Archive for the ‘California’ Category

“Everyone an outlaw, until it time to do outlaw shit.”

I picked this up because THE NATION recommended that if I, a pasty suburban leftie liberal, wanted to understand the “forgotten man” Trump voter, I should read this. I find out near the the end, that the goddamn NATION magazine paid the tab on HST’s drink account to dictate this into a handheld tape recorder. Shady.

But the suggestion is not “that” wrong. As with everything HST wrote, there is a near perfect, poetic epiphany right near the end of the article/book that just sparks with soul cleansing crystal magic poetry. In the case of the Angels, HST crafts it out of the sheer loserdom that defines the cyclists’ whole reason for being.


“In terms of the Great Society the Hell’s Angels and their ilk are losers – dropouts, failures and malcontents. They are rejects looking for a way to get even with a world in which they are only a problem. The Hell’s Angels are not visionaries, but diehards, and if they are forerunners of the vanguard of anything it is not the “moral revolution” in vogue on college campuses, but a fast-growing legion of young unemployables whose trapped energy will inevitably find the same kind of destructive outlet that “outlaws” like the Hell’s Angels have been finding for years. The difference between the student radicals and the Hell’s Angels is that the students are rebelling against he past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo.” p. 256-257.

Lost by their own hobbying, lost by their own addictions, lost by their own purposeful sense of community and belonging. But still given a certain nodding respect by conservative society and it’s wide belted police force. Because, the Angels, are, when it is said and done, still young white boys and probably could be rehabilitated.

HST does an amazing thing, much like Arendt, he unpacks the bluster to strip the myth down to the most banal reality of the outlaw. While he never coins the phrase, the HELL’S ANGELS can be seen as a study in the “banality of hooliganism.”

HST spreads out how popular culture, namely the movie THE WILD ONE inspired the conception of the Angels. Not only were the Angels fans, they sought to emulate and surpass the look and attitude of the bikers in the movie. But the press conflated real news with the events in the movies, to heighten the fears of small town America, when their windows rattled when a bike barrelled past.

It is really the long stretch where HST does a play by play of the party at Bear Lake illustrates just how absurd the whole game of cat and mouse becomes – where the most dangerous thing are the “squares” armed to the teeth and those teeth floating in a bile of pent up fearful rage. The begrudging respect the police afford the motorcycle revelers and the pure drunken inaction of the revelers themselves, puts a fine point on the weekend adventure.

But there are honestly disgusting and troubling aspects to the Angel’s – their attitude toward women, sex, and rape is primal and tribal. But, I wonder, to what extent does their embrace of demeaning and owning women, beating them into submission, and forcibly raping them did not just give full articulation to the mores of the post-war American spirit?

Not to mention their reactionary racism. While they seem to have no issue with individual blacks, they hate “the blacks” writ large. They fear retaliation after kicking the shit out of a young black guy in their bar. The white paranoia was conservative and unironically embracing the “law and order” tactics that are used to corral and harass them, as well.

But the most embarrassing part of the book is when the Keasey/Ginsburg crowd adopts the Angels. I mean why wouldn’t old Uncle Alan want to make it with some greasy smelling bears while quoting Whitman as he came? The Angels were made for his fiddling bits, the slumming would be delicious. He even wrote a four page nonsense poem about them – under the pretext of convincing them not to wail on his gentle anti-war protesting friends. Oh the wiles of the poet, his song weakening the brutal heart of the barbarian to spare the valley of the river nymphs!


HST’s book is an artifact to a time when America was still outraged by the unkempt appearance of the Hell’s Angels, before the “look” became ubiquitous. Now the sight of a bearded, shirtless, leather vested man’s man roaring down the highway, spilling beer and flipping off the camera is used to sell watches to stock brokers, not to instill fear into the hearts of upstanding mom and dads.

And maybe that is what the Trump supporters are most angry about. They are no longer feared and their existence considered outlaw. They are “forgotten” because their idea of outlaw culture is no longer outlaw.


