Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Legend of Arthur J. and The Gold Cups

Describing a punk band from the deep, dark past has always been hard work but when there's precious little documentation on the band then it's well near impossible. I played in a first wave Hollywood punk band (1977-1978) called Arthur J. and The Gold Cups and although we played with every huge band of the era (Avengers, X, Germs, etc.) we never recorded, so there's almost nothing to go by, but that's never stopped me before.

Arthur J. and The Gold Cups was named after two Hollywood coffee shops that catered to gays; Arthur J.'s was on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland - it's now a strip mall. The Gold Cup was on the corner of Hollywood and Las Palmas and it's now a trendy tourist trap tattoo parlor. Both establishments provided late night hustlers and Quaaludes.

One block away from the The Gold Cup was a tiny alley off Cherokee Avenue with a huge steel doorway that took you down to a basement that held several rehearsal rooms; a long, cavernous room with a stage; and tons more space for anyone to do whatever they liked. This was The Masque, leased and operated by Brendan Mullen, founder and drummer of Arthur J. and The Gold Cups.

In Charles Martin Sharp's brilliant book on the Los Angeles avant garde music scene, "Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles", he described The Gold Cups as "attracting and bringing together people who were already interested in experimental aesthetics by merely advertising for members at The Masque".

In Mullen's book "We Got The Neutron Bomb" I am quoted as saying, "When I saw the bulletin at The Masque for Arthur J. and The Gold Cups, everything that was listed in that ad was right up my alley. I said 'this is the band of my dreams' cause it mentioned Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, James Brown, The Soft Machine, T. Rex, The NY Dolls, and The Sex Pistols all in the same band. I couldn't believe it. This in some bombed-out punk basement? A pretty sick concept. Then I found out it was Brendan and Spazz (Attack, Gold Cups vocalist) and Geza (X, Gold Cups guitarist) and a bunch of other people who worked at The Masque who jammed there all the time for fun, so I rushed home to get my horn".

When The Gold Cups first performed it was on a Sunday night at The Masque. I passed on playing the first show because rehearsals were a shambling mess with no direction all, and I lived to regret not playing that night because the band was simply amazing. On stage there were three Deadbeats (Geza, Pat & Scott), The Moreland Brothers from The Skulls, Hal & Kelly (Weirdos roadies), and Brendan on drums.

Center stage on vocals was Spazz Attack, so named for simulating a full blown twitching and drooling seizure and performing eye-popping back flips - he always landed on his feet, brilliant. In addition to being a brilliant acrobat Spazz also designed his own punk-bondage fashions. He had a crazy habit of dyeing his hair - two, sometimes even thrice a week. Ouch! He's notorious for his strait jacket seizure in Devo's classic "Satisfaction" video. It's right after Booji Boy sticks a knife into a toaster.

The band sounded like they were combining The Standells with John Coltrane's "Ascension", furthering the punk big band sound with a dense wall of sound: two guitars, two keyboards, a horn section and drums that played whatever the fuck it wanted to. The band always returned to Earth by drifting into The Soft Machine's "We Did It Again", which sounded more like "You Really Got Me" than the hoary psych classic, but that's the point. Musical anarchy made reality, and not just sloganeering about anarchy from the musically structured punk bands.

Although they only played for half an hour it was the greatest drag noise band of all time, Brendan, Geza and Scott wearing makeup and dresses serving up some Albert Ayler realness. I couldn't kick myself hard enough for boguing out on this awesome punk display!

I finally pulled the stick out of my ass and returned to the band a week later and toughed out the rehearsals - try getting nine mentally disturbed musicians to show up to rehearsal at the same time. Mission impossible! We ended up learning a few ridiculous covers, like The Beach Boys' awful "Long Tall Texan", the Cal Worthington used car ads commercial jingle, The Challengers' surf classic "Out of Limits" and we also did "Miserlou" (aka the Pulp Fiction theme song). "We Did It Again" always got played every six minutes.

I wore a mask on stage every time in honor of the now departed Marc Moreland, who wore a mask that fateful night on stage, to maintain the tradition of masked musicians. This not only got me attention when we played but I even scored a pic in Slash Magazine when our show got reviewed. Unfortunately nobody knew it was me on stage. I was always in disguise!

