Some Like It Fast

Some Like It Fast

OMC Enters Its Second Century

    Forty-fifth Avenue off Coliseum Way in Oakland is a short, dark, gloomy stretch of road that dead-ends at a tall fence, which stops one from ending up in the path of a passing train. It is the type of road one would normally avoid after dark. So why, on a Wednesday at 8 p.m., are cars and assorted motorcycles driving down it en masse? And what is it with those orange jackets most of them are wearing?
    The answer is found in a story that dates back 100 years.
    A nondescript driveway to the right of where the road stops leads into the headquarters and clubhouse of the Oakland Motorcycle Club—celebrating its centennial this year. The clubhouse is member-owned and -operated. Wednesday night is club night. And to walk in is to be surprised. The conviviality in this barn-like place—filled with motorcycle memorabilia and chatter, and sporting a mirrored ceiling disco-ball suspended high above an area that transforms from meeting space to party place—is overwhelming. Any notion of bikers as Hell’s Angels–types is immediately dispelled. This is family time. Kids and dogs are officially welcome. A Caribbean cruise was on the 100th anniversary agenda. And heaven help you if you get ill and want to be alone. “You’ll seldom have fewer than 15 club members visiting and watching out for you,” says current president Larry Stewart. “We’re like one big family.”
    Lindy Lindstrom, sitting at the bar sipping a drink poured by Bob Davidson (bartender for the past 22 years), is 94 years old. She has been with the club since 1932 when she married her late husband,  American Motorcycle Association Hall of Famer Clifford “Windy” Lindstrom. She rode on the back of his Harley for as long as he could ride and “covered the entire United States.”
    In 2002, when Tracy Snyder became the first woman welcomed as a full member, her father, Mark Norris, was able to claim four generations of club membership. Prior to that, women were accepted only as auxiliary members, which meant you needed to be partnered with a man who rode. The majority of the women are still auxiliaries; but these days, full membership is on an equal footing. In keeping with the times, one’s skill and ability as a rider—not one’s gender—are key to membership. Snyder has four motorcycles ranging from a Suzuki Hayabusa, “to go fast and show off on,” to a dirt bike.
    Suzanne Ayriss, a school counselor in Fremont when she’s not out on the road riding her Suzuki V-Strom-DL 650, is the fourth and most recent woman member. “The first time I walked in here, I almost ran straight out. It looked like a men’s club,” she says. Then she spotted Tracy Snyder—president at the time.
    “The main function is to come together as a group to have fun with motorcycles,” Ayriss says, paging through one of the club’s many old scrapbooks and pointing to newspaper clippings and photographs dating back to the 1920s and ’30s. She directs me upstairs to see photographs from the days when riders wore caps and when OMC, the fourth-oldest motorcycle club in the nation, was the principal organizer of the 1911 Livermore Rally that attracted more than 1,500 motorcycles. They’ve come a long way—and it’s onward, fast and furious, into century number two.
    Visit the club online at www.oaklandmc.org or call (510) 534-6222.
 

By Wanda Hennig
 

Oakland Made

No Sting-Just Flavor

    James Freeman picks up a small white bowl, sticks his nose into it and sniffs. Next, he sucks in a spoonful of the brown brew and does a rough imitation of a mouth rinse. He swallows, mutters something like “good balance” and moves on. There are usually about 12 bowls, and this “cupping” ritual takes place at least three times a week at the West Oakland headquarters of Freeman’s Blue Bottle Coffee Company. He “cups” to sample beans before he bulk-buys the finest from merchants who bring in coffee from Yemen, Guatemala, Brazil, Africa and other international coffee-growing regions. He cups again to sample each batch of roasted coffee before it is distributed.
    This personalized quality control is among the reasons—along with Freeman’s constant search for the best beans, his fetish for freshness and his commitment to roasting as an art—many people consider Blue Bottle coffee the Bay Area’s best. Customers include Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and Tacubaya and other top-name establishments. And people line up in droves to buy it at the Berkeley, Temescal and Ferry Plaza farmers markets and at the small Blue Bottle coffee kiosk in Hayes Valley (315 Linden St.), San Francisco.
    A passion for freshly roasted coffee and not being able to find it motivated Freeman, 41, to found this boutique coffee company. He started buying beans and roasting them on a tray in his home oven about 10 years ago. In those days a clarinet was in his mouth more often than coffee. He played the instrument from age 12 to “about 33.” He performed in bands and orchestras throughout California. Finally, tired of the traveling, “I decided to transfer my obsessive energies.” While his clarinet career “never flowed easily and naturally,” his coffee career took off and flourished.
    The company is named for Central Europe’s first coffeehouse (The Blue Bottle), founded in Vienna around 1683. After a Temescal launch, Freeman moved two years ago to West Oakland (1552 Beach St., Suite R), where coffee is available for purchase
1 p.m.–6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays. See www.bluebottlecoffee.net.      
—Wanda Hennig

 

