by Neill Raymond by Neill Raymond
Gypsy Joe was a Hells Angel Back in the early days. He was one of the original members, and knew all that was real and all that was bullshit about the gang. Back in those days it wasn't some $30,000 Harley that was bought out of a carpeted shop selling fancy leathers and tee-shirts and expensive designer paraphernalia and all kinds of Harley crap to middle age lawyers, and other biker whannabees.
They were down back then. Most of the bikes were made up of junked or stolen parts, anything they could scrounge or steal. They weren't rich, all they could back was a chopped up engine, junkyard frame, primed and ripped up and brought to life with a love they couldn't articulate.
They had their bullshit rituals and all that, but not half as bad as legend has it. They were just a bunch of penniless, tough young guys in a changing world soldiering up to have some strength… and fun. Motorcycles were all they could afford, while the rich guys drove cars the Angels had to bike…to get out of Richmond and places like that, where their Okie fathers brought them a generation before.
But, they had a secret. It was something God gave them as a gift, like the fatted calf to His Prodigal Son. Every time one of them ripped the kick start and her pan head roared like a train from hell it was for them like the last lump of stone falling from "Pieta" was to Michelangelo or what Liensdorf felt when his baton rose from the pit. No man it happens to can really explain it, but they go forever after it until the end of time.
If you were ever on a narrow street and saw the Angels roll through in their two by two skirmish line you would never forget it…back then they were the real thing…genuine outlaws that never broke a look, and would go down hard; the roar of their battalions like ancient warriors bouncing off the crummy new walls of California's faux stucco, cheap strip malls inhabited by what they could never be. The Hells Angels defied that new pop shit. And if you accidentally stared too long and met their eyes, you'd be sorry you did. Unless you were as bad as them.
The cops wouldn't suffer them long… a rookie had to bust a biker to get his bones, and on the street, the Angel was the Holy Grail. But the cop had the state behind him the Angel only his brothers, so, the swaggering lawmen braced and bristling with legal death always held the ace.
And so Gypsy Joe breathing his last all twisted up like the bent metal of his bike, and the profane cops standing over him laughing at the last scene as the running biker hit the exit ramp wall in his break for freedom.
But in his moment at the Styx, Gypsy Joe turned and looked up hard at the cops and never dropped his gaze as his indomitable soul left his body for someplace south of Heaven, and when his hard eyes went blank the young cops secretly shuddered.
Neill Raymond [send him mail] is a husband, father, grandfather, former Vietnam Marine, Alaska State Trooper, Highway Safety Specialist, finally, in my advanced years, a college graduate, and above all, a believer in both faith and works.