A bike builder and a fighter.
This column contains sensitive subject material. Please be advised.
“God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis
“I really like that,” Chickie said to me. “CS Lewis was brilliant. He is captivating and inspires to look further.” Chickie was sipping on an iced tea in a Mexican restaurant right next to her shop in Fort Lauderdale. She went on to tell me the story of a young 13-year-old girl who was raised in an extremely violent family environment. In this case, it was not only the dad who was violent but also Mom. It got so bad Dad ended up doing time. He also attempted to take his own life. Mom eventually left with Chickie to live with her new boyfriend.
Chickie said one day she felt so sick while Mom was at work that the boyfriend made her take pills which he said would “make her feel better”. Turns out Chickie ended up crawling to the phone calling her mom saying, “I think I will die”. Mom returned home a few hours later and Chickie was brought to the hospital for some testing. The tests revealed she had taken some very heavy drugs. A few months later the boyfriend tried to kiss Chickie. That is when the flags went up in her mind. Not surprisingly, she left her mom to live with her dad. Dad kicked his then live-in girlfriend out to make room for Chickie.
As months went on Chickie says, she was fine but one day she started feeling quite sick. Chickie was pregnant as a result of what is now called “Drug Rape”. Months later she gave birth to a son who was the result of a rape by her mother’s boyfriend. Chickie gave the child up for adoption and today the child should be 30+ years old. Chickie says she never told the truth to her dad for fear of losing him to jail. He would’ve most likely killed her mom’s boyfriend. Chickie was born in 1968 in Chicago, Illinois. Her name is Athena and she is now known as Chickie of “Vagabond Chopper” (www.vagabondchoppers.com ) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Do I need to tell you how heavy-hearted I am writing this column? That is, especially being the father of three precious children who see their mother’s boyfriend more than they see me. I did my homework on the weasel, but you never know. Based on statistics, the reality is that in the pool of people who are reading this, there will be many who will fall in the category of past/current or future offenders and/or victims. This has been the most difficult and challenging column to write so far. Chickie knows I tend to dig a little deeper beneath the surface of things in my work but this is a tall order. Chickie is not looking for sympathy or pity. She has entrusted me with telling her story publicly. She hopes it will help people coming from all spectrums. I am full of gratitude for being the recipient of Chickie’s trust and confidence. It takes great courage to come out about this, and I feel a tremendous amount of respect for her.
Dad and mom were Italian hippies. Dad was hanging out with the wrong crowd of bikers and mom was a go-go dancer. One of her uncles back then owned what has become one of the most famous rock ‘n roll venues in Los Angeles; “Whiskey A Go-Go”. Another uncle of hers drove for legendary mafia lord Al Capone. Athena has a paralegal degree and gave it all up to start what has truly become her passion; Vagabond Chopper. She is now happily married to her third husband (Don) who happens to be working as a technician in the shop with her. As she proudly recalls, Don was (still is) one of the most sought-after technicians in the market. Before Vagabond Choppers, Don worked for celebrity motorcycle builder Eddie Trotta. With a grin on her face, she tells me it was easy to recruit Don because she could offer him benefits which were impossible for Eddie Trotta to offer. Chickie now has three beloved children; Axel, Desiree, and Gray.
John (Chickie’s first husband) was a biker. He first asked Chickie’s dad if he could take her out riding. As Chickie would wash and wax John’s bike quite regularly, she once saw something loose on the bike and fixed it. That is when she really got hooked to “wrenching” on choppers. She has since built approximately 20+ custom motorcycles. She has been featured on more than one occasion in many reputable media outlets (magazines and production shows). Chickie has appeared on the reality TV shows “Miami Ink”, “Corbin’s Ride On” and “American Thunder.” She is also a member of the “Motor Maids MC”, America’s first all-women motorcycling club. Chickie’s philosophy on building bikes or anything in life is “Do it because you love it or get out!”.
Chickie is really down to earth. “My bike is my therapist,” she says. Chickie describes herself as a “good-natured and good-spirited person. I tend to put others before me. In my mind, every single one of our clients is a celebrity!”. Her favorite builders are Donny Smith, Sugar Bear and Dave Perewitz. She would love to build a bike for Queen Latifah. And she proudly says to me that she exclusively uses parts that have been made in the USA. “Our economy needs us to stay loyal”. Chickie has a special desire and that is “to break the gender barriers in the builders’ world”. She would like to do something to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association because her own mom who passed in 2003 had related health issues.
