Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Didn't Kill My Mother

A year or two after the stroke that immobilized him, my dad died in a foul-smelling convalescent hospital because my mother thought that if she “allowed” his return home, there would be a fire or natural disaster and she’d be unable to drag him to safety. I will never forgive myself for not overriding her. At the time, though, it felt like a decision my parents needed to come to together. Which of course is a joke in view of the division of power between my parents having always been Mom 100, Dad 0.

After his death, my self-disgust was nearly unendurable, but I had plenty left over for my mother too. We’d always been close, but now, not quite consciously, I set out to avenge my dad, to treat her as she’d always treated him. It shocked and wounded her, and made me feel filthy inside. But it felt as though it needed doing. I’ve always been a great one for vengeance.

The Alzheimer’s was sneaky at first. My mother had been the most fastidious person on the planet throughout her life, ever since the time when, as the daughter of a luckless brawler who commonly moved his family from one rented accommodation to another in the dead of night to elude creditors, she was once sent home from school for smelling, the rented accommodations having typically lacked private bathing facilities.  As the dementia began to nibble at her, I was horrified to begin noticing small stains on her clothing. As time went on, they became bigger, and darker. When I took her to the doctor for a checkup, she told him she was 39. It felt as though the blood in my veins had turned to ice water. I got my slashing wit from her, but there was no sign she was kidding. 

When she left California for Vermont, where my sister lived, I barely spoke to her at the airport. Something else for which I’ll never be able to forgive myself.

For years, while my mother slipped away, losing more and more of herself, I lived with my British wife in the UK. When I finally saw her again, the second worst thing was that my mother had no idea who I was. The worst was that she had no idea who she herself was. I cried so hard I thought I might split open. I held her sweet, soft hand and begged her to forgive me. I had no reason to believe she heard or understood me. I would take her into a quiet, untrafficked corner of the place hoping that the lack of distraction might enable me to reach her. It never did.

One afternoon when I was visiting, drenching myself in my own tears, a loud, shrill alarm went off in the care facility. My mother, who had always been terrified of just about everything, tensed reflexively. Whoever was in charge of attending to the alarm was on a long cigarette break or something. It kept shrieking. I assured my mother that I was going to protect her, but all she could hear was the alarm. She trembled in my arms.

We were out of sight of all. The alarm seemed to grow even more insistent. What was the point of her having to endure even another minute of her terror? I thought of putting my hand over her mouth in such a way as to block her nostrils too. I lacked the courage, or maybe a part of me felt that she hadn’t yet suffered enough. There is that much darkness in me.

I moved back to the USA, near my mother and sister. My sister related that she was in very bad shape. I drove down to Gurnee to see her. As I was pulling into a parking space, my cell phone rang. My sister was calling to advise that our mother had died in the past 15 minutes. And here I’d imagined that I’d wept before. I stayed with her until the coroner, or whoever it was, came for her body. I knew how terrified she would have been to go off with a stranger during her lifetime, and here I was asking her to do exactly that.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Fashionisto

In the late summer of 1967, the late Ronn Reinberg and I and two mutual acquaintances drove to San Francisco to see Cream at the Fillmore. When we arrived in The City, I shocked my traveling companions by expressing a desire to change before we headed for the venue. “Well,” said one, rolling his eyes, swiping his ugly unkempt hair out of his eyes, “aren’t we the fashionplate?”

Yes, as a matter of fact, we are, and have been for ages. You have read here before about how Audrey Mendelsohn forced me, while those all around me at Loyola Village School were wearing blue jeans with black shoes, to wear tastefully coordinated brown shoes and beige jeans. Later, at Orville Wright Junior High School, I longed for a Pendleton shirt with flap pockets of the sort surfers had made popular (and after which The Pendletones had named themselves, before they became The Beach Boys), only to discover that they were unendurably itchy. But I did get the prescribed Jack Purcell smilies.