Reviews for the band were always hateful - the LA Times said our "joke wore thin" and even Slash Magazine said we were "annoying". I've met both reviewers in person since those reviews and I assure you these are the two most pompous, humorless people I've ever met, so the reviews weren't terribly shocking.

Since Brendan promoted the band he'd package three-day weekend shows at The Whisky A Go Go with us playing every night and a revolving door of punk bands supporting us. We played with The Avengers, X, The Alleycats, The Dils, Negative Trend, Black Randy & The Metro Squad, The Plugz and The Germs.

The band had one particular fan at the time: running down to LA after his band's legendary show at Winterland in 1978, Malcolm Maclaren saw the band perform at The Whisky and enjoying our penchant for shambling punk covers, he returned to England to produce "The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle" featuring, you name it, shambling punk covers of songs like "My Way" and "You Need Hands". Oh well, it was cool seeing him laugh his ass off at our show.

With the band's advancing notoriety new members joined: Paul Roessler (Screamers, Nina Hagen) on keyboards, Hector Penalosa of The Zeros on bass, Steve Berlin of The Blasters on sax, Jeff Jourard of The Motels (!) on guitar, KIra Roessler of Black Flag on bass. It was a busy rehearsal studio.

The usual humbug broke the band up: a side project called Hal Negro & The Satintones featuring half the band doing awful lounge music covers, combined with a more polished and ordinary set of covers (Love Potion Number Nine, Let's Get Together from the movie The Trouble With Angels). The drag and the noise disappeared, no fun. Plus some of the members took the band way too seriously.

Geza left to pursue his own band Geza X & The Mommy Men and became one of the foremost producers in the industry, Spazz joined Toni Basil's dance troupe, Pat Delaney became a college professor and Brendan wrote several successful rock biographies. Everyone left and did better, anyway, even me.

Slash Magazine ultimately delivered the best eulogy for The Gold Cups. It went something like this: "One of the most lunatic outfits to hit the scene, but unfortunately one of the flakiest. Made up of various outcasts from other bands, The Gold Cups also featured some inspired fringe cult figures. In limbo at the present, but if everyone involved (all 250 of them) ever learns to show up at rehearsals at the same time their long promised comeback may add a welcome touch of madness to concert nights. Probably forever unrecordable".

To read more about Spazz, Geza and Brendan pick up "We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk" by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen, available on Three Rivers Press.

"Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles" by Charles Martin Sharp can be read via Google Books.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Les Voleurs (every BITCH for HIMSELF Chapter Ei8ht)

11 AM. It was a cloudy morning at the Angelus National Forest. Jason and his henchmen had their guns drawn and were deep in target practice, shooting at bottles, cans and posters of Queen, Yes, The Eagles and other dinosaur bands propped up.

The partners in crime weren't noticed firing away outside of a few sports hunters giving them the fish eye. Robotman's brother Franco loaned them the guns and only half the guns were operable. The other half were problematic and worked badly.

"It figures my brother would come up with some shitty pistols", Robotman griped, jerking his neck nervously in between shots. Jason strolled behind each shooter, inspecting their aim and judging their aptitude.

"Mine keeps jamming", King Steve frowned. "Did he do this on purpose?"
"I wonder", Jason mused, smelling a rat.
"Mine works fine", The Fireball Kid smiled, his flaming red mane flashing against the gloomy gray sky. "I just shot out Freddie Mercury's horse teeth, Glen Frey's smelly beard, and Rick Wakeman's tiny dick".
"Well done, fuck face".

"My pistol's cool but I gotta go pee. Here, Robot", Allen Wrench handed his gun over to Robotman. "Be back in a few, Big Jace".
"Yeah, sure".
Allen Wrench drifted off to the Ford Mustang borrowed for the job, parked off the beaten path to discourage any suspicion.

Robotman squeezed out a few rapid shots at Jon Anderson's chest, enjoying the new gun.
"Now that's what I call shootin'!"
Wrench has been gone too long for a piss. What the fuck? Jason wondered.

"Yo, Steve, hand me the binoculars, willya?" Jason asked.
Steve put his crap pistol down, handed over the binoculars and then grabbed the thermos with hot coffee, taking a short break.
"I'm no gunman, fuck this shit!"
"You can say that again", Jason mumbled, aiming the binoculars at the Mustang, sharpening the magnification.

