Griff showed up early for his 2:00 pm appointment with a new temporary employment agency, so he decided to kill some time at the cavernous Virgin Megastore. Griff liked buying his records there but didn’t care much for the overly chatty British DJ who talked incessantly in between records. He was on duty that afternoon and Griff was trying hard to tune out his extremely upper class Public School accent.
He loved looking at the old vintage jazz album covers from Verve, Blue Note and Impulse Records, even though they were shrunk down to CD size. The font and colors seemed to vibrate off the cover, the horns looked three-dimensional and the players all looked like invaders from some noisy jive planet. A planet of revolutionary sound!
Griff’s reverie was ruined by a jangly guitar racket of obnoxious trebly frequency that demanded his attention. He hated it. A fluty, young, educated British voice painfully enunciated,
“Teatime with me mum,
currants, bones and scones,
Life’s a larf, a lark, ye know,
Ho ho ho ho”….
He blocked out the sound until the chipper Deejay loudly announced, “OI! That’s the latest release from those naff Newcastle lads Garbage Truck! Catchy tune, that, “Teatime With Mum”, chalk another one for the Land of Hope and Glory, match that yanks! Garbage Truck, only the UK could come up with a band name that deliciously daft! OI!”
Griff’s face turned purple and then red. He walked over to the rock section under “G” and saw a display for “Garbage Truck”, showing five sickly lads in fake Devo sanitation worker outfits brilliantly tailored by the legendary Paul Smith.
The band name must have been nicked, er, stolen from the Dead End Kyle interview in the New Musical Express that came out several months ago. Well, shit, why bother inventing a new band name when you can always steal it from a shit English newspaper? Griff was fit to be tied and had to mind his temper before he showed up at his job interview.
G. Bobby Callahan, the most officious member of Garbage Truck, joined the party of three in the clamshell booth at Morton’s Steak House, the others being Dead End Kyle, big kahuna of Paint It Black Records, Miri Murder of all-girl band Kitten Claws, and Moish Wilson of Varmint Booking, visiting from out of town.
“There he is!” chortled Wilson.
“BIG GUY!” hooted Miri.
“What’s the hap, hoss?” Kyle drawled, adjusting the skipper cap on his head.
Bobby sheepishly giggled.
“So how’s the great band doing?” Dead End Kyle asked. “Did you sell enough copies of the record in Frisco?”
“Yeah, we did well, thanks. I thought you were coming to the Lounge show last Saturday”.
“Yeah, well you know, I don’t really go out, dude”.
“He was at our Costa Mesa show”, Miri hooted, clam chowder dancing in her mouth.
“How did that go, chickie?” Wilson asked, spooning gobs of shrimp cocktail in his greasy mouth.
“It was super awesome”.
“Hey”, Kyle asked, “Are you guys gonna cover that Hara Kiris song for my tribute album?”
“’Banzai Bubble Gum’, you know the one you sing in that cute Japanese accent”.
“I gotta break that to the other girls, they don’t know yet”.
Wilson pointed his finger at Miri, “Don’t forget! It’s YOUR band, you don’t ask them, YOU TELL THEM what you’re going to do”.
“Jawhol, herr commandant”, Miri saluted. Everyone laughed.
Wilson now pointed at Callahan. “The same goes for you! Bobby Callahan, leader of Garbage Truck. Is that asshat Griff giving you a hard time?”
“No, but he threw a fit at The Lounge show. The monitors weren’t working so he started smashing up the mike stand. ‘If you can’t hear the singer you’re not going to hear anything!’ he yelled and then sang through every mike on stage, even the bass drum mike. I was so embarrassed!” Everyone laughed.
“Fuck that artistic temperament shit!” Wilson barked.
“Screw that genius noise!” Kyle speared a wad of creamy spinach.
“Then he fired Bert for plugging Lady Godiva’s Operation on stage and even jumping in front of the booker about it. By the way, did you listen to the tape I gave you?”
“Forget Lady Godiva’s Operation, kid. Never bet on a losing horse. Now, Garbage Truck, that’s the toro-bred sheet, Bubba!” Everyone laughed.
“So now we’re a two-guitar band instead of three”.
“Who told him he could fire anyone without consulting me?” Kyle cussed, guzzling his tropical iced tea, wig shifting into a crooked position on his head.