One of the funniest riding experiences Chickie can recall is when she went down a 7% steep grade hill riding with a jockey shift. When she got on top of it she says it looked like a roller coaster. Don was with her and heard her say “I am going to die”. At the bottom, the gravel was 3 feet deep and her front wheel dug in deep. When she got off the bike safely, she literally kissed the ground.
In her spare time, Chickie likes to horseback ride, roller-skate, and play with guns. Her favorite gun is an 8-inch barrel Dan Wesson 44 caliber, and the only gun control she likes is the one that allows her to hit a target. Chickie believes “everyone should be able to bear arms, but automatic guns aren’t really necessary for civilians”.
Chickie is kind of like an open book. “Do unto others what you want done unto you. God gives you free will. I have a relationship with God, but I am always fearful of receiving a phone call when my kids are away at night. I try to think positive. There is not a day that goes by I don’t pray with Thanksgiving. Always be thankful for all you have, even in trials. Sometimes I blow kisses towards heaven while I ride. My children brought me more than what any amount of money could ever give me. All in all, pain and suffering to a certain degree are a necessary evil for all of us to become better.”
Don and Chickie got married under God and she thinks this will make a difference in the long run. “You have to love the person for who they are and not try to change them. Compromising is a huge asset in a marriage.” Motherhood has helped Chickie to be more patient, less critical, less judgmental, and less cynical. Chickie loves her children to death and thinks the world of them. The youth at large however, as far as Chickie is concerned, seems to want things to come easy to them. “Every parent should encourage their children to serve in the military.”
Death penalty? “Too much of an easy way out especially on crimes against children. A long and slower life sentence in prison would be better”. Today, after everything Chickie went through she feels like she has come out of it stronger. She feels she is a better person. Sometimes when she is sad or angry or hurt, she still is strong enough to let herself cry. Suicide has never ever been an option. “It is a cowardly act. Go through the pain and don’t let it destroy you. Most people miss out on all their true blessings in the world. How can you look at a child’s face smiling at you and let the world step on you?”
After all is said and done, Chickie is actually happy she did not abort. “The carrier is life and the fetus is a life. How do I rob a couple from giving a beautiful life to someone who they could not otherwise have given by themselves? I never hated that child. I spoke to that child and loved him. I would be honored to meet him one day. We’re all creatures of God. God shares in the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Chickie’s dad has passed. He was her #1 fan, and the words “I love you” were exchanged every day.
According to the USA Department of Justice FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, 10,823 Forcible Sexual Offenses (Rape, Attempted Rape, Forcible Sodomy, Forcible Fondling) occurred in 2008 in the State of Florida alone. These stats are based on counties with 100,000+ populations. In other words, in Florida, there is a “Forcible Sexual Offense” every 49 minutes and a “Forcible Rape” every 1 hour and 28 minutes. The stats show 89,000 annual offenses on a National level.
So what are we to make of all that and Chickie?? As a father, my immediate instinct would be to kill the offender no matter what. When I stop to think about it I am not sure that would be the right thing. That is certainly when my child would need her dad the most, and I could not do much good from a jail cell. How can Chickie have possibly come out of this sane? She tells me it is her faith in God.
I did some research on possible counseling resources available; for those who have more faith in human wisdom, you can contact your local FBI agency (www.fbi.gov) at 202-324-3000. For those who have more faith in a Christian God, you can contact the “National Association of Nouthetic Counselors” (www.nanc.org) at 317-337-9100.
Chickie found comfort in building bikes. No one can deny that. Perhaps being married to Don (a biker and tech) and building choppers is as close to the pure untainted nugget of precious love she felt when her biker dad kicked his then live-in girlfriend out for Chickie to move in? In Chickie’s own words: “I am not less of a person and no one is allowed to rob me of myself. There is no blame or resentment when you are truly a person who loves with everything that you are. Negativity is easy to achieve. To be a positive person in the world takes heart, resolve, determination, patience, and love. Love of yourself and those around you allows an internal strength to be an important positive card in the deck of cards we call life.”
Thank you, Chickie. Guess what? MeToo!! But that’s for another article when I get as courageous as you have shown yourself.
By Night Train
Photographer; Tom Tobin of www.dreamweaverphotography.com