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My stereo.

It was in 1992 when Jim Windus, one of my disciples in my martial arts school (a “disciple” is an elite status set apart from a “student”—a disciple pledges pure loyalty to a teacher and school) said to me….

“Sifu, are you a Deadhead?”

It was a curious question on the floor of my school on East Broadway in the Lower East Side of New York City. Jim originally came to me a couple of years before that conversation, when he read an article of mine in Black Belt magazine. Jim owned a gym on 23rd Street and sixth Avenue in New York, and was a former Junior Mr. USA winner. He was interested in a serious study of the martial arts.

Before coming to see me, Jim had visited a number of martial arts schools that left him disappointed in the answers he got from the teachers in those schools. Jim recounted what another well known kung fu teacher said to him, when the teacher saw Jim’s size, as Jim is built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That teacher said….

“What do you want to study the martial arts for? Look how strong you are!”

Jim Windus deadlifting 400 pounds.

That says more about the clueless fecklessness of that kung fu teacher than Jim, but that is a subject for another time. As to Jim’s question, I was thrown for a moment–because of the incongruity of the jocularity of the question, and the dead seriousness of the staid environment of our martial arts floor. I had to reply to Jim, “Yes, I am.” I had to smile, though.

I was sitting in front of my stereo, having just ingested two or three tabs of LSD. The lights from the home-built Heathkit amp I put together from a kit, was glowing orange. This was a neat little integrated amp that put out 25 watts per channel, enough to power the spunky Acoustic Research AR3 bookshelf speakers I had. Spinning on my Acoustic Research XA turntable, was the Dead’s first record, “Grateful Dead.”

Spinning in my head, was the effect of the acid—allowing me to better discern instrumental lines within a song. With the Dead that meant intricate and interlacing lines among the band members, that formed a coherent amalgam of impressive coordination. LSD and pot do that for ya, allow you to “hear music better.”

As I was ascending to the peak of my acid trip, the achingly beautiful strains of Jerry Garcia’s Gibson Les Paul guitar, poured from the speakers like auditory honey. As Garcia’s guitar lead in “Morning Dew” unfolded like a petaloid fantasy, I was so glad to be a serious listener. There is a a level of euphoria that the combination of pot or LSD with music provides, that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

My Heathkit amp glowed in time with the the Grateful Dead’s song.

I became a serious listener at a time when truly gifted musicians ascended in rock music. These talented musicians of lore, elevated blues-infused rock music beyond the simple pop music it began as. AM radio pop metamorphosed into an intellectually appreciable music type, at times defying the cavalier description of pop culture pundits. It wasn’t easy to pigeonhole music categories anymore.

I listened to Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, and jazz musicians like saxophonist Stan Getz. The profound nature of this late ’60s music was especially true of the Grateful Dead, whose improvisational prowess in blending their instrumental lines, was a thing of genius and beauty.

I’ve often thought that gifted instrumentalists like Garcia and Clapton, took jazz improvisation and took it to a new level by lending it logic in terms of coherent riffs, whole sentences forming understandable paragraphs—as opposed to the dissonant chaos that jazz sometimes is. I’ve seen Garcia and Clapton live early in their careers. Today there is a brilliant Brit blues guitarist named Matt Schofield who fits that mold.

This perfect storm of the rise of rock guitar maestros, and my interest in stereo, gave me a life-long love of stereo as a replicator of live music. To my way of thinking the most beautiful sounding instrument in the world is the electric guitar. The perfect venue to hear the golden tones of the electric guitar, is a competent stereo which creates a palpably believable sound stage.

Two channel love was born!

By the 1990s, my Heathkit amp was failing, and those wonderful AR3 bookshelf speakers were starting to look awfully small. I decided to upgrade my stereo system. At the heart of this upgrade, were two humongous Adcom amps, wired so that one powered the right channel, and the other powered the left. The signal was routed through an Adcom pre-amp. Believe it or not, that gave me 800 watts per channel of pure musical power! This was some serious horsepower, equivalent to having 900 horses under a Vette’s bulging hood.

By this time, I was playing CDs exclusively, so my music came from a Denon CD player. I permanently retired my turntable, although I still have all of my vinyl collection. To me, the debate about the differences between the “analog sound” of vinyl records and digital CD sound, was a straw man fallacy, silly and inconsequential. A digital recording of live instruments is faithfully accurate in every way. If there is a “warmth” that vinyl recording lends, then it is not there in the live performance to begin with.

For the expression of music, I depended on two gigantic Acoustic Research TSW-910 tower speakers. These had some serious size and weight, weighing 140 pounds each. I had these great speakers until yesterday. At some point, I added a Velodyne subwoofer to the mix. I enjoyed this system very much, but it began to decay a couple of decades ago.

First, one of the amps failed. This took a trip to a stereo repair facility here in The City (Manhattan), at great expense. Then due to the destructive passage of time, not mention damage from cats, drivers of the speakers began to fall apart, which necessitated more visits to said stereo repair store. The front covers were like shredded wheat. And finally, the other amp just plain burned out, dying a merciful death after a lifetime of diligent service.

This required some fresh thinking and a gradual upgrade again, in 2015. Since I was still a serious listener (but without pot or acid now), listening to my beloved Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Cream, some Joplin, Santana, Dylan, etc—continues unabated. One of my favorites, is Warren Haynes and his band “Gov’t Mule.” To me, Haynes is up there with Garcia. Given that I’m a serious listener, it was now replace or perish in terms of equipment!

By this time, the drivers of my speakers began to show profound decaying, with large holes showing in all the drivers. Refusing to make the labor intensive and ultimately too expensive trips to the stereo repair shop, I resorted to covering the gaps in the speaker drivers with duct tape. While this restored some function to the drivers, it significantly degraded sound quality. Gah!

The first order of business, was to get a new power source. I decided to slimline my approach, and get an integrated amp this time around, instead of a separate amp and pre-amp. Integrated amps for past few years, have become serious players, rivaling separate amp and pre-amp setups in performance. I decided on a well-reviewed Yamaha A-S801 integrated amp, which puts out a respectable 160 watts per channel of power.

While I was at it, I replaced my barely working Denon CD player with a Yamaha CD-S300 CD player. But the other big issue, was my tattered and shredded AR speakers–which looked like they were ready for retirement. Rather replace these entirely, since they semi-functioned with the duct taped drivers, I simply bought two Elac B6 bookshelf speakers, and perched them on top of my old tower speakers.

My Yamaha integrated amp is able to drive two sets of speakers simultaneously, so this worked quite well. There came a time this week however, when I’d had enough of looking at my poor damaged AR tower speakers, and decided to replace them. These broke down palaces of speakerdom have been through the musical wars with me. I replaced my old AR floor standers with Elac Uni-Fi UF5 tower speakers.

My new Elac Uni-Fi UF5 tower speakers with the B6 speakers on top of them.

I’ve been playing my new setup for the past two days. The sound stage is wonderful, with great definition, clarity and presence. I am very pleased. I did decide though, to make the sound stage even better, with a Klipsch R-12SW subwoofer, which I just installed (not pictured). This is a great subwoofer with a full size 12 inch woofer.

The soothing power of music is well-established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool. Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies….music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives.

As music can absorb our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This means it can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind wandering. When people are very stressed, there is a tendency to avoid actively listening to music. Perhaps it feels like a waste of time, not helping to achieve anything. But as we know, productivity increases when stress is reduced, so this is another area where you can gain vast rewards. It just takes a small effort to begin with.

So yes, I am a Deadhead. Music coming from a well executed stereo system replicates one of the most joyous experiences in life—the live performance of righteous music by people expertly schooled in the art of mesmerizing the listener’s mind with their peculiar brand of magic. That is why I am a serious listener. Later.



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SPADE GEORGE “If I wasn’t black I’d be in the Hells Angels.”

Like a motorcycle ride, every segment of a memoir has a starting point. This ride along on my memoir series will begin at Spade George’s house in Daly City, California. This is where we’ll start Part Three of this memoir series. The year was 1971. Spade George has said that if he wasn’t black, he would’ve tried to prospect for the Hell’s Angels. To my knowledge, there are even now, no black Hells Angels.

There have been exceptions to the white-majority status of the club, dating back to Chinese Mel (who Hunter S. Thimpson mentioned in his HA book) of the Frisco Hells Angels in the 1960s, and Al “The Chinaman” Hom of the same chapter and era. Al was a mechanic at the Dudley Perkins Harley dealership.

Another is Steven Yee, of the Ohio chapter. I’ve have written about Steve periodically. He’s been incarcerated for decades. Another Chinese member is John, a New York Nomad. Yet another exception to the white-majority status of 81 is Daniel Uneputty, a former president of the Amsterdam (Holland) chapter. Daniel is of Indonesian descent.

Unbelievably, you can now find whole Hells Angels chapters in Japan and Thailand, a phenomenon one would have found improbable even a decade ago. But the last time I saw Spade George 48 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a Japanese Hells Angel club—and there are still no black Hells Angels now. Before Spade George moved to California in ’69, he was a member of a New York outlaw club called the Rat Pack MC, which unlike the Hells Angels, was a multiracial club.


In 1971, my then-wife Nancie and I visited Spade George in Daly City. We stopped by George’s house when I went to the San Francisco area to look for work as a medical photographer (it didn’t pan out). Daly City is a relatively small community in the San Francisco bay area, immediately south of Frisco itself. At that time, Nancie and I were living in San Diego.

It was a great ride up north from San Diego. On the way up to Frisco and Daly City, we enjoyed the famed and beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. What a magnificent backdrop for a ride, man. The Pacific Coast Highway starts in San Diego, as it wends its sinuous way north toward Frisco. We probably suffered severe cases of wry neck from craning our heads to the left side, to take in the ocean view!

George’s house in Daly City was a Victorian-style house on a steep hill (see pictured). If you parked a bike there, you parked her at an angle facing the top of the grade, with her sixteen inch rear Avon rubber firmly planted against the curb, so she wouldn’t roll downhill. That’s how steep that hill was.

Whoever built George’s house way back when, made plentiful use of his spirit level tool, that’s fer sure. George’s house was a three (or two and half, depending on whether you were on the downhill side, or the uphill side of the house!) story house. The entrance was on the uphill side of the house.

My first impression when we first got there was, “How can this thing still be standing, with all the earthquakes?” There must’ve been an awful lot of shims placed under the uphill edge of the building, man. George’s greeting was magnanimous as he invited us in….”Hey, how ya guys doin’…? We hadn’t seen George for a couple of years. I will tell you right up front, that after over 48 years, there remain only three vivid memories about our visit to George’s Daly City house.

Vivid Memory Number One, on the way up to the top floor, we passed a bedroom on the second floor where a white biker without legs, who was apparently living there, was working on a Harley Trike. I thought to myself, “If he assembles that here, he’s gonna have a hell of a time gettin’ that thing out the front door!” My educated guess was that he was going to assemble it at street level.

Vivid Memory Number Two, was of us sitting around on the floor on the top story, smoking grass and shootin’ the shit. The vivid focus of this memory was of a white biker sittin’ opposite my ex wife, tryin’ to look up Nancie’s dress, as the dress rode up her thighs as we sat Indian style on the floor. He shoulda taken a picture, it woulda lasted longer. Ha!

Vivid Memory Number Three, revolved around Spade George’s way of saying goodbye to us just before we took off in front of his house. George placed several shots from a revolver into the night sky. I’m certain the sounds of the shots, made George’s straight neighbors extremely happy that George lived next door to ’em. Ha!

Bikers, man, ya can’t dress ’em up and ya can’t take ’em anywhere. George presently has an independent Harley Shop in Redwood City called the “The Hole In The Wall” shop. Memoir Part 3 may have started in Daly City in 1971, but the “prequel” of this Memoir Part Three began the year before. Hang on, folks! I’m gonna hafta make this Memoir Motorcycle swerve like a sumbitch! Hang onto yer wallets and bodily protuberances, because we’re going back in time! Wheeee!

SEPTEMBER 21, 1970:

Man, almost clipped the curb on that one! Nancie and I were in our apartment at 233 East 3rd Street in the East Village, and I had dropped some mescaline before we headed out to the concert. Nancie has stopped tripping entirely, so she did not indulge. This was the only time I ever dropped mescaline. I was curious to see how similar it was to LSD.

The concert was a Grateful Dead benefit concert that the Dead were performing for the NYC Hell’s Angels. This was to bolster the legal fund for the NYC Hells Angels, whose president, Sandy Alexander, was under siege by The Man. The Dead were good this way. They were tight with the HA, and did not hesitate to contribute their time and talent for the Hells Angels.

The Dead’s concert took place at the Anderson Theater, which was considered a poor stepsister to the Fillmore East that was two blocks away on 6th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village. The Anderson Theater, which was located on the corner of 4th Street and Second Avenue, is now a gay bar. The Fillmore East is now a bank.

The Anderson Theater was a block away from the Hell’s Angels’ clubhouse, which was on 3rd Street between First and Second Avenues. This chapter has managed to persevere through decades of prosecutorial harassment, including I believe, RICO indictments. Sadly for the neighborhood, the Hells Angels just recently vacated their longstanding clubhouse at 77 East 3rd Street, having sold the building to a developer who will turn the site into another expensive apartment building for yups. More iconic flavor has been lost in the East Village, making the blend more bland tasting.

I can’t remember what arrangements we made for our son Mike for the night. We may have arranged a stay at a friend’s house for the night. By the time Nancie and I reached the Anderson Theater, the effects of the mescaline was startin’ to kick in for me, and I can tell you that it turned out to be as intensely strong as any acid I’ve had, but in a distinctly different way. It felt more emotionally mellow. The concert and the night are a blur to me. I can’t tease out any sharp memories of the music, from my memory files. All that stands out, are two vivid memories.

Vivid Memory Number One, was the appearance of the ticket-taker at the theater. He was a Hells Angel, who I would characterize as a classical-looking biker, with greaser looks that hadn’t yet metamorphosed to the hipper, long-haired look of the late 1960s. He had short slicked back hair, a neat goatee and biker shades.

Vivid Memory Number Two, was what faced us when we returned to our apartment on 3rd Street after the concert. Taped to our door, was this note from our neighbor, Dina Ramos. “Scott, call your brother in law Eddie. Important!” What Eddie had to tell me set off a cascade of events, that would be life changing.

