Saturday, May 2, 2015

I Visit Guitar Center

The sun was too bright to be outdoors anywhere but my beloved beach, the playground of my carefree youth, so after lunch with my friend, I stopped on the way home at the Guitar Center that now dominates a corner in West Los Angeles where a Pioneer Chicken stand once stood, and where I once had a memorable experience: I had ingested an hallucinogenic drug, and my friend and future bandmate Ralph bought himself a pastrami sandwich, this before embracing vegetarianism. He was one of those people who would open up and inspect a sandwich prepared for him professionally, whereas my own policy has always been to leave well enough alone. As he removed the top bun to begin his inspection, I, in my altered state, saw the meat wriggling around nervously. I had had far more pleasant experiences under the influence of hallucinogens, but rarely a worse one.

In the old days, before the Internet and Sam Ash’s western expansion, I was accustomed to being treated in the sole LA-area Guitar Center, on Sunset Blvd., as I might have been treated as a dweebish 14-year-old trying to get the glamorous, popular kids to make a spot for me at the bench where they ate lunch. Such sneering! Did I have any gold albums? No? Was I headlining at the (Fabulous) Forum? No? Then what did I imagine I was doing waltzing in expecting to have my ludicrous musical instrument needs addressed when a member of Foghat, say, was apt to stagger in at any moment, intent on spending more on a pre-CBS Telecaster than I was likely to earn over the course of my musical career?

That was then, and yesterday was now, or at least yesterday. As I entered the West LA Guitar Center, a young woman stationed at the door beamed at me as though at a dear friend, and I hadn’t walked 10 more feet before another employee implored me with a radiant grin to allow him to help me. I allowed him to direct me to the drum section.

There I sat down behind a Roland TD-30KV V-Pro kit apparently worth no less than 30 times what my own pre-owned Yamaha setup cost. I was going to play a few bars on it in hope of divining what made it worth $7500, but had no sooner switched on the power than I was consumed by feelings of unworthiness.  What if someone who resembled the boys’ vice principal of my junior high school should suddenly appear and demand, “Do you intend to buy that, sonny?”| I switched it back off and was looking for something humbler when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a leering young man in a white T-shirt and a baseball cap rakishly worn backward. He sat down at one of the analog (that is, non-electronic kits) and put on a deafening exhibition of technique, playing lots of 16th-notes with his bass drum foot, and then looked around to ensure his performance hadn’t gone unappreciated. 

I was tempted to shout, “All right!” or, “Look out, Ginger!” but contented myself with glancing over at the pleasant, pained-looking young man who presided over the drum area. His look, if I’m not mistaken, said, “He comes in and does this every afternoon, and never buys so much as a pair of sticks, and sometimes I want so badly to tell him to get lost that I have to bite my tongue, but if I did I’d get fired because who’s to say for sure that he won’t find a group who wants a really showoffy drummer, and that it won’t go on to headline the Forum?”

[Incidentally, my birthday is coming up.  A Roland TD-30KV V-Pro kit would be an exceptionally thoughtful and generous gift.]

Friday, May 1, 2015

Promiscuous Me: The Male Trophy Wife

I was this depraved. When it emerged that the two editors of a music magazine for which I wrote regarded as very hot stuff a movie studio publicist of our mutual acquaintance, and that she’d recently had a…thing with another writer, whom I thought myself better than, I set out to seduce her  even though she wasn’t really my type. She had a very pretty face, the centerpiece of which was a tiny nose of the sort popular with the daughters of rich Jewish families, but thickish legs, and I could never understand why my friends, classmates and enemies were obsessed with breasts when there were lovely slender long stems to admire.

I will admit also to not liking her Jewishness, not because I was self-loathing, but rather because my religious indoctrination had been overseen by Rabbi Mordecai I. Soloff, the petty tyrant who ran Temple Israel of Westchester. A week after my comically underattended bar mitzvah, I advised him that I regarded my religious education as over, largely because I never wanted to spend another moment around him. He roared at me that I was betraying My People, and I, in defiance, promised myself never even to date a Jewish girl, though of course the idea of my dating anybody at the time seemed as far-fetched as that of my being hired as an astronaut. 

