Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kingdom of Blather

Just the other day I had to drop something off by the UCLA campus. So many young, beautiful people walking around. I couldn’t help but notice that all the students walking around were either talking into their cell phones or staring into them, scrolling for something, anything, oblivious to what was in front of them. It was weird, like horses with blinders on.

Did anyone even stop to look at the people and buildings around them? Were they so absorbed in their own little world did they forget to lookup and listen to the sounds of the street? The really sad part of it all is that some of these people are artists and musicians, and they’re deliberately shutting themselves off from all the sights and sounds around them. Like horses with blinders on, only horses are more observant.

You cannot produce great art if you’re blocking everything out of your sight, and likewise cannot produce great music if you’re blocking out the sounds of the street. Where are your reference points, your influences? You haven’t got any. It just won’t happen.

Summer means fun, which means more concert going than I have in a long time, tinnitus be damned. Judy Henske will be performing for the first time in years, so that’s pretty special, then there’s PJ Harvey and her ten-piece band (!), and then The Kills are playing in early September in support of their new album, Ash & Ice. They’ll be playing at The Wiltern, a theater I used to go to when they actually showed movies. I saw Willard there in 1971. I’ll also make my annual pilgrimage to Irwindale Raceway, which I go to once a year.

Summer also means a new Andy Seven book release, and this year will be no exception. I’ll provide more details in a few weeks. I’m pretty happy I’ve been able to release four books in four years without delay. I have a lot more stuff on the pipeline, so there’s no sign of my stopping anytime soon.

Next month marks my one year anniversary of being on Facebook. I’ve sold more books since getting on that site, but in all honesty I’m not much of a fan. Some of the people who have sent me friend requests are fans of my old bands from the past, so that’s pretty cool, but then there are all these strange people.

There’s that one guy from England who always posts shit about killing all Muslims and then sends me invitations to play some infantile computer game for him. What a nut. Then there’s the guy who always posts ugly psychedelic fractal images on my wall. Who cares.

And then there’s an endless line of clowns who refuse to accept that the punk era is over and there are new bands that are better than their old punk heroes. Nothing says “I’m old” more than obsessing over The Ramones or The Stooges. “We refuse to listen to dubstep; that’s not REAL music”. Yes, it is. Grow up.

Sometimes I think Facebook is like The Tower of Babel where everybody’s talking and no one’s listening, and it all crumbles into fighting because nobody can agree on anything. Suck on that, you trendy atheists.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Where Do All The Wild Boys Go?

It was the first night of August, 1970. My brother and I shared the same bedroom. At three o’clock in the morning my father came into the darkened room and woke us up. Although the room was pitch black I could tell there were tears streaming down his face.

“Boys”, he said slowly. “Your mother is dead. Prepare for the worst. Nothing will ever be the same again”. And he was right.

In those days if you lost a parent either by death or divorce you were looked upon like there was something wrong with you. Your classmates all looked at you like you were odd. Perhaps they were looking at you for signs of mental decay. It wasn’t something so easily identifiable.

You held the hurt inside you, but it wasn’t really something you could talk about. No one wanted to listen, anyway. My friends had more important concerns, like sports and school. They weren’t even thinking about girls at that point.

Something new was in the air. Even the religious boys in my school couldn’t resist the lure of the new movement called glam rock. I remember hearing a kid or two singing “All The Young Dudes” as they walked to class. It was a long step away from the hippie dream of the past couple years.

Everything sounded differently, and everything looked differently.

Music gave me consolation from the loss of my mother and there was nothing more exciting than the records of T. Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Roxy Music, Sparks and an endless flood of glamour bands all dressed up like spacemen from a kaleidoscopic planet.

The glam club to go to in West Hollywood was Rodney’s English Disco. The club not only played great glam records that drove me crazy but also provided me with a crash course in gender bending. It was one thing to look at pictures of rock stars in eye shadow and lipstick, but to see it in person was something new.

Boys and girls alike dressed in silver and gold lame, bright satin pants with huge elephant flares propped up in sky high leather platform shoes. Every kid looked like a superhero. Not to be left out, I ran out to the Sunset Strip on weekends to get a cheap, affordable outfit to fit in.

Every night there was exciting, even the off nights. You never knew who was going to drop in. On a regular weeknight you could see Iggy pop, Kim Fowley, The Kinks, Rod Stewart or Candy Clark. And the kids dressed like mad peacocks. My hormones were ready to explode.

The next day I made the terrible mistake of telling a friend at school about the new glam club. His name was Artie and he had no capacity for confidentiality, so once I leaked my account of going to this cool pace he very loudly demanded to go, too. Very loudly.

“Let’s go tomorrow night. Field trip!” he practically yelled. Our classmates turned up their noses.
“I heard about that place…Nothing but faggots”.
“You’re going to check out the freaks, Artie? Look no further. There’s Andy”.
I sneered right back.

So friend Artie drove me there the next night. I was duded out in my little glam outfit, but…Artie. He was fairly conservative looking – shirt hair, beard, dressed in faded corduroy, heavy-set, not an emaciated glitter rocker type boy at all. As we hung out in the loud, colorful club all wrapped up in silver, he yelled in my ear.

