Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Riding with the Outlaws --...
. . . .

Riding with the Outlaws -- Michigan‘s Toughest Biker Outfit has a New Home in Alba

Rob Young - Review Magazine - May 23rd, 2002
I glanced over at Leroy. His enormous hands were gripping the steering
wheel of his plush conversion van. He was wearing oversized gold rings on
almost every finger. A thick gold chain hung around his neck in stark
contrast to his blue jeans and black sweatshirt embroidered with various
cryptic emblems. Dark wraparound glasses concealed his eyes. His gold rings
glowed dully in the overcast morning light. We had met five minutes
earlier, and now Leroy was telling me all about being an Outlaw.
T.A., the President of the Michigan Outlaws Motorcycle Club, had arranged
everything a week earlier. He called me because I had left a note on the
door of the Outlaws‘ clubhouse in Saginaw asking for an interview. It was a
long shot, but how else does one get in touch with a motorcycle club?
They‘re not listed in the yellow pages.
T.A. said he wanted to do the interview, but he was very busy. He‘s Kid
Rock‘s personal tour security guard, “the last person you have to get
through before you get to Kid,“ and he had to be in Indianapolis to protect
Kid from overzealous groupies and other hangers-on. He told me to call him
back in a week when we would arrange a date for me to come to his house in
Northern Michigan so he could show me all of his Outlaws memorabilia.

WEARING COLORS
A week later, on our way to meet T.A., Leroy and I stopped for a quick
lunch at Avery‘s in Mancelona. A local sheriff eyed Leroy as we walked to
our table. The Outlaws patches and logo on his sweatshirt were a dead
giveaway. He was in a biker “gang.“ Leroy seemed not to notice. Outlaws
wear their colors with pride, and no small town sheriff was going to stop
Leroy from feeling just as welcome as the senior citizens eating their soup
and sandwiches. Like all other Outlaws, Leroy is a “1%er,‘ and they do
things differently than everybody else. We ate quickly, as diners sneaked
surreptitious glances our way. And then it was off to T.A.‘s, 18 miles up
the road.
Originally from Sterling Heights, T.A. moved his family to Northern
Michigan years ago to get away from the city. Now he makes his home on a
sprawling piece of land overlooking the rolling hills of East Jordan, a
sleepy little factory town more famous for its manhole covers than for its
biker population.
T.A.‘s first leather jacket, given to him by his uncle when he was an
infant, hangs just outside his den. While T.A. and Leroy hugged, I had a
quick look around the living room. Then, making me feel immediately
welcome, T.A. walked over to me and said with a smile, “What‘s up, Rob? I‘m
T.A.“

BENCHING 480 LBs.
He invited us into his den, which is a veritable Outlaws museum. The walls
are lined with framed photographs commemorating past biker meetings and
club events; shelves are packed with various Outlaws knick-knacks. A police
scanner squawked and screeched from one corner, while a phone sat waiting
to ring in another. There was a weight bench with 360 pounds up on the
rack. T.A. does reps with that. He can bench 480 pounds.
Darting about the room, T.A grabbed pictures off the wall and shuffled
through stacks of papers, all the while explaining life as an Outlaw. As
president of the Michigan Outlaws, T.A. is in charge of coordinating a
network of chapters scattered around the state. This role requires him to
be, at once, a politician, an organizer of events, a settler of disputes, a
diplomat and, most importantly, a brother to his fellow Outlaws.
The phone rang. It was “Trigger“ calling from prison. T.A. said hello to
him, passed the phone to Leroy and then continued narrating the photographs
we were looking through. I heard Leroy telling Trigger about the swap meet
they were planning in Detroit that coming weekend, then he passed the phone
to me.

