Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good Times: LA, 1988 (short story excerpt)


That was a truly crazy summer: my brother's friend Joe had moved to Los Angeles to do--what else?--conquer the world of music with his electric guitar. He almost did, and even played on some of Eazy-E's earliest demos. There were other gigs. After only being in L.A. for a year, Joe had gained something new...a roaring methamphetamine habit. Going from a girth of 200 lbs., he had dropped to a startling 140.

He would literally play guitar for days-on-end, and in a very short time he was a virtuoso. Joe could play Hendrix as though Jimi was actually in the room (down to the chime-like tone), and he and my brother had been the only two long-hairs at our High School during the 80s. For those who don't know, it wasn't exactly a good move, people not only wanted to forget the sixties at that time, but heaped scorn on anyone with hair past their shoulders as being a "faggot."My brother's nickname was 'Ozzy,' for obvious reasons.

But it didn't take looking odd to gain that special attention. One day I was walking to another class at Alexander Hamilton High and was stopped cold by one of the kids who was beaten (but not enough) regularly by his parents. It was 1983:

"Hey, Janowitz! Do you like rap?!" Of course, it was my duty as a Caucasian to say "no," so I said "yes." My response was rewarded with a punch and a feeble attempt at a trip-up. That was normal, and the same people would then be seen yucking-it-up to Sugar Hill Gang at the local skating rink, not having any understanding of the irony--or even of irony itself.

Where was I? Oh yeah, it was 1988, and my brother was chasing a "friend" to L.A. . Solid. The trip wasn't exactly what my brother had-in-mind. Joe had degenerated into a slobbering drug-addict, but there was some fun to be had running around the city. Most of it involved selling clothes for drugs, but we won't dwell on that. When my brother came back (did he ever, really?), we almost had to call in a cult deprogrammer and were unsure this was the same guy. Well, he must have been fairly sober while he was there: they went to the Whisky Au-Go-Go to see Guns-N'-Roses. It's not what you think, not at all.

They'd been out that hot summer night on Sunset strip, bar-hopping and being chased by the L.A.P.D. for having long-hair when they hit the Whisky. A really awful sound of poorly-played rock-n'-roll was wafting out of the place, they were drunk, so a collision with somebody was inevitable. After many drinks, my brother had finally had it with the band. So had Joe, and he egged my brother on to "do it." What was "it"? He grabbed his empty bottle of Heineken and threw it blindly at the guitarist in the Ritchie Blackmore warlock hat, yelling, "You fucking suck, stop playing you fucking assholes!"

"Bggg-gank!!" was the sound of the bottle crashing against the fretboard of Slash's weathered Les Paul Custom. That was it, it was time to run, and they did. Little did my brother know at the time that Axl Rose was from West Lafayette, Indiana. For those who don't know, it's a very dirty and depressing place. Maybe it was mean to do what they did, but sometimes things go that way. Besides, they were right. Guns-N'-Roses sucked, they always sucked, and
will always suck. It's non-negotiable.