The shot heard round the hipster world was that of a shotgun blast into the face of Chuck Skylar, leader of hit band Shangri-La and reluctant rock star. Women weeped but men weeped harder, especially those that collected records and still lived with their single mothers.
Griff heard about a vigil being held at Java The Hut, one of the few places Chuck showed up in his bathrobe, occasionally facing his public to mumble a few syllables. Griff locked his car, scruffed up his big black hair, and approached the humble coffee house. It was Thursday night and the air was fresh and clean. Just for now.
He walked into the joint from the back to the sounds of Shangri-La records. The place was dark, lit only by a thousand votive candles all over to provide divine light. He made a beeline to the tiny coffee bar.
“Griff! How’s it going, my man!” Dave Stone, the cheery, bookish coffee server greeted him happily. Dave was six feet tall, rail thin, had a big loose Afro, wore wire aviator glasses and was the whitest kid Griff ever met. Dave pushed a half-pint of Jim Beam his way, then whispered, “Dutch courage, dude. The air is heaaavvvy with death!”
“Let me jump behind the bar for a few nips”.
“Yeah, keep it on the down low. It might look sacrilegious!” Dave twitched, running over to serve someone.
Griff snuck behind the bar, crouched and ripped a few slugs, instantly warming him up from ear lobes to nut sacks. He looked up and scanned the crowd, all sipping espresso, tea and iced boba drinks. There was Shawna and Jackie-O from Kitten Claws, Myekla, Jesti, Lucifer Camacho and some other lazy KXRV disc jocks, Cheese and the whole Spitball Magazine crew, even a few guys from The Neurotics.
“Griff! Come and mourn! One of the giants no longer walks among us!” Mykela keened from the shadows. She beckoned to him. He walked over to her table, where she was joined by the comely Jesti, Shawna and Jackie-O merely sat there silently sobbing, tears streaming down their faces.
“Having a bad day, girls?” Griff felt his glow coming on. The tragedy of a selfish, agoraphobic pedestrian songwriter’s overwrought suicide completely escaped him. Jackie-O glared at him with widowed hate. Shawna kept on weeping like a tragic bride denied.
“Listen, Mister”, Jackie-O belted, “are you trying to be funny or what?”
“No way, Jackie”, Griff slurred, “I just think life’s a dogfight, a struggle. I’m here, if somebody checks out, how does that make him better than me?”
Jackie smugly sighed. “Because he was a genius, and you’re so obviously not”.
“A genius can see the uselessness of dying for no reason, so we’re not talking about one, are we?”
“It’s better to be dead than be marketed and filed away, Brainiac”, Jackie-O spat over Shawna’s wailing.
“Tell it to six million Jews. Marketing would have been better than death for them”.
“YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, DO YOU? GO, LEAVE, DEPART, BEGONE FROM OUR TABLE, YOU HERETIC!’ Jackie-O screamed, killing the mournful ardor of the crowd.
Walking away from the table, Griff heard the girls singing a Shangri-La song, “High School Deodorant”:
Bros before hos
Light another number, burnin my clothes
Time to clean my gun for summertime fun
High School Deodorant’s got me down
Seattle rain fits me like a crown
“Oh my God, thought Griff, “I couldn’t write lines that bad even in my worst dreams. These assholes are seriously crying over that shit?”
Griff walked back to the bar for another snort from good old Dave. Unfortunately, he ran into Lucifer. “Griff! When are you coming in for a grilling?”
“I hate interviews, you know that”.
“Yeah, I know, but you have to address that whole shit storm about the British group that’s stole your name”.
“Oh, fuck them, who cares? Everybody knows English groups break up every time they cut a fart. Those bands are weaker than a house of cards. How long did Hairball 100 last? Dickhead’s Midnight Runners? It’s a joke, man. All those fuckin’ shit English bands stay open for business for ten minutes, then they have a period and break up. It’s a fucking joke, dude”.
