Friday, January 5, 2018

The Day He Almost Resigned, But Then Forgot To

He’d had all he could take. He’d had all that any 10 men could take. The fake news media churning out story after misleading story of his incompetence and incoherence and laziness and compulsive lying and misogyny and racism and what have you! Robert Mueller! The treacherous Sloppy Steve, with his gin blossoms and bloodshot eyes and deficient personal hygiene. (And people wondered why the president fretted about germs?) And now, worst of all — by far, by light-years! — his favourite child, apparently laughing with that Jewish writer about his hair! 

Had any great political leader ever had to endure such humiliation? And this at the hands of the daughter to whom he’d actually thought of proposing if Ty Cobb could get Gorsuch to rescind that most onerous of Obama-era regulations, the one that made it impossible for a man to marry his daughter! Ivana thought that pipsqueak Jared a man? Well, he’d have bet the top 20 floors of his gorgeous Tower in Manhattan, the tallest building in the world, that his button made Jared’s look in comparison like Barron’s! 

Or was it Ivanka? 

He pulled his pillow over his head and longed for a Diet Coke. At 20 minutes past four, t was still dark outside. As another might have counted sheep or seen how many NFL teams — sons-of-bitches, every last one, but some even more uppity than others — he could name without looking, the president composed a series of tweets, smiting those who had wronged him, as God had smited (or was it smitten?) the Bakelites, or whatever they were called, in that one passage he’d read in the Bible before meeting with some of the evangelicals who loved him — loved him!

It didn’t work. Sleep was no less elusive than the respect he’d always wanted from Rupert Murdoch. He pressed the little buzzer for the graveyard shift valet whose main responsibility was ensuring there were exactly as many ice cubes in the glass as the president liked, and that they were uniformly shaped. His tray always contained a little dish on which the president would place an ice cube he’d extracted at random, which the valet would hold in his mouth while the president counted to 20. Ice cubes could be poisoned.

Refreshed, he undertook the considerable task of getting all 260 pounds of himself into the bathrooom to void the presidential bladder. Long gone were the days when he was able to suck in his belly and see the appendage with which, after Little Marco Rubio cracked wise about his small hands, he had guaranteed there was no problem. There was now too much belly to contract. But a glance in the mirror confirmed that that which has given the most beautiful women on earth so much pleasure was where it had always been. 

There’d been a time when he’d have turned on the pre-dawn edition of Morning Joe, but those days were gone too. Even Joe and Mika had betrayed him — even they! He instead turned, as he had so often, in recent months, to Deputy Dawg. He’d come to enjoy calling his lawyer Ty Cobb after one of his favourite Deputy Dawg characters, Ty Coon, and Cobb had been amused and delighted. That so few appreciated how endearingly scampish he could be was one of the things that had come to annoy the president most. 

The episode being broadcast was very familiar. When he found himself saying the various characters’ lines before the characters themselves said them, the president muted the TV and phoned Paul Ryan, who he knew loved to disguise himself on a cold winter morning after his daily 3 a.m. workout and torment homeless people in Ward 7, poking them awake with sharp sticks and demanding to know why they didn’t get jobs. There’d been a time when the two men had been deeply suspicious of each other, but since the passage of his tax bill, their interactions had been nothing but cordial. “Hey, dawg,” Rep. Ryan greeted the president merrily. “What up? You’ll never guess who’s with me this morning.”

“I don’t play guessing games,” the president said. “I mean, I do, but only if I’m the one making others guess.”

“Whatevs,” Rep. Ryan said. “Senator McConnell and Mike. And it turns out that Pencildick’s really good at it.”

The president didn’t want to appear ignorant, but not being praised in the same breath used to praise another was one of his least favorite things, and he couldn’t keep himself from asking, “Who’s Pencildick?”

“Only your vice president, dude!” Ryan guffawed. The next voice he heard was Pence’s, not just saying, but...intoning, “Mr. President, it’s an honor both to be serving as your vice president, and to be helping you restore America’s greatness. You wouldn’t believe the laziness on display in the doorways of Ward 7, sir. This fellow here didn’t respond even to Mitch peeing on him.”

