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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MEMOIR PART 3"
Photo courtesy of Spade George
LONG AGO: George at his Daly City house where I visited him in 1971.
"If I wasn't black I'd be in the Hell's Angels."
Every segment of a memoir is like a motorcycle ride, in that it has a beginning point, which we'll call "home." Home in this case, was at Spade George's house in Daly City, California. This is where we'll start Part 3 of my memoir.
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 Hell's Angels. There have been exceptions to the white-majority status of the club, dating back to Chinese Mel of the Frisco Angels in the 1960s. Another is Steven Yee, of the Ohio chapter. I've have written about Steve periodically. He's been incarcerated for 25 years, now. Another Chinese member is John, a New York Nomad.
Yet another exception to the white-majority status of the HAMC, is Daniel Uneputty, a former president of the Amsterdam (Holland) HAMC. Daniel is of Indonesian descent.
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 HAMC, was a multiracial club.
George's club disbanded shortly before George moved to Daly City, after another Rat Packer killed my friend, Mitch "Hippie" Diamond. I wrote about this incident in "Memoir Part 2. I've never spoken to Spade George about Mitch's killing, or the disbanding of the Rat Pack MC, for two reasons. One, George had zero to do with Mitch's murder, and two, because I've always felt that to bring these subjects up with George would cause a loss of face for him. I didn't want that to happen. One has to be mindful of a friend's sense of pride and honor. I've always felt that this was a basic point of etiquette in the biker subculture, which shares much with martial arts etiquette in terms of ceremonial behavior. As much as bikers think of 'emselves as freewheeling in behavior, we follow unwritten rules of honor and pride.
And so it was during my 1971 visit with George, when my first wife Nancie and I rode up to Daly City 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.
I never brought Mitch Diamond or the Rat Pack MC up with George on that trip. 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 PHC starts in San Diego, as it wends its sinuous way northward 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 inivted 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 40 years, that there remain only three vivid memories about our visit to George's Daly City house. One, on the way up to the top floor, we passed a bedroom on the second floor (or floor "1 1/2," depending on your perspective) 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 (see how smart I am), 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 another white biker sittin' with us, 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. 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 sure whose sounds, made George's straight neighbors extremely glad that George lived next door to 'em. 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 segment began the year before.....hang on, folks......
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. By this time, Nancie has stopped tripping, so she did not indulge on this occasion. 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 Angels, whose president, Sandy Alexander, was under siege by The Man.
The Dead were good this way. They were tight with the HAMC, and did not hesitate to contribute their time and talent for Angels.
The Dead's concert took place at the Anderson Theater, which was considered a poor stepsister to the Fillmore East, which 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---if you can dig it---a gay bar. The Fillmore East is now a bank.
The Anderson Theater was only a block away from the Hell's Angels' clubhouse, which was and still is on 3rd Street between First and Second Avenues. This chapter has managed to peservere through decades of prosecutorial harrassment, including I believe, RICO indictments.
I can't remember what arrangements we made for our son Mike for the night. Nancie and I may have arranged an overnight stay with a friends for Mike. By the time Nancie and I reached the Anderson Theater, the effects of the mescaline was startin' to kick in, 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, a way that I'm having difficulty in distinguishing in coherent terms, 43 years later.
Frankly, 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 memories. The first was the appearance of the ticket-taker at the theater. He was a Hell's 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. The second memory, 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 of Long Island or upstate New York. Sometimes they'd ride out to Jones Beach, or explore Old Country Road. Other times they might drive to Bear Mountain or other points upstate. On this sunday, they'd finished their ride and came home for afternoon coffee, when Pop suddenly keeled over in the kitchen, coffee cup in hand. The best that could be said about this day, was that he didn't pass away while piloting his Malibu SS. It could've been much worse if Pop passed away behind the wheel, while doin' 70 on the highway.
Eddie informed me that my brother Don brought Mom to his house in Elmhurst (another Queens neighborhood) to stay overnight.
My family converged at Don's house after daybreak all bleary-eyed. None of us got any useful sleep. I was there with Nancie. My sister Dottie was there with her husband Eddie and my sister Nancy was there by herself. 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 General Hospital where my father was pronounced dead hours before, and yes, where I landed when I had my wreck on my faithful Shovelhead Mabel, 24 years later (I hate that hospital). Doctors were able to save her life, and Mom was placed in the psych ward at Elmhurst General, 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 on tight...because.....