Eddie informed me that my father had died of a stroke. The day of the Dead’s concert at the Anderson Theater was a sunday, a day of the week when my Pop would without exception, break his beloved ’64 Chevelle Malibu SS out of her Queens garage, and take Mom for a ride either on the highways out on The Island (Long Island) or upstate New York.

On this sunday after they came home for afternoon coffee, Pop suddenly keeled over in the kitchen. The best that could be said about this day, was that he didn’t pass away while driving. It could’ve been much worse if Pop passed away behind the wheel, while doin’ 70 on the highway. MY brother in law informed me that my brother Don brought Mom to his house to stay.

My family converged at Don’s house after daybreak all bleary-eyed. None of us got any useful sleep. We waited a long while for mom to wake up and make an appearance, but she didn’t rouse by the early afternoon. After lookin’ in at her, we discovered her unconscious, and we were unable to wake her up. Mom had swallowed a whole bottle full of Seconals, in a desparate suicide attempt. She couldn’t face life after losing Pop, after they’d been devoted partners for more than 50 years.

She then was transported to the same Elmhurst Hospital where my father was pronounced dead hours before, and yes, where I landed when I had my wreck on my faithful Shovelhead Mabel, in 1993. Doctors were able to save her life, and Mom was placed in the psych ward at Elmhurst Hospital, since she tried to kill herself. She remained under psych evaluation for two weeks until doctors were convinced that she was mentally stable enough, to be discharged back into life. Now, hang onto your hats! We’re about to time jump again!


Dramamine anyone? I had recently bought my 1968 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLCH, from Harley-Davidson of Manhattan. At this point, the dealership was doing the maintenance work on the bike on warranty, such as oil changes and tune-ups. This was before I named my Sportster. I was still pretty green with the motorcycle. The bike was gorgeous, just stock, except that it wasn’t entirely stock. I didn’t place an order for this bike. It was a model that Harley-Davidson of Manhattan already had on their showroom floor. Even stock, this XLCH was gorgeous.

Before I picked the bike up, I instructed the dealer to make a few changes. That bench seat had to go. I asked that the dealer remove said bench seat, and replace it with a Bates solo seat with springs, and a Bates pillion pad. That was the extent of the modifications I asked for. The bike had Harley orange paint on the gas tank and fenders, and there was a broad black racing stripe running along the centerline of the gas tank.

On this particular fine day, I was gettin’ to know my motorcycle by wringing her out on the highway. We were bookin’ down the Belt Parkway in Queens. The Belt Parkway is actually a series of connecting smaller highways, that form a circuitous “belt” around Queens and Brooklyn. The Belt Parkway begins after the Cross Island Parkway transitions into it. It will then take you on a tour all the way around the shorelines of Queens and then Brooklyn—and then will lead to bridge and tunnel entrances to lower Manhattan.

My Sportster and I had just traveled the span of the Cross Island Parkway, and were ready to enter the Belt Parkway. The Belt Parkway is a highly scenic route, that treats people to a gorgeous view of the shorelines. My Sportster and I were on the Belt Parkway when all of a sudden the motor quit. We were able to coast onto the exit ramp for Rockaway Boulevard. We carried enough momentum to bring us onto Rockaway Boulevard. I dismounted and looked at my brand new Harley, and wondered, “What the hell was goin’ on, man?”

After a few minutes of futile gazing at my bike, an older biker on a not quite fully-dressed Shovelhead stopped to offer help. With a wrench he took the plugs off, and determined (with me kicking the bike over), that there was no spark. Then he removed the magneto’s cap, and said, “Ah. Did you just tune this bike up?” I said no, the dealer did. The older biker said, “There’s your problem right there. Whoever adjusted the points didn’t tighten the set-screw enough. See? The points are stuck touching each other.”

The biker then took a dime out his jeans and gapped the points with the dime and tightened the set-screw securely. He said, “There, that should be close enough. Give it a try.” After a few kicks, my Sportster started up and ran fine. I learned a lesson that day. I never let the dealer touch my magneto again after that, warranty or no warranty. I set my Sportsters’s points and timing myself, after that. I also started adjusting my bike’s solid lifters myself, after that day. I was very thankful to that older biker for teaching me something, and told him so.

I hope that this Memoir Part Three didn’t leave ya too dizzy. Ha! Later!



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My shovelhead.

Scott, your “Personal Memoir Part Two is another great read, and I have to say you must have a photographic memory! (heh y’see what I did there?) This is going to be lonnng, man, but bear with me, it might be worth it.

Your latest trip through your history and the East Village scene in the later sixties triggered a flood of memories and one I wish I could forget. It’s Mitch Diamond—I’m pretty sure I could have saved his life. It is the ONE mistake I’ve made that I wish I could do over. All our mistakes are teachers and are valuable. The more painful, the more useful, and I accept mine—but this one… I’ll get to that at the end. But first some fun…

Regarding your critic who objected to repetition of themes in your writing. As a long-career writer I will reveal what every professional knows: there are only ten stories in all. They are spun into uncountable millions of fresh ones throughout time by the subjective experiences of us humans. So you are dead on when you say a writer should be able to find 1,000 new ways to tell the same tale. What is Romeo & Juliet but “boy meets girl”? What is “West Side Story” but Romeo & Juliet with music set in lower East Side NY with gangs? That goes double for every play, movie and episode on television. Moving on—

I remember Nancie very well. She was such a sweet soul. Gems Spa was where bikers and hippies and all manner of street people congregated, and Nancie was there. As for those “guru ‘father figures,” they were control freaks by nature—manipulators and egoists. Some helped, others did not. Danny, who declared you “Third Level” was bullshit and I suspect he was intimidated by your stoicism, and maybe his own stereotypes of Asians. So he flattered you because I suspect he knew he couldn’t manipulate you.

I recall our shared love of hearing the Grateful Dead live while tripping on Sunshine LSD. We also spent hours listening to their albums at my place. You wrote about riding while on acid. It’s true it doesn’t seem to affect co-ordination, but I have a story to tell. You may remember it with a touch of trepidation in retrospect—

One night, I went to an apartment on the lower East Side to join you and Nancie and a bunch of others (was it the commune?) who were going to drive two VW busses up into the Catskills for an overnight excursion. The time came to leave, and you drove one of the busses. Nancie beside you, and a pile of us in the back.

One the way to our destination (an abandoned old hotel) we all stopped at a house where a mass party was happening. I wandered around, and somebody asked me if I wanted some “Deep Purple” acid; powerful stuff. Sure! I popped it. Back on the road again, I started tripping. You pulled over for gas at a highway rest stop, and I noticed a guy trying to get his Volvo running. He had fuel pump problems, and I knew about electric fuel pumps (not common on USA cars then) I think you might’ve come to get me, and saw I fixed the guy’s problem by banging on the top of the pump which caused the stuck points to open. You had no idea I was tripping, and I must’ve seemed normal if I was fixing a car—

But see, we pure WASPS are the folks who take acid for the sheer joy of maintaining control, heh heh. Seriously, I never hallucinated on acid, except auditory stuff—hence music as amazing! Anyway, you asked me if I wanted to drive awhile. In my condition, I assumed you wanted to get high, or were tired, and so being the responsible sort, I agreed. I screwed my brain down to ‘WASP control” mode and got in the driver seat—

So we were back on the road, me tripping my brains out, following the other VW bus into the night. First time in my life—I began to hallucinate. The bus ahead sometimes looked like a ladybug, its tail lights were lanterns hanging from its feelers. The highway briefly became a black and white checkerboard that bent and curved… Still, I maintained an even strain…

Then my auditory thing kicked in, and I couldn’t tell if the motor was running. OR even it we were moving. The thought occurred that the bus had stopped. But I knew I was high, so I looked at the speedometer—needle on sixty. Ah, but it could be broken…the bus was old, and I hadn’t noticed it before getting behind the wheel. (the mind is tricky with psychotropic logic) So I looked around to see if you and the passengers were reacting. Nobody was…but that might be because everybody was tripping. Maybe they were waiting for me to do something about it.

I got smart—I decided I would look at a tree by the road: if it didn’t move, it meant we were stopped in the highway, which would be dangerous. So I looked at one, swiveled my head to keep focused on it (as we sped by). Well of course subjectively, it didn’t move from my sight. So now I was a moment away from opening the door to see what was wrong: but then a stroke of lucky rationality and self preservation happened; I took my foot off the gas, and sure enough, the speedometer needle dropped!

That shocked me into serious control mode, and I was just coming off the peak, so I got it together and drove to another place where we all stopped—except I couldn’t avoid driving right up to a tree in front of the place. So I would back up, and try again to go around it and park—same result. At that point you realized something was amiss, and asked what was happening. I told you I was tripping like a mutherf*#er. You must’ve been freaked, but handled it with your usual aplomb, “what th’ hell man, okay, get out, I’ll park it.”

I’ve ridden my HDs and driven in various states of altered consciousness without incident many times, but that was the only time I ever hallucinated visually. We are all so lucky!

Now Mitch Diamond.

Mitch gave me my first motorcycle. Long before I met you, I had befriended him on the streets. He was stone flower child, and decided to rid himself of possessions. He bestowed his old BSA one-lunger on me, sans registration and papers, but I was fine with it. I had seen the choppers and Spade George on St Mark’s Place, so I “chopped” its fenders, and made a sissy bar—laughable! OK, gonna digress a sec, then back to Mitch.

One night I rode with the Gems Spa bikers to Coney Island, and of course I couldn’t keep up with the HDs and knew this little beezer and I weren’t gonna last. Spade George had Gypsy with him. She wasn’t his ol’ lady, just packing. He had carb trouble when it was time to leave, and all the Sunday riders just took off and left him there. I stayed, thinking what assholes they were. Didn’t know shit about Harley, so I held a flashlight while George worked. Gypsy and I started talking, and that was the beginning of her becoming my woman in very short order. George got his sled running, and it was the start of our friendship ever since. He found me my panhead and we chopped it together, taught me all I know. He was just here a week or so ago, stays at my house when he’s in L.A.

So Mitch was past his flower power stage by now, and wanted a Harley. He spent a lot of time at my place, eating my bread because he was broker than I was, and he asked my advice all the time, which he almost always followed. He once said, “I come here because you’re the coolest guy I’ve ever met.” By then, I had been in the Pagans, and fought my way out: long story, but Mitch handed me his K-55 knife one day in front of Gems Spa when I was fighting a Pagan who had stolen my leathers and cutoff—I knew I had to deal with it or be a target of them forever. Mitch kinda saved my bacon because the pagan had a meat cleaver. I won that round and got my leathers back.

So back to Mitch and his death. I had joined the Rat Pack, which caused the Pagans to lose their shit over it, so what. Time went by and I left that MC too because I’m happier as a lone wolf. As you wrote in your piece, Mitch was letting a Rat Pack guy stash a stolen HD at his apartment. The guy was called “Burner” because he stole (burned) motorcycles a lot. Young, and kind of unsettling to be around.

“Burner” had not only not paid Mitch, he was abusing him, and Mitch felt like he wanted that stolen Harley, so he came to me and said he was going to tell Burner people were looking for him around the area, so he would take off to Brooklyn and lay low for awhile. Then he would tell Burner the guys tracked the bike down to his place and took it back.

Something in me said it was dumb, but I liked Mitch so much and felt I owed him some loyalty, so I lightly warned him once about unintended consequences, but Mitch was determined. I had a choice to make: I had no idea how murderous Burner was in his soul, or I would’ve told Mitch in no uncertain terms NOT to do it. I believe he would have followed my advice as he nearly always did. But I didn’t, I backed him up. Because Burner respected me too.

*And that moment is the ONE I would do over, if life allowed such things.*

Sure enough, Burner bought the story and fled the Lower East Side for quite awhile. Mitch painted the Harley and rode it happily in the meantime.

But Burner found out, and killed him…beaten and stabbed multiple times. His dying words were, “Burner did it.” Burner was later apprehended, found guilty, served four years. He was later killed by another club President whom he had intended to murder and take over as leader himself. Poetic justice.

But the saddest moment of my life was a gray, rainy day at the cemetery, looking down at Mitch’s coffin in the open grave, and dropping a patch of mine that he loved onto the other flowers and mementos. We walked away as the cemetery crew arrived to fill in the grave—and the sound of the soil landing on top of his coffin still resonates with a cold finality in my soul.


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SNOW: Finds Sally and the trippy NYC bike scene “endlessly fascinating.”


“I find Scott’s days with Sally and the trippy NYC bike scene endlessly fascinating. I think things were a lot more interesting in the old days. I remember this chick, Barbara Sodickson, who used to drop by the IH offices (circa issue #80) and she had a lot of cool pics of her dad, who was a member of the Aliens MC….There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of NYC. I remember when my first wife Deborah and I rode the Shovel to Jones Beach in ’85….”


“The chick who used to stop by the IH offices was my ex-wife. Her dad, “little Joe” and I are still friends. I used to do some freelance cartooning for the mag. Nice to know that you guys are still around.”


A biker recently called my writing boring, and made this complaint: “You’ve re-written the same 10 articles 500 times.” Yet, in order to believe his claim, this biker would’ve had to read all 500 articles, in addition to meticulously keeping count as to overall quantity and sameness percentage. In his own way, this biker was an extremely dedicated reader, at least with respect to analytical methodology!

In response to this biker’s opinion that my articles are boring, here’s the sincere advice I gave him: “Boring? Simple, don’t read it.” It’s a big wide world of biker writing out here, and if readers are bored by a certain amount of repetition in my writing, they are free to move on to looking at the reams of party pictures in Outlaw Biker, or the tons of pictures of chopped Hondas and Yamahas in THBC (which may by now be out of business).

However, this biker made a very salient point, a point I can’t discount. Whenever a writer mines his experiences to populate his articles over a long span of time with the same names, places, events and opinions from said memories, a part of that sum total of that writing will be repeated. It is inevitable. My contention is, that it doesn’t matter.

Let me explain to you why I think that Snow’s Iron Horse was so successful. I believe that thinking bikers who treasured reading this iconic magazine, did so because they were avid readers. They didn’t concentrate on picture-looking for cheap thrills and the transient satisfaction gotten from visual stimulation. They wanted more, and they got more in the interesting ideas couched in stylish and smart writing in IH.

