Us in front of our brand new car way, way long ago.
That was our second Chevy Celebrity, the undercover police car of choice. No one ever fucked with that car. Crackheads would scatter into the shadows when we passed, no one broke into our car no matter how dingy the neighborhood the club was in. Vatos pulled to the curb figuring they’d had it, and even cops thought I was a cop behind the wheel of that thing. The perfect wheels to cruise stoned in. Big and roomy, pure Gemütlichkeit, even had a cassette deck for all the groovy noisy mix tapes I’d assembled in those analog 80’s. That car spun us all through our late 30’s in the crazy rocking 90’s. Loved that car. Of course we fucked in it, need you ask? You didn’t? Well, we did.
So Glenn Danzig has left the building. Well, left Los Feliz. My pal Paul Grant posted one of his signature perfect little paragraphs about it. (There are, here and there, some wonderful writers tucked away on Facebook). You’ll remember that Danzig had that gothically painted black trimmed place on Franklin with the heavy metal lawn. Someone has bought the place now. Probably give it a sprightly paint job and pretty trimming and a lawn with actual grass growing. I don’t know if that is gentrification or just demetalification. Or even if Danzig qualifies as metal. Is he doing the Misfits thing again? I remember him singing Astro Zombies with the Misfits at Al’s Bar about a zillion years ago, though he was still a New York punk rocker at the time. Since then he moved out to Hollywood (Los Feliz is a suburb of Hollywood, like Silver Lake) and became a rock’n’roll professional. Show business. Lawyers and agents and promoters. Teenage girls in black lipstick out on the sidewalk, giggling. It has all gotten so complicated. Mother!
I feel a connection here. You see, Danzig was the second in my heavy metal tomato squeezing trio. The first was Henry Rollins in the market where the Silver Lake 99 cent store is now, so long ago that his band was considered what they used to call crossover, back when Henry was poor and lived in the house on the other side of the fence behind us, not that we knew it. Late 80’s. I ran into him periodically, he was alternating between his really hard, metally band and a series of spoken word projects that college DJs just couldn’t get enough of. Maybe they were good, I don’t know, I just hated all those 1980s heavy serious political spoken word albums, the free verse clunking like furniture tossed down the stairs. Our parents had Bob Newhart and Mort Sahl LPs, we had Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra and Mecca Normal. But I digress.
But my Danzig tomato squeezing experience was maybe five years later, in the local Albertson’s on Virgil. That was on the way to a BBQ at Jonathan Hall’s on Berendo and I excitedly told everyone that I had just seen the second in my heavy metal tomato squeezing trio. They humored me. They humored me a little less when I’d bring it up periodically afterward. Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for the third and final heavy metal tomato squeezer since then. I’ve given up. They’d probably be grape tomatoes anyway. Heavy metal grape tomatoes is not a thing.
I’m also waiting for the third sighting of shiny pink fuck me pumps. Stories that you can’t finish are really irritating. I don’t know what I will do if the pumps wearer is squeezing tomatoes.
I’ve never worn shorts myself. My left leg has always been so messed up by arthritis it was better hidden. Fyl never wore shorts much either, though she still has very nice slender Indian legs. In fact, she’s a lady who can wear skinny jeans, which I’m sure her friends hate. That Greendale 4th of July parade was on an incredibly hot Midwestern day, rough on Angelenos, and the high school bands (including the one Fyl had long ago played flute in) and troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Brownies and Cub Scouts, Drum and Bugle Corps (including the one Fyl had been a flag girl in), local politicians, beauty queens, Lyons Club, Knights of Columbus, groups of funny dads in funny costumes, and the inevitable Marine Corps honor guard marched past, trying not to droop in the humidity. Afterward there was a village beer garden and weenie roast, and hundreds of family BBQs and cases of local beers you’ve never heard of. Fyl and I finally retreated inside and sat in front of the air conditioner. Later, we all wandered down to the schoolyard for the drunk chamber of commerce’s firework show, which was lotsa fun, even the ones they accidentally shot into the crowd. Afterward we walked back home through the swimmy night, our way lit by fireflies. We hung outside the house drinking beer, swatting mosquitoes and watching the fireflies, and the old folks went off to bed. We followed later after sneaking a joint behind the apple trees in the backyard. Back inside we crept about quietly in the living room, where the sleeper couch was, giggling like a couple stoned teenagers, and slipped under the sheets to make sweaty summer love, quietly so the old folks couldn’t hear, though they probably could anyway.
Nancy posted a mess of photos or her and Rich going back their 27 years and the earliest of them, with her so drop dead cute, was only a couple years before I first met her. That first time I met Nancy was the weird meeting her HR coworkers arranged so that she—she’s really cute and funny, Phil, you’ll love her!—and me—he’s huge and funny, Nancy, you’ll love him!—could meet and be cute and funny together for the people who collected around to watch. I’m serious, that is exactly what they were planning. Nancy and I still talk about how weird that was. Of course, I kept putting it off. Finally, two of the HR girls (HR girls always adored me, why I don’t know) came and got me. Nancy’s here! You two must meet! I grumpily followed. We get to the meeting spot and point out Nancy and I nearly died. She was so little, they hadn’t told me she was so dinky. And she was the cutest, most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. They hadn’t prepared me for that either. She smiled that smile of her and looked at me with that gaze of hers and suddenly I felt like the biggest and the clumsiest galoot, just ridiculous, and the last thing I wanted to do was to meet somebody so gorgeously dinky. I hesitated. Come on, Phil, meet Nancy! and they led me up to her. I’m totally fucking this up, I was thinking, I don’t wanna meet her. She seemed just as uncomfortable. I can only imagine what she thought with me looming over her. The audience was getting impatient, waiting for witticisms. Say something, Phil. She was so cute, and those eyes of hers so irresistible, that I couldn’t even look her straight in the eye. I don’t think I’ve ever been so discombobulated. But the audience wanted something funny. I couldn’t think of a single funny thing to say. So I mumbled a short joke. A short joke. I remember regretting that instantly, but Nancy laughed. Our audience laughed. Nancy replied with a joke, though neither of us can remember the joke, but it was funnier than the short joke, and the crowd laughed again. Apparently we’d passed the audition. The crowd dispersed, and relieved at the end of the weirdness, Nancy and I chatted briefly. The whole weird scene certainly made it clear that neither of us were like these other people. Normal people are so strange. And we’ve been pals since.
