Christmas 2017

A vast hollow boom rent the silent night, followed by a ragged lseries of other booms, just as loud. The first one startled me, the others just made me smile. No matter how much they’ve gentrified Silverlake, there’s still little pockets of Mexico where somebody’s tio borracho breaks out the stash of unbelievably illegal fireworks he’d smuggled up from TJ or maybe bought off an ice cream truck across the river and sets them off in a ragged volley because, hell, Christmas Eve is a holiday like any other. Now Silver Lake is utterly silent again as I write this, even in here, where the Christmas tree lights throw crazy shadows on the ceiling and the entire room looks like a Van Gogh still life. Brick needs to take his seizure meds.

Merry Christmas, all.

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Christmas Eve, 2017

A vast hollow boom rent the silent night, followed by a ragged series of other booms, just as loud. The first one startled me, the others just made me smile. No matter how much they’ve gentrified Silverlake, there’s still little pockets of Mexico where somebody’s tio borracho breaks out the stash of unbelievably illegal fireworks he’d smuggled up from TJ or maybe bought off an ice cream truck across the river and sets them off in a ragged volley because, hell, Christmas Eve is a holiday like any other. Now Silver Lake is utterly silent again as I write this, even in here, where the Christmas tree lights throw crazy shadows on the ceiling and the entire room looks like a Van Gogh still life. Brick needs to take his seizure meds.

Merry Christmas, all.

315

I was just at a party this weekend on the 4th of July out here in LA.  It was at our old friend Edwin’s place, up in Lincoln Heights, with a spectacular view of downtown LA and Dodger Stadium, Hollywood and the East Side, and on a clear day all the way crosstown to the Pacific.  On July 4th it’s an ideal spot to watch the city erupt in pyrotechnic frenzy.  Edwin and I go back quite aways; I’ve known him since the early punk days back in Santa Barbara, from ’78 through ’80.

The party began a little slow but grew incredibly crowded and then wound up absolutely surreal. What a maelstrom of fireworks. They were coming from everywhere.  It was wild. Even wilder was the fire started by an errant rocket in the empty lot on the steep slope in front of Edwin’s; the brush and trees went up like mad. Neighbors watered down their roofs as mothers hustled their broods to safety. And hipsters were fleeing in high-heeled panic. Car horns, yells, cackling laughter, sirens, flashing red lights, swooping helicopters. The first load of water they dropped missed the flames but soaked Tracy of the local weirdo band the Hindenburg Ground Crew.  He retreated, sopping wet.  There was a big Wurlitzer organ on Edwin’s lawn and someone was playing “Light My Fire”. And the Roman Candles and screaming Fizzbusters and bottle rockets and cherry bombs and M-80’s and M-40’s and machine gun strings of firecrackers never let up for a moment. In the middle of all the giddy madness I began joking aloud, and another older guy there made a wisecrack back, and suddenly we realized that we knew each other from a long time ago.  It was George, aka Al Poe, a long lost friend from the Santa Barbara daze a quarter century before…. We sat and drank beer and smoked weed and shouted about old times over the din of the helicopters. We laughed a lot and then went over the list of folks no longer around….Chuck aka Kid Basterd, Dan DeManne, Eric Pace.  George said 315 was dead.  I looked stunned.  He said it was in the Santa Barbara News-Press.  Someone had told him over the phone.  We both grew pensive just for a moment.