Avid readers appreciate the art of writing, because the art of writing represents the interesting presentation of ideas. Sure, some of those ideas and themes will be repeated, but they will be presented in new and refreshing ways, as each presentation will (or should) shed a newfound perspective on these ideas, events and opinions. Theoretically, a writer may restrict himself to ten subjects, but he should be able to find 1,000 new ways of examining each, and be able to express himself in a thousand new ways about each.

Most of you will already know of my history as biker. Certainly, David Snow does. But as long as leading intellects in the biker subculture like David Snow find my experiences “endlessly fascinating,” I am encouraged to continue mining my memories for fresh writing. Snow is a living testament to the existence of the Thinking Biker among us. These Thinking Bikers (and I count all of you reading this in this category) will always find well-presented writing about the biker subculture fascinating, as I hope that you will find this continuation of my memoir series, interesting and worthwhile to read.

SUMMER 1968:

I had just met my first wife recently, and was admittedly taken with her. Her name was Nancie Arnegger, and she was 17 years old. I was 21 at the time. Nancie was an ebullient, strawberry blonde with hair ringlets that fell down to her slender shoulders. She danced at a moment’s notice, to the beat of an inner joy that only she could see, hear and palpate that unhesitatingly infected others around her. She carried her own charisma, hard to define but “there.”

We’d met when she approached me in front of Gem Spa at the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue, where I had my Sportster XLCH “Sally The Bitch” parked in a row of gleaming Harleys. She asked me to take her for a ride. After that, we moved closer to becoming a couple. Nancie lived in a commune of more than ten hippies, in a ground floor, one bedroom apartment at 233 East 3rd Street, in the East Village of NYC.

Of necessity, hippie communes of the late ’60s would’ve had to have a charismatic leader, to keep the members compliant and dependent (you can see where I’m going with this).

This particular commune did, and his name was Rene D’Oyen. The building at 233 East 3rd Street between Avenues B and C in “Alphabet City,” would be where Nancie and I would eventually live in two apartments (at different times), after we got married. This could only have been accomplished, after I successfully courted my first wife, and persuaded her that life without living in Rene’s commune was not only possible, but desirable and necessary.

Rene’s commune followers were held in a not quite iron grip by Rene, by an emotional-dependency ligature around their young necks. When Nancie moved out of the commune into our own apartment, Nancie suffered a separation anxiety that I was disgusted with.

Rene was an expansive thirty-something year old Puerto Rican who spoke in grand terms, that were emblematic of the communal idealism that existed in the East Village of the ’60s. It was a flower child world, where some flower children needed flower parents to lead ’em. To Nancie, Rene was a Flower Father.

Rene preached of “reaching the Third Level” of an amorphous consciousness, and dazzled his adherents with the vernacular of grandiose success in achieving Nirvanic bliss. Given my independent personality, I was immediately suspicious of this. Bikers are notorious for being pragmatic, obsessed only with their Harley having enough gas, and how is she runnin’, man? The Voodoo-like tactics of “spiritual leaders” leaves us as cold as yesterday’s refrigerated leftovers.

Rene was a dark-complected man, whose wife was a kindly, doe-eyed and voluptuous white woman named Jane who was also in her 30s. Rene and Jane acted the roles of surrogate parents, to their younger hippie charges.

Although at first glance, Rene’s influence on the hippies in their commune seemed relatively minimal, I bristled at the thinly disguised manipulation of commune members. Rene liked to be in control. That became more apparent to me, as Rene became more hostile at my skepticism about his lifestyle.

During my courtship with Nancie, my reluctance to acquiesce to a worshipful demeanor toward Rene showed. Rene told me, “Scott, you have to stop being so negative.” Nancie implored me to not be so resistant to Rene’s ideas. My skepticism was clearly resented by Rene, and to a lesser degree, Jane, who was more easy going and less manipulative than her husband.

At that time in the East Village (you’ll remember this time as merely a year after the “Summer of Love,” a time suffused with mystical idealism), there was another “spiritual leader” similar to Rene, but a more prestigious leader named Danny. Danny and his wife were known glowingly among East Village hippies, as “Danny & Patty,” as if the conjoining of their singular given names engendered double the star power, that each name deserved by itself.

In their celebrity, Danny and Patty enjoyed the name recognition that befit people familiarly referred to by only their first names. Think “Madonna” and “Beyonce,” but on a seedier scale. Danny and Patty were dropouts from the Surname Club. This couple was spoken of reverently among Rene’s commune members with hushed tones, as “Danny & Patty.” Rarely was Danny spoken of alone. It was always “Danny & Patty,” the Twin Figurehead of the Good Ship Spiritual Plane in the East Village.

“Danny and Patty said this. Danny and Patty believe this is right. Danny and Patty thinks we should do this….”

And so on. Danny was an alcoholic in his late 40s, who presented a messianic countenance to followers. Patty was a pretty, gentle and fragile-appearing brunette, who was considerably younger than Danny. Unlike Jane of “Rene & Jane,” Patty didn’t adopt a maternal-like role with people. She was just along for the ride with her Svengali-like husband, happy to be a revered partner of the law firm of “Danny & Patty.”

Unlike Rene who had a following of hippies in his apartment-based commune, Danny and Patty ruled from afar, overseeing individual fiefdoms like Rene’s commune with distant authority. Danny knew that people like Rene perceived him as a mentor in the spiritual and people-leading arts, and acted like a Pope of the East Village. Danny & Patty were spoken of, not with a small amount of subliminal fear underneath the reverence.

Danny’s temper was legendary in the East Village. Rene worshiped Danny, citing Danny’s, “….being on the Third Level….” as arcane proof of his spiritual superiority. In truth, Danny was a mean drunk who blitzed himself into a stupor every day. A couple of years after I met Danny & Patty, Patty fled Danny and went into hiding from him.

Rene resented my skepticism toward Nancie’s unquestioning dedication to his commune, and strategized to introduce me to Danny & Patty, with the expectation that Danny’s charisma would bring me around to their Nirvanic point of view. Thusly, the great Danny received my person where he held court in his East Village tenement apartment. Amazingly, Danny became inexplicably impressed with my bearing for some reason (hey, bikers come off strong, ya know what I mean?).

It must of been my run-down engineer boots with their carelessly unbelted jangling buckles, that gained me so much respect from Danny, that he declared that I was, “Already on the Third Level.” When he proclaimed this from his Urban Mount Olympus, Rene was incredulous. There was a disturbance of The Force! I felt that I won an important battle in weaning Nancie off of her emotional dependence on “Rene & Jane.” I felt strongly, that Nancie would’ve been content to spend all of her life following Rene, if she had no other direction. Rene’s commune was not Jonestown, but it was an unhealthy environment.

This was an incredible slap in Rene’s face! Not only was I an equal to Rene, I was on the skyscraper-high Third Level, on the same astral plane as Danny, his hero, and therefore, on a higher plane than Rene! Everything is relative, man!

Rene somehow found a short in his logic circuits, because he all of a sudden disparaged the very idea that I, this skeptical and uncouth biker with the dirty engineer boots, could be on the vaunted Third level! There must be something wrong! Danny must’ve been out of his gourd that day when he proclaimed this! It simply….cannot be.

Nancie didn’t know what to think. Was her husband-to-be, a celebrated spiritual mensch among mensch? Could Genghis be capable of throwing lightning bolts from his heavenly perch? Hey man, you knew all you needed to know about Rene, when you heard him refer to Harleys as “Chopped Pigs.” Another tell that revealed Rene’s attitude toward bikers was, when he said to me, “We’re gonna get you out of those run-down boots yet.”

The late 1960s was drenched in drugs. It was the rare young person who did not smoke pot. I was in the majority, using pot mainly to hear music better, to be able to discern different instrumental lines of my band, the Grateful Dead. Having a decent stereo system and the Dead playing, man, that was home entertainment that could not be beat. To be able to hear all the instrument lines all at once, recognizing the unfolding tapestry of music that was innovative like jazz, yet unified like classical music—that’s how I would describe hearing the Dead’s music under “enhanced” circumstances.

However, nothing could approach hearing the Dead play live while on LSD. I was a veteran tripper, having taken more than 30 acid trips, and the most memorable acid trips while at concert, were hearing the Dead play at the Fillmore East, and at the Pavilion (New York Pavilion) at the defunct 1964 World’s Fair site in Flushing Meadows, New York.

A highlight of the Pavilion concert, was being able to hand Jerry Garcia some tabs of Orange Sunshine acid in the parking lot after the concert. It was an amazing phenomenon to have a concert in such an open space structure without a roof to constrain the musical notes, as the music drifted up into the sky unhindered, seeming to take miles to dissipate before gently seeping into the cosmos. To use a cliche, the music became one with the universe, but this platitude fits.

A fact that non-acid users never understood, was that LSD just didn’t alter one’s perceptions. Acid also enhanced one’s sensory perceptions and the way one thought about those perceptions. Acid also made the tripper appreciate the profundity of events and perceptions, that we normally would dismiss as too ordinary to ponder.

Was some of the profundity regarding mundane endeavors and events exaggerated in the tripper’s mind? For sure, yet it left a lasting impression (lifelong, in some cases) on the tripper. This could be said about a motorcycle ride, which under non-tripping circumstances, would just be another ride on another day, like any day one straddles his Harley and takes off.

In his article “XLCH Tattoos,” Snow described one memorable ride as the one he and his first wife Deborah went on, when they rode their Shovel to Jones Beach on Long Island. One of my most memorable (to this day!) rides, was also to Jones Beach.

Nancie and I were in my house in Jackson Heights in Queens, NY. We had dropped some acid around 3:00 AM, and an hour or so later when the acid was just taking off, but before we were peaking, we decided to ride my ’68 XLCH Sportster “Sally The Bitch” to Jones Beach. We thought it would be cool to see the sunset at the beach. This was a powerful but mellow acid, called Orange Sunshine. Nancie took one tab, and I took two (for good measure, natch). We went out to the street, where I had Sally parked in front of my parents’ Chinese laundry.

Sally seemed to know of our intentions, and would not pull her “hard to start” act this night. I turned the Sporty’s gas on, made sure that the toggle kill switch I’d mounted on the top motor mount of the left side was in the kill position and lifted the enrichener on Sally’s S & S Super B. Before priming Sally, I made sure that the magneto was not hooked to the carb support (the mag swung in for the spark retarded position for kickstarting, and out for the unretarded, riding position.

I eliminated the whole factory rigamarole used for this function, and simply hooked a spring attached to the magneto, to the carb support to keep the magneto in the unretarded position (“Occam’s Razor:” Do the simple thing first, less is more) and swung the Fairbanks-Morse magneto in, for the spark retarded position for starting.

Then I primed the carb with two kicks and pushed the toggle kill switch (a two dollar item from the local Aid Auto store) into the “live” position, and began my ritual kicking. One gentle push down on the kicker to find top dead center, then reset the kicker at the top of its travel. Then, “Whump!” It only took three “Whumps!” to start Sally’s 900 CCs that night. For Sally, this was spectacular. The only time Sally ever started on the first kick, was when her motor was warm.

Just as Sally’s motor warmed up, I began to feel that telltale euphoria that signaled the ascent of the acid in my system. LSD trips have several stages. First there’s the ascent, leading to euphoria. Then’s there’s the “peak” when the acid’s effects are in full song. Think of this as reaching the redline of the Acid Engine’s range. This might last an hour if you’re lucky, and here the Acid Engine revs happily along at its 7,000 rpm redline before descending to the last stage: Lessening of the high, and finally exhaustion.

Looked like I was gonna peak out during the ride, man! With Nancie on board and holding on tight to me, we took off, the sounds of Sally’s exhaust filling the wide cavern that was Northern Boulevard , echoes bouncing off of the walls of my parents building, then rebounding from there to the relatively empty spaces of the Mobil gas station across the street, and finally hooking around the White Castle adjacent from my folks’ building. I was able to distinguish the trajectory of the travel of the sounds, from surface to surface, in sequence.

That’s what acid can do for ya. There’s a slow-motion quality to the perception of sounds, that allows one to separate and distinguish one sound from another from a mix of sounds, and hone in on their locations. That’s why when listening to music on a stereo on acid, the soundstage becomes so much more well-defined, with each musician occupying a certain place more discernibly, than when one is not tripping. On acid, the placement and presence of each musician on the soundstage, is pinpoint and solid.

Acid, I can tell you from experience, does not hinder one’s motor skills or mental awareness when riding, like alcohol or grass does. If anything, acid makes one’s senses and motor reactions more acute. On the ride to Jones Beach that morning, the sights and sounds unfolding around us, was indescribably enjoyable (ya hadda be there, man). It was Surround Sound on steroids.

We took a narrow street toward the highway. This was 31st Avenue, which would eventually merge with Astoria Boulevard. 31st Avenue is a horizontally constricted, two-lane road perhaps 20 feet wide between the parked cars on either side, with two-family homes lining the perimeters like silent sentinels during the darkness of the early morning.

This road formed a natural aerodynamists’ wind tunnel, in which was carried the wind currents from us and my Sportster, in a swirling mass of air and sound behind us. The sounds of Sally’s loud pipes reverberated from the houses on either side, in this canyon of encircling pressure. The reverberations of each “BLATT” was palpable on our skin. It was like a secondary tactile communication with my motorcycle.

The audio and tactile sensations from the bouncing sound and the currents of air under the influence of LSD, were phenomenally euphoric. It was in this transitional phase from the streets to the highway to Jones Beach, that we began to peak out on our trips.

The still darkness before dawn, was silky and comforting. I believe that it was this single ride, that made me love riding in the obscurity of the darkness of the early morning, when street lights and highway lights sparkle in the void. Riding in the early morning has been a lifelong preference, whose birth was given on this ride. This is one of the lasting impressions that LSD left on trippers, that I alluded to.

Cruising at a steady 40 on the streets leading to the highways, and then hittin’ the highway and turnin’ Sally’s wick up to 60 and beyond, gave me a rush that is hard to describe 45 years later. The way that Sally’s throbbing motor felt under us, the Beast that Sally the Motorcycle seemed to be transformed into with acid perception, gave a whole new dimension to Sally as a motor vehicle. It seemed that for the first time, I was seeing what Sally really was: A primordial beast of prey, gobbling up yards and miles of blacktop, hungry for the next mile of eating.