DAVID SNOW IN "KILLJOY KILL SWITCH"
".....I had been worried about Animal Mother lying dormant....but....she fired right up...."
MARCH 30, 2013:
Man, that was some swerve, huh? Right into the present When, instead of the distant past. Did ya get whiplash back there on the back of my Harley Memoircycle? Hope not. We've gotta work on your neck muscles.
Actually, this is about the past, just not the distant past. This happened this morning. By definition, I'm still within the parameters of a memoir, for a memoir is a personal account of the past experiences of the author. This past experience just happened a lot more recently than my visit to Spade George in '71.
Regarding Snow's anxiety about his bike lying dormant, hey, we all get that, man. In fact, I get it at the beginning of every riding season. There's always a period every year, when inclement weather and frigid temps keep my ever-lovin' '71 Super Glide, "Mabel" inactive for stretches of time. Before I start 'er up after such periods every year, I always have a certain amount of anxiety, and yes, guilt (exacerbated because Mabel's kept in an outdoor parking lot, where she's exposed to all that Mother Nature and Old Man Winter has to throw at her), too. This morning was no exception.
I went to Mabel's parking lot, prepared to get her Avons up to 32 psi with my handy little bicycle pump from Kmart, as there was sure to be some air leakage since the last time I gauged 'em. "PUMP....PUMP....PUMP...." There ya go, 32 psi, as the crow measures with his handy little gauge. I don't mind tellin' ya that my heart was racing even before I left my apartment to get to Mabel, and my palms were doing a pretty good imitation of a WWE rassler's armpits after a match. I was that worked up (a euphemism for "nervous"....because bikers ain't supposed to get nervous...) about startin' Mabel up for the first ride of the season. It's unbelievable! Here I am, 66 years old, and I still get this anxious feeling that I've gotten for every year, for the past 45 years! You'd think that I would've gotten over this by now, but nooooo.....I still get them butterflies in my stomach when I approach My Harley for that annual first start. That never changes for me. Patty tells me that that's a good thing. I agree, because it signals love, and involvement with the bike. If that ever goes...don't even say it, man.
Butterflies are free!
Butterflies in the stomach may be free for your humble reporter, but Harley batteries aren't. Okay, I got to the parking lot, pumped up Mabel's tires, apply Mabel's new "2014" registration sticker on her license plate. Turn on the gas, key the ignition on (but lights off), lift the enrichener on Mabel's S & S Super B, and hold Mabel's starter toggle switch, which is mounted right in front of her right rear shock mount, to the left. Here's what I get:
Battery's dead, time fer a new one! I don't bring Mabel's battery indoors and hook it up to a trickle charger in the winter. I find that I get three or four years of service out of each battery by just leaving it in the bike all year round.
When the battery finally croaks, then I just buy a new one. I got three years out of this one.
I just ordered a new H-D AGM (#65991-82B) battery online. When It gets here, I'll trickle charge it for 36 hours before gracing Mabel's battery tray with it. I've been told that charging a new out-of-the-box battery's not necessary, but I'm a little anal about that. Not trickle charging it makes me nervous (oh, I forgot...bikers don't get nervous). A battery's one thing that Snow doesn't have to worry about every year, since he rides a kick-only XLCH. I can remember those halcyon days when I didn't have to think about batteries. Would I trade? Nah.
Okay, here we go again. hang on!
SOMETIME IN 1968:
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, except that she wasn't exactly stock.
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" (think of the one that Fatty Arbuckle wore!) around Queens and Brooklyn. If one begins on the Belt Parkway after the Cross Island Parkway segues into it and continues on the route, it will 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 Cross Island Parkway, Shore Parkway, Southern Parkway and Laurelton Parkway comprise what is known as the "Belt System." The Belt System, when the Cross Island Parkway is excluded, is the Belt Parkway, proper. The Belt System is a highly scenic route, that treats bikers 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, and carried enough momentum to bring us off of the exit, and 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, 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 (and also to always carry dimes, if I didn't have a gapping tool with me!). I also started adjusting my bike's soild lifters myself, after that day. I was very thankful to that older biker for teaching me something, and told him so. Later.