by Max Myers

From 1988 to 1998 I lived in New York City. It was amazing. The ubiquitous energy. The constant flow of humanity. Colors, shapes, sizes. Fantastic place. There’s just one thing about living in such a cool place. It gives you the false impression that the rest of the country is equally cool. And no doubt some small towns are, and lots of people in those small towns are also. Others, however, are, uh, still entrenched in another century.

maxDuring my NYC tenure, I worked as a bouncer and was the VP of a Brooklyn MC. I had a beautiful, 1977 Harley Davidson FLH that I loved to ride long distances. The rest of the club? Not so much. Hard to get them out of the boroughs. Except for one of our friends. He wasn’t a club member, or even a prospect, but he wasn’t one to spin out of a tight situation and leave you to do battle on your own.

hay2One day, What About Bob, as he was known, called me up and asked me if I wanted to take a two week run with him down south to visit the old Civil War battlefields. It was April of 1997 and as I have a love of the South, and am interested in the Civil War, I agreed. Why not? It’d be fun. We had two rules: No freeways. No towns. So we packed up our sleds and rolled out of NYC, heading down through Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Luray Caverns, across the Shenandoah, Skyline Drive and into the Appalachian mountains.

If you’ve never seen the rural East Coast, especially in Spring, you’re really missing out. Amazing forests, lush, thick and green, as far as they eye can see. Deserted two-lane blacktops, smooth, even pristine, with only the occasional logging truck. Crisp, cool air that Mabel, my Harley, adored. Roads that didn’t even appear on the map. Yes, this was before cell phones and GPS – at least for us.

hay12We also saw some strange things. If you believe Deliverance is far fetched, then you definitely won’t believe me now. Some of what we saw was funny. Some was heartbreaking. Some creepy. Some very menacing. It’s on that last note, after 10 glorious days of riding, that we decided to head slowly back up to NYC.

Now, I’m no stranger to violence being a bouncer in New York, and as the VP of an MC, it can get very interesting at times. I’d learned long ago to carry weapons and how to use them. I had a fixed blade 4” knife, and 4” folding Buck. The first I strapped on my hip, the second, folded and discreetly hidden in the small change pocket of my jeans.

hay13So What About Bob and I have been riding all day and we’re hungry. We were on some desolate, Virginia back road, miles from anywhere and up ahead, in the distance, we see a massive old barn that’s been converted into a bar and diner. In the parking lot about 15 pickups, some old beaters and a couple of newer cars. Harley’s ain’t quiet and as we rumbled onto the dirt lot, a couple of guys, dressed in plaid shirts, jeans and construction boots, who were just entering the joint, stopped and eyeballed us. However, America’s Iron Horse does get you respect; sometimes. So we dismounted and headed inside.

The place was cavernous. I mean, fucking huge. Wooden tables and chairs somewhat the worse for wear were set up just inside. There was a small stage and dance floor and beyond that, a bar that ran the entire length of the back wall; maybe 30’ and packed with guys, no women, guys that all looked like they shopped at Walmart. Did I mention that a lot of the pickups had gun racks and in those gun racks were, yes sir’e Bob, guns, lots of ‘em? No? Well there were.

hay10Anyway, so we take a seat and the only female in the joint, the waitress, comes over. She was very nice, if somewhat indifferent, takes our order and heads back to the kitchen. When we had first entered, the Country tune that was leaking out of the juke box came to a coincidental end and in the pressuring silence, en masse, the punters at the bar stopped mid-sip and turned to stare at us. As I said, I’ve been in some gnarly situations, but all I could hear was the theme song from Deliverance banjoing away in the background. Or maybe it was drifting out of the jukebox, I don’t know. What I do know is that standing at the bar, roughly in the middle of that army of not overly friendly dudes, was a monster of a man. I mean, huge. At least 6’8”, 450 lbs, wearing only farmer’s overalls, work boots and nothing else. I deduced that he must be of Scots/Irish descent, as he had a shock of flaming red hair and matching beard that hung down the middle of his back and chest. Later, What About Bob would confide that he was convinced the man was related to ZZ Top.

hay7Giant Haystacks, as I have affectionately nick-named him, was very intrigued by these 2 bikers. He kept swilling down the draft beer, as if each glass was his last, while mumbling to his friends and then looking back at us. And I don’t mean a quick cursory glance. I mean a hard, “Who the fuck are these 2 dudes?” stare. There’s no shame is takin’ an ass whopping. The shame is in chumping down. So I locked eyes with him and smiled. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea, but I wasn’t going to wuss out.

