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Motor scoooters a hobby and more for Annapolis man

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ALEX TASI IS SO taken with motor scooters that he has them hanging from his ceiling.

It 's not clear how many he owns. He lists four scooters of various vintages that are operational. And a motorcycle, a beefy 1984 BMW, also in use. Then there are the carcasses of five scooters overhead in his workshop, Maritime Plastics, on Second Street in Annapolis.

Tasi is a very serious hobbyist. He is not alone. Annapolis pals Jody Danek, Tom Karppi and Francis Geraci own at least two Vespas each.

His girlfriend, Jen Schein, has four Vespas. "We met at a Vespa rally in Knoxville a couple of years ago," Tasi said. "We may have as many as a dozen scooters between us."

They're planning a trip to Italy next month. "We're going to visit the Vespa factory," Tasi said. "Maybe buy some parts and things."

The scooter crowd, which includes many who are getting by on one scooter, meets on the last Wednesday of each month, somewhere close to a restaurant in town. Sometimes members gather at Tasi's shop, which includes a second-floor space called the Scooter Lounge.

"They're great transportation, fun to tinker with, and probably most important is the social scene that surrounds scooters," Tasi said. Tasi, who was born 32 years ago in Annapolis, recalls times during his youth when he was "disassembling and reassembling things."

His father, Peter, a designer and exhibit builder, was an obvious influence. "He always got us involved in his projects," Tasi said. "I remember at the dinner table how he would show us sketches of things he was working on."

The elder Tasi works part time for the younger one. Dad is also a volunteer whose work is vital to several historical and museum projects in the region.

Alex Tasi said he got a moped at the age of 15. He fell in with Bill Heim, owner of the late (and lamented) Marmaduke's Pub and a go-cart racer. That experience expanded Tasi's range of tinkering with machines.

He discovered Vespa scooters while in high school. He bought two of them at one time and immediately started disassembling and reassembling them. "I got them running and found they were fun and very different."

He does all his own work, from engine rebuilding to final painting.

"They're all-metal, like old cars," he said, "very solidly built."

After some years restoring scooters, he's customizing them. Very little customizing of scooters takes place in these parts, he said. It's Harley-Davidson motorcycles that usually get chopped up and changed.

He covered one scooter in orange acrylic mirror and sold it to a museum in Syracuse, N.Y. "That generated a lot of comment, believe me," he said. "If Liberace rode a scooter, this would have been it."

He has converted an old Honda into some sort of military-style vehicle with ammo boxes as saddlebags and an olive-drab paint job, An assault scooter? "You can't take it too seriously," Tasi said of his creation.

There's a lightheartedness to this scooter business.

"Vis-a-vis motorcycles, I think scooters are perceived differently, as nonthreatening," he said. Scooters are much in demand for parades and similar functions around town.

As an Annapolitan, Tasi knows that parking is a big issue, and he has a partial solution. "This is a great town in which to own and ride a scooter."

There's a small area near the Market House designated for step-through vehicles. That got there, Tasi said, because of the efforts of Mike Ashford, who wanted his employees at McGarvey's Saloon to park with ease and minimal impact downtown.

"There should be more parking spaces like that to encourage scooter use," Tasi said, "and for motorcycles, too."

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