“Look at that dufus in the make-up! He’s got a dog collar on!”
“Please!” I freaked out. “Not so loud! People can hear you!”
“I don’t care if they can hear me. That guy looks retarded. Ugh! Look at that girl, oh she’s so hot!”
“I’m going to get a drink”, I said, anything to get away from him embarrassing me.

The regret I felt was that my private safe harbor from overbearing religion by bringing in someone who peppered his comments with Yiddish expressions and Borscht Belt humor. Bringing in someone from the Boring World ruined my enjoyment of the Wild World. I wanted to kick myself. What a buzzkill.

I avoided Artie for the next few days at school. In between classes he spotted me and cornered me in the hallway.
“Hey!” he said, diving into a small bag of potato chips, crumbs hanging in his beard. “Where have you been? The kids at the club have been asking about you”.
“What? What club?”
“You know! Rodney’s. They guys from Sparks were there last night. It was great”.

“You went without me?” I was incredulous. “I thought you hated the place”.
“Oh, those guys are okay, They just look funny. I met this really cool girl there last night, and you know, she’s Jewish. We spoke Yiddish for a few minutes”.
“What?”
He continued grabbing chips like it was his lifeline to survival.

“And you know that goofy guy with the carrot topped head? He invited all of us to his hotel room after the club closed. It was pretty cool”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. “They like you making fun of them?”
“Nah, I stopped once I figured they were alright. Hey, let’s go after Shabbos. Josh is coming with us!”
I thought I’d shit. Instead I backed out. The great irony, as I was going to learn soon enough, was that for all my bravado I didn’t change Artie’s life. He was about to change mine.

Rodney’s English Disco closed down a year later. As the rabbis in school taught us, like is mostly about loss. Nothing stays around; everything eventually vanishes. I was still distant friends with Artie, more distant than usual because he kept up his nightclubbing ways. Now he was bragging about a club called the Sugar Shack which played disco.

“It’s just like Rodney’s, Andy”, he cracked open some peanut shells.
“No, it’s not. It’s just a disco. I fuckin’ hate disco!”
“You don’t understand. The Sugar Shack is the coolest club”.

Telling me wasn’t enough. He had to show me.
Picking me up from home one night I asked him, “Hey, what time does Serpico go on?”
“Showtime starts in an hour. I think we can make it a half an hour before it starts”, he promised. I grabbed my coat.

While he drove Artie talked about good times at the Sugar Shack. “In between the disco records they snuck some Suzi Quatro in”
. “Oh”, I was bored. “That’s different. I guess…Hey, I thought we were going to Westwood to see Serpico”.
“What?” he accelerated the car. Suddenly we were speeding.
“This isn’t the way to the Crest Theater. Where are we going?”

Artie’s face broke into a nervous sweat. “Oh, uh, I thought we’d stop off somewhere before the movie. You know, we’re still kind of early”.
“The film’s going to sell out and we won’t get in”.

Artie didn’t say anything. He just turned up the music on his 8-track player and drove even faster. I felt like I was being kidnapped.

Not only were we not headed to Westwood, but we were definitely going east towards West Hollywood, Santa Monica Boulevard in particular. When we reached a club with blackened walls with even blacker windows Artie pulled over and parked.

“Come on, this won’t take long. You’ll really like it. Just like Rodney’s English Disco!” he charged towards the club like a bull. I eyed him suspiciously.

Once I got in I knew I’d been set up. The PA was playing “The Hustle” and “Get Dancin’” at roaring, deafening levels. I looked around and there weren’t platforms to be seen. Just lots of men and more men in denim and open polyester shirts dancing around in the darkness. Not a woman in sight.

I’d seen posters of gay bars whenever I walked around Santa Monica Boulevard so I knew what to expect: a lot of Burt Reynolds and Steve McQueen clones walking around displaying tough macho vibes and betraying it with feminine coquettishness.

“Isn’t this great?” Artie gushed. “I’m getting a beer. How about you?”
“No”, I was steamed. I felt shanghaied into going to this club because he knew I’d never want to go here. I was fit to be tied.

“AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE MISTER STUD 1975 CONTEST!!” a voice barked over the sound system. The crowd hooted and hollered. “CONTESTANT NUMBER ONE, PAUL PARKER HE’S LEAN, HE’S MEAN AND HE’S READY FOR ANY SCENE…TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER! PAUUUUL PARRRKER!!!”

An athletic man with sandy blonde hair began dancing to “Boogie Wonderland”. He was barefoot and I thought he was trying to be Tarzan but I was wrong. First he pulled his sports shirt off, displaying his muscular chest. The club roared their approval.

Artie came back with his beer. He was enjoying the show. The dancer then pulled his white denim jeans down. Another big round of approval came up. All he had on left was a microscopic bikini.

The song was almost over so I thought he was done, but he definitely wasn’t. His show-stopper was ripping off the bikini to the screams and swoons of the crowd. Dancing wildly, I saw this tiny dingle swinging up and down furiously to the music.

“Oh my God!” I looked away.
“Ahahahaha!” Artie was choking with laughter.
“Can we go to the movies now?” I whined. Artie ignored me.

