Tag Archives: Jameson

The Age of Enlightenment: Ah, Adulthood!

Ah, Sausalit

A guy walks into a bar.

Who am I fucking kidding? I walk into a bar. I walk into a German bar on a Thursday night to meet a man who is about to become a father. It’s a celebratory time, but with his pending fatherhood and my pending adulthood, a quiet pint is where we will start and where it will end.

But this is a reunion and we’re short two, which means that this quiet pint(s) is really just a precursor.

Still, everything has changed and even though I used to drink well into Wednesday morning with these guys, the times have changed. One is almost a father, one is almost a professor, one has been growing his hair and talking about moving to Istanbul. We’ve all matured. All that tequila at the Roosevelt, all those Bloody Marys on Cahuenga minutes before last call; they’re all behind us. We have credit cards now that are mostly paid off. We have life partners and lovers turned tantric masseuses who just want what’s best for us. They tell us so in postcards from Montreal.

Yet, despite all of that. Despite uncorking sophisticated beers in a strip mall in Echo Park, despite a lack of identification we still find ourselves in a car, a hired car, trying our best to find something that might raise our blood pressure and give us something to question in the morning. A young Bruce Lee type in a Toyota Yaris takes us to a fire station that moonlights as a bar. We miss it three times. What ivy and a lack of signage do for credibility, just complicate things when you reach a certain level of maturity.

But it’s closed and our driver finesses us through Silver Lake until we’ve found a place that will have us – we the would-be father, the novelist, a man headed for New Orleans in the morning and myself. One of us grabs a microphone and starts singing a song that I should probably know, but I do not. Then there’s a round of whiskey in front of us. Then there’s another. And another. The lights come on, but we’re not done yet.

The world has expanded for me. Everything is greater than it once was. It’s multiplied. Which is to say I’m seeing double. Luckily, I’m not behind the wheel. No, I’m in front of a stage explaining to a woman in a leather bikini that my lapdance days are behind me – I gesture to my friends as evidence of my maturity – our maturity really, but they’re at the bar getting drinks, probably explaining to the girl who’s too war-torn to dance, the cultural significance of Je Suis Charlie. Or maybe they’re just sussing out the bourbon selection. Either way, my hostess, who has been enjoying Los Angeles greatly since relocating here from Victorville six months ago, has moved onto a Korean guy with a ream of singles. I think he goes to my gym, but I can’t say for certain. I haven’t been since the spring.

I slap the backs of my friends, delighting in all the change that has taken place. Look how far we’ve come, I say. Can you believe it? My god how we’ve grown!

There’s only one place to go from here. I’ve been there before. No, not the speakeasy with the Thai matron, a farmer’s market of coke dealers and the watered-down whiskey near Hollywood and Normandie. No, I don’t think the bouncer with the two eyes that are running away from each is in any rush to see me. Plus, I’m a fully realized mature adult. That means that buck stops at gentleman’s club, and not an inch farther.

My god, I’ve grown. Before leaving I do a lap, looking to see if there’s anyone from my youth still working here. Alas, even the grizzled bartender who is too chubby, old and acned to gyrate for singles isn’t from my era. How the times have changed. I whip out my phone. If it’s 3:26 a.m. now, and I have to be at work at 8:15… I ask the bartender for a pen, a napkin and a calculator. Mature I may be, but a mathematician I am not. We order another round of whiskeys. There’s no sense in solving this equation on an empty stomach, and in my old age, I’ve earned this.

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Spending Time With Dear Friends

I was with some dear friends. Dear friends. That’s how we describe our friends these days. Not good or close or even BFF, but dear. Yes, I was with some dear friends. Oh, and a dear friend’s girlfriend. And dear friend’s roommate. I don’t know how deep the antediluvian river of dear runs, and I don’t want to be presumptuous. I wouldn’t take a bullet for any of them, but I would cry at their funerals. I would bring flowers.

But that’s not even the point! The point is, I was with some people in Echo Park. I was trying to see a band, which is extremely popular today, but I’m sure in two years, I’ll be like, “What was the name of that band that we were way into? We went to their show at the Echo but it was sold out and some how we got in anyway.” That won’t ring any bells.