After seeing A Hard Day's Night, I formed a band in high school. We bought plush blue velour turtlenecks of the sort Johnny Mathis and his friends had worn to the restaurant where I was an auto attendant the summer before. When I dared to wear mine to school along with my Thom McAn dagger-toed winklepickers, I was, of course, widely assumed to be gay. The fact was that I had begun dressing as I had in service to my avid heterosexuality.

As a university student, I might have worn love beads and attended class barefoot, but I secretly stockpiled a closetful of groovy mod attire, including bowling shoe-inspired footwear of the sort John Lennon had worn on the bland alternate cover of Yesterday…and Today. I bought an ankle-length kaftan at an Indian import place on Hollywood Blvd., only to discover that I felt a perfect idiot in it. I bought the requisite fringed leather jacket and wire-rim glasses, like those of John Sebastian’s that had emboldened Lennon.

As my university career groaned to an ignominious conclusion, I went through a brief, horrible dweeb period. Behold the T-shirt and stupid sub-Sonny Bono vest I wore to meet and interview my idol of the time! ‘Twas the embarrassment I felt hanging out with Townshend and the brothers Davies that got me in a hurry out of my dweeb period, and I will not withhold the credit due the brothers with whom I played briefly in Halfnelson before they rebranded themselves as Sparks. They hooked me up with the lady friend of theirs who administered my first layered (or shag, or, in the UK, feathered) haircut. I acquired my first blowdryer and shaved my wispy mustache.

The first thing I thought of when I learned of the fortune my first post-university employer, Warner Bros. Records, proposed to award me each week was that I would be able to buy the bottle green cabretta leather jacket I’d seen somewhere on the Strip after only four days’ work. I bought a pair of lime green, skintight trousers from a gay boutique a couple of doors down from Greenblatt’s Delicatessen, and was too embarrassed to wear them, except on stage, where I paired them with a green appliqué top much like those Mick Jagger had worn during the Rolling Stones’ famous comeback tour the previous year.

Rod Stewart emerged, in his wonderfully tailored suits and gloriously ridiculous coiffure, and I glimpsed my sartorial future. I began spending unimaginable amounts of money (sometimes over $50, but we’re talking early-‘70s dollars) at, for instance, Sniff, the boutique on Sunset Blvd. owned by the photographer Bob Jenkins, and overseen by an actual English employee! I wasn’t yet much of a musician, but boy, did I look good in publicity photos. Trying to get the rest of my band to sign onto the idea of being glamorous was like…here, let me think of a really colorful way of putting this…pulling teeth. How I envied my then-not-yet-friend Stefen Shady, who’d apparently put together his own band, Shady Lady, on the basis of their common love for clothes.

I’m no longer the fashionplate I used to be. It’s been a long time since I had sufficient disposable income to buy many clothes, but even if I were rich, I think I’d have to have everything made. (The record shows that during my three months of earning $65/hour as an interim art director in Manhattan, I spent every available minute at the Herald Square Daffy’s buying Italian sportswear.) The Kings Road in London, which used to be lined with fantastic, imaginative boutiques, and was a rock fashionisto’s idea of Heaven, is now lined with boring chain outlets. The likes of Todd Rundgren, who used to be gloriously fashionable, seem to have lost all interest. I can go to a site like and see 45 things I’d love to buy, but most of it is polyester, and I’ve yet to order anything from Asia that fit as I’d hoped it might. So I put on the zoot-length pinstriped sportscoat I bought in London in 2003, or the US Coast Guard dress uniform jacket I bought at American Rag in San Francisco in 1989, and feel much as I used to do in my ruby satin suit from Sniff, even while wondering how many more years I can expect them to last. 

Or, I suppose, myself.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Eve With President O'Bama

At my age, I had honestly begun to despair of ever finding love again. Once, when I sauntered into Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s on Sunset Blvd., lovely young women would pout and stick their breasts out as I passed. In the past 25 years, though, no woman I haven’t paid has seemed so much as to notice me. I blame the fact that my ears and nose are almost twice their original size now, and that the hair that no longer grows out of my scalp is growing instead out of my nostrils, in profusion. I blame no less the fact that my neck resembles poultry’s, and that, however much Old Spice I might douse myself with every morning, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for the stench emanating from the diapers into which my incontinence has forced me.

