Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Achilles Heel of Outlaw MC's-the Prisoner Dilemma


News agencies report regularly on law enforcement infiltraiton of MC's across the country, across the globe, in fact.  Time and again these stories reveal that somebody within the cherished brotherhood of the MC has ultimately flipped and ratted out his comrades.  You see their blacked out faces on TV series like Gangland, where the former MC member has turned on his brothers and is now working as a CI (Confidential Informant), typically paid by LE for his/her information and cooperation. 

If the bond of the so-called "brotherhood," arguably the greatest benefit to being an MC member, is so sacrosanct why is it that we see this story of betrayal repeat itself so often?  And why is it that "brothers" continue to fail to see this Achilles Heel for themsleves and their clubs, while the antidote to this dilemma in many cases is to just "Shut the Fuck Up!"  But what prevents that from happening again and again?

Game theorists and cops understand why; it's call the Prisoner Dilemma.  Here's how it works (extracted from Wikipedia website).

Two men are arrested, but the police do not have enough information for a conviction. The police separate the two men, and offer both the same deal: if one testifies against his partner (defects/betrays), and the other remains silent (cooperates with/assists his partner), the betrayer goes free and the one that remains silent gets a one-year sentence. If both remain silent, both are sentenced to only one month in jail on a minor charge. If each 'rats out' the other, each receives a three-month sentence. Each prisoner must choose either to betray or remain silent; the decision of each is kept secret from his partner. What should they do? If it is assumed that each player is only concerned with lessening his own time in jail, the game becomes a non-zero sum game where the two players may either assist or betray the other. The sole concern of the prisoners seems to be increasing his own reward. The interesting symmetry of this problem is that the optimal decision for each is to betray the other, even though they would be better off if they both cooperated.

Now imagine what happens when the stakes are so much higher.  20-30 years in prison.

Unless you are criminaly psychotic, insane, or totally delusional, you are mostly human, therefore experience a wide cross range of emotions, including fear, love, hope, anger, etc.  But mostly, you are controlled by your Ego, which screams with all its might that above all else you must survive!

Look over at your brother.  Study him for a minute.  And ask yourself this question:  If he were facing the choice of spending 20 years of his life behind bars, losing his Old Lady, kids, income, his ride, the ride, would he sell me out for keeping his life that he likes so much?  Then ask yourself, would I sell out my brothers if I were in that dilemma?  Remember that even Jesus was betrayed, sold out by Judas, and Cain killed his brother Abel.

What choice would you make?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lane Splitting...CRAZY or NECESSARY?!

Have you ever tried lane splitting?  What is lane splitting you ask?  I say it's nuts!  But, in some situations it's absolutely necessary, even if not legal.

In general, lane splitting refers to a motorcycle being ridden between lanes of vehicles that are moving in the same direction, passing stopped or slower traffic.

If you frequent the highways and byways of California, either as a bike rider or a cage driver you've experienced this first hand.  Of course, if you've driven or ridden the roads of California you totally understand why bikers choose to split lanes; traffic is constant and congested, at least in my experience.  And as dangerous as it seems, I too have split lanes while stuck in traffic between San Diego and L.A.

But it's now more dangerous than ever.  It seems that virtually all cage drivers are on the cell phone, talking or texting, despite its illegality in many cities and states.  So splitting lanes, especially today, is a death-defying act.

On the otherhand, imagine sitting in rush hour traffic in Phoenix during the warmer (hotter!) months of the year and watching and listening to your air-cooled engine slowly dying from overheating.  I have had to suffer that situation on too many occasions.  While it's not legal in Arizona to split lanes, I know many bikers who do so when stalled in traffic, and I think appropriately so.  If you find yourself stuck in traffic in a high heat situation the choices seem to be risk a ticket and save your engine or sit and listen to your engine dissolve beneath you.  I'll go with the risk for the ticket; it's a lot cheaper than a new engine which could easily cost thousands of dollars.

And, lastly, there's always the risk taker that thinks splitting lanes, even when there's no need for it is a fun and exciting way to make the commute, some of them pulling wheelies while splitting the lanes.  Exciting to see?  Yes.  Nothing wrong with wheelies in my opinion, but when you are putting others at risk it's stupid.