Allen Wrench wasn't taking a pee at all, just like Jason thought. He was inside the car leaning over the dashboard with a straw in his nose inhaling over a tiny mirror. I should've known...this isn't the time for this kind of's almost show time and now this...guns that don't shoot and a fuckin' wired wheelman...what was I thinking about, bringing in all these people...maybe I should call it's too late...Jesus, Patrick and Seamus.
He sighed deeply, getting cloudier than the sky.

"Okay, executive decision", Jason spun around, facing the gang. "Fireball, you'll be slinging guns. Steve, Robotman, I have other plans for you guys. You guys'll be running subterfuge, it's a lot safer than busting caps, and -"
"-Sorry I took so long, guys. I'm back!" Wrench walked down the hill wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.
Everybody laughed.

"The clouds too bright for you, asshole?" The Fireball Kid joked.
"This is my punk gangster look, douchebag. Got a problem with it?"
"Yeah, I can't steal shit if I'm laughing my ass off".
"I'll shoot that ass you're laughing off, dickhead".
"Not with these bullshit guns you won't", King Steve threw out the rest of his coffee out of the cup.

Wrench grabbed a Colt .45 off a rock and pointed it cocked at The Fireball Kid's head.
The Fireball Kid jumped back and pointed his Luger at Allen Wrench's head in return. They both stared each other down with guns pointed at each other.
"Knock it off, you fuckin' clowns", Jason cursed.

"Think you're tough?" The Fireball Kid clenched his teeth. "My gun works, you're holding one of the junk guns. What do you think are your chances?"
Jason shoved his way between them. "The first person that shoots gets their balls ripped out and served in some Chink restaurant. KNOCK IT OFF, I said!"

Knowing that the Colt .45 would misfire he wisely chose to knock that pistol of the two, slamming it out of Wrench's hand.
"I've got a good mind to can both of you two clowns off this job. God damn it!"
The Fireball Kid put down his pistol.
"All we need is those fuckin' hunters to catch us shooting each other up and the job is dead before it even begins. Jerkoffs!"

12:45 PM. The offices of Rocket USA. Jack Sterling scratched the surface of his desk five times, picked up his phone two times, whispered "Longhorn" the name of his old TV show seven times, then got up and locked his office door.

He walked over to a tall, framed poster advertising his biggest show. He took down the poster which revealed a large, heavy wall safe.
He pulled out a key, unlocked the safe door, which opened to yet another door with a combination lock.
He then took out a tiny piece of paper which had his birth date along with knob turn directions.

Turning the knob carefully, he opened the safe which was deep inside. Sterling pulled sheafs and sheafs of bills, more than anyone ever suspected he had.

"Thank God it's all still here", Sterling thought. "I'd have to be crazy to trust a bank with all this fuckin' cash. Two-thirds of everything I've made from this club stays here and will never leave this place. Yeah, it was a good idea depositing thirty percent of the take into a bank to make it look kosher. Fuck, that was smart. No one will ever know how much I'm really holding. Yeah".

Sterling's paranoia was consoled in a few minutes of repetitious counting of bills. Hearing footsteps nearing his office, he quickly threw the money into the safe, locked up and put the poster back on the wall.

2:30 PM. Whenever Raquel Tequila felt down in the dumps she always put on David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs", the best gloomy record to cry or mope to. She already changed her clothes three times that day to cheer herself up, but it didn't quite work.
She laid on the sofa, sulking through "We Are The Dead", and by the time "Big Brother" came on Jason barged in.

"Where's Wrench? Is he here?"
Raquel looked up with tears streaming down her face. "No. That's all you're going to say? How about 'how's it going, baby'?"
Jason stomped over to the fridge and ripped open a can of soda.
"Yeah, whatever, what are you crying about?"

"Lily hasn't called me since the loft show. What did I do?"
"Didn't do shit. Lily's got shit to do, too, important fuckin' stuff. Fuck, Wrench bugged out on me and cut out. Did you know he's using?"
Raquel's eyes got bigger.
"What??? I never knew".
"Yeah", Jason crumpled the can and threw it on the counter top. "Him and his sodas. Shit, I knew he was playing that hyper shit some other way".

She exaggeratedly scratched her head. "Check the garage, maybe you'll hit pay dirt".
"Good thing I still have the pickup truck. Okay, I'm heading out".
"Hey! Are you going to be seeing Lily anytime soon?"
"Yeah, but don't blow your cool. I'm here, remember?"