In The Scene

Brunch at the Biker Bistro

    There are certain things you expect to see at a biker joint: Skulls. Black walls. Chrome accents. Beer. Tattoos. Lots of black leather. Low lighting. Located at an unassuming corner of San Pablo Avenue, Godspeed has all of that—and much that you wouldn’t expect: Pink leather jackets. Blueberry-raspberry waffles. Great salads. A 150-inch HDTV screen. An exceptionally friendly staff.
    The motorcycle parlor’s name is derived from the nautical colloquialism for “safe passage.” But even if you’ve never strapped on a helmet, you can feel very safe—and very welcome—here. Godspeed is nirvana for those who ride, either in reality or just in their dreams. A custom Harley valued at $25,000 is for sale on consignment for $12,500. New Hyosung imports from South Korea begin at $3,000. The service center features a machine that road-tests a bike up to 200 mph—a tad safer than trying that on the streets. Gear ranges from $500 leather Vanson jackets that help men channel their inner Marlon Brando to $80 safety helmets to little black T-shirts for baby bikers. Worn by a pretty woman, the Barbie-pink Icon jacket ($400) is likely to have the same effect on men as if she were strutting around in “stiletto boots and a bullwhip,” says general manager Aaron Fuller.  
    Like many of the crew at Godspeed, Fuller is a member of the East Bay Rats motorcycle club, but he believes Godspeed is for everyone. There’s certainly plenty to keep non-bikers entertained—and nourished. Set off in a corner with a handsome barbershop chair, the tattoo parlor is staffed with artists who sketch out custom designs before beginning on your body. Upstairs on a mezzanine level overlooking the shop and the giant screen, Godspeed’s small cafe serves excellent sandwiches and salads, espresso drinks, beer and wine. The Saturday brunch special is a bargain at $7, including all-you-can-eat waffles, two slices of crispy bacon and a cool mimosa. Before brunch ends (at 3 p.m., catering to those who partied late Friday night), the barbecue is fired up with burgers, bratwursts and ribs.
    “We wanted to create a place that didn’t just appeal to bikers,” Fuller says. “We let our imagination run wild.” It certainly makes you believe that sunny breakfast places are overrated. Godpseed, open 10 a.m.–6 p.m., 5532 San Pablo Ave., (510) 547-1313, www.godspeed.bz.                                                  
—Elisa Williams
 

About An Origami Artist

Nimble Fingers Make Magic Art

    The art of folding 2-D sheets of paper into 3-D shapes has helped Cindy Ng refine her thinking, given her confidence and presented her with a viable business niche. “People can become intimidated when they hear the name ‘origami’,” she has noticed. But follow the instructions on the kits she creates, or invite her to give a demo at a kid’s party, and origami becomes something even a klutz can do.
    Ng, who is 26, first learned about origami from some cousins after she came with her family to Oakland from Hong Kong at age 5. She hadn’t done it for years until, while studying business economics at UC Davis and working part time as a graphic designer, she went and got herself an origami workbook.
    “I wanted to develop a new, more focused way of thinking,” she says.
“With origami, you have triangles, squares—all these different shapes. It’s pretty mathematical. You have to figure things out. Each fold is different; each item you make is unique.”
    She noticed a growth in confidence as she mastered increasingly difficult projects.
    At the time, Ng was pondering a future career. “I was wondering—how
can I succeed? What can I do that’s different? I was asking a lot of those coming-of-age questions.” The answer, it turned out, was at her fingertips.  
 “I started designing kits to make little froggies, bunnies, elephants and things.” She called her San Leandro–based business Finger Magic “because that’s what you’re doing—making magical things with your fingers.”
    To give people somewhere to put their little origami figures, she created a range of gift boxes. Then she added a line of origami greeting cards. And next came the jewelry she makes from a metal-infused clay that folds almost the same as paper, then hardens and turns silver when fired.
    Along the way Ng put her business-economics degree to good use marketing her products. They are sold in 200 stores nationwide—including the shops at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago—and internationally at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
    To see Cindy Ng’s collection online, visit www.fingermagic.com.            
—Wanda Hennig

Dialogues

Nelson Stoll

SOUNDTRACK WIZARD

Were you a good listener when you were young?

    I’ve always had very good hearing and been able to pick out small details. Growing up, I was also affected a lot by the emotion of music and the emotional power of sound. Part of the training process that I went through was to teach myself how to observe the natural world—the way something sounds. Right now I’m hearing the swings in the background [at the nearby Thornhill Elementary School] and the high-frequency harmonics of the swing hitting the pole.
Obviously, your ears are your biggest asset. What do you do to ward off hearing loss?
    I get subjected to using headphones all the time and being in noisy environments. I’m constantly pummeling my ears, and I know that’s had an effect. I try to look at different cultures to see what they have done to maintain hearing and generally just take care of my overall health. There are a lot of things [you can do] with nutrition and herbs and ear candles—and keeping your ears clean.
Two of your movies were up for Oscars: Total Recall and Dune. Looking back, why didn’t you win?
    A lot of it is political. Dune had the most interesting and complex soundtrack, but Amadeus won that year. It’s very hard to compete against someone like Mozart. Total Recall was up against Dances With Wolves, which didn’t have a very good soundtrack but was an immensely popular film. It caught the people’s imagination.
How important is the soundtrack to a film?
    The beauty of sound is we’re not really aware most of the time that it’s affecting us, and that’s why it’s a powerful thing. If you watch a movie without the sound, you’ll see it’s very hard to make any emotional sense, because it’s really the sound that glues it all together and provides a continuum—a heartbeat.
So much is riding on your job. Do you ever have nightmares?
    I sometimes have nightmares about my equipment. It’s very complex and changes all the time. It takes a huge amount of energy to develop and maintain, which is more suited toward a younger person. So I have some bad dreams, but they always disappear once the film starts.
Aren’t you missing a lot of wild parties by not living in L.A.?
    One thing I like about Montclair is, it’s quiet. The house I have has about a dozen trees, and there’s a small creek running through the yard. That’s pretty special.
-Ginny Prior