Does your state allow lane splitting?  Would you do it?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Biker Bars 2

"That's all we serve!" the bartender shouted out over the din of dozens of bikers and the loud music, as he slammed the Budweiser beer bottle on the bar.  Dozens of leather clad bikers and their women stood shoulder to shoulder, virtually everyone holding a red labeled dark brown Budweiser bottle. No one but I noticed the bartender's admonition to my x-wife. The bartender looked over at me and I replied with a wry smile, hoping that he understood that my wife was a novice to this type of place. 

Nowadays it's pretty hard to find a true biker bar.  Most biker bars have had to accept that survival of the bar is going to take more than a few seedy bikers, so it's not unusual to walk into a biker bar and see some college kids dressed in a polo shirts, shorts, and sandals, standing at the pool table with their college buddies alongside hard-core bikers.

And then there's the bars that really try to cater to bikers, but struggle with allowing MC members to wear 'colors' while in their bars.  Until the infamous "riot" at Harrah's casino in Laughlin in 2002, it was not unusual to see patch wearing MC members in many of the bars.  Now bar owners's fears of lawsuits from victims and innocent bystanders and damage to the facility and its reputation preclude the option for this self identification in most bars these days.  This is how it is now for most small bars in towns all over America.

So what once was a place where bikers could rally together and party together, has now been forever changed because of a few foolish badasses, fueled by alcohol.  A quintessential American scene has been lost.

I keep telling my new wife that we should open a biker bar.  Of course, non-bikers would be welcomed, but the place would exemplify the American iconic image of the biker, simple, patriotic, and fun-loving.  Of course, there'd have to be loud rock music, shapely young ladies serving the drinks, and plenty of room for wet t-shirt contests and the like.   And motorcycle only parking for sure.

What's your idea of a great biker bar?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Biker dudes and jewelry...


My wife wears lots of jewelry.  Many other women and girls wear jewelry.  And bikers do too.  And I'm talking the male of the species.

The first man I ever saw with an earring, outside of some pirate in a movie, was my badass biker friend Steve.   He showed up at my dad's funeral adorned with a small gold cross in his left earlobe.  Now Steve is about as badass a man as ever walked the earth.  Steve's mom had more tattoos than most men and she road a Harley long ago, and when my brother and I greeted Steve at the airport upon return from his second tour in Vietnam he was wearing a necklace of a dozen dried leathery shruken ears around his neck.  Ears that he had cut off from dead Viet Cong figthers.  No kidding. 

For a long time about the closest thing to jewelry that a biker wore was the chain on his wallet or a plain neck chain.  Today, it's not uncommon to see a biker wearing rings on several fingers, earrings, (although noticeably fewer than not too long ago), and neck chains with intricate pendants. 

And this trend has not gone without notice.  Several jewelry companies have found success in meeting the needs of the biker.  One of the more recent and very successful makers of biker jewelry is NightRider Jewelry of Phoenix, AZ.  It's an American company, something all American bikers want.  I have followed NightRider's progress for several years, and I have purchased a few of their pieces.   The picture below shows the style of ring I purchased from NightRider a couple of years ago.  Exceptional quality, but not inexpensive.  But as the old adage goes: you get what you pay for. 


I also recently took a trip to Prescott, AZ where I stopped in at a small shop named Newman Gallery located along this Old West town's infamous Whiskey Row.  Donna, owner of the shop with her husband David carried one of the better sets of biker jewelry I have seen in most any ecclectic shop in Arizona that I have visited.  Most pieces are made by regional and local artisans, so the unique designs are apparent.

More shops and manufacturer's need to 'see' the large market of bikers out there, and like NightRider and Newman, focus their energies on taking care of that market's desires.  NightRider attends most of the big biker rallies with an up-scale display, well worth a visit, but other companies too need to recognize the potential market and begin to respond to the growing demand.   There are millions of bikers roaming the roads of America.  All seem to want to wear items that reflect their passion for the ride, and jewelry is a growing and fashionable way to make that statement.

Jewelry is not just for your momma anymore.  Do you wear biker jewelry?  What kind? 

Biker shows in how you ride...

While the Motocycle Club stands as the epitome of biker brotherhood, many other goups, organized or not, even the last minute ad hoc weekend ride of friends, connotes some level of brotherhood.  After all, the riders all have something in common, they ride.  But how strong is that brotherhood?  How you ride with each other and how you respond to situations as an individual and a group speaks loudly to how you are committed to your fellow bikers.

