Click here for Home
GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE YOUNG BIKER"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
Behold my friend, as you pass by.
As you are, I once was.
As I am, you shall soon be.
This is a cautionary tale meant to edify. If it helps even one young biker reading this, then it will be worth it. If it doesn't, then hey, at least you had something interesting to read besides the usual garbage found in the mainstream chopper magazines.
It is not meant to be a template for living. It is to merely shed light on the options available to the young biker, as his or her life unfolds before him or her. Realize that a biker has an uncanny amount of control over the future, if that biker exercises it. It may seem as if, especially when you're young, that we're all dragged along by the currents of life---unable to alter our course. That is not true, and this becomes more apparent to us, as we get older.
This might be perceived as gratuitous advice, because it is. It ain't costin' me a penny.
I was a young biker of twenty-two, forty years ago, when I made myself two promises, which I was determined to keep. These are the two promises I made to myself, which I have stayed true to:
(1) I would always have a Harley-Davidson, no matter what.
(2) I would never go to jail.
Not many of you know this, but Snow actually became my martial arts student for a time. One day after he first started in my school, I said to him...."I'll always have a Harley. What good is a biker if he can't keep that promise to himself?" To this, Snow answered with a rhetorical question. He said, "So, you're a purist?" That first promise has been an ironclad guarantee with me.
The second promise has been kept too.
As a young biker, the writing was on the wall for me. It would not be easy, but it could be done. The predestination may have seemed inevitable if the trend held, for it was foretold in the lifestyle of generations of bikers before me. It seemed that the road taken by the prototypical bikers before me, and even the contemporaneous bikers who rode the streets at the same time I did, were meant for a hard-scrabble life of prison and heartache. This I vowed to myself, would never happen to me. The violation of the second self-made promise, not to go to prison---obviated the need for the first promise, the promise to always have a Harley. The reason? If you're incarcerated, you can't have a Harley. Simple as that. Ya gotta be out to ride.
A few years ago I corresponded with Steve Yee, another Chinese-American biker. Steve is a Hell's Angel from Ohio who's a lifer in prison on a murder beef. We compared notes on our experiences as Chinese-American bikers, and how these impacted our general attitudes.
I felt bad for Steve. He had lost all his chances to be in the wind on his beloved Harley, seemingly for all time---barring a legal miracle. What struck me so deeply about Steve's predicament, was the futility of it all. Sure, things happen, but things can be avoided if enough prescience is present. One thing I've always stressed to my martial arts students, was the development of their presence of mind, with regard to circumstances on the street, and in life in general in order to prevail.
Steve was a biker in jail hungry for input from the outside world. You could read it in his words, and between the lines in his letters. If it was so easy to free another biker by waving a magic wand, I would've freed Steve so that he could enjoy life and his Harley-Davidson the way that we lucky ones can.
All the ingredients were there 40 years ago for me, for a different twist in my life. The hostile attitude toward the world....FTW! Being on the fringes of a biker social circle in the East Village of the Lower Beast Side, that swirled around the epicenter of a disillusionment with society that was both deep and self-feeding. Hey man, we as bikers, were special! Ya know what? With regard to that, I still feel the same way---bikers are a special breed of people.
The stigma of being a biker was there, that brought with it a possible self-fulfilling prophesy that might've been inevitible except for a few small circumstantial turns, that might have altered the future as I know it. The rage that called for impulsive action, was blunted by a balance offered by discipline, greater counter-desire, and happenstance. Life is a mystery, often indecipherable until seen in retrospect later. It could've been me in prison instead of Steve, without question. Fortunately for me, my loner nature overcame, and I believe that this is what saved me from fate. The social aspects of the biker subculture often lean in the direction of incarceration. Many bikers accept it as "coming with the territory." The contingency of the opposite view must be considered on a personal basis, for this is critical.
Some time ago, Brendan, the president of the NYC HAMC called me to talk about my correspondance with Steve. It's a sad thing to contemplate a man behind bars for maybe, forever. "Forever" has a hard ring to it. That ring is somehow muted, yet as pronounced at the the same time, as the slamming of the steel door of opportunity. Life is all about opportunity. The opportunity for another outcome. It is difficult to chart a course in life that will yield the most reward. Harder still, when the eddies of life's cruelty steers us into actions which could work against us. It can be done, though. Steer yourself in life as steadily and with as much prudence, as you would steer your Harley's handlebars. Later.