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Archive for the ‘Hippies’ 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.

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“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!

Bleck.

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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I have one good story from our trip across the county.

After driving 260 miles through Nevada, along the loneliest road in America, Interstate 50, we got to a small town called ELY, NEVADA. We went there so we could visit the Lehman Caves, which were awesome! But after we did the caves, we took the dogs to a small park. As we were leaving, I pulled our car out behind another car stopped at a stop sign. Suddenly, the driver in front of us threw her car into reverse and slammed into out front end.

Just as we were recovering from the shock, a police officer pulled in behind me. She gave me a big smile and a thumbs up. Luckily she had seen the whole thing.

Ely Meth Head #1

Ely Meth Head #1

Why luckily? Because the driver of the other car was straight out of central casting for Meth Head #1. She was probably 30, but her face was all sunken in since she had no teeth, her skin was grayish purple with pink splotches of calamine lotion covering up the scabs on her face – probably where she had tried to pick out the meth bugs!

Of course, when she got out of her car, she was super apologetic, but was super squirrely. She was convinced that she did not see us because of the road’s slope or the sun or the fact that her front bumper was caught in the dip. Take your pick. All of these excuses came out of her super fast with darting hands.

The police officer came over to assess the extent of the accident. The police officer asked us to move our cars and when Meth Head #1 tried to get back into her car, the driver’s side door handle fell off.

While she was trying to get back into her car, she managed to make a call to her dealer to let him or her know that she:

A.) had the money

B.) was on her way

C.) even tho she got into an accident.

Of course, things got better when Meth Head #1 argued with the police officer about her expired proof of insurance. Frustrated Noelle took the dogs and walked away, while I dealt with this hot mess.

As the police officer wrote up the accident, Meth Head #1 tried to talk to me about how hard it was to have a car in this town and how she was going to be late for her appointment. All I could think about was how she managed to keep her leather moccasins on her feet with all her nervous hopping around.

Luckily, again, there was no real damage to our car. There was a tense moment when Noelle was convinced the hood latch was broken and we would have to stay in ELY to get it fixed. The police officer laughed at us. “If you need your car fixed, we gotcha ’til next Christmas, at least.” I guess there is only one mechanic in ELY and that mechanic is either really busy or took his time.

I am not real sure what happened to the Meth Head, since she was still talking to the police officer when we pulled away to go back to the hotel. Part of me hopes, the police let her go about her day getting high and recounting her tale of woe. But part of me, hopes that police jammed her up, so maybe she will get some help.

But then, again, if I lived in ELY Nevada, three hours in any direction from everything, I would probably do a lot of meth, too.

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Not so recently, I’ve taken notice of all the campers and vintage Recreation Vehicles dotting the San Francisco streets. They make up a mysterious subculture.

One that exists, in plain view, parked along the curbs of various streets and around freeway underpasses. I am increasingly curious about everything concerning those campers and mini-RVs dotting the city.

Many, if not most of them, look permanently stuck to their little asphalt spots, a damn of twigs and fine gutter debris collected around their drooping rubber of chalky tires. Still others idle, while their chugging generators puff black exhaust clouds across the sidewalk, orange extension cords laced through cracked windows and homemade duct tape and bed sheet curtains.

Noelle and I were talking about them a few weeks ago, after I pointed out a filthy RV gurgling and humming nearby. She did not think the owners/inhabitants would be all that interesting, but I thought their stories might hold a treasure of rambling adventure and untrimmed beard antics.

I mean, just the procurement, alone, of the vehicle must be an interesting story. Where do they all come from? How many house the original owners versus how many have been traded or purchased second or third hand? Plus most of these campers are the same make and model, little variations differentiate them, but on a whole they look more like an organized fleet than random collection.

So maybe they are an RV gang – in the worst motorcycle club tradition. Or maybe they are all participants in some sort of mobile home urban camping revolution. A branch of the squatter movement, but with a love of gas stations instead of abandoned homes. Just think of all the ways the regionalism of gas stations might be fetishized by slightly loony revolutionary theorists!

Noelle floated the idea that most of the mobile homies were probably old Santa beard hippies and their hunched over old ladies, slowly simmering lentil pots on a hot plate, surrounded by yellowed newspapers and clouds of pot smoke. Or less likely, but still highly probable, they are transplanted Midwestern Trustafarians. Immature adults who’s elderly parents sit in suburbia holding the safety net, creakily, open under the slack-filled lifestyle. Or are they just the typical homeless, just slightly more organized in their mess of mental illness and drug abuse?

I thought, maybe the RVs were the homesteads of the elderly Asian couples who ceaselessly roam the streets with their wire grocery carts and rubber gloves, poking through the trash for recyclables. Which they turn into fuel to feed into the gas tanks of their generators and camper vans. The inside of their RVs crammed with Citizen Band radios and black and white portable televisions. The greasy wok smoking and cracking with the pungent sizzle of bok choy.