One envisions MC members riding side by side, inches apart, traveling in a tight formation at high speeds through city streets, running red lights, passing unexpecting motorists, just having fun making a lot of noise and making a good show of it.  No, most riders don't ride like that, and I wouldn't recommend running red lights, but if you have you know that it's an adrenaline rush.  Not so safe, but fun and exciting for sure.

Like the Blue Angels, the Navy's elite pilots who fly supersonic jets within inches of each other, the willingness and ability to ride within inches of each other, risking certain injury if not death with an accident, few but the hard core bikers dare to travel this way.  Riding this way certainly says something about those bikers.  Trust is paramount to riding like this.  Years ago when I sometimes rode with a friend of mine who was a hard core MC biker, he would make it clear to anyone new to the ride that if you couldn't keep up, then "stay the fuck away" from him and be in the back.  Those that couldn't handle the pace of the ride rarely returned for another ride with him.  Honestly, it wasn't easy following Steve.  He had NO fear, maybe even a death wish.

To me, how you ride speaks volumes about your competence, self-assuredness, and your commitment to the group.  I stopped riding in "organized" rides a while back because of the frustrating combination of good riders and not so good riders (and too many rules!).  Any size to the group and it easily gets strung out over the road, forcing some to get stuck at stop lights, break up of the line with some cage squeezing in between riders, etc.  That's just not for me.

So I ride with a few, very few, regulars.  And even at that I get frustrated by laggards in the group.  But because mostly they are my friends I put up with it, unlike my friend Steve who would have berrated many of my friends for the way they ride.  And at that, my friends will mostly tell you I ride up front.  That's not my ego, mind you, it's my brain telling me to lead the way so I don't end up in the rear end of another rider out front who decides to jack up on the brakes because he sees a cop or something else ahead.   That's a good way to end friendships, and maybe even lives, so I don't tolerate that kind of bullshit, and I ride up front, whether they like it or not.  When I ride as part of a group, and I'm in a situation where I'm not in the lead, I am totally committed to following the leader, speed wise and lane wise, so I have to trust them.  

In addition to riding like a brotherhood, I also believe that that means tat all share the gain, AND THE PAIN.  So if a situation were to come that we were stopped by a cop for speeding, and the leader were issued the ticket, I believe it is MY obligation as well as every other rider in that group to cover the cost of the ticket with the one getting the ticket.  No exceptions.  If you're not committed to that, then you really are not my brother on the road.  Stay home or ride with someone else please.

How you ride together speaks volumes of your commitment to each other. If you are a laggard and you miss the green light don't expect me to pull over and baby sit you waiting for you to catch up.  Get over that shit!  And, at the same time, I'm not expecting that we ride down the road with reckless abandon, throwing safety totally to the wind.  But it would be nice if when I looked in my rear view mirror that you were somewhere close to me and not back there like you were on your own ride.

But, of course, we all have different ideas of what is brotherhood and how we should ride with each other.  How do you like to ride?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Makes a Good Biker Rally?


Old skoolers have a different view of a motorcycle rally.  Used to be that camping at a rally was a way of life and biker games, music, and parties were the mainstay of the gathering.   We would gather in some remote farm field or pasture and have at it.  We were pretty much left alone by law enforcement, and as long as idiots didn't cause trouble outside the rally grounds we were left to live large for a weekend.  While the partying remains one of the mainstays of the rally, selling shit has now become the primary function of too many of these gatherings, especially the larger ones.  But too, overkill by overwhelming police presence has also been a big contributor to the downfall of many a rally.

A couple of months ago I attended the rally in Cottonwood, AZ.  My first time there.  I was shocked at how few bikers (maybe 300 bikes) attended the event.  I learned from local vendors and other bikers that the rally used to be a big success (5000 bikers) until last year when some genius decided to have the cops come down hard on the bikers, with lots of arrests for various reasons.  So this year hardly anyone showed up.  Cottonwood City Council, how's that working for ya?

Unfortunately, it was the local businesses that took the big hit.  Motels had low occupancy rates, restuarants weren't very busy, and local bars were virtually empty of bikers. Yeah, how's that working for ya now?

And then there's the Arizona Bike Week event held annually at Westworld in Scottsdale, Arizona as an example of another growing problem with modern rallies.  It has turned into nothing but a large mall of vendors, all working hard to sell you their version of the best biker t-shirt.  And, with the increase in entrance fee to ridiculous amounts (last year it was $40!!!), many of us have simply turned away vowing never to visit again.  The alternative is to pay the $40, getting charged so I can go into the place to buy shit.  Yeah, right!

