Escape From New York

Well, that’s a wrap on the Summer 2020 riding season. After my Escape from New York and 10,000 plus miles of open road, I’ve put the bike away for the winter and settled into my next life as a rugged survivalist in a one room cabin high up in the rural mountains of central Idaho. What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been.

May the good Lord shine a light on you
Warm like the evening sun

At the conclusion of the 2019 riding season, I stashed my bike in the parking garage at the Spokane Airport and crossed my fingers that it would be there again when I came back for it in the spring. So when the trifecta of the pandemic, the collapse of the concert industry, and hence my way to make a living, and the proliferation of sirens and helicopters in my downtown NYC neighborhood left me feeling a little too much like Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, minus the cocaine paranoia, I tossed my keys at my landlord of 8 years, put my stuff in storage, and hopped a plane to the great Pacific Northwest.

Step one was retrieving my bike. The parking rates were $14 a day, and with my bike having been there since October 5th, 2019, the math added up to the exact sum of “Oh Fuck No!” So I hopped onto my baby, and after she fired right up, somewhat surprisingly, I rolled around the parking garage looking for the exit of least resistance. Typically I’d just ride right around the parking booth gate, but the management here must have been tricked a few times already, as these gates at the toll both went all the way across the roadway, dashing those plans. There was one break in the curb I found that would let me right out onto airport drive, but there was a cop parked there, so that was out. After a few more laps, I decided to just sneak out under the cover of a giant pickup truck. I waited for one to roll up to the exit and pay their (likely way cheaper than mine) parking tab, and I crept up behind them until my headlight was about to make love to their tailgate, and I waited. As soon as they got the green light and started moving forward, I was rolling along in lockstep and managed to escape over the line to freedom before the guillotine of the Spokane County Parking Authority was able to slice down on my credit card, or, god forbid, bop down and knock me on my helmeted head. Phew.

Off I rode, into the Wild Wild West. I had a loose plan to visit some friends in Idaho, Colorado, Texas, Nashville, Florida and then make my way back up the east coast by autumn and find a new place to settle down once my real rock n roll life resumed. But you know what they say, the easiest way to make God laugh is to tell her your plans, and before long I realized both that this pandemic wasn’t going anywhere soon, and that I was in love with the PNW.  The entirety of my 10,000 miles in the saddle this summer ended up spent traversing Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, NorCal, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

From the jump, I knew this trip was going to be different. All I had with me was my camping gear, a few books, some clothes, and my trusty Butler Maps, which I would highly recommend for anyone doing any sort of serious road tripping. They highlight all the most fun, winding, and scenic roads in a state. Plus tons of rad dirt roads. Oh man, making me wistful just thinking about em. The one thing I didn’t have was a backup plan. There was nowhere to go if I grew weary of life on the road if I decided to stash my bike at yet another airport and head home. This was it. When I tossed one leg over the bike and stood up on the pegs and settled into my seat, I WAS home. That was it. There was no plan B. Life without a net. My comfort zone.

I’d done some camping before, here and there, not a whole lot, but this Summer I had no choice. The reason I gave up my pad and hit the wind was that I had no idea when I’d be back to living the high life of an NYC concert promoter again, and was determined to stretch my newly minted mask money for as many months as I could. So it was gonna be camping, every night. And the occasional motel to charge my phone batteries and live high on the hog with some microwave pizza, instead of the roadside peanut butter sandwiches, campfire hot dogs and canned beans. Now that’s living!

So ride I did. With only one aim every night. And that was to find a new place to pitch my tent. Traditional campgrounds were not my aim. Like, the ones you have to pay for? No thank you. My idea of an acceptable campsite doesn’t involve struggling to find some inner peace while an RV 20 feet away cranking Red Holt Chili Peppers jamz while the resident honkies whoop it up over nine or ten Heinekens. No way Jose Cuervo. If I’m gonna be sleeping out under the stars, I wanna be all by my lonesome. Full on middle of nowhere, dispersed, renegade camping. I had two x gallon bottles of water that I would refill at gas stations, and in the occasional cleaner looking mountain streams, and I picked up a camp stove, a hatchet, a pocket knife, and mini shovel for digging shit holes, and all that along with my healthy lack of fear of the unknown, which I’d been relentlessly honing over the past 4 decades. Meaning I had everything I’d need. Whats the worst that could happen?