But the old Dean Martin favorite turns out, to my infinite relief and delight, to be true; somewhere there was, and is, a someone for me. Her name is Consuelo. I am unable to pronounce her last name, as it isn’t familiarly Spanish — not Gomez or Lopez, not Ramirez or Martinez — but a weird Indian one. She is from Honduras, not entirely legally, I don’t think. She speaks no English, at least that I can hear, but that isn’t saying much, as my hearing took a powder at approximately the same time my continence did. I have a hearing aid, but it amplifies everything, rather than only that which you’re trying to hear, and is unpleasant to wear. Consuelo and I communicate primarily with our eyes.

She is a member of the staff here at GoldenYears, without a space, to which my son and daughters condemned me after each of them had taken a turn trying to accommodate me in his or her respective home. Todd’s brat children couldn’t bear the way I smell.  Edie’s prima donna husband LaMarcus got bent out of shape about having to help me out of the bathtub a few times, and about my peeing in it, and Ella got even more bent out of shape about my going for a walk on the freeway one afternoon when I was supposed to be looking after her two kids, who aren’t much more palatable to me than Todd’s.

So I occasionally call them by Todd’s kids’ names! You’d think they’d admire me for being able to remember any name at all, but no. They act approximately as Mary Ellen [surname withheld] did when I swallowed my pride and applied for a greeter’s job at Walmart in ’65 or ’75 or whenever it was. I’m pretty sure there was a 5 in it. She had me put a bunch of index cards in alphabetical order — real difficult! — and then had me fill out this Minnesota something-or-other “inventory” to make sure I didn’t believe aliens were trying to communicate with me through the fillings in my teeth, and only when I’d passed both with flying colors did she finally offer me the job.  I, trying to be sociable, trying to do that Dale Carnegie thing of pretending to find the other person interesting, asked when she was expecting, and she wasn’t expecting at all, but was just big-bellied, and you should have seen the hatred in her eyes!

I guess there were legal reasons she couldn’t retract the job offer just because she felt insulted, and it was a good thing, because with three children and a wife who every afternoon like clockwork went through a fifth of gin, and was absolutely nobody’s idea of  a “good mother,” may God rest her poor, troubled soul, I badly needed that paycheck.

But weren’t we talking about something else?

Oh, yes. I remember now. That girl I’m in love with, the little Mexican one. No. I beg your pardon. Honduran, as from Honduras. Tegucigalpa, to be exact. And don’t think it didn’t take me a good couple of weeks to memorize that particular mouthful. The Goosey Gulper is how I remember it. I know that doesn’t make a damned bit of sense, but neither does 80 percent of the American public thinking President What’s-His-Name is a Muslim. People didn’t used to be so stupid when I lived out in the world, where everything isn’t beige like it is in this goddamn hellhole.

There. I’ve said it. Hellhole. It’s reasonably clean, I suppose, and I can imagine that less expensive places probably smell worse, but I can tell you that after a month or two surrounded by all this beigeness, by all the artificial flowers and pleasant music and taped birdsong and tasteless, texture-less beige food those of us who have any hair left are darned near pulling it out by the handful.

Obama. President Obama. Our first Irish president. Get it? O’Bama? I've always had a sense of humor. That's one thing no one can take away from m e.

Three weeks in here and I’ve figured out I’ve got two choices. I can go gentle into that good night — that is, I can let all the beige and artificial flowers and pleasant Muzak sedate me into not knowing for sure if I’m alive or dead — or I can make the choice to live, and nothing says you’re alive so much, at least if you’re a fellow, as wanting to shoot a gal full of sperm. Just the other night I saw on the National Geographic channel that nothing makes clearer to a zoo that a pair of animals is adapting well than their conceiving offspring.

Deciding that I’d much rather die while screwing at 82 than of boredom at 87 or 88 was the easy part. The much harder part was figuring out whom to screw. I could have had any of the female inmates in a heartbeat — after 75, the gals outnumber the fellows by about eight to one — but the sad fact is that I could picture it feeling like screwing my grandmother. I may actually be older than a lot of them, and I might have cataracts, but when I look at them, it’s through the eyes of the 27-year-old version of myself.

