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GOING THE DISTANCE
"MY MENTOR PART 2"
MY BIG BROTHER: Tearin' up the pavement on a rigid back in the day.
Patty Boy Biondo was slapping his younger brother Charlie around, with a great deal of enjoyment. Why? Because he could. Patty Boy was older than Charlie in the pecking order of the Biondo sons. In order of age, there was Stevie, the oldest. Then Patty Boy, Charlie and Nicky in descending order. Although Charlie would later (in my estimation) become the biggest and toughest of the Biondo brothers, at this early juncture, Patty Boy could boss and slap Charlie around with impunity. It was the oldest formula for domination in the world: Might made right.
This took place in front of the Carvel ice cream place on Northern Boulevard between 87th and 88th Streets in Jackson Heights, the block where I and the Biondos lived. The Biondos' building was directly next to my house (note: New Yorkers always say "house" whether referring to an actual house or an apartment). In fact, their house and mine "kissed" in the middle, where a common air shaft with our respective windows faced each other. This allowed me to communicate with the Biondos, across this ten foot wide air shaft. The Biondo brothers have been my oldest friends, beginning from my infancy, it seems. In my earliest memories of growing up in Jackson Heights, the Biondos are there.
During this incident when Patty Boy was beating on Charlie Biondo, Charlie was in tears. But, along came Stevie Biondo, who I consider my Older Brother as well as Biker Mentor, who saw what was happening with Patty Boy and Charlie. Stevie swaggered up to Patty Boy, and Patty Boy instantly lost his smile. Stevie smacked Patty Boy with an open hand across the back of his head. It sounded like a discharge of a small-caliber revolver. "CRACK!" He did it a couple of times more, which had Patty Boy in tears and cowering. Stevie said to Patty Boy, "There ya go! How do you like it, huh? How does it feel, huh?"
I've given a great deal of thought to Stevie Biondo and his family, ever since I wrote "My Mentor Part 1". In fact, I've thought more about the Biondos in this short span of time, than the ten years preceding "My Mentor Part 1". It isn't just because I feel so incredibly close to Stevie Biondo, and my niece Denise Biondo-Kees (Stevie's daughter). It's more than that. It is also because of the large role that the Biondos played in the formation of my personality, from the time I was a young kid through my young adulthood. In retrospect, a large percentage of the way I think, act, and view the world, is attributable to my association with the Biondos.
Even I didn't realize the extent to which the Biondos helped to form and solidify my basic character, until I had this period of introspection that began when Denise reconnected with me through Facebook a few short months ago. I'm not just speaking of my Big Bother Stevie. I'm referring to the other brothers, as well. Although Stevie had the most influence on me, the rest of the brothers helped me to steer my personality in a specific direction, a direction which was indelible and profound. More on the other brothers later.
Getting back to when Stevie intervened when Patty Boy was picking on Charlie. This is a perfect example of Stevie Biondo's unerring moral compass and instinct for creating a teachable moment, encapsulated in one single action. Stevie wasn't merely stopping Patty Boy from hurting his younger brother. Stevie was teaching Patty Boy about the consequences of the inequity that Patty Boy was imposing on Charlie Biondo. It's one of the most used platitudes, but relevant here. Stevie was teaching Patty Boy a life lesson, by "giving him a taste of his own medicine." It was the right thing to do, and it was almost parental in its administration. I was just a casual observer of this action, not the recipient that Patty Boy was, but it was a lesson I've remembered to this day. My close friendship with the Biondos at an early age, has altered my personality, perhaps to a great number of degrees from where it might have ended up, if they weren't in my life when I was young.
They made me tough.