“I think that’s because he’s frozen solid, dude,” Ryan said in the background. 

“And yet these people want minimum wage and free medical care and school lunches for the brats they have so many of out of wedlock,” Pence said. “Frankly, it disgusts me, sir.”

The president heard Ryan demand his phone back, but broke the connection before Ryan could make him even more miserable with his annoying Midwestern brospeak. He pressed a button on his console and his valet came in with the president’s traditional three Sausage McMuffins. The president had the first two gobbled before the valet could reach the bedroom door. “Come back here,” the president commanded as he unwrapped the third. “Take a letter.” He would compose a letter of resignation that would fill his critics with guilt and shame. The country would beg him to reconsider, but he’d refuse. They’d had their chance!

The valet shuddered and reminded the president that he wasn’t a secretary, and didn’t even have a pen and paper on him. “Forget that,” the president snapped. “You’ll remember it.” He finished his last Sausage McMuffin, licked his fingers, and stared at the ceiling, as though for inspiration. 

“Why don’t I just go get a secretary while you’re thinking?” the valet wondered aloud.

“Good idea,” the president said. “And as soon as you’ve sent one up here — and send a hot one — you’re fired.” The valet gaped at him. What was his name again? José? Patricio? No, he wasn’t one of the brown ones. Mateusz? Why had it become so hard to remember anything?

It occurred to him that maybe starting his days as he’d started them in his 30s and 40s, when everybody loved him, and there were no Steve…Barrons? in his life might improve his memory. No, that wasn’t right. Barron was his son, wasn’t he? Or was he? His sons were very tall, with hot wives of their own, though none as hot as What’s-Her-Name, with the Rocky & Bullwinkle accent, and Barron was short, and apparently unmarried, though he’d inherited both Marla’s and the president’s own good looks. What if he was queer? Note to self: find out from What’s-His-Name, the white-haired guy who’d turned out to be such a good choice as a running mate (he could just barely keep his lips off the presidential backside!), about gay conversion, or whatever the evangelicals called it. Hadn’t they spoken only recently?

But back to his unforgetful 30s, and how he used to begin every morning deep inside a beauty queen or other hottie. And how they moaned, every one of them! Had the fat little Korean, with his rockets and his little button on his little desk, ever satisfied a woman as the president had? He snickered aloud at the thought. 

Who was that looming over him smiling? Patricio? No, the Polish one, whose name he could never forget — through no fault of his own, mind you, because how’s a normal person supposed to remember a name that’s all y’s and z’s? “Something has amused you, sir?” the guy said, without a weird accent. 

“Didn’t I fire you?” the president asked. God, how he hated this not being able to remember anything, this constant confusion, and the fake media making fun of him for it!

“You did, sir,” the guy said, “but I can’t remember a day that you haven’t.”

Oh, if only the take media could have heard that! Other people — lots of other people — were having trouble remembering. Maybe there was something in the air, or in the water.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mendelssohn's Rock Bible: Queercore!

The common misconception is that Sergey Brin and Larry Page named their search engine Google because they wanted googol (that is 1, followed by 100 zeroes), but the guy with whom they shared their office at Stanford University misspelled it when he did a search of available domain names. In fact, Sergey and Larry named their search engine after a rock band popular among Stanford computer science students at the time — Gary Google & The G-Spots — which had risen from the ashes of the San Jose-based Count V, of “Psychotic Reaction” infamy, some 25 years before. Drummer Butch Atkinson and tambourinist Kenn Ellner had grown fatally tired of their audiences calling for the V's chart-topping Yardbirds imitation, rather than the thoughtful environmental advocacy they’d turned to by the dawn of the 1970s, and had rechristened themselves The G-Spots in the wake of German physician Ernst Gräfenberg’s discovery that the anterior wall of the human vagina isn’t uniformly erogenous. Their new lead singer, an avid hiker and recycler, had originally called himself Gary Goggles, but a Menlo Park branding consultant convinced the group that double o’s were generally perceived as sexier than double g’s, and that Gary’s popularity among Bay Area biplane nerds was making the group less attractive to nubile young maidens of the sort to which most heterosexual rock bands are in the business of trying to appeal.