We took the nearly deserted Cross Island Parkway past the Throgs Neck Bridge, and swooped onto the Long Island Expressway, which seemed like an elongated serpent stretched out to forever. Then the series of highways, the Northern State Parkway and the Meadowbrook State Parkway, gave way to new olfactory clues—smells of sea—that permeated our brains as we drew closer to Jones Beach. It seemed that I was able to identify the salt particles in the air that entered my nostrils.

We were coming down off the peak now. That voluminous feeling one gets in one’s head, when it feels like the internal space of one’s cranium is miles wide and capable of holding all and revealing all, began to recede. Jones Beach at this time of morning was deserted. The sun had begun to rise and I swung Sally into West End 2, which has always been my favorite field of Jones Beach.

Jones Beach is a massive beach, more than ten miles long. It was built on Jones Island, which was a low-lying swamp two feet above sea level. The builders dredged Jones Beach’s famously fine silvery sand from the adjacent bay bottom, to bring Jones Beach to over 12 feet above sea level.

Jones Beach is famous for its art deco architecture, particularly the Italianate-style water tower that bisects Jones Beach at its center, at Field 4. The furthest reaches of Jones Beach at its west borders, are the West End Fields, which consist of West End 1 and West End 2. These were the most natural and the least populated (with beachgoers) of the Jones Beach fields. Unlike the other fields, the West End beaches feature sand dunes with native vegetation. These fields are beautiful in their sheer and unblemished vastness. West End 2’s beach was closed to beachgoers in 2009 due to the fiscal crisis and designated for surfers, fisherman and stargazers only. Not a bad thing, man.

I pulled Sally into West End 2’s parking lot, and parked near the curb near the start of the beach. Jones Beach, unlike other New York Beaches, is a very long beach between concrete and the ocean. I estimate the distance between the start of the sand and the water’s edge at West End 2, to be more than a quarter of a mile. It’s a long trek for people who want to be near the waves.

As Nancie and I sat at the edge of the parking lot, getting more tired by the minute, a state trooper pulled up to us in his cruiser. We were the only people at West End 2, and our solitude and the sight of an offensive-looking motorcycle drew him to us, like a fly to our ointment.

He said, “What are you doing here?” I told him we were admiring the sunset. He looked at Sally whose motor was still ticking as she cooled off and said, “You weren’t speeding over there (pointing to the highway), were you?” He clearly was trying to provoke me. Our isolation lent to the feeling of being singled out by the trooper for mind games. I said, “No, officer.” He left us alone after that, warning me to “keep it under the limit” on the way out. Is there any doubt that if we parked a station wagon there, that the trooper wouldn’t have hassled us?

The motorcycle club scene in NYC was just past its infancy in the ’60s. Let me point out that my observations revolve around my personal interaction with and direct knowledge of clubs locally, that is, in New York City. Aside from books like Hunter S. Thompson’s book on the Hell’s Angels and other related magazine articles, very little was known by me directly about motorcycle clubs outside the scope of NYC in 1968. Little did I know about the Outlaws MC, or the Bandidos MC or the Pagans MC. The Pagans have a Long Island chapter.

My friend Arthur “Steppenwolf” Sellers, who belong to the Rat Pack MC, was a Pagan before he switched clubs (which I learned recently), but I knew nothing of the existence of a Pagans chapter in Manhattan. This must have been before I moved into the East Village in 1969.

I knew one Pagan personally who worked in the same messenger service I worked for., He bravely ventured (without his colors, of course) into heavy Hells Angel territory to work. Even though the Outlaws MC is the oldest club, having been formed in Illinois in 1935, it just didn’t have the notoriety with commensurate media reach to inform my young mind in NYC in the ’60s.

The Bandidos originated in Texas in 1966, but was too new and young a club to have made a media splash in the late ’60s. The only reason I had knowledge of the Pagans in 1968, was because they had a Long Island stronghold, and because of their infamous brawl with the Aliens MC at the New York Coliseum. This brawl was sensational news locally in the East Village where I lived. Of greater consequence for the Aliens, was that their notoriety extended beyond the streets of the Lower East Side of NYC, all the way to Oakland.

This is not to belittle more obscure motorcycle clubs in the NYC area, but I’m listing only two outlaw clubs that figured prominently in the Manhattan area. One was the Ratpack MC, who although based in Brooklyn, did a lot of their hanging around in the East Village. I had a couple of friends in this club—Arthur “Steppenwolf” Sellers and Spade George.

The other club was the Aliens MC, who were based on East 3rd Street. The Aliens, an NYC-based club formed in 1964, was the club with the most notoriety, because of a well-publicized fight that they had with the Pagans. At a motorcycle show at the old New York Coliseum at Columbus Circle, these two clubs got involved in an old fashion barroom wreckin’ brawl, that shuttered the show and caused much damage.

The consensus was that the Aliens emerged from the fracas victorious. This was a hot topic of talk on the street in the East Village, because we East Village residents were so familiar with the Aliens.

After the Aliens MC moved into the East Village, turf wars erupted between the club and neighborhood Puerto Ricans. The Puerto Ricans after all, had been in the ‘hood for decades. This was their territory. Among some Latin gangs in the East Village, were the Young Lords. Geraldo Rivera was famously their lawyer for awhile.

Ironically, some of the Young Lords hung out in my apartment on East 3rd Street. One of them, whose club name was “Chocolate’ “ (so nicknamed because of his dark complexion) was interested in learning photography from me. The Young Lords’ clubhouse was across the street from my house. These kids took to calling me “Chino Hitman” because they believed the stereotype that all Asians were expert in the martial arts (this was years before I actually set foot in a dojo).

Because of the national attention that the Aliens MC garnered from their brawl with the Pagans MC at the New York Coliseum, the Aliens caught the atention of the Hells Angels in Oakland. The end result was that the HA absorbed the whole NYC Aliens MC, with the Aliens patching over as the newly-minted NYC chapter of the Hells Angels. They showed class at the New York Coliseum, and were rewarded for it by becoming part of the most prestigious outlaw club in America. This made my friend Mario (Henry Fenuta) a Hells Angel.

One day, Mario came up to me in an agitated state. He was practically frothing at the mouth. He said, “The niggers burned my bike! Burned it right down to the ground!” Mario was really referring to the Puerto Ricans. The trashing of Mario’s Sportster was in retaliation for the Hells Angels stomping a Puerto Rican some time before. These skirmishes continued, but eventually died down when the Hells Angels’ presence on Third Street became an accepted fixture. Easy come, easy go.

Photo by Genghis

Mitch Diamond:

In the history of the biker subculture in New York City, there are certain pressure points which act as fulcrums, which alter the leverage of history forever. Mitch Diamond was one of them. Mitch became the focus of an event which spread uncorroborated rumors about the Rat Pack MC.

Mitch Diamond was a good friend in the East Village in the late ’60s. I met Mitch around 1968, even before I moved to the neighborhood. When I began hanging around bikers in The City, I’d see Mitch around on his gold rigid Panhead, and our nodding acquaintance became a solid friendship. Mitch lived in a ground-floor railroad apartment on East Second Street, a block over from the Hells Angels clubhouse on Third Street. Mitch was on very friendly terms with the Angels, which is the key to why Mitch became the fulcrum point, in this possible shift in biker subculture history in NYC.

Mitch’s apartment decor was a testament to what a colorful character Mitch was, and how dedicated he was to Harley-Davidsons. His house was filled with motorcycle parts and snake cages, holding all manner of the slinky serpents. Boas, pythons, you name it, they battled Harley parts for space in Mitch’s apartment. One way that Mitch made money from his spacious apartment, was to rent garage space to bikers.

Among those who garaged their bikes at Mitch’s was a Ratpack MC member (whose name I don’t know) who kept his Harley there. The Ratpack MC was a multiracial club based in Brooklyn. Arthur “Steppenwolf” Sellers was a member, and a good friend of mine. Arthur was an actor by trade, and moved to NYC from Terra Haute, Indiana to pursue his craft. Interestingly, I just recently learned from Arthur, that he was a Pagan before becoming a Rat Packer. I did know this back then.

The last time I saw Arthur here in New York, his Panhead had been ripped off, and then he moved to California. Out of the blue about 20 or more years ago, he called me at work. The two biker friends I hung out with the most, were Mitch and Arthur. Another friend I had in the Ratpack MC was Spade George, who is black. George rode a Shovelhead. You may remember my mentioning both George and Arthur in Iron Horse. George has a motorcycle shop in California now. If you Google “Spade George,” you find him and his shop. The last time I saw George was in 1970 when I visited him in Daly City. I’ve been in touch with him on social media, though.

One day, Nancie and I got some terrible news. Mitch Diamond had been murdered, and the supposed perp was the Ratpack MC member who was garaging his Harley in Mitch’s apartment. The Ratpacker fell behind in his garage rent payments to Mitch, and Mitch wouldn’t let him have his bike until the guy made good on his debt.

Over and over in the ensuing decades since, I’ve thought about how foolish Mitch had been to not show more flexibility about the money. Things came to a head between the two, and the Ratpack MC member killed Mitch. Butchered him, really. I heard descriptions about how much blood had been strewn throughout Mitch’s apartment. There must have been a struggle of epic proportions, to have spread so much of Mitch’s blood over such a wide area.

The Ratpacker who killed Mitch left town, and became a fugitive from justice. Strong rumors persisted at street level, that the HA were going to retaliate for Mitch’s murder. Now, almost 50 years after all of this happened, the Hells Angels left their legendary home at 77 East 3rd Street. The soap opera that ensued after the early 1970s with that building, Sandy Alexander and the club–are a subject for another time. Later.



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A MILLION YEARS AGO: Genghis with “Sally The Bitch” early 1970s.

In an interview, Michael Connelly, who is the author of the famous Henry Bosch series of crime novels, was asked who he wrote for when sitting at the keyboard. Paraphrasing him, he said, “I write for myself. I never actually think about what readers would find interesting, I write what I find interesting. Anyone who writes for an audience doesn’t come off as authentic.” That’s just about it. I am in total agreement, and that’s my motivation when I write. I always write what I find to be interesting. Right now, my interest is in writing my memoir. This will be far and wide ranging, as wide ranging as my memory files can stretch it without breaking.

I’m not sure in the end what this will contain, for I write in the moment. I tend to write as a stream of consciousness, unsure of what will come next, or ultimately, how it will look when finished. I can tell you one thing for sure: I’m writing what I find to be interesting. If you don’t dig it, read yer own memoir, okay?

I’m prefacing this memoir, because there’s a chance that nobody will have the slightest interest in my life. Doesn’t matter man, because I do. It’s all about me, baby. Haven’t ya learned that by now?

Part of my interest in this, is nostalgia, pure and simple. It has been said that memoirs are the product of ego. That might be true. Everybody has a life and is entitled to chronicle it. Now, whether or not anyone else is interested in putting in the time to read it, is a different story, but I hope that you will read this. If not, then hey—don’t let the back arrow hit ya on the way out. You can always go back to Googling “Game of Thrones” for the sixteenth time.

The term “memoir” comes from the French, meaning reminiscence. I admit to being vulnerable to varying degrees of nostalgia, especially when it comes to my Harleys.

Nostalgia: Sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy associations.

I was happy with my my Harley 74, and was happy with my Sportster. Sadly, I have neither now. I still miss my 1968 Harley XLCH, Sally The Bitch, even after I left her for my love-of-my-life-Harley, Mabel—my ’71 Shovelhead. I know Sally’s somewhere in England, but will probably never lay eyes on her candy apple red self, or ears on her metallic exhaust rap again. The sound of a Sportster is so different and distinctive from that of a big twin, and the magnificent sound of the Sportster still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, even after all these years of Shovel Worship. But what led to Sally, and then to Mabel? Here’s the deal.

I was born in 1947 in Jackson Heights, in Queens, New York, to parents who both emigrated from southern China in the 1910s. That would account for my southern accent and my fondness for southern fried chicken and the pedal steel guitar. Ha!

I was the only one of four kids born in a hospital, instead of at home. I was the baby of the family. My two older sisters Dottie and Nancy and my older brother Don were born at home. Home was a three story building my parents owned, with the Chinese laundry they had on street level, our three bedroom railroad apartment on the second floor, and the third floor apartment that we rented to Mrs. Spagnuolo–a kindly old woman. Building legend had it that the tenant who preceded Mrs. Spagnuolo, committed suicide in the bathroom, and that the tenant’s ghost haunted that third floor apartment. I reluctantly admit to hearing noises from the Spagnuolo house (“house” is used generically in New York for any home, whether house or apartment) when nobody was home.

I was considered the black sheep of my immediate family, and no wonder, by comparison. My brother and sisters were quite conformist compared to me, and my parents were unprepared for such a rude awakening at the very end of their child-bearing years. I wasn’t quite The Omen, but pretty close by non-supernatural standards. Like a lot of future bikers, I hated authority in most any form starting at the earliest age, and resisted being told to line up and follow, like a good little boy.

I fell like a possessed stone into a habit of engaging in fistfights, which perplexed my parents whenever they were called to the principal’s office. I think the worst time was when I tried to throw my best friend out of a third story window in junior high school. I didn’t succeed, only because my friend Paul was bigger and stronger than me–but I tried.

I’ve worn glasses since the age of seven, and had the unfortunate habit of breaking my glasses in fights. There was an incident in either fourth or fifth grade, when a kid I beat on, caused my glasses to fall under his feet with his flailing arms, breaking one of the lenses. Not wanting to take the blame for yet another pair of broken glasses, I finished beating the crap outta the kid, and dragged him by the scruff of his shirt the three blocks from the schoolyard to my parents’ store. I presented the bodily evidence (in this case, the kid’s body) of my innocence to my folks. The kid’s slobbering apology saved my ass. I loved my father and feared him, because he was of an older generation that believed in the righteousness and effectiveness of corporal punishment.

Speaking of school, I always hated it. So much so, that I’m surprised that I lasted long enough to make it to college. I can remember vividly, as surely as this was the actual day that it happened, the day when my mother dragged me kicking and screaming to my first day at kindergarten. No, no, man—I did not want to go to a place where teachers would boss me around.