Well, we got to see more contestants and more wieners for Mister Stud 1975. There was more frantic stripping to disco records as the night went on, and even Artie got bored after awhile. He took me home and I was fuming with rage.

It was nothing personal, though, I later found out. He pulled the same stunt with my brother and his friends. After awhile I just went to the movies by myself. The gay bar shanghai treatment became his modus operandi every weekend.

I didn’t see Artie for a few months after that. A little Artie goes a long way. Finally he apologized for the subterfuge.
“Could you come with me to this girl’s house? I have to talk to her and I’m kind of nervous”, he worked at a dramatic stammer.
“I don’t know”, I sulked. “I kinda wanted to practice my saxophone”.

“Come on. I’ll buy you a Moby Jack and fries”.
“Well”, I realized it was still daylight so there would be no night club frolics. “Okay. What’s this girl like? You never told me about her before”.
We walked to the car. “It’s weird. I have to deal with her brother before I can talk to her”.

He drove me into West Hollywood, not far from the club. We pulled up to a beat apartment building with an upended plaid sofa on the sidewalk and a bunch of soiled diapers in the gutter. We went up to the third floor and Artie knocked on the door.

“COME ON IN! I’M NOT DECENT!” a voice yelled.
We entered to a messy apartment with an open bed, scratched records all over the floor along with men’s and women’s shoes, pants, bras, fashion magazines, smeared makeup, lipstick containers, and whisky bottles. Lots of whisky bottles. There were about four youngmen in there. Two had clothes on, one only had a pair of pants on, and the last was completely naked. The nude jumped around a lot.

“Hi, what’s happening?” a dressed young man with wavy blonde hair asked. He looked bored and slightly annoyed to see us. “Are you holding?”
“Oh, I know him. You were here the other night”. A brunette with curly hair mumbled.
They didn’t seem to like him much.

“Is Sandra here?” Artie asked nervously.
“Who?”
“Oh, he means Billy. That’s Billy’s drag name”.
“Excuse me, could you not talk while my favorite record in the whole world is playing?”

The nude boy jumped right by us and screeched, “PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“Um, yeah”, Artie stammered. “Sandra Billy”.
“Oh, well she’s at work”, the blonde deadpanned. “She’ll be home soon”.

“What did this guy get me stuck in now?” I thought. It was always some situation. Artie kept telling me he wasn’t gay and I kept getting further and further into the life without even asking for it.

The youngman in only pants had a sad Sal Mineo look about him. He stared at me with his big brown eyes.
“Do you know Billy, too?”
“No”, I said. “My name’s Andy. I just came with Artie”.
“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!” the nude boy ran around the room.

The blonde laughed. “Look how scared he is. Seeing another naked boy. He’s going to go home and tell his mom. AND YOU! PUT SOME FUCKING PANTS ON!!!”

“I’m not going to tell my mom”, I said. “My mother died four years ago”.
The Latino boy in the pants’ eyes welled up. “Your mother’s dead? Is she really?”
“Yeah”, I lowered my voice. “It sucks”.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“YOU! I SAIDDDDD PUT SOME FUCKING PANTS ON!!!”
The boy began tearing up. “Did you love your mother more than anyone in the whole world?”
“Yes, I did”. I was more nervous than sad.

“I’ll bet she loved you more than anything in the whole world”, he almost burst out crying. “She must have been the greatest woman you’ve ever known. Everybody needs a mother’s love. It’s the most important kind of love there is”
“You’re right”, I smiled sadly.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“GODDAMMIT IF YOU DON’T THROW SOME FUCKIN’ PANTS ON RIGHT NOW YOU NELLY QUEEN I’LL THROW YOUR SCRAWNY ASS OUT!!!! NOW!!!”

The door flew open and a bookish black youngman in glasses came in. Artie spun around.
“Sandra! “Artie gushed. “I thought I’d come by since you haven’t been returning my calls”.
“Oh. Arthur”, Billy scoffed as he walked by us. “I don’t like surprises”.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
Billy frowned. “Girl, cover that thing. I’ve seen more of your package than I’ve even seen of mine”.

An hour went by with the five youngmen ignoring Artie and me. They talked as if we were invisible. I was so bored.
I kept whispering to Artie, “Let’s just go. He, I mean she, doesn’t care about you. Forget about…her”.
“No!” Artie was steadfast and proved it by trying to ask Sandra a few things, only to be dismissed.

The dressed brunette jumped up from the crumpled bed and announced, “WELL, I’M HUNGRY! ANYBODY ELSE HUNGRY? LET’S GO TO DANIELLE’S!”
“I’M HUNGRY!”
“I’M NAKED AND HUNGRY!”
“GET DRESSED OR YOU DON’T EAT!”
“LET’S GO!”

Sal Mineo piped up. “Everybody be nice to Artie’s friend because his mother just died”.
“Ohhh, that’s so sad. You’ll get through it, I promise, sweetie”, the naked boy said as he was struggling with a t-shirt that was three sizes too small for him.

We followed the car with the two dressed youngmen, the no-longer nude and Billy. Sal Mineo rode with us. On the way there Artie griped about Sandra to him.
“I’m so nice to her. She seems to like me when she’s Sandra, so I don’t know why she keeps treating me like I don’t exist”.

