In the parking lot at Rite Aid, Senior, president of the AMU (All Mixed Up) motorcycle club, introduces you and Marie to vice president Dirty D and two other club members (MCs), Slow Motion and Storm. (Storm is the one female MC, but she’s not on her bike tonight.) You also meet Pebblez, Sweetness (who gives you the stink-eye), Luscious, and Li’l Bit, all female members of the AMU social club (SCs). Technically, Luscious and Li’l Bit are still considered prospects and should therefore go by “Prospect 1” and “Prospect 2” until their membership is official.
It will take you a few hours to understand all of this. For now, you accept the confusion as you and Marie follow Storm and the other SCs in their “cages” (cars) to the dance. The MCs will get there when they get there.
All the members of AMU social club are black, except for Pebblez, who is white, blonde, and bubbly. They’ve had white members before, and a couple more are due to present their case for becoming prospects in the next month or two. But for now, Pebblez is it. When you and the SCs arrive at the Elks Lodge on Hensley Street, somewhere along the border between Sherman Heights and Grant Hill, you see that, even here, among the 15–20 SoCal motorcycle clubs in attendance, Pebblez and your friend Marie are two of only a handful of whites.
Within five minutes of your arrival, Storm locates a guy called Wild Dog; he’s president of the Black Sabbath motorcycle club. She brings him over to meet you. Tonight’s event, one of three similar events happening around San Diego, is Black Sabbath’s anniversary dance. After a brief conversation, Wild Dog gives his okay: you are allowed to stay.
Storm sticks close as the seven of you wait outside the venue for the MCs to arrive. You stand in a cloud of smoke, surrounded by a mix of people eclectic in occupation and lifestyle.
“Kids, no kids,” Wild Dog told you earlier. “Married. Single. All walks of life. We got military, civilian. Everyone from judges to McDonald’s counter-people.”
The age range varies widely, too. At 48, Senior is the oldest in his club. Most of the other AMU riders are in their early 40s. The ladies of their social club are late 20s, early 30s. In the crowd, you see everything from young rowdies to old weary-boneses, all standing around in leather vests bearing their clubs’ “colors” (patches). City Slickers. Heart & Soul. The Chosen. Twisted. Black Sabbath. Final Option. Top Dawg. Mongols. Pushin’ Limitz.
When Senior and the other MCs arrive, the whole group goes inside together. A tall, narrow-eyed lady with long, curled fingernails collects $15 a head for those without a vest, $10 for those with. Club presidents get in free.
Once in the door, they pose for a group photo, taken by the evening’s hired photographers: Vince and his lady Mocha (both riders with no club affiliation).
Inside, metallic red hearts and cupids adorn the walls. At the front of the house, where the lights are cafeteria-bright, a bar stands to the left. Senior, 851 days sober today, heads there first and purchases a can of 7UP, which he drinks through a straw. In the back, past the tables crowded with riders and social-club members, the DJ plays James Brown. The dance floor pulses with a mass of writhing bodies.
Storm takes you under her wing. She introduces you to people with names like Fetiish (“two i’s”), Sweet Pea, and Classy; some are women who belong to social clubs not affiliated with any particular motorcycle club. Storm provides answers for the things you don’t understand.
“Social clubs? I call ’em groupies with a vest,” she says. “Like cheerleaders with pompoms.”
Storm explains the rules of respect with regard to the colors, which cannot be covered up by backpacks or jackets or hugs. To lay your colors down could result in a fine, if they’re picked up by someone from another club. Later, Senior will tell you, “I’ve seen it as high as $1000.”
When Storm turns away for a second, you meet some of the people she hasn’t already preapproved. Many of them want to talk about the fundraisers their clubs have held (blanket drives and so on), and to wax poetic about the beauty of belonging to a motorcycle club.
“This is like family,” one guy tells you. “They all watch over you.” Then he excuses himself, saying he doesn’t want his wife to catch him talking to you.
Despite Senior’s warnings, the worst thing that happens all night is that an old lady shoots mean eyes at Marie for bumping her.
When you’re ready to go, Senior walks you and Marie to your car, which is parked two blocks away on 28th Street. While you wait at the corner for the light to change, a loud crew of bikers ride by on hogs (Harleys) painted in bright colors: one green, one orange, one red, and so on. There must be 15 or 20 riding past, one after the other.
“Who’re they?” you ask Senior.
“They came down from L.A.,” he says. “People are here from all over.”
Across the street, a group of six or seven young kids wave at the riders as they pass. The kids shout, “Hey, Superman! So cool!”