And to make matters worse, there's the vendors that sell non-biker related stuff. I remember seeing a guy at the Vegas Bikefest selling custom designed watches, studded with jewels and glitter with no connection to riding or the biker. Can't remember the last time I wore one of them while riding. My wife did like them, however.

Bikers love gatherings of like-minded folk.  We are connected by the lure of the ride, and we enjoy each others company.  We admire each other's bikes.  We enjoy good music, and we are always ready for a wet t shirt contest.  So when there's a rally and we can make it, we all look forward to the gathering, hoping for a congenial time.  But of late, I've found that rallies have turned into just giant sales events.  Now, I realize that we all like a t-shirt as a momento to our visit, but enough is enough.  I swear that every other vendor sells t-shirts!

Sturgis, the best of the rallies, may be the last of the real opportunities to keep the flavor of the old skool rally, but only because saloons and bars, along with well equipped campgrounds, many of them isolated from the town, allow pretty much anything to a point, without harrassment of vendors or the police. Sturgis gets it (mostly); don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Mind you, I still want my t-shirt, but I'd rather go without one than lose the flavor of the true biker rally.  Somebody, please start a new biker rally in the vein of old-skool.  Then again, does the modern era biker like it the way it is now?

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why I would be an Outlaw Biker...

If it weren't for the unjustified criminality of it I'd be an Outlaw Biker.  Now I know that reads as a contradiction, but let me explain.

Outlaw MC's (the 1% of MC's) demand respect.  Show them disrespect and you're more than likely to end up hurt.  Now I'm not meaning "respect" in the sense of admiration or emulation.  Not at all.  You respect a Grizzly Bear because of its potential lethality.  Same goes with Outlaw MC's. 

Now I ask you, do we respect cops because we admire them or because they have the ultimate power to "take" your life?  Be honest.  So is there much difference in the foundation for the respect for the two groups?

I cannot condone violence and mayhem on innocent people. So when Outlaw clubs do such heinous things they lose my respect and affinity.   On the otherhand, isn't it nice to think that someone would have your back and protect you from others' abuse, attacks, and arbitrary mayhem?  While our legal system purports to do this for us, is it really there for you?  If you're wealthy enough to pay for a good lawyer, or you live in a 'good' neighborhood the answer is yes.  But if you're poor, minority, unconnected, you will probably be, at one time or another, victimized by the system, either by an act of commission or an act of ommission, and you will feel helpless and abused.  It's pretty hard to beat a system made up of judges and enforcers that are co-dependent.  Yeah, it would be nice to have somebody have your back in tough times.  And in the Outlaw MC's having each other's back is one of the foundations for their success and undeniable draw for many. 

Now before any of you cry, "foul," let me give you a perfect example of how I've seen the sytem abuse one over another.  I was a bail bondsman, and oftentimes I was able to be in the jails when a defendant was given a video hearing.  One day I witnessed back to back video hearings for defendants being held on the same exact DUI charges, both with no prior record.  The first defendant was a "local" white guy charged with DUI.  No wife, no kids, no job.  Released without bail.  Second defendant charged with DUI was a "local" hispanic man, about the same age as the first guy.  No wife, no kids, no job.  $2000 bond!  Go figure.  And this is just one of many true stories of "justice" I've witnessed. 

I wear a tattoo that reads, "Bounty Hunters - Just'us" It's a play on words for an expression I have used for most of my adult life, "There is no justice, just us." Unfortunately, I believe that this statement is true, again, especially when it comes to the little guy, the poor slob who struggles to get by each day, an easy "Mark" for the system to abuse or ignore. Now don't tell me that this isn't true.

Now I've known many good cops, and I've known some "bad" cops, who can never be excused for bad behavior.  But we see time and again cops gone wild on people they come in contact with.  SWAT assassinations, profiling, unauthorized searches, arrest and beatings of people video-taping police actions, etc.  And we hear that those instances are few and far between, only about 1% of police.  1%?  Hmmm. Yet time and again the law enforcers DO NOT get prosecuted for their misdeeds, but instead are supported by "justified" determinations of their peers and the Blue Code of Silence.  Justice? or Just 'us?

So when the Outlaw biker has been abused his fellow MC member exact "just us" on the offender(s).  And isn't that the same formula that government uses to enforce its "justified" will on offenders?  We are told that we cannot "take the law into our own hands."  I agree, but justice may be a different matter. 

