You couldn't miss it if you tried. Beaming loud and proud among the sleepy westside Santa Monica streets was the bowling alley called "Atlantis Lanes", a huge colorful light box that featured King Neptune rolling a wild strike with one hand while still holding on to his imperial trident with the other and a beautiful mermaid brushing her long, golden hair next to him. In a circle around them were sea horses, sharks, octopi, and skinny frogmen with harpoons. Griff shook his head nervously.
The whole gang was there: the badass writers from punk fanzine Spitball Magazine, punk rock vixens Kitten Claws, rocker dudes from various local bands with their loyal fans. Every Sunday night at Atlantis Lanes was "Punk & Bowl Night", a lame term for the occasional get-together Griff and a few guys from Garbage Truck originally initiated but spiraled out of control into a super trendy scenester ass lick event. It got so booked that Griff tapered off on his visits, not really missing it much anyway, so he didn't really care.
"Hey, look who's back, The Phantom Stranger himself, Griff!" somebody in the fluorescent lit lounge yelled. Griff smiled.
"GRIFF!" Shawna threw popcorn at him, laughing. Fritzi blew a raspberry at him. "Too big to go bowling with all the rock stars, huh?"
"I couldn't stay away", Griff looked around. "King Neptune, Aquaman and the Sub-Mariner were all waiting for me. Didn't want to disappoint them! Where's the beer?"
"Follow your liver, Indian Giver", Shawna scratched his stomach with her sharp nails. Punk rock records began booming over the sound system, mingling with the sounds of bowling balls rolling down lanes and smashing the pins.
"Bert and Bradley are here, too, dude", Fritzi danced to the music, scratching her armpits.
Griff drifted through the crowd trying to get closer to the bar. Every few feet somebody would stop him.
"Dude let's do a show together!"
"Fine, set it up".
"No, you're the draw - talk to the sound guy. He doesn't like me much. He still hates me over the broken mike incident last Christmas".
"Garbage Truck. When are you guys playing again?"
"We played last Thursday".
"No way bro. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Uh, what? Who are you?"
Griff looked down at the lanes in the bowling alley, all filled with punk rock guys in black jeans and bowling shoes trying to look cool swinging a ball down the alley. Some had beer bottles tucked in their back pockets, some had cigarette butts dangling from their lips as they swung the ball, etc. Girls would spend a little too much time bending over to pick up their bowling balls, giving the guys in the alley a thrill. Griff scratched his rat's nest of black hair, taking it all in.
Jesti flapped her arms around animatedly telling Bert a highly involved tale about herself, as usual. Griff debated to himself about walking up to them but decided not to, after all. Turning away, he walked right into Slam Pit Stu of Spitball Magazine. He had a Cro-Magnon shaped head topped with a crew cut.
"Dude, didn't you hear me when I called you?"
"What's up, Stu? I'm looking for my band and a brew", Griff yelled over the music. "Hey, that rhymes. I knew I was a songwriter! Dang!"
"Man, we gotta talk!" Slam Pit Stu furrowed his brow. "The time has come! When are you guys gonna bust out some vinyl?"
"I don't know, we gotta find a gimp that'll record us and put our shit out".
"YOU GOTTA GET SOME TUNES OUT, MAN!"
"Yeah, well, we're working on it, you know?"
"YEAH, BUT...YOU GOTTA GET SOME TUNES OUT, MAN!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, right? We're looking for a guy, you know?"
"YOU GOTTA GET SOME TUNES OUT, MAN!"
Jesus, was Stu on Budweiser automatic pilot? thought Griff. "Hey, there's Chuck from ShangriLa!" Griff pointed at a crowded corner ten feet away.
"WHERE?" Stu jerked his head.
"Don't you see him? Over there! Check it out, dude, he's walking away!"
Slam Pit Stu charged away from him, Cro-Magnon crew cut leading the way.
"Jesus, what an asshole", thought Griff.
"Hey Griff, what's up?" Gussie Neurotic yelled over the music, his big skull looking flushed.
"Hi Gussie, pretty crazy scene".
"Shee-yeah, I'm gonna bail to this chick's party in West Covina. Wanna bounce?"
"Nah, that's too far. Somebody I know?"