Would I have turned out this way, the way I am now, if the Biondos never entered my life? Maybe, but not as completely. I would have been a milder, more diluted version of myself, without the Biondo influence. When I was with the Biondos, there was always a great emphasis placed on being tough, physically and mentally. Peer pressure is a great teaching tool, and I don't believe my blood-siblings (I had one older brother, now deceased, and have two sisters) were ever exposed to the type of peer pressure the Biondos placed on me. Which is why I am so different from them with regard to being tough. It seems to me that I've had this chip on my shoulder since childhood, that is Biondoesque in nature. This makes me obnoxious and a bully sometimes, but that's me. That's also Patty Boy and Charlie, as I remember them.
Please note that I don't include Stevie in this company. He's never shown himself to be of this bullying type. He was always more even-keeled than Patty Boy and Charlie. I'm not beyond throwing my weight around when I want my way. I accept this about myself, for better or worse, for good or ill--that's the way I am---so it doesn't matter. In this way, I identify with Patty Boy Biondo and Charlie Biondo. I don't believe that Nicky Biondo, the youngest of the brothers, is like this. Nicky was mild-mannered and easygoing.
Whenever I was around Patty Boy and Charlie, it was Macho City, and it seemed perfectly natural to be this way. I don't want to use the word thuggish, but it may apply when seen through the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Polite Society---Mr. amd Mrs. Society Norm. Who's to say what's "normal" or not? It depends on the personality-tinted lens of your peers, that you and your peers are peering through.
I'm not saying that my innate personality isn't alpha male, anyway. The genetics, where they may have come from (I suspect that it came from my mother's side of the family, two or more generations ago), are there. I'm just saying that hanging around Patty Boy Biondo and Charlie Biondo, enabled the flourishing of this trait in me. We admired strength and dominance in the natural course of our lives. It seemed like the way things should be, period. Frankly, I still think like this, and always will.
I recall an incident during my junior high school days, when I was attending JHS 145 in Jackson Heights. There was a guy I was friends with, who I lifted weights with at Abe Goldberg's gym in The City. His name was Paul Marros. Paul was quite strong, with an enviable bench press. For some forgettable reason, Paul was going around saying that he could take Charlie Biondo in a fight. Charlie heard about this, and of course, couldn't let this insult go unanswered. They met near JHS 145 after classes one day. The fight was basically over before it began. Charlie Biondo just sauntered up to Marros, and dominated him mentally, while raining punishing blows on him. It was an impressive beating, which led me to lose respect for Marros. He quit before the first punch was thrown.
I have numerous stories I could tell about Patty Boy, but heaping these memories up like Richard Dreyfuss building that mountain of mashed potatoes in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" might shock your sensibilities. Especially if you're of the Mr. and Mrs. Polite Society Persuasion. The point is, I recognize how much Patty Boy Biondo and Charlie Biondo influenced me, and how that influence helped to substantially shape the way that my character ended up. For that I say, "Thank you" to them.
Patty Boy and Charlie however, were not bikers. It was Stevie who was and is the biker, and it is Stevie that I credit the most, for making me the biker that I am. As you know, my column in Iron Horse magazine was titled, "Going the Distance." The thrust of my writing for bikers has always celebrated the idea of riding one's Harley forever, and loving one's Harley like the living beast that she is. She lives! And breathes. And feels. But in retrospect, I didn't develop this philosophy and attitude about "going the distance" with one's motorcycle, in a vacuum. Looking back, I realize that Stevie's philosophy regarding cherishing and riding one's motorcycle forever, rubbed off on me.
As he was, I am. As he is, I still am.
My Big Brother, and Motorcycling Mentor, Stevie Biondo, has ridden bikes all his life. Stevie suffered a sudden health impediment in late 2012, that has prevented him from riding his beloved motorcycle. In fact, on the very morning that he developed this problem, he was about to go for a ride on his bike. To put this into perspective from a perserverence point of view, keep in mind that Stevie is years older than me---and I'm 67 now. However, that last time I talked with Stevie, he voiced an optimism regarding his ability to physically rehabilitate and get back on his bike. That is his goal. He is mentally on his motorcycle, even if he's not physically capable of riding right now. That's really "going the distance," and I don't doubt that he can do it. It's just a matter of time. Later.