Jason barreled over to her and grabbed her in a tight hug and kissed her.
"Everything's cool. I gotta run!"
As soon as he reached the door, he stopped and turned around.
"Fuck, I forgot, did you go to the Mexican toy store like I asked?"

Raquel wiped away the tears from her pretty face. "Yeah, I got your masks".
"Aw, cool, that's my girl!"
"Yeah, but all they had was Ringo. The other Beatles were taken".
Jason thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "Well, I guess Ringo will do. Why the hell not?"

Thank you for reading "Every Bitch For Himself". The complete novel will be available via BookBaby this coming October 2014. Don't miss it!

(c) 2013, Andy Seven. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

F-R-I-C-T-I-O-N (every BITCH for HIMSELF Chap7er Seven)

Big Jason marched down Hollywood Boulevard taking locomotive steps, stomping on the thick balls of his feet, his beat-up Doc Martens getting a brutal work out. He walked by Bond Street Bookstore.

People turned around, openly staring at his silver hair. Some teenage girls with Charlie's Angels feathered hair openly laughed as he lurched by. Jason walked by Bert Wheeler's Magic Shop.

Black hustlers assessed him for a possible nickel and dime mugging, but nah, he was too buff, his clothes too ragged. And anyway, with silver house paint in his hair, that white motherfucker was prob'bly crazy as hell. Jason walked by Frederick's of Hollywood, Love's BBQ Restaurant, Supply Sergeant, Licorice Pizza.

Jason turned down Las Palmas Avenue and hocked a loogie in front of the window at Miceli's. This one's for the tourists. He slowed down in front of the tiny old shoe repair shop. ZOLTAN SHOE REPAIR. He rapped on the windowed door.

The store should be closed since it's a Sunday. The torn paper sign by the window even apologized. SORRY WE'RE CLOSED. Locks turned, the door knob clicked and the door opened. Jason and only Jason had that talent. Opening doors when others couldn't.

An old man with a full head of white hair wearing a blue smock smiled and welcomed Jason. "Come on in, my friend", Zoltan K shook hands. "Good to see you again".

"Zoltan K, the heel with lots of sole", Jason entered the old shop, looking everything over.
"Still telling terrible jokes but it's good to see you, anyway".
Zoltan Kovacs' shop was a darkly lit dust pit with beat shoes lined up behind the counter. A battery of old, greasy machines with grinders, dremels, buffers and other fixtures towered over the room against the wall. The counter top was scarred wood with a few leather cutting tools lying around.

"How much is it this time?" Zoltan K asked.
Jason pulled down his pants by ten inches and pulled out a money belt. He threw it on the counter top. Jason opened the belt. "Thirty thou, count it if you want, it's all there".

Zoltan K rubber banded the bills and made out a shoe repair ticket for Jason.
Jason sniffed. "Do you still have the safe?"
Zoltan shrugged. "Of course. Do I look like I changed anything?"
"Fuck no". Jason looked at the cash register nearby. "My grandfather's younger than that cash register. Don't you ever get new stuff?"
"Never. Jason, don't worry. No one will look here - just a lot of old machines, tired like their owner".

"I'll buy that. Got a lot more money coming in soon, got a big job coming up. What you see now is nothing".
"I have a big safe. Bring it all in, no one will ever know what's sitting in there. Don't tell anyone. No friends. Not the chicks, either".
"Definitely not the chicks".

"Lift up your pants. What are you wearing?"
Jason lifted his cuff.
Zoltan scoffed. "Pfff! Doc Martens. I can't make money on those. Rubber heels. Bad for business".
"Don't worry, I have money for you anyway. Take five thou off the top for storage".
"And the other five you owe me for last time?"
"Shit, okay. Fair is fair, Mister K".

They shook hands amicably. "Mark my words, after I pull this next job I'll bring in some Oxfords for you to wrestle with".
"It's a deal, kid".
Jason waved as he walked out the rickety doorway.


If you kept your mouth shut, walked up the quiet street in the Hollywood Hills, you approached a gate by the cul-de-sac, you slipped through and walked up a woodsy dirt road winding up the hill, whereupon you reached the grounds of the Errol Flynn estate, decaying and forgotten by time. All that was left was a large empty pool at the hilltop with tall weeds growing through the cracks in the floor.

