C.R.A.N.K. MOB in BPM Magazine
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at 05.12.09 - 11:15 amClick here for actual article and PICTURES!!!
by Jared Morgan
"It was a hazy Saturday night on LA’s west side. Several LAPD cops stood, waiting, on the sidewalk across the street on Sawtelle Boulevard. This is a commercial neighborhood, but tonight the shoppers, restaurant goers and cars are replaced with teens on 10-speeds and beach cruisers, early twenty-somethings on double-deckers and hipsters on fixies. It’s a young, a racial, and socio-economic goulash of a crowd.
“The big thing that everyone notices is that there are a lot of young riders in C.R.A.N.K. Mob,” said Shawn Bannon, a LA-based photographer who’s been involved in the bike scene for years. “There are criticisms about that, but I think it’s pretty cool. As far as the drinking goes, in C.R.A.N.K. Mob or anywhere else, that’s always going to be an issue with teen-agers.”
C.R.A.N.K. Mob, only two years old, spun off from another popular group of cyclists called the Midnight Ridazz. This group, started in 2004, had an older crowd that would ride from parking lot to parking lot, some would drink and talk, some were just in it for the ride. Much more organized, C.R.A.N.K. Mob is and has what Midnight Ridazz lacked—crazy carnivalesque entertainment and a party spirit. On a previous C.R.A.N.K. Mob ride a couple of people figured that bike jousting was the thing to do. Two people rode at each other with pillows tied to long poles. The next ride will have a gang wars theme with pillow fights.
“I haven’t missed one C.R.A.N.K. Mob ride since the beginning two years ago,” said Alex Thompson, one of the C.R.A.N.K. Mob founders. Alex’s hair was cropped short and a pair of clean-cut sideburns extended to the bottom of his ear lobes. A blue silk pajama top and a checkered, gray sport coat hung snugly from his tall, lanky body. Alex looked like the sort who was built for hard-core, drunken biking.
There were about 20 to 30 of us in a row, riding away from the squad cars and toward our first parking lot…an Albertson’s grocery store.
“Rolling, rolling, rolling,” sporadic shouts from the front rolled back through the mobile crowd like a wave as the mini mob of riders cruised through the red light.
“Sometimes drivers don’t know how to act when they see a bunch of bikes,” said Alejandro “Boogaloo Shrimp” Cantarero, a veteran of the C.R.A.N.K. Mob and volunteer mechanic at LA’s community bike shop, Bikrowave. “That’s why you see everyone riding together.”
He peddled off to help cork the intersection of cars, some honking and cheering, others yelling cuss words and pointing. Looking back, I could see Boogaloo peddling to catch up after the last rider passed the limit line of the intersection. A large, hooded flash bulb swung from his back, his SLR camera from the front.
There were something like 50 riders milling around the Albertson’s parking lot by the time we arrived. What happened to the hundreds upon hundreds that were supposed to be here? I reached into my backpack, figuring that now was a better time than ever to mix my apple juice and Captain Morgan, heavy on the Morgan. After a couple shwills of the spiked cider I walked over to a guy wearing a paper chef’s hat and something that resembled a tarp made up to look like a slice of pizza.
“Boogaloo Shrimp said you were one of the ones who started this,” I said, off my seat and standing with my beach cruiser between my legs.
“Started what, pizza?”
“No. C.R.A.N.K. Mob.”
“I started pizza.” He said it with the enthusiasm of a stripper. At this point I was expecting upbeat dance music and confetti to burst out of nowhere, followed by friends jumping out of bushes yelling surprise and happy birthday—a cruel joke—but that didn’t happen.
“You want us to make you a pizza?” a voice called from right behind my head as another pizza-costumed gentleman straddled my bike seat.
“Let’s make pizza,” he said and started dusting me with flour while his cohort squirted me with tomato juice.
“Time to cook it,” said tomato juice boy. I knew “it” was me and I didn’t like the sound of that. Lifting a lighter in one hand and a can of cooking lube (I think) in the other, tomato juice boy tried once, twice and…a small, inadequate flame sputtered out of the can. I wasn’t going to tell him that he had the can too close to the lighter…pyro-tech 101.
“OK, guys, I’m outta here,” I said as I freed myself from the straddler’s loin grip of death. I bike-walked away shamed and defeated then pounded my booze.
Just then a few bikes appeared at the entrance to the parking lot. Then an entire mob, a hard dance beat rocked along with them. The crowd in the parking lot started cheering and yelling “C.R.A.N.K. Mob, C.R.A.N.K. Mob.” The parking lot—some three or so city blocks in size—was immediately filled with close to 1000 chattering enthusiasts, spinning wheels to loud, thumping music.
I located the epicenter of this massive music quake. It was a custom-built speaker box on a wagon attached to a bike. Almost as immediately as it parked, people were dancing. First a bloke in a schoolboy’s uniform, obviously an AC/DC fan, then a girl in short shorts and rainbow socks, then a guy in a Tigger costume.
The music got quieter…”OK, if you came here in a costume, you get a spoke card or you can buy one for $5. If not, you don’t get shit,” said Richie Thomassen, another of the infamous bike crew’s organizers. “This is a picture of a girl in bed early in the morning (he holds up a spoke card), there are condoms and tequila shots on the nightstand and it says ‘Thanks for the ride last night—C.R.A.N.K. Mob.’”
These spoke cards, meant to reflect the theme of tonight’s ride, “C.R.A.N.K. Mob impregnates LA,” are sought-after mementos seen as symbols of status.
A minute later I heard an electric guitar warming up…the band started playing.
These gypsies, I thought, how did they get set up so quickly? A crowd gathered and the pizza guys made their way center stage. Flouring the crowd, juicing the crowd, the area was covered in flour and tomato juice. The pizza guys started rolling around in the flour and the crowd exploded into applause and laughter.
The recipe yielded 12 police cars. Some of the cruisers were tucked away around the side of the grocery store—some were up on the street, all out of plain view. It was time to move. The mob funneled out of the parking lot and poured down Sawtelle, toward a warehouse party in the heart of Culver City five miles away.
After a few hours the party hit the road. It lasted until somewhere around 4 am…this is what C.R.A.N.K. Mob is all about—it’s about the ride, but more importantly, it’s about where and how the ride takes you.