je ne sais quoi

Saturday, April 10, 2010


While at the tail end of a 2 hour ride, me and a friend were cruising down a clear 4 lane road. A kind gentleman on a loud Harley/Chopper/Compensator came up from behind, released his throttle as he rode up so we wouldn't hear him, and hit it at full throttle inches from my left calf. He of course proceeded to race it to a red light 200 meters away.

As is frequently the case, we coasted to the red light a few seconds later right alongside our new friend. Had a nice look at the guy at this point, too. Shaved head, handlebar moustache. A tribal tattoo on his right forearm left over from the 90s. A real gen-U-ine tough-guy!

"Hey, any reason why you buzzed me full throttle back there?"

"Maybe you should get the fuck out of my way. Did you flip me off?"

"It's an empty two lane road, we're going above the speed limit, and you're on a motorcycle with plenty of room to pass."

[what's that? rational thought? he's not a fan, nope] "You want to fucking go? Lets go."

Funny how these things happen right as the light turns green. He emphatically headed off to wherever tough-guys go presumably to never be seen by us again. It bummed me out, really. Only yesterday, one of the nicest racers in town, Jorge Alvarado, was killed by a reckless high school kid drag racing his cronies on the streets. Even before this incident, I was overcome with grief, but also with anger, and all of it with an underlying sense of grave concern and awareness that it really could have been any of us out there, getting smashed up by one of these cancers of society. I don't intend for this to be a memorial for Jorge, may he rest peacefully. Nor do I intend for him to be a martyr for road rage awareness. I mention him here because regrettably the story continues...

We rode another mile down the road. Lo and behold, the same shiny compensator is parked in some car garage, and our man is chatting it up with his tough-guy associates. I'm a stubborn guy, and on reflex I approached our aggressor. This time with a compassionate request for sympathy because of what transpired the day before.

"A friend of ours died yesterday, man, because of a similar road-rage incident. I don't even want an apology, i'm just asking you to sympathize and understand where we're coming from. A guy died, yesterday, man."

"Do you want to die today?"

"What, are you gonna kill me?"

"Yeah, OK."

I'm not a tough guy. Certainly not whilst wearing cleats and spandex after a two hour ride. The most frightening thing about his delivery was that it wasn't sadistic or deranged in any way. He simply matter-of-factly stated, with a straight face, that he was ready to kill, and seamlessly turned his back to presumably get his weapon of choice. Did a good little sprint to get out of there, and my friend and I instinctively split up. He wound up at a fire station, and called the cops. I hauled ass out to an alley, and hid in between two walls, and hoped for the best. Fucking terrible feeling, not being able to "run for your life" but to sit and "wait for your life". I could hear his motorcycle putting around Montrose, and it made at least a couple passes before it was gone. Phone rang, and I went to the firestation to wait for the police officers.

ONE HOUR LATER...and still no one showed up. I set off to find my own cop, and sure enough I did. At the coffee shop. Officer Zakarian. Friendly, helpful, and sympathetic. Top marks. He chatted us up on what the options were, what to expect, etc. About 20 minutes later, and 80 minutes after the initial call, the original cops showed up. Four cars. What stellar efficiency! Regrettably, Officer Zakarian had to leave, and in his place we got officer dumb and dumberer, and WAY dumber than a box of rocks. I'm not kidding you, one of them, Officer Postajian, had a good 3 ounces of chewing tobacco spewing out from his lower lip. Glendale's finest, no doubt. This is the same guy that later came with "i don't tell you how to do your job. don't tell me how to do mine." Who said anything about a job? They tagged teamed us with some devil's advocate bullshit, and Postajian even said that WE could end up in jail, and that if we didn't drop this issue, we'd risk "ruining our weekend" with a jail sentence. These quotes are all verbatim, I swear it. This lasted a good hour, and the high point for me was when the least-dumb cop of the three (his name escapes me) asked me if it was wise to approach a guy who aggressively confronted me earlier. I paused, and emphatically came back at him with "Actually, YES. In hindsight it was wise. In the interest of NOT having this happen to someone in the future, it was ABSOLUTELY the correct decision." They continued with the apathetic spiel until we basically got sick of it and called it a day. Shortly before we were done, however, our man strut into the scene, happy as a clam, trying to engage me in a staring contest. Fun. He also flipped me off with the cops right there, which is ironic because the cops said that us flipping him off (which never happened) was how he rationalized his actions.

I've had weapons pulled on me, I've had glass bottles get thrown at me, i've been hit, and I have my life threatened about once an hour while riding in LA. Like I said, dime a dozen, and this certainly won't be the last. The difference with this one is that it's here, documented, and real. It's not in some bureaucrat's desk, decomposing away. I reached a boiling point ages ago. I'm beyond it, and I'm livid, and I want to take action. This is the action. If this is me being christened as a bicycle-rights activist, so be it. I can't kick these guys' asses or pull strings in Glendale City Hall to get something done, but I can write, I can inform, we can work our cycling and social networks and, cliche as it sounds, "raise awareness"...for something that actually needs to be brought to people's attention.


Now, let's take a less morose tone...

Despite the redundant and illogical questioning from GDPD's finest, I knew of course that nothing would come of this whole ordeal, but I had an itch to at least come away with something. Luckily, the guy paraded next to us after the "case was closed", and right in front of the GDPD, I snapped some photos of our friend. He might look familiar to some of you, as he's well known in that little nook in montrose. He's affectionately known as "Mighty Whitey" and "Hollywood" by neighboring businesses. He also has a cute vanity license plate on his moto that reads (i'll have it here shortly...). Here's a shot of his shop/domecile/hangout:

[via google street view]

And here are the ones I took of him off the moto, celebrating his tough-guyness.