Yes, we were at the Echo and the show was sold out. And the weirdest thing happened. Well, not yet. First, we were all standing there—my dear friends who I would not take a bullet for, and me. We were drinking whiskey out of Coke cans or at least they were. I was pretty sure I was just drinking soda—some friends, right? Now you understand my hesitation about taking a bullet for one of these guys. It’s also possible that it’s my palette. It’s used to whiskey–perhaps it’s been over exposed. But soda is a foreign and toxic agent, which I don’t allow to enter my system. I made an exception. I regret it. Oh, how I regret it.

There we were standing, drinking, if you want to get technical, we were loitering. And there was this man. He was a bouncer. Lithe, like a ballerina with a black baseball cap and knuckle tats. He looked like the grown up version of those kids that were pro skaters when they were like nine, but then get dropped by all their sponsors before high school. Then they smoke a bunch of meth, start a band, get knuckle tats and comment on YouTube vids defending the cutting edge skateboarding they once practiced, but now no longer do because there’s no adult future in skateboarding. It’s like gymnastics only there’s absolute no dough in gymnastics—just communists and anorexics and handstand splits.

I had to ask him a question. I needed some information. My dear friends had bought the booze, they had driven. It was my obligation to solicit facts like, “Dude, when are we gonna get in, man?”

Naturally, I was dreading this interaction. Everyone knows that talking to a bouncer is pretty much the worst thing ever. They’re hostile. They work in customer service but they have absolutely no interest in being hospitable. There’s an air about bouncers that says: I hate you. You’re not getting in unless you show me your tits or forfeit your Roth IRA. (I don’t have either, which means I’m totally fucked.)

I worked up the nerve to talk to that nihilistic, miscreant, checker-of-identication dude… And he answered my question! He was bubbly, and articulate. His answer was thorough and offered a glimmer of hope. He smiled. I wanted to give him a hug. He was a diplomat with knuckle tats. He wasn’t a goon, he was Kenneth from 30 Rock’s long lost brother. I didn’t know what to do. I came ready for a fight. I would defend my honor and demand entrance. And then, although it was in waves, he let us in. Not begrudgingly but with a generous smile.

Of course, once we were inside I discovered for the 1,000th time that The Echo has the worst acoustics, sound engineer, sound system and whatever else involved which makes every band that you love—suck. I was once with one of these dear friends to see Tame Impala play and the low drone and lack of vocals put him to sleep. Personally, I think it was his body shutting down to protect itself from the horrific assault that the Echo was thrusting into our eardrums.

At the end of the night, I swore to never go back. Then I saw the bouncer. He didn’t lift a velvet rope but he might as well have. And I knew I’d have to break that promise to myself. If I didn’t keep coming to this terrible venue I’d put that generous man, who at this point I considered a dear friend, out of a job. And that’s just cruel. It’s unnecessary. I can survive the abysmal sound quality, but I don’t think that bouncer would last a minute on the streets of L.A. He looked like the kind of guy who carries around hand sanitizer.

As a night cap, my dear friends and I stole a small pizza, which we’re too old to do. But then again, Y.O.L.O. or something, right? See a shitty show, drink soda, steal a pizza—yeah—YOLO.

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FLYING PIGS

There’s a bar just off of PCH where for $2 a bag you can throw peanut shells on the floor and drink Bud Light with millionaires. In front of this bar is a parking lot with a surf spot named after the drinking hole. In that parking lot I met Max Rose.

Max and I had spent the morning on adjacent peaks, trading mushy three-footers with every surfer from 24th street to Yorba Linda. In the parking lot, we stood side-by-side as the sun warmed our extremities. I drank coffee that was three hours old. Max’s Westfalia was adorned with two For Sale signs. There was a weathered parking ticket on his dashboard.

“It’s not true,” he said. “Despite what they say.” He had feathered brown hair and a beard that was streaked with gray.

“What’s that?”

“Pigs really can fly,” he nodded at a police helicopter as it flew overhead.

I laughed and he figured me for a kindred spirit. The two of us in front of our economical cars, surrounded by new S.U.V.s with stickers about deporting our terrorist, illegal alien, commie, Allah-worshiping commander-in-chief. Maybe we were.

“It’s the sound. I’ll never forget that sound,” he said.

“Oh yeah?”

“Shit yeah. It’s like those guys who went to Nam. They never forget what a military chopper sounds like.” He looked up at the sky. “I still cringe when I hear a flying pig.”

I nodded.

“I’ve been chased.” He stroked his beard. “In Texas too. A doctor’s son had a sports car—two seater that he didn’t want to pay for anymore—so I took his car. I took his Harley too.”