Those first few nights were a little sketchy, with half my head still connected to the big city, and every now and then I waited too long to find a place to settle down, and when it became clear I was going to lose my race with the setting sun I would find a little clearing just a little bit too close to the road. The headlights of passing vehicles was much more frightening that the sound of howling coyotes in the distance. Soon enough I found my rhythm though, and ended up with a quite a knack for picking out the perfect spots. Lava lakes at the end of long ass dirt roads? Check. Black sand beach shrouded in fog on California’s Lost Coast, which I stumbled upon by accident after a 30 mile treacherous dirt road through the wilds of Humboldt County? Check. A quick stop where I left the tent wrapped up and just strung my hammock between a couple of redwoods and hoped a meddlesome park ranger didn’t stumble upon me in my lumber slumber? Check. You name it, I slept there. But that fateful night where I threw caution to the wind and just slept in the hammock with no covering was a game changer. I pretty much never used the tent again. Waking up in the middle of the night, forgetting where you are for a brief moment, and opening your eyes to a beaming canopy of the cosmos really reminds you what it feels like to be alive.

So I just kept on riding and exploring. The more off the beaten path a place is, the more I’m attracted to it. I avoid the interstates like the plague when I’m on my bike, partly because of the huge trucks, but mostly because they never lead you anywhere interesting. Which is pretty much the point. Those huge roads speed you from place to place with the idea of making you forget, if you ever even realized in the first place, the the heartbeat of America lies far far away their asphalt apocalypse. The stitching of the fabric of America are the dotted lines on the maps. The rural roads, the dirt roads. The roads to nowhere. The ones where you find abandoned service stations, barely there VFW outposts with $1.50 cans of Hamm’s beer, a lonely post office, and where people shop for groceries at the Dollar store, because that’s the only store. Thats where you’ll find me at my most intrigued, and most inquisitive with the locals.

Pretty much every day had the same routine. Ride until I was too tired to keep going, usually finding a spot to lay my weary head at dusk. Forage for wood, start a fire, cook something up, read for a while, climb into the hammock, wake up with the sunrise, make a little instant coffee, dig a hole, shit in it, fill it back in, and keep on riding. Just chasing the best roads I could find, and always keeping my eye open for a little sliver of single or double track dirt road that would lead me to only god knows where. My favorite kind of riding. And those “who knows where” roads always packed more than a few wallops. Most notably the morning I unsuspectingly woke up deep in the heart Humboldt County’s Murder Mountain, the place the Netflix series was named for. A dastardly and dangerous backwater that’s home to scores of marijuana farms, most of them quite less than legal, and probably the one place in America that’s still full of outlaws. I had been getting some sketchy vibes from the locals over the past few days at the gas stations and such, but I didn’t really realize what I was in the middle of until I texted a bud and told him my location and he filled me in.

The previous day I had been on a long and winding dirt road that connected two burgs of nowheresville, just puttering along in first gear and admiring the scenery when a gate opened and a masked man clutching an assault rifle shot me a dirty look and then barked an attack order to his guard dog. A rabid snarling pit bull leapt and chased after me, nearly burying his frothy fangs into my riding boot. I narrowly avoided crashing trying to get away from Cujo, and shudder to think at would have happened had I skidded out on that gravel patch. That night I ended up at a sketch-bag motel in the shadow of a lonely stretch of the 101 in Graberville, CA. It’s almost never a good sign when the door to the motel room next to yours opens and out comes a guy in off brand basketball shorts, sandals and socks and a stained tank top clutching a bloody tissue to his nose. Two more doors down an obvious drug deal was taking place. A few years back I probably would have knocked on that door myself. But those days are in my now personal hamper for now. So I grabbed some grub from the shit hole next door and then locked my door, and when I did I found a wadded up napkin stuffed into the peephole. I could smell that Henry Hill paranoia rearing it’s ugly head again, this time left over from the hovel’s previous occupant. So I figured it was hight time to check out this “Murder Mountain” doc.