I began looking at the help in a new way — first, of course, at the few English speakers, because I thought a lot of things would be easier with them. After dinner one night, I worked up the nerve to ask one of the little waitresses if she thought we should go into the darkroom and see what developed. I guess that in this era of digital photography, it was stupid to imagine she’d have any idea what I meant, and she didn’t, so I tried asking instead if she’d consider a roll in the hay. As she put two and two together, a look of horror that ought to have been on a movie poster set up camp on her face. She said, “Eww!” and dropped her armful of plates. She looked, as she scrambled for the kitchen, as though she might upchuck.

I thought maybe I’d better stick with immigrants, who were a lot more likely to be impressed by my having a few bucks in my wallet — not that I was very often able to remember where I kept it hidden. But of course I’m speaking metaphorically. I do indeed misplace everything, but have no need of a wallet in GoldenYears, and don’t carry one. What I have is a nice chunk of change in the bank, well into the five-figure range at last count.

In any event, I asked a laundress, Rosa, whose English wasn’t sensational, but a whole lot better than my Spanish, if she’d be my translator. When I told her my intentions, I think her feathers might have been a little bit ruffled by my lack of designs on her, but come on now; she's not exactly Jennifer Lopez. She asked how much I had in mind to pay. I guess the days of anybody doing anything out of the goodness of her heart are long gone.

It occurred to me that even immigrant girls might respond better to a more subtle approach than I’d used on the little white waitress, so what I had Rosa ask the first two she approached for me was if they wanted to grab a bite after work on New Year’s Eve. Rosa didn’t understand “grab a bite” at first, and seemed to think I had mayhem in mind. To spare myself embarrassment, I asked her to talk to the girls when I wasn’t around. One of the first two had a boyfriend back in Guatemala, and the other dated only Catholics as devout as she, and I haven’t been to confession since the early ‘70s, if I ever went at all. I may be Episcopalian or some goddamned thing for all I can remember. Back to the drawing board.

After three more failures, Rosa came to tell me that her new assistant had agreed to go out with me last night on the condition that I keep my hands to myself. This, of course, was Consuelo, who isn’t exactly Jennifer Lopez, but in the service we had a saying All cats purrs the same in the dark, which is to say that if you’re horny enough, Phyllis Diller’s as good as Jennifer Aniston or whoever. We saw Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which I wouldn't recommend, but apparently in Consuelo’s country Ben Stiller is lusted after as openly as Johnny Depp is in this one. I bought her an $8 box of popcorn, but she’d finished by the time Stiller has his threesome with Scarlett Johanssen and Angelina Jolie, and afterward described herself as hungry enough to eat a [large rodent indigenous to her country, not heretofore heard of by me, and I’m not going to try to spell it]. 

The hostess at Applebee’s insisted, though, that she had no tables, even though the place was maybe half-full at best. I think it may have had to do with my not having been able to make it to the little boys’ room at the multiplex in time when we were leaving, and with these supposedly deodorant diapers my daughters brought me at Thanksgiving not being very effective at all. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they were made in China. Or maybe even goddamn Honduras.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grammar Snobbery and Homophobia - A Boy's Life in the San Fernando Valley

It was on Keswick Avenue in Reseda in 1952 that I got my first inkling of how much fun grammar snobbery could be. A little girl from across the street — apparently the wrong, trailer trash, side of the street — came over and discovered that I had some sort of kiddie phonograph. “Can we play him records?” she excitedly asked my mother, who got great pleasure for days recounting this wanton confusion of pronouns.

My mother distrusted happiness — I think she imagined that it would be snatched from her without warning at any second, making her more miserable than if she hadn’t been joyful in the first place — and my dad did pretty much as he she told him to do. I desperately wanted to be allowed to stay up until 8:00 on Friday evening so that I could watch Superman, starring George Reeves, but was seldom allowed to. That extra half hour would surely have doomed me academically. Or maybe my parents were eager to be rid of me for the evening, though I don’t recall having been especially obnoxious. That would come later.