Luz (L), and Widdecombe.
Which isn’t to suggest that all male rock bands are heterosexual, of course. At the big Gay Pride jamboree in San Francisco in 1997, I saw a group called Pansy Division, whose name I thought clever, and who were accompanied on stage by a male go-go dancer who did absolutely nothing for me — not a thing! — because I don’t have a gay bone in my body, and have never once seen a charismatically handsome fellow male and thought to myself, “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that.” 

The Pansies fancied themselves avatars of the queercore, uh, movement, and hoped to demonstrate that gay men were just as likely to enjoy The Buzzcocks as Liza Minnelli. They weren’t very good, but one had to admire their gumption. Other notable (mostly) gay male rock bands include Hüsker Du, The Eagles, Whitesnake, and Phish. 

One member of my UK band The Freudian Sluts and I had what I regarded as an interesting discussion on our way to rehearsal one day in early 2016 after I discovered that he didn't want to wear a red shirt on stage for fear of being perceived as sexually ambivalent. I invited him to imagine himself shipwrecked with two others — the young Brazilian male model Jesús Luz, with whom Madonna had cavorted after the collapse of her second marriage, and Anne Widdecombe, a Tory politician not commonly mistaken for Kate Moss — and asked with which he would be more likely to interact erotically after several months of sexual abstinence. His blurting, “Anne Widdecombe!” before the question was completely out of my mouth confirmed my worst fears.

In the 1960s, when I was an insufferable baseball and biplane nerd, three brothers from the Dominican Republic  —  Felipe, Mateo, and Jesus Alou — played simultaneously for the San Francisco Giants. The Los Angeles Dodgers announcers weren’t permitted to say Jesús even if they pronounced it Spanishly (hay-SOOCE), as someone had apparently come to believe that Christian Dodger fans might be offended by the young outfielder’s irreverence. How dare he be named that! Never mind that a great many Latino men are named for Our Lord ’n’ Saviour (and his mama!), though nowadays most Latino ballplayers’ names seem to begin with Y, a trend the noted Venezuelan-American journalist Pilar Marrero believes to have started in Cuba.

The highpoint of Gary Google & The G-Spots’ career was headlining at the annual convention of The American Association of Gynecologists in 2003. They are not known to have recorded. Interestingly, 1 followed by 100 zeroes in now the net worth in dollars of Larry Page, earlier famous for having managed The Kinks and The Troggs. You can look this up!

A Couple of Blocks Past the Big Failing Mall

When she received word that Mark had, as the newspapers put it, taken his own life, Jennifer of course made a big display of grief, all of which was genuine. But the news was at least a little bit pleasurable too. She’d been aching for months to go through his personal stuff. and to discover all the secrets she’d suspected him to have hidden the past few years.

She’d become suspicious when, after going out maybe once every month or so during the first half-dozen years of their marriage, Mark had suddenly started wanting to go out two or three times a week. No restaurant favourably removed in the Tribune-Messenger had to wait more than a week or so to welcome them. No new movie opened at the big cineplex at the mall without their seeing it. They attended the local amateur theatre company’s every opening too, and from their concert-going, you might have concluded they enjoyed everything from Norwegian death metal to the local symphony orchestra, even though all the couple’s higher-brow friends seemed to agree the orchestra lacked lustre. Jennifer had felt immensely uncomfortable surrounded by multiply pierced and tattooed 19-year-olds at the death metal concert, and was unable to describe herself as having enjoyed the music very much. Mark felt it important that they give all sorts of music a chance. They even went to clubs, and saw a succession of dreary blues bands consisting of grizzled old fellows in lank grey ponytails and bald spots. Mark seemed to have become interested in the blues almost overnight.

