Ruminations of an LA Kings fan

Four unanswered goals by the New York Islanders. We’d been up two zip at the end of the first. Another third period massacre. If hockey games lasted only two periods the Los Angeles Kings would have a solid shot at the playoffs. If they lasted only one period we’d be one of the best teams in the NHL. If there were no games at all the Kings would be unbeatable.

Still I watch. I can remember worse days, I tell myself. I am one with the universe. I am one with the universe. Nothing matters….

Multi-layered nostalgia


Oy, hockey. What a blow out. Can’t believe I wasted three hours watching the Kings get their asses kicked five zip. Ouch. Not just for the score and humiliation, but for the time utterly wasted. You only get so many three hours in a lifetime, and that one was totally wasted. Sigh….

I switch channels. Wow. Huell Howser. I haven’t seen a Huell Howser since he died. He’s at Musso & Franks Grill and it’s 1995. I recognize all the help. Huell steps out of the kitchen and bumps into Benny Carter. I yell wow, loud. Benny Carter. One of his favorite places, Benny says. I really miss Benny Carter, and I never even met him. Some people you just miss because you might have got to meet them, but didn’t. Huell turns around and there’s Charles Champlin. Another wow. They’re talking about the old days. The Algonquin Round Table West, someone says. Wow, I say. Back when jazz and writing were going concerns. Then it’s Dr. George Fischbeck. Wow. I’m awash in multi-layered nostalgia. Nostalgia for this show which I never knew I’d have, nostalgia for the people he’s meeting who in turn are waxing nostalgic about times past that I’m nostalgic for even tho’ I was never there, or even could have been, chronology being what it is. Maybe it’s nostalgia for a world where writers and jazz musicians were something, and journalists had class. A pre-internet world, basically, I type in electrons. Waxing nostalgic for a hard copy world in the ether, when back then none of you would ever even see this. It’d be notes on paper in a box in my closet. Now everyone reads it and I complain. Some people just can’t be satisfied.

I type a whole other paragraph, think about it, hold down the back space key and watch it disappear, like it never was. On paper it’d still be there, a big line running though its length. Later I could read what I was thinking. Here I’ll never know. That’s language in the digital world. There one minute, gone the next.

Musso’s, though, is analog as it gets. On Christmas Eve my wife left a card for me under the tree…how about dinner at Musso’s? it said. Soon, I said, soon. I love the place. You need cash to do it right, and it’s too soon after the holidays to think about it now. But soon. We’ll sit at an old table and drink martinis and eat pot pie and oysters on the half shell and a crispy iceberg wedge with crumbles of blue cheese and I’ll imagine Bogie at the bar, not in the best of shape, or Orson Welles talking and talking and never shutting up. Or earlier, even, and there’s Charlie Chaplin, and I’m too scared to go up and say you’re Charlie Chaplin because he is Charlie Chaplin.

Old Hollywood, classic Hollywood. Funny that we’ve been here a third of a century now. I remember our first time at Musso’s, and looking at all the old people and listening in on their tales of the silent screen. They’re all gone now, long gone, and we have our own tales of a long gone Hollywood. In Musso’s all that blends together, a century’s worth of Hollywood. You can feel it. Close your eyes and you can see it. I wish I was there right now. I’d go there every week if I could, assemble a little Algonquin West. We’d eat and drink and laugh ourselves silly, then repair to the parking lot for cigars and whatever. The whateverers would giggle, the cigar smokers would blow long plumes of Cuban smoke. Flasks would pass around. See you next week, we’d say, and head off into the city looking for music, live music, and life, real life. Memories. Seeking out memories, and creating new ones.


Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing


It just dawned on me that if I hadn’t stopped writing the Brick’s Picks jazzcolumn I could have used my LA Weekly cachet to score some righteous press passes to the Los Angeles Kings victory parade on Thursday. 

I spent seven years writing that goddamned column. I spent twenty years a devoted Kings fan. I hated writing Brick’s Picks…maybe not at first but by the end it was nothing but misery. And you had to be a masochist to be a goddamned Kings fan all those years. Sure jumping on the bandwagon in ’92 was great, but staying on meant getting used to the cellar, humiliation, failure, pitying looks from Canadians or insults from people from San Jose in those fey teal jerseys. It meant watching your team finally make the playoffs only to be swept–swept–in the first round. And then doing the exact same thing two seasons later. It meant only once making it to the second round.  It meant watching the owner go to jail for counterfeiting old coins. It meant watching Rob Blake and wondering why the hell he was still here. It meant saying goodbye to the Great One when he left for a shot at a cup. It meant Lakers fans who had no idea who or even what the Kings were. It meant trying to believe it every time they said the miserable failure of  a hockey franchise was in a “rebuilding phase”. It meant feeling kinda sorry for Bob Miller but never saying so. It meant being a little heartbroken when Warren Wiebe died. It meant watching the Mighty Ducks win the cup. It meant not being sure what was lonelier, being a Kings fan or a jazz fan in Los Angeles. And not caring. Because I loved jazz, and I loved hockey. So what if sometimes it felt like nobody else did. 

But if I had known the goddamn Kings were going to be Stanley Cup Champions this year after one of the most improbably glorious post-season runs in NHL history, I would never have quit the Weekly. I’d still be there, grinding out the column every Sunday night and hating every second of it. I would have done it because I could have called in some favors and gotten me a couple passes to the press section and watch this silly-assed parade. I would have so loved that. I could stop watching the end of Slapshot and being jealous of the extras cheering like mad for a fictional hockey team.

So this is the first time I have regretted quitting my gig at the L.A. Weekly. It’s a dumb reason, I know.  And it’s a selfish reason, I know that too. But it’s a good reason. You see, the Charlestown Chiefs have won the championship of the Federal League. Yup. Finally. And all that stuff before, the failures and disappointments and the what-the-fucks?…well, who cares. It only makes this year even better. Amazing. Miraculous. Great. Just great. Beautiful, even.

Oh…and my second favorite team?  The New Jersey Devils. Now what are those odds?

OK…..and I have another confession, and now that the Kings are Stanley Cup Champions it’s not so embarrassing. Well, it’s embarrassing, but not so pathetic. You see, I have only been star struck once in my life. It was a couple years ago, at the height of my hipness. While leaving the St. Patrick’s Day festivities at LALive (press passes with free everything, of course) I run smack dab into Luc Robataille. Luc. Ohmygod. I said–and I quote–wow, you’re Luc Robataille. He said yes I am. I tried to say something hip and knowledgeable but nothing came out. Just a few incoherent syllables. He nodded and walked on. I said to my wife–and I quote–that was Luc Robataille. She said yes I know. I told everyone I that week that I had met Luc Robataille. They said who? Except for Kings fans. They said wow. And then they said Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc.