Mean Mulligan (above), the time-traveling steampunker, invited us for drinks in his garage pub, but we already had a date with some of Matt’s friends, at Dirty Muggs, the backyard BBQ pit and bar of the Southside Dirties MC. The Dirties were courting sponsorship by the Bandidos MC, an “outlaw” club founded in Texas in 1966, and one of the “Big 4,” with the Hells Angels, the Pagan’s, and Outlaws. The Bandidos are “1%-ers”—not the richest of the rich this time, but those left over in a (perhaps apocryphal) comment by the American Motorcycle Association that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens. Bandidos control the clubs in San Antonio.
The Dirties were great hosts, friendly and welcoming. Tigger’s grilled chicken and jalapeno poppers were terrific, and the Lone Star plentiful. But the campfire and Christmas lights strung overhead weren’t ideal for Donato’s needs, and he wasn’t happy with the shots he peered at on the back of his camera and measured against something in his mind. He thought the Dirties were aware of their friends watching them pose, so their eyes weren’t holding. He would need time, he said, to get to know them better, and a semi-private space to shoot.
The next day we were to meet the Dirties across town, in Schertz, at a CoC, or confederation of clubs meeting, where tensions were to be worked out over one of the clubs bristling at paying dues to the Bandidos. A club called Boozefighters was hosting on private property, next to a Little League field with game in play, so we could only look on from a parking area until the Dirties arrived. We started getting looks from the gathering crowd. An hour passed.
The timing was bad: Bandidos were being tried in Waco for the deadliest biker-related shooting in US history, which happened at another CoC, and we knew they’d be camera-shy. More arrived, wearing their colors and 1% patches. Bikes kept rolling past as we stood at the rear bumper of Matt’s white Nissan Rogue. The four of us looked like poorly-disguised undercover cops: Donato, all bulk and mob-soldier tattoos; Matt with his own sleeves, Tall Man jacket, and muttonchops; Dustin playing the role of super-groovy Serpico with long hair, beard, and shades; and me, some hyper-focused, shaved-head captain with a certificate in Arrest & Control Tactics from the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois.
Two Boozefighters walked up the hill, gravely shook our hands, and asked what we wanted. Matt mentioned the Dirties, but the two looked at each other and shook their heads. They were polite: We don’t know them. Matt said, “We’re here for the CoC,” and the main guy said, “That’s all you needed to say,” but we were to stay put until the Dirties arrived. We waited some more, but the Dirties had had a breakdown or something—communication was spotty—and finally Matt said, Fuck it, let’s jump. Our plans were gang agley, and time running on.