The Dago Angels left the lot of the H-Lo at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, heading north towards Pismo Beach. We were a fairly impressive convoy. The putts came first, twenty-eight Harley Davidsons, the riders all wearing the H.A. colors on their backs. They rode two to a lane, holding the speed limit, in fairly tight formation. At the back were Terry and Jane, protocol dictated that non-patch holders stayed behind the Angels. Next was me and Bekka in the hot rod Falcon. To the rear came the huge Winnebago and Iveco box van. And there were two more cars, driven by a couple Angel old ladies. Normally they'd just double-pack with their men, but it was felt having more than one car on hand might be a good idea. If someone was injured and needed to go to the ER, or if a few of the boys wanted to make a beer run. suitable wheels would be available, and the club wouldn't be reliant on just the Falcon for such transportation.
We had left at that hour to get through Los Angeles fairly early. It may have been a Saturday, but it was also a holiday weekend, so it was assumed LA freeways would be their usual mess by eight or so. With so many bikes, lane-splitting in a traffic jam was risky, and nobody wanted to sit idle in bad traffic. Besides, if the Angels lane-split, they'd just end up ditching the vehicles with four wheels, and have to wait for them to catch up anyway.
We made good time. 7:45 saw us in Ventura, where we got off the freeway and headed towards a Wal-mart which had a Dunkin' Donuts on the edge of its lot. Everybody unsaddled and stretched, lighting cigarettes, chatting. The Angels and their women wandered into the donut shop for food and coffee. The locals seemed a bit disturbed by our presence.... Except for a few little kids, who saw the putts lined up and wanted to go look at them. The parents of one child flatly refused, leaving quickly. The other two were allowed, but were admonished (correctly) beforehand, "Look, don't touch." Big Ugly, of all people, sort of hung out by the putts, smiling at the families and offering to answer any general questions they might have about custom Harleys. He fired up his own bike and let the kids twist the throttle a few times, to their great joy.
I was standing to one side of the donut shop with Bekka, fritter in one hand, cigarette in the other, when I was approached by a standard-issue white guy, about sixty years old with horn-rim glasses and a t-shirt announcing his intention to Live Free Or Die. He gave me a jowly scowl and asked, "You connected with this bunch?"
I said, "Yeah, we're friends with them. I'm not a member, but me and my wife spend a lot of time around them."
"So what the hell are you all doing here?" came the suspicious query.
I gave a condescending look and replied, "Well, the most cursory observation would say we're all eating donuts, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and stretching our legs. A couple guys look like they're doing a bit of carburetor adjustment on their machines. Pretty routine stuff to happen at a donut shop."
"No, I mean why did they come here in particular?"
After a brief pause, I gave him a straight answer. "Because of the parking lot. Plenty of room to put all the putts and vehicles at once. Why do you ask?"
The white guy stood there and glanced around. I could tell he had a lot of questions and responses in his head, mostly probably revolving around whether he should go home and load his shotgun. He finally said, "Just curious."
In an effort to exercise a bit of good PR, I elaborated, "This is the weekend of the Labor Day run for the Hell's Angels. This year it's in Pismo Beach. Club chapters will be coming from all over, we're the San Diego, or Dago, chapter. We're just passing through, the riders wanted to stop and stretch their legs after riding through LA. Another couple hours and we'll be at our destination. So, do you have plans for the weekend?"
This question was ignored in favor of another question from the white guy. He looked at Bekka and asked, "Aren't you that famous porno lady, Becky something? Why are you hanging around these people?"
Bekka gave her I-Am-Royalty smile and said, "I am Becky Page, yes. And as my husband has already mentioned, we are friends with the members of the Dago H.A. chapter. They invited us to join them this weekend. I'm looking forward to this, it should be quite a party."
"Ain't you worried about being there?"
"Worried about what?" Bekka asked innocently.
"Well, you know, being attacked or something...."
"my greater worry is of harassment at the hands of the local law enforcement, them being petty and purposely wasting the time of people. I suppose my husband and I will have an easier time of it, as we are not wearing Hell's Angels colors or riding motorcycles. Still, we will be connected to the club, just due to our presence.
"I suppose you believe that I will be raped by the Angels, for the sport of it. Utter horseshit. I have been around the Dago chapter for a while now, and to a man, they have been gentlemen. I consider the Hell's Angels a club for motorcycle buffs, who admittedly like to get a bit rowdy when they party. That's fine with me, so do I. What else would you like to know?"