SERVING TIME
Trigger has been serving time for the last 26 years for a murder
conviction. It‘s an injustice according to the Outlaws, who have begun a
petition campaign to get him released. Trigger told me about the petition
and explained his case. Neither T.A. nor Leroy knew Trigger before he was
locked up, but the bond as Outlaws is enough for them to fight for his
cause.
Leroy got his first Harley when he was 13. We were on our way to look at
three of the seven Harleys he currently owns.
“Our club is about a bunch of guys that wanna be tight and have a brotherhood,“ T.A. said as he navigated his 37-foot mobile home around the curves and hills of East Jordan. Outlaws are quick to point out that theirs is not a “gang,“ it‘s a club. The
difference, according to the Outlaws, is that gangs aren‘t as organized.
Gangs don‘t donate toys to Toys for Tots or organize scholarship funds in
their communities. A gang would not have raised money for the family of
Kayla Rolland, the Flint girl who was shot at school by a classmate who
brought a gun to class.

A REPUTATION
Whether warranted or not, however, the Outlaws have gained a reputation for
being a motorcycle “gang“ that thrives, at least in part, on violence, drug
trafficking, racketeering and a bevy of various other criminal activities.
A past national president was on the FBI‘s ten most wanted list. “Once you
put this patch on,“ T.A remarked, as he pointed to the Outlaws logo - a
skull and two crossed pistons -- on his vest, “you‘re no longer an
individual. If one guy gets in trouble, we‘re all in trouble. It‘s kind of
a bummer. [The police] go after the officers in the club. They would come
for me, you know? I gotta keep them guys in line, because I don‘t want to
go to jail.“
It‘s no secret that bikers are known to have their feuds. The prevailing
public opinion is that biker “gangs“ feud among one another, that there are
turf wars and enmity. But, say the Outlaws, such behavior is of the past;
it‘s the media that have not bothered to understand the situation today.
“It‘s not the sixties anymore. Times change, and you gotta go with the
changes,“ said T.A., as we sat around the table in his motor home now
parked outside the Alba Outlaws clubhouse, “I‘m not saying that in the past
there haven‘t been feuds between the clubs and people got hurt, but those
were isolated events. They weren‘t the club as a whole. If somebody gets
into a fight with an Outlaw, they started it and they deserve it.“

SOMETHING SPIRITUAL
Regardless of any illegal activities the Outlaws have been accused of being
involved in, the club is ultimately about something higher, something
more spiritual. It‘s about riding your bike. It‘s about camaraderie and
trust. It‘s about traveling the open road with your brothers. Bikers don‘t
join the Outlaws because they want to be criminals. As T.A. explains, “I
wanted to join the Outlaws because I saw a bunch of guys hanging out and
riding their bikes and having a good time. It‘s about biking and
brotherhood.“
Later, inside the Alba clubhouse, “Fuzzy“, an elder member of the Alba
chapter of the Outlaws, explained the concept of biking and brotherhood,
“You can actually travel for next to nothing. I used to be able to take a
quarter and travel from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale and still have that same
quarter in my pocket.“ T.A. quickly interrupted, “That‘s no joke.“
When Outlaws travel the country, they always know that they can find a home
in any town that has a chapter. The vast majority of clubhouses are
equipped with beds, showers, kitchens and bathrooms, not to mention bars,
pool tables and televisions. Fuzzy continued, “Every place that I would go,
I would get fed and get a shower; the old ladies would wash our clothes,
and, usually, the brothers would pat you on the back, fill up your gas tank
and you‘d go on to the next chapter.“
To reinforce the bond between Outlaws, the club goes out of its way to
arrange functions where members from around the country and the world can
come to meet, hang out and party. “[Chapters] get together every week, we
have meetings, we plan runs, we have little parties so we can have a good
time in the summer. In the winter we work hard,“ explained T.A.

