Football

Oh wow, I didn’t even know this picture existed. It’s me, at 12 or 13, before my first Pop Warner game. Think I was a tackle, and had just spent a couple weeks practicing in 90 degree September heat in Brea, California. Brutal. Then came the pre-season scrimmage. It was a Friday night and the field was lit up bright as day. Hundreds of people in the stands, there not being much to do in a hick town. My childhood memory is shot to hell from seizures and I remember almost everything back then like a fading dream, so the details of the game are sketchy. There were a couple plays and nobody was getting anywhere. Then the ball was snapped again, somebody fumbled and it landed bouncing at my feet and I jumped on it but someone kicked it loose. Too late: every single kid on the field dogpiled on top of me. Down there at the bottom of that pile of squirming kids I felt my knee pop. Dislocated. It was agony for a minute or three.

That might’ve been the first time that ever happened. Eventually I was able to stand and I hobbled off the field leaning on an assistant coach. Probably got my first applause. Can’t remember anything else. Ice packs? Gatorade? A team doctor? It would’ve stopped hurting in a few minutes anyway and I must have sat there benched for three long quarters. Then the coach must’ve said you’re cut, kid. Thus ended my athletic career. But I hated Pop Warner anyway. Endless sprints in the baking heat and somebody’s dad always yelling. I just never associated it with my gimp knee before. I never remembered. Damn. All these years I could’ve been telling people about my old football injury. That’s better than bone spurs even.

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Brian O’Laughlin

That’s us with Brian O’Laughlin, he on the left. Funny, musical, soft spoken, gentle, sharp, stoned, and a little lost, he’s long gone now but still much loved, still remembered. Yet this seems to be the only picture of him we have. It was 1985 or so in a motel room in San Francisco between a pair of John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America gigs and Brian was filling in for Michael Rosen on drums. We’d made a memorable weekend of it. There’d been the gig at Berkeley Square the night before and a bunch of us drank all of Camper Van Beethoven’s beer and they looked at us angrily but they thought if they said anything we’d kick their college rock asses. I suppose me and Ugly Janitors Brian and Jon Sharkey plus Ed O’Bryan, also along for the trip, did loom somewhat. That was the night before this pic was snapped. Later that night after this pic was snapped the band played the Viz on Divisidero, the old Viz, still a bar, on a frigid San Francisco night. The Janitors played an incredibly memorable set highlighted by the old Brel tune No Time To Live in which Trubee gave one of the most expressively gorgeous guitar solos I’ve ever heard by anybody. It was stunning. I recorded the set on cassette, and it still knocks me out. Brian was on loan from Richie Hass and the Beatniks, who we were really tight with, but that’s another story.

Actually I think I have that chronology reversed. The Viz gig was first, a Friday, then we drank all Camper Van Beethoven’s beer on Saturday night. There was a local band on the bill, also large, the Morlocks I think they were, and we and the Janitors and the Morlocks owned the Berkeley Square green room, drinking all the beer and eating all the little sandwiches and smoking bowl after bowl of dope and it was like backstage in Mad Dogs and Englishmen but without the Texas Butter Queen. I remember loudly complaining that the cheap ass club hadn’t supplied us with enough beer, and these skinny little guys across the room muttering amongst themselves. A bartender brought out more beer, told us it was for Camper Van Beethoven and the skinny little guys glowered at us so we drank some of it and stole the rest while they were on stage.

Later back in the room the three of us cracked open the beers and smoked more dope and told stoned jokes and spun stoned stories, some even true. We found some Dead on the radio and Fyl complained and Brian laughed and laughed.

Washing machine

OK, the washer died. Well, it disintegrated. The dryer died a couple months ago when finally I could not fix it. They were nearly thirty years old and for a full three quarters of our marriage they were in the laundry room whirring and spinning and sloshing and sometimes clumping like a Maureen Tucker drum track. It was sad seeing them go, worn out and useless. Speaking of which, there were some guys laying down linoleum in the kitchen for you to spill beer on and the landlady had them take the carcasses down to the street for large item pickup or whoever gets there first. She figured I’m over sixty and a gimp and there was no way I could manage. Three decades ago when we left our old neighborhood in the heart of Silverlake (a crackhouse opened up three doors down, a shooting gallery three doors up) and moved to the toney Silver Lake suburbs I remember manhandling those machines down the steps, carrying them across the lawn and lifting them up onto the truck. Then lugged up the steps here and manhandled then into place in 90 degree weather. Apparently washing machines are heavier now, or steps steeper.

Anyway, getting new ones next week and I’ll be damned if I lift a finger to help. Now get off my lawn.

Leesa

Didn’t know I had this one, a shot of the Creamers from back in the mid 80’s, Sue Gorilla on guitar, and Leesa Poole just gorgeous at the microphone. I liked Leesa a lot, we were good buddies, and for a while she ran an office on Wilshire Blvd next door to where I worked, her day gig and my day gig side by side. I think we’re talking 1987. I can’t remember what she did, maybe corporate recruiting, while I worked then at the corporate headquarters of US Borax, running the mail room and shipping department and a small warehouse and sundry other sections. It was my sole stint as a manager, with a crew of ten or so. Leesa had called and said let’s do lunch in a couple days and at the appointed time she came down to my basement office to pick me up. I was in my usual blue collar business casual. She wasn’t.