Understandably, I got a reaction. Not the one I was hoping for, but a reaction nonetheless. I knew the warning signs of impending battle as clearly as I knew that I didn’t want to endure a beat down. So I turned to What About Bob and slipped him my fixed blade knife. He looked at me like I was insane, which, I probably was, and took a very nervous drink of his coke. Not that I wasn’t as, or perhaps even more nervous, I just didn’t show it as much. This is a rough paraphrasing of the dialogue between What About Bob and me, given the fog of memory and the passage of time.

 “Bob.”

 Silence.

“Bob!”

“What?”

“It’s going down. Get ready.”

“What is?”

hay6“The Harley’s are right outside. We need to make time to get away.”

“Fuck.”

“Slip your helmet onto your wrist. Put your keys in your pocket. Keep the blade hidden, but turn it up toward your elbow.”

“Why?”

“Because that Man Mountain is eye-ballin’ us. When he comes over, I’m gonna crack him on the head with the Heinz ketchup bottle, and stick him if he doesn’t go down. Which he might not. Anyway, when it starts, run.”

What About Bob turned white, I mean sheet white, and flicking his eyes toward the bar, his mouth dropped open in what I can only describe as abject terror. I heard the thunderous footsteps long before I turned my head.

“Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.”

hay8Giant Haystacks was lumbering across the room toward us. Remember, the place is made entirely of wood and now it was acting like a giant soundboard. I watched, horrified, as the Man Mountain made a beeline toward us. Actually, he seemed to be fixated on me, which, given the circumstances, didn’t seem quite so unreasonable. His army were quite content to just watch from the bar, obviously aware that they weren’t needed and glad that it wouldn’t interrupt their drinking time.

I unfolded my knife, wrapping my fist around it, keeping the blade pointed up toward my elbow. In my left hand was the ketchup bottle with five white knuckles wrapped around the neck, which, I presumed, was exactly what Red Beard had in mind for me. Without taking my eyes off of him, I said to What About Bob out the corner of my mouth:

“Here we go.”

He swallowed hard and croaked something unintelligible, or it might actually have been me. I can’t remember. What I do recall is that if I thought the Mountain Man was huge before, when he got closer — say 6 feet from me — I felt I was looking up at the Eiger. But instead of grabbing me in his bear paws, he smiled, sort of, and said,

“Hi, ya’ll.”

I tried to respond, but my heart was pounding so fast, that I couldn’t quite formulate any words, or thoughts, for that matter.

No matter, he continued with, “Say, ya’ll mind if I sit a spell and ask ya’ll some questions?”

“Questions?”

“Hu-huh.”

It was right at that moment that I had an almost uncontrollable urge to giggle like an errant schoolboy, just given a reprieve from a severe canning by the headmaster; almost.

“Sure. Have a seat.”

“Thank you.”

He sat down and finished the rest of his beer in one swallow. I believe one of his mates brought over a new pitcher, but it could just have been a frosted glass.

“Say, where ya’ll from?”

“New York.”

“Is that right? New York City?”

“Yep.”

“Man, I don’t know how ya’ll can live up there with all them faggots and n______.”

hay11Now I have to tell you, the reader, that my family is mixed, my girlfriend was black, my MC was predominantly Puerto Rican, and many of my friends were gay. To this day I don’t know if Red Beard was testing me, us, or if he genuinely wanted to just talk. I still had the knife concealed in my right hand, and glanced at What About Bob. He was wild-eyed, begging me not to react. I thought about it for a split-second, then I smashed the ignorant fuck right across his massive head with the ketchup bottle. Blood and tomato ketchup, in equal proportions, spur…okay, okay, so I didn’t. Instead, I listened politely as he and about 20 of his friends eyeballed us.

hayThe waitress brought our food and Giant Haystacks sat with us through the meal, asking numerous questions about New York life, our Harleys, England, which is where I’m actually from…it went on and on and on. In truth, apart from his awful bigotry, he was actually an okay guy, not that I wanted to take a trip down the Shenandoah with him or his mates anytime soon. We finished our meal, said our “good byes,” got on our sleds and rode like hell out of that bizarre place in the middle of Appalachia, never to return.  It was an amazing experience and one that I learned from — particularly about stereotypes and their sad, but perhaps, inevitable, reality.

