Claus/presents on Christmas morning thing, was big to me as a kid. Watching movies on Christmas Eve, like “Silent Night”—that was special to me as a kid.

My parents fed into the Santa thing, big time. I used to draw pictures of Santa’s sleigh, with reindeer, with a little note for Santa, and yes, I did leave cookies for Santa.

The beginning of the end, began with Food Fair, which was our local supermarket at Northern Boulevard and 86th Street. That Food fair, is now a Rite Aid.

BEGINNING OF THE END: The Rite Aid that was Food Fair.

It was typical in the 1950s, for supermarkets to sell encyclopedias. When I was about 8 or 9, my parents bought me an encyclopedia from the Food Fair in Jackson Heights. Of particular interest to me, was the Santa Claus section.

When I read that Santa was a mythical figure, and that he didn’t exist, I went straight to my parents with the evidence. Man, the jig was up! Admittedly, I had my childish suspicions up to that time, but here was hard evidence!

Some of the Magic was wearing off of Christmas, starting with that encyclopedic revelation. However, those wonderful memories of Jackson Heights as my Christmas Village, remains vivid in my mind. And isn’t Christmas very much about good memories?

IT’S STILL MAGIC: Remember your Christmas Village.

I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and hope that you have treasured memories, of your Christmas Village! Later.