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Biker jacket


So I’m at SXSW a few years back. I flew down to speak on a panel, so sadly the band was not with me.

I’m staying north of town with our former tour manager Tony Hubbard (Ohio Tony), one of the smartest and funniest mofos you will meet in your life. If you remember the band’s DVD Little America, you remember Tony… “Same day … same day as it was three days ago…”

Anyway, I’m at a Schlotskys first thing in the morning preparing some notes. Yup. ’Cause that’s where real rock ’n’ rollers go to journal and drink coffee—a chain that sells sandwiches that aren’t really subs and subs that aren’t really sandwiches. I’m on my first cup of coffee and the millwheel is still rolling up slow. I see some bikers sitting at a table next to me but don’t think much of it. Usually biker gangs and rock ’n’ rollers share enough common ground (constant travel, love of music, dirty clothes, overpurchasing of silver jewelry, etc.) that we don’t get crosswise.

Well, usually.

I go into the bathroom and am leaning into a stall doing my business when the biggest dude I’ve seen in quite some time comes up behind me and boxes me in. My pulse goes up about 100 bpms, and I zip up quickly and turn around, look up (way up) to him, and say, “How you doin’ today, brother?”

He replies, and not with the kindness I offered up, “Where did you get that f—k-n’ jacket?” and it hits me.

I am wearing a denim jacket I bought in a DAV in Denver years back, and it has biker patches covering the back of it (it’s the one I wore in the band’s Mountain video). It says Los Angeles / Everlasting. I bought it excited to finally be living in LA and never thought that it would be totally disrespectful to people who had actually earned that patch.

(No—I had not seen all of Sons of Anarchy yet.)

And yes, I do respect symbols, what they represent and why they are so important. It’s why I don’t wear any military patches after I learned while we played military bases that the flag upside down means we are at war. Also why I get into long, drawn-out arguments with good people in Tennessee about the impossibilities of separating the Confederate flag from racism.

So back to me getting murdered in a Schlosky’s bathroom.

I say to this biker, “I’m a rock ’n’ roll musician on the road. I bought this jacket at a secondhand store. I don’t ride, but I meant no disrespect. I got a guitar out in the car if you want to hear somethin’…”

The next moment might have been five secs altogether, but it felt like 10 years. He slowly takes his hand around to his back pocket. I’m looking for the exit door, wondering if the rest of his crew is waiting to throttle me. My fear is that he is reaching back to grab a knife or gun or something else that reduces my obit to “he toured hard but died in a Schlotsky’s bathroom.”

He pulls out his wallet and takes out a business card.


He hands it to me and says, “My name is Big Nasty. You’re wearing a jacket that represents an LA crew. We are the Cabelleros [I made this up—I can’t remember his crew, but I also don’t feel like printing it and disrespecting Mr. Nasty a second time here], and the Austin gang and the LA gang don’t get along very well. If you keep wearing that jacket down here, you are gonna get picked up and you are gonna get into trouble. If you need someone, give me a call and I’ll tell ’em you’re OK.”

I have never been so excited to get someone’s business card in my damn life.

The card read “BIG NASTY. TREASURER.” Who knew? 🙂

We walk out into the orange-and-red-striped restaurant—the whole world is bigger and brighter and better than when I went in. I no longer need coffee to be awake. Funny how it just takes a near brush with death to make you realize how alive this world is and how lucky you are to be in it. I go over and shake hands with Big Nasty’s wife, and I have a new friend in Austin.

I called my man Wade Hampton and told him the story, and he screamed into the phone, “BURN THAT F—K-N’ JACKET NOW!! WE JUST MADE A VIDEO WITH THAT JACKET TOO—ARE YOU GONNA GET KILLED?”

Nope. I’ll just call my man Big Nasty. He’ll sort it out.


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