“Bert’s my bubba!” Miri joked. “Let’s take Griff behind the shed!”
“Oy vey!” Wilson croaked after squirting lemon juice on his oyster and tipping it down his thick throat. “Lady Godiva’s Operation! You’re better off without the bitch”.
Around midnight Griff woke up on the couch to the sounds of his TV set. Coughing and rubbing his bleary eyes, an old movie was on the set, something from the Forties called “Blues In The Night”. Richard Whorf, Elia Kazan and some other hepcats were cooling their heels in jail. An all-colored jail cell was across from them with a big Leadbelly type saying, “We all got the miseries sometimes”, then soulfully crooning “Blues In The Night”,
“A woman’ll sweet talk and give you the big eye…a woo-ee a woo-ee, ah clickety clack uh echoin’ back… the blues… in the night”.
Jigger, Peppi and the boys marvel at the field holler blues being sung.
“Do you hear that, Jigger? That’s the real miseries!” Peppi gushed.
“THAT’S IT, FELLAS! WE’RE GOING TO START OUR OWN BAND, NOT JUST ANY BLUES BUT THE REAL BACK ALLEY DOWN HOME BLUES, THE WHOLE U-S OF A, JUST FIVE FELLAS NO MORE NO LESS LIKE FIVE FINGERS IN A GLOVE ALL WORKING TOGETHER ALL PLAYING OUR OWN MUSIC OUR OWN STYLE”.
“Let’s do it, Jigger!”
Griff farted. “”Yeah, Jigger!” he mumbled.
He opened the fridge to grab some root beer and noticed he was SOL, so he grabbed the car keys to pick some up at Toluca Mart on the corner of Pico and Robertson. Before he split he pointed at Jigger Pine banging on the piano, smiling and pumping the blues.
“And stay out of London”, Griff mumbled at the TV before closing the door.
It was during his drive down Pico Boulevard that Griff felt an irresistible impulse to revisit several places from his teenage years. He steered the old Valiant down the dark, empty streets with dim lamp posts guiding him like long arms towards old, familiar locations from the distant past.
He first drove over to the old school yard, the one he hadn’t driven by in years. It was old, shabby, and vacant, a “BUILDING FOR LEASE” sign nailed in front. He drove around the alley to look at the playground with its basketball court. The fence was rusty and the hoops were bent and in need of repair. Some of the classroom windows looked smashed in, the yard unlit and boarded up in places.
He then drove to the first house he lived in that neighborhood, just a few blocks away. He remembered a Craftsman-style, cheery-looking duplex. As he approached nearer and nearer in his car he saw a middle-aged woman nervously walking her dog, giving him the fish eye. He couldn’t miss the house, of course. It was the one with the tall weeds all over and a fence around it. A sign read “TEN-UNIT APARTMENT COMPLEX WITH MODERN CONVENIENCES RENTING SOON”.
Griff drove over to the brightly lit gas station over on Robertson, bought his A&W, fueled up and thought things over.
“If my school’s boarded up and all the houses I grew up in are gone, does that mean I never existed? Does it mean I’m not even a real person but just a figment of someone’s imagination? If my entire past is torn down does that mean nothing ever happened and I just dreamed it all? What if my band broke up tomorrow? Would that mean I never played music and my songs were just some weird memory, a distant noise that never meant anything to anybody? Can I honestly say that any of this EVER happened?”
He didn’t know whether to cry or admit to himself that everything was nothing, and simply be at peace with that epiphany.
When Griff got back Jigger was a washed up alcoholic trying to play piano in some gin joint while the rest of his band looked on sadly at the poor shell of a man. Turning around from the set, Griff noticed a pulsing light on his answering machine. Someone must have called while he was sleeping earlier that night.
BEEP! “Hey, doll, it’s me!” Trixie Andersson yelled, and then lowered her voice. “Can you believe that Chuck Skylar, I mean Jesus! Blew a hole the size of a door knob through his head with his OWN SHOTGUN! Ugh! Well, that’s what happens when you hook up with a psych like Stacey Gash. What did I tell you? Huh?? I hope they don’t bury him in that lame Catholic school girl dress she made him wear. Yuck! Call me, baby, and hands off the firearms. Mwah!”