Well you can imagine my fucking surprise to find the opening scene of the movie was a mother canvassing the folks at the diner RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM WHERE I WAS STAYING, trying to find information on her daughter who had mysteriously disappeared!! The more I watched the more everything else I had seen in the last few days started to coalesce in my mind, and like the grand finale of Usual Suspects, I dropped my styrofoam cup of mountain dew and it crashed on the filthy carpeted floor at my feet and just like Agent Kujan, I realized I had spent the past several days deeply entrenched in the turf of a deadly murderous mob. I went outside and pulled my motorcycle around to directly outside my window and barely slept a wink that night. And then I shot up at the crack of dawn, tearing out of there my back wheel was on fire and my mullet was catching, with a vow to never ever return. Until I inevitably do, of course. Because, let’s face it, the terrain is GORGEOUS 😉

And on and on I went, up and down the coast, ambling down ratty old roads that hadn’t been repaired in decades, up and over countless mountain passes. I put my annual National Parks Pass to heavy use, and even ran into the esteemed Jonny Corndawg and his family in Yellowstone, and ended up squatting at their campsite with them for a few days. I got smoked out of a campsite at Mono Lake by the wildfires, and even ended up spending three nights at the ‘World Famous’ supposedly haunted but most definitely creepy Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada. So many more hijinks ensued, many of which will forever remain inside my brain, as they only made sense in the moment, and only to me and were connected to events of my past through a rapid firing of synapses in my own labyrinthine maze of memories. But the tapestry to tales they weaved for me will remain with me forever, randomly spitting back out to my conscious mind in the oddest moments, and making me laugh out loud, like a madman lost in his own internal film, directed by God and starring me and my badass bike and our pink Pretty Pony that I strapped to the handlebars and who accompanied us through the whole glorious Summer of 2020.

Not long into my seemingly endless journey to nowhere, I stopped to see some friends in Central Idaho and spent a week with them, enjoying the trappings of a roof and a bed and electricity and a kitchen and running water. And then I headed out again, with a loose plan to circle back and hang with them some more. After I few weeks I came back and enjoyed a shower, some home cooking, and most of all, their company. The thing I’ve missed most isn’t city living, or the amazing restaurants in NYC, or even the shows, but companionship. I missed my friends and my social and mental support network in NYC, of course, I missed talking to people. In person. And meeting strangers on the road. The Rona cancelled my usual plans of popping into little diners and bars and podunk roadside bait and bullet type shops and just shooting the shit. I learned a long time ago that appearing in these places and announcing myself as a city slicking New Yorker wasn’t always the wisest choice, so my invented wandering identity has long been a guy from Bakersfield, CA just out on a little road tip. The California plates aid the charade. When asked what I do I usually say “As little as possible” and when pushed let my interrogator know “I inherited a janitorial supply company from my dad. It pretty much runs itself.” All of those things usually get us past the plain ole bullshit so we can talk about the real nitty gritty, like “Anyone spotted any bears or rattlesnakes round these parts lately?” or “Where’s best riding roads ‘round here?”

So without my usual go-to methodology of extensive jibber jabber, it became a way more solitary season than I was expecting. Not bad, really, just… quiet. So I circled back to my friends in Idaho a few times, and after one 5 week jaunt on the road whose tail end saw me survive a pretty nasty crash at 50 miles per hour in the desert sands of central Nevada, I rode for a few stiff and sore days and limped my bruised body back up to my homies’ little slice of Idaho heaven and asked if I could rent the cabin they had so graciously let me stay in on my previous visits. They said yes, and just like that, I became and honorary Idahoan. How long I’ll stay here is anybody’s guess. But I’m loving it for now. Which is all any of us can ask for in life, right? To love where we are, and who we are, at this very moment. If only for a moment. And if we manage just a little more than that, that’s where the sweet spot lies. And that’s when you reach out and grab it, and squeeze til the juice runs out, and savor every last drop. Drink it all up my friends. For tomorrow may never come.

