As I leaned over the pool table, kneeling on the milk crate, listening to the jeers and catcalls of the “bros” surrounding me, I thought, “I’ve really stepped in it. This was a setup. No matter how loud I yell, they’re going to shout me down.” They never intended to initiate me into the UMFA. I don’t even own a Harley. Somebody probably figured I would be the clubs’ entertainment for the evening. Still, I didn’t see any way around it now. I’d have to play it out. I sure as hell was not about to try and brazen my way past those guys to the parking lot and my car. I remembered something Star, one of the bikers’ old ladies, told me. She said, “When you get up there to do your thing, and they’re not buying it, try grabbing your crotch.”
Looking down, filling my lungs with air once again for another go, I saw the previous initiate’s application lying on the table near the right corner pocket. Under the question “Just how fuckin’ ugly are you?” he had written: “I’m so ugly, my parents used to feed me with a slingshot.” I grabbed my crotch with my right hand, lifted my head, and shouted at the ceiling like a contestant in some lunatic beauty contest in reverse. “I AM AN UGLY MOTHERFUCKER!”
“TOO SHORT! TOO CUTE!” Laughter. Boos.
Rich Dumont kept buying me beers as we sat at the back table. He said he opened the place 12 years ago, with no intention of the thing turning into a biker bar, “But here we are. Who would have thought a place like this could have lasted 12 years?” He waved over one person after another. I was introduced to Suicide Lee, a smiling, pot-bellied Buddha of a man with a few wisps of white hair falling randomly over a balding pate. He was wearing the colors of the San Diego club the Swordsmen. “The good guys,” he pronounced, smiling a little cock-eyed. Suicide, formerly Sporty Lee, looked to be in his 60s. He told me he started out riding on a 1948 Indian. He’d been to Dumont’s for 11 years.
Rich quickly presented one regular after another, kept them moving as if I were holding court — guys with names like Bubba, Beast, Boat, and the more prosaic Bob and Brandon. The preponderance of Bs struck me, and a friend later pointed out it was a “bulbous, manly consonant. A natural for bikers.”
Brandon cut a swashbuckling if chilling figure, with long hair, beard, eye patch, leather pants, and jacket. His customized Harley is one of the more unusual jobs around. The gas tank is a stylized diamond or coffin shape; metallic, colored tangerine over pearl, with an airbrush painting of a bearded man with an eye patch behind two busty blondes (joined at the hip), surrounded by snakes emerging from a death’s head. When asked if he was a member of any club, he quoted Groucho Marx’s “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
Beast, whose real name is Mark Roth, looks like a full-size if dissipated version of one of the Seven Dwarfs. His ponytail hangs to his waist, and he appears as if he had stashed a medium-sized timpani under his T-shirt. The son of a preacher in Pennsylvania, Beast is the local Modified Motorcycle Association’s division representative. When asked what the MMA is about, Beast replied, “It’s an organization that goes back maybe 15 years or so. It’s mostly to educate riders in terms of their rights and safety. It’s a charitable organization too.” They have a toy run scheduled for November 26, where as many as several hundred bikers would gather at Fiesta Island, bringing either canned foods or new toys for the Salvation Army to distribute. “We party with other bikers. All bikes are welcome, not just Harleys. Clubs and free riders, it doesn’t matter. It’s neutral, just like this place.” He meant Dumont’s. “We just get into the family thing. Brothers and sisters, beer, food, and toys. We do it every year.”
Beast then rattled off the names of other bikers’ toy runs. One, the Harley Owners Group run to Tijuana, is held in conjunction with the Mexican club Solo Angeles. Apparently there were some 300 bikes involved with that one. “Sometimes there are thousands of bikes converging on one place. It’s fuckin’ great. The ground shakes all goddamned day.”
James “Gunny” Gregory, president of the San Diego chapter of ABATE, said they had about 250 bikes for the ABATE Toy Run in Old Town. What did the acronym stand for? American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. Eileen Bradford said it was originally called A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, but that “sounded a little overblown after a while.”
I was bombarded with acronyms. MMA, ABATE, AIM (Aid to Injured Motorcyclists), NCOM (National Coalition of Motorcyclists); I was yet to hear of the UMFA.
It was then that Rich Dumont mentioned his annual drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, “Jerry’s Kids.” He pointed to a cinder-block wall behind me. The names and emblems of several clubs had been emblazoned on some hundred or so blocks. The Hells Angels had by far the most concrete squares. Twenty in all. “Each cinder block costs $10.00. The money goes to Jerry’s Kids. We’ve been doing this for ten years. We’ve raised at least $55,000.”
Rich called over Bubba. Bubba stood six feet plus, wore a black leather vest that exposed a bodybuilder’s torso decorated in spectacular tattoos. Bubba had short cropped hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and a brush mustache. I extended my hand to shake his, and he dropped a set of keys on the table in front of me. “What’s this?” I asked him.
“Keys to my bike. You ride?” (No “hi, howya doin’? Pleestameetcha.”)
“Yeah. You gonna let me ride your bike, man?” I stood up. I didn’t feel the need to point out that I’d never ridden a Harley exactly in the, you know, actual Harley-Davidson sense.