Yeah, there are just some fuckers out there that deserve a smack for what they do wrong.  Only the government has the "authority" to exact that, rightly or wrongly, with impunity.  Not so for the Outlaw MC's, however.  I know, we need to have laws for the benefit of society.  I get it.  But we also need justice, and who receives that?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sons of Anarchy...reality or fantasy?

The Sons of Anarchy TV program on FX is one of the most popular shows on TV right now.  The show depicts the life and times of SAMCRO, an Outlaw MC embroiled in constant battle.  In the course of a week or less these MF's cap a half dozen people, get thrown in prison only to miraculously have charges dropped, get in several fights, and then work hand in glove with local law enforcement, CIA, IRA, Mexican Cartel, and the Mayor, all of whom happen to be playing effectively as double agents of some kind. 

These bikers are married to or date sexy women, even porn stars, that provide for all their needs, who are totally understanding of their man who just before he came home for dinner had to make a side trip from the grocery store to crush some guy's skull in as retribution for disrespecting the club, and then walk into the home ready to make mad passionate love to his Old Lady.  Oh, and before we make love, dear, would you stash this $300,000 cash in our safe please? 

Clearly the show's writers and producers are on to something, as the show receives very high ratings.  They have so craftily created the idealized man and woman, so that the average home-bound feminized mini-van driving male watches the program and wistfully dreams of living such a life and of having the balls to do some of the things that the SAMCRO bikers do.  They are fearless, masculine, rugged, domineering, yet gentle and sensitive (tears), loving and kind.  In the course of a day these badass bikers can go from planting a few bullets in the head of some enemy to gently tucking in his baby, breaking a smile of sentimentality at the opportunity.  So for the average woman watcher these men are irresistable, macho, protective, yet gentle and tender, the ideal man.

The Outlaw biker represents, even in reality to most other bikers, the Stallions of bikers, Ike Clanton and The Cowboys of Tombstone, the 1% of bikers; independent, fearless, and rugged.  So that, even the regular everyday biker emulates these Outlaws by riding the same kinds of motorcycles that the Outlaws do, by wearing leather vests adorned with patches declaring his crude side, by adorning tattoos (sin the neck and facial tats), and by joining their own forms of clubs, most of which are but a benign modicum of similarity to real Outlaw clubs.

The days of the Cowboy have virtually passed, and the Outlaw Biker may be the only remnant of independence and freedom that there is in our modern society.  Of course, the TV show is dramatized to a great extent because Outlaw Bikers don't actually fight before breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then come home to rock their baby. 

The poor slob average guy ritually drives his minivan back and forth from Surburbia to his job each day, shackled by enormous debt, frustrated at living a life of quiet desperation, so when Sons of Anarchy comes on TV he's able to escape, to fantasize, as does his wife, about what it would be like to be free of  the "good life" they are currently living.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Paradox of the Motorcycle Club

Sonny Barger, notorious founder of the Oakland, CA chapter of the Hells Angels, and the face of the Hells Angels for many years, wrote a book entitled, Freedom. I read it. Basically, the book is almost a free-flowing ramble of Sonny's thoughts on just about everything from politics to living with his Old Lady, to Patriotism onto issues about law enforcement, all delivered through the prism of the motorcycle club, the MC.  If you want to know what makes Sonny tick, read the book.  I would love to sit with the guy over a beer and listen to his many stories.  But I think Sonny's position that being a member of an MC is synonymous with being free is totally wrong.

Before I address the issue of the paradox of Freedom and the MC, let me make it clear that from my limited experience (never having been a member of an MC), the greatest benefit of actually being a member of an MC is probably that of brotherhood. Sonny's book extensively addresses this benefit. And for most that benefit in itself may make being a member of an MC worth it.

The underlying theme of Barger's book is freedom, as the title implies, and again and again Sonny refers to this "idea" as one of the underpinnings of the MC.  And while I do believe that ALL bikers believe that riding is an expression of freedom (see my previous post on Freedom), and while I cannot disagree with most of his thoughts on freedom, I do disagree with him that the Motorcycle Club is a true expression and the epitome of freedom.  Frankly, I think it is quite the opposite.

