I had been going to school up in The City and it had been over a year since I left. Over the holiday break, out of the blue, I decided to head down without telling anyone. I got my bag together-one change of clothes, I travel light. I headed to the Avenue and picked up a ride with a chick that was headed to San Diego. I kicked her a 20 dollar bill and 2 tabs and she dropped me off at The Silent Alarm.
It was 2 PM and they had just opened, I was the only one in there with the bartender, whose name was Sheyla. I asked her for change for the jukebox and she reached behind it and fiddled about until it was set for free. She told me they were having a NYE bash tonight and that I should stay or come back if I leave. I asked her who was playing and she said some group BANGERS+MASH. I had never heard of them and she told me they were from Florida. I had her bring me a few Newcastles and when I finished, I decided to walk to Ro's house.
It was going to take me about an hour, but I didn't mind. I felt like a stranger again in my own hometown. LA on New Year's Eve afternoon is like a town preparing for a party or a riot, either one is fine. There was a quiet trepidation radiating throughout the town. I hadn't been gone long enough to say, "all this used to be cotton fields", but gone long enough to not remember the exact smells or the names of the radio stations. The City is sensory overload, 25 hours a day. It was nice taking down a notch for a bit.
Since I had time, I took the long way. I'd stop in occasionally for a beer, a song on the juke, or a game of 9-ball. But just one. One and gone with the wind. Overall, I was making good time considering I had no fixed plan. I figured I'd find Ro and he would know what to do from there. By this time it was 3:45 and I was over half-way to his mom's house, where I imagined him to be just waking up for the day. About 4:30, my nice buzz and I knocked on his screen door. His mom was watching something very religious in Spanish on tv and looked over and waved me in. As usual, her house smelled delicious, all four burners bubbling and boiling. There was constantly food cooking on that stovetop. She had Ro's menudo ready on the table, still steaming. She asked me in Spanish how school was going and I answered her it was going well and she said she was really proud of me and that I was the only person she ever met who actually went to college.
I knocked on Ro's bedroom door and he didn't ask who it was, just said to come in. "Holy sh*t! I thought you were in The Bay!! Dude, I was just thinking about going up there!! When did you get here?" We hugged each other and I told him "Just right now. What's going down tonight?" He handed me a 3/4 warm beer bottle from the night before and said, "damn, I dunno. what time is it?" "Five something", I said. "Man, already?" "Yeah, hey, you want a tab? I brought a couple down." I gave him 2. He put one in his wallet and took the other one. "You wanna smoke my last cigarette with me?" Yeah let's go for it" "Let's go outside, it smells like ass and feet in here" On the way to the balcony, there were two bowls of piping hot homemade menudo on the table. His mom always did have a sweet heart for scragglers like me.
After eating, we took a walk. "Hey, man, you ever met The Aux?" "Isn't he from Fabio's crew?" "Yeah, he was in that group THE MARBLE INDEX. One of the guitarists. He writes some good stuff too, I was jamming with him in the summer, I'll give you a tape when we get back to the spot. Well, check it out. He has one of those 5-gallon wine jugs and all year long he puts his spare change in it. And every year, he cashes it in on New Year's. Last year he had over five hundred bucks. You wanna go over there and help him cash that shit out?" "Yeah, I'm up for whatever, as long as we're somewhere cool by midnight." "I'll think of something by then". I had faith.
We hopped in Ro's car (aka The Roach), took some freeways and pulled up to The Aux's house. He stayed at his grandmother's house, but he lived in the back, it was like a one room shack. A dorm-type fridge, two lamps, and a hot plate. The Aux was big, but not fat or not tall. He just had a big personality. He was restless, speedy, and scattered. He shook my hand with great enthusiasm and said, "You're the guy getting that writing together in Frisco, right?" "Yeah, I'm starting to put something together, I'm just not sure what it is yet. I don't even have a name for it yet, actually". He grabbed a sheet of paper off his diabolically messy desk and handed it over saying, "Very cool, man, whatever you call it, can you throw this in there?" I took it and read it over and said I surely would.