Ruthanne’s office was in the same building on Hollywood Blvd. as the music magazine. Once having dropped off my latest manuscript with them in those days before email or even carrier pigeons, I headed upstairs to her, conspiring to look irresistibly gorgeous. She seemed unimpressed. I turned the charm up. She succumbed, a little warily.

I accompanied her to one of her press screenings, and then took her home. As I’ll say so often during these reminiscences, it was neither awful nor sensational, but let’s not forget that, in my depravity, I was doing it mostly to show my editors that I could get that of which they could only dream. 

She stayed over. I thought the gentlemanly thing was to pick up moments after waking where we’d left off the night before. In my arrogance and stupidity, I’d given no thought to my first-thing-in-the-morning smokers’ breath being anything other than just peachy. I was terribly embarrassed by her pointing out that was anything but. I tried to deliver an especially good performnce after excusing myself to brush my teeth with baking soda.

She asked me to accompany her to some big movie-biz gala event. She paid for my tuxedo out of her expense account. I was barely 28, and got ogled a lot. Someone slipped a phone number on a napkin. I think Ruthanne fell a little bit in love with me when she realized that other women were looking at her with envy. I felt like a male trophy wife. She might have been a little depraved herself.

She went from zero to 60 in a wink. From having seemed slightly wary and standoffish in the beginning, she now became voracious, leaving a dozen messages — most of them about how disappointed she was that I wasn’t calling her often enough, or something — per day on my weird British answering machine, which i bought from a neighbor for $25 ($36,450 in 2015 money), and which of course stopped working after around 96 hours. The more messages she left, the less inclined I was ever to see her again. She finally stopped leaving them.

A part of me was so depraved that I thought of shrugging and saying, “Ruthanne? Oh, I’ve stopped seeing her,” when my editors finally asked if it were true we were going out. But they never asked. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Promiscuous Me: When Will I See You Again?

You heard yesterday about my very brief romance with Margie A—, with whom I saw The Towering Inferno. I have, since writing about her, remembered that she wasn’t my first tryst after First Major informed me that my participation in her life was no longer required.

I was sitting up there in the lonely house at the top of Laurel Canyon where First Major and I had known such happiness together (he said ironically), pining for her, pining for her, heartbroken, unable to function, waiting eagerly for four o’clock in the afternoon every day so I could pour Cutty Sark on my desperate unhappiness. I could barely count on what was left of the Porsche I’d bought in the first blush of stardom to get me down the hill, but I needed desperately to get away for a few days. My mother was kind enough to lend me her car.

I drove up to San Francisco, intending to see the second girlfriend of my adolescence. She’d known me, when I was a sophomore in college and she a freshman, as a dweeb. Now I was a glamorous rock star type, and she decided that our reunion wouldn’t have to be  platonic after all. She pronounced me a much better lover than I’d been as a dweebish sophomore. I suspected that wasn’t saying very much. But then the guy she’d been seeing for the preceding several months came back from his business trip, and she had to appeal to her younger sister to put me up for my remaining night therein.

 I headed for Chinatown with the intention of dining at Wooey Louie Gooey Phooey, or whatever it’s called, just below the intersection of Grant and Jackson Streets. I had history there. I’d discovered the place during one of my college-days visits to San Francisco to see The Who, back in the days when their little tours commonly bypassed Los Angeles. Four years later, I’d taken David Bowie there when he visited America looking like Lauren Bacall, some months before he rebranded himself as extraterrestrial and androgynous in a different way.

I have told you until it’s coming out of your ears that I am fundamentally very shy. I may have neglected to tell you that there were a few times before my Great Blossoming when I successfully simulated self-confidence when I needed to. This was such an occasion. I espied a pretty brunette across the dining room and marched right over to invite her to join me. She was pleased to accept.

