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GOING THE DISTANCE
Photo by Genghis
MECHANICS ALLEY, NYC:
My Harley 74 lookin' for a wrench.
EXCHANGE AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"Fab Kevin is a good guy, I've gotten to know him well through the custom parts I had him make for me over the years. The guy knows his shit and lives in a dog eat dog world where ideas and intellectual property are stolen by others constantly, and you wouldn't believe what he has gone through with that. Dan R., though more than a bit arrogant ( I've had my pissin' matches with him on procedures on engine and trans building), also has alot to bring to the table, even though I don't buy the "what Dan says is golden" theory. The bikes. Look at Scott's Mabel, she is shovel-headed, round swingarm perfection. A truly gorgeous bike by anyone's standards--unless yer an idiot. Look at E-man's shovel in comparison. Every bad Horse BC thrown-on trend is on that bike. Just hideous and awful....There is not a shred of old-time class on that bike."
"Sorry if I came off as arrogant to you, guess I don't recall what it was over. Can you remind me? I'm guessing the tech page. I have my ways that have worked well for me over the years. When I stray from them, problems pop up. Oh yeah, I have screwed up lots of shovelheads, my way of learning. I also am not much of a people person. If someone asks me something tech related, I will forever pass along what I have learned the hard way. If that person doesn't like what I have to say and says their way is better, then why did he bother to ask me? If that's what happened between you and me, oh well. I can't speak for the mag or any one who is part of it, my words are mine alone. I am betting there are days they wish they never heard of me. Now for the arrogant part. How many shovelheads have you built in the last 25-30 years that are still running? I have kinda lost count here. "
"I don't have a beef with you. You just tend to come off like everything you say is right, and everything someone else says is wrong. At 53 years of age, over the years I've found the best wrenches have no problem learning new things, and new challenges.
Pleased to introduce myself, name is Michael Zaputil. I'm from Los Angeles. Got my start at Van Nuys Cycle, the local HD dealer near where I grew up. My across the street neighbor of my parents' home at that time, 1970s, was their machinist. He taught me at 14 out of his garage everything he knew, and gave me my first job making hardware. At 18, he got me into Van Nuys Cycle where I worked as an apprentice for shit pay for 5 years, but I learned a lot. At 23, I left and went on to drugs, sex, and punk rock & roll.
At age 32 for my own sanity, and to clean up from the mess I made of my life, I took the first straight bike related job I could, that being at Micah McCloskey's Custom Cycles in Canoga Park S.F.V.(San Fernando Valley). Micah was an old time Indian wrench and enthusiast from Monrovia, a suburb east of L.A .He was one of the wrenches on Joe Teresi's Easyriders Bonnville Streamliner in the early 90s. He also pretty much had a unwriten contract with the S.F.V. Red and White, we serviced all of their bikes.
Through them, I got to know Sonny Barger, when he would come down from Oakland. Eventually, I moved to Arizona. As luck would have it, Sonny moved there the previous year, and I worked at his shop until he closed it down, for reasons I won't get into here.
So yeah, I've built a few shovelheads. I don't brag about it, probably nowhere near as many as you have. I've never met you, but you have a darn good reputation from what I've heard. Fab Kevin has nothing but good things to say about you, and I believe him. That said, why take any of this personally?......You must have been intrigued by us or you wouldn't be here. I've been here at the Seedy X-Bar on and off since 1999, and I've never seen you here. Welcome. And we're not the shitheads Ralph would lead you to believe. Kinda like Rush Limbaugh, takes about six months to really know us. So with that, jump on in and join the party."
"Beneath the Manhattan Bridge is a charming spit of land known simply as Mechanics Alley. With the buzzing clamor of traffic and subway trains high above, this narrow passage is bookended by Madison Street on the south and Henry Street on the north; however, the alley continues unmarked until its termination at Monroe Street.
The history of Mechanics Alley is quite extensive, and Forgotten NY points us to this New York Times article from March 2000:
'In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the term ”mechanic” was loosely applied to a wide range of artisans, builders and craftsmen. New York was one of many American cities to have a Mechanics Row, Alley or Place near the waterfront, usually where ships were built and repaired.
The first shipbuilding yards in Manhattan were established at the foot of Catherine Street in 1728. By the 1790′s the yards covered the waterfront all the way to Corlears Hook, attracting carpenters, smiths, shipwrights, coopers, chandlers, joiners, sail makers and rope makers.
Mechanics Alley appears on maps of the district from the early 1800′s on, but it runs closer to the riverfront, between Cherry and Monroe Streets, while another tiny lane, called Birmingham Alley, runs from Madison to Henry Streets. Presumably, the two alleys were joined at some point. Mechanics Alley disappeared from city maps after the Manhattan Bridge was constructed, almost directly overhead, in 1905.' "
Photo by Genghis
BE CAREFUL: Ya nver know who you'll run into in Mechanics Alley.
This is a salute to the ace mechanics of the biker subculture, from my wrench Andrew Rosa to wrenches like Mike Zapp and Dan R. They are the 60 weight that lubricates the innards of the biker subculture, the guys that define and refine how those Harleys under our lucky asses run. Andrew Rosa is the legendary motor builder from Long Island, who is a disciple of the famous "Big Jim" McCauley. Ace wrenches man, we couldn't do without 'em. Much is made of the home builders who hack together XS650s in their wives' kitchens, but not enough recognition goes to the professional wrenches that build our motorcycle mills, like Andrew Rosa, Mike Zapp and Dan R.
Photo by Genghis
MOTORS LIKE MABEL'S 86 INCH STROKER MOTOR:
Not possible with out wrenches like Andrew, Mike and Dan.
Speaking of Mechanics Alley in NYC, looks like we've got out own Mechanics Alley at the Seedy X-Bar. Although wrenches like Dan R. have greater name recognition because of his exposure in magazines, ace wrenches like Mike Zapp run under the radar, whose skillsets have bettered the lives of many in the biker subculture. Mechanics like Mike Zapp dot every town and state in this great country of ours, and they achieve local kudos but not national reknown.
These Harley wrenches are the forgotten heroes who deserve a hearty salute from the silent majority. Hey man, we salute you!
I've gotta admit, I found this exchange between Mike and Dan interesting reading, a true inner look at what greases the 16s and 21s in our culture. This is precisely the type of interesting reading that is missing from the chop rags on the stands today. Nobody in these rags has the editorial foersight to print opposing or controversial views like this exchange in paper print. Also, didn't you find Zapp's bio fascinating?
Photo by Genghis
MYSTERIOUS MECHANICS ALLEY IN NYC:
For once, an accurate urban legend.
Mechanics Alley in New York City is at once, a fascinating and foreboding site. A narrow street full of historical significance, it can be seen as a metaphor for the unknown ace mechanics like Mike Zapp. Mechanics Alley is not the sort of alley you'd like to venture into at night, without your trusty .45 ACP by your side. Mechanics Alley is relatively unknown even to native New Yorkers, much like wrenches like Mike Zapp are unknown to the biker subculture at large. Every time I've walked through Mechanics Alley, I've run into mysterious and shadowy folks. Can you say "rack the slide?" When I reached for my camera's shutter release, I could've just as easily been instinctively reaching for my Colt's trigger.
Guys like Zapp though, are less foreboding. I admire and respect Mike's views on Harley-Davidsons and the biker subculture. Here's a salute to ace wrenches like Mike, and to Mechanics Alley in NYC. Later.