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by Genghis

THE WHITE CASTLE IN JACKSON HEIGHTS: An iconic place from my Queens life



"....Like an oasis! Man, I wish Duluth still had one of these around. Growing up in Minneapolis, we used to go for burgers in the wee hours. We called it "Dinner and a Show"...and usually for good reason! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I believe there's a quick trip to Hinckley in my immediate future...."



I let Big Mike Mercurio ride my XLCH "Sally The Bitch" one day in 1969. We were across the street from the White Castle, which was, and still is located on the southeast corner of 88th Street and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York. Man, some institutions are like life and taxes and never go away, like White Castle, Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor and bikers who love Harley-Davidsons. Big Mike popped the clutch on Sally, she did a ginormous wheely and Big Mike and my bike ended up screaming across four lanes of streaming traffic going two ways, missing cars by inches. He and Sally finally ended up roaring headlong into the White Castle's parking lot, where Sally clipped her fork on a metal post before Big Mike got Sally under control....



To say that I was pissed off would be like understating Lindsey Lohan's behavioral eccentricities. Sally's right fork leg had a huge gash in her chrome. It was pure luck that Sally was able to track straight after that. I wouldn't be surprised if that White Castle on the southeast corner of 88th Street and Northern Boulevard existed before bikers bobbed their knuckleheads. I have family photo albums of the 'ole neighborhood, with photos showing nothing but empty lots surrounding my family's building,and yet---there it stood in all of its magnificence: the White Castle on the southeast corner of 88th Street and Northern Boulevard. Mind you, my parents took these pictures when they moved to Jackson Heights in the early 1930s.

White Castle was founded by Walter A. Anderson from Wichita, Kansas in 1921, and the rest as they say, is History Channel. These neat little restaurants popped up all over the nation in the ensuing years, and have become an integral component of American Pop Culture. Certainly the one in Jackson Heights became a part of the biker subculture of my youth. The White Castle on 88th and Northern was a magnet for bikers at nighttime. Hangin' out there with others of my own kind was ice, ice, baby!

There was me on my Sportster. There was Lupo on his rigid pan. Stevie Biondo, who is a mentor and like an older brother to me, on his panhead with the fishtails. Fat Frank on his candy apple blue rigid pan with the banana tank. Frank used a small throw pillow as a seat---the type that you'd use on your couch. Whenever Frank parked his pan, he'd take the pillow with him. He did this because as he said, "....the bike looks so good without a seat...." There was crazy Gallagher with his rigid XLCH. Gallagher had a mean streak a mile wide. Of course, there was Big Mike with his panhead. There were others, some of whose names I marginally remember, and the rest whose names I couldn't dredge up from my memory banks if a thousand bucks depended on it.

From my earliest childhood years, I've had a sordid and intimate history with White Castle. It wasn't exactly a fetish, but mebbe a codependency bordering on symbiosis. I had an almost daily habit of mounting midnight raids on White Castle---and this was after having dinner---to buy a dozen of those cheeseburger belly bombs and a large order of fries as a snack. Lucky for me that the White Castle was open 24/7. I was a big eater in those days. Man, did I love those "Slyders" as they were often referred to. When I was a kid, they cost eleven cents each.

The burgers? Cheap. The memories of Harley riders congregating at White Castle? Priceless. I still dig riding around the 'ole hood on Mabel, my Harley 74. The bike's changed, but the feeling of riding the streets of Queens retain that nostalgic magic. I recently saw Gallagher at the Mobil gas station in Jackson Heights, and would ya believe that he still has a rigid Sportster? Don't know if it's the same one or not, but he's persistent. You know that he's going the distance. Dig it---he's gotta be close to 70 now.

White Castle is representative of a teachable moment in my life. Whenever I make cheeseburgers ( I make 'em using a hamburger stamp), I poke holes in 'em using a chopstick before I cook 'em, just like how White Castle forms their square little burgers with the holes in 'em. These holes promote more even cooking throughout the meat.

"Hey Genghis, howz that hole pokin' of the burgers workin' out for ya?"

Hey man, works for me and White Castle. Just as valuable as the culinary lessons that White Castle's taught me, are my motorcycle-related memories that revolve around White Castle. It is most fitting that White Castle, which has filled my life from my youngest days, is a cornerstone of that memory. Whenever I ride by 88th and Northern on my stroker Harley Mabel, that White Castle still sits there like a benevolent Buddha, waiting to dispense his tasty benefits to the seeking hungry masses. Long Live White Castle. Long Live The King. Later.