“Oh, well, she’s the coy type, you know. The coy type! Hard to get. She gets things by playing hard to get!”
“I bought her drinks, I took her to the –“
“Turn here and park!” he practically yelled. He rolled down the window and yelled at his friends. “GET US A GOOD TABLE!”

Dinner at Danielle’s was as good as a dinner can be when the menu is stained and laminated with silverware that looked like it came from a soldier’s rusty mess kit. We got to see two sky-high tall transvestites attack each other in the middle of the restaurant, almost falling over our table.

Sandra/Billy never did hook up with Artie, and feeling crushed he drove me home feeling ejected, dejected and rejected. I was just glad to be home with my saxophone.

Two years later I had my own apartment, where I had a very strange dream. I dreamt I was a baby again and my mother was young, healthy and happy. She was dressed in a Greco-Roman toga in white and bathed me in a small spring. While she bathed me she laughed and sang quietly. It was the most tranquil dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t want it to end. I woke up feeling happier than I had in years.

In the following days after I thought more and more of my dream, and rather than feel happy I was stricken with a terrible melancholy. Life is mostly loss, like the rabbis said.
One night I wearily sat down at the bus stop on the corner of Crescent Heights and Santa Monica. I quietly waited for the bus to arrive.

Two youngmen sat down at the bench by me.
“Oh! That bartender, if he watered those drinks any more than he did you could breed turtles in them!”
“That’s the T, Mary”.
“And that butch door man! Yikes!” They both laughed.

Three more youngmen showed up and just laughed non-stop, probably drunk but harmless.
“I told him to put that thing away!”
“You told him? I think not!! I did. You needed help, bitch!” They all laughed.

A very sullen youngman who looked like Jethro Bodine with a duffle bag walked up to the bus stop sign and slammed his bag down as loudly as possible. He then spread his legs challengingly and folded his arms.

“Ohhhh, my, Miss Butchness”, one boy giggled quietly.
“Yesssss…men at work!” One’s eyes widened.
“Tragedy at work. Too, too tragic!” the other muttered.
“Footlocker daddy, hohohoho!”

My melancholy dissipated as I looked all around me. The bright, colored lights of West Hollywood felt like a carnival that didn’t want to end, ever. By the time the bus pulled up and we hopped on I was smiling.

I was smiling because all the boys on the bus were laughing and some of them had mothers, some of them probably lost theirs, but it didn’t matter because they knew the carnival will never end.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Transmission

The daily job wasn't bringing enough money in so I decided to work as a driver on weekends. I never wanted to be one, but I needed money badly. My girl practically hung her head in shame at the news. But she did something worse. She left me.

I was left with an apartment I couldn't afford and bills I couldn’t pay. And she was gone. In spite of the bad news, being a driver wasn’t such a bad job. You didn’t have to listen to a bunch of bullshit from office people. You drove around in your own plastic bubble.

My car was a 2007 Toyota Prius with a hatchback trunk and enough cargo space to carry virtually anything a sedan could handle. The car was so well manufactured I never had any major problems with it.

I had three garment bags from Prada in my trunk. I was assigned to take them to a home in Bel-Air. My mp3 player was pumping out some killer dubstep and the air conditioning was flowing pretty easily. The GPS advised me what turns to take to get to the home. My car was going to take good care of me.

With the proper temperature, ambient sound and flawless female voice giving direction it was the closest thing to traveling around in a mobile womb.

I drove up to the gates and showed my badge to the security guard.
“I’m from Style Runners”, I handed him the ID card.
The guard leaned out of his kiosk window to take it. He scanned my name on the card.
“Tracy Milton”, he read slowly as he typed out my delivery pass.
“Melton”, I corrected.
“Oh! Sorry!” he retyped.

“So how far is Mrs. Killebrew’s home from here?” I asked as he handed my ID card back with my temporary pass.
“Three streets down and then you make a right”.

The gates slowly opened up as in an old storybook film and I drove through. It seemed easy at first until I saw that the street signs were printed on boulders set on the corner. The printed names of the streets were largely obscured by overgrown plants hiding the names.

“Paseo de la Rosa is on the right”, the GPS pleasantly advised, her robotic voice sounding more sure of herself than I was. “And then left turn”.

This gated community wasn’t as pretty as the other ones I’ve driven through. This one looked like an overly protected suburbia. The homes all shared the same color scheme: beige, light gray and cream colors. Many earth tones and not a pastel color in sight. I was in Vanilla City.

I turned down Paseo de la Rosa, made my left at Paseo de la Teresa and the GPS announced, “You have arrived at your destination. The route guidance is now finished”.

I pulled up to the driveway and killed the engine. I took out the garment bags, and each bag was ridiculously long. There were ball gowns inside them, meaning they were at least seven feet long in that they all had trains. It was impossible to hold them up since they were higher than me, so I folded them over my arm and carried them with an almost butler-like reverence.

It’s pretty tough carrying three garment bags and a clipboard at the same time. The clipboard had my trip sheet on it. The trip sheet is where you write down your delivery information – name and address of pick up and then the name and address of the delivery. On the far right is an area where the delivery prints and signs their name.