Later, as we walked around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, we put our arms around each other’s waists. At the agreed-upon hour, I drove us up to Younger Sister’s in Marin, and we had at it. Kim had remarkable control of her vaginal muscles. I felt as though getting a hand job. I decided to take her back to LA with me. She asked only that I drive her up to Sacramento to pick up some clothes. It seemed a small price to pay.

We picked up the clothes and headed south. I stopped at a gas station and bought myself a can of Dr. Pepper. La Paternoster was aghast. “That stuff’s awful for you,” she said. It occurred to me that she was probably right, and I’ve drunk one soft drink in the intervening 40 years.

The farther south I drove, the iffier I got on the idea of her coming down to LA and being my gal. It occurred to me that First Major had probably had a change of heart, and was worried sick by my not answering the phone in Laurel Canyon. “I was so very, very wrong to hurt you,” she’d surely blubber when she saw me. “Can you ever forgive me?”

Kim had apparently had some misgivings of her own. All we really knew about each other was that we were pretty good at sex, and that she disdained the consumption of sugary, carbonated beverages. I’d probably mentioned that I was America’s greatest living songwriter. When I admitted that I wasn’t so sure what we were doing was a great idea, she said the 1974 equivalent of whatever, and suggested I let her out. If I’d been a gentleman, I’d have driven her back to Sacramento, but I hadn’t a moment to waste, not with First Major sick with worry down in LA in a time before cell phones or even affordable answering machines. I let Kim out at a gas station just north of Santa Cruz, and drove like the wind back to LA, hearing Billy Swan’s “I Can Help,” Bachman Turner’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” and The Three Degrees’ “When Will I See You Again?” a million times each. First Major turned out not to have noticed my absence. I didn’t even have Kim’s phone number.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Promiscuous Me: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Word Processor

So there I was in the mid-1980s processing the words of vainglorious little dickheads, unashamed Republicans, and avowed fans of the accursed Grateful Dead at the biggest law firm in San Francisco, feeling as though neutered. I was one of two straight male IBM Stylewriter jockeys, and at least one of the gay guys with whom I worked made clear that he thought me a bit of all right, as too did the odd secretary or two, but it was Janine H— after whom I lusted, and some of the young female associate attorneys, and none of them knew I was alive. Well, actually Janine knew because I asked her out, and she acceded, but then I had the bright idea of wearing the blinding lime green Stop Making Sense suit I’d bought a few weeks before in London on our date, and she, a Christian girl from the Peninsula, was quietly mortified. I don’t know what I could have been thinking.

Because I was a proudly horrible word processor, and made my disdain for the lawyers wonderfully plain, and would turn up for work in the loudest clothing I owned, makeup, and drop earrings, I was forever being asked to leave one of the firm’s many, many litigation groups, and banished to another, where it would take me a couple of weeks to make myself immensely unpopular. A couple of months after my marriage collapsed, I was transferred to the group bivouacked on the ugliest floor of the Dickensian 225 Bush Street building, and found myself processing words for a fill-in attorney named Susan G–, who was blonde and shapely — and had the worst complexion in the history of skin. She seemed to want to confer with me quite often.  I dared hope that in a flattering light her frightful acne scars might not be so evident. I had recently become aware that certain lovemaking positions precluded having to look at one's lover's face.  The vindictive side of me enjoyed the idea of making an attorney gasp and moan, and I asked her out.

We went to a mediocre Vietnamese place. She wore an awful pullover sweater, and awfuller boots, and our conversation didn’t sparkle. I got the sense that she wasn’t an intellectual giant. I got the further sense that she was kind of …weird. She produced from her handbag a list of her dream guests for her forthcoming birthday party. The Nelson twins (Ricky’s boys, with the gorgeous long blonde hair) were on top, Jon Bon Jovi second, and little old me third. By this time, Ms. G— was leering at me. I felt so…so objectified, but hadn’t gotten any less lonely over the course of the evening. Love the one you’re with, I remembered someone having sung some years before.

We went back to my place. I turned the lights down very low. It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t terrific. I felt lonelier afterward.

