“You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.”
― Shaun Hick
Many of us grew up during a time when stuff was pretty damned hard. I grew up with 3 brothers in Chicago. Mother worked two jobs most of her life and my Father, who would have a huge impression worked in a steel mill. Times were tough, we lived in a cockroach infested 3 bedroom apartment on the Northside of Chicago in a mostly Latino neighborhood. My pops moved to Chicago when he was 14 from Oceana West Virginia. He lived a hard and screwed up life. His father, my grandfather, was an old-school coal miner and the meanest drunk West Virginia ever seen.
I can remember being told a story about my grandfather. One day he got on one of his drunken rages and beat my grandmother up. The cops were called to the house, my grandfather was waiting for the sheriff on top of a hill. Everyone knew each other back then since the town was so small. He said ” Listen up Mike, I have one bullet in this revolver for you and one for me. Make your choice”. Let’s just say the sheriff let the situation cool off. Dam Grandfather was so mean the town showed up to the funeral to make sure he was dead.
I now know those days for my father haunted him. He was also a drunk. A mean one at that. He would give us a beating for just about anything. One of the biggest mistakes that we could make as boys was for him to catch us crying or losing a fight. I remember one time the school called. Told him I’d been in a fight at school and got a bloody nose or some crap. He specifically asked “Did he win? Cause if not, he has another ass whooping coming when he gets home”. Yea the threat of an ass whooping from him installed in me. “If I ever got into a fight” I better damn well make sure I did everything I could to win it.
When I was about 10 my father and his friends started hanging around a motorcycle club in the area. When I turned 11 he was a full patched member and always out on the weekends. During the week after he got out of work, he would be hanging with his brothers. It was always a point of contention with my mother. After a while, she just accepted him being gone all the time. Shit it actually was a quiet time around the house and ass whoopings got lesser the more he was with the club.
When I turned 13, my pops started bringing me around all the guys. It was a sight to see, all those Harleys and Triumphs, what an amazing experience. My favorite part of being taken around the guys was a huge Rotty named “Rex”. It was the security for the clubhouse. Mean ass mother, but he was as nice as could be to me. As the year went on my pops would bring me to the clubhouse more and more. I became close friends with another members son. We are still the closest of brothers till this day. One thing that didn’t matter was the race. It was a white/latino club. Being in a Latino neighborhood, I was able to get the biker culture from both sides.
14 was the first time I got laid. Yes, It was my birthday and my pops came up to me and said to hit the back room. The room is where the guys held all of their meetings. I thought I was about to get my ass whooped and didn’t even know why. My pops closed the door and said make me proud. About 10 minutes later a 25-year-old stripper came into the room and my world was rocked. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. We were in the room for about 30 minutes, I blew my cherry bomb and she left the room. About 5 minutes later I heard my pops yelling for me to get out of the room now. When I came out all the guys from the club were out in the bar area yelling up a storm and giving me the high 5. Talking about becoming a man that day, and even better all those people cheering you on for popping your cherry.
Another big moment for me came when my pops got me a 1977 cb750 piece of shit when I was 15. Actually, it was a frame and box of parts, couldn’t even call it a scooter because shit was everywhere and not assembled at all. “Here’s your ride, every day after your chores and school I better see you putting this thing together.” He threw me a box of tools and I had at it. Man, I remember I had no damn clue what I was doing. When I would ask my pops for help, he smacks the shit out of me and tells me if I could read I could do it my damn self. It took me a year and a half to get that bike up and running. I had nothing but a year and a half of busted up knuckles and pride with that damn bike.
By the time, I was 16 my pops got rid of his steel mill job and told my mother he was finished. Couldn’t take the ragging any longer from her. I chose to go with my pops while my brothers chose to stay with my mother. My pops got a 1 bedroom house a few miles from where I grew up. He had a stripper as a new ol lady, stupid bitch was high or drunk most of the time but she was cool too me. She was one of those broads that would make you shake your head every time she talked. I especially liked her because she would bring her friends over from the strip club all the time. Yea it was a high school kid dream let me tell you.
That dream didn’t last long, when I turned 17, it was May 15th, about 4:30 in the morning I was awakened with Feds, DEA, and ATF busting through the door. It was a coordinated bust that took down half of the club, over 120 agents launched multi- raids throughout the morning. That was the first time I found myself face deep in the ground with some pig yelling at me to stay “The Fuck Still”. My ol man was in the other room screaming up a storm while you heard his dipshit ol lady crying like a bitch always does in situations like that.
