October 22, 2008

Outlaw bikers - part 2

  I'm riding on the buddy seat behind an outlaw biker, as six "hogs" zig and zag through the beachside area of Daytona Beach during Motorcycle Week. "Hogs" is what bikers call their Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

  We're headed to a "party" and I have no idea where I am. Neither does my city editor because my car with its two-way radio is parked back at the Boot Hill Saloon where I met Cochise, the head of the East Coast Motorcycle (ECMF) gang.

  We stop in a sandy yard behind an old tourist house. I know we're near the beach because I can smell salt air and hotdogs. "Where's the party?" I ask.

  "It's coming out to us," Cochise answers, as a dozen or so big guys — mean-looking guys — leap off the porch into the sandy yard. They're wearing the colors of the "Outlaws" motorcycle gang. Next to "Hell's Angels," these guys are the most dangerous outlaw bikers in the nation.

  "It's okay, he's righteous," Cochise says of me to the "Outlaws" as they look me over cautiously. They pass around a funny looking brown cigarette. Everybody takes a "toke," a puff, including me. If I do something stupid I could end up "sleeping with the fishes," as underworld dudes like to say.

  My story appears in the newspaper two days later. There's a half page of written copy plus a full page of pictures. It's a story about a life-style few "straight" people can even imagine. I used an acronym (ECMF)for the real name of the gang because it was too nasty for family reading. I did write something I regretted when I saw it in print. I described the average mentality of gang members as: "...30 years old, going on 14."

  I leave the paper around midnight. Outside, the only light is from a half-moon. Fanned out across the parking lot are six ECMF bikers. I'm thinking, "...going on 14...what a stupid thing to say...now I'm road-kill."

  A smiling Cochise breaks the silence: "Hey Mister Newspaper Reporter — how about some extra copies of your story?"

  I think: "I'm still alive! Extra copies? How many?" I ask Cochise, "Will 15 be enough?"

  Epilogue: I learned several years ago that Cochise was later convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence without parole at Raiford Prison in Florida.

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