A party around the poolside was in full swing with about thirty punks guzzling beer, smoking joints and eating bad snack food. Jason joined the party, surveying the crowd. A cassette player played The Damned's first album as loudly as possible.

"Hey, Jason, I saw you at The Inflated Tear party last week. That was killer!" Johnny Stingray from The Controllers smiled, handing Jason a beer.
"Thanks, man".

The gang was all there, the Hollywood punks, the rich kids playing at being poor, urban, badass rebels as long as they had a golden cushion to fall back on. There were usual suspects: some Germs, Bags, Weirdos, Skulls, Controllers, Deadbeats, Mau Maus and a lot of kids who just hung out all strung out.

He spotted infamous punk Ridiculous Nicholas of The Fangs, well known for drinking pots and pots of coffee to the point of it reeking from his pores. Ridiculous Nicholas liked coffee because it expedited his bowel movements and he had a thing for scat and all things shit.

All of his jokes were either butt jokes or shit jokes and his scat fetish centered around his mother and some weird infantile poop obsession. Some even said he wore a diaper under his pants and liked to blow a bomb underneath. Jason swore he caught a whiff of something fucked coming from his direction so he spun around.

"Jason Gulliver, is that you?" a big, dark punk with even darker eyes smiled coldly. "It's me, Miggy!"
Miggy Sanchez was Jack Sterling's personal assistant, i.e. bodyguard, controversial for being part of the punk scene but still breaking arms and necks for his boss. No one ever knew what side he was truly on. His real name was Miguel but once he discovered The Stooges he changed his name to Miggy in honor of Iggy Pop.

Miggy put his hand out and Jason took his hand out to shake it but drew it back before they could shake.
"Psych!" Jason cracked.
"You're not still mad at me for almost breaking your hand last time, are you?"
"You and your stupid hand shakes suck and you never broke my hand so quit telling stories, Sanchez".

"Hey, have you thought about coming to the club anytime soon?"
Jason smirked. "Boy, if you only knew", he thought. "Nuh uh".
"Well don't, fucker", Miggy chuckled. "If you do I'll break your hands again. Just kidding!"
"Keep on trying, it might work for you, friend".

Punk rock kids were now lighting cigarettes and putting them out on each others wrists. They howled in pain while other kids laughed. Another punk passed around a razor blade and some boys slashed their chests while some girls slashed their breasts above the bra line.

"There goes the trust fund", Jason thought. "Explain that to your parents, you dumb Westside fucks".
Some party. Glam rock was weird but punk rock was sad, the unhappy, the negative, the disturbed, the bed wetters, the anti-God kids from Catholic School, the deformed, all headed to the dark side of the street by choice.

He looked out at what should have been a picturesque view of the Los Angeles city skyline, sunny of course, but it was soiled by a sky high smear of grayish brown smog all around. Everything should have been clear but it wasn't meant to be.

He winced when he saw Kate Craptastic, a short, fat punk girl who liked to crucify cats. Sometimes she just killed them for kicks and then brought them out on stage when she performed. Craptastic claimed her cat killing fetish was due to her father molesting her when she was eight years old. No one ever questioned it.

Unfortunately Kate took a liking to Jason and invited him to strangle a few cats with her. He told her he'd rather strangle her instead, which got her more excited. Afraid she might recognize him, he ambled over to an area more dense with people, his back turned to her.

A heavy-set thug in a bowling shirt and forked up hair stared at Jason. Chris Steakhouse (nee Stackhouse) was Miggy Sanchez's partner in brutality.
"Nice silver hair, pal. Did you see Miggy? He's here, you know".
"Yeah. I cock blocked his stupid handshake gag. It might have been funny when Thomas Jefferson tried it out on Ben Franklin, but now it's just old".
"Well, you ought to come by the club. I heard you played a pretty cool show the other night. I also heard you beat up some friends of mine, know what I mean, asshole?"

Steakhouse leaned in on Jason. "I could do a lot worse than Miggy's handshake, dick head".
Jason shoved him away. "Don't even think about it. I don't swing that way, shit pump".
"Just watch your ass, pal", Steakhouse's sneer melted into a grin. "Hey! I didn't even know those guys in that fag band. Just kidding!"
"Yeah, funny, I heard Julius Caesar fell off his dinosaur when he heard that one, douche guzzler".
"Ah, fuck you if you can't take a joke", he waved his hand dismissively.

