Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't get me wrong, I love a good brazilian...

I was doing something on the interwebs the other day, and noticed a banner ad for Illinois tourism that was obviously targeting me. (My browser's full of motorcycle cookies, of course, and the modern ad industry is all about micro-targeting.)

Normally, this is manifested in the form of ads for crash helmets or whatever, and I have no trouble ignoring them. But this ad execution by agency JWT Chicago really charmed me. It's part of a wacky campaign JWT calls 'Mini Abe', that provides an idiosyncratic take on the state's old "Land of Lincoln" slogan.

I presume that if I was an avid golfer or fisherman, I would have been presented with executions in which the little Lincoln would have been golfing or fishing. In the banner I saw, though, Abe rides in on a chopper, then is chased out of the frame by two demented albino squirrels on dirt bikes. Finally, a third squirrel on a scooter rides in with the message, Be More Spontaneous this Fall. So, JWT went to the trouble of including something for just about any biker.

I don't know if these ads really will encourage motorcyclists in Illinois or surrounding states to spontaneously schedule a late-season motorcycle trip, but I dig that the state of Illinois thinks enough of us, as a group, to feel that we're worth targeting. It's a refreshing change from the round the clock coverage we were getting of the stunt-biker-vs-Range-Rover debacle in New York.

Of course, it turns out that gang included plenty of cops, including at least one who attacked the Range Rover. So, presumably the slogan 'New York's Finest' is out of date. I hope so, for New York's sake.

Meanwhile in Brazil, a bike-jacking went viral after the victim, who was wearing a helmet cam, uploaded a video of a Brazilian cop jumping out of a car and shooting the would-be thief.

Now, normally there's nothing I like more than a close encounter with a brazilian, but I prefer it to be a wax job, not a gun-wielding nut job. This video does little to encourage tourism to the MotoGP event in Brazil, which is tentatively on the schedule for September 2014. If the Brazilians do get their event firmed up, however, I nominate that cop as director of security.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A 'Hollister' for the new century

I think this group calls itself "Hollywood Stuntz". Rhymes with "Peckerwood C...."

A few days ago, a gang of 'stuntahz' (my word) had the poor judgement to film themselves terrorizing a guy driving through New York, with his wife and kid. Bad judgement was exercised all around--I'm 95% certain that if it had been me in the Range Rover, I would have seen them approaching from behind, pulled to one side to let them pass, then followed at a safe distance to watch their madcap antics. No one--at least, no one in my car--would've been hurt.

Instead, at least one biker was injured, and the driver took a shit-kicking. Still, nothing about this would have made it more than a local news story, except that one of the idiots involved posted a video to YouTube that went viral within hours. I won't bother posting the video because you've all seen it; most of you have made up your minds about it and posted comments on it.

What's interesting to me is not the first wave of reaction to the story, but the second wave. Within a day or two the NBC Nightly News had produced a sensational story with the requisite footage of police describing the phenomenon as a growing threat.

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There has never, ever, been a cop that downplayed the potential risk of some new threat trumpeted by sensationalists in the media. Why would they? Any increase in public paranoia translates into increased power and prestige for the cops. Ironically, it doesn't matter whether the populace is afraid of criminals, or afraid of the police. Either one is good for cops.

What does this remind me of? Hollister. On July 4 1947, 4,000 'straight-pipers' rode into Hollister. Their plan was to spend the long weekend partying and watching local, AMA-sanctioned flat track races, but the partying got a little out of control. Even the local police admitted that the bikers "did more harm to themselves than they did to the town" but the press blew the story out of proportion. Police all over the U.S. used those exaggerated stories when pressing for increased budgets and, often, military style weapons and equipment. 

It's hard to believe now, but right after WWII, the Hells Angels were an AMA-sanctioned club that put on events open to all motorcyclists. Then, the L.A. cops framed several members on rape charges so flimsy even the cops' usual co-conspirators--local DAs--threw them out. In the process, though, the cops encouraged the criminalization of the club, helping to turn it into a gang. After all, if you're going to be harassed and charged anyway, why not commit the crimes?

When the Hollister events were dramatized by Hollywood in 'The Wild One', America's image of motorcycling changed for decades, until Honda's "nicest people" TV ads made Americans reevaluate motorcycles and the people who rode them.

