BROOKLYN, N.Y., SEPT. 21–This year, we were gonna do it differently. Rather than getting all caught up in the New York City congestion, exacerbated by the hundreds of thousands of New York residents and tourists attending the San Gennaro Feast in lower Manhattan, my friends Mailman, John and I decided to take the long way ’round. So we rode a big loop down the Jersey Turnpike, across the Goethals Bridge into Staten Island, over the Verrazano Bridge and north again on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Miracle of miracles; we arrived at the Indian Larry Grease Monkey Block Party around noon, the earliest I’d ever been able to get there.
The first block party was held in 2004 as a “thank you” from Indian Larry and his crew to their customers and friends. Larry’s untimely death later that year brought forth customers and friends once again for a memorial block party in front of Larry’s shop in Brooklyn. But each party held after that was, instead of a memorial, a celebration and, of course, another way to honor his memory and his unique and stunning craftsmanship.
Larry’s legacy is carried on through Indian Larry Motorcycles owners Bob and Elisa Seeger and their crew. Several years ago, the shop was relocated to a new site about a mile from the old neighborhood. The block party tradition is still carried out by Bob and Elisa, the shop crew and friends, still drawing Indian Larry friends and fans from all over the world. Some partygoers showed up a day or two early, and some stayed an extra day or two, enjoying the hospitality of the shop and its staff. A good night’s sleep was a rarity, but no one seemed to mind.
Many of the streets surrounding the shop were designated as motorcycle-only, and bikes were parked for blocks around. In front of the shop, Indian Larry Motorcycles and Elisa’s business, Genuine Motorworks, which has a permanent location near the old shop on North 14th Street, had set up booths with merchandise for sale. The Rumblers Car Club brought a few hot rods to display, and Harley-Davidson of New York City was in the house, along with Pat Patterson and Led Sled Customs from Dayton, Ohio. Vendors such as Slap Back clothing and accessories, Pink Militia Breast Cancer Killers, Metal di Muse jewelry and accessories, the guys from Rescue Ink, Johnny Mac Choppers, Leather Patch and more had booths on both sides of the street.
Artwork was plentiful, with Chris Machin of Kool Freaking Creations on hand displaying his incredible Kustom Kulture creations including hand-painted gas tanks, helmets, fenders, skateboards, tool boxes and other repurposed objects. A large tent housing the one-day Smoke and Mirrors Art Gallery featured works by Darren McKeag, Seth Leibowitz, Chris Callen, Richiepan, and Debbie Fitch Photography. Special guests included Cole Foster from Salinas Boyz Customs out of Salinas, California, designer, pinstriper and airbrush artist Robert Pradke of Pradke Auto Design in Eastford, Connecticut, and the eponymous Bean’re from, well, everywhere, autographing his book Bean’re—Motorcycle Nomad.
Aidan Has a Posse bracelets were being sold for $10 at the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation/Be the Match booth. Bob and Elisa’s son Aidan had been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) in 2011, and the disease took his life in 2012 when he was just 7 years old. Since then, Elisa has been fighting for ALD to become part of newborn screening. She is truly a force of nature, and with the help of the Hunter’s Hope Foundation (an organization founded by NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife after their infant son was diagnosed with a closely-related deadly disease, finally taking his life at age 7), Aidan’s Law was passed by the New York State legislature, making New York the first state to mandate ALD screening. Through the efforts of another family who suffered through ALD, New Jersey has signed mandatory ALD screening into law. But she isn’t stopping there. Elisa, through the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation, and others who have lost family members to ALD are fighting to have the disease added to the Recommended Newborn Screening Panel nationally.
Other vendors and artists at the party supported the cause as well. Diva Dawn of Metal di Muse was selling enamel “FTW” belt buckles for $20, with all proceeds benefiting Aidan Has a Posse. And one of the main fundraisers that day was the Lucky 13 Helmet Auction where 13 artists, including some that took part in the Smoke and Mirrors Art Gallery, each hand painted a helmet to be auctioned off to benefit Aidan Has a Posse. The artists were John the Painter, Paul St. Savage, Ewok, Kostas Seremetis, Darren McKeag, Chris Callen, Robert Pradke, Troy Denning, Seth Leibowitz, Greg Bemis, Chris Machin, RISK and Richie Seen, with Biltwell donating all of the helmets. The one-of-a-kind helmets were on display all day, and all the helmets had been sold on eBay by the beginning of October.
A barbecue grill set up near the shop where folks could purchase hamburgers and hot dogs, and at the end of the block was a stage for the nonstop musical acts. Emcee for the day was Little Jimmy, who many Brooklynites know from Coney Island Circus Sideshow. Little Jimmy is the smallest emcee in the world, and played a role as an Oompa Loompa in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971. Jimmy has led a fascinating life that is chronicled in his book Little Man, Thinking Big. He kept the crowd in stitches with Jimmy-isms including such gems as, pointing to a woman in the audience, he said, “Remember that whatever you do kneeling down, I do standing up.” The sideshow act featured Nelson Lugo, known as the Charming Trickster.
More than a half-dozen bands played throughout the day and into the evening: Hellbound Glory, Wardogs, Bighouse Pete, Wrench, Scrapers, Judas Priestess and Sea Monster. And in the midst of it all were bikes—hundreds of them—with many entering the No Invitation Motorcycle Show. It was a lot of party jammed into a single block, but there was more! Ten bucks gave you access to the Indian Larry Motorcycles shop where there was a roast pig and tap beer as long as it lasted. And $100 got you a 10th annual block party VIP package that included a T-shirt, VIP laminate, 10th anniversary pin, a patch from Leather Patch, and barbecue and beer. Set up between some of the custom builds in progress were Brian Kienlen and Josh Kohn of Immortal Ink, applying Indian Larry memorial tattoos on whoever was lucky enough to be at the head of the line.
Late in the afternoon, the bike show winners were announced and we were delighted when tattoo artist and painter Richiepan, owner of Dark Star Tattoo in Toms River, New Jersey, was awarded best vintage for his Panhead, a daily rider named Viola. Another Jersey guy, Paul, took best in show with his Ironhead. There was so much going on we missed the winners of the best paint and best custom classes, but it must have been extremely difficult for the judges to select the winners as there were many fine examples of builder creativity and ingenuity.
It was early evening when we saw the rain clouds coming in, so we hightailed it outta there and headed back to New Jersey. We each reached our destinations only minutes before the skies opened up; a dramatic ending to a perfect day. The Indian Larry Grease Monkey Block Party is the type of event I wished would happen more than once a year, but there’s no reason why this biker grrrl can’t ride the 40 miles to the shop, just to spend more time with this welcoming, generous crew.