ALLEN H: “My style is lacking. I really want to capture the struggles, what I learned through each challenge, and how it developed me as a person, husband, father, and principal. I would like to add more about my current family as well.” – This is what you told me via email. I took the liberty of filling in related info, it can all be changed to suit your purposes.
CHAPTER ONE – REMEMBER THE ALAMO!
Hello, children and teachers! Nowadays, I’m the popular (cough!) principal of our esteemed school, as you may know. However, you’d probably never believe that I used to have stringy blonde hair hanging down to my waist! I was the five-year-old “hipster” member of a fiercely loyal biker club extended family. We did drugs, had sex wild and loose, and literally “kicked butt” against the Establishment and all our enemies. Here’s my True Story; it will be up to you to judge whether it’s a story of Good, or Evil…
When your parents are the “raging bull” scions of a hippie, drug-doing, leather-wearing full blown motorcycle club, you adopt a lot of outside strangers as your extended family. Many of these “family members” resided with us in a large, sprawling, filthy but well-kept house in San Diego, California. It was affectionately nicknamed “The Alamo.” This started out as a joke based on how police and other biker clubs frequently surrounded our complex. When I was five, it wasn’t unusual for people to hang out festooned in club colors, with the children including me left to be watched by a few “relatives” while the other adults engaged freely without limitations on drugs, drinking, and acts of sporadic and frightening violence.
Every day, our house’s hallways were scattered with Harley Davidson cycles, greasy and sopping wet with the rain from outside. Motorcycle “boss hogs” were high priority with this crowd, a lifestyle allowing my siblings to come and go freely, doing anything they liked. Accountability, possibly with my exception, was about zero. During those tender times in my young life, my mother separated from my biological father. My stepfather then spent some of his time angrily looking after me, for most of my childhood. Relationship loyalty proved shabby, unsteady and rocky for my mother, Sharon Milam. She married four times, having a total of six kids including me, from five different men.
Eventually, my parents split from the Biker Club Outlaws, their longtime crew, after repeated incidents with the local Mogal, Axe Men and Hell’s Angels clubs. This included a riotous bombing at a Hell’s Angels’ funeral. While they left the club itself, our extended family stayed on for a major portion of our lives. Meanwhile, I fitted in nicely to our “hippie” biker family, with straight blonde hair flowing far beyond my waist. But one year, Santa Claus showed up at our house and called me a girl! So I asked my folks to chop it all off.
My stepfather, “Huck,” worked as a mason. He was extraordinarily skilled in stucco, a concrete-based house siding popular in warmer areas. My mother worked as a full-time housekeeper for a successful real estate broker in the San Diego region. This was in the 1950s, the era of poodle skirts, racism and the start of battles over it, and hot-tempered murderous biker gangs. Having babies as a teenager is difficult; it was far worse back then. People and parents proved to be hideously judgemental. But my Mom remained tough enough to waste anyone who gave her a hard time! She birthed five kids by age 30 through four different dudes, then at 42 she became big-bellied with me.
Still enjoying the hard-driven biker lifestyle, she indulged liberally on drugs, cigs and alcohol during her pregnancies. I’m lucky I recovered; I might’ve been born with a major host of health problems. Anger management should’ve been one of them: my big sister Teresa grew incredibly upset at no longer being the youngest child, incessantly chattering that Mom had almost aborted me. My mother, on the same hand, blatantly ran hot and cold when it came to being affectionate or supportive for any of us. I never knew what to expect as a child; it was a continuous, brutal struggle of stubborn wills. I swore daily that when I grew up, things were “gonna be different” for my own wonderful family!
Anyway, Mom was one ruggedly beautiful biker chick. Stood 4’9” – not tall, commanding for her size, having long, blackboard-scraping fingernails and a stare that made the average man squirm and tremble in his leather cowboy boots. She held her screaming ground each time my stepdad and she traded blows blows, more often than not. No matter what, she always forgave him, not allowing complications to wedge betwixt her and her children. Conflicts with us and the whole family, with little resolution, were a memorable part of her personal legendry. I learned about how (not) to deal with things the wrong way, how to live and let live, and how to search for familial forgiveness. To this day, I try hard to use the right words and not get angry, while I strive to maintain my own position in a logical argument. Best way to honor my mother and stepfather’s legacy…if it can be said they left me with one.
About my “dad,” self-proclaimed Tough Biker and Iron Butt Lover Boy? Lowell, or “Huck” as all called him, forever walked and talked with an “I don’t take crap from anyone!” pointed, painfully obvious attitude. A Vietnam War vet, he drove an armored tank during his stint in the US Army. He suffered through severe post-traumatic stress disorder; one night Mom caught him waking up at the crack of dawn to exchange words with a bunch of “ghosts,” gibbering madly as monkeys in the driveway.
Whenever I asked him about ‘Nam, he’d prattle vainly, almost beratingly about the lush jungle landscape, the rice paddies and his “real good” war-time buddies. But in spite of this outwardly cheerful demeanor, he was deeply locked into the raw, painful experiences of that horrible war. He never brought up the stuff he saw, or anything he did. When conversations about his Veterans Administration benefits arose, he’d simply say, “The government doesn’t owe me anything.” I guess he was mainly having trouble, like many other ‘Nam vets, getting his “bennies” from our recalcitrant authorities.
To this day, I see my stepfather as someone whose moral compass was utterly broken, glass smashed in, needle stopped on a heading of sheer selfishness. The lines between right and wrong were completely blurred, involving lies, fake schemes and crazy biker dreams. And too many times, over and over, I was told: “Don’t you dare tell your momma!”