MANDATORY RUN
One of the biggest events every year is Bike Week in Daytona, Florida. “We
go every year. Daytona is a mandatory run for us,“ T.A. remarked. It takes
place in the middle of winter, so for many Outlaws it‘s a welcome escape
from the dreariness of winter. It‘s also one of the biggest bike events in
the world, so it gives Outlaws a chance to meet their international
brothers.
The Alba clubhouse is testimony to the dedication of Outlaws. It‘s housed
in an expansive building on the main intersection in Alba, right down the
road from city hall, police headquarters and next door to the community
center. Aside from the high school, it‘s the biggest building in town.
“We spend a lot of time up here in the summer,“ T.A. said as he pointed to
the snow-covered fire pits behind the building. When T.A. bought the
building years ago to build the clubhouse, it was in a state of utter
disrepair. Over the years, however, club members have put time and effort
into making it a place where Outlaws can come from anywhere and feel at
home. Now, the Alba clubhouse has all the amenities one could want, and it
has become a summer getaway for Outlaw members from all over the state, the
country and the world.

JOINING THE CLUB
But, in order to enjoy the perks of membership, you must first be
dedicated. As Leroy explained, “The process of getting into our club is a
long, getting-to-know each other process. We don‘t have people doing
illegal stuff to get in our club, like it says in the press. They don‘t
have to steal a bike or sell drugs.“
An aspiring Outlaw must first get to know members of the club. Once club members are convinced a candidate will make a good Outlaw, he is made a “probationary“ member. He must wear a patch on his vest that says he‘s a probationary member and perform menial
tasks, such as making drinks and taking out the trash, around the clubhouse
in order to prove his loyalty and dedication.
“It takes a lot of dedication to be a one-percenter, an Outlaw,“ said Leroy as we
stood in “the office“, a large room with couches and a television, in the
Alba clubhouse. The probationary period could last as long as a couple
years. “We try to distance ourselves from the other 99% of the population
by the way we look, the way we dress, the way we roll in a pack. One-percenters do
things differently. It‘s a way of life.“

RUDE STARES
T.A. was on his phone again. It had been ringing all day. So had his
two-way and his pager and the clubhouse phone and his home phone. He spoke
loudly into his headset, while his little Nokia phone sat on the table next
to his coffee. The waitress -- who greeted him by name when we walked into
The Fishing Hole and asked why he hadn‘t been around lately -- walked over
to fill up his cup. A middle-aged couple across the room stared rudely at
T.A. and Leroy, who paid no attention. Behind the middle-aged couple,
parked outside, was T.A.‘s mobile home.
The couple seemed appalled by T.A., by his conspicuous style, by the
oversized gold rings that adorned every finger, by the numerous thick and
flashy gold chains around his neck and the medallions that hung from them.
He was wearing his hat at the table. It was cold outside and he wore a
sleeveless shirt. His large tattooed arms were intimidating. The couple
whispered to one another when T.A. was at the salad bar. They stared at the
skull and crossed pistons and the word “Outlaws“ on the back of his vest
while he made a salad, still talking on his phone.
T.A. got the steak, well done, and potatoes. Leroy got the blackened
catfish and a glass of milk. The cell phone rang again, “I‘m eating dinner
and just finishing up with the reporter, so I‘ll be home soon.“ He hung up,
pulled the earpiece out of his ear and said to me, “The wife.“
As we were leaving the restaurant, our waitress told T.A. to hold on. She
wanted him to see her husband‘s new tattoo. She disappeared into the
kitchen and reappeared shortly with her husband in tow. He rolled up his
sleeve to reveal the fresh ink. T.A. leaned in and said, “Nice, man.“ The
tattoo artist who had done the work happened to be eating across the room.
T.A. turned to him and said loudly, “You‘re going to have do some work for
me.“ The middle-aged couple, now scoffing, stared on in amazement.
We walked past them and out of the restaurant. T.A never once looked at
them. T.A. is an Outlaw, a 1%er, and he doesn‘t give a shit.

Rob Young is a special features writer for Review Magazine, the alternative newspaper serving the tri-cities area of Saginaw, Bay City and Midland.
 
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