 

maxNew All Things Crime Blog contributor Max Myer’s life has been as colorful as his writing. At age 12, he landed on the mean streets of East London, where he joined a rock-n-roll-band, learned to play drums and a respectable blues harp, and did some serious amateur boxing. He left home and school when he was 15, eventually moving into tour management and sound mixing, working and playing for many famous musicians from such notable European acts as Mungo Jerry, Manfred Mann, Wings, Berlin Rock Ensemble and Moonraker. Inevitably, he was drawn to the American shores…

In the early 90s, Max relocated to New York and started a music production company, but soon the collapse of Wall Street left him homeless and penniless. He drew upon his early days as an amateur boxer and informed by his experiences in the violent neighborhoods of East London, took on a succession of jobs as doorman and bouncer at some of New York’s edgier nightclubs. It was in this era that he continued his street education, joining a biker gang and experiencing firsthand the lawlessness and corruption of society’s underbelly.

By 1994, he recognized there was no future for him on the streets, so he took a job waiting tables and began his writing career. His first big break came in 1997 when he landed a development deal with Martin Scorsese’s Cappa Productions, under the guidance of Barbara De Fina. Succumbing to the lure of Hollywood, Max moved west where he continues to write, direct and teach.

He wrote the romantic comedy, Irish Jam, for Eddie Griffin and Anna Friel. Wrote and directed, Don’t Let Go, for which he won Outstanding Directorial Achievement at the Stony Brook Long Island Film Festival, Best Picture at the Westchester Film Festival and a Los Angeles Prism Award. He has written for over 22 producers, companies and celebrities, some of whom appear as themselves in his debut novel, Boysie Blake – Problem Solver.

In 2011, Max was a guest on the Indie Directors Panel at the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory Summer Intensive Program. He also lectured on filmmaking for actors, Create Your Own Content and was honored with, An Evening With Max Myers.

2013, Max is once again a guest on the Indie Directors Panel at the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory Summer Intensive. He is also giving an acting lecture, “From Acting To Being.”

 

9 Responses to How I Escaped from Haystacks Red Beard and Lived to Tell About It!

  1. Darcia Helle says:

    It’s a good thing you didn’t have your girlfriend with you at the time, or you might have been tossing all the ketchup bottles.

  2. liselasalle says:

    Thanks for the ride Max! I think I might have enjoyed it a little too much.

    So true that when we live in a big city, we get a false sense of ‘urban sophistication’ when very often, the real Deliverance is only a ride away.

    I almost wished the ketchup bottle would fly but you did the right thing.

    • Max Myers says:

      So true, Lise, in that many times she and I would ride out of NYC for the weekend, and always were amazed at how unsophisticated the rest of the country was. This isn’t a put down, but it truly is like stepping back 50 years, with all of the prevailing, entrenched attitudes.

  3. Rick says:

    Max – you’ve written another very entertaining post! It’s interesting how stereotypes infect us all. I don’t blame you for having music from “Deliverance” playing in your head as Red Beard the Giant approached you. He also harbored stereotypes about New Yorkers (being full of gays and minorities), based on his lack of real exposure to such people (he may have formed those impressions based on movies and TV shows that he had watched). You obviously made the right call by not attempting to attack Red Beard, as he probably would have twisted you in half, and your knife probably would have barely penetrated his fat rolls. As it turned out, Redbeard turned out to be a decent enough fellow, if you can set aside his prejudices. As Mark Twain said:

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

    ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

    I would bet that you have a slightly different view of Appalachia and its people after your trip there. I suppose that Red Beard could have used a trip to New York (probably not on a motorcycle) to dispel some of his native, unfounded prejudices.

    • Max Myers says:

      Indeed, Rick, my view of ‘country people’ was forever influenced by that trip. Not all were backward, or ignorant. Many were really friendly. However, I did see things that are forever burned into my memory, Red Beard aside, that very tragic and heartbreaking, like the family of 4 that were living on the top of a mountain, in the back of a camper. Not the spacious type, but the one that fits onto the back of a pickup; small and cramped. They had a tarp stretched out over the front, and their food was cooking on an open fire. They eyed us with deep suspicion.

      We pulled into a small town, prior to heading up into the mountains, that literally had one traffic light, a diner and a garage. What About Bob sled had a leaking tire, which the guy at the garage fixed while we ate at the diner. The food was the stereotype of awful, greasy and processed. The women we all over weight and didn’t quite know what to make of us. As we rode out of town, we passed the town hall. A building right out of another era; stone pillars, two stories, grey stone, with a massive, I mean enormous, Confederate flag hanging down from the second story overhang. Easy Rider came to mind. I would hazard a guess that had we been riding Jap bikes instead of American Iron, we would have had more problems than we did. Still, it was an amazing journey and one that in all seriousness, I doubt had changed very much.

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