A journalist’s account of his friendship with a man who was not only president of a motorcycle group, but also the boy who bullied him during childhood.
Abramovich met Trevor Latham, president of the East Bay Rats Motorcycle Club, when the two were fourth-graders growing up on Long Island. They often fought in the schoolyard, but as children from dysfunctional, single-parent homes, both boys also had a deep affinity for each other. Their contact ended when Abramovich moved with his often jobless father in sixth grade. It was not until years later that he reconnected with Trevor, who now lived in Oakland. On an assignment for GQ to do a story about their friendship, the author traveled from New York to experience Trevor’s blue-collar world of motorcycles and “systemized” violence. Once back in New York, however, the story would not let him go. So Abramovich returned to Oakland to work on a book about Trevor and the Rats, and a six-month visit eventually turned into a four-year stay. His investigations led him to explore Oakland’s history, from its origins as bucolic California land grant territory to its evolution into one of the most crime-infested cities in America. He also learned about the tortured history of the Rats and witnessed the bloody infighting that threatened to tear the group apart. Research eventually revealed that before films like Stanley Kramer’s The Wild One (1953) celebrated an underground subculture of leather and machismo, motorcycle associations in America had been called “sweater clubs” and had attracted the likes of Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. Thoughtful and engaging, Abramovich’s book suggests an intricate connection between an especially violent city and the “cracked, broken homes” that constitute them. Those homes ultimately give rise to “cracked, broken” children—like the author and Trevor—who seek makeshift families like the Rats or other gangs and take a “casual acceptance of bloodshed” as the status quo.
A sharp, provocative memoir of an unlikely friendship.