"Ain't they a bunch of criminals?" asked the white guy.
Bekka stared in silence at the white guy for several seconds. She finally said, "You will not slander these men, not as individuals or as a club. I am through talking to you, go away."
The white guy got indignant. "Hey, look, I---"
Scarecrow wandered up, soda in one hand, Swisher Sweet cigar in the other. "What's happening, people?" he asked.
"Hey Scarecrow," Bekka said. "This man holds a poor view of the Hell's Angels, he believes you're all criminals, both as individuals and as a group. What are your feelings on the subject?"
Scarecrow rubbed his chin and formed a grin on his face usually associated with mental patients. He looked at the white guy while addressing Bekka. "Well, since I've never met Norbert here in my life, I have a hard time with him calling me a criminal. And shit knows enough district attorneys have tried to call the club a criminal organization, but they never seem to get their nut, you know? Hey Norbert, why do you think I'm a criminal? What have I ever done to you?"
The white guy was rattled. One of the Visigoths was addressing him directly, and asking a question he had no empirical answer for. He finally croaked out, "I, uh, I don't know you, I don't think you're a criminal, why would I think that ?"
"That's why I asked you," chuckled Scarecrow. "And you think the club I belong to is some sort of gang, I suppose, like a white trash mafia. Yeah, we've heard that shit for years, Fuckin' people wasting everybody's time in court. No goddamn D.A. has ever nailed a thing on the club. It sounds to me like you're holding a negative view of people you know nothing about. You're the reason why I'd kick the shit out of any newspaper reporter I ever met, they print lies about my club. Jackoffs hear about some Angel getting a ticket for smoking a joint on the beach, and tell the world about the major drug bust involving the Hell's Angels. You shouldn't believe everything you read, Norbert."
The white guy glanced at the three of us, then suddenly made a bid for freedom, scurrying off as fast as his stumpy legs would carry him. We watched him get in a Dodge Aries, fire up, and take off. "Odd little man," commented Scarecrow.
"He seemed shocked I am hanging around the club, and going on this run," said Bekka. "Yes, I am sure to be raped this weekend. I'll have to talk to Mutt about the matter. Yes, I'm around Hell's Angels, so I will be gang raped. Since this seems to be a given, I'd like to schedule them, that way I don't miss out on the chuck wagon or the bands playing tomorrow."
"Oh, absolutely dear," I said. "Organize them by activity. Straight rape from ten tonight until two in the morning. Forcible oral sex tomorrow in the mid-afternoon. Sodomy on Monday morning. Photos and autographs after the chuck wagon dinner each night."
"And a free signed copy of 'Succubus' for every twentieth rapist," added Bekka.
Scarecrow's grin was a bit uneasy. "You ain't really worried about shit like that happening, right Becky?" he asked.
"No. The worst I expect is some lonely Angel getting crude with me after he's had fourteen beers. I'm sure Terry will tie him in a knot and feed him to the seagulls. No, you guys in Dago chapter have always been gentlemen, why would other Angels not be? Although I am glad I'm traveling with the chapter, and arriving fairly early. That way it's clear I'm a friend, not some Hollywood bitch slumming."
"There are a couple guys in the chapter who don't care for Becky," I noted, "but they just ignore her. I know Dork resents me for being Becky's husband, which means she's off the table. And Short Nick seems to suspect Becky has somehow fucked every dude in Dago except him, just to be a bitch to him."
"Oh, God, Nick," sighed Bekka. "Yes, I'm a sadistic cunt who enjoys humiliating him, or something. He has never propositioned me, but has made comments to others about how he'd like to nail me, but he knows I'd just laugh in his face and make fun of his height. And he's still pissed at Lenny and Fucker for telling him to pretend Jane doesn't exist. Jane blew him off the first time they met, and at this point Fucker, Terry, Fatso, and Lenny have let him know if he keeps trying to hustle Jane, they'll crush him to a paste. So yeah, our little crew of hang-arounds is actively trying to prevent Nick from ever getting laid again."