When you’re in a gated community half the time you’ll deliver straight to the resident. The other half of the time it’ll be to the domestic care working the home. I pressed the door bell and heard the faint thumping of footsteps accompanied by the barking of a dog.

“Style Runners”, I said through the door. “Your Prada is here”.
An elderly woman with silver hair wearing a house dress opened the door with a German Shepherd by her side barking his head off at me. We had to speak over the loud barking.

“Please print your name and sign over the line in the pink”, I instructed her.
“Grrrr”…The dog tried leaping over the woman’s legs to get to me. It no longer barked but settled into a moan, giving way to growling.

“Oh, don’t mind him, he’s just a big old softy”, she smiled as she signed the sheet.
“A softy with wolves’ teeth”, I said, keeping my eyes on the angry, impatient beast.
“Pardon?”

The dog was pushing harder against her legs, growling even more now.
“PIERRE!”
A German dog with a French name. This woman was crazy. The dog had large fangs.
“PIERRE! STOP!!!”
The beast continued growling and budging against her.

“Oh, he’s usually not like this! He’s having a bad day!”
“I’d like to catch him on a good day”, I said, handing her the Prada bags.
“Sorry?”
“I said, Have yourself a great day”, I smiled.

The dog pushed so hard he almost broke through but the woman held him back.
“Oh wait, I forgot to give you a tip. Let me get you some money”.
She tried stepping backwards over the dog with the heavy garment bags in her hands.
Once she walked away there was no telling what the big dog would do.

“No thank you, ma’am. I got to run. I still have a lot of deliveries to make”, I backpedaled towards my car and shot out of there as fast as I could.

I drove down the hill towards the exit gates, which magically opened up like out of some fairy tale and let me out. I drove down streams of private roads until I reached Sunset Boulevard.

I hung a left on Sunset and then pulled over for a moment. I picked up my cell phone and texted the dispatcher “DELIVERY MADE”.

I texted another message, this time to someone else: “It’s me, Tracy. Are you coming back? I miss you”. DONE. SENT. I sat there for a minute or two, waiting for a response. She’s been gone for awhile. A message would be nice, but there was no reply,

I took a deep breath and looked out the windshield at the tree lined street. It was so wide it put a highway to shame. It was a Saturday afternoon and I kind of drifted off a little bit.

GLEEPGLEEP! The radio shook me with its abrupt signal.
“Driver 757, go to the Hermes Store at the Westfield Mall in Sherman Oaks. I’ll send you the stats in a minute”, the dispatcher said.
“10-4, copy that”.

I snapped out of my cloud and started the car, pulling out into the street. A tiny Fiat trailed behind a large soda truck, trying to jump into the next lane so it could pass it. I was in that lane so it nervously waited for me to speed up so it could get behind me and cut in front of the truck.

I finally sped up and the Fiat got behind me and then cut right in front of the soda truck by less than ten feet, instantly pissing off the truck driver. He blasted his large Godzilla horn angrily at the tiny Fiat. He might have even sped up to scare off the Fiat, but I turned down to Santa Monica Boulevard.

I jammed it up the freeway to Sherman Oaks and hit the Hermes Store in the Westfield Mall. I picked up a tiny wallet in a tiny shopping bag> It was so tiny it almost looked dainty.

The delivery was in Sylmar, a very intense working class neighborhood. It’s only claim to fame was that it had one of the worst faults in Southern California, the one which caused the legendary 1971 earthquake.

Going from Sherman Oaks to Sylmar required getting back on the freeways and watching a lot of motorists pull a bunch of daredevil tricks on the freeway. I kept my pace nice and slow to avoid any involvement with these Steve McQueeners.

The GPS directed me to my off ramp. I drove up to the main drag in Sylmar and thought I’d made a wrong turn somewhere. Pavement on the streets were cracked up with hundreds of potholes. Stores all around were either boarded up or closed down.

Tall weeds were more prominent than lawns and if there were any lawns they were long dead and left as dirt mounds. Not much grew around here. I pulled over and double checked the trip sheet. Yes, this was the right street.

I drove down the road, trying unsuccessfully to avoid hitting a pothoie. POW! The car made a large boom driving over a pothole.
“OHHHHHH!” I groaned, feeling like I just got hit.

POW! POW!
“You have arrived at your destination”, the GPS cheerfully announced.
I cussed quietly under my breath over the shitty road my poor suffering car just took a beating on. Plus there was the even shittier street I had to deliver on.

I got out of my car and pulled out the dainty Hermes bag, shaking my head. Some karmic clown was laughing his ass off somewhere. Every house had rusty wrought iron gates in front of their driveways. The houses all had iron doors as well as iron bars over the windows.

Something tells me I’m not going to get a tip this time. Just a funny feeling.

Some of the houses had address markings, while others clearly did not. Guess which ones belonged to law-abiding citizens?
“23529 Fairfield, 23529 Fairfield….here’s 23533, it’s marked”, I said to myself. I walked over to the next house, which wasn’t marked. It could be 23531 or it could be the 23529 Fairfield I’m looking for.

There were two unmarked homes next to each other. One home had a surly pit bull behind the gate eyeing me menacingly. The house looked pretty ramshackle and the car parked in the lot looked primered to hell.