Jason walked away and saw Holly Hell, guitarist from all-girl glam band The Hitchhikers stoned out of her gourd, eyes barely open, standing with a beer in one hand and lifting up her t-shirt with the other, while punks threw greasy lunch meat on her chest. Everyone laughed at her. Some threw mayonnaise-spattered bologna in her face.
"That's tough", Jason mumbled. "Stupid bitch".

He assessed the crowd with his cold eyes, looking around the bombed out movie star's home.

"Cowards, cunts, retards, fucking rich runts pretending to be bad, I want to rob all of you and shake your parents down for every penny, you pigs, you swine, you worthless overindulgent shits. I'll kill you, devour you and shit you out my ass and walk away with all your money, the riches I deserve. And your stupid punk rock club will end up in my back pocket. Spoiled, idiotic fucks".

He walked down the hill, slipped through the gate with the NO TRESPASSING SIGN and slid down a side street like a lizard in the desert come sunset.

The complete edition of EVERY BITCH FOR HIMSELF is available in eBook form via Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Barnes & Noble Nook and other eReaders. Don't miss it!

Lower illustration by William Wray.

(c) 2013, Andy Seven. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Them Changes

Here we are at the end of 2013, which marks the end of the my seventh year writing “Out Demons Out”, and while it’s been nothing but fun it’s also been a lot of work. In light of that, I have decided to make the following changes effective next year, 2014 to my blog:

1. Serialized novels will no longer be available on Out Demons Out. This month I will post the last two chapters of Every Bitch For Himself online and then the rest of it will be available when the book is published in October of next year. The decision is based as a preventative measure against online plagiarism.

2. Out Demons Out will go bi-weekly. After seven years the task of coming up with fresh new content every week has been exhausting. Writing a new blog every two weeks will allow me more time to do a better job at writing. Besides, a week off will allow me time to finish my current novel.

What else is new? I've been listening to Junior Wells as well as his great guitarist, Earl Hooker (see above). Some people call them blues legends but it sounds pretty rock & roll to me. Call it what you will, there's some great stuff by them you ought to check out.

Before I go I just wanted to post a video of Kid Koala performing a live version of “Drunk Trumpet”. What makes this video so significant is that Drunk Trumpet is a track with some pretty involved scratching, braking and other finger-spinning turntable tricks, so it’s to Kid Koala’s credit that he flawlessly replicates the track perfectly in a live concert environment. If you liked this also check out his version of "Moon River" on You Tube. Check this out and enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Hanukkah Story

Since Hanukkah is falling abnormally early this year, on Thanksgiving even! I've decided to write a small tale for the holiday. Here it is:

It was December 1968 and I was a mere stripling of 12 years. It was a cold winter by Los Angeles standards and the holidays were approaching, Christmas and Hanukkah. Usually around Hanukkah we would visit a childless elderly couple, The Pollaks.

Although they were the happiest and warmest elderly people I have ever known, the Pollaks met under less than romantic circumstances. Henry Pollak was a concentration camp survivor who saw his wife and four daughters killed by the Nazis. Agnes Pollak also suffered through seeing her husband and children murdered in the camps. Survivors both, they shared their experiences and mourned together and eventually married. When my father came by to visit he would reflect his experiences with them. Most of his family was wiped out as well.

One night when we visited the Pollaks, they left the living room and my brother changed the channel on the TV from a wrestling show to a World War II war show ("Combat"). There was a scene when army tanks rolled into a small village and as we were watching it my father and the Pollaks came back into the room.

The normally mellow Mr. Pollak dropped his customary friendly tone and shouted at my brother, "CHANGE THE CHANNEL! CHANGE IT RIGHT NOW!"
"Put something nicer on. Take it off", my dad said.
A little freaked out by the reaction, my brother quickly turned the TV knob to the next station, taking us back to two wrestlers beating the crap out of each other and drop kicking each other in the face.
"HAHAHAHA, oh that's funny!" The Pollaks laughed hysterically.


A week later we had assembly in the gym at school and there was a projector in the back. Nobody knew what they were going to watch. Sometimes we saw films like the instructional CPR training movie but this time no one knew.

The school principal, Rabbi Goldstein didn't help with his obscure introduction. Walking up to the microphone stand he simply said. "You are going to see a film about your future and your parent's future and your friend's future".