Going out as much as they did, the couple had for a while pretty much kept the local babysitters in fanciful cellphone covers and false eyelashes. For reasons unclear to Jennifer, Mark took a great interest in whom they hired, to the point of wanting to see photographs of those Jennifer had in mind. After seeing them, he pronounced a couple unsuitable, explaining that it was just a feeling he had about them. He ruled out a couple for living too far away, but the fact was that they were nearer than Krystal, whom, for reasons unknown to Jennifer, Mark regarded as A Real Find. 

He became a very cautious driver, though not with Jen as his passenger. It seemed to take longer and longer for him to give their favourite babysitters a lift home at evening’s end. Arriving home, he would explain, with bristling impatience, that the roads had been icy, or that engine had overheated, as it never did when Jennifer drove the car.  As a parent himself, he said, he was keenly aware of his responsibility to get other parents’ daughters home safe and sound. Jennifer was herself Mark’s mother-in-law’s daughter, but she didn’t envision pointing that out doing anything other than making him defensive. Going out so often seemed to have made him very touchy. 

Turning on Mark’s computer for the first time 62 hours after his funeral, after the twins had been read their bedtime story, been assured yet again that Daddy was watching them from right beside God, in Heaven, and been tucked in, Jennifer immediately found herself stymied, as she turned out to need Mark’s password to actually open anything of interest. She tried his birthday, without success, and then the twins’ birthdays, ditto, and even her own, double ditto. 

She talked the next morning to one of the IT hotshots at work, Lothian, whom she’d been surprised to see, from a distance, at the death metal show, the one with two pierced eyebrows and a pierced tongue. He turned out to be very shy, and almost unnervingly eager to please. Having figured out passwords for several people in the office, he had worked up a questionnaire, on which Jennifer had to identify Mark’s favourite sports teams, any former girlfriends he might have mentioned, and the names of streets on which he’d lived, among a great many other facts Jennifer would never have imagined potentially useful. She imagined it might take Lothian several days, but when she got back from lunch, she saw he’d already emailed her nine passwords he thought might work. She told her supervisor she wasn’t feeling well, and would work from home the rest of the afternoon.

The fourth of the passwords worked, and Jennifer felt a little rush of pleasure. But it was short-lived, as the password that had logged him onto Mark’s laptop as a user opened neither his Facebook nor his Gmail account. The seventh of the passwords opened the Gmail, though, and the third his Facebook.

She couldn’t find a single incriminating personal (that is, not visible on the timeline) message on Facebook, but what a wealth of stuff she found in his Gmail! Krystal, one of the babysitters he’d encouraged Jen most insistently to book, had sent him photographs of herself in a bikini. She hadn’t really had the body for a bikini when the photos had been taken, but Mark had never been a boobs man. She wasn’t 18, as she’d said in her response to Jennifer’s online babysitter-wanted ad, but 15, and a student at the local community college. Digging deeper, Jennifer discovered the girl had responded to Jennifer’s ad at Mark’s urging. He’d also urged Charisse, whom Jennifer had found unpleasantly cocky (and now she knew why!), and Devora to respond to the ad. Jennifer felt as though she might be sick. 

But she felt terrific in comparison to how she felt on realising that both Krystal and Devora lived within a two-mile radius of the home Jen, Mark, and the twins had shared, and that Mark had, since the previous April, been renting a studio apartment over on Drummond Avenue, a couple of blocks past the big, failing mall, to which it might have taken him 45 seconds to drive. 

It occurred to Jennifer that it wouldn’t require much effort to find more on Mark’s hard drive that would make her feel as though doused in ice water or punched in the belly. Fearing she’d be unable to resist the temptation to learn more of her husband’s squalid little secrets, she thought of taking the laptop to work and having the IT goth erase the hard drive, her understanding being that when a lay person tried to do so, she only obscured the directory. 