If you read Backmarker, you probably have no trouble telling these urban stuntahz apart from serious sport riders. (Hint, if they're just wearing a t-shirt and a cheap Icon back protector, and have a girlfriend perched on the back in short shorts and high heels, they're not serious.) But that distinction is harder to make for the average cager or cop.

AMA: here's a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of real motorcyclists. Step up here and get ahead of this story, if there's still time. Otherwise, it's a 'Hollister' for the new century. And that's all American motorcycling needs.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hookers love motorcycles

It's been a tiring month or two here at's sprawling corporate campus, and I have posted very little.

I've got some excuses, of course. (If I've learned anything in the last decade in the U.S., it's that nothing is anyone's fault.) I'm just putting the finishing touches on two books that I want to have available for Christmas, and I finally finished a long promised screenplay for a sci-fi short. Meanwhile, I'm occasionally distracted by several other film projects that are 'in development' as they say. That's movie-business talk for 'looking for money'.

It's not that there hasn't been lots to write about in motorcycle land. The other shoe finally dropped vis-a-vis Laguna Seca losing its MotoGP round; the fact that Dani Pedrosa's Honda was rendered immediately and utterly unrideable after Marc Marquez made incidental contact that disabled the traction control system. Don't get me started on Casey 'Whingebag' Stoner -- who won the championship because he was the first rider to completely trust traction control -- saying he'd return if the bikes made even more power and had no TC.

That rogue gang of stuntahz and the Range Rover guy -- I'd write about them, but everyone else already has. My scooter got stolen -- and I caught the guy but haven't yet recovered the scoot -- there's a whole real-life cops-and-robbers story there. And then there was the guy (another cop!) who sent a press release to Roadracing World, announcing that he was going to start a business in which hot nurses would rehydrate and re-oxygenate club-level motorcycle racers... Well, that one is so crazy that maybe I will revisit it in the coming days.
This guy walks into a motel office. As he's paying for the room, he says to the clerk, "I hope the porn channel's disabled." The clerk says, "No, it's regular porn, you sick fuck."

Anyway, last night, I found myself fondly hearkening back to the days when I worked at Motorcyclist, and spent two or three nights a week in L.A. Fond thoughts about that period of my life aren't common, because with a couple of exceptions, I worked for/with psychopaths and L.A. is one of the world's biggest urban failures. The one good thing -- besides the free motorcycles and OEM-paid travel to exotic destinations like Willow Springs -- about working in L.A. was, it was the only place I've ever lived that had a good place to grab a beer on Monday night.

I don't know what it is about me, but I seem to be inclined to work out, work, stay home and cook; I do boring shit all weekend and never really feel like going out. Then come Monday, I find myself thinking, "I've gotta' get out and do something." Yesterday was one of those Mondays. I actually went the whole day without having a single face-to-face conversation of any kind with another human. But last night, when I would have gone out somewhere, I realized that on a Monday night in Kansas City, there was probably nowhere to kill an hour amongst entertaining strangers.

That wasn't the case when I worked at Motorcyclist. At least not after I found out about that bar.

I have no idea what the bar was called. It was in NoHo -- a neighborhood that actually should'a been called "lotsa' hos" -- and if the bar had a name, it wasn't posted anywhere. It had a street number, and a very large man at the door. And Mondays, it rocked. The place was packed.

It was not for Monday Night Football. Nope. It was packed because the clientele were sex trade workers, and if you're a hooker, Monday is your Saturday.

That un-named bar wasn't the only place I encountered hookers on my Motorcyclist beat.

While I worked in L.A., I lived in San Diego. So my commute, door-to-door was 120 miles. I typically worked one or two days per week on assignment, one or two days per week from home, and a couple of days per week in the Petersen Building on Wilshire Boulevard. My office window looked north across Hollywood; if the smog was not too bad, the sign was visible on the hills. But if you looked south from my floor, you were surveying a vista where, on any given night, someone was being murdered.

Since living in San Diego was my problem, the magazine had no interest in subsidizing my accommodation for a night or two in L.A. And since I was making shit money, I had to find a cheap motel.

There were a couple of candidate hostelries commensurate with my rather stringent budgetary constraints. They were fucking dives yes, south of my office.

The one I settled on was $40 a night.

In central L.A.

Use your imagination.

Go worse; go way worse. The building presented some gay coral-hued stucco facade to the street. To enter the motel, you drove (or in my case, rode) through a sort of portico into an inner "court". I'm using that word very, very loosely. A square of motel rooms, each presenting a single window and door into the court, were numbered from about 1 to 20. They were usually dark, but when a new vehicle entered, there was often a rustle at a few curtains.

