Monday, September 12, 2016


The car as icon? No. That's not
it; never was. One time in the
mid-nineties, in Soho, there 
was a tattoo show. Not tattoos
themselves, but in that curious
and yuppified way back then,
it was a gallery show, all framed
as 'Art' and displays of tattoo
images, old images, over the
many years  -  the sheets of
paper and such, each about
8x10 inches or a little larger,
from which the old tattoo
artists worked from, or 
displays from which people 
picked their own tattoo. It
was, yes, all very informative,
but strangely incorrect too.
On that 'dilettante' fashion of
'looking, but only to see'. It was
as if that 1990's world of
professional art groupies and
the buying crowd hastened
to peer into that 'other' world,
maybe finding some new to
'value' and sell or collect. A
distant word having nothing
to do with them  -  deep,
distant, 100-years past; of
sailors and real warriors,
soldiers of fortune and deserts
and port wanderers of a distant
world, and whose lives were
dirty and unofficious. Colorful
versions of anchors and flags,
hearts and bathing beauties,
winsome, incorrect women
with breasts and smiles. Skulls
and crossbones. Motifs of
another world.  These people
were trying to glimpse an idea
only their own 1990's minds
held 'versions' of  -  all wrong
and all today. The girls walking
around in the place were taut
and skinny, dressed odd. The
guys had, back then, some
downtown groove going on, a
mix of an Elvis Costello/John
Lennon meets the Ramones
thing they tried getting across.
Tattoos are everywhere now  -
they weren't then, back when
they really meant something.
A mark of affinity of and to
a place, an idea, a no-place
at all  -  of hobos and world
I've been an outsider my
whole life  -  playing my
own groove, on a skipping
record of self-time, I'd guess,
where the needle cannot
hold. The funny thing here
was  (it was Bastille Day too,
a Saturday, July 14) that I'd
arranged a motorcycle
excursion (for what I called
'The Pretenders'  - who else
would pose to celebrate
'Bastille Day' here, with
an 'outing), for a group 
who'd requested it, wanting 
to brave the city to see their 
silly tattoo show but not 
having the bravado enough 
to do it on their own. This
sort of thing was par for
the course for me, back 
then. I rode the city canyons
with abandon. I brought
about twenty other people 
along with me  -  bikers, 
riders, NJ hoodies, on two
wheels, those who wanted
to see some of my NY world.
A few of these guys, actually 
did already have tattoos. One
girl did too : kids' names, 
hearts, Harley bar and shield 
logos, and one big guy actually 
did have, in Olde English 
type, across one large 
forearm  -  'Illegitimi Non
Carborundum', which means
'don't let the bastards wear you
down.' In Latin. Their interest
in tattoos was sort of authentic  -
(Of course, mine was not, being
seen instead as combo tour guide,
artist, witness. Like Lon Chaney
or something at a parade.)  -  
Whatever; I'll get back to that.
There were a few girls in this
mix too. They were nothing if 
not annoying. Jeanette Moser,
for instance : No business on a
motorcycle. She rode her own 
little Vulcan or Honda or 
something. Now I have nothing
against female motorcycle riders,
owners, drivers, whatever you
want to call it  -  not passengers.
But please, first and foremost,
ladies, if you're going to ride
a motorcycle, as I see it, be
yourself. That's an important
factor. Be ready to own up 
to it. There's a vast amount 
of undeniably sexual content, 
excitement even, in oh so 
many walks of life, and this
specific instance of girls 
on bikes is surely one. She 
failed that test, and miserably. 
Nothing worse than a schoolmarm 
on two wheels, sorry.  She was 
untested, awkward, slow, and 
slow-witted too, as a rider. Just
didn't belong there  -  and there 
are guys like this as well. She 
was over her head in this, and 
a whiner about everything too. 
Nit-picker postergirl. Her 
displayed and probably 
feigned interest in tattoos,
the design of, the art of,
whatever it was, was, I 
suppose, or could have 
been, genuine enough. 
Until the rains came. 
Then it just got funny,
The sky had darkened 
considerably while we 
were all inside, the great 
city-canyon winds had 
picked up  -  White Street
 or Moore Street, whatever 
it was, had become a mess  - 
trash and papers blowing 
around, big noise  -  fifteen
or so motorcycles all about.