“Well, it’s a drag you have such a shitty attitude”.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Check yourself. And by the way, there are ladies mourning”, Lucifer’s face was illuminated by the votive candles, especially the St. Michael one where his sword was raised against the devil.
“Oh, fuck you and your stupid radio station!”
Griff saw Bert drop some Lady Godiva’s operation flyers at Cheese’s table. He slithered away at the sight of Bert, avoiding a potential fight. “Lady Godiva’s Operation! Live at Joe’s Dive Bar!”
Cheese grabbed the flyers. “These will most certainly be collector’s items. LGO, the real band, Not like Garbage Truck, that outdated fake Hollywood band!”
“Hey, wait a minute”, Griff protested.
“No, you listen, bro, you’; you’ve totally sold out. You guys used to be real, but just to make it big you guys kicked out my man, Bert, here, and then there’s Ricardo, you kicked him out because he’s Chicano, and –“
“Bullshit, asshole!” Griff started, “Ricardo quit, and –“
“Griffster! Dude!” Pierre, his ex-roommate jumped in front of him. Because Griff was drunk as fuck Pierre’s face looked less human and more like an enormous balloon.
”What’s the hap, G? I’m out of rehab and clean as a whistle! I’m a new man!”
Griff calmed down a bit. “Lucky Pierre”, his pulse slowed down, “You’re finally off dope? I’m proud of you, man. Are you proud?”
“Yeah, it’s all good. Sorry about Thunderball, man”.
“Yeah, I know”, Pierre looked down, “My mom has that effect on people…and cats, too”.
“That cat was awesome. Nicer than people, dude”.
“I gotta go”, Pierre choked, and ran away as abruptly as he could.
Griff suddenly heard all four girls singing “High School Deodorant” in harmony with their most rehearsed choir voices braying in perfect vibrato. To add insult to injury he turned around just in time to catch Nelson Tweed creep into the room, fixing him with his patented pissy glare.
“I need some fresh air”, thought Griff.
Cheese turned in front of Griff, his big, overfed face illuminated by the flickering lights of the votive candles. “Look, bro, I don’t want to fight because that’s not the way Chuck would want it, man”.
“If he felt like telling anyone that, the little prince”.
“You just don’t get it, man. Our John Lennon is gone, Our spokesman is no more, my friend”. A crowd formed around them, making Griff a little uncomfortable.
“Wait a second, you’re going to compare Chuck Skylar to John Lennon? Are you crazy?”
“Same thing, man. Same thing!”
“No, not even close. John Lennon was murdered, Chuck Skylar took the coward’s way out, killing himself. There’s no comparison!”
“Chuck Skylar killed himself because he couldn’t live with the knowledge that the jocks in his school who used to bully him were buying his records and going to his shows!”
“Are you kidding me? What an idiot! What could be the ultimate revenge, making a fortune off the fools that made your life miserable when you were a kid! I’d be laughing my balls off all the way to the bank!”
“Oh, Griff, you’re so crass”, Shawna frowned, looking older and uglier than he’d ever seen her.
“Oh fuck you, you stupid bitch!”
Mykela and Jesti jumped at him. “You’re gross, Griff! Go back to the cardboard box you live out of and stay there!” they pushed him.
“FUCK YOU”, Griff sobered up quickly, “I NEVER LIVED OUT OF A CARDBOARD BOX, I ALWAYS LIVED IN AN APARTMENT, I TAKE A SHOWER EVERY THREE DAYS AND I DON’T NEED YOU FUCKING CUNTS. I’M IN LOVE WITH A HOT BLACK GIRL FROM DENMARK AND SHE DOESN’T WEAR A YEAST INFECTION LIKE A GIRLS SCOUT BADGE LIKE YOU ALL DO!”
“Uh, Griff”, Mort Mortuary, the owner of Java The Hut, grabbed him by the elbow, guiding him out,” I think you’d better go, come back when you’re more chill”.