The next home was better kept and had a fancy Camaro parked in front with no guard dog in sight. The only way I was going to contact my delivery was if I phoned him and made him come outside.

I dialed the number on my cell phone, and a man quickly answered.
“Hello?” he had a guttural voice.
“This is Style Runners. Your Hermes wallet is here. I’m right in front of your house for you to pick up”. I felt like a drug dealer just talking like that.
“I’ll be right out”.

I assumed correctly. My delivery lived in the house with the vintage Camaro in the driveway. The delivery came out in a wife beater and baggy pants. He had tattoos all over his arms and on his neck. He probably had ink on his ass, too. Not only did he look mean as hell but he had his trusty pit bull come with him. The pit bull almost looked as mean as he did.

“Hey”, I said. “Here’s your wallet, but please sign first”.
The dog eyed me suspiciously. As the delivery signed I felt someone behind me. I turned around and saw a very old woman dressed completely in black. She smiled at me and I smiled back.

“Buenos dias”, I said. She just smiled.
“She can speak English”, the man grunted.
“Oh! Hi, good morning, ma’am”.
“Que?” she asked.
“I lied”, he smirked. Nice little joke.
“Okay, take it easy!”

I walked back to my car, hopped in, picked up my cell phone and texted the dispatcher “DELIVERY MADE”. I drove off, twisting and turning to avoid the potholes, but some were unavoidable. KAPOW! POW!

I drove a few blocks down to the main drag, I heard a beeping sound from my cell phone notifying me I had a new text. I pulled over to the curb to read it.

“I’m not coming back any time soon. I don’t think I want to be with you any more”.
I closed my eyes. Everything just stopped. I opened my eyes after awhile, looked at my side view mirror, and pulled out into traffic.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ripoff Magazine (Hot Wire MY HEART Chapter 3)

The storefront on Mission Street was beat, badly in need of repairs, paint chipping off wooden slats in the front, windows speckled with dirt and dead flies pressed against old newspaper taped over the windows. The view within was covered, and the faded sign above was for a shoe repairs.

The front door was protected by a mountain of trash piled waist-high. A leaky spigot under the front window had a splash of green moss growing out of the sidewalk. It was one of those storefronts that was so worn out to death that it was invisible to anyone walking by it.

The little shoe repair store could be entered from the rear with a credit card along with a good jimmying from a pen knife. There was no heating inside, but a few tables and chairs kept the squat alive. A few lamps pulled in from the trash supplied indoor light needed to produce a punk rock fanzine. This was the headquarters or more appropriately the "deadquarters" of Ripoff Magazine.

Warren Arrest gently placed a few photographs from the previous night's show around some quickly typed copy, moving the photos around the page in a semi-circle. He analyzed the layout, deciding which looked more intense for the Live Reviews Section. Sitting a few feet away cutting out captions with a rusty pair of scissors was Just Plain Sally, looking industrious with her cutting.

The back door frame shook a little with a knob jiggle. The squatters inside tensed a mite and relaxed when they saw Dante creeping inside.
"Hey, why didn't you get the door for me?" he asked, slightly hurt.
"Doorman's on vacation", Arrest drawled. "We're kind of busy here, as you can see".
"Yeah", Sally chimed in.

Dante walked over, peeking over everyone's shoulders, perusing their work. "No, the guitar player jumping in the air should be on top. The singer getting flipped the finger isn't news. You see that shit every night".
"You think I should move it down?"
"Yup".
"I was thinking the same thing".

Dante walked over to Sally's corner and watched her fight the paper with her rusty tools.
"Hey, Sally, I have a decent pair of paper scissors you can borrow. I mean, Jesus".
Sally looked up with her customary blank look.
"No, these are my tools". She proudly held the rusty scissors up like Lady Liberty.

Dante snorted and walked back to Arrest.
"So, here to help out?"
"Noooooooo", Dante crooned. "I'm just coming by to let you know that the next column's going to get done earlier than usual. I got some pretty hot info the other night and I'm dying to blast it in the zine".

"Um, like what? More high school photos?"
"No, better, much better. Why, it's almost too good for this rag, but I'll give it to you 'cause I'm a pretty cool guy".
"Are you going to tell me?"

Dante held out, walking over to a bunch of snacks and drinks sitting atop a scarred wooden table. He reached into a bag of ridged potato chips and jammed them into his maw, crunching loudly. He picked up a styrofoam cup of coffee and took a pull, puffed his cheeks up and spat it all over the floor.

"HEY!"
"Ugh! That fuckin' coffee's cold! And it's black, too! It tastes like piss! BYAKKKK!" Dante coughed up coffee grounds, spitting them out from his purple face.
"Ask before you guzzle, dick head".

Dante continued his coughing and spitting as Warren stared at him. "So, dumbass, are you going to tell me about this hot item you're just dying to burst...or what?"

Dante finally caught his breath after several tries. Without a word, he pulled out the paper he typed at home and handed it to his editor.
Arrest grabbed the copy and read it slowly.

As he scanned the paper a low moan giving way to a low growl rose higher and higher in volume.
"Mmmmmm....ohhhh....oh....AH.....SHIT!!!!"