"Such a cruel woman you are, Becky!" laughed Scarecrow. "Yeah, Nick is insecure as hell over his size. Come on, there's gotta be short chicks somewhere in San Diego who would be attracted to an outlaw with lousy communication skills and a barely suppressed woman-hating attitude. Mutt had to have a little talk with him at one point. He was trying to take out his frustrations on the mamas, really treating them like shit while they were servicing him. He'd talk shit to them all the time too, like if one of them stepped up to the bar for a fresh beer, he'd be all, 'So how are you, you stupid ugly cunt?' Shit like that. Shit, nobody else is abusing the mamas, they take care of guys who are horny and otherwise stay out of the way. Some chapters have mamas how are really obnoxious, always throwing their two cents in. Dago's girls just stay in the background. Everybody's happier that way."
"Where are our soiled angels, anyway?" asked Bekka.
"Bev is riding shotgun in the big van. Marta and Jean are being double-packed, but I forget who with. That works, nobody wants to double-pack Bev, 'cos of her weight, you know?" (Mama Bev was a rather large girl, but was still appreciated by the Dago Angels due to her reported oral skills. She could reportedly suck the chrome off a bumper.)
Spike's shouted voice announced it was time to saddle up and roll. Everyone headed towards their respective machines. We held the same formation as before, with Bekka and I behind Terry and Jane, the Iveco at our tail. We hit the freeway and got in the number three lane, rolling like an army convoy. I looked over at the right lane, at the people we were passing. They were all staring at the squadron of putts, their expressions ranging from vague amusement to shock. I knew what was going through the minds of many: look at this menace, a huge mob of known violent criminals rolling up the freeway, headed to commit God knows what atrocities. Why doesn't the CHP do something? Why are the marauders being allowed to roam free? Can't they all be herded off the road and arrested?
There are plenty of people who think that way, but they are demonstrating their ignorance of both the Hell's Angels and the law. Being a member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club is not illegal. You can't arrest someone for having a bad reputation. Any police jurisdiction who attempted this would pay, dearly. The Angels were large enough and organized enough they could handle the task of suing the shit out of that police force, the city or county they represented, and the officers involved in the arrests as individuals. It would be the sort of case the ACLU loves to take on, but that would never happen. Ralph Barger thought the ACLU was "communist" and refused to work with them.
Less than three hours later, we got off the freeway in Pismo Beach and head uphill. The run was centered at a place called Pismo Preserve, east of the freeway and north of town. We turned off Price Canyon Rd. into the preserve, following the signs: no words, just an image of the H.A. death's head with arrows pointing the direction to go. Of course, it would have been just as easy to follow the trail of San Luis Obispo County sheriff's cars, along with the Pismo Beach local fuzz. Given the number of law enforcement vehicles I saw, any local ne'er do wells could have a field day that weekend, as huge swaths of the area would be going totally un-patrolled.
After about 800 yards, we came to a stop. After a couple more minutes we rolled again, then turned off the paved road onto a wide gravel track headed west. In about a quarter mile we stopped again. Shortly Big Ugly came trotting towards us, huffing and puffing. "Okay, we're at our space. After the bikes are in, we wanna get the Winnebago situated, so jerk it onto the shoulder right here."
I pulled over and got out, Bekka also exiting. We took a look around. We were on the side of a very long, gentle hill which reached down to the beach, apparently.... Or it would, if the 101 wasn't in the way. The space looked like it had been graded to level it a bit. Other chapters were already there, but only a few. However, one of those present was Oakland, as announced by a large banner strung up between two trees. The hillside was generally grassy, and studded with the scrappy oak trees that grow all over California, regardless of location or climate. Our arrival had attracted interest from those already there, I saw single men from each occupied space walking towards us.
The putts were lined up on the uphill side of the space, in one long row. The Winnebago trundled in, and anchored at the back of the space, at a right angle to the putts. I heard a shout, and saw Whistle waving his arm at us, gesturing for us to roll in and park.. He directed us to park on the downhill side, backed in, facing the putts.
I took a closer look around. There were four picnic table combos sitting around, and a concrete ring serving as a fire pit. A spigot jutted out of the ground near where we had entered. Beyond that, anything we wanted to make the space more hospitable would have to be provided by us. Bekka commented, "Well, they won't be able to accuse the Angels of breaking anything. There's nothing to break."
"This isn't what I expected, but that's okay," I commented. "I was expecting to be on the beach. Really, this is better. Ever camped on the beach? Sand invades everything, no matter how careful you are. I'm sure the Angels will be grateful for the location, too. God knows sand is miserable on machinery."
