Monsters Garage

Photo by Jeanne RiceTruculent hot rodders, Pabstbefore noon, Harleys blocking traffic, cops standing around, cops in helicopters, Sinners, Mongols, Vagos, secret beer in used coffee cups, Long Beach police snipers on the roof, and everywhere large posters with pictures of what you couldn't bring in: guns, knives, bats, brass knuckles—the good stuff.

It was time again for West Coast Choppers' Ninth Annual No Love Party, which is to say, its yearly open house—except bikers can't call it that. Too sissy: it's in the rules, so West Coast Choppers mastermind Jesse James has No Love—his answer to the Love Ride—at his sprawling post-industrial complex of buildings on Anaheim Street in Long Beach.

For people with choppers and their faithful, this is biker mecca—and you have to make the pilgrimage. Thrash all night on your VW trike, your Dodge sedan or your Harley, then roll out in style.

All day long, custom motorcycles thumped along Anaheim, and if you followed, they'd lead you straight to the source. Even buses seemed to dress for the occasion with ads trumpeting the new city slogan: “Hip is Here.” Well, kind of.

Admission was free, punk rock was loud, and later, once the crowd swelled to bursting, they'd have freestyle motocross on ramps behind the shop. The climax, though they didn't call it that, was to be a monster truck crushing a Winnebago—with, presumably, some hated symbol of authority inside, totally freaking out the squares.

Which presented something of a problem: if everyone's playing hip, who's going to be square? You can't play cops and robbers if everyone's a robber—and everyone was a robber or at least dressed like one. Even the cops were in on it, which cast a pall over the entire day, turning everyone into a bunch of big, tough pussies.

It makes sense, but it's sad: the only way to have a No Love without a gun battle is to have your guests surrender their balls—er, guns—at the metal detectors, which were new this year. Those of us who'd been to previous outings parked across the street and drank, muttering darkly, “Fuck that, I ain't waiting in no line”—because there was a line—until later, four beers in, we were drunk enough to line up to get in.

Once in, there was mostly more of the same: gaudily trimmed Buick lowriders, 4×4 Corvettes, a sprinkling of motorcycles—including some time-capsule-quality bikes by the Sinners—and the monster truck: parked with a quiet menace, ready for action. The crushing wouldn't go down until 4:30—and we'd arrived before noon, so there was nothing to do except buy T-shirts, ogle Jesse's toys or the women in the crowd, talk quietly amongst ourselves, and wait for the beer headache.

Last year, the freestyle motocross had gone down right in the midst of the crowd—with no barriers or anything, just glum paramedics at the ready. It was stupid yet thrilling, but now even that was gone. The performers were moved out of the crowd to a barricaded area, where they could only hurt themselves—thus removing the last vestige of what it really meant to be a biker.

With virtually no chance of being killed or maimed, No Love was officially sanitized for the squares: one big freak show, with vests, tattoos, trucker hats, a few arms in casts and some girl wearing a miniskirt made entirely out of zippers. And a heavy-metal soundtrack: just like Monster Garage.

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