ON THE HOT SEAT!

Ever wonder about that massive scar on my throat and chest? It’s from setting myself on fire onstage with the Disco Biscuits in Las Vegas in 1999. Seriously. You can read all about that here. Curious to know more about that time I was the victim of an attempted murder at the Gathering of the Juggalos n 2012? We cover that as well! Puzzled as to how I Just laugh all these things of and keep moving forward? Get all the dirt, the skinny, and the lowdown in this here deep dive of a back and forth with the Toronto Thunderbolt himself, Larry LeBlanc!

CLICK HERE TO READ THE INTERVIEW

Every week I love reading Larry’s exhaustive interviews in the Encore Newsletter. Even when I have no idea who the subject was, Larry’s deep and thorough research makes sure that each and every piece is completely captivating. I’m honored to be in the Hot Seat this week.

EVEL KNIEVEL PILGRIMAGE

Happy 4th of July from Butte, Montana, home of Evel Knievel. I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to celebrate America. Evel was an icon. Is an icon. His is the story of taking a hard scrabble life in a go nowhere mining town and transforming himself into a super hero of sorts. Millions of Americans, and even foreign ladies and gentlemen around the world would tune in to watch his death defying feats of motorcycle madness. Jumping over cars and trucks and buses. Even the iconic water fountains at Caesar’s Palace in the glitz and showiness capital of the world, Las Vegas. He’s the reason that, as a child, I dreamed of riding a motorcycle when I grew up. And I did. And I finally made the pilgrimage to the pay my respects to the king of two wheeled Kings!

I rolled into town and my first stop was his grave site, and when I entered the cemetery there was a faded old sign that directed me to “Evel’s Grave” It was right on the edge of the cemetery road, I guess for easy access by his throngs of admirers. But it was nesteled behind a tree, which felt curious to me. His tombstone itself, while larger than those around It, was not exactly what you would call a monument. And The occasion certainly didn’t feel momentous. I sat there for a few minutes, contemplated the Evel one, and then headed into town to buy some souvenirs. But a funny thing happened. Of the few souvenir shops I could even find, none of them were selling any Even Knievel memorabilia. Not even a postcard. So I started asking around. I asked the desk lady at the local motor lodge. And the old fella sitting on a crate just sort of observing the farmers market. Both of whom had the same similar stories. First, that they had lived their whole lives in Butte. And second, they confirmed what I had initially suspected, and then quickly feared. That Evel Knievel was an asshole. He was a bad, bad man, they said. And not the kind of bad man that you love to hate. But just an asshole. To his wife, to his kids, and to his hometown.

So i guess it’s no surprise that there’s no mural of him. And no postcards or T-shirt’s in the souvenir shops. His kids are all still fighting over who has the rights to what, and various folks with claims to his estate have sued, or threatened to sue, anyone who uses his image to sell any trinkets that the town has pretty much turned it’s back on him. And this is a town that from looking around wouldn’t seem like it should turn it’s back on anyone or anything g that could give it a little shine. But even the old festival that celebrated his life “Evel Knievel Days” crashed and burned like his SkyCycle rocket did over the Snake River Canyon some 46 years ago. But they are healing. Healing their own wounds that this man inflicted upon the town and it’s citizens. To do so they have chosen to erase his memory, not to celebrate it.