For the next couple of weeks, every morning when I’d open the door of my building and step to the edge of the curb to await the next cable car (sounds pretty romantic, doesn’t it?), Susan G—, who just happened to be driving past at that moment, would stop on the opposite side of California Street and call, “Give you a lift?” After about two weeks of this, she resigned herself to the fact that I was neither going to invite her over again nor accept an invitation over to her place, and made alternate arrangements. I later heard she’d become engaged to the Nelson twins. The preceding sentence is of course a joke, and an hilarious one.

I won't neglect to mention that I was deeply in lust at this time with the voice of one of the firm’s telephone operators, whose announcements were broadcast on the multiple floors the firm occupied in the Financial District. “You don’t honestly imagine you’re man enough for me, do you?” her voice demanded even as she purred something like, “Mr. Dickwagon [all names in this essay have been changed], please call the operator immediately.” 

I successfully conspired to meet her, my pretext being that I was hoping she might record an outgoing message on my telephone answering machine. She was no match for her voice, but have I mentioned that, in the wake of my marriage’s collapse, I was lonely? She suggested I bring my machine over to her home in Rohnert Park the following Sunday evening, after I drove my little girl to her mother’s house in Santa Rosa after our weekend together. I was pretty excited about the prospect of getting her to talk dirty to me in that fantastic smoky voice, but nearly passed out as I entered her home. My impression was that she must have around 150 cats, all of them heavy smokers. On the verge of passing out from the stench, I made up an excuse I’ve long since forgotten and drove like the wind back to Highway 101, and then south, feeling lonelier than ever.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Promiscuous Me: Remembering Margie

It was Lesley Gore’s party, and she’d cry if she wanted to. It’s my blog, and if I want to, I’ll see, just for the fun of it, in how much detail I’m able to recount the minor sexual interactions of decades past.

We will start, sheerly out of caprice, with Margie A—. When my first major live-together (for 40 months) girlfriend had a younger girlfriend (in the nonsexual sense) pulled the plug on our relationship (as anyone would have, I have come to realize), my brand consultants felt it imperative that I replace First Major with another universal object of desire. I asked Pammy and Billy if they knew such a person. They said they did, and gave me her phone number. I phoned her to ask if she might be interested in attending a screening of The Towering Inferno with me. She was.

I, rather a universal object of desire myself at the time, presented myself at Margie’s at the appointed hour in a tight-fitting suit made of bits of reclaimed blue denim much like that in which George Foreman arrived in Zimbabwe, but without German shepherds. I guess I wore the suit pretty well, as Margie’s mouth literally fell open at the sight of me. I would have that experience only one other time. She was very much more impressed with me than I was with her. Had my brand consultants seen us together, I'd have been a goner.

We attended the screening. I found the film ludicrous, but diverting. We weren’t even halfway through the ‘70s yet, and AIDS wouldn’t rear its ugly head for another dozen years, so we headed afterward for my apartment on actual Sunset Blvd. with virtually no debate. We had at it. After we’d both, you know, finished, and then had a cigarette, the sap began to rise anew. Margie asked if I could secure her wrists and ankles to the posts of my bed, open the bedroom wide to make it cold, and slap her around a bit. It was the first time a woman had ever confided an erotic fantasy of that sort to me. I was aghast — for around a millisecond, after which I did my best to provide what she wanted. I won’t pretend that I was nearly as good at fantasy fulfillment as I would get later in life, after realizing that the most important sexual organ isn’t between the legs, but the ears. 

We hadn’t really connected except sexually over the course of the evening, and I drove her home. We had each other’s phone numbers, of course. A couple of days later, trying (as I did all too infrequently) to be a gentleman, I phoned her to tell her, falsely, how much I’d enjoyed our date. She, apparently with reciprocity in mind, asked if I’d like to play tennis. I said I would.

The problem was that I was still a non-exercising smoker in those days, and had no appropriate footwear. The closest I could come was the red Chuck Taylors I’d bought in solidarity with my band’s Noted British Producer. I felt very much a dork wearing them with shorts, and played dreadfully, having not played in years, having never played very well. Neither of us called the other after that. Whether poor Margie ever found happiness is not known to me.