From that day onward, it was all downhill in my school experience. I hated school, I hated homework and I hated studying. I hated the school environment, where one was expected to think and behave in the box. As a result, I was a very poor student who just managed to get by with passing grades.

I found school extremely stressful, and ironically for someone who hated the regimentation of school, I developed into a terrific worker with an exceptionally strong work ethic, after I was done with school. Equally ironically, I also tolerated the rigors of martial arts training where I had to totally submit to a dojo’s rules and regs, and learned how essential this breakdown of a student’s ego was, to further advancement in learning technique.

I later imposed this basic tenet to my students when I had my own dojo. An unquestioning student is one who will learn, and learn more quickly than one who resists. The combat arts is really the only instance in my life when I voluntarily joined an organization, rare in my life because I’m a loner. A “joiner” I am not. The martial arts school that I joined was unusual, and fit my temperament and past history of fighting as a kid. More on this later.

Again by comparison, my brother and sisters were uniformly terrific students, who fit the Asian stereotype of the classic overachiever. This deep-set disdain for regimentation, in a perfect storm marriage with my tendency to be a loner, is the key to my personality This abhorrence of being around groups of people, with the attendant peer pressure to act and follow in prescribed ways, has shaped my life in the most basic of ways. I and Me-Tooism are like oil and water. One factor that might’ve led me to be such a loner in life, is that my siblings were so much older than me, and growing up for me was similar to the “only child” experience. My brother and sisters were young adults during my childhood.

Don’t tell me what to do, man!

I will say this about conformity in my life: I am a contradiction. In some ways, I conform quite well. With regard to work, as I mentioned, I have a tremendous work ethic. I could do the 9-5 thing in my sleep, without batting an REM pattern. I mingle with, and interact with people in the work environment extremely well. Yet, in other areas of life, I am so unusally nonconformist.

I think a perfect example of this is my choice of clothing. For the past forty years, all I’ve worn as a baseline, are black jeans and black sleeveless pocket t-shirts. Of course, I will wear layers of flannel shirts and thermal clothes in addition to the “baseline” as dictated by the weather. But the black dungarees and t-shirts remain.

People who see me probably assume that I never change my clothes, but what they don’t know is that I just happen to have lots of black jeans and black sleeveless t-shirts in store, but no other color of baseline clothes. I admit to knowing no one else who has worn the same type of clothes every day for the past four decades, with total disregard for variety and color.

As a biker, I believe that I was seriously non-conformist. I rode alone, and I sure didn’t socialize with other bikers in real life. Interaction on the internet doesn’t count. There’s too much distance between keyboards to be considered socializing. With respect to biker trends and bike style trends, I’m definitely nonconformist. I know what I like, and I know what I think is peer pressure-driven garbage–and I will say so, which may just be the underlying basis for my biker subculture writing. More on motorcycles later.

“Plastic Fantastic Lover” was a song by the Jefferson Airplane in the ’60s, about the prevalent influence that TV had on society by that point in time. So it was with me, while watching episodes of Route 66 on my little black and white television. These stories about these two guys riding around in a hot Corvette, caused me to fall in love with Vettes, a love that led me to buy a used ’64 Vette at the age of 19.

My passion for cars then was overwhelming. Cars and car racing filled my entire life with passion. This love of cars survives to this day, despite its twin obsession, the love of motorcycles. One passion never crowded out the other.

That ’64 Vette was a hot car, man. 327 cubic inch 365 horse motor with a four speed, with exhaust dumpers that made it twice as loud as any Harley with straight pipes, that was the beginning of my motorvatin’ life. A radar detected 110 mile per hour, early-morning scamper on a deserted Triboro Bridge, gave me one of a trio of speeding tickets that led to the revocation of my drivers’ license. I came to the end of the all but empty bridge on the Manhattan side with pipes blasting like the third world war, to find a cop car parked broadside in the midde lane to form a roadblock. The radar gun, done done me in, man.

Hot rod culture was alive and well in Queens, which was a mere couple of miles (it might as well have been a thousand miles) from The City (Manhattan) where no such abnormal fixations plagued the citizens. Citizens of The Big City didn’t even like cars, never mind hold a passion for ’em. Places like Jackson Heights were more like small towns in the south in the 1950s, except that they were technically a part of New York City in name. Attitudes were seriously small town, in spite of the close proximity to The Big City. In Jackson Heights alone, there were at least four speed shops that existed concurrently.

I had an unfortunate experience with one of the speed shops, where I bought Mickey Thompson mag wheels (which were actually made of aluminum) for my Vette. With the red line tires I put on ’em they looked killer, man. The only problem was, the day after putting these on the Vette, I found all four tires had gone flat. It seems that these early mag wheels were too porous to use with tubeless tires, so I had to had tubes installed. I loved the look of these wheels too much (I should’ve gone with steel Cragar S/S mag wheels–but, noooo, I had to have alloy wheels)) to return ’em, so I lived with the tubes.

My Motorvatin’ Life took a turn in 1968, when the draw of Harley-Davidsons became too much to bear. It was like a constant brain itch that couldn’t be scratched, because my skull kept getting in the way. As much as I loved my Corvette Sting Ray and cars, I knew I was destined for Harleydom. It had to be a Harley. I knew other young guys in Jackson Heights that were more interested in Britbikes, but not me. The influence of older bikers who rode Harleys I knew and grew up with as if they were older brothers, swept me to the Harley Side. The only question was, which Harley would make that itch go away? My tastes in Harleys then was much different than it is today.

In the late 1960s, Sportsters were perceived differently than they are now. Instead of as a stepping-stone to a big twin, or as an entry-level Harley as they are depicted now, they were seen as an end to itself. In the mid to late ’60s, the Sportster XLCH was seen as the King Of The Street, and was treated as such by the motorcycle magazines of the day.

Back then, the XLCH had publicized brass balls, too big for any jockstrap to hold as it made its way down the quarter mile to victory lane. The Killer CH blew the doors off of cars, and the skirts off of Beezers and Trumpets. Look out, man! Let the Limeys have their Lightnings that they gazed at whilst they sipped tea at the Ace Cafe, this was All American Muscle, the mighty XLCH!

By comparison, motorcycle magazines treated the big twin as a tired old geezer, just waiting in the rocking chair for retirement—or a Shriners Club with a parade first gear. No man, it had to be an XLCH for me. I wanted the most badass, and the XLCH was Her Badness Incarnate.

Here was the problem: I was just a college kid with a car, and no money. How would I get the bread for the bike? There was only one way, and this led me to a tough decision: Keep the Vette or sell her for the money for the Harley. It was The Harley, baby! There was no real choice considering the brain itch for a bike that I was afflicted with.

I just had to scratch that itch, and the only way to have a satisfying scratch, was to walk into a dealership and plop the cash down for My Bike. It would take roughly two grand for the bike. This doesn’t seem like a lot now, but for a 1968 college kid, it was a mint. Back the Vette went to the used car lot on Queens Boulevard that I bought her from, and onward to Harley-Davidson of Manhattan for My Destiny.

The situation causing me to sacrifice my ’64 Vette for money to buy the Harley, ultimately came to a happy ending, when I later replaced her with my current 1971 Corvette Stingray (early Sting Rays used two words, “Sting” and “Ray” while later “Stingrays” used one word, conjoining the two words) who I named “Mary.” I love Mary even more than I loved the ’64, and this Vette’s not gettin’ away from me. Nope. Not again! She’s here to stay. Acquiring Mary assuaged some of the regret at losing my ’64 Vette, and believe me, there was plenty of seller’s remorse about losing the ’64.

Motorcycles are all about emotion.

Everything about motorcycles is about emotion, from the way it feels to ride ’em, to the way they look, to the way they smell, and yes, to the way one looks when riding them (can’t ignore the cool factor, especially if you’re a young guy like I was when I got my first Harley).

It’s all about emotion, man. From a purist’s point of view, forget about clubs, forget about the Sturgises of the world, forget about impressing the friends from around the corner. It is all about an emotional response to The Bike. The way one looks when bookin’ down the highway at 70 on a loud Harley, is an emotional experience, even if there was nobody else there to witness it. The rider is aware of the figure that he and his bike are cuttin’. Does a beautiful thing happen on the blacktop if nobody sees or hears it? Does a tree fall in the forest if nobody is there to see it?

The emotional buildup to getting my first Harley-Davidson on the streets, was incredible. I’d already left the meager deposit on my brand new 1968 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLCH. She was H-D orange and black, with a Bates solo seat and pillion pad. Gleaming Evil Orange & Black, man, she was a feisty angel waiting to stretch her legs on the highway.

When I finally picked her up, I thought my heart palpitations were clearly audible on the showroom floor at Harley of Manhattan. Harley-Davidson of Manhattan was a storefront dealership, on 76th Street between First and Second Avenues. It was long and narrow, being only about twenty-five feet wide, but extending back like a railroad apartment.

The service department took up the back portion of the dealership, and dual swinging doors separated the showroom from the shop in the back. Both departments were about the same size, it was a 50/50 proposition. I cannot find the words to describe the way it felt to ride My Bike over the 59th Street Bridge to Queens. Let’s just say that it was an emotional experience and leave it at that.

The year after I acquired My Bike, I met my first wife Nancie. In fact, it was because of my bike that I met her. I was parked on Second Avenue and St. Marks Place in front of Gem Spa (our Ace Cafe) with some other bikers who had their Harleys parked. The row of gleaming motorcycles stretched a third of the way down the block. Nancie came up to me, and I knew that she wanted me to ask her if she wanted to go for a ride, so I did. And she did. That was the beginning of our relationship, which turned out to be a turbulent roller coaster.

Nancie and I were together for four years. Nancie believed she was infertile, because before she met me, she never used birth control and never got pregnant. But guess what? She became pregnant at the end of 1969.

I worked as a medical photographer during this period, for a medical facility called the Pack Medical Foundation, which was located on 36th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. My job was to document surgical patients before and after plastic surgeries. These surgeries ranged from the cosmetic, to the truly serious—cancer patients. The most intriguing cases for me, were women who were slated to undergo breast implants and breast reductions. My clinical interest here was definitely heightened.

We were elated that Nancie was expecting, and in 1970, our son Michael was born. I thought to myself, “Another biker is born into the world!” Mike was a little bundle of joy, with head full of hair and inquisitive eyes and a quiet demeanor. I guess I felt what every father feels when a first child of his is born: “I feel like a man now, because I’ve fulfilled my masculine, primal duty–which is to procreate.” At least, I felt that instinctively, though I didn’t vocalize this.

After working at the Pack Medical Foundation for a year, Pack went bankrupt, and I found myself unemployed. This was not a healthy situation for a young guy with a wife and son to support. During the summer of 1968, I worked as a motorcycle messenger for the Quick Trip Messenger Service in Manhattan. My job then was to deliver things in NYC and out of town.

I was essentially on my Sportster “Sally The Bitch” for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Sure, it’s fun to ride, but can be grueling on that type of schedule, sometimes in crawling city traffic. After I lost my job as a medical photographer at Pack, I went back to my job with Quick Trip.

Quick Trip was run by an ex-cop named George Shaw. He always called me “The Indian” because of my long hair that I kept tied with a bandana. George was a fair but tough boss, who I liked quite a bit, and I kept in touch with him for years after until his death. After I got into medicine full-time, I gave George medical advice and guidance about his diabetes from time to time. One day when I called the Quick Trip offices, I learned he was gone. I was informed that he finally succumbed to the ravages of his diabetes.

Returning to Quick Trip was a come-down, primarily because of the reduced wages I received, compared to the medical photography job’s take-home pay. Messengers work on a commission, and I was lucky if I took home ninety bucks a week. However, it sure beat being unemployed.

Messengers get treated like crap. Secretaries call you “boy,” even if you are several years older than they are. I gradually moved on to delivering with a truck instead of my bike, which I was happy about. I was tired of exposing Sally to the kind of abuse that hard city riding all day long imposed on motorcycles.

One time I was making a delivery with an older messenger I was working with. This was a 59 year old black man named Jim. A twenty-something year old secretary where we delivered, called Jim, “boy.” I lit into her and reduced this air headed secretary into a pile of slobbering mush, by the time I was done with her. Jim and I left with her in tears, wanting her mommy and her Barbie Doll.

There was another time when I delivered a piece of artwork to a museum. This art was made of lucite, and I dropped it in the loading dock and it broke into several pieces of art. Oops. I later learned that this piece was valued at $20,000. Fortunately, Quick Trip was insured against damage and loss!

There were a number of bikers working for Quick Trip, and among them was a Pagan who rode a straight-leg rigid pan. This was a guy who I witnessed running for his life in the East Village from some Hells Angels, who eventually had to leave New York City because he was so sought-after, and I don’t mean by employers. His nickname was “Patch” because he wore an eye patch.

The war between the Angels and Pagans in New York, was hot and heavy then. Patch wasn’t exactly the friendliest guy in the world. Armed with a scowl and his pirate patch, he cut an unsympathetic figure. I assume that he had one eye enucleated, necessitating the eye patch. The last time I saw Patch, he was hiding in a vestibule of a brownstone on St. Marks Place, his hair drenched with sweat from running. I never saw him again.

There was another biker who worked at the service named Mark, who gave me my first ride on a Harley 45 trike, which ended with a slow-speed crash into some garbage cans. This little trike joyride took place in a cavernous courtyard in Queens. Queens is unique, in that it houses some of the most ornate art deco apartment complexes, with large fields of courtyards at their center. I don’t recall ever seeing any architecture like this in Manhattan.

Regarding my unsuccessful ride on the trike, hey man, I was instinctively trying to lean the three wheeler to make ‘er turn, but it doesn’t work that way! They oughta put steering wheels on those infernal things. If it ain’t two wheels, then it oughta be four. In order for her to be mean, she’s got to lean! The last time I saw Mark, he was laid up in the hospital with numerous injuries, due to a high speed wreck on the FDR Drive. He crested a blind grade at 80 miles per hour, and when he landed on the other side of the hill, he rode right into the back of a car. This was on his bike, not the three-wheeler.