I have no recollection whatever of which records I may have had, but I do know that I fell in love with pop music in that house. It is of course very fashionable to denounce pre-Elvis pop as woeful treacle, but a lot of it touched my little heart. I found The Theme From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart?) heartbreakingly beautiful. Frankie Laine’s shamelessly melodramatic I Believe made me want to sign up for an organized religion. (My parents’ Jewishness was avidly secular.) Rosemary Clooney’s Hey There seemed a small miracle as an expression of resignation. “Though he won’t throw a crumb to you, you think some day he’ll come to you.” Glorious! “He has you dancing on a string. Break it and he won’t care!” How vividly the song evoked the heartlessness of the lover of the woman (one imagines!) being addressed! I learned to love melody, and to positively adore a beautiful melody with poignant, well observed lyrics riding on it.

I played with Stephanie, the girl next door. I would automatically assume the role of her brave protector, and she of the submissive protected. It’s horrifying to look back and see the extent to which we’d bought into the patriarchy even at five and six. I would like to imagine that Stephanie went on to a distinguished career in medical research.

I needed a brave protector of my own. I got in a great many fights, and seemed rarely to win one.  The closest I came was the last one, with Mike Schultz, from the other next door. There was fear in his eyes until he got me in the neck. I couldn’t breathe, and withdrew, little knowing that it marked the end of my fistfighting career. Having realized that I might be seriously hurt, and never daring to hope that I might do some serious hurting of my own, I thereafter declined to put ‘em up, and lost any trace of self-respect in the process.

Every time my parents interacted with other young homeowners, there would be hell to pay the next morning. My dad, from whom I inherited my need for constant affirmation, invariably would have appointed himself the life of the party, and my mother would have felt neglected. If there wasn’t much traffic, you might have heard her raging at him in Van Nuys.

We went in 1953 to see Fourth of July fireworks being shot off in a nearby park. Two gay men there apparently weren’t as covert about their fondness for each other as the times demanded, and many of the menfolk growled ominously about what they intended to Do About It. I remember no one being harmed, though I realize now that I myself was, psychologically. First the patriarchy, and now homophobia! It was a darned good thing there were no persons of color in Reseda, as I’d probably have been taught to fear and disdain them too.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chocolate Milk From Brown Cows - My Boyhood Begins

Of the first three years of the 1950s, I remember little, but what I remember is telling. I lived with my parents in a one-bedroom apartment on San Vicente Blvd. in Santa Monica, two blocks from Palisades Park, which is as near to Heaven as one can get on a sunny day with a gentle breeze. The lovely trees, and the lovely grass, and the broad white beach and sparkling ocean below! My parents, from Minneapolis and Washington, DC, respectively, probably realized how glorious it all was. I, of course, took it for granted.

My mother was terrified of nearly everything, and I was my mother’s son. At night, I devised a special way of hooking my little finger into my pillowcase so that when The Unseen Evil she’d unconsciously taught me to dread lifted me from my bed as I slumbered, I would be awakened. I have, in other words, been neurotic pretty much as long as I’ve been self-conscious.

When we would drive east, toward Los Angeles, my parents would occasionally refer to an institution on the south side of San Vicente they called School. They made it sound a place of limitless enchantment, where children used a magic substance called Paste to make things, and I yearned to be enrolled there, though of course I didn't yet know the word, or of the beastliness of other children.

There are embarrassing photographs of me adorably attired. I suspect it isn’t uncommon for fashion-conscious young women to treat their little boys as dolls. I wouldn’t begin objecting until years later, when every other boy in sight wore the standard proletarian outfit of horizontal-striped T-shirt, blue jeans, and black shoes, and I a sandwich board reading I’m…Different – Persecute Me, or at least staunchly complementary beige jeans and brown shoes. "Please, Mom," I'd say. "I want to look like everybody else." She would reply, "Everybody else has awful taste." For me, this was very meager consolation. 