By the time we got there, The Aux had already cashed in his wine jug of change. He told us he procured $100 of *** and $100 of *** and for good measure, even $100 of fine ***. And after expenses, he still had $300 bucks cash. I was quite impressed at the discipline it takes to save all your change for 12 whole months. "I never even nipped one penny all year", The Aux boasted. It was then that we broke open a new 5 gallon jug of wine and The Aux went into a very bizarre, rambling monologue about time and how it weaves in and out of other times and the nature of recorded sound, electricity, audiences, pop art, Wordsworth, giants, Romania, flowers, bugs in the ketchup, air travel, hotel rooms, Les Paul, neighbors, writing, the four seasons, the equator, Christmas lights, gravestones, alarm clocks, exit signs, verandas, vendettas, battered souls, screwing, headphones, Joni Mitchell, the Arabic numeral system, the gold standard, the LAPD, CB radios, cowgirls, payphones, WW Deuce, leather stockings, sirens, Topanga Canyon, Scottie Moore, lowriders, the acoustic supremacy of stairwells and bathrooms, the year 1927, telepathy, gouda, the Boston Strangler, and Indian wheat pennies.
By the time he was done, my head was spinning from the wine and it was nearly dusk. The Aux was stressing the importance of being on a boat precisely at the moment of the new year. But Ro overruled this and insisted instead we should go to Sunset and see what was shaking. A boat sounded good to me, but The Aux had the money and it was Ro's town, I decided to let them work it out. We all agreed to go back to Ro's house and roll a spliff and hang back for a minute. We piled in The Roach and headed back. As we pulled in, "1999" came on the radio. Ro parked The Roach and we sprinted up the stairs, past his mother (now watching The Pope in Spanish on tv), directly into his room where Ro dialed in Prince on the radio and it was like everything came together instantly. We were all friends for many decades. If we hung tight tonight and just ride it out, everything would be everything.
We started out at The Elysian on Yucca. The Aux was literally beaming electricity, so he was drinking only cherry colas. Ro said, "I'll buy you the first round". He ordered two White Russians. The Aux bought all the next rounds. He just gave the bartender a $50 bill and said, "Cut these heads off when they reach that". The bartender was flirty and she had blue yarn for hair. Ro told me she was giving me the eye and to go for it. Her name was Krista and she got off the clock in an hour. I said we're trying to get on a boat. We lost count on the White Russians. I don't think Krista was charging us anyway, I saw her put that $50 in her back pocket. The Elysian has changed names by now, but they had a really amazing fountain out behind the bar. Everyone would smoke out and find out what was happening later on. I heard about a few things going down in The Hills. Those parties always burn me out, there are all Chardonnay on ice and "have you seen the play on Broadway? Well, Roger, dear, he wrote it on holiday in Belize..."
On stage, there was the gear of band that was prolly going to play later tonight, but they weren't in the bar. The Aux walked up to me and said, "Do you know what's better than a band takeover?" We jumped up on stage and The Aux started singing on one of the mic's. I took the other one with my harmonica, and Ro picked up a guitar and started vamping these jazz cords. We followed Ro into the chunk, and that groove solid. I didn't realize some dude in the back was recording the jam. Ro hit this chord structure and the whole room changed. I took a turn on vocals, "Have you ever been? Blown down by the wind? Have you ever seen? Her hair down on your shoulder?". The Aux gave me a rough mix many years later, it really rocked. We wrapped up the tune and the band walked in. The drummer, Calvin, kicked a beat with us and the keyboard dude laid down some church lines. Krista brought me a Brandy Alexander. She was clocked out.
We ushered out the back. The Aux took a mic and we walked over to Goardner's on Whitley. "This is a six bill mic", The Aux enthused, "I won't have to buy another one for five years. Those heads wouldn't even know what to do with this mic. It would have been a waste and waste is a sin". "sounds like something my mom would say", Ro said out of the corner of his neck. "Hey, man, how much does it cost to publish a thing like you're doing?" "Um, I don't really know, the school tells me how much money's on the card and I do it for that." "Wild. You could be sitting on a creative goldmine." I said I was thinking of calling it EVOLVER. He said he dug it and to make sure I published his piece no matter what. I said I would (and I did). "How about getting on a boat?" "Sure, why not".