I met the only New York Hells Angel that I personally knew well in front of Quick Trip when the Quick Trip office was on East 25th Street (it later moved to Tenth Avenue). His name was Mario, but his real name was Henry Fenuta. Mario at that time, was a New York Alien. This was before the NYC Aliens became the New York City chapter of the HAMC. I found Mario standing near Sally, eyeing her. He was wearing his Aliens MC colors.

I said something like, “What’s up?” Mario said with a glint in his eye, “I was thinking of stealing yer bike.” I was never sure if he was kidding or not. He was also a Sportster enthusiast, riding a wrinkle-black Sporty with an add-on hardtail. He told me that he would never abuse his bike by using it for messenger service work.

It became apparent that messenger work wasn’t going to adequately support us. I thought that a fresh start on the west coast might be appropriate, which dovetailed with my long-held plans to move to California. I would find medical photography work, where I had dreamt of living.

At this point, my plans to move to California solidified. It was my dream to move there and ride there, something many bikers considered their primary motive for the move: Hands lazily guiding the handlebars, bike gently weaving from side to side, almost rocking the rider, hair (no helmets in California!) swept back by the caress of the warm Californian air, heaven, heaven.

The draw of the proverbial Land of Milk and Honey, can be irresistible to bikers. The sun, the highways, this was the state that was the veritable cradle of outlaw biker culture. How could I resist? So I didn’t. My in-laws were already settled in San Diego, so Dago was the target landing site. Presumably, Nancie’s folks would help us in finding a place to live. Moving to California was something I had planned before I met Nancie, and I was determined to follow-through with the plan.

I bought a used 1964 Ford Econoline van for six bills. I shoved all our belongings in there, including my XLCH Sally The Bitch, and off we (my ex, my son Mike and I) went cross-country. We made it to San Diego in one piece, with a few minor glitches along the way.

A cop stopped us on the interstate in Ohio and gave us a hard time. Another cop stopped us in Flagstaff, Arizona and gave us an even harder time, threatening to force us to empty out the van in a search or drugs (there were none). He eventually decided to stop wasting our time and his time, and let us go.

When we passed through the panhandle of Texas, some of the locals gave me a hard time about being a “long-haired hippie” before they tired of their game. Just little stuff, but aggravating stuff, to be sure.

True to my in-laws’ word, they did find us a place to live. It was a little beach cottage a few yards from the ocean, on Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach in San Diego. I called this little house The Alligator because it had a roof covered with green shingles. They resembled reptilian scales.

There was a smattering of surfboard shops in the neighborhood, frequented by blonde people. Everybody there seemed to be preponderantly blonde. I swear, I thought I landed in Sweden, or in a rendition of the “Stepford Citizens.”

One of my new neighbors was a friendly woman (who was blonde, natch), who said to me in awe and all sincerity, “Hey, I’ve never seen a Chinese person before.” I tried to decide whether she was puttin’ me on, but her complete lack of guile decided me otherwise. Apparently, there were few or no Asians in San Diego then.

“The Alligator” was close to Balboa Park. I loved The Alligator, and I loved mostly everything about San Diego. The weather was perfect, with cool temps at night in the summer, so that air conditioning wasn’t necessary, and temps in the winter never below 60.

I learned a painful lesson about San Diegan architecture, when the nights became very cool there. The heaters in The Alligator, like most houses in Pacific Beach, consisted of grated units on the floor. This was quite different than in New York, where the heaters are stand-alone radiators. On more than one cool occasion, I stepped on hot grated heaters in The Alligator while stumbling around in the middle of the night.

The San Diego area is just picturesquely beautiful, with scenery that any biker would dig riding in and through. The roads were gorgeous. The place was everything I pictured in my mind in New York, when I dreamed of riding my Harley in the warm California air.

I loved living adjacent to the ocean. San Diego did have some problems for me, though. One minor problem was that parts of my bike that were not painted or chromed, rusted at an alarming rate. For example, the fork tubes. I’d removed the tubes’ rubber boots in New York, and never bothered to have the exposed tubes chromed. In NYC, the tubes never rusted. I’d never seen anything like this. I didn’t realize how quickly corrosive the sea’s salt air was.

A distinctive feature of San Diego, were the purple lawns that were popular in the early ’70s. I was told that this color resulted from a species of small purple flowers that San Diegans planted on their lawns. According to a San Diegan who I talked to who recently moved to NYC, this is no longer the case. In fact, she had no idea what I was talking about. This purple flower must’ve gone the way of the dodo bird in San Diego since I lived there. Lawns must conventionally green there now. How boring is that?

Another problem was the matter of employment. I spent the better part of a month looking for a job as a medical photographer, to no avail. There were none to be found in the immediate area. I resorted to looking for work outside San Diego. I ranged as far as Los Angeles and San Francisco, and my reconnaissance trips there failed to come up with any opportunities as a medical photographer. Medical photographers were not in demand in California at that time.

On one of my trips up the coast, I stopped to see an old friend, Spade George. Spade George was an ex-pat New Yorker, who belonged to an NYC outlaw club called the Rat Pack M.C. George emigrated to California a couple of years before. When I visited Spade George in Daly City, he seemed as deranged as ever. Some hardcores never change, man. George currently has a shop, and if ya Google “Spade George,” you get links to his motorcycle shop. When I left George’s house in Daly City, he was out there shooting a .38 revolver in the air. Just another quiet night with Spade George.

My employment situation in San Diego was in critical condition . The money that I had, was on life support. A Do Not Resuscitate sign wasn’t necessary for our bank account, because there was nothing to resuscitate.

In my desperation, I interviewed for a mortician’s assistant job (no good, Nancie said she wouldn’t touch me if I took that job.) I looked for freelance construction jobs (no good, I was told only union members could work construction). I answered a newspaper ad for salesmen jobs by going to a seedy motel room where interviews were being held. I knocked on the door, and the guy that opened the door, looked at my feet and said, “You can’t be a salesman in those!” He pointed down to the two dollar sneakers I bought that week at a five and ten—my boots had finally fallen into disrepair and I had to trashcan ’em. I didn’t even make it past the door of that motel room.

I finally caught a break when my brother-in-law Mickey referred me to an automotive shop he used to work for. This was a chain of two independent Volkswagen repair shops, owned by a guy named Dan. Dan (who was blonde, wouldn’t ya know it?) hired me to move volkswagen engines in my own van from shop to shop as needed. One shop was in San Diego and the other was in National City a few miles away. The freeway that I took between the shops took me past Jack Murphy Stadium.

This was backbreaking work, as I had to move the engines in and out of my van, but hey—it was a job. It was a job that paid off the books, however, that only paid about sixty bucks a week.

One week into my employment, Dan pulled me aside and pulled out a stainless .45 Colt pistol and said to me, “Do you know who yer brother-in-law is? He’s the guy whose father reported me to the IRS fer paying guys off the books!” I told Dan that I had no idea that had transpired. I told Dan that he could trust me not to make any noises about him paying me off the books.

Dan believed me, and didn’t fire me. He did have one last admonition for me though. He said, “If I ever catch you stealing parts from me, that’ll be it.” I reassured Dan, that that would never happen. After that, I went to my father-in-law Herb and let him have it for not warning me about his snitching to the IRS about Dan, before I applied for a job with him. I grew to really like Dan during my employment in his shops. He was a cool guy.

One day while I was driving my van on a San Diego street , four cop cars converged on me and pulled me to a stop. Cops came out with guns drawn and ordered me out, and onto the ground. I complied. After searching my van, they let me up and gave me an explanation for what just happened. One cop said, “Sorry, this was a mistake. There’s been an Asian guy with a white van (my Econoline was white) with New York plates, who’s been burglarizing houses in this area.” The coincidence was unbelievable.

An Asian male? In a white van? With New York plates? Ooookay. I perhaps naively asked them if they could give me an official note stating that I wasn’t that guy, but they declined. After this little incident, I had a brilliant idea. I painted the name of Dan’s shops on the sides of my van, to distinguish my van from The Guilty Van. There ya go!

Unfortunately, this free advertising for Dan’s business on the sides of my van, did not go over big with Dan. He persuaded me (this time without the use of his Colt pistol as a prop—Dan was softening up to me) to remove the business’ name from my van.

There was a mechanic who worked at the San Diego shop named Frank (who was blonde, by the way) who owned a Honda 125. Before I decided to move back to New York, I arranged for a driving test at the DMV, to qualify for change to a California drivers’ license. I’d already taken the four-wheel part of the test with my van and passed. On the appointed day for my motorcycle test, it was just more convenient to take Frank’s little Honda to the test site. I was already at the shop where Frank’s Honda was. It was easier to take the Honda than go back home and ride the Sportster for the test. Since Frank offered, I accepted!

The test site was a few miles away. I learned how dangerous these little bikes were on the way there. With California drivers whizzing by me on the freeway at 80 miles an hour, and me on this little piece of crap barely getting to 45 (if that), I felt like a sitting duck.

I managed to get to the testing site in one piece, wishing like hell that I’d gone home to get Sally The Bitch. Of course, I passed the test. The ride back to the shop was just as harrowing. I shouldn’t have bothered. Shortly after passing my motorcycle test, we decided to do the sane thing and move back to good ‘ole New York City. This $60 a week was ridiculous. Even the $90 a week working for the Quick Trip Messenger Service in New York was better than this. Before we departed for New York, I thanked Dan for giving me work. Dan said to me, “Hey, you’re alright. I never (here we go again) had a Chinaman workin’ for me before.”

All bad things must come to an end. So it was with our short-lived residence in the great state of California. The plan this time around, was for Nancie and little Mike to fly back. I would drive back to New York, under separate cover. Unbelievably, I made the trip back to The City in three days. I achieved this by driving non-stop every day for countless hours.

I didn’t stop to eat. Instead, I made sandwiches with these little cans of tuna and meat spread while I drove, and ate while I drove. The drive home took on an entirely different feel than our drive to San Diego. The trip to California was a casual, 10 day tourist trip with stops in places like Santa Fe, while the drive back home felt like a mission to be accomplished, to overcome the obstacles of distance and time. Like a homing pigeon with a delivery to accomplish, only the destination reached at max speed, mattered.


The word means little to some, much to me. If I have to explain, then ya wouldn’t understand. I entered the metropolitan area via the New Jersey Turnpike. One of the most significant memories that has continued to float up like a gorgeous mosaic in my mind over the years, was the sight of the skyline of New York City as I approached her from New Jersey. If it’s possible to realize in a flash what the score is late in a game, this was it. The score in this case, was the homesickness I didn’t realize I was suffering, until New York City came into view.

Inexplicably, I didn’t feel homesick for New York during the period I lived in San Diego, but it all came to me in a rush like the peak of an acid trip on seeing good ‘ole New York, man. It was at that moment when I realized how much I loved NYC. It was like an inner thought that was hiding in the back of my mind, making itself known with a passionate debut at the front of my mind. Once it hit the landing pad of my frontal lobes, I knew that I was home.

Life resumed for us after our return to New York. I went back to work at the Quick Trip Messenger Service, and my marriage slowly eroded beneath the surface. This period after we returned to New York was significant in a bittersweet way. Bitter because the marriage was heading for the exit ramp at medium speed in the right lane, and sweet because my daughter would be born among the ruins of the marital union. It was sweet also, because I took a change of direction in my work life, which improved dramatically during this period. While the marital union was eroding, my Father Life and my work life, was being reconstructed.

Heavily weighing on my mind, was the fact that the lowly salary from being a messenger was inadequate to support a forthcoming two-child family. Nancie became pregnant again. One advantage of working for Quick Trip was that I could plan my delivery trips around clandestine job-seeking interviews. I was determined to move upward in scope in my professional life. The area I concentrated on, was photography. I’d already made the first step when I worked for the Pack Medical Foundation before it went bankrupt, and it was now time to take at least a sideways step back into photography, before I could get a medical photography job (which was harder to find) again.

Ultimately, I wanted to end up in ophthalmic photography (eye photography in medicine). In order to do that at this juncture of my life, I realized that I would have to seek a more tangential photography job until an ophthalmic photography opportunity became available. My brother Don was an established ophthalmic photographer, and he would be on the lookout for one of these rare eye photography gigs.

One job interview took place between messenger deliveries at a commercial photo lab called Edstan Studios. The bosses were Ed and Stan, and they hired me to work as a black and white print processor, a skill that I was well versed in. This was a skill my brother taught me when I was a teen, and had utilized professionally at the Pack Medical Foundation. This was not only a good stopgap move back into photography, the job also gave my growing family greater security, because of the increase in take home pay. This job became a bridge to my next medical photography job.

A job in ophthalmic photography became available during my time at Edstan Studios, and this was the position as ophthalmic photographer at the Beth Israel Medical Center on 16th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan. I got the job, but was surprised at what my office looked like when I entered it. It was a converted men’s room, replete with the plumbing fixtures for the urinals still attached to the wall, although the urinals were removed. I expected to smell urinal cakes during my inspection of this room.

The places where the toilets once sat, were clearly demarcated by the impressions they left in the stalls. The diamond patterned floor tiles around where the toilets sat were grayish, while the areas below where the toilet bowls sat, were still a pristine white. The holes where the toilets drained, were still there, unplugged and uncovered. If this bathroom was more complete, I wouldn’t have had to leave my office to relieve myself.

One advantage of working at Beth Israel was, I was able to work on my bike while I worked there. At the time, I was in the process of molding Sally The Bitch’s frame with fiberglass. I had disassembled the Sportster, and after having the frame sandblasted at Hygrade Plating in Long Island City, I took the frame to the hospital to work on. I filed down the frame’s protuberances prior to molding in the ERG Room (electroretinography, which measures electrical responses of retinal cells) in the Department of Ophthalmology. Whenever I had some free time, I’d sneak in there and do some more work on Sally’s frame.

Once I finished filing down Sally’s frame, I took it back to my apartment at 233 East 3rd Street, to finish the molding job. As for materials, I bought a quantity of fiberglass resin and fibers, at a store on Canal Street in Manhattan. I was careful to protect my skin from stray fibers (once those got into your skin, forget it!) by wearing long sleeve shirts and surgical gloves. I also wore goggles and a surgical cap over my hair. Molding with fiberglass was far superior and durable than bondo. It became one with the bike, never to flake off.