"Yo mama. No, just some rich chick who wants to hang with some punkers. Scare the fuckin' neighbors, freak the fuckin' dogs out, too? Hahaha".
"See you in church, Gus".
Griff finally got close enough to the bar, hoping the drinks would be strong since he only had enough for one well drink. Maybe a beer would be stronger, therein lies the question. Beer or well drink? Which one would give him the best buzz? He walked past a wall of leather jackets, sleeveless t-shirts with band emblems of different sizes and colors, girls with fake angry looks and bad make-up. He decided on a beer. A beer bottle can't get smacked out of your hand too easily.
Griff caught his reflection in the bar mirror and saw his shaggy head with no face perched atop a black jacket and crumpled t-shirt with BAD LUCK plastered on it, leaning over a scarred wooden bar. After putting his money down for the brew he spun around from the bar and drifted through the sweaty crowd. The odor of sweat mixed with shoe disinfectant and beer filled the lounge with loud punk rock, rolling bowling balls, and cracking bowling pins.
Taking a quick pull of his beer the lights went out in Atlantis Lanes. The crowd roared, the music doubled in volume and the bowling alley was swathed in black light, images of undersea life floating all over the walls and ceiling, black light mermaid hookers and scuba diving studs, fluorescent sharks and dolphins, electric eels and octopus, jelly fish floating - with dozens of disco balls flickering tiny specks of light circling around the room. The effect was colorful, electric, psychedelic, the room bathed in tones of midnight blue, purple and black.
Trev nudged Griff. "Where've you been? I thought you were gonna be here an hour ago, man."
"What's going on?"
"There's a guy here, Thaddeus Goldblatt, he runs this little garage label but he promised me he'd put all this money into our record, and -"
"Yeah. He wants to put out our single!"
"Where is he? Wait, is that the guy who runs Copernicus Records?"
"That's the guy. I was just talking to him!"
"Well, I don't know. Does he have any money?"
"Give me a second", Trev said and took off.
"I'll give you more than a second", Griff thought to himself. Griff looked around the darkened glowing room and noticed that everyone had glowing teeth from the black light shining around the room. Punks and metal heads screamed and laughed and kissed with their teeth glowing in the darkness, their mouths hovering in the darkness like ghosts given voice.
He looked across the room and caught Shawna talking to some metal head with scabby blonde dreadlocks and a few teeth missing wearing a crappy fringed leather jacket. She looked more animated talking to him than he remembered whenever he talked to her.
"Hi, I'm Thaddeus Goldblatt. I run Copernicus Records. I think we should do a record together!" Griff saw a set of crooked teeth glowing with a swarthy, bearded face set behind them and a bad motorcycle cap tilted rakishly over his balding skull. He was dressed in striped, mod clothes that looked faded even in the darkness.
"Okay, great. We need a recording budget so we can go in and cut a few sides", Griff yelled into his ear.
"No can do! I can only pay for the manufacturing and distribution, man. The rest...is up to you!" Goldblatt grinned. His teeth floated in the darkness.
"Well, I don't know. It costs $200 just to pay for the tape, you know? Records cost money, y'know?"
"Don't I know it, Griff but when I put it out I'll get it played everywhere, radio stations, nightclubs and shit, especially if you make it radio friendly".
Griff nodded his head quietly. Goldblatt leaned in.
"When we put the record out we'll mix the trumpet down to boost radio play. I mean personally I like the trumpet stuff but the radio stations just won't get it. Maybe a little down the road I'll mix it up, you know like a bonus track for the fans. Whatta you say, Griff?"
"I'll think about it. Can you front me a beer so I can think about it?"
"Sure, dude!" Goldblatt smiled, his crooked teeth glowing brighter than they did a moment before. "I'll be right back!"
Griff noticed Shawna walk out the bowling alley with the metal dude. The dude turned around behind Shawna, looked at his buddy across the room and stuck out his tongue between his index finger and pinky, the universal symbol for cunnilingus. He laughed out loud as his friend, an even uglier hesher, gave him the high sign. Griff, feeling disgusted, took a deep breath and slowly drifted out of the bowling alley using the emergency exit, feeling like a lot like a deep sea diver walking across the ocean floor, leaving Thaddeus Goldblatt of Copernicus Records holding two bottles of beer with egg on his vacant face.
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