No, she was dressed to kill in a leather mini miniskirt and crazily ripped black hose and wild heeled boots, while above she was in some tight spangled tee shirt and a studded denim jacket and her hair a platinum explosion. There was a billowy scarf and jangly bracelets and rings and necklaces and look at me earrings. There was even a tattoo. She looked fabulous and was probably the wildest thing seen on Wilshire Boulevard east of La Brea in years. I laughed—I mean I’d never seen her in this get up, on stage she looked positively puritanical in comparison, but this I assume was her daily office duds. My crew, on the other hand, did not laugh, or do anything. They were stunned into complete silence and just stared, eyes wide, jaws dropped. Remember, this was still the Reagan 80’s, dreary and conservative, and nothing had been seen like Leesa since the wild 70’s, and none of that even then had ever permeated my crew’s working class enclaves. As Leesa and I headed out they found excuses to follow us down the hall, one even ran ahead to hold the elevator door open, and when the door opened again on the first floor there was somehow a small audience trying to look like they weren’t staring. I have no idea how they collected there so quickly, but office buildings before the internet were like villages of a few hundred people, and juicy information could be passed from floor to floor with astonishing speed. Before we’d even left the building the chatter had begun.

I can’t remember where we had lunch or what we talked about, but I do remember that by the time I got back to the office the news of my supposedly wanton escapade had gotten all the way to the ninth floor. It didn’t help that I quite literally knew every single person in the building, especially the secretaries with whom I worked very closely. Every secretary, even today, is like a switchboard. If they heard that I was messing around with a real live movie star who looked exactly like Debbie Harry (as the report had it by the time it reached the ninth floor) then their entire department would know it as well, as any nearby secretaries. Over the next couple days I had to explain to the secretaries that no, I wasn’t having a fling with a wild rock star. It was just lunch, I said. Yes, my wife knows her, we’re all friends. Yes, my wife knew about the lunch. No, she’s not a movie star. No, she’s not a rock star. She’s a singer in a band. No, not a famous band…. I must have been convincing as the chatter and whispers faded away. Besides I was a nice guy. I wasn’t chasing anybody around any desks or being a creep. There wasn’t much to hang such a juicy rumor on. But lesson learned, and that was the very last time I ever let the day gig get a glimpse of my real life, something I stuck by for the next twenty five years of my professional life. It’s better that way. Let them think I’m normal became a mantra. Well, sort of normal anyway.

I hadn’t remembered any of this in years, perhaps decades, until I saw this photograph. Fun band, the Creamers. I doubt Leesa ever knew the stir she caused at US Borax. I doubt anybody I knew outside work ever did. I never told a soul. Some things are better left unspoken for thirty years or so.

Scott Drake

Scott Drake, center, with Chris Bag of Claw Hammer and one of those unidentified women. This was at Edwin & Debi’s legendary New Years in August bash some time in the late 80’s. One hundred drunken weirdos yelling Happy New Year at the stroke of midnight on some Saturday in August in Lincoln Heights. Best New Years Eve Party I ever attended, and it wasn’t even cold. Anyway, Scott was in fine form, and not long after this he totally weirded out a pair of gothy satanists. They looked great, all in black everything, and they had the whole jaded thing down, but then Scott showed up in the middle of their Anton Lavey shtick, they introduced themselves, he wordlessly burbled and squeaked, and they fled. Who needs language anyway?

Analog Brick

No plans today—tomorrow we’re doing the retired shtick and heading out to LACMA way early to get the primo old people seats for Gilbert Castellanos, one of the most fired up trumpeters this side of New York City, I’ve been waiting for this one. So today I’ll probably just fuck around with those pictures. It’s a trip, man, they’re like a time capsule we buried twenty years ago after leaving our camera at Mr. T’s. We bought a disposable or two afterward—those things still took vastly better shots than cell phones did for years—but Fyl lost interest in taking pics (most of the best composed shots were her’s, mine are sort of splatted onto the film) and I began seeing everything in words. Another thing I noticed is that we only pulled out the camera when we knew the people around us, bands we knew, people we knew. There’s none of the bands from all over the world we’d go see back then at Rajis or the Anti-Club or the Shamrock or wherever. There’s no jazz or salsa or African or country shots, none at all. There’s almost no people not at gigs or parties or the Sunset Junction, and only a handful of us at home. None of the people I hung with in the various scenes in all my years at the Weekly. None of the newer people who’ve been coming to our parties in the last fifteen years. There isn’t a single picture of anyone I worked with ever. It’s completely different from the range of things I post and blog about. Completely different from what I wrote about in the Weekly. It’s sort of like my writing and these pictures were by two different people. Analog Brick and digital Brick. The upside of that, however, is that analog Brick was much better looking. And a lot of people since gone look very much alive.

Anyway, interesting time going through interesting times.

Me, wasted, with somebody else’s girl.

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The birds hushed and the light became unreal

Just outside Wisconsin Falls sometime in the 1990’s the light was so startling we pulled off the road to watch a sudden summer storm roll our way. For a few minutes it was like being in one of those old Flemish stormscape masterpieces or a big sky canvas out of the American west. The air grew still and heavy, the birds hushed and the light became unreal. You could almost reach out and touch the sudden two dimensionality. We snapped two pictures and the rain broke and we made a dash for the car.