After molding the frame, I took it to the basement of my parents’ store where I painted it candy apple red lacquer. I bought spray cans of Cal Custom paint from the local auto parts store. I hung the frame with baling wire from a water pipe along the basement’s ceiling, and hosed down the basement floor prior to painting, to minimize dust in the air. I used one can silver base coat, seven cans of candy apple red and seven cans of clear for more “depth”, with wet sanding between coats to smooth out the runs. The end result, was perfect. I surprised even myself with how professional the paint job looked. I then reassembled Sally upstairs in the middle of the Chinese laundry, where there was an alcove.

In early 1973, I moved to a better job at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in upper Manhattan. This was shortly before the birth of my lovely little daughter, Tiffanie. Our plan was for Nancie to give birth at New York Hospital, but the best laid plans of mice and men and parents, was diverted by a shorter than anticipated labor. End result? I ended up delivering Tiffanie at home. Although as equally as photogenic as my son (are parents always biased this way?) was, Tiff’s personality was diametrically opposite Mike’s. While Mike was quiet as an infant, Tiff seemed to cry 24/7. Colic? Who knows. Only the Shadow knows.

The “bitter” of the bittersweet happened, when Nancie and I split up not too long after Tiff’s birth. Man, wotta way to spoil a blessed event! However, the end was not just near, it was there for my ex and me. Nancie and I got divorced the following year using a divorce kit we saw advertised for $110, in the back of the Village Voice. Nancie and I had joint custody of the kids, where the ex had them during the week, and I had ’em during the weekends. Life goes on, baby.

Another pivotal point occurred in my life, in 1976. I became interested in studying the martial arts. My motivation wasn’t exactly self-defense, as I’d spent much of my childhood fighting. Fist-fighting was just part of growing up in Queens in my crowd.

In Jackson Heights, there was a clear demarcation ethnically, and these ethnic boundaries dictated where you stood on the aggression/domination ladder, and whether you beat or got beaten. There were the in-betweens, who were numerically insignificant, like Hispanics and Asians. There was no interaction with African-Americans, because there were no African-Americans in Jackson Heights.

In the Jackson Heights I came up in, There was not a single African-American. African-Americans lived in a neighboring area called Corona. Jackson Heights and Corona were contiguous, and the dividing line was 94th Street. I don’t want to make too much of this (but it is significant as to era and place), but we called 94th Street the “Mason-Dixon Line.”

People living east of 94th Street were black, and those living west of this imaginary border, were white, with a few Asians and Hispanics. 94th Street was like the dividing line that bisected Frank Gorshin’s face in that Star Trek episode where half of his face was white, the other half being black.

There might’ve been four or five Hispanic families in Jackson Heights that I can recall. There were exactly three Chinese families, who I was aware of. I can state this unequivocally, because mine was one of ’em, and my friend Willie’s was another. Willie was this humongous kid who weighed 230 as a teen, and built like professional wrestler. Both Willie and I hung with the Italians. In my case, my best friends were all Italian, except for Willie. This association put me squarely in the hoodlum corner, both figuratively and in reality.

In the late 1970s, I became interested in the martial arts. I already knew how to hit people. What I wanted to do in studying the martial arts, was learn how to hit people better. It was as simple as that. As I would learn from the teacher I chose to study under, my history of gettin’ into fights as a kid, made me what he called a “natural fighter.”

Fighting is ultimately about intent, and the will to follow-through with intent. One can have the greatest technique in the world, but if there is a hesitation to use it to bludgeon and injure, then technique means next to nothing. So, what I was looking for, was a teacher and school who believed in “killer instinct.”

I looked around Manhattan for a suitable school. Most I discovered, did not have realistic practices, meaning that they did not actually hit each other when they practiced. The type of sparring these schools engaged in, was patterned after the sparring matches seen in karate tournaments which consisted of points awarded for getting in cleanly to an opponent’s body, but stopping short of making any meaningful contact.

“How can this be any good?” I thought. It made zero sense to me. Here I was, used to hitting in fights since kindergarten, and these people won’t even do that? I couldn’t wrap my head around this. The people in these schools seemed delusional at best, and cowardly at worst.

One day in 1976 I entered a school called the Asian Martial Arts Studio in the Soho section of lower Manhattan. An assistant instructor led me though a narrow passageway at the front, to a cavernous training floor at the back. I observed a class from a seating area just off the “floor” where I was allowed to keep my boots on. Anyone going onto the “floor” had to go on barefooted, and had to be first approved as a student before bowing onto the floor.

I was fortunate that I got there in time see some sparring practice. Two men in uniforms including colored belts, bowed to each other, before squaring off. They then raised their hands in guard positions, just as boxers would in the ring. I noted that neither wore gloves of any padding on their feet. They started feeling each other out with feints, when one of the men broke into the other’s space and first planted a full-power punch into the chest of his opponent with a right hand, immediately followed by a left hook to the ribs that landed with an audible whump! The man who got hit winced and covered up.

The instructor controlling the match stopped them. Apparently the man hit suffered a rib injury. The instructor asked him if he could continue. The man nodded, Yes. They resumed. Then the other man, sensing an injury, repeated his attack on the hurt man’s ribs. Eventually, the man could not continue, and it was only then that their sparring was stopped by the instructor.

To me, this made sense. Perfect sense. Hit and hurt, man—that’s what you’re supposed to do in a fight. The assistant instructor sitting with me explained that they allowed full-contact, full power punches and kicks to all targets above the waist and below the neck. Legs and head were out. He explained that they sparred without gloves to toughen up and learn how to take a hit as well as learn how not to hold back hits, and how this was essential to correct training. Hearing this, I signed up right there and then in this school.

The teacher and owner of this dojo was Richard Chin, and he became my Sifu for the next 6 years. He taught two styles of martial arts at his school, and both systems were run with the same philosophy of full-power practice and sparring. One style was Jow Ga kung fu and the other was Kuen Do Ryu karate, which is an Okinawan system. The differences in the two styles (besides uniforms) were the “forms” traditional to each system. Otherwise, the training methods were identical. Both used a similar belt ranking system.

In the coming years, I devoted myself single mindedly to advancing. I began training at the relatively older age of 27. By 1978, I was training at the dojo five nights a week. It took me four years of this grueling schedule to make entry-level black belt. In our systems, black belt meant something, because the training was so grueling. During my training, I’d suffered broken ribs, a broken jaw, a fractured wrist, a broken foot and lesser injuries too numerous, frequent and routine to mention or even remember. The latter category consisted of sprains, ligament damage, etc. Just your normal, run-of-the-mill injuries, to be expected and dealt with without complaint or quitting.

There was an emphasis in our school, on being tough, mentally and physically. My teacher often voiced this philosophy regarding the potential of a new student: “We’ll beat the shit out of him and if he stays, then he has a chance of being good.” “Black and blue” was the universal color under the uniform in our school, regardless of which uniform one wore.

By 1982, I advanced in rank and ran classes at one of our two locations. We had to move from the Soho location by then, and I established a school using a rented floor at the Third Street Music School (which was actually on 11th Street). I taught both Jow Ga kung fu and Kuen Do Ryu karate there. Another of our black belts named Mike Willner, ran classes at an uptown location.

While with Richard Chin, I began submitting articles about him and our school to martial arts magazines. From these submissions, my role in these magazines grew to monthly columns and feature articles. These magazines included Karate-Kung Fu Illustrated, Black Belt, Martial Arts Training and Kung Fu.

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I advocated realistic, full-contact, full-power hitting training, which is the way we trained at the Asian Martial Arts Studio. The majority of martial arts schools, who did not train this way, did not like being called out by me in magazines as ineffective and cowardly. I received death threats and people would threaten to come to my school and administer some kind of justice. Hey, nobody ever showed up.

In 1984 I branched off by opening my own school on East Broadway in the Lower East Side. While I had my school there, I continued to receive threats from others who did not like their schools being called “weak” and unrealistic in my martial arts magazine articles. In response, I made sure that the address of my dojo was published in my columns. Again, no one ever showed up to mount a challenge. In 1993, I decided to retire from teaching.

In the early ’80s, I attended a hot rod and motorcycle show at the old New York Coliseum (yes, that New York Coliseum where the New York Aliens M.C. got into a floor-clearing fight with the Pagans M.C., which got the club absorbed in the HAMC as the New York Chapter). I’d been wishing for a shovelhead for a few years now, but kept these feelings underneath, unspoken and unacted-on. My motivation never jelled to the point where I overcame my inertia.

At the Coliseum show, H-D had an exhibit with a silver Harley Low Rider displayed. I sat on the Low Rider with my feet extended to the forward pegs, hands on the bars. I rocked the bike from side to side under me, and glanced down at those massive shovel rocker boxes, and I knew. I knew I had to have a shovelhead. I loved my Sportster, but…..

I actively began saving money wherever I could, and scoping out ads for used shovelheads. In 1985, I had some money to burn. I spotted an ad in the Buy Lines (now defunct). It advertised a 1971 Super Glide in excellent condition, a “must see” specimen. The price was four grand. I called and spoke to the owner John Bays, who lived in Canarsie, Brooklyn. I told him that I’d be able to come see the bike on saturday. He said he had another buyer coming to see the bike on friday, and he couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t be sold by the time I got there on saturday.

I felt instinctively, that this guy was telling the truth about the excellent condition of the Super Glide. In fact, I was so confident that this bike was the one, that my plan was to rent a cargo van to drive to Bays’ house to see, buy and take the bike home. I told Bays, “Look, just hold off on the other guy. I’m prepared too come to you on saturday with four grand in cash and a truck to take her home.” He said, we’ll see. I did tell him that I’d have to see her running. He said he’d have to buy a new battery, but he’d have her running for my inspection.

I rented a cargo van from a Hertz agency on the west side of Manhattan, and found our way to the Bays home in Canarsie in Brooklyn. As we approached his house, I heard her before I saw her.


The Call of The Wild. Bays had just started the bike up as we drove down Bays’ block. Hearing her voice made my palms sweat and the hairs on the nape of my neck bristle. As we drove up, she came into view. There she was. Beautiful. A 1971 Super Glide with a Frisco mounted Sportster tank, and an OEM rear fender, that someone had grafted a diminutive ducktail on the end of. The tin was painted purple. Man, that color had to go. Black is beautiful, baby.

Bays took me for a ride (he didn’t want a stranger riding his bike). This was possibly the second time ever, that I’ve been a passenger on a Harley. Weird feeling, man. I hate the feeling of being on the back of a bike. I like to be in control of the motorcycle, not at the mercy of another rider’s actions and skills. There are too many variables with this, to reach my comfort level.

The bike ran perfectly. All four gears engaged. The motor humming, straight pipes blaring as only a Shovelhead can. The bike was perfect. To make a long story short, I paid Bays the four grand in cash, loaded my bike into the truck, and we trucked on back home. Done deal, baby. The rest is history. I would eventually name this majestic Harley 74, “Mabel.”

In 1989, I picked up an issue of Iron Horse magazine. I’d gotten out of the habit of buying biker rags, because they’d become so much gibbering dreck. There was nothing really worth reading for the thinking biker. I noticed how different Iron Horse was, and began reading it religiously. Great stuff from this guy David Snow, man! There was a literary quality in his writing, and his formatting of the magazine that just set it apart. I finally found an intelligent biker magazine to read and appreciate.

I wrote to Iron Horse’s editor, and asked him if he would be interested in doing an article on my bike. He agreed, and the article appeared in Iron Horse issue number 100. The title of the article was, “Genghis Rides A Harley.” The editor, David Snow, knew that I was a columnist for martial arts magazines. I sent him copies of some of these articles to look over, and inquired as to whether he’d be interested in my submitting articles to Iron Horse. Snow agreed, and I sent articles in that began appearing in the magazine.

After several months of my articles appearing every month, Snow approached me with a question. Interestingly, this occurred at a movie theater in the Lower East Side where “Single White Female” was showing. I had gone to the movie, and Snow and his wife Shawn just happened to go to the same show. We ran into each other, and Snow said, “Listen, you’re in the magazine every month anyway, you might as well have a monthly column. Whaddya wanna call it?” I wanted to call the column, Going The Distance,” because the title reflected what I thought a biker’s relationship with his motorcycle should be.



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The 1958 Duo Glide Panhead.

Some date outlaw culture for motorcyclists, as having begun in the 1940s, when motorcycle clubs organized shortly after World War II. Hollister, The Booze Fighters, The Hells Angels and other clubs, all materialized after World War II. The 1940s and onward into the 1960s, became the era known widely as the time that the development and culmination of the Harley Chopper occurred.

I would argue that outlaw culture that spawned the Outlaw Harley-Davidson truly began in the 1930s, when practicality minded bikers stripped down their Flatheads and Knuckleheads for performance. A secondary byproduct of this process of elimination of weighty superfluous parts, was that this exercise in function yielded a righteous looking bike that ran like hell. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson in the 1960s, “These stripped down Hogs took off like a gun!”

Voila! In the 1930s, stripped down Harley Bobjobs (don’t get me started on the dumb term “bobber,” okay?) became the very backbone of the Biker Subculture. The “Outlaw Harley” had been born, approved of and ratified by every biker who wanted to be fast and cool simultaneously.

The stripped down Flattie and Knuckle became the template for future Outlaw Harleys, powered by Panhead and Shovelhead motors. The formula was simple. Ya took a standard factory Harley, and removed the bags, windshield, front fender and other non-essential crap off. Industrious owners took that front fender and cut it up, and mounted the shortened version as the rear fender.

Note that I called the ’30s Bobjob a mere baseline template for future generations of Big Twin owners to emulate. After the Flatheads of the 1930s, through the successive generations of the OHV Big Twins—the Knuckle, Pan and Shovel—the exercise was always the same. Remove, remove, and remove some more. I stop after the Shovelhead, just because of personal prejudice. I am one of those who believes that the last righteous Big Twin rolled off the assembly line as a Shovelhead.

I view these stripped Big Twins as the culmination of the purest expression of the Outlaw Harley. To me, the excesses of customization of the Big Twin Harley in the late 1960s and 1970s, became a dilution of the ideal—a corruption of the purest form, if you will.

In my mind, the purest stripped Big Twin, is the swing arm bike, embodied as the Duo Glide (just a personal preference) whose production began in 1958, and ended with the Wide Glide that discontinued in the 1980s. Hey man, the ideal is to take an Electra Glide, and strip the hell outta her. Then you have the “purest expression” of the Outlaw Harley. Righteous!



