It’s just a few days after my last visit to Landon at Club L&M when I hear that the shop has been burglarized. Nine motorbikes worth a total of about $5,000 were stolen during a torrential rain storm the night before.
I get the news from D’Angelo, whose 9-year-old son was the owner of one of the stolen bikes. They’d taken it in for repairs a few days before.
Seth and I head over to the shop, where Landon, D’Angelo and a half-dozen or so other friends and family are standing in the front lot, waiting for detectives to arrive.
D’Angelo’s son, Joshua, is there too. I ask him how he’s feeling.
“Right now I’m not showing my emotions,” he says. “But this morning, when I found out? I threw myself on my bed and was hitting my head on the wall.”
Landon, for his part, paces around, taking stock of the bikes that remain. He says break-ins like this come with the territory of owning a motorbike shop on E. 116th Street, one of the favorite corridors of the “dirt bike boys” who became a hot topic of discussion at last week’s public safety summit. They’re young men who’ve made a serious hobby - even lifestyle - of riding their bikes through the city, often in groups.
That Landon can’t afford a security system or insurance doesn’t help.
“I can’t pay the rent in the suburbs, so I have to keep doing the best I can here,” he says. And he says fixing bikes is in his blood. He started riding when he was 6, and even though he fell off “hundreds” of times, he kept going. He felt most at home when he was on a bike.
As he talks, he dandles his baby granddaughter in one arm. She arrived with her mother, Landon’s daughter, from Bedford.
When mom tries to take the baby back, Landon pulls away. “Oh no, I’m not done yet,” he says, half-joking. “You get to hold her all the time.”
I ask if he’s worried how his customers whose bikes were stolen will react. He says no - most are good friends, and they know how hard he has it.
D’Angelo and Landon suspect the thieves were probably young men who wanted to be part of the “dirt bike boys” subculture but couldn’t afford motorbikes of their own. If you want in, after all, you need a bike.
They say the chances of recovering the bikes is about nil.
But the next day, D’Angelo calls back to tell me that one of the bikes was recovered.
A friend had seen a boy trying to start up a broken bike near Buckeye and E. 102nd Street. D’Angelo, Landon and a couple shop employees got in their cars and went to look.
They found the bike and brought it back to L&M - only to find it stolen again the next morning. This time, they haven’t gotten it back.
A few nights later, D’Angelo rails against the unfairness of this on his Internet radio show, Real Talk with Mr. Knuckles, which showcases local hip-hop artists along with D’Angelo’s thoughts on life. It streams live on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m. on Live365.com.
“Everybody wants to take, take, take instead of getting their own money together,” he says.
“People talk about white flight, but what about black flight? When this stuff happens in the neighborhood, we all want to get out.”
Given the amount of crime that seems to be associated with the bikes, I ask D’Angelo if he ever worries about Joshua getting mixed up with the wrong element.
“No, because I’m part of my child’s experience,” he says. “Everything he does, I’m a part of. Eventually, he’ll make his own decisions, but what I can do in the meantime is teach him right from wrong.”