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Old Timey Fire Alarm

Press for Bell

I know everyone is simply dying to hear more about my daily morning commute. Not a lot has happened, since it was the end of the month and it was raining.

The rain keeps the drug addicts, can collectors, and other assorted homeless nogoodniks turtled up in door jams and other pockets of low hanging shelter. And the end of the month means everyone is out of gobermint money and holed up waiting on their checks.

Though, I did sit next to a guy in acid washed jeans and big scuffed up biker boots, carrying a wooden walking stick/cane. He was on an Obama Phone talking to his doc’s answering machine.

He was announcing that he really needed to be seen today and if he could not get an appointment, he was just going to sit in the waiting room until he could be seen. “Thanks Doctor. And God Bless you,” he said and snapped the Obama Phone closed with a grunted, “sheeeeet.”

As this guy was getting off the bus he struck up a conversation with another guy. This other guy was younger and scruffier and carrying what looked like a stand up bass case strapped to his back. I am sure there was no instrument in there based on the lumpiness of the proportions.

These two started talking about how bad these damn Muni drivers are anymore. Jerking back and forth. “The other day, this little ole lady almost took a knee cuz the way the bus driver was drivin’.”

These guys were walking a few yards behind me as we crossed the streets. I overheard the conversation without even having to try.

“I never take the bus. Well, I did but then I got off methadone.”
“You mean you got back on Hearon.”
(chuckles) “Naw man.”
“I am trying to see the doc to get a refill on the oxys. You can’t just take that bottle in and get them to call. You need to see the doc each time.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So I gotta see the doc today. Get that refilled.”
“Uh huh. I am headed down to the methadone clinic.”
“Back on, huh?”
“Sure. Unless you get them oxys!’
The sound of their wheezy chuckles followed me as I turned heel at the corner.

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I planned on composing a long diatribe about the Occupy Wall Street – my thoughts on the protest, the press coverage, all the while bashing the nail of poverty and homelessness with a large Whack-A-Mole style mallet. But this morning, while dog walking in the dark and collecting my thoughts; I started to think that just bashing away with that padded carnival hammer would lead to a lot missed or unsubtle points. More importantly, though, I risked the possibility a few wild ricochets would bounce up to smack me in the nose. And I cannot afford to have that big thing smacked.

So instead of that, you get this: A few weeks ago, when Mindy Fisher was in town, we were waiting to cross Geary at Laguna. Standing next to his duffle bag, dressed in a slightly dirty white sweater, a purple shirt and a bold red tie, was a man holding up a small cardboard, professional looking protest sign. I had seen him a few times before this. He always stood right by the 39 bus stop – kind of moving between the garbage can and the tree, depending on the flow of traffic, strangely moving closer to the moving cars than the ones stopped at a red light.

The first time I saw him, maybe a month before, he was wearing a loose fitting gray suit. And the sign was just a piece of notebook paper. As I approached, I could read the side facing me – USA OUT OF LIBYA! It was written in furiously applied scribbly ink pen. The other side was a dense and illegible treatise on something. The words flowed over crudely drawn illustrations.

As he held this paper up for the world to see, it curled over and buckled in the slightest breeze. But his commitment was unflagging. The ineffectual communication of his message was overshadowed by his intense desire to share it.

 About a week later he was back on the corner. Only this time, his notebook sign was stuffed into a plastic binder sheet protector. Plus his message was now neatly printed in bold black magick marker. Or at least the USA OUT OF LIBYA! was, while the other side of complicated exposition was still a jumble of arrows, crude figures, and wild text. The poly sheet cover added some rigidity which helped in the curling and buckling.

This solitary protester looked slightly off, his hair a nest of greasy curls, while his clothes, where ill fitting but mostly clean. But there was something vague about him, fuzzy around the edges, and the way his eyes never focused gave him that ‘possibly coming off his meds’ look.