An Angel who looked like the singer for Molly Hatchet buzzed up on an ATC, whipping into our space. "You're Dago, right?" We affirmed this. "Okay, how ya doin'. Where's your prez?"
Mutt stepped forward to greet the man, who introduced himself as Bobby. The two talked for a bit, Bobby doing most of the jaw work. He handed Mutt a sheaf of papers, they shook hands, and Bobby took off. Mutt read through what he'd been handed, then called, "Okay, everybody, huddle up."
We did. Mutt said, "Okay, they got some ground rules here. If the club wants to ever use this space agian, they want 'em obeyed. Easy shit, like no chopping down any of the fuckin' trees for firewood, don't litter, ride slow, blah blah blah. See that cinder block building about fifty yards down the hill? That's the nearest bathrooms. We'll have to prowl around to find things, but there's, like, an amphitheater area which will be the 'official' center of things. Fresno, God bless 'em, has donated twenty kegs of beer, and that's where the kegs will be, along with a first aid station. There's showers around here someplace, but we got the Winnebago, and it's okay to hook up their water to it.
"San Luis Obispo sheriffs are not overjoyed the county approved our presence. Apparently they've already been motherfuckers towards Oakland, who got here last night so they could start taking care of shit. Watch your ass if one of them county mounties is around, I guess the sheriffs carted away one of the Oakland brothers for smoking a joint or something. No baiting the cops. This means you, King." There was laughter.
"I got a map of this preserve here, and I'll post it up inside the Winnebago after we do a cruise-through. This whole preserve is pretty damn big, so it's a distance from one spot to another, but they're encouraging people to walk inside the preserve, I guess to cut down on engine noise some. Believe it or not, there's a whole damn subdivision on the far side of this hill, to the east. Rumor has it they're the reason we got fuzz everywhere, the Homeowner's Association got wind of who was gonna be here and freaked out, even tried to get a lawyer down the necks of the county. Fuck 'em. The advice I was just given was if you feel like hiking around or finding someplace private, do it in any direction but that one.
"There's only two ways in and out of this preserve, the south entrance we came in, and one on the north side. Personally, that makes me a bit nervous, that means nearly every H.A member in the western United States is gonna be penned in a single location. Fuck it, that's neither here nor there. If you're headed for the beach, use the south entrance. Safeway and liquor stores are more easily reached out the north entrance, also the motels, if you got a room. Nearest gas is on a frontage road next to the freeway. There's a list of where different shit is, like gas, auto parts places, hardware store, all that happy horseshit. I'll post that list in the Winnebago, too.
"There'll be a big bonfire at the amphitheater every night, but we can use their fire pit here, too. If we're gonna do that, we'll have to send one of the cars out to pick up bundles of firewood. You can collect deadfall wood here, but apparently this place stays busy enough that every other group has already picked the place clean. Show of hands, who is camping here?"
About twenty hands, Angels and old ladies, went in the air. "Okay, fine. There's plenty of room to crash, as you can see. I know people were saying getting motel reservations here was a no-go, and Santa Maria was the next option. Who is staying in Santa Maria?"
Doobie, John-Boy, Goose, and their old ladies stuck their hands in the air. "Guess what, you're getting an assignment. I'm guessing you're gonna check in to your rooms this afternoon after we hike around some and say hi to the other chapters. I'm hijacking both cars owned by Angels and sending you to buy firewood bundles. Load up the cars with wood from a hardware store in Santa Maria, I have the address and directions. Oh yeah, that was another warning I got. The word is that Santa Maria is all jumpy because of our presence, and are going to enforce anti-cruising laws all weekend. If you feel like wandering around, don't hang around in Santa Maria. Their citizens are expecting to all be raped and pillaged by Monday, I guess. Anyone on a putt is gonna get leaned on in that town. Not even Lenny has enough money to get all our asses out of their jail...." There was laughter at this. ".... So just keep your life simpler and don't bother with the place at all, unless you've got a room. Okay, let's start getting shit out of the Iveco, then we'll take a stroll."
Personal gear came out and was distributed, then community equipment, like big coolers and folding chairs. Sitting at the back was thirty cases of Budweiser. Upon seeing this, Terry said, "Oh, fuckin' cool, my order came in. So what are the rest of you drinking this weekend?"
"Save us a couple cans, Terror," said Roach.
There was a gap in time while the campers staked out their spots and organized a bit. Roach and Dawn saw Bekka and I standing by the Falcon and ambled over. "So, here we are," said Roach. "I thought we were going to be at the beach."