We slid down to Brisco Beach. The Aux knew some kid who had a little boat. We thought we might give it a try. On the way over, we heard that Muddy was in town and the mission thereafter was to link up with him. But that seemed like a long way off. Muddy had just come down from The Harmony House in Oakland. He musta got there hours after I did. There were bonfires on the beach. "Sun is Shining" by Bob Marley was wafting thru the air like the ganga vapors. It was a nice little party and our 5 gallon friend was well received by all. Ro was off on a log talking up this girl named Reed, and The Aux was arm-wrestling this dude. Ro came to ask for a cigarette, a light, and a bit of advice. He said Reed was an actress and he couldn't dig that. I said why not. "I can't date a chick that can cry on cue". It seemed reasonable to me at the moment. “Why don't we forget about it", I says. "Aw, man, if was only that easy".
Meanwhile, The Aux is my other side, drinking Stellas. He intones, "You're a writer. Who are your favorite writers? Like, what's your favorite book, the house is on fire and you can only grab one?" "Well, damn, let me think a second. I'd have to say, I dig Siddhartha, but I love Narcissus. and then Kerouac, for the immediacy." "You know what Fabio told me? He said Hunter would type out complete Hemingway books, just to see how it would feel to write that. Do you believe that? "It's highly possible, Hunter was ahead of the curve." "I thought you'd be like a Hemingway dude, Florida Keys and shizz". "He's got a strong sentence, you got to give him that much". "Spoken like a true writer". "Let's bang out", The Aux said and so we did.
Muddy was on a city bus down to the beach where we were. He took a tab on the bus, sitting in the back. He was a lone wolf, always had the best way of looking at things. Very cut and dry. I was looking forward to meeting up Muddy. He can make Champagne out of water. It's what he does. He never disappoints.
We boarded THE BELFAST. It's a party and we're still docked. Good luck if you're sick-sea. There was a map on the cabin wall, all the places they've been to, all the places they partied at. The Captain was a cat called Whitey. He was an old salt who said he did his time in Louisiana. I don't think we knew what he meant, but he said he'd take us out for a tour and get us back to dock safe. Once again, I had faith. Ro asked him how soon we throw off anchor and The Captain said 22 minutes. It must have been 10 or eleven. We were setting sail, I'm thinking maybe The Aux may be on to something with the whole "on the water at midnight". We were chopping up with The Caption when we departed. You'd be surprised at what people prefer. Ro rolled a monster spliff and it took us out there. We had to get us some fresh air so we trekked above board. Ro rolled a Bugler. I said, "Hey, cowboy, you mind rolling me one of those?" "Well, cowboy, you can have this one". We both lit up and there were dolphins in the sway. Nobody was counting anything anymore, there were no markers, no money, no bullshizzy, no barricades.
We were standing by the rail when I saw the girl with blue yarn for hair.
This chick Amy rolled the perfect blunt. It was a bit insane for a while. I jumped on the tables and spun a clean-ass Clash kick. 11:56PM and we gotta get it on. Muddy walks in, somehow, ultraly majestic and throws down IT DOESN'TMATTER by The Chemical Brothers and the whole room implodes, goes inside out for a second, and then every wrist was raised, it was a new year, a new night, a new chance. The Aux was dancing with a hottie in a black dress, Ro was feeling up a bleach blonde, and Muddy asked me if I ever had any cactus. He handed me a chunk and I ate it. It's supposed to be pretty ancient, so I figured why not?
Ro took some cactus that night, as did The Aux. Muddy took over the tables and was spinning some really great funk. Like the candy from strangers. After that, it was like the night was ours. Krista came up and brought me another Brandy Alexander. I finally got to take a good look at her. She got tiny pock marks mixed in with her freckles. To this day, I have no idea why she had blue yarn for hair...everything was right that night- all of Aux’s change, Muddy, the cactus, my faith in Ro. I’ve been through more than 20 New Year’s Eves since then and every single one of them, I’ve had my fingers crossed I’d run into that girl with blue yarn for hair. I don’t believe my luck would ever reach such heights again.