With the lights turned off, the film started and we watched a black and white film of concentration camps....Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka....a voice narrated over the footage of genocide.

"During the Nazi purge of World War II, Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews, young and old alike..."
-An emaciated Jewish boy with a shaved head and haunting eyes stares at the camera.
"...Man, woman and child, the Nazi death camps showed no mercy to anyone, slaughtering people by the hundreds whether by bullet or by gas chamber..."
-Piles of dead, emaciated, naked Jewish bodies are pushed into a huge, bottomless ditch by a tractor.
"...The Nazis showed no mercy to the Jews of Europe, even making lamp shades made from human skin..."
-Skeletal Jews are being gently carried out of the concentration camp gates by American soldiers, liberating them.

"With the end of the Jewish nightmare comes a new paradise, the State of Israel..."
-The film is now in color and shows olive groves around a sunny desert. The sky is a clear blue.
"A Jewish state brimming with industry and promise, one can live here safe from threats of genocide..."
-Fifties era Israel shows Israelis farming and laughing, enjoying their jobs on a Kibbutz.
"Women participate in the Israeli army or they work on a Kibbutz. A Kibbutz! A cooperative farm where man, woman and child enjoy the fruits of The Holy Land..."
-Footage of dark women in fatigues with rifles drilling, date trees in a static desert surrounding them.
"This is The New Holy Land, Jerusalem of Gold!"

The film ended with a rising crescendo of music to stir the soul and the lights turned on. The principal returned to the mike.
"After you graduate Hebrew school, I want you to consider Israel as your new homeland and work on a kibbutz. It would be a life-changing experience. Talk it over with your parents tonight!"

Returning to our regular classes, I wondered why I would give up a city that housed the Whiskey A Go Go, the Santa Monica Pier and Irwindale Raceway for a farm in the desert. I didn't even like looking at short-haired girls in shorts juggling rifles.


My school would often employ Israelis newly arrived to the States as teachers. Many of them did not have teaching credentials at all, but as long as they could speak Hebrew they had a job. The worst teacher and class I ever had was the one called Jewish History. Jewish History consisted of a Six-Day War veteran named Mister Gur newly emigrated to the US teaching us what he did during the Six-Day War. He was a red-haired man with a handlebar moustache and thick horn-rimmed glasses. He spoke with a lisp and never bathed. Every day he wore the same white dress shirt open down his chest so you could see his chest hairs.

Class consisted of him pulling down a yellowed map of Israel in front of the blackboard and using a wooden pointer to show each little town where there was war action. He spoke very slowly and knew very little English. If you knew Hebrew you had a fighting chance of understanding him.

"Tho, we went to....Haifa and got our orderth to go the Gatha Thtrip, and blah blah blah..."
I started daydreaming.
"Hmmmm..." I thought. "If The Beatles put out a white album cover and The Rolling Stones also put out a white album cover does this mean EVERYBODY'S going to put out white album covers? That's so dull-"
"THEVRIN!!!! Are you paying attention? What did I jutht thay?"
"Um...." think fast. "You surrounded the Egyptians and they all surrendered!"
Everybody laughed. Mister Gur's face turned red.
"Go to the printhipal's offith!!!!!"

Great, now I have to tell the Zionist principal I didn't pay attention listening to a bunch of war stories.


Most Gentiles don't really know what Hanukkah means, but most Jews, especially American ones don't really know what Hanukkah means, either.

Hanukkah is a holiday about the empowerment of the Jews who fought back against the Greeks when they took over the Second Temple and outlawed Judaism. A family of rebels named The Maccabees fought against them and emerged victorious. Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating Jewish strength over adversity and not one of sorrow or persecution.


Today marks the Centennial birthday of my Uncle Alex who I wrote about in my story "Hungarian Kitchen Fight Club" (August 11, 2007). A remarkable man who began as a mechanic in my grandfather's machine shop, he survived The Holocaust and moved to the United States where he repaired motorcycles, maintaining a highly loyal clientele among countless biker clubs across the greater New England Area. When I asked him if he was offended by their swastikas, he'd just smile and say, "They don't really understand what the hell it means".

Although he worked long hours in his garage he still managed to find time to put on tefillin and pray in the morning. Happy birthday, Uncle Alex, 100 years old today.