Though Sonny wrote that his way of life, and by inference all bikers, "requires a never-ending devotion to the "idea of" and the "practice of" freedom,"  his own words spelling out the prerequisite for a MC's success belies this ideal.  "A group only works if there is an established set of rules that all involved pledge to and maintain.  When you are a member of an organization, life isn't about you."

Therein lies the rub for me with the MC's.  Rules.  In fact, most MC's have extensive written rules of order, charters, constitutions, protocols for who rides where, when, and how.  Just like most any organization, rules are required to maintain order within its ranks.  The undeniable implication of rules is the loss of individual freedom. 

Clearly, there are innumerable benefits to being a member of an MC, but the loss of freedom is one condition that I cannot accept.  In the choice of brotherhood vs freedom, I choose freedom.  Consequently, I am a Lone Wolf and not a member of an MC.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bikers' tattoos...

Nothing sends fear into the minds and hearts of non-bikers like seeing a badass biker covered with evil looking tattoos.  As if the loud ear blasting bikes and the dust and grease covered black leather outfitted biker without the tats weren't enough to send a message of "fuck the Man," bikers, and especially Outlaw bikers, like to adorn themselves with these graphic illustrations of rebellion, making a statement even stronger than needed to convince the average person of the biker's symbolic anti-establishment ways. 

Of course, bikers aren't the only folks with tattoos.  Tattoos have virtually become mainstream, with bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and housewives all partaking in the individual expression of the medium.  Despite the growing acceptance of tattoos, however, there is still a strong sentiment of disdain and mistrust towards tattoo wearing folks. And if you're of a religious family the resistence is even stronger. 

Not too long ago my 6 year old step-grandson, who lives with his mom, step-dad, and other step-grandpa, who is very religious and has clearly impacted my grandson's thoughts, visited me and my wife for a few days.  I had recently had a new forearm tattoo done, and when he saw it he said, "Papa John, you're going to the devil because you have tattoos."   Interestingly, he had never said anything about my other five tattoos, but this one, a fierce looking skull with red eyes, caught his attention.  Not too long after that day, on another visit by my grandson, a good biker friend of mine showed up at the house.  He had just had a huge "dark" backpiece done and when he showed it to my grandson and I asked, "Is he going to the devil," my grandson without hesitation replied, "definitely!"

But even within the tattooed world, there's a caste system.  And, with bikers it's very evident that bikers judge other bikers by the extent and "darkness" of their tats.  The location and expression of tattoos are statements, and not all of us are willing to risk being too open about how we might really feel about this world by what tattoos we inked into our bodies.

Most of us who have tattoos are happy to get a shoulder piece or a back piece, those that are easily covered by clothing.  Some even dare to go with pieces on their lower arms, but for most doing so is to test social norms and mores, and to risk careers and acceptance, even by family.  It's the hard core tattoo enthusiast, or the convict, or the hard core biker that are brave enough to go with the neck pieces, or the hand pieces, and, most daringly, the face pieces that are blatant in your face expressions of some kind.

Let's face it, tattoos are statements by the wearer.   Motorcycle club members inevitably adorn a tat of their club's logo.  Ejection from the club oftentimes means losing the tattoo by any means necessary.  Stories of removal by cutting them out with a knife, scraping them off with a file or cheese grater, or burning them off with a torch are common among the biker community.  But beyond that ugly scenario, bikers have tats to express rebellion, for the most part, although many a biker's tats are inked as a memorial to a lost brother, family member, or some other significant event like a rally. 

So bikers and tattoos are virtually synonymous.  Some question whether or not a biker without a tattoo is a real biker.   

Do you have tats?  What do they mean to you?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Biker Bars

If there weren't biker bars I'm not sure how much riding would get done.  Then, on the otherhand, too much time spent in the bar and not much riding gets done.  Catch 22 thing.  Now this post isn't an invitation for you all to argue the pros and cons of drinking and riding (see below), as a previous post of mine addressed the ideal of freedom, and freedom implies the freedom to do reckless things, like it or not.  Maybe I'll dare to post later an in-depth discussion of drinking and riding, but for now, let's face reality, it does take place, and many of us do it.

Now I'm not suggesting that bikers don't ride just for the love of riding. I have done so on countless occasions, but let's face it, it's hard to beat that ice cold beer or other refreshing libation after riding in the heat for an hour or more. Then again, some bars are only minutes (maybe steps) from each other and the engine hardly warms up before you get there.