Back in those heady and heedless days, when punk was brand new and funny and scary and unbelievably radical, Santa Barbara had a small but frenzied scene that matched, for a fleeting moment, the madness and invention of any scene anywhere, whether London, New York, the Masque in Hollywood.  I plunged into it a little late, but there was already a legendary figure–315.  I knew his sisters, but Three was just this crazy quilt of stories and tall tales and jokes (such as the acid trip that wound up with his sister Nancy renamed Verandah and Bill rechristened as 315)  .  My then-girlfriend, now wife, Fyl knew him well, as did George, and, well, everyone.  I can’t remember where he had gone to.  A few months later the scene in Santa Barbara suddenly went limp everyone split for New York or Frisco or Hollywood (and eventually Silver Lake, where we wound up). 315 showed a few months later in LA.  This was 1980-81.  I can’t remember where he was staying, but he was with his vivacious and completely mad young girlfriend Mary Toole.  There’d be these parties at yet another Wells sister Mary’s house down in Culver City.  Everybody high, and everybody talking at once.  Crazy crazy music on the stereo.  And what a character he was, dominating parties already packed full of crazed personalities.  He was older than us, by several years, and that age difference seemed to give his particular form of craziness a sense of authenticity.  An electricity or magnetism that comes from sheer iconoclastic orneriness, I guess. I remember Billy Zoom would come by, with his peculiar sense of solemnity.  It was all punk and rockabilly and wild conversation and the rarified air of pure inspiration. 315 and I got the drunkest I have ever been in my life at those bashes.  Then a bit later he and Mary Toole up and split for Atlanta.  We called them a couple times; you could reach them at some noisy watering hole the name of which escapes me now.  I remember he was picking up a southern twang. Then we lost touch, and 315 passed into legend.  We became completely enmeshed in the evolving LA music underground.  And then jazz.  Where we remain.  But whenever the survivors of that old Santa Barbara scene would gather, 315’s name always came up.  And no one ever knew what he was up to anymore, except that it could not possibly have been ordinary.  No one had his phone number, or an email address. We just all hoped to see him again.  Then, finally, I run into George and he tells me 315 is dead.

It’s hard to grieve much with helicopters circling a hundred feet overhead.  All around was anarchy, glorious anarchy–panic on the one side, party on the other. The Eastside sky was lit with pyrotechnics from every stadium and seemingly every backyard as far as you could see.  Across the lane Fyl watched the advancing fire, fascinated. Edwin was by turns hosting and trying to get a bucket brigade organized.  I watched as a friend was pressed into symbolic service, pointing a waterless hose in the direction of the flames.  It’s the thought that counts, I guess.  An addled woman parked her car in the middle of the street and then disappeared.  A fire truck arrived and pleaded for a parking space.  Enormous mega-cherry bombs resounded from somewhere, echoing everywhere.  Roman candles burst overhead in red and green.  When someone turned and asked me if we should evacuate too and I said “What? And miss all this?” It was “Apocalypse Now” for aging punk rockers. Best 4th of July ever.

The Fire Department got there just in time.  No one was hurt, no structures damaged. That Edwin sure knows how to throw a party.

I’m sure 315 would have dug it.  Rest in Peace, man.  Rest in fucking peace.

(2007)

Incredibly drunk writer

(2013)

An incredibly drunk writer went off on me at a party last night. That’s not unusual, writers and drinking kind of go together, and writers love to talk and, when drunk, they love to argue. It’s their charm. But this was different. This was intense. She came out of nowhere and was suddenly there, right in my face, ranting. Ranted at me about the LA Weekly–which I haven’t written for in two years–and editors and the business and how nobody pays writers anymore. She began crying once or twice. Outright weeping another. A lot of incoherence. She had me cornered with my back to an incredibly steep drop down the hill and I couldn’t move. Or say anything. What do you say? You slip outside to smoke a cigar and some demented chick in an Attack of the 50 Foot Woman tee shirt starts ranting at you. Yelling, crying, cursing, weeping, confiding and telling me I’m awesome. I’m not sure where the awesome came from. I had never seen her before in my life. I finally managed to break away. I saw her inside later, tear streaked, broken hearted, inconsolable, shitfaced.  She avoided everyone and they her. She apparently made a beeline for her poor ex and totally went off him. He got the full treatment, without the awesomes. Ugly scene. Glad I missed it, or maybe I wish I’d been there for it. Because that was a great party. And if a great party doesn’t have a disaster or two it’s not a great party.

