By Jordan Latham
The East Bay Rats have had Bay Area residents from all walks of life participate in their Fight Night parties for more than 20 years. Alex Abramovich's new book, Bullies, will strike a chord with people from SOMA to Antioch. A wide range of folks will feel included in the raucous picture Abramovich paints, because they have a personal connection to the bike club, or know some one who does.
The premise to Bullies, starts back in the 70's. Abramovich and his childhood foe, now East Bay Rats motorcycle club president Trevor Latham, fight each other regularly with a frantic fear and determination in their Long Island elementary school. If you ever had a childhood nemesis, someone who terrified you as a young kid, Abromovich's description of how he experienced Latham may send a shiver down your spine.
The memories had a deep, lasting enough impression on Abramovich, he was compelled to explore them. So he utilized the Google machine to find a man with whom he had a bone to pick.
He found him. Boy did he ever. In the deeply ghetto stretch of 35th and San Pablo, in Oakland California, he found Trevor Latham heading a heavily subculture motorcycle club. Latham is a big dude, with a big laugh, and an imposing presence. The Club is wild, they are punk rock, they are balls to the wall.
Abramovich and Latham delve into their Long Island beginnings, holding memories up to the light. What comes of it, is not what one might expect.
The story is largely of two men who came from very similar beginnings, reconnecting as the vastly different men they have become. Abramovich writes his experience of spending time with the motorcycle club with the voice of an intellectual. A thoughtful man with no inclination to act out violence in his daily life, is surrounded by men who facilitate an avenue for people to act out violence (i.e fight nights). He is taken aback at times, and intrigued by the people themselves. He approaches them with curiosity and without pretense. prolificacy ensues.
His pinpointing and searching out the source of boyhood torment is brave. The decision to do so is hopeful. The outcome is a story that was well worth perusing.
People who do or have lived in Oakland will thoroughly enjoy Bullies. Abramovich takes the time to discuss how complicated and Wild West the city is. He ties into his book, something people who don't know the city may not understand. That its poverty, it's corruption, its disfunctionality forged in fire the East Bay Rats. And in many ways Trevor Latham himself.
Bullies is two sorts of stories melded together. It's a moment in Oakland during the Occupy rallies. It's a portrait of a motorcycle club and it's members. And it's an intimate look into the relationship of two men that was, and then it wasn't, and now it is.