The more seedy, the more divey the bar, the better in my opinion.  Who wants to be a badass biker and stop at Chili's in-restaurant bar?  They do make the best marguaritas though (do bikers drink marguaritas?!).  After all, a biker bar HAS to be tough, or it just loses that air of danger needed to reinforce the biker image and to keep my wife thinking I'm the rugged kind of guy she married anyway.   

Bikers live for the run, the rally, the biker event.  There's Sturgis, Laconia, Daytona, the big cahoonas of rallies.  And, of course, there's the thousands of weekend events sponsored by local biker shops, swap meets, charity runs, and so on, and while alchohol makers like Budweiser and Jack Daniels rarely miss an opportunity to provide refreshments at these types of events, it's the biker bars that stand as the everyday mini meccas of riding.   

Some of the most fun I've ever had with my fellow riders has been at some of these stops in these little biker bars.  Some stops have turned into unanticipated overnight stays, and some have turned into near fights, while most have turned into some of the best laughs and times I've ever had.

It's hard to beat the camaraderie of the Friday or Saturday night biker bar with your riding friends and better half, there to enjoy the local band which more often than not is stuffed in the corner beyond the pool table blasting out your eardrumbs, either because of speakers turned up too loud or by notes not quite on key.  But it's all for fun anyway. 

Then there's this cautionary note.  Regardless of where, when, for how long, and with whom you ride and visit biker bars, beyond all else don't ride stupid drunk, especially if you are carrying a passenger.  Look, if you want to kill yourself have at it and do it away from me, but never ever risk the life or limb of your passenger. 

I have my favorite list of biker bars, and I would imagine you do too.  My favorites are Dragoon Saloon in Tombstone, AZ, and the Hideaway Bar & Grill in Cave Creek, AZ, to name  just a couple of the many I have enjoyed.

What and where are some of yours?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Women on their own bikes?

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my myopic view of manhood, maybe it's my chauvinistic view of women, but I think that for the most part women belong on the back of a motorcycle and not riding their own bike.  Now I know that most women, and maybe many men, will cringe with what I just stated, but that's what I think.  The 1960's and the '70s were (allegedly) the age of enlightenment.  Women discarded their bras and a woman's role as the primary homemaker dramatically shifted to where now women outnumber men in the workforce, and now many of them own and ride their own motorcycle.  Now I'm not going to argue that women were not repressed and oftentimes seen as second-class citizens, but was there really a  need to take it so far so that now women ride their own bikes?!

I've written previously in this blog about freedom, and certainly I'm a defender of an individual's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But when it comes to a woman riding her own bike I have to check my own libertarian views.  And, of course, it is my selfishness that underlies my position on this.

You see, I don't want my wife riding her own bike.  I absolutely love the feel of her behind me, holding gently to my hips, leaning her head against my back after a few hundred miles of riding, reaching around and hugging me around my neck and shoulders, my being able to reach down and touch and rub her leg, or reaching back and squeezing her hand, all while heading down the road together, attached as one into the wind.  I like that.  I like my wife.  And I would expect that BOTH men AND women like that too.  If not, I expect that you are one pissed off frustrated person.

So, when I see a husband and wife on their own individual bikes I feel sad for them.  I wonder what it is that went wrong so that they've lost that passion for each other's company, for the touch, for the love of doing it together.  Then again, I've heard many a man express his frustration and wish his wife would get her own bike so he could have the freedom to ride however he wants.  And then again, I'm sure many a woman fears that the guy in front of her can't totally be trusted and she'd feel more comfortable choosing her own fate and not have to rely on his abilities to save her ass in a bad situation.  Yes, riding with my wife behind me demands a respect for her safety, and sometimes, when I've crossed the line and made her feel endangered she's reminded me that she's there behind me with a slight pinch or a comment later on, so maybe even she has thought more than once how she'd be better off on her own ride. I hope not.

Of course, the enlightened woman may demand her own ride as an expression of her independence.  I get it.  But why?  Have we so screwed up as men that we've made our wives or girlfriends feel demeaned and powerless?  Probably. 

I hope that my wife never asks for her own ride.  For me it will mean failure for our relationship, though I'm not too worried about my wife actually going that way.  She tells me often how she's so grateful that she's not on her own bike, especially after a couple of hours riding in the rain.  She's a smart one she is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I don't know about you, but I love my leathers.  There's just something about the feel, the weight, the smell of leathers that I so strongly associate with the freedom of riding, and with the feeling of speeding down the road feeling fully alive.  Maybe it's the ritual of if all, the one by one donning of gear in preparation for an adventure that has grown to symbolize a special breed of people, an intrepid kind bent on riding around the next bend.  But my leathers are an essential part of my riding.