For reasons inadequately explained to me, if they were explained at all, we moved south and east, to Westchester, near what wasn’t yet known as LAX. It was there, in the living room of our little apartment, that I had, at five, my first experience of depression. Standing at the window watching the occasional car go by, I felt what I later learned to call boredom and despair. Everything seemed pointless. I began my formal education at the local elementary school, about which I remember nothing at all.

It may have been in Westchester that my mechanical ineptitude first surfaced. I was unable to master shoelace-tying, and my dad had to devise the klutz’s workaround that I used until approximately 2006. There are those close to me who believe that I still can’t do it properly, though I have no problem tying a necktie.

I’ve a lot more memories of my couple of years in the San Fernando Valley, to which we relocated when my dad realized he could parlay his mid-‘40s military service into a loan with which he and Mom could buy A House of Their Own, albeit in the utterly soulless new suburb of Reseda. Forty-eight hours before we moved in, I think, the whole neighborhood had been part of somebody’s farm. Our tract wasn’t famous for its lofty construction standards.

The Valley’s intemperate weather did nothing for my neuroses. Coming home for lunch from Melvin Avenue School, I would eat under the coffee table in the living room, thinking that the Unseen Evil might not see me under it. I had a classmate who believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows. After I suggested, probably in different words, that he was mistaken, we exchanged blows. "Fight!" some of our classmates yelped delightedly, rather than leaping to my defense. 

I would never forgive them.

Monday, December 29, 2014

No Words That I Can Select Could Hope to Reflect How Much I Have Wrecked

My Day of Atonement essay from late last week seems to have resonated with a lot of people, and their kind comments make me feel as though it’s time to address some of the ugly Big Stuff, that which I’m really ashamed about.

I was a rotten big brother. As a child and teenager, I saw my sister as a reflection of myself, for whom I had the fiercest self-loathing, and very often treated her with disdain. I took her, wide-eyed with excitement, to her first concert — The Moody Blues at the Forum in Los Angeles, and was too worried about being seen as having my kid sister as my date (rather than the Playmate of the Month, say) to share in her joy. There’s a very good chance I told her to cool it a little bit, and I don’t anticipate ever ceasing to ache remembering that.

I led a very sheltered life as a teenager, and didn’t really strike out significantly on my own until I was 19, when I took a Greyhound bus up to the Bay Area to see my second girlfriend. Pleased with myself for having been so bold and resourceful, I persuaded the driver to let me off the homeward bound bus on Pacific Coast Highway, a few miles north of Santa Monica, where my dad was waiting to pick me up. When he got home, after a long, futile, worried wait, to find me safely arrived, he gave me a piece of his mind, whereupon I, loathsome little shit that I was, gave him a bigger piece of my own, telling him how I didn’t need him anymore. I write these words and want to cry.

But not as much as when I remember flying back to LA four years later from my first trip to New York, where I’d communed with English rock stars I idolized, and even lured one of their admirers into my own bed. Having become the living embodiment of cool while on the East Coast, I didn’t say a word to my dad — the living embodiment of clueless uncool — the whole way home. The world had hurt me wantonly not that many years before, and I, over and over again, cravenly struck back at those who loved me the most, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t abandon me for being a perfect little shit, an unspeakable little bastard.

In the late '80s, I visited my parents from the wine country north of San Francisco, where I’d moved. My mother, in that way she had, spent the day slashing my dad to ribbons with her tongue. I ignored it, and ignored it, and ignored it, and then, finally, blew up, but guess at whom — not at the real culprit, but at my dad, for enduring it. “You’re nothing!” I bellowed at him in my parents’ kitchen, loud enough to be heard down on Pacific Coast Highway. “Nothing!” All he did was blink at me incredulously. I had of course been speaking to myself as much as to him. I will of course go to my grave aching inside over that.

My dad died and I called one of his two nephews with the news. He spoke of what a great guy my dad had been, though in fairness he’d barely known him.  I, in more pain than I could deal with, emphatically refuted him. Shame on me. Shame everlasting on me.