Fyl just asked me to open a jar. A little torque and pop, it was done. She looked surprised. She’d brought me a jar a couple days before and I struggled with it. Finally bashed it with a spoon and with tremendous effort it popped open. It’s a bad arthritis day, I said, and it was. Everything hurt. Today it was just clutch and twist and the room was awaft with the scent of pickles and testosterone.
Sometimes it’s the little things. Well, my hand isn’t a little thing, I suppose, it’s a big thing. So it’s the little things about the big things. Anyway, tonight it made my day. Or night. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter when it was. Sometimes the little things about the little things don’t really matter.
That’s it. No point in making a big thing about it.
The Lyft was a trim Lexus SUV, and we sank into the plush bucket seats with all the legroom as the loveliest driver I’d ever seen led us across town. She was charming and chatty and witty and disarmingly attractive, a knockout, petite and Chinese and dreamy. We rode towards South Pasadena a tad stoned when suddenly and silently the car was filled with the rank and noxious odor of rotten eggs. Just as my eyes began to sting all four windows slid open. Sorry our beautiful driver said. It took me a couple seconds to realize that this extremely attractive Lyft driver had just broken wind in the car, and I didn’t even know that was possible.
I kept the condoms in a bowl on a shelf in the linen closet. Don’t know why. Used to toss packets of throat lozenges I’d swipe from work in the bowl too. Condoms and throat lozenges all mixed together. Remarkably similar packaging. Used to keep a couple packets of those lozenges in my pocket all the time. Just reach into the bowl in the closet without looking and shove a couple of the packets in my pocket.
One day at work I reached into my pocket for something—I can’t remember what—while in an elevator. There were three women in the elevator car with me. As I pulled out my hand a packet of the lozenges slipped out and fell to the floor. I hadn’t noticed. One of the ladies in the elevator quietly cleared her throat. The other two were busy with their phones. She cleared her throat again, a little louder. I looked at her. She glanced at the floor. I looked down and froze. It wasn’t throat lozenges. It was a similarly shaped packet but a darker green, and packets of lozenges didn’t spell out Trojan in huge letters. Or they seemed like huge letters in that elevator. Huge dayglo letters screaming you’re fired. I felt myself turning ruby red in spite of all efforts to be casual and covered the suddenly terrifying packet with my foot. The elevator stopped on the third floor and the other two ladies stepped out, still lost in their phones. The elevator doors shut again and the remaining lady giggled. I reached down and picked up the wanton condom. Can I have that? she asked. Sure, I said, standing there like an idiot with a Trojan in my hand. As the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor she plucked it from my palm. I’m sure I looked utterly dumbstruck, a giant guy in an elevator giving away a souvenir condom. She smiled and waved goodbye with two fingers and a big green Trojan packet. I felt myself blushing again.
Neither of us ever mentioned it again. I never explained. She never asked. It’s not the kind of thing one talks about in the office. But when I got home that night I took the rubbers out of that damned bowl and stuck them in a drawer. By the bed.
I remember a party here and some stoner in a Black Sabbath shirt kept requesting Iron Man. I’d never seen the guy before and he was way high and quite insistent about hearing Iron Man. I am Iron Man he sang, dum dum dum dum dum/da da da da da da dah/dum dee dum. I gave in. So you want Iron Man? Here ya go, and I put on Eric Dolphy. Ba ba ba da be da/da be da. That’s Iron Man, I said, and showed him the cover. He looked bewildered, even hurt. I almost felt guilty and jacked up the volume. Dolphy screamed a solo. He left. Jazz can be cruel.
I remember driving through Missouri River bottomlands on the Yankton Sioux reservation on the summer solstice. Dusk faded slowly and the air was full of fireflies as the sun took forever to set. We stopped by a bridge to get our bearings, reading the map by the last rays of sunlight. Somewhere past 9:30 it was finally nighttime and we slunk through Nebraska on the south side of the river in the dark, the air fragrant with loam and alfalfa and slow water.
I remember the time a doctor told me I was an alcoholic. But I barely drink, I said. He gave me a look. Denial, he said, was part of my problem. But doctor, I scarcely drink. When I go out to I’ll have a drink or two, and just every once in a while at home. I barely qualify as a social drinker. I’m writing you a referral for our alcoholism counseling service, he said. But I’m not a drunk I said again. It will be OK, he said.
A friend asked if I went to the counseling. No, I said, I’m not an alcoholic. I barely drink. You didn’t go to the AA meetings? Of course not. But this is Hollywood, he said. A former drinking buddy of his met David Bowie that way. I don’t care, I said, I’m not going to go to AA meetings. It’s your life, he said.