In the corner, there was a lighted window, and a sign: Office.

The owners were Chinese, or of that descent anyway. Food smells, and Chinese soap opera soundtracks wafted from the heavy wrought-iron window grille. A crude sign blared the message:

No drugs!
No prostitutes!

Beneath it, there were rates for a week, a night, and an hour. The first time I paid for a room, they actually let me use a credit card. On all subsequent visits they screeched, "Machine broken! Cash only".

You've gotta' understand; at the time, I was riding motorcycles from Motorcyclist's press fleet. It was a selective filter for machines on the sublime-to-ridiculous spectrum. I'd show up on a different new bike ever time; a Ducati 99-whatever it was in 2004, a new Gixxer 1000; once I showed up on a Honda Rune and another time on what was probably the only Rocket III in the country. The manufacturers who'd loaned us those bikes would've shit themselves if they realized where I was leaving them overnight. Although in truth, it wasn't that dangerous; the owners let me park the bikes right by their window. It was open all night, and there was always someone in there watching TV. It would've taken a pretty brazen thief, and it wasn't a place anyone casing high end bikes would ever have entered looking for a high end bike.

Typically, what I'd do is get my room, and walk a block to the nearest 7-11. I'd buy a bag of chips, a beer, a bottle of OJ, and a banana, and walk back to the dump. There was a side-entrance into the courtyard, from that direction. Before going to sleep, I'd drink the beer, eat the chips, and watch whatever passed for TV. It wasn't like they had a full satellite package; it was more like rabbit ears. The next morning I'd get up, eat the banana, drink the juice, and try to shower and dry off without getting some nasty foot fungus, then hightail it to Starbucks.

The thing was, those motorcycles made me cool in there. Hookers love bikes. Well, there was that time I arrived on a brand new Ducati and one girl, after admiring it, went next door to get another girl to come and see it.

"You should see this guy's crotch rocket," she said.

Her friend came out, took one look and said, "Oh. I thought it was going to be a Ninja."

Kawasaki were getting good money out of their Ricky Gadson sponsorship, I guess.

Most of those chicks were pretty hardened, desperate crackheads. (I think it was still crack back then; when I found drug paraphernalia in the room, which happened fairly often, it was usually a crack pipe. But maybe they used the same type of pipe for meth. Whatever.)

Some of the girls, however, were sweet and sad. They were occasionally funny. Once they came to grips with the fact that I was not in the market but didn't hate them, either, we struck up little two-minute friendships.

There was one that I saw often enough that I got to know her name -- though I've long since forgotten it. I recall it being something rural and anachronistic, like Beulah. I'll call her that, anyway, for the rest of this story.

Anyway, one night I was walking back from the 7-11 with my goodie bag, and noticed two things: First, there was a hooker standing out on the street by the main entrance, and she was white. That never happened. Second, there was a tough looking white dude standing mostly out of sight at the corner of the building, near the side entrance. The guy gave me a real what-are-you-looking-at staredown as I approached, and I knew immediately he was a cop. I also knew he had nothing on me and my story checked out, so I gave it back to him.

In the courtyard, Beulah hissed "psst" from a doorway, and whispered that the white girl on the sidewalk was a cop. She said it like she was really worried I might try to tap that thing. I told her, Sweetie, if anybody in here ever gets my money, it'll be you.

That made her smile.

I didn't think much more of it until, at about two o'clock in the morning, there was an enormous fucking ruckus right on the other side of a wall that was probably just wallpaper laid right on 2x4s, with no drywall or anything.

"You're under arrest!!!"

It turned out the female cop was bringing johns back to a room right next to mine. And that happened again at about three o'clock, and four. The fucking LAPD didn't even have the decency to buy the rooms on either side of their sting room. I don't know what saps ever hired that white "hooker"; she and her minder couldn't have looked more like cops if they'd been wearing their uniforms (which, come to think of it, would probably have attracted business up in NoHo, where there was a much kinkier vibe.)

They must've ruined Beulah's business that night. They ruined my night's sleep, that's for sure. My only consolation was that the asshole who'd given my stinkeye never got the satisfaction of cuffing me. And that early the next morning, they were probably watching from some window as I rode out on some brand-new bitchin' bike, looking suspicious as hell.