I absolutely love the “Sons of Anarchy”! I received the first three seasons on DVD for my birthday and so I swallow 3-4 episodes at a time as I cannot stop once I start. It’s thrilling and my lower back aches from all the backstabbing and I am fascinated by the tight plot twists and boot-cut drama. It lives in the magical universe of “The Shield”, another one of my all time favorite television shows, and since I never got to be on The Shield, I hope one day to get to do the Sons of Anarchy. Maybe I could even ride!
The Sons of Anarchy reminds me of the northern California gangs of my youth, but they didn’t have impressive custom bikes, they just rode the trains, although a few among them had shiny, roaringly loud El Caminos and Mustangs. These belonged to the older boys, men really, and the muscle cars usually didn’t last long as they were quickly impounded or sold to pay for bail bonds and lawyers as the owners were carted off to jail and then inevitably to prison.
They called themselves the WPODs, and the primitive rock-painting-like graffiti of these letters on walls all over the city would later be covered over with the sophisticated, swirling spray can murals taggers eventually learned to create, discovering that they too had a right to art. I didn’t know then that the letters came from a song by the tubes, and they stood for white punks on dope, and this was mostly true, although they weren’t technically punk, as they didn’t have Mohawks or piercings made with safety pins and they never went to see bands at the Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco’s premier punk venue. They preferred laser light shows at the planetarium and the classic rock of Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and of course Black Sabbath.
They were always white, and mostly of irish descent, but not recent immigrants, as they didn’t regularly frequent the real irish bars of the Sunset and Richmond districts filled with authentic brogues and bitter beer and held no opinion or allegiance to Protestants or Catholics or Sinn Fein or the IRA or anything and they were too young to be in those establishments anyway. The dope of their moniker and choice was usually crank or what is now known as crystal meth, but then it was a heavily stepped-on early edition of the drug, so cut up with baby laxatives that everyone would fart up a storm at the mere appearance of a cloudy, stingy bag.
The Sunset District where I grew up was made up of these 4th and 5th generation Irish and 1st generation Chinese /Korean /Vietnamese /Japanese /Filipino families. It was a faintly depressing and conservative neighborhood that was defensively lower middle class. The streets were mean but they were clean. The trains were on time but filled with hard looking kids, who weren’t bad really, just high, and bored, which was me, and is still me sometimes.
The WPODs were like sentinels or soldiers, as they had a uniform, and you would see them strutting around, keeping watch, proud as roosters, in their derby jackets – deep blacks and blues and sometimes steely grey and even an odd khaki brown in there for the wild card crazy one who liked to set off fireworks and could make pipe bombs with the collection of pyrotechnics squirreled away under his bed.
There was a distinctive double seam going across the back of the jacket, shoulder to shoulder, which I took to represent the horizon that marked the farthest border of the Sunset District, the painfully cold and windy Ocean Beach, whose dangerous undertow made going swimming absolutely suicidal. You needed to get your affairs in order and write a note to your loved ones before taking a dip in there. Everyone I knew who went in that water died. That is not an exaggeration.
To go with the jacket there were loosely slung Ben Davis slacks, the wide leg giving way to steel toe boots, laced hard and tight up the shaft, holding their skinny boy calves in a confining leather hook and eye embrace. They walked with confidence and dirty hair that framed beautiful but haunted cold weather faces, and in their glittering blue and green eyes I could tell they were still little boys who got scared and cried when they were alone.
We weren’t supposed to hang around with them but it happened. The WPODs were encouraged to stay with their ‘own kind’, but they never did, being unable to resist the gorgeous asian girls growing up next to them, with our shiny black hair and plump lush Dr Pepper Bonne Bell mouths. They’d wait outside your house smoking Marlboros and trying not to act or look like they were waiting outside your house, dreaming of a whiff of your Love’s Baby Soft or Jean Nate After Bath Splash. Their hopelessly ardent crushes betrayed their hoodlum exteriors.
I was well liked for my humor and resemblance to the 26 year old woman whose purse had been stolen on the N Judah, and at 12 I could convincingly buy kegs of beer with that swiped ID and my ageless poker face and grown woman body. The WPODs would leave odd trails of saliva on my Izod shirts as they didn’t know how to kiss but tried to seem like they knew everything about sex and so they’d suck on odd areas around my shoulders and chest like lampreys sticking to the side of a fishtank.
I got older and these boys got into worse and worse trouble and without warning became men who couldn’t do anything else but be in trouble. I left my neighborhood for comedy and showbusiness and better and brighter things and sometimes I would hear of the incarceration of one and the death of another and I’d think about the clean hopeful Ivory soap smell of their necks and how the derby jackets they wore held the cigarette smoke inside them so they always smelled like they were smoking even if they were not. Whenever anyone lights a Marlboro red around me I remember so much and so hard and so quickly and so vividly I feel like crying.