We'd parked wherever we'd
chosen  -  sidewalks, curbs,
doorways and ramps. No 
one ever bothered us about 
that, anywhere. Then the
rains came, and the wails
began. Probably the half
of us laughed it off and just
figured to just hop on, storm
or not, and roar over to e. 6th
street and Second Ave, and 
sit it out at a biker bar there 
we'd grown used to. 'Sidewalk 
Cafe' back then, it was called; 
before that, in my 1960's, it 
had been called 'Naked Lunch', 
after Burroughs. Now it's all 
gentrified revenge bumpkins. 
We left, they refused. I'm not 
sure what they ended up doing,
poor babies. In their flesh-faced
panic, they'd freaked over the 
storm and were trying to figure
their way back to 'safety', a
somewhere, a something. To
Nutley. To the Oranges, in 
Jersey. Maplewood. Good
fun that all was.
A lot of my time back then,
on motorcycles, was spent in 
what I called 'recreational
drunk driving (2-wheel version).
These newer riders had, by
contrast, actually taken 
courses on how to ride, and
gotten certificates and 
discounts because of it (and
automatic licenses too, at the
end of the course), and it 
always turned out that, no 
matter what, they didn't 
know shit about riding.
They'd always end up timid,
reserved, overly cautious, 
and tentative  -  any of which
can get you killed. Having
memorized the useless 
snot-crap about 'how' to 
ride, they'd never learned 
any 'why' ride stuff  -  the
way of life, the reasoning.
They just (still) wanted to
be nice. They'd bought the
entire scenario, which was 
telling them, essentially, 
that they'd be better off 
in a car. Now that's some
real cross-purposes to have
to live with, no? The last 
thing you want to be on a 
motorcycle is polite, casual, 
timid, safe or tentative. 
You've got to claim and 
take: your lane, your place
on the roadway, (share space
with no one), your speed,
and your decisions. You 
cannot let others rule your
riding  -  truckloads of
Mexican landscapers, with
trailers and bushes, grinning 
into traffic; the SUVs of 
subcontinent Indians, 12 to
a car, staring out as they 
ride along at 40mph in
their sorry rig; the little blue
hot-rod ghetto Honda Civic 
cat with constant noise and
uselessness. They'll kill you, 
if you let them. You have to
get there first, inside their
head, intimidate them away
from you. By noise. By ugly
visuals. Power. Two-wheeled
fury. That's how it's done, and
I wish I were a young man 
again so I could do it right. I
called it 'riding with knives',
or 'ride rude'. And that's how
I taught it to others. My credo:
So, what brought me to the
tattoo show? Which was 
anything but, as I said. First 
off, my usual trait, wanting 
to be a nice guy. No emotion
involved, just a group of
people who had mentioned
to me, at a meeting, wanting 
to do something, see the show,
but were afraid to undertake the
mission  -  'put your guns on,
ladies, we're heading out.' One
guy was an architect. One
guy was a dweeby nothing
who lived on Court Street in
Hoboken. The aforementioned
Jeannette was a divorced billing
clerk with a four-year old, from
Nutley. One guy, believe this, was
a 'biker priest', supposedly, from
'Our Lady, Help of Christians'
church in East Orange, NJ. The
mark of all this was of a 'people
out of their element.' You don't
ever really want to be 'out' of
your element. That usually is
how you can end up dead.
During the course of a proper
upbringing you're supposed
to decide  upon, or recognize,
or opt for, that which you 
choose to be your element 
and live thusly. That's zen-like.
That's considered the 'successful'
life. We've all seen it, I suppose - 
the strangely happy, complacent 
guy in his yard, smiling, and
content, just surveying his 
place; drink in hand maybe, 
temperate and calm about 
things. The rest is conflict, 
being out of place, and
conflict is trouble.
I said I had no emotion 
involved: tattoo drawings, 
odd people, etc. And I didn't. 
These crackers meant nothing 
to me. They've all gone on to
something else  - the real estate
girl, the soap lady, the priest, 
and the architect. They're
still around, and I could find
them if I'd a mind to. In fact, 
Mike Fonte, the architect guy, 
was written up some years 
ago in The New Yorker 
Magazine, about some 
architectural project he 
was part of. He was also 
big on Frank Lloyd Wright,
and 'Falling Water', one 
of Wright's 'prairie homes' 
built out near Pittsburgh. 
No emotion here, on my 
part. Nowadays, I do stuff
like this for people I love.
It's got emotion, and it's
much more engrossing
that way.

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