I think it would be a worthwhile project to investigate these impromptu urban campgrounds. there might be some surprising stories hidden behind those bumper stickers and closed side doors. Maybe an Elmer’s Glue heiress or a disgraced sports star living in one of those campers. You never know until you knock and find out.

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Aaron and Mandy arrived on Saturday July 3rd. I picked them up at the Civic Center BART station.

There was some World Cup dance party that was happening in front of the City Hall which we narrowly avoided. There were families dancing in the grass, little children kicking soccer balls at each other, and a terrible thump of techno music quivering the hot dogs vendor’s rotisseries.

After walking though the same area a weekend before, during PRIDE, this event was empty. The crowd well behaved, full clothed, and easy to ignore.

After getting situated at our condo, the Melnicks and I set out to find food. Aaron wanted to eat at this place his dad highly recommended. Some place called CHOW. We took two buses, rode through Golden Gate Park, and walked a block out of our way before finding the darn place. We all thought it was just okay. The service was slow and absentminded. There was a screaming child a few tables away from us – a fact the restaurant has no control over, but there were a ton of families and children tramping all over the place. Someone should spray for them things.

After CHOW, we headed toward Haight. While the walk there was not at all scenic – a divided highway, one side was the edge of the park and the side we walked on, stark sidewalks with little character. Once we asked someone where Haight was and we were headed past the Panhandle, Aaron took it upon himself to pee on a tree. Luckily the SF meter maid was still a block away, because neither Mandy nor I had money to bail him out of jail.

I suppose the Haight did not disappoint. There were so many head shops and dirty hippies. Aaron commented that it seemed like everyone in this area seemed to really want to look like an extra from THE ROAD WARRIOR. I guess because everyone was kind of gray with grime and their layered outfits a strange hybrid of homeless hippy and post-punk Hot Topic pre-fabrications. Sleeping bags make great coats! We did pass some little hippy chick sitting on the sidewalk strumming her acoustic guitar while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Surprisingly, we did not give her any money.

The walk from Haight back to our condo, while providing a certain sense of The City, because it is a very residential walk, is not something most tourists would want to see. But I think Aaron liked looking at the birds and trying to figure out which would make the best “climbing trees.”

Mandy had been trying to make plans with this kid John Bomba, an ex-Parmaite and old friend via New York and Now That’s Class. He really did not want to leave his house, so I drove Aaron and Mandy over to his place. Turns out it was DAGGERMAN RECORDS HQ, among other criminal enterprises.

We did spend a few hours up on his roof, which was kinda cool. Great view of downtown. We stayed a bit long to eat at CAPITAL, so we ended up walking to OSHA THAI NOODLE, then having a drink at ROYALE CAFE.

Aaron took London for a run the next morning. She still expects to break into a run and bolt after pigeons on the street. She’s spoiled now. Aaron and Mandy went to visit his Uncle David. Then I picked them up and took them to FENTON’S CREAMERY. We met up with Danny & Jeanette, Monica & Lenny & Lexi & Liam who had just gotten in from SFO. I was not too impressed with FENTON’S Famous Lobster spread sandwich nor the olive spread. But the fries were good.

After FENTON’s, I drove Mandy and Aaron to the DURANT HOTEL in Berkeley. From there they settled in and I drove back across the bridge. Noelle and I had pizza, before the Melnick crew drove back into the City. Of course, they wanted to hang out with their cooler friend Bomba. He suggested that everyone meet at the ELBOW ROOM which is on the corner of his street. I guess he really hates leaving the area.

The ELBOW ROOM was pretty gross. Full of hipsters and red lights and sticky seats. Plus the Mrs. Pac Man video game’s quarter slots were jammed up with coins, so we couldn’t play. Stupid useless video game table. After a few drinks, Bomba wanted to go back to his place so the party could involve cheaper beers. It was really boring, I guess. And we did not leave until after midnight.

On our way back to the car, which was parked on Mission by 16th street, we saw a lot of end of the world nightlife. The bums and crazies and homeless were out in full regalia. While fireworks exploded from roof tops, the crack zombies drooled and moaned their toothless cries as they stumbled toward their next score.

A womanly man, with a long dachshund pinned to his chest, tried to get into the all night tacoria, with a bluster of shoving and yelling a group of employees kept the door closed as a man outside shouldered the brunt of the scraggly hair abuse. The womanly man, with plastic bags over his wide tongue high tops, tight corduroys, and his unbuttoned to the navel shirts, screamed about Viet Nam, gooks, and his right to bomb the rice paddies – which I think meant he wanted to use the bathroom.

As he stumbled into oncoming traffic, we hustled into the rented Escalade, past a group of muttering shadows and almost bumping over a skinny meth whore. Lenny gunned the engine and he sped out of the drug zone.

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