She wondered how much Lothian might charge to infect the three girls’ hard drives, and tried to find solace in the thought that she wouldn’t be attending any more death-metal concerts, or club performances by grizzled old goats in lank grey ponytails. It didn’t work terribly well, but don’t they say that time heals all wounds?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mendelssohn's Rock Bible: Larry Lucifer & The Infernal Names

I have spoken often in these pages of The Inrhodes having been the Beatles of Santa Monica-by-the-Sea. As usual, though, I’m just trying to make myself look good, by association. The Inrhodes were an offshoot of my first group, The Fogmen. The two Fogmen who actually knew something about music — by virtue of having been in the Samohi Jazz Ponces, or whatever they were called — other than that they wanted to be rich and famous and screamed at priapically by girls in excessive eyeliner abandoned me and ran off with two fellow former JPs, one of whom had almost Brian Jones-ish hair at a time when Brian Jones-ish hair got one (a) laid a lot, and (b) threatened even more often than laid, as long hair was seen as effeminate, and we were going to have to be our most masculine if we didn’t want to spend the rest of our days under the jackboot of Soviet oppression. Or something.

The fact is that the Inrhodes were only the second most in-demand band in Santa Monica, the first being Larry Lucifer & The Infernal Names, from whom you’d have imagined that the nice folks of retiree-friendly Santa Monica would have run screaming instead of hiring to perform at an average of 74 weddings, bar mitzvahs, dances, and even sock hops per year.  

Larry himself had earlier been the chief bully at St. Monica’s, the school at which the area’s Catholic youth were educated, but had been expelled for apostasy and smoking, whereupon he’d fallen in with the Satanists who convened for lunch every at midnight the 13th of every month at The Embers, a bar on the wrong (that is, south) end of 3rd Street, now the very chic Santa Monica Promenade. He dyed his hair black, had pentangles tattooed on his cheeks, and wore red contact lenses, all this before either Marillyn Manson or Trent Reznor was so much as a tingling in Papa’s loins. 

He stole a cheap electric guitar, a Fender Precision bass, a Farfisa organ, and a Slingerland drum kit from the pawnshop that would later rebrand itself as Ace Music, and kidnapped three boys from the juvenile detention facility in nearby Venice to play them. At first, the drummer was the only one you could hear, aside from Larry himself, as Larry had neglected to steal amplifiers too, but as Larry saw it, that worked to the group’s advantage, ebabling them to sound like no one else, and attracting the attention, as was the fashion in those days, of a corrupt West Los Angeles disk jockey with delusions of grandeur who impressed them with his…connections.

Half a decade before anyone, including its own members, had even heard of Black Sabbath, Larry and his lads were smearing themselves in pig, lamb, and beef blood (you can get it at most butchers’) before personal appearances, and performing a repertoire that was 80 percent about incest, child molestation, and devil worship. It would have been 100 percent but for guitarist Beelzebub (Bub) Blasphemy’s (né Bill Thompson) love of such folk rock icons as The Byrds, We Five, and Ian N’ Sylvia (whose subliterate N’ Guns N’ Roses would pilfer 20 years hence). In one of the group’s most-requested originals, Larry would pelt his audience with pig and other intestines (you can get them at most butchers’) while shrieking, “Partake of the Christian virgin’s entrails, o Dark One! Nourish thyself!” It was hardly a surprise that the group had eventually to cede the lucrative children’s birthday party market to The Inrhodes. 

So why have you never heard of Larry? Well, a lot of music scholar theorise that he shot himself in the foot by recording for his debut single "You Were On My Mind", We Five’s version of which hit No. 3 on the Billboard chart the week Larry released his version. Others point to ‘Bub’s and bass player Buddy Holocaust’s growing disgruntlement with their inaudibility. In any event, by the time of The Inrhodes’ performance at Dodger Stadium, the group had disbanded. ‘Bub and Buddy formed an Everly Bros. tribute act years before tribute acts became fashionable, and in spite of neither being able to carry a tune, and starved to death in an unheated storage room on Olympic Blvd., where Route 66 really ends, while drummer Leukemia Thompson oprated a photocopy shop briefly  popular with UCLA students who thought it wry to photocopy their naked butts. He later became a successful human trafficker and money-launderer.

