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Day Five: “Sassy” saves the day

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By Carmen Gentile | Photographs by Justin Merriman for American Reportage


CINCINNATI, Ohio — No less than an hour earlier, I was remarking about the extraordinary luck we‘ve had while exploring Postindustrial America — great weather, amazing people, and fun times. 

Now I’m sitting on the side of the road trying to pull what appears to be a knife blade out of my rear tire, which is completely flat and hanging off the rim.

It’s late in the day every Cincinnati-area motorcycle shop I’ve called is already closed. Knowing the rest of our day’s been derailed by my flat, I call Laketa “Sassy” Cole, a one-time Cincinnati City Council member and member of a female motorcycle club we were supposed to meet. 

I let her know that I have to cancel our rendezvous in a nearby park. 

“Where are you?” Sassy texts me back. 

I tell her where in the Lower Price Hill (that’s actually what it’s called) neighborhood next to an elementary school. 

“OK. Stay there. I’m on my way.” 

A short while later, Sassy pulls up and comes prepared with a plan: She’s already sent up the Bat Signal among her fellow riders. 

And lo and behold, Jacotta “Flip” Foree soon pulls up in his pickup truck with a trailer in tow. 

Flip and Sassy (folks in motorcycle clubs sometimes refer to one another by their nicknames) already have the wheels in motion:  We’re going to load up my bike and tow it to Sassy’s place. Then in the morning, she’s going to find someone to fix my tire. 

This is the magic of the motorcycle community coming to life. I had only been virtually introduced to Sassy and her club, the A.L.L.S.T.A.R.S MC (ALLURING, LOVELY, LADIES, SOPHISTICATED, TALENTED, AND RIDING STEEL), by way of our friends in the Pittsburgh-based Ronin MC, with whom we rode earlier in our journey

That’s all it took for them to jump at the opportunity to help a fellow rider in need. 

With my bike secured to the trailer, I jump in Sassy’s car and the crew follows her to the North Side of Cincinnati, where we drop in on a party at the Cartel MC clubhouse that’s just getting started. 

Club members and friends are arriving on tricked out bikes with sound systems so powerful that I can feel the knock of bass notes squarely in my chest. 

We’re greeted with questions about our trip and more offers to help out. Soon it’s a street festival of music, laughter, new friends, and roaring bikes. 

“This is just what we do when another rider needs help,” Sassy tells me, matter-of-factly amid the revelry. 

I’m entranced by the cacophony that’s swirling around us as our film crew and photographer capture the excitement and camaraderie. 

Photojournalist Justin Merriman is bouncing around like a kid hopped up on Halloween candy trying to capture as many memorable images as he can. Problem is, there are too many great moments for any one person to capture. 

“I could stay here all night,” he says, giddy as a schoolboy. 

Finally, we manage to pry ourselves away from the festivities. 

“Don’t worry. We’ll take care of your bike,” Sassy assures me as Flip pulls away with my bike bound for her home until the morning, when a friend of hers can fix it. 

I have no doubt they will. 

Carmen Gentile is founder and editor-at-large of Postindustrial. He has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan.

Justin Merriman is a freelance photojournalist who has traveled the world to cover politics, wars, natural disasters, civil unrest as well as covering assignments throughout the United States. His work has appeared in leading national publications and he has received multiple top journalism awards. Justin is a founding member of American Reportage.

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