By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldIf things got any more bizarre this week, we would have had to raise Rod Serling from the grave to run interference for us. Is there some sort of astrological doohickey perpetratin'? Is it the change of seasons makin' people crazy like they're Ted Crisell? Is it a sea change in manners and the collective unconscious flowing from the new Duh administration? Ask not what your country can do for you but instead, what exactly is the dollar amount you can put in your pocket after President Numbnuts sells off every last scrap of our shining America. Sixteen-hundred-dollar rebate for a middle-income family of four? Fantastic. Forty-six-thousand-dollar rebate for your average millionaire? Sold! The really cool thing about that is that Duh and Interior Secretary Gale Norton won't even sell our mountains and rivers off to the highest bidder; they'll sell 'em to their buddies for, like, six dollars.
Am I just blowing this week out of proportion? Fights exploded like a skillet of popcorn every time I was near—and not just the fights you expect from the knuckleheads at the Cadillac Trampsreunions, but sane and gentle men ready to go Sopranos on delivery guys and other fights between elementary schoolgirls showering blows upon one another like Raging Bull. Some guy who looked just like Dick Cheney if Dick drove a gold Thunderbird flipped me off and tried to run me off the road because I merged into the slow lane in front of him. Friends got emotional piledrivers from their sweethearts instead of valentines. Others reunited with lovers they'd given up on years before. And still others got lab-test results that made their mothers cry. My homegirl Arrissia and I aided a young family who totaled their car right in front of us on the 91 in the middle of the night, and by the time I finished telling the story to the dispatchers, we had run across the freeway and pulled them from the wreck, which was, uh, on fire. It just didn't sound as impressive when I told people that we, you know, called 911 and then talked to the distressed family until the LA County Fire Department came (the really, really handsome medic, Wilson, was surly and obviously didn't properly appreciate our Good Samaritanousness). I even saw Elvis this week. Of course, I was at the Crooner's Lounge at the time, so I couldn't call it unexpected. And besides, Elvis is everywhere—at least, according to Mojo Nixon.
I've only been to Garden Grove's Azteca Restaurant and Crooner's Lounge in the late afternoons when the bluehairs come out to play, so I was utterly unprepared for the masses of young, pretty greaser boys and girls who mob the place on weekend nights while the unfailingly pleasant bartender, Chad, serves them up and his pretty wife, Anna, flits about. I stopped in early Friday for a pre-Club Mesa drink but forgot to leave until almost closing, when JJ, the tanned and regal manager, took me for a spin to The Lafayette. At the ancient French restaurant filled with equally ancient folks enjoying the quiet, a pianist played Edith Piaf and Debussy while the bartender, Al, gave us a marveilleuse piece of quiche and told us tales about his four grown children.
I popped back in to Azteca Saturday just in time for Elvis Karaoke (the next one is March 17), brought to you by Danamation. It had been years since I'd seen a karaoke show, but the scene remains the same. There are the karaoke pros who hop from bar to bar, taking their turns at the mic as seriously as John Travolta and his buddies took riding the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. The men sing Sinatra (outstandingly); the women sing '50s girl-group ditties like "Johnny Angel." But once the kids have exhausted their "A" material (which means their first song only), they move on to bad Satchmo impressions. It's the law of diminishing returns at its most predictable—that is, if the law of diminishing returns means what I think it means.
Having exhausted my own "A" material, I flitted on to Linda's Doll Hut for the second of the Cadillac Tramps' reunion shows (the first was the night before at Chain Reaction). I lied to the lovely and fun bartendrix Yvette, telling her I'd been given permission to stand behind the bar at the sold-out show. Y'all looked very hassled and crowded on the other side, but conditions behind the bar were delightful—hell, I could have played a round of golf back there if I'd wanted to, as long as I remembered to be very skinny and have no elbows while bartenders swirled around me like confetti. I fetched a couple of beers for people even though I wasn't supposed to actually help—but only because people were making eye contact and I would have looked like a dick if I hadn't, like one of those teenage girls in retail outlets who chat on the phone, aggressively ignoring you while you stand before their registers waiting to be helped. Did you know people will give you a dollar just to get a beer out of the fridge for them? That's fantastic! Linda, you got any extra shifts?
The Tramps played a marathon set of hard, loud, fast tunes while singer Gabby fondled his giant belly seductively; apparently he is really pleased to be out of the pen. The show was only rarely marred by stupid audience tricks—a small miracle considering how sold-out the show was, and the rarity of personal space, though Linda herself did occasionally have to lean across the bar and smack people into submission. But don't worry: people liked it. If the whole music thing doesn't work out, Linda could have herself a lucrative new career in a hot second.