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You will have one of two reactions to this article. You as a biker, will either appreciate it, or you will hate it.

But you can’t ignore it!

While it is true that bikers are a breed apart from the straights, it doesn’t follow that we aren’t human. We are all very human, in fact. Citizens don’t ride bikes. They may be more uptight than us. But they share a common denominator with us. They and we, have a natural history of events in our lives. That natural history doesn’t give a crap about what identities we have accrued in life. This “natural history” is biologically based and spares no one.

Perhaps I am one of us, who was more delusional than the rest of us. But I feel that I was in deep denial during my tenure as a Harley cycle rider. After all, wasn’t my motto “Going the Distance?” I wrote reams of material, extolling the inevitability of going the distance with my motorcycle. Hell, that was the title of that first article I submitted on spec (which means in the publishing world, an article sent to an editor like David Snow, pending approval) to Snow. Snow did publish that article in Iron Horse.

What I have learned in the past year, was that physical limitations can make the operation of a motorcycle hazardous to life and limb—depending on the extent of those physical limitations. So, having a cognitive realization of this—as opposed to a desire-based denial of this hard fact—made it a no-brainer for me to hang it up. Made it inevitable, but not easy, to believe and say these words….

It’s just time. Time to hang it up.

Simple, isn’t it? Maybe you are like me, maybe you aren’t. But for years as my riding skills eroded, I rationalized it by saying to myself, “Hey, so I’m 75% as effective as before. It’s enough to get by, man.” That’s what I told myself mebbe, for the past three years. If I had to analyze myself objectively now, I’d probably assess myself as 65% of what I was at my peak of performance as a bike rider. This is not based on cognitive skills or reflex speed, but on musculoskeletal condition.

Except, it is not enough to get by on. Not really, if one accedes to reality’s rules and regs. 65% is not enough by any objective measure, as a bike rider, as a standard. When I was at 100%, I always took pride in my skill set as a rider, knowing that I could do well, what not many people on the planet can do.

That pride takes a hit because of physical loss, and is a real dollop of reality smack in one’s face.

Again, maybe you are like me, or you aren’t like me. Not all people are alike. Some riders can ride effectively at 95 years old. I clearly, wasn’t destined to be one of those lucky bikers.

I am one of a few bikers I know, who is in the position of being to tell it like it is, once I’ve decided objectively, that it was time to hang it up. I at least because of that, can continue to contribute to the conversation as a biker. Not as a cautionary tale, but simply to add perspective to this facet of being a biker. That natural history of a biker’s life, does include the sad decision of “hanging it up.”



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My home office.

With the cessation of motorcycling riding, my life seemed to have required a reordering of priorities. During this moment of clarity, I realized that this reordering of my life revolves around my computers. On a completely practical level, I knew that my reordered life now revolves around communication via computers. I’ll explain more on this later.

I bought a new laptop over a year ago, as a “spare.” Understand this about me—I’m a big believer in redundancy. This was the reason I always carried two new sets of spark plugs with me, when I rode my Harley Shovelhead “Mabel.” Call me anal if ya want, but I wasn’t gonna be stranded for want of viable spark plugs. In the same vein, it was the reason I had two spare universal chopper-type throttles at home for Mabel. These cheap throttles were so chintzy and flimsy, yet so righteous and classic! I hadda have ’em and only them! I loved ’em.

Mabel’s universal chopper-type throttle. I still have two of these in the house.

One very big reason that digital device redundancy is important to me, is that it is through these devices that I am able to keep in close personal contact with my Twin Flame, “Twinklebear” in England. If you want to know more about that, you have to go here. This issue of communication with my love 3,000 miles away, takes precedence—but it is not the only form of communication that is now central to my life. The other areas of my life where communication via my digital devices are of paramount importance, are writing and photography.

My devices enable me to communicate with my Twin Flame,
“Twinklebear” in England.

My writing is more important to me than ever. In the past, the subjects for descriptive exploration were the biker subculture, photography and the martial arts—both in magazines years ago, and on the web more recently. Now that I’ve stopped motorcycle riding, writing about the biker subculture will necessarily become slightly more recessed than the other topics.

But my motorvatin’ life hasn’t stopped completely, as I still have my beloved ’72 Corvette Stingray “Mary,” and I will be writing about her and car stuff. I believed that my bike Mabel was a living entity with a soul, and I believe that about Mary too. That’s why I always talked to them.

My righteous Vette “Mary.” You should hear her straight through glass packs!

I finally took this new/old laptop out of it’s Dell box, to enable it. Both of my other two laptops have Windows 7, while this new/old laptop has the Windows 10 operating system, which turned out to be totally different than Windows 7. So much so, that I had to look around every nook and cranny of this new operating system, to do this and that to make it functional from my point of view. Man, wotta hassle! But I did it, after much gnashing of teeth and verbal threats to throw this laptop out of my 21st floor window in the Lower Beast Side of NYC!

My new laptop wasn’t compatible with my X-Pro1’s software.

Since I shoot photos exclusively digitally now, I had to make sure that my new laptop was compatible with my Fujifilm X-Pro1’s software. Importing the digital images onto my computers, so that I can work on them in my “digital darkroom,” is a must. This digital darkroom work takes place in a Photoshop program, which I had minimal problems in downloading onto my new Windows 10 equipped laptop. The big problem I encountered, was the downloading of my camera’s software program. After I loaded the camera software CD into the new/old laptop, I received the following message:

“Requires Windows Vista or Windows 7”

Godaaaa! WTF? It is so typical of new technology, that it inevitably results in the incompatibility of new computer systems with old software. This was planned obsolescence at its worst! Now the cursing and gnashing of teeth resumed in earnest! What was I gonna do? I wasn’t gonna buy a new Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera, just to accommodate the voracious appetite of the new operating system for compatible software! Screw that noise, man!

Buy an X-Pro2 just to accommodate compatibility? No way!

I love my X-Pro1 camera. With it, I still shoot as if I am shooting with a manual film camera–with manual exposure and manual focus. None of that automatic crap for me! I’m an old school photographer. I love this camera so much, that I bought a spare X-Pro1 body in December of 2015, just in case. You see, the X-Pro2 debuted in 2016, so the X-Pro1 ceased being manufactured. The newer X-Pro2 has more bells and whistles, more geegaw crap I don’t want or need, so I wasn’t about to buy the updated X-Pro2 just so I could download its software onto the new/old laptop. So, what to do?

After rooting around the internet for a few minutes, I discovered that Fujifilm made available, the newer camera software for downloading online. Thank God! Now my photography life could resume unabated–along with the writing about photography.

I used to list my life’s passions as Harleys and cars, the martial arts and photography. As such, these were the subjects of my literary forays with keyboards. The typewriter keyboard has given way to computer keyboards. However, one glaring omission regarding my passions, was writing. Although writing has always been a means to an end–the end being the conveyance of ideas about my passions to readers—the writing itself has become a passion to me in its own right.

I find writing to be incredibly relaxing and rewarding. The act of writing–satisfying the “creative urge”—is an enjoyable art to perform as significant as photography. Both create, one visually and the other descriptively, but both achieve cerebrally. The photograph informs a viewer with composition, and shades of light and dark. Writing informs readers through setting up ideas in the reader’s mind, creating a mood of emotion and reflection.

Now you can see how my reordered life revolves around my digital devices. My computers allow me to practice the fine art of photography, as well as allows me to show viewers the resulting photographs. Moreover, my computers enable me to practice the fine art of writing, so I am able to get the results of that literary effort to you, the reader.

Part of the reordering of my life with respect to computers, was the redesigning of my website to make it more user friendly. I think you’ll agree that the result is quite pleasing. So often, writers design their websites and end up making them overly complex and difficult to navigate. What they are doing is sacrificing the visitor’s ease of navigation for website aesthetics. That in and of itself, thwarts any enjoyment a reader might gain from the writer’s writing.

Not so here. I redesigned this website, commensurate with Occam’s Razor–that less is more, and easier is better. In other words, do the simple thing first. What makes a website more enjoyable, is the ease and speed of navigating that site. In redesigning this website, I strove to maximize the simplicity of navigation here.

“More things should not be used than necessary”—William of Ockham



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MABEL: I feel like I still have her when I look at her photos.

Warren Johnson, AKA #333, AKA HTH (“Halfway-To-Hell”) posted an interesting article titled My Optical Illusion” at our Seedy X-Bar group. Have to say, it was a fun read. In this article the author Joe Berk, reminisced about his 1979 Electra Glide—which he no longer had.

But that fact didn’t affect me. As a reader, I wasn’t at all wrapped up in whether he had the bike anymore. Aside from noting the author’s casually mentioning that he wished he still had the bike, I gave no thought to his emotions about his FLH. What mattered to me as a reader, was that his words somehow reached me, moved me and entertained me. Writing about his former motorcycle for readers of his article, was essentially taking those readers for a ride—but it was a ride of the mind.

In the same sense in this article, I will be taking you for a ride inside, and of your mind. The words on this page will be visually received by your eyes, and they will be transmitted through your optic nerves into your brain. You see, the optic nerves are really just brain tissue that extends into the posterior of the globes of your eyes. Then the electronic impulses will cause the triggering of the firing of the neural synapses in your brain.

The firing of these neurons in sequence in your brain, will cause you to have certain feelings while reading this article. They might be the emotions of enjoyment, empathy, sympathy, anger or deep sadness. But—you will feel something. This is the ride of the mind that reading is. I have something in common with Joe Berk. I no longer have my Harley either. However, in going for this “ride of the mind” I’m taking you on, you will feel more emotion from me about my Harley “Mabel” than you did from Joe Berk about his former bike. This will cause you to feel more emotion as well.

So, when I tell you that I miss my Shovel terribly, you might feel the emotions of empathy and sympathy that you did not while reading Joe Berk’s words—simply because I am laying out my raw emotions so openly. I can’t look into Joe Berk’s mind, and state flatly that I loved my Shovel more than he loved his. I do recognize that most normal bikers have extremely complicated and emotional relationships with their Harleys. Some more, and some less. I was (and still am) of the “more” variety.

Hey man, I can feel it. I can feel my words starting to kickstart your brain’s emotion centers. I know this for a fact, because you former IH readers and Seedy Goons love your Harleys deeply–as I did love Mabel. Those synapses firin’ off in your noggins are makin’ you feel grateful for still having your Harleys, for that is the function of schadenfreude (go Google it, I ain’t defining it fer ya! Ha!)

Photography is an amazing medium, for it allows the instant capture of a moment in time of a life, and that includes the emotions of the moment. When I look at a photo of Mabel like the one above, I remember the moment. I remember my love for this bike, when I climbed off of her to take this picture. I felt the pride so deep, that it made my chest swell at that moment.

And I contrast that glowing memory with the illusion I feel now, where I feel as if I still had her when looking at the photo—then feel the disappointment of realizing that I don’t.

More rides of the mind to come.



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The November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood remains the most egregious example of homegrown jihadist terrorism in the United States. This is not only due to the death toll, but also because the perpetrator, Nidal Malik Hasan, was a serving member of the U.S. military and his victims were his fellow soldiers.

In exploring the background and path toward radicalization of this U.S. Army psychiatrist-turned-terrorist, the book’s authors find a number of similarities with other cases of mass shootings in the United States, in particular workplace related massacres, a category into which they seem eager to place Hasan’s attack. The U.S. government controversially chose to categorize Hasan’s actions in the same way, ignoring the fact that he was acting in accordance with a political program being pursued in various different ways around the world by a religious movement of which he claimed membership.


It is obvious to anyone with a half a brain, that authorities were bending over backwards not to call the Fort Hood Shooter a radical Islamic terrorist. Authorities’ attempt to pigeonhole the Fort Hood Massacre as ordinary “workplace violence,” as just another nut case who “went postal” is an obvious example of political correctness gone wild.

When Muslim US Army Major Hidal Hasan went off the rails and killed 13 of his fellow soldiers, and injured 30 more, it was because of his radical Islamic beliefs. Hey man, if the guy is screaming “Allah u akbar” while emptying his semi-auto on his fellow US Army soldiers—you can bet the motive was relgious. So, let’s call the event what it is….

Radical Islamic terrorism.

It was jihadism based on certain tenets of the religion. See? That wasn’t hard, was it? Just tell it like it is, man. Being honest and forthright in one’s language is easy, yet hard in today’s guilt-infused culture of political correctness. I see this tinging the purity of the Biker Subculture, as well.

Someone posted this picture of a Japanese style sport bike, with a righteous Harley Knucklehead motor shoehorned it it, at my Seedy X-Bar & Grill group. Some of the responses to it, shows how thoroughly political correctness has invaded the Biker Subculture:

“Nice if into those.”

“Great if you’re a fan…not for me.”

“Not only do I like it….”

“Tons of fun..”

Okay, let’s cut the crap. Let’s call this bike out for it is.

A piece of shit!

Then someone at The Seedy tried to defend his position on liking this oderiferous piece of crap, by asking me, “Are you more upset about the fashion or the function?” Huh? As Vince Lombardi used to say.

“What da hell’s goin’ on out deah?”

Just like the authorities couldn’t bring ’emselves to call the Fort Hood Shooter a “radical Islamic terrorist,” these bikers couldn’t bring ’emselves to call this Knucklesaki what it is—a piece of shit!

With respect to the Biker Subculture, my point of reference is always the heyday of the culture back in the 1960s and 1970s. Those were the days when the Subculture was chugging along like a 7,500 horsepower steam locomotive! The culture back then could not be stopped. if you disagreed with it, you were gonna be run over by this train!

Back then, the Biker Subculture was righteous, and it was pure!

THE OLD CULTURE: Like this 1957 7,500 horsepower Virginia Railway “Blue Ridge” steam locomotive! Look out!

What would the responses have been to this Knucklesaki from bikers in the 1960s and 1970s? Hey man, if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. The Biker Subculture has been so diluted, that it is virtually unrecognizable now. It makes me wonder if it’s dying. No matter. At The Seedy, we hew to the traditional. We believe, “I’d rather have my sister in whorehouse than my brother on a Honda.” You get the idea!