By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Santa Ana artist Frank Swann didn't say a word as the needle went through the first nipple. He didn't even gasp. But after the needle passed through the second nipple, his Adam's apple started to bob up and down in slow motion. He was going to puke, and it was gonna be a good one. We all watched silently—except for Cher, who thoughtfully glided into the other room to fetch a trash can. But he didn't throw up; instead, he started to slide sideways in his chair. Ricki Vincent popped a ring pop in Frank's mouth to raise his blood sugar and then picked him up like a baby—a big, bald-headed, grown-man baby sucking on a pacifier and resting his big, bald head on Ricki's shoulder as though his neck had no bones—to lay him down in the next room. "Women bleed," Ricki told us. "Men pass out. That's the way it always is."
It had been amazing and grotesque, this little passion play of the urban/tribal/savage, as we all stood solemn witness. Ricki's sterilized needle had penetrated the flesh in one smooth, assured motion. The nipples' resistance was futile. And there was more to come: we were making like Tupperware wives and having a piercing party. My sister Sarah took the chair and got her upper ear pierced; she just cocked an eyebrow the whole time. A pretty blond girl named Kristen got her tongue redone, having let it close up at some point. Her expression never changed. In fact, she didn't even pale until several minutes afterward (since she wasn't allowed a ring pop to raise her blood sugar), but one Slurpee later (the best she'd ever had), she was rosy again. Several people were just there for moral support—or cheap thrills, depending on which way you want to look at it. Richard, who has discovered cross-dressing in his 50s, was wearing black hose with high, thick-heeled, open-toed white sandals. Some wacked Frenchman kept popping into the Empire Building studio to tell us we were collectively too white, but Sarah and I are Jews, so we're totally Mud People. He didn't seem to think that counted. Two separate people with video cameras documented the haps. Everyone was awfully butch and brave. Except, of course, for me. "Ow! That totally fucking hurts," I said, even though my nostril was the least gnarly thing that had been pierced all night, and then I cried like a girl. You can find Ricki at Rif Raf Body Piercing on the Balboa Peninsula.
We hadn't hit codger haven The Fling in some time, and it was just a skip from the Artists Village to the Stater Bros. parking lot in which it hides. It was a little before midnight on Saturday, and the red-walled womb was packed with Bukowski drunks. One woman was sitting quietly by herself in a corner. She was in her 40s or 50s, with a bloated liver that looked like a pregnancy. We pulled up chairs near her and borrowed her light. She smiled. "You are very beautiful," she said slowly and muddily. At least, I think that's what she said; I do tend to hear what I want to hear. Seats opened up at the piano bar, and we moved. I wish we hadn't; I wish we had stayed and been nice to the woman. She was lonely.
At the piano bar, Eddie Day, the Wizard of Rock & Roll, was holding forth majestically. He had a mullet and played guitar while a preprogrammed synthesizer dropped out beats and backing vocals behind him. He told us he had backed Sonny and Cher. Sonny and Cher are cool. He played "Sweet Home Alabama."He played "Sweet Caroline," but nobody sang along on the crowd-friendly chorus. He played Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy." The crowd deigned to sing along on that one. Meanwhile, a pretty brunette drank my sister's drink, knocked me over, pushed the cocktail waitress (who pushed her back), and hit unsuccessfully on four men, beelining from one to the next. She was cool. A woman with a fluffy blond bob (she looked like a slightly square stewardess) kept trying to swing dance with me. I think she might have been a repressed lesbian. Repressed lesbians are cool, but sometimes they're kind of a hassle.
I was sure my young buttercup of a son and I had taken a wrong turn to get to Hummingbird Farm, an organic ranch in Orange, because the street was full of condos. But smack in the middle sits the prettiest stretch of sorta-tamed wilderness you can imagine. More than a hundred people were expected Sunday afternoon for the OC Green Party's Grazing Green Celebration. I expected to see peeps like Vangee Oberschlake, the pretty, comforting redhead who nurtures the entire movement with every second of her spare time, and RJ, a gentle man who's more than a little wacky but can tell you everything you want to know about how to walk through swarms of bees and hypnotize a chicken and whom my son followed around like he was the Pied Piper of Hamelin (minus the tragic ending). I did not expect to see Wally Wade, candidate for OC district attorney. He was dressed in a black suit and tie, and it was probably the only time in his life that his résumé—he has been a prosecutor for 25 years—was not a selling point. He was greeted with polite indifference; the Greens don't know enough about him to trust him, but it seems to be enough that he's not District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and didn't put Arthur Carmona or DeWayne McKinney in prison. (Rackauckas personally prosecuted McKinney years ago and asked for a death sentence; McKinney's conviction was reversed and he was released—19 years later.)