My dad died and I didn’t lose only him, but my mother too, as it finally dawned on me how she’d always contrived to alienate us, for fear that I might love him as much as her. I began, as she entered a period of probably excruciating loneliness, to treat her as she’d always treated him, with that same savage disdain. When the dementia began to consume her, I acted as though she’d chosen not to remember to take her various medications, for instance. Had she railed viciously at my dad? Had she spent their life together making him feel stupid and inadequate? Well, brave Johnny would show her what true viciousness was!

All of which, of course, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Said the Dutchess [sic] County mental health professional to whom I appealed for relief in 2010 and 2011, “You’ve got to let go of this stuff!” Said I in return, “Letting go would feel like letting myself off the hook, and the hook is what I deserve.” I might be an unspeakable monster, but I have some sense of fair play.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Johnny Is the Drummer In a Band, At Least in Theory

In October 2013, my friend’s high school class reunited, and my friend put together a band to provide music to which they might dance the frug, watusi, mashied potatoes, Lindy hop, and other favorites of their era. He was unable to find a drummer, but remembered that many years ago I had been the drummer in an embryonic version of the band with which we would go on to become the idols of a generation, albeit one not our own. As we drove together in his chick-magnet car to rehearse with the guitarist and keyboardist he’d lined up for the night, I trembled with terror, as I hadn’t actually played drums with anyone in approximately a million years, and could imagine the guitarist and keyboardist reacting to me as had those two grizzled musos in The Embers nightclub in Santa Monica that afternoon in the 1960s when, to get me out of their hair, the sibling proprietors of Ace Music had arranged for me to audition for them. One of the grizzled musos rolled his eyes. The other mumbled, “What the fuck!” Together they proclaimed, “We so don’t think so,” or whatever people said in those circumstances in those days.

The problem, you see, had been that I’d imagined, after A Hard Day’s Night, that my experience as a percussionist in the Orville Wright Junior High School senior orchestra would translate into my being able to play rock and roll. It had not. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew only that I wanted young girls to scream at me as I played, and for their older sisters to offer themselves to me at performances' end.

In any event, back in 2014, the guitarist, the back seat of whose car was a botanical wonder such as I had never before glimpsed, and the keyboardist, who had seemingly never heard a rock and roll record, didn’t snicker at my playing, as they had their own problems. The band performed, and my friend’s former classmates were too preoccupied ascertaining which of their number had remained sexually desirable to care.  I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Heartened, or at least not completely demoralized, I suggested to my friend, a bass player, that we put a little band together. A guy whose job it was to hold up Jimmy Fallon’s cue cards came over with his guitar, but we didn’t mesh very well on a personal level. I think we couldn’t stand each other.

I met a wonderful singer and rhythm guitarist, possibly an Apache, at a party, and invited him to join us. He suggested that a pal of his be brought in to play lead guitar. His pal was terrific, and sweet-natured, but skittish. We brought in a guy who’d starred in LA’s foremost chicano New Wave group. He too was very nice, and capable of fiery playing, but proved unreliable too. A good player who knew a lot of jazz chords came over and expressed a desire to perform Yes and CSN&Y songs. Over our dead bodies. We brought in a guy who’d auditioned for my friend’s own New Wave band circa 1979. He was sensational at our first rehearsal, and then very much less sensational at subsequent ones, and preoccupied with multiple other projects, and, in my view, a little dickhead whom I wanted to strangle with my bare hands after he spent half a hour at our second rehearsal together talking on his phone about someone else’s project.

I implored a brilliant player who’d had the glorious good taste to praise some of the solo stuff I’d recorded while living in the UK to join us, but he calculated that, by virtue of his residing in San Diego, it would be madness. My friend invited a one-time New Wave star he’d later played with in a harmony-oriented pop band. Said personage seemed to like the idea and said he’d get back to us. Months later, we’re still waiting. We invited a guy who, against all odds, had been an avid fan of our long-ago group. He hesitated because he’s primarily a bass player, and a very busy health care professional. It looked as though he might be the guy for whom we’d been looking, but then the fucking Festive Holiday Season reared its ugly head, and we haven't rehearsed for weeks and weeks and weeks, so who knows where we stand now?