Larry himself, of course, became a tiresome born-again Christian and worked at a Toyota dealership until his death from apoplexy in 1991. His red contact lenses are not displayed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Year-Ending Spasm of Self-Loathing

As a shy, timid kid, I never went to summer camp, nor ever slept over at a friend’s house, and no one ever slept over at my house. I was 19 by the time I finally ventured out alone — specifically, to San Mateo, California, south of San Francisco, to try to ensure that my second girlfriend wouldn’t go back during Xmas break to the boyfriend she’d left three months earlier when she came down to Los Angeles to go to college. 

I rode a succession of Greyhound buses, and felt quite the bold adventurer. All on my own was I!  At one of the places I stopped, a concerned father urged his teenage son not to befriend me because I was wearing a Mr. Zigzag button to signify that I had experimented — extensively! — with marijuana. As soon as the bus was out of sight of the station, the young man and I became friends. 

I spent three days with Second Girlfriend, who wasn’t so easily talked out of Old Boyfriend, and headed back to Los Angeles. I was melancholy, of course, but felt quite the worldly young hotshot, having undertaken an 800-mile round trip all on my own. I decided to get off the bus where Topanga Canyon Blvd. meets Pacific Coast Highway rather than continue all the way, as my ticket entitled me to do, into Santa Monica. As I walked the mile or so to the house in which I’d spent the second half of my adolescence, I sang the Stones’ “Going Home”, making myself feel even worldlier. Guess you’d say I’ve seen the world, but I’d rather see my girl. When I finally made it up the hill, I discovered that my dad, who’d driven to Santa Monica to pick me up, was a little peeved about having done so in vain. Feeling my oats, all worldly and self-sufficient, I suggested he fuck off.

I can still see the shock and hurt his eyes, and to this day I’m tempted to punch myself, hard, in the face. Behold the worldly, self-sufficient tough guy, being awful to one of the two people in the world who loved me most, and who I was pretty sure wouldn’t punch me in the nose! 

Two years and change later, a record company flew me to New York, New York, to show one of their biggest acts that not everyone at the company was a middle-aged embarrassment in far too much men’s cologne and a lurid polyester leisure suit, matching white plastic belt and patent loafers. Hanging out with Big Act made me feel a hotshot again, especially after I persuaded one of its groupies, who hadn’t enchanted any of them, to escort me back to my hotel, for what turned out to be the worst sex of my life to that time, thanks to her being SO not into it. Nonetheless, when I flew home to Los Angeles, and my dad met me at LAX, I said not a word to him on the drive home. I’d just cavorted with major British rock stars, and balled, however badly, with a groupie in a black lace top that had left little to the imagination. And now I was supposed to chit-chat with a Hughes Aircraft lifer whose idea of excitement was going out in front of the house to sneak a smoke? Oh, fat, fat chance!

You unspeakable little monster, I say to myself around 1000 times a week. But there’s a sort of upside to the guilt and shame that sometimes threaten to suffocate me. When I think, in view of how fervently I adored her and what a good job I did of how deeply unfair my 15-year estrangement from my daughter is, I remind myself that I deserve every bit of pain I’m in. And more.

I’ve got similar confessions to make about my cruelty toward my mother, her mother (my grandmother), and her brother, for whose suicide, when I was 16, I hold myself partially responsible. I’m pretty sure he was miserable and alienated before I was even born, and I was only a punk teenager, but a punk teenager who could have been a much better friend to him, rather than an eager conduit of my mother’s censure.

It wasn’t that I thought they’d all always be around, so much as that I felt they would. The feeling turned out to be inaccurate. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to be able to tell them how deeply regret my cruelty toward them, and how much I love and miss them.