So when Mindy and I passed him on our way across the street, I was delighted to see that his protest had entered a new phase. He held up a legal size, typeset, multicolor poster. It was even attached to a small stick, so he no longer had to delicately worry about holding the edges so as not to obstruct the sign.

The USA OUT OF LIBYA had morphed into a clearer delineation – CIA OUT OF LIBYA. A clarification necessitated by the fact that the USA was never IN Libya. At least not in the way the sign implied. Plus the real crux of this gentleman’s protest rationale was finally revealed by the readability of the reverse side.

Printed in large block letters and illustrations of people that looked to have just jumped off a Slow PED-XING sign, the message was clear. See that black satellite up above the human figure. Now follow the very brightly colored red lightning strikes aimed at the man’s limbs. See how the rays seep in and animate the man’s body so he can no longer control his movements. This process of space puppetry explained the Libyan protests. These rebels were not really unhappy, they were being manipulated by the CIA space satellites to attack and overthrow their government.

The simplicity of the illustrations, along with the lucidity of the explanation, made me smile. I commented to Mindy that I am sure that some public librarian, somewhere, helped him make that sign. 

I think this is a great illustration of how I see the Occupy Wall Street protests. I would hope the next time I see this guy on the corner, his message has adapted to the new situation on the ground – namely the overthrow of the Libyan regime. I mean, I hope he does not give up that easy.

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Right about the time Lizzy got her hypoallergenic cat, Madeline started referring to Aunt Ohwell and Knuckle John’s cat, Wade, as “her cat.” Wade is a very special cat. He is a total sweetie pie. But he is not the smartest cat in the world. Wade gets lost in the house, maybe he wakes up down in the basement and forgets where he is, so he starts meowing until either his brother Marten meows back or one of us people call him. He also falls off things all the time – tables, bookshelves, beds. But he is the sweetest, most purry cat you would ever want to meet. And he was incredibly patient with Madeline.

Madeline would come bouncing into Aunt Ohwell and Knuckle John’s and immediately want to start looking for Wade. “Where is he?” she’d ask as she’d inch around the dining room, creeping into the living room, before asking “Maybe he is upstairs on the bed?” Once she would find him, she would climb up on the bed, a huge happy grin on her face, giggling, as she gently petted his head and ears. Wade would let her pet him for awhile then jump off the bed and run out of the room.

Whenever Madeline would mention “my cat Wade,” she would giggle and smile. All she ever had to say about Marten was that he liked to run and hide. He did not like getting pets.

Well, one day the cats moved to “Caly-four-u-nah” to live with Aunt Ohwell. Madeline asked her mom to call up Knuckle John because she had something to ask him. So her mom dialed the phone and handed it to Madeline when Knuckle John answered.

“Knuckle John. Where is my cat Wade?” Madeline demanded before even saying hello. “Did you take him away?”

“Wade went to live with Aunt Noelle in California, Madeline,” Knuckle John tried to explain again to the concerned little voice accusing him from the other end of the phone.

“Is that far away?” Madeline asked before continuing, “Can I see him?”

“It is very far away. Maybe someday you and your mom can come and visit Aunt Noelle and Wade and Marten.” Knuckle John tried to reassure her.

Madeline thought for a moment, “Today?”

“No not today, Madeline, but soon, maybe.”

“Knuckle John. Why did you take him away? Go get him so I can see him,” Madeline demanded.

“Well, I can’t get him today, Madeline, but soon.”

“Knuckle John. You need to wear a coat because it is very cold outside. Do you have your coat?” Madeline asked, abruptly, shifting gears and changing the topic.

Weeks later, at one of the Birthday Parties, Madeline found out that everyone was talking to Aunt Ohwell on the phone. She demanded to speak with her.

Knuckle John handed her the phone and Madeline laid right in, “Why did you take my cat with you?”

Aunt Ohwell tied to explain to Madeline about how Wade moved to California and he misses her.

But Madeline was not so convinced, “Bring him back,” she concluded before starting to tell Aunt Ohwell about the train she and Knuckle John were playing with and how Knuckle John was not sharing.

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