It had been grotesquely impolitic of George Foreman to arrive in Zimbabwe with German shepherds, as they reminded the locals of those with which their cruel Belgian oppressors had terrorized them in the colonial days. Hawking cookware, George later became as lovable as he had been sinister in his boxing days. On the official poster for The Towering Inferno, Steve McQueen is mentioned first, but Paul Newman is actually top-billed. I had a frightful crush on Faye Dunaway at the time, but didn't enjoy even a brief sexual relationship with her.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lunch With Jesus, Downtown

I had made an appointment to confer with my friend and client Jesus, whose name is really Jesus, in downtown Los Angeles, where, if my understanding is correct, he is (very!) gainfully employed as a champion of the downtrodden and disenfranchised.

Parking downtown is expensive, and I'm a tightwad, so I customarily take public transportation when going there, in spite of the fact that a municipal ordinance requires every LA Metro bus to contain at least one loudly deranged passenger, commonly having a very heated debate with himself or herself, or trying to persuade others to embrace Jesus (not my friend and client, but the other one) as his or her personal Lord ‘n’ savior. I commonly play Word Maze, or whatever it’s called, on my iPhone and mind my own business.

Jesus shares my love of stylish attire, so I always dress up to see him. Because it was actually chilly, I was able without looking foolish to wear my famous Italian carabinieri coat, which I bought at the American Rag in San Francisco in 1988, and wore the night I met my girlfriend Little Rumso for the first time. She rather idiotically referred to it as my Sgt. Pepper jacket, but I came to love her nonetheless, for a little over a decade, anyway. She was actually very much more impressed — to the point of making herself available to me sexually! — by the khaki wool Eisenhower jacket I wore to our second meeting. It too came from American Rag, and I am indeed wandering far from the track on which you had so graciously agreed to join me, so shame on me.

I headed for Wilshire Blvd. and its abundant bus stops feeling a little bit handsome, even at my age, only to discover that what used to be called The Miracle Mile had been closed, apparently for the use of persons wishing to express their fury over the Turks’ brutalization of their Armenian neighbors 100 years ago. I had to walk all the way back to 3rd Street to get an eastbound bus, but nonetheless arrived on time.

Last week, Jesus took me to a Japanese place, but this time he craved meat, and so we headed only a short distance from our meeting place to an upscale burger joint, where we were attended by an almost unnervingly perky young server of around 25 who identified herself as Britney, and, a little charmingly, addressed us as “you boys.” Jesus ordered a Bloody Pig — a bloody Mary with strips of bacon in it. I am unsure as to whether I was able to completely mask my astonishment.

As we ate, we conferred about the project on which he has generously hired me to work — a video for the gal he loves, Debbi D—, who’s about to celebrate a momentous birthday. It is our mutual hope that the video, which I will direct, shoot, and edit, will make Ms. D— irresistible to persons who book chic local and other cabarets. Jesus is a musician of note — we first met, many decades ago, when I was assigned to lionize his combo in an English-language magazine — and has recorded a lovely backing track. The French fries we shared were very salty, but no less enjoyable for it.

After we parted, I swung anew past the truck out of which a friendly young woman was handing out complimentary cans of Illy iced coffee, hoping that she wouldn’t recognize me as someone to whom she’d given a couple of cans already. If she did, she kept it quiet, and I boarded the westbound No. 20  with no fewer than three cans in the pockets of my famous coat. Because of the Armenians, the bus detoured a mile or so east of my destination, and I got out to walk.

Who’d have imagined that there were so many Armenians in Los Angeles? And who’d have guessed that so many of those many would think it a good idea to encourage their children to embrace an ancient grievance as their own? I understand that the Turks brutalized their Armenian neighbors in 2015. I understand further that not a single person who perpetrated that brutality is alive today. When I visited Berlin in late 2012, should I have snarled at every local on the chance that their parents or grandparents had been Nazis?