One afternoon, my stepdad drove his ancient, delapidated Ford truck en route back to our house. Lurking along the way was a steeply left-handed sharp curve, and his truck passenger door had this tendency to pop wide open without notice. We didn’t use seat belts, so when he made that awful turn on a trip home the door flew open, launching my five-year-old body like a flopping puppet onto the road. I rolled safely into a dirt-encrusted ditch. While I lay there moaning, Huck pulled the truck over. Picking me up as I cried, yowling like a demented cat, he dusted me off roughly and barked, “Don’t you tell yo momma ‘bout this!” Driving home, we fabricated a yarn that I’d been playing tackle football on the asphalt street. My fear of the man prevented me from telling the truth about our “Don’t tell momma!” moments.
On the other hand, the fondest memories of my family emanate from this period of time, when it seemed like the top priority was our family unit – without any interference from outside entitities, such as school, casual friends and the cops. Quite often, my mother’s wealthy employer allowed us to use their beach house in Encinitas, Mexico for the weekend. It’s the only memory I have of any quality “vacas” that didn’t include a fast relocation due to illegal activities. During those happy times we laughed, smoke weed and played board games, and at night we’d catch grunions, silver minnow-like fish glimmering in the moonlight. We’d hunt them as they crawled up the shoreline to lay eggs. We either threw them back into the water, or used them for fishing lures the next day. Too soon Mom lost this wonderful job, because Huck got paid for labor on her employer’s house that he never performed.
It was clear, though, who made the ultimate decisions in my home: Mom. Her short frame of a curvesome, lithe body and her loving mother’s touch quickly changed to that of a mean as ice, Hell’s Angels’ style biker’s wife – with Nature’s Laws of Cruelty on her side. A tatoo of a raging lion graced the top of her striking arm, stating proudly she was the “Property of Huck,” making everyone aware exactly to whom she belonged, body and soul.
Our homes, varying by way of speed of access, usually consisted of wooden furniture created from large wooden wire spools my stepfather crafted himself. His pride and joy was a huge, long saltwater fish tank taking up most of the space in one of our small living rooms. Huck also raised Doberman Pinschers, a mean-tempered breed of German dog, training them harshly in Deutsch to make any victims totally at his mercy. He freely displayed his cultural biker philosophy of out-and-out racism, training his dogs to act aggressively toward people of color. His overall “bad ass” personality stuck out with a prominent swastika tattoo, also his constant use of the “n” word to describe Black people. His real moniker had been the feminine-sounding Lowell, but due to his arrogant personality he was known by “Huck,” as in Huckleberry Finn, who famously used the “n” word in the book by Mark Twain:
HUCK: “It warn’t the grounding, that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder head (mechanical component of a steam engine).”
AUNT SALLY: “Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
HUCK: “No’m. Killed a n—–.”
AUNT SALLY: “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt…”
The end result of my blasphemous, n-word calling family? After all these years, we still keep in touch with our extended, extensive biker “cousins.” We share strong bonds, coming together stronger than our nuclear family. The Varges, for example, lived in a humble apartment complex, where I spent much of my time. During one of our sporadic visits, my sister Teresa “got sideways” with a male Samoan “family member” throwing a party upstairs, which brought on a giant brawl between our two actual families. At one scremingly violent point, a neighbor stepped outside to tell my stepdad to stop things. Huck’s response was to push him ferociously backward, then to throw him head-first through an outside large, plate-glass window. This ended the matter, as the bleeding, surprised man was sternly warned not to call the police!
Due to this garnering of “street credit,” from that point on our two families became the best of friends. But people started calling Huck “the Incredible Hulk,” due to the ferocious, awesome violence they’d witnessed. I didn’t know what to make of it; at my age, I thought it was normal human behavior. I know better nowadays, but my upbringing certainly got as rowdy as they come. I hope it makes me a better family man – going against it, that is!
My school’s students occasionally ask me if I ever smoked any marijuana. They are looking for some validation of their own behavior. I just tell them, “Sure, but I stopped…at the age of seven!” Usually, they look at me with slack-jawed disbelief. I explain that my older brother Michael and his wife Nene allowed me to smoke by the age of five, when I went to stay with them on the weekends. It seemed funny to them, getting me high and watching me “act goofy” and ride Bruno, their Great Dane, around their tipsy house.
On one occasion, Michael told my middle brother Robert about how I and my cousin Roger (biker extended family) were smoking crushed pot seeds. Incensed, Robert began to hit us with the back of his hard plastic hat, which was worse than it sounds. Even though the greater bulk of my family smoked MJ when it was illegal and also did much harsher drugs, they kept emparting their hypocritical morals to us. How I should not do drugs, but they had little problem modeling their own poor choices to me and the other children. We grew up loose, wild and fancy free, sad to say, while each sibling showed their love in different ways.
Too often we were at each other’s throats. This was due mostly to money or drugs, but anytime somebody was in trouble, our family would instantly band together to take on the universe for a clan member. I recall this one time, Michael and Robert engaged in a brutal fight in our front yard, beating each other up with two-by-four boards. Somehow, a truck of three good ol’ boys pulled over to watch and encourage the fighting. Immediately, my brothers threw their boards down, pulling the threesome out of their truck in order to beat up these new, mutually putrid enemies. We didn’t hear from any of those boys, ever again!
With me the youngest child by eleven years, most of my siblings out of the house, I actually grew up inadvertently as an only child. My parents had little control over us, due to their lack of consistent parenting, presence and onsite nurturing. None of my brothers or sisters graduated from high school, and all of them have been incarcerated at some time – except for me, the odd exception to the rule. My sister Carolyn was packed off to live with my gramma, and my other brother Bill to live with various aunts and uncles. My general perception was that my parents didn’t want to be “weighed down” by anything remotely resembling parental responsibility. Meanwhile, I was seen by my siblings as “privileged” because my parents spent more time with me, tending to give more of their attention to my needs. Possibly they liked me because I was blonde, due to their racism.