His face turned several shades of white and gray and he handed the paper back to Dante.
"Where...did you...get this...stuff...from?"

Dante hemmed and hawed, eventually just wordlessly staring at his editor.
“This is all bullshit, isn’t it?”
“No, honest. It’s all real, I just don’t want to start narking my sources out, heh heh”.

Warren walked over to Dante and threw his arm around his shoulders conspiratorially. He turned his head just to check to see if Sally was watching and then around.
“I’ll publish this if it’s true, but honestly, guy, take a tip from me. Let’s have a little less scandal and a lot more positive energy. Make more friends. Don’t try so hard to piss everybody off, know what I mean?”
“Play it slower, like what?”

“We need money, see? Money will get us a cool little office space, not some bullshit squat. I mean I’m all for living humble, but let’s get what every other zine like Creem and Circus get, y’know?”
“I still don’t get you”.
“Dante, it’s like this. If you write up twenty bands per issue, that comes to twenty bands with five members each in every band and you sell a hundred copies alone just so these fuckers can see their stupid names in print, see? At three dollars an issue that’s three hundred dollars profit right there”.

“So I go find ten bands to write about? Is that it?”
“No, just make nice with these bands and get them to want to be put in the zine, like we’re doing them a big favor. They get their mention and we make our money. Leave me this item and go get these boobs interested in us. Oh, and here”.

Arrest discreetly pulled out a tiny folded piece of paper. “That’s for you. Enjoy. Put it away so Sally doesn’t see it”.
Dante pocketed it as quickly as he could.
“It’ll make you a lot nicer to everybody. Right now we need that. Go!”

********************

Dante walked by the corner drug store with its floppy awning and wooden slatted sides. He saw a flip-top box of cigarettes by the phone booth and swiped them. Opening the box, instead of expecting a cockroach to come racing out, he saw three fresh unsmoked cigarettes in the pack. Since he always carried matches with him he lit one up and took a deep drag on the smoke.

He walked further down the street with the sky in a gray patina, puffing smoke signals, adding more gray palette into the ozone. He walked a few feet ahead and then slowed down his pace. At the next block was a dented Ford Econoline van with the band name The Double Crossers spray painted over a vomitous splash of colors.

Dante tossed his cig into the curb and leaned against an empty storefront wall. A nervous, twitchy scarecrow of a young man in soiled tee, army pants and boots got out of the van. Looking around nervously, he opened up the rear van doors and pulled out a PA sound board with speakers.

“No way”, Dante grinned. “This is great”.
What made it great was that the store the van parked by had three round bulbs, the sign of a pawn shop. The young man pulled out a dolly and carted them into the pawn shop. Dante chuckled with glee.

“Wonder if the boys in the band know about this”, he mumbled to himself with no shortage of amusement.

He walked slowly and cautiously to get a closer look at the shop window. Most bands on the scene knew who he was so walking in there might be a bad idea. He found a nice sideways angle to the window without being seen head-on.

“Look at him twitch”, Dante chuckled again. “Scratching himself….”
The young man could be seen haggling with the pawnbroker inside the store.
“That’s Spider….shit. Never let a junkie handle your stage gear for you. Well, I never thought those guys in The Double Crossers were very bright”.

After much gesturing and nervous looks out the window (once Dante had to jump back a few feet) Spider finally managed to unload the sound board. He could be seen signing something and then taking a thin wad of cash and jamming in the back of his combat pants.

“How are you gonna explain that one, junkie?” Dante sniggered.
Spider then quickly jammed out of the pawn shop with two big 32” speakers on the dolly, quickly throwing them back into the van. Dante ran back to his original post.

“No takers on the speakers, asshole. I could have told him that”.

The van tore out from the curb. Dante slowly emerged from the corner and walked back to the sidewalk.
“Well, thanks for the item. That’s one band that isn’t going to be happy tonight. One missing sound board and one overdosed roadie. Wish I had my fuckin’ camera”.

******************************

Animal led Dante around a club called Kiki’s Deluxe at The Stockade, a gay bar that was having one of their drag nights. The club was packed with men looking for love, looking for entertainment and probably a load of party drugs.

Although Dante wore his usual punk uniform of leather jacket, jeans, tee and sneakers, Animal was dolled for Discoland, wearing a feather boa, violet satin tube top, black vinyl miniskirt and old platform wedgies. She even had some glitter glued to her cheeks.

“Come on”, Animal pulled Dante’s arm, dragging him around the club. “The dressing room’s around here somewhere!”
Dante yawned, wondering why he was even there.

Animal spotted a fat man in makeup but not in female dress.
“Hey!” she yelled. “Which way to the dressing room?”
The fat man appraised her sourly. “Well, doll, that’s for me to know and for you to find out!”

“I work with Mabel at Picasso’s Art Supplies. Is she back stage?”
“Mabel Mildew? Why didn’t you say so, girl?” The portly man stared at Dante in his tight leather jacket. “Back of the room to the left”.

“Can we go home now?” Dante groaned.
“No! I want to see Mabel!” Animal yelled over the bad dance music. It was Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes doing their hoary classic “Get Dancin’”.