"So did I," I responded. "Oh well, we see beach all the damn time anyway, and people from chapters that don't won't mind an extra five or ten minutes riding to get there. Say Dawn, how did your visit with Drummer go?"
"It was kinda hard,' Dawn replied. "I mean, I'd like to help him out more than I can. I gave him a hundred dollars, but I wish I could afford to pay for an apartment for him. He seems to be doing okay, he doesn't look any worse than he ever has and didn't seem to be sick. He said he was happy I was off the streets, it proves that it is possible to escape the rut. I told him about my job, which he was amazed by. He's like a lot of other people, he figures studs are around all these hot naked women, why aren't they getting it up on their own? He's happy I have Roach, and didn't seem bugged that Roach is H.A.
"Dammit, I wish I had the money you and Bekka did. I'd get Drummer an apartment and buy him groceries and stuff."
"The first step would be getting him sober," said Bekka. "Put him in one of those intensive live-in rehabs, then move him into a place. If he wasn't sober when he moved in, he'd probably get kicked out."
"Yeah, good point.... But Drummer doesn't get wrecked, he doesn't pass out and piss himself or shit like that. He just likes to maintain a heavy but not staggering buzz all day. You've met him twice now, and I know he was pretty loaded the first time. And if he was on the street when you said he was, he was probably loaded then too."
Bekka looked surprised at this. "He was coherent and upright when I saw him at Dog Beach. He had a bottle of Popov, but was nursing it."
Dawn smirked and said, "Uh huh. If you'd seen him presented with a challenge like navigating up a curb, you'd have known he was half in the bag." She frowned at her boots. "I'm gonna go and see him way more often. He was the only real friend I had for a year. All the guys I knew were only nice to me because they wanted to get in my pants. They figured I'd be easy to pull because I was homeless, I'd put out from sheer gratitude if they bought me a burrito and gave me a line of shit. Girls just treated me like dirt. I was just some fucking dope whore who lived in her car, street trash that wasn't worth the air needed to speak to me. One bitch thought I was trying to steal her boyfriend, because he'd kick down a bit of shit to me every now and then. I knew he had a girlfriend, so I didn't make my usual offer, I was just grateful to him. She figured I would put out, and be such a freak I'd make her look lame in comparison.
"Just driving through Ocean Beach made me realize how fucked up being on the streets there is. I cruised around a little bit, just checking shit out. I went down the alley of the pizza place I used to dumpster dive at, and thought, holy shit, I would eat food I found back here. Did I never notice how fucking filthy it is back there? Or where I used to spare change people outside the market. I'd sit there, begging for money, all damn day. It feels like a fucking nightmare now."
I said, "I just realized, I haven't heard you go off on your self-loathing tirade about how you're trash for a long time. Did you finally start to believe me?"
"Yeah.... Although Roach was the one to really seal the deal. He says nobody loves trash, but he loved me, so I must not be trash. Between the two of you I realized that how I lived wasn't voluntary, like you said Lenny, I was in survival mode.
"Oh shit! I forgot to tell you, I have an appointment with a shrink next Monday. Okay, I've been doing way better --- I sleep about five hours a night now --- but there still must be something going on, it's not going to just disappear, and I want to get my head sorted out, once and for all. The appointment is through county Public Health, so I'm hoping they don't just try to feed me pills and kick me loose, like they did in Modesto. They mentioned counseling sessions are available, which will help a lot. Heh, I guess my biggest fear is that I'll actually become sane again, then Roach will leave me because I'm no longer so entertaining to be around."
Roach scooped her up in his arms and cuddled her, the same way Boss would do to Bekka. He said, "I want my Pint Size to be well, all the way through. Don't worry about me, you're stuck with me."
Bekka nudged me and said, "Did you and I reach this level of cute when we first got together?"
"When we first got together, you were actively campaigning against anything that ranked as cute," I responded. "You kept threatening to set fire to the Hello Kitty store at the mall. Seeing a 'Family Circus' cartoon in the paper made you break into Tourette's-style bursts of profanity. And I had to dissuade you from sending mail bombs to the corporate headquarters of Hallmark Cards."
Roach burst into laughter at this. "Hey Lenny, it's probably best she never saw the band Vice Squad. Becky Bondage would have made her foam at the mouth."
"I'm just glad we didn't have Squeak yet," I replied.