One time at a crowded anarchic bash at our house my wife Fyl slipped on a rug while dancing and fell and struck the coffee table. Tore a three inch gash in her back. This was the night that the seven foot tall homeless schizophrenic (who’d been off his meds for some time) suddenly hated Jews and women. He’d liked them fine earlier in the evening, been quite pleasant. But he’d been partying…. He wasn’t violent at all about it, just verbal, right to their faces. Intense, this big giant dude looming over chicks and telling them how much he hated all women. Odd, even for our parties. Then Fyl slipped and fell and the whole houseful of drunken stoned people went into a panicking herd mode. They shouted advice, orders and admonitions. Concerned en masse, even the schizo one. They crowded around to help, which was useful.  They crowded and freaked and weirded out and panicked. If I didn’t do what they said right now  then I was the worst husband ever. They followed me around the house, admonishing me as I tried to recruit somebody sober to take her to the emergency room. I finally had to do a Sgt. Bilko routine–Attention! Shut up! Attention! You! Shut the fuck up!–to get them to calm down and get out of the way of the front door so Fyl could get out. They massed there, in our tiny slip of an entrance hall, so tight they could barely move. I managed to get them out of there, not quite by force, but almost. Somebody took (a very calm) Fyl to the emergency room and someone took the (also suddenly calm) homeless guy back to the park he lived in. Fyl, stitched up, tough as nails, returned from the emergency room and resumed partying. On top of all that I’d forgotten to invite the guy who’d been at every party we ever threw. Every one. An omen, the inebriated Greek chorus said, you should have known. But how does one know ahead of time what one his forgetting? This is the stuff of Aeschylus, not a mere blogger. So to ameliorate Fate, the gods and the drunks, we threw another party the following week. The missing man was there, and all the people from the first party except the homeless guy.  They bitched at me for being a party nazi and yelling at them the week before. They all remembered themselves as being perfectly calm and logical at the time

Drunk people do that when they’re not drunk. Think they were logical. Remember things they can scarcely remember. See things through rosé colored glasses. Well, cheap red wine and beer colored glasses. If they’re drinking whiskey they can’t see anything at all.

I have a zillion more stories I could tell but I still know all the people. They still come to the parties. In fact I just deleted a charming anecdote involving a pretty lady and a pair of roller skates, but nevermind. And then there’s the time I accidentally punched out the shortest guy in the room. Totally by accident. My knuckles connected with his eye socket with an audible crunch. He dropped to the floor trying to draw a penalty, but it was my party so I couldn’t be thrown out. Got a lot of stares for unsportsmanlike behavior, though. And I’d done nothing. Totally innocent. But when the biggest guy in the room punches out the littlest no one believes the big guy is innocent. None of you do reading this. You’re thinking what a brute

My favorite party ever was at our pal Edwin’s place on the 4th of July some time ago. A bottle rocket set the hillside on fire and mere anarchy was loosed upon the world. With minutes it was a regular conflagration. The fire department helicopter showed up and dumped a load of water which missed the fire but completely soaked a guest. He came back sopping wet and disgusted. Those things look so accurate on TV. Some idiot hipster chick parked her car in the middle of the lane and ran off screaming. I remember she left the car door open and music blaring for who knows what reason. I saw mini-dressed party girls in brightly colored fuck me pumps trying to run down the street. Their heels clicked and clacked crazily on the pavement. The firefighters couldn’t get their trucks through and were pleading through megaphones for people to move their cars. A valiant bunch of party dudes got a hose and held it aloft to douse the flames which would have worked had it been connected to a water line. The young and hip were in a complete panic, though you can’t blame them, really. San Diego county had just gone up in flames, houses gutted, people dead, the moon a vivid orange. But the geezers couldn’t give a flying fuck. We sat around swilling beer and cooking hamburgers and cracking wise, having a helluva good time watching the show. A party-side view of a brush fire is a rare thing. They’re usually off in the distance engulfing houses but this was right across the street. Flashing lights and screaming sirens. The crackle of two-way radios. The sky filled with rockets and whizbangs and Roman candles. Whistling Petes shrieked like incoming shells and festive projectiles big as bombs exploded loudly. Someone had dragged an old Wurlitzer organ out on the lawn and above all the din you could hear the strains of Light My Fire.

Hours later some of the hipsters came back to retrieve things they’d left in the panic. Hats, ice chests, a purse, a boyfriend. The geezers made fun of them, not to be mean…well hell, of course it was just being mean. It was funny. The kids looked ashamed. Sometimes you have to be tough to have a good time. And so a crazy drunk lady flipping out last nite at Mona & Jeff’s was just the sign that the scene was rocking. Mona and Jeff would tell you that too. Anarchy is a good thing. We’re all old punk rockers anyway. We may not act like it, much, or look like it, but put a bunch of us together with too much beer and it’s fuck you, weirdness and laughter all night long.