“CHILL? FUCK CHILL! FUCK FAKE PUNK PHONIES WITH STRINGY BLONDE HAIR AND STUBBLE AND SHITTY HIPPIE MUSIC. AND BY THE WAY, THERE ALREADY WAS A BAND CALLED THE SHANGRI-LA’S…AND THEY WERE FUCK-KING BRILLIANT, ASSSSSSS-HOLES!’
Griff slammed the door, storming out of the dingy coffee house.
Cheese turned around to the angry mob. “Well, so much for bad vibes”.
Jesti piped up. “One day we’ll read about him losing it and killing dozens of pre-schoolers or something like that”.
“Yeah, he’s just a ball of negative energy. There’s no helping him”, Jackie-O said.
“He’s a bastard…tried to get me to drink and violate my 12-step commitment’, Mykela mused.
“The worst roommate I ever had”, Pierre shook his head, “Did you know he got me strung out on dope? And after that he sold my expensive Abyssinian cat to score a bag?”
Shawna ran her fingers through his hair. “Oh you poor thing. I always thought he was a freak”.
“He’s a psycho. I hope he gets help!” Mykela winsomely wondered.
Disgusted by the weepy pity party, Griff left the club and walked up to Santa Monica Boulevard, a street notorious for gay hustlers and the dispossessed. Anybody rejected in Hollywood flocked to Santa Monica Boulevard as some sort of bizarre shelter. He strode down the dark street feeling angry and unhappy in his leather jacket, feeling cold from sweaty and tired jeans, felt greasy also from the sweat of dread, stress, depression and so much more.
The street lamps were doing a poor job of lighting the sidewalk but still a damn sight brighter than the stupid coffee house he’d just left. Still and all, he couldn’t help noticing a young hustler sitting on the sidewalk rubbing the bruised side of his head, tears streaming down his face. Griff stared at him as he walked on.
By the next block he saw another young hustler lying in a heap against a bus bench, holding his mouth, blood spots dripping on the ground. “Fucknshtnfucknfuck”, the kid mumbled, his hair disheveled with red eyes of fear. Griff stared at him.
Griff walked on, getting closer to the all-night burrito joint. Up ahead were three loud guys in leather jackets shouting, cussing up a storm and throwing their arms around like Roman gladiators. The three guys walked slower and Griff strode quicker, catching up with them. One of the yobs caught a sight of him out the corner of his eye and stopped.
“HEY GUYS CHECK IT OUT ANOTHER FUCKIN’ QUEER!!” The thick necked bastard, a wall of muscle and no brains with a blonde buzz cut roared. His two pals turned around and glared at Griff. Griff stopped dead in his tracks. Cornered.
“LET ME KICK HIS ASS FIRST”, the other guy, a fat goateed bully in shorts spat, “THEN YOU CAN FINISH HIS ASS OFF, DAWG, YAW!” He moved in closer, ready to punch Griff.
“WE’RE HUNTING QUEERS, AND TAG YOU’RE NEXT YA LITTLE BITCH!” the blonde pounded his fist against his chest.
Griff turned to the third punk and knew what to expect, and instantly froze. The kid stared at him hard, looked down, almost embarrassed, and yelled. “Naw, he’s no fag, leave him alone. Let’s go!” It was the kid he bailed out of The Glitter House after the bouncers jumped him at The Neurotics show. Griff couldn’t stop staring at him.
‘YOU’RE LUCKY, BUTT BOY!” the fat bully pointed his finger at Griff. Griff still fixed his eyes at the skinny yob.
“HAHAHAHA”, the blonde musclehead chortled. A can of beer in a paper bag stuck out from his leather jacket.
The kid piped up, “Yeah, some cocksucker fucks with us they get a dumpster funeral!”
He then yelled, “WHO IS THE KING???”
The three began marching away.
“YOU ARE THE KING!!!” the two punks chanted.
“WHO IS THE KING???” He threw his arms up in the air.
"YOU ARE THE KING!!!” They pumped their thick fists in the air.
Chanting over and over, three yobs’ voices drifted farther and farther away from Griff’s orbit. Looking down Santa Monica Blvd, the street felt darker and darker with each advancing moment.