What’s wrong with a little biker smalltalk at 3 AM? David Matthews finds out.
Maybe I caught him at a bad time. It was late. Close to three in the morning. We’d been in the bodega for a long time. The sixer I grabbed when we first got there was beading, the bottles weren’t going to be as cold as they could be. Why am I even buying a six-pack? I add up the number of beers I’ve had already. Was it seven? There was that shot, so let’s say eight. No, no. Nine. Let’s say nine.
The people I’m with ordered breakfast sandwiches: sausage, egg, and cheese with hash browns inside the sandwiches. They will tell me later I should have gotten one and they are probably right. But the sandwiches aren’t here yet because a lot of people have ordered sandwiches. My beer gets warmer.
When he enters the store, he’s just a guy in glasses with a leather vest on. This is the Lower East Side, there are weirder things to wear. He makes a beeline for the back of the store, past me. I turn to look at the back of his vest. The name of his Motorcycle Club’s (MC) up top; the charter’s below the logo in the middle.. He’s a nomad. He’s a member of a biker gang who is beholden to no specific charter. He holds a position of respect through the MC as a whole. He’s the eyes and ears of the club’s president most likely. He’s coming back with a bottle of water.
I ask him about MC life. I know only a little from watching Sons of Anarchy, and I think I’m holding my own even though that’s likely not true. We shoot the breeze. I ask if his MC hangs out off Union St. in Park Slope since I’ve seen some guys milling around outside the bodegas there a few times. He’s non-committal. There might be some guys, but mostly they’re in a different neighborhood.
After about a minute of chit-chat, he goes to the register and motions to the cashier. I start to think he’s shaking down the shop owner.
A flash: I need a pitch for this new site. Bikers probably watch sports. Maybe they even play sports.
Racketeering, schmacketeering. I approach again.
“Do you guys watch sports at the clubhouse?”
“Yeah, what guys don’t?”
“Listen, I’m a journalist”–a stretch, sure–“would you guys be willing to let me hang out with you all when you watch, like, Monday Night Football?”
He stares at me. He’s growing suspicious, I’m sure. A journalist? Sound like a cop much? Why did I spend the last week trying to grow a mustache? He shakes his head.
He leaves. That ended weirdly. I really am not in the mood to get jumped outside of a bodega in the LES. That was such a stupid idea. Those guys pride themselves in being outlaws, and some drunk is asking too many questions and wants to hang out? Don’t people like that get taught lessons? I watch too much TV.
My friends got their sandwiches already. They’re already outside. I head outside expecting a pipe to crush my sternum. I step outside and look left and right. He’s gone. There’s not even a bike on the street. We head to another party. I run into some people who also watch the show. I tell them what just happened and they tell me I should try the Hell’s Angels clubhouse. They think it’s on 3rd. I say maybe but know I won’t.
Sunday afternoon while watching the early NFL game, I look up the club. I want to read news about gangland shootings. Or a prostitution ring. Something. Anything. They seem harmless. Later I’m told “they seem social-media savvy.” That sounds about right. Would’ve been a cool story.
Monday morning I shaved.