book review: Hell’s Angels

First was Hunter Thompson and his classic ‘A Strange and Terrible Saga. Hell’s Angels.’ Then was another side of the story as seen by Sonny Barger himself in his ‘Hell’s Angel. The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.’ There is still this romantic legend around the Hell’s Angels after all. And then there were these snippets of news in the German newspapers how Hell’s Angels and Los Bandidos’ tattoos are a no-no in public. That’s my short history of dealing with Hell’s Angels at a distance.

What happened to the romantic legend of the *not so* Easy Riders?

German Hell's Angels

Bad Boy Uli is a German ex-Hell’s Angel and decided to share his story and work on dispelling the romantic legend of the Hell’s Angels. His book (this one is the second by him and he promises more to come) focuses not only on anecdotes from the everyday life of Hell’s Angels but also packed up with the data confirming the bad image and reputation of the Angels. In a way, he shows both sides of the Hell’s Angels’ coin and admits that there is way more going on behind the romantic image of the boys.

German Hell's Angels content

I was interested in Hell’s Angels tattoos to a degree and there is some tiny info on the subject here but the book is actually worth reading whether you are into tattoos or not. In a way, it shows how the subculture and image of the Hell’s Angels evolved from the classic Thompson’s work, their portrayals in the media and general public over the years up to this recent no-go policy against the Hell’s Angels in Germany. One might question Uli’s credibility, of course, but that’s always an issue and, much to his credit, he actually provides sources backing up his opinion and confirming his tales.

Interesting? Yes. Educational? To a degree. Cautionary tale? Definitely.

Bad Boy Uli, Wir sehen uns in der Hoelle, Ullstein 2014

book review: pastrix. the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner saint.

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The very first word of this book is ‘shit’ which, in a way, sets a tone for the whole book. It’s not a blasphemy, mind you, it’s an expletive which aim is to show exasperation, desperation and countless other feelings the pastrix in question feels and is not afraid to show and talk about. In my world, solidly defined by the Catholic Church and mental chains it put on me, it certainly is a novelty but a very welcome one!

I’m not gonna lie and pretend that I reached out for this book to seek spirituality or as a means to get closer to God. I did it because Nadia Bolz-Weber is heavily tattooed and seems to be a strong, independent woman and I love this kind of women. I didn’t expect too much about tattoos in her book (which would be stupid – a lady pastor isn’t supposed to discuss her tattoos in her book about her faith and God, is she?), so I wasn’t disapppointed much. She mentions her tattoos in passing and shows that her ink doesn’t define her, though – she’s not a heavily tattooed woman, she’s just an interesting person, a female pastor and a caring member of her community who just happens to have some tattoos. Aren’t we all like this? Way more than our ink, scars, tongue splits and the likes? 

For Nadia God seems so real that He’s tangible, just within her reach, almost divine skin to her tattooed one. He’s down to earth and she never hesitates to call a spade a spade when she talks God. She doesn’t kneel in front of Him, she embraces Him and is bold enough to translate the Divine Scripture into an everyday language where prophanities go hand in hand with such words as love, forgiveness, care.

When you’re a Catholic, you are taught that so many things are wrong and many people who went off the righteous path are forbidden to take part in the Church’s rituals. Nadia’s church is open for everyone and her Christian God is open-minded enough to reach out to divorcees, LGBT folks, tattooed convicts and not so innocent teens. It’s totally fascinating and yet quite alien to me.

Catholic priests are always right, even if they are not. So many of them are neither ready nor open for any discussion and a confession is mainly about reciting a list of sins, symbolic knocking the wood and dismissing yet another sheep back to the herd. Nadia never hesitates to admit she often has doubts, she keeps looking for the right answer and it doesn’t always come. She’s ready to discuss with members of her Church things that bother them and she’s there for them. Just like the name of her Church says, she is both a saint and a sinner and it’s her readiness to both admit and regret her sins that makes her so convincing and interesting to me.

No tattoo adventures here but it’s a great read up all the same as it makes you think, revise your opinions about Christianity and Chirstians and wonder if God is out there for you, too. After all, if we all are both sinners and potential saints, why wouldn’t He reach out to us?

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix. The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, Jericho Books 2013;