Motorcycle jackets stemmed from bomber jackets of WWII.  With time, the jacket has evolved into, in some styles, highly sophisticated pieces of riding equipment, with special thermal layers and ventilation.  But for the most part, the motorycle leathers are simple, a buffer against the wind, dirt, and oil of the road.

I've had flight jackets, leather coats, and leather vests, but nothing seems to wear and feel so right as my leather motorycle jacket and chaps.  While the other leather garments I've owned satisfied fashion yearnings, nothing says "Ahhhh, let's ride Mother Fucker!" like my aging leather jacket and chaps.

Of course, leathers serve a multitude of functions, from keeping you from freezing to death to making a soft cushion for your knees while tending to an emergency fix while on the road.  And then there's the hope, maybe an illusion, that somehow, in a not so good situation, they'll keep your skin attached to your bones in the event of a laydown.   Regardless, I really really like my leathers, and the older they get the better they get.  You know what I mean?

Just for the hell of it I do not clean my leathers.  By the end of each bug season, both the jacket and chaps are splattered with the remnants of thousands of bugs.  For me it's a symbol of the road; you get what you get, and you ride on regardless.  Okay, sometimes when I've run into a giant Mexican Grasshopper filled with green slime that has plastered a half dollar sized splat on my leathers I do wipe it with a rag, but I don't ever use a leather cleaning agent or conditioner.  I do, occassionally, wash my face though.

What do your leathers mean to you?


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Who doesn't feel free when they're riding down a two lane road in the middle of nowhere?  Living here in SE Arizona with lots and lots of open space and two lane roads to nowhere, I find it easy to get lost in freedom out on the road. 

Although I prefer my backroads, I even feel free in the middle of heavy Interstate traffic.  As hard as it may seem for non-riders, even riding in stupid maniacal traffic I feel free.  When sometimes the riding gets a bit hairy in heavy ridiculous traffic, though, I'll find myself yelling out in defiance, "Motha Fuckaaaa!," and I'll usually roll the throttle and pass a few cars occupied by people whom I feel bad for, stuck in their cages and all.  It's an adrenaline thing I guess, but I love the feeling of independence I always get when rolling out from such a situation.

Ever notice going down the freeway when you are passing or being passed by families in their minivans that the dads who are driving rarely look over at you?  Maybe they're embarrassed; maybe they're resigned to their plight; maybe they just can't bear it.  The moms riding shotgun typically look out the window at you with a forlorn expression, staring over usually seeing my wife riding behind me, wind blowing her hair, intent.  Oftentimes I'll raise my hand and gesture a peace sign, and the mom will respond with a wry smile.  I wonder if she too wishes she could change places with my wife.

The kids in the back seat are glued to the windows.  I remember doing the same when I was a kid.  Full of wonderment I was enthralled with the roar of the bike, the black leather jackets and chaps, dew rags, and dark sunglasses, and the rugged look of the biker.  And when there was more than one bike, I would crane my neck for as long as I could watching the bikers pass us and quickly ride ahead, watching them until out of sight, eventually letting myself fall back into the car seat releasing  a sigh of wistful desire.

When I was a kid many years ago my dad said to me, "Everytime they pass a law you lose some freedom."  He was right.  Imagine, in New York City it's illegal to purchase a fountain soda pop drink larger than 16 ounces.  Are you fucking kidding me?!!

Helmet laws piss me off!  Not because I think it's wrong to wear one, although I only do so when required, but because the law has taken away your freedom of choice.  Notwithstanding the myriad of positions and arguments for or against, for me it's purely a matter of freedom.  Since the attacks on 9-11, our civil rights have been severely curtailed.  Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous.  Photo-enforcement cameras lurk in waiting for you.  Nothing is left unobserved.  Except maybe in the middle of nowhere on our bikes.  Still too far out for the long-arm of the law to press you into compliance.

So I ride.  Because it's one of the few vestiges of freedom.  So, when you get a chance to ride, go.  And for you dads and moms cruising in that minivan, consider buying a bike and leaving the kids with grandma for a while, so you too can enjoy what we know to be true; that the freedom of the road is special, and it is to be cherished and protected for as long as possible.