The last time I saw my Ol man walking free was that night. As I was laying face down with my head turned, a cop on my back, he was led out of the house. I can still remember that moment in time like it was yesterday, seemed all to go by in slow motion. When they got my ol man out of the house the cop finally lets me up, started asking the bullshit questions. Who are you? What is your relation and crap like that? It took them all day to rummage through the house, me sitting there on the floor the whole time watching as the government laughed and joke about how big the bust was. They got 15 of the guys on RICO charges, Guns, drugs, prostitution. The whole damn case was built by one of the guys turning states rat because he got caught up on a coke charge and didn’t want to do the 5 years.
The hardest point I believe in my life, up to that point, of course, was watching a so-called brother of my Ol Man testifying against everyone on the stand. At 17, it wasn’t something I could comprehend. How the hell could someone do that to their brothers? I kept asking myself that question as he was on the stand, you knew what you were doing, you accepted the risks, but why turn on your club and brothers when you were caught? 5 years, he would have probably got out in 2.5, instead, he chose to rat on everyone. It was not only hard for me to understand, but I could tell pops was taken back by it all. Here is a man he trusted, one who he was with on a daily basis, shit we all use to have dinner over at his house all the time, but here he was testifying against everyone. Yea you can say that would screw with your head a bit.
June 26th the following year all the guys were convicted on all charges, instead of separate trials they all went at it together. I was sitting in the booth right behind my pops when they were all told to rise. Before the judge spoke, my pops turned around to me, “Boy, don’t you ever forget what you see here today, these are true men, true men stand side by side no matter what. Never rat on your brothers, never talk to the police ever, have honor in your word, remain loyal to your beliefs”. 5 minutes after my pops spoke those words his sentence came down. Life without the possibility of parole. He did not show any emotion, he kept his head up high and never once asked the court for mercy.
After everyone received their sentences my pop said: “Well that’s that, take care of yourself, boy, remember what I said”. My pops got assigned to Atlanta Penitentiary in Georgia, I know it had to be hard on him since he was so far away and I couldn’t come visit a lot. He did arrange for me to stay with the clubs new active President “Rooster”, Rooster always watched out for me and pops knew I would be taken care of. After being with my pops and around the club all those years he knew, as well as I did, I could never go back and live with my mom.
Rooster was about 34 and owned a strip club called the “Whiskey Bombs”. Rooster set me up with a room in the back of the club, gave me a job supplying the bar, cleaning up and most important to a kid my age, lots of eye candy every day.
Working and living in the strip club gave me what I needed, “Street Smarts”. You meet all kinds of screwed up people in a strip club, all of whom will try and pull some kind of game on you, the worst being the strippers themselves. Rooster always pounded it into my head, “Don’t ever for a minute trust a stripper, they will steal you blind and then turn around and steal your mother blind”.
Two years went by, I felt like I had the world by the balls until one day Rooster sat me down. “You ol man had a heart attack, he didn’t make it kid”. I was speechless, looked at the wall and couldn’t speak or move, my whole world came crashing down. Rooster sat and told me what had happened, my pops didn’t die alone, he was fortunate to have a couple of brothers serving time with him right by his side. Rooster looked at me after he was done. “You have 30 minutes to cry when I walk out of this room and when I come back in, that will be the last you ever cry for your ol man, you pops wouldn’t have wanted that, today you learn the hard lesson of life. Man up and move on”.
Rooster left the room, I did as he said and mourned my pops passing for those 30 minutes and when he came back he told me to come out to the bar. He had some of the brothers from the club there by then, “This is to “Bear” a true brother, a man of honor, loyalty and most of all, a father”. The guys shouted out and started chugging down drinks, the party lasted a couple of days, it was a gift for me to be a part of that celebration. It showed me just how much my pops was loved and respected, my pops funeral was attended by not only the club brothers but many within the whole biker community, club or not. It was an amazing feeling seeing over 300 bikes, 100 cars lead my pops to his finally resting place . It was at that time I said to myself ” I’m going to follow in my pops footsteps”. All I ever wanted from that point on was a patch in the same brotherhood he was a part of.