I slipped out of my neoprene suit and he moved closer. There was a tattoo of an indigenous woman on his forearm and whisky on his breath.

“He paid me and a friend of mine a hundred bucks. We took his car out to the middle of nowhere. Mind you, this was the early seventies. Such a thing existed. I was twenty-one, twenty-two years old. ”

We stared out at the Pacific and watched it heave and toss those fortunate enough to afford a morning beating.

“Went to a field next to a lake. This lake—hippies used to skinny dip in it. Nothing around. Just fields. We parked the car and covered it with gasoline. Fifteen pace circle around that sports car—a puddle of gas. Course we were stoned and drunk as hell at the time. I threw a match—biggest fire you’ve ever seen.”

Wildfires in California kill eight people and burn over one million acres every summer, but for the sake of conversation, I nodded. I understood these dramatic parking lot tactics. There are no lies in the parking lot. It’s a fact: the surf was better earlier. It was better before you got here.

“So I start kicking the Harley, trying get that thing started. I’m kicking and kicking it. A crazy old hillbilly walks out with a shot gun and he yells, ‘Everybody okay?’ So I tell him, ‘Just fine.’ Mind you there’s a fucking fire. So I look at my friend and I’m like ‘We gotta get the fuck outta here.’ We didn’t even know there were houses out there. I mean, there weren’t—except a couple. Real spread out. Anyway, I’m kicking and kicking the bike and I end up kicking off the carburetor!” His eyes light up.

I have no idea what a carburetor is and apparently it showed.

“It’s on the side of the bike. I kicked it right off.”

“Oh, man. Crazy.”

“So I kick off the carburetor and this hillybilly with a shotgun is coming at us and we hear fire engines screaming. I’m like, ‘They’re coming for us.’ And the hillbilly is like, ‘What’s going on out here?’ so I look at the hillbilly and I’m like, ‘Our friend’s down by the fire. We gotta check on him.’ So we ran. All night,” he pointed to the long-since vanished police helicopter, “they chased us. We ran through the woods in the pitch black. I threw up eleven times that night. Eleven.”

“Wow.”

“We had to get back to town. It was getting light. It wasn’t daybreak yet but it was close. We found the road. I say to my friend, ‘They’re looking for two guys so you hide in the bushes. If they get one of us. They get one of us but we gotta get back to town.’ So I stood on the side of the road, knowing that if a pig drove by, it was over. We were going to jail. Texas jail. This was outside of Austin. But what do you know?” He grinned.

I didn’t know.

“Long haired freak comes driving by. He pulls over and is like, ‘Where you headed?’ and I said town. He was just out in the middle of nowhere driving around. Can you believe that? I ran all night and some long haired freak, just going for a drive saves my ass!”

“Wild.”

“Doctor’s son turned himself in. Pussy.”

“Really?”

“He just had to pay for the car. Or his dad did. He was rich. He never turned us in though. He just said he met two guys at the bar and they did everything. Never mentioned our names.”

“So you made it out alive.”

“That time,” he said. We stared out and watched wave after wave as teenagers and baby boomers shoulder-hopped one another.

“I’m Max Rose by the way.” We shook hands.

He looked at me and I looked at him. I didn’t know if he was sizing me up or if long stares just come with functioning lunacy.

“You want some,” he said, throwing back a drink he did not have.

I’m no fool. A man tells you a criminal tale. He tells you his acid flashbacks come in the form of helicopter bladeslap, which are over one’s head about forty-seven times a day in Southern California. You tell the man, yes. Hell yes. But I did not say yes because I am, in fact, a fool.

“I would, but I’ve gotta drive.”

He did a quick survey of the parking lot in front of the surf spot named after the bar with peanut shells on the floor. “Well shit, we all gotta drive.”

And of course, he was right.

He opened the door of his beige Westfalia. It was lined with long boards, newspaper, and a pillow. He generously poured brown liquor into a coffee mug that read: Bienvenidos a Sinaloa!!!” The mug wasn’t exactly sanitary, but the stuff he poured looked strong enough to kill an elephant. I took a pull, passed it back, and he took a pull.

“I wish I didn’t have to go to work,” I said.

“You stay here long enough and you won’t have to.”

We stared over Priuses, late model SUVs, and power-walking moms at the ocean. Waves lapped in off of the jetty. I finished off the crusty mug of whisky

He eyed the empty mug then patted me on the back. “Move along soldier. I can take it from here.”

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