So what’s left for the tourists who do roll through town? Well, there’s the Berkeley Pit, a former mine site that is now home to one of the most toxic pools of water in America. Over 40 BILLION gallons of toxic sludge, bubbling up from the depths of hell. They charge you $3 to walk through a 100 foot tunnel and stand on a viewing platform and look at it. And then on the far side of the “pit” there’s a water treatment plant which processes 5 million gallons a minute, that makes that water clean and releases it into a creek. That’s progress. And THAT’s what the people
Of Butte are are proud of. And the other big attraction is the third largest statue in America. A carving of the Virgin Mary standing almost 100 feet tall high up in the Rockies on the Continental Divide. “Our lady of the Rockies”

For a little bit there I was sad that there was no Evel Knievel crap around town. But now I’m proud of Butte, and it’s people. And I realized the whole entire place is just a metaphor for America. So today, on the 244th birthday of this teeteringly great nation that we were born into, as the wind blows through my motorcycle hair, and I imagine blowing out the candles on a birthday cake shaped like the 50 states (and Puerto Rico!) I’ll be wishing that we can collectively agree to say “Fuck the pain of our past, and fuck the problems it’s given us, and let’s work on some solutions and some progress, and celebrate that!” America – fuck yeah!

THE NEW DEAL – The Dan & Jamie show with special guest Jake Szufnarowski

The New Deal are an amazing band. When they busted onto the scene in 1999 with their Live-Progressive-Breakbeat-House they were the first band I championed HARD as the booker at Wetlands in NYC. I made it my personal mission ot break that band and it worked. Because they were undeniable, and all I had to do was make sure they got in front of the right audiences. And all they had to do was drive from Toronto to NYC on a weekly basis for six or seven months, and then VOILA – they were an overnight sensation!

At a recent board meeting at the New Deal HQ the directors Dan and Jamie voted unanimously to spice up their podcast with some manic NC17 energy and thought “We only have to make one call. Just like the olden days. THE SZUF.” But rather than have me drive to Toronto, I beamed in remotely from Butte, Montana birthplace of Evel Knievel.

Wear A Damn Mask, New York City!!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a bunch of stories written about me and my exploits over the years. Sometimes I’ve even managed to sneak some truth into interviews! But this one takes the cake. I didn’t do an interview for this one. Didn’t even know it was coming. The writer has been a friend for a bunch of years and just dropped it on me the other day when he published it. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was shocked. Then I read it and began to well up with pride. And a few tears. And lots of laughing out loud. Sometimes you need a reminder of how much you love being alive. And how much of a privilege it is to be able to lead such a wild life. This did that for me. In spades. I hope you enjoy it too. Also, WEAR A DAMN MASK!!!

CLICK HERE TO READ IT ON MEDIUM

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without some strong prose to step to… Times up!

It’s been a long time since I haven’t had a home of my own. Or at the very least a home to call my own. I’m no stranger to extensive travels, but as I write this, sat on an aeroplane jetting towards the City of Angels, this is the first time in my life that I don’t have a place to live, a lead on a place to live, or for that matter, a real care about where I’m going to live. About 10 days ago I decided to pluck my leaf  from the stem of the big Apple and toss it into the swirling winds of 2020 and let the universe guide me in her jet stream.

Impulsive adventures are nothing new to me. I once headed to LAX just to drop a friend off and ended up on a flight to Sydney. Doing things on the spur of the moment is one of my great joys in life. But this time it’s different. This time I don’t have a home to go back to. I’m completely untethered. A drifter, you might even say. I gave up my apartment in the building I called home for the past 7 years, and put whatever belongings I didn’t gift to friends or even strangers into a sketchy storage facility in the Jersey shadows of the GW bridge and hopped on a plane.

The last time I was in my adopted second home of Los Angeles it was a two night stop in between a suicidal mental breakdown in Las Vegas and a mental health treatment center in Ocala Florida. This time I’m on my way to gather some belongings I had left scattered around the city and then continue on to Washington State to pick up my beloved Motorcycle which I had left for dead in the Spokane International Airport parking garage in September 2019. I’m gonna get back on that steel horse, a few changes of clothes and some camping gear strapped to the back, and pint my way towards a new adventure. Aside from a few friends I’m planning to visit in Idaho and Idaho and Colorado, I’ve got no idea where I’m going to end up, how I’m going to get there, or when. I guess I’ll just know I’m home when I feel like this is the place where I want to stop.

When I left this bike in Spokane I had been riding it all around the Great Western Frontier, looking for a place to die. This time, I’m looking for a place to LIVE!

21st Century Pack Mule. High above Lake Coeur D’Alene.