October’s cold, wet close brought several delightful horrors: Namely, Halloween and the bone-cracking Bike Kill—a two-wheeled apocalyptic Olympics orchestrated by the seditious Black Label Bike Club. It’s the most fun you’ll have with your pants on or, depending on your relationship status, off.
Each fall, the crusty Black Label crew parks a graffiti-swaddled vehicle at the mouth of a dead-end Bed-Stuy block housing the Samuel C. Barnes Elementary School. The cordoned streets then fill with the club’s physics-bending double-decker bikes and monstrosities such as a steamroller cycle and a clunker with construction-boot wheels. This brouhaha attracts punks, drunks and mask-wearing fanatics, who re-enact a pedal-powered Lord of the Flies. Bikes and bodies are wrecked. Blood and beer are spilled. Best yet, there’s tons of tall-bike jousting, with medieval knights replaced by unshowered nihilists.
“Uh, I have lots of freelance work today,” my girlfriend begged off.
“You’d rather design a book than watch me throw rotten food and drink beer until I see double?”
“That would be a yes. Make it a boy’s day.”
Telling me to take a boy’s day is like inviting marauding Mongol hordes over for tea. The male hive mind is marvelously frightening, operating on the triple F principle: fight, fuck and get fucked up.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I’m on deadline. Go have fun. Just don’t come back missing any teeth or with any broken limbs.”
Hell, she should’ve just asked me to solve the financial crisis. Disaster was damn near certain: My three-man crew included diehard bikers Aaron W., Dave and Aaron, the latter of which was recently laid off. “I think,” Aaron said, eyes glinting with subprime malevolence, “I’m going to blow off a little steam.”
Before steam was released, we lined our bellies with beef and chicken Caribbean patties from The New Master Lou’s Bakery (1180 Bedford Ave. between Putnam & Madison Sts., Brooklyn; 718-622-2800). The decades-old bake shop is run by women as sweet as their patties are flaky.
“Take an extra napkin,” urged a counter lady, watching as each crunchy, beefy bite unleashed a crumb blizzard. After finishing the bulging patties—made blazing by righteously fiery pepper sauce—we stocked up on 24-ounce Coors and Buds and zoomed to the Kill. When it began in 2003, this section of Bed-Stuy was lousy with weed-choked lots and sooty, sagging buildings. Since then, boxy condos (some stillborn, some complete) have spread like an unchecked virus; even a Home Depot has opened. Though the neighborhood mutates by the month, the Bike Kill remains a grimy fixture—and a glimpse into a dystopian future.
“Watch out!” Aaron warned, as stale pitas Frisbeed past.
I ducked and then coughed as smoke bombs spewed haze. Furry men sporting wrestling masks (and little else) steered triple-decker bicycles, while fireworks cut through the overcast sky and folks raced bikes while wearing John Holmes–like foam penises as headwear. “That brings new meaning to dickhead,” I said to Aaron.
He shook his head, long and slow, then grabbed a foamy Bud. I pulled on my “love maker”—a blue ski mask with red stitching outlining nose, eyes and misshapen mouth. It’s what I imagine acne-scarred drifters wear while abducting teenagers in dark alleys, and it displeases my girlfriend to no end.
“When I find it, I’m throwing it out,” she forever threatens. But doing so would be like slicing Samson’s locks: The mask lets me be a rowdy jerk, an anonymous and cranky Internet commenter running roughshod in the real world.
It worked its raucous magic: We flung soggy pitas like discus renegades and rolled tire rims into the crowd and then rode tiny-wheeled bikes fit for circus clowns and downed Coors like life-giving water.
“Why am I having such a good time?” asked Aaron, his hand bloody and mangled.
“Because your wife’s not here.”
“Ahhh!” I screamed, as a bearded nudist flew past, followed by a flame-shooting scooter. “That’s a sight I wish I could un-see.”
Soon, I saw very little. As combatants climbed aboard tall bikes to joust, a squall spat blinding rain. Bikers collided and crashed to the pavement, slicked with pita gruel. Onlookers hooted lustily, as gale-force winds whipped faster and faster. Cans, cardboard and sodden foodstuffs became airborne weapons, pummeling bystanders. It felt like the end days, every bit the party I knew they’d be. I screamed with feral glee, and the angry gods took heed—sending a soggy foam penis crashing into my face.
“You probably deserved it,” said my sweetie, upon my sloshing arrival home.
I silently, soggily agreed.