Dante wished he was home listening to The Ramones. Animal continued fighting the crowd, struggling to get towards the dressing room. Strobe lights and sirens were going off in the club and a DJ was screaming over the music – “GET DANCIN'……..KIKI'S DELUXE!!! STOMP YOUR FEET STICK UP YOUR ASSES OUT PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR LIKE YOU GOSH DARN IT JUST DON’T CARE!”

They finally reached a black door which kept getting thrown open and then slamming shut, over and over again like some demented puppet show. The smell of beer and poppers filled the air.

Animal tried the door knob. “Shit! It’s locked!”
Suddenly the door flew open again, and a eight-foot tall black queen towered over the brightly lit room. Steam and body sweat emanated from the tiny dressing room.
“Yeeeeessssssssss?” the giant queen imperially asked.

“Is Mabel there? Tell her Animal’s here!”
“Oh, well…..Miss Mabel, you have company!”
Animal leaned over the large queen. “Mabel, Mabel, Mabel, it’s me! Animal!”

Mabel shrieked from the back of the dressing room. “Oh darling I’ll be out in a minute!”
The giant stared at Dante. “Well, he’s welcome to enter, but you‘ll have to wait, sweetheart”. Animal frowned.

The door slammed shut again. People shoved against them. “That bum, hustling my boyfriend in front of me. Well! Mabel’s going to hear about it!”
Dante just looked around nervously.

The door flew open and a dark figure fronted by a large bouncer raced out quickly towards the stage. Mable Mildew approached the stage resplendent in a gold liquid satin dress, her reed hair piled high in an upsweep with heavily rouged cheek, offsetting a short black goatee. She resembled a Milan runway model in crossfire with a Roman gladiator.

“KIKI’S DELUXE PRESENTS AND PREVENTS AT NO GREAT EXPENSE, THE WONDERFUL MABEL MILDEW!” Everybody screamed and applauded wildly.

“Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!” Animal yelled while jerking Dante around in a demented dance. Dante behaved like a surly puppet having its strings yanked wildly. Mabel lip-synced to Diana Ross singing “Over The Rainbow”. Shirtless men were bumping wildly, sweat flying around and splashing on Dante. Animal was in bliss, dancing like crazy.

The disco music pounded loudly while Mabel Mildew lip-synced her heavily padded heart out. Dante smelled more than a few asses in the fragrant darkness. Animal jumped up and down happily.

“Yaaaayyyyy Mabel! THAT’S MY GIRL!”

Monday, April 18, 2016

We Are The One: A Look At Mickey One

One of my favorite films of all time is Mickey One. It was released by Columbia Pictures in 1965 and directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty. Mickey One is the story of a lounge stand-up comedian who’s on the run from the mob for reasons left open to conjecture: Were there unpaid debts? Was he playing around with the mob boss’ mistress? Was he in arrears for countless favors from the mob?

Mickey runs away after being called on the carpet by club owner Ruby Lapp (played by Franchot Tone in one of his last performances). He hits the skid row section of Chicago and lifts the social security card of a rolled drunk named Mickey Wonjhowcski. which he shortens to Mickey One.

Living in a flophouse and working as a pearl diver, he has a tenant forced on him by his insane landlady. He falls in love with the girl and she recognizes his talent, prompting him to badger a tenth-rate burlesque agent, who books him into a string of dogwater lounges.

Gingerly working his way back into the nightclub grind, he hopes he won’t attract much attention, but of course with his Warren Beatty looks and enormously successful comedic talent he eventually attracts all the attention he previously hoped to avoid. Mickey One ends with him performing to a dark, empty club with a blinding spotlight burning into him with an unknown figure behind the light (the mob boss?). The moral of the story: you can run but you can’t hide.

Mickey One was made in the Sixties, an era when the mystery of the John F. Kennedy assassination greatly disturbed the country and provoked endless meditations on conspiracies, innocent people on the run for unknown transgressions, and questions of personal identity. It was an era of Kafkaesque entertainment which spawned television shows like The Prisoner, The Fugitive, Run For Your Life, Coronet Blue, and other weird programs.

Arthur Penn once said that Mickey One was his attempt to make his version of a French New Wave film, and in that regard he considered the film to be a minor failure. Part of the French New Wave influence was the casting of Alexandra Stewart as the love interest, who was Francois Truffaut’s girlfriend at the time.

Mickey One is so much more than a Nouvelle Vague homage, though, in fact it’s one of the most American films ever made. The film looks like a Tom Waits album cover from start to finish with its scenes of Salvation Army bands, hobo jungles, wrecking yards and burlesque queens (and with no Barbara Nichols in sight!). If you liked Robert Frank’s book The Americans you will love the beautiful cinematography of Ghislain Cloquet.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mickey One: it was in 1978 and I was living in The Canterbury Apartments in Hollywood at the time. I had a terrible case of the flu and had that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I turned on my black and white portable TV and watched The Late Show and there it was, Mickey One.

I felt as if I was getting a broadcast from outer space. It was the parallel reality I thought I’d never see. Warren Beatty and his absurd America oif exploding industrial art called YES really sold it for me. From that moment on I called myself Andy Seven and I’ve never looked back, just like Mickey One.