Safe European Home

Senate Square, Helsinki

We gather ourselves after yet another security check going into Terminal 3 Heathrow.
Perhaps it’s the quality of in-flight entertainment, maybe just the degenerative loss of any nerve endings in our kneecaps, but these trans Atlantic flights don’t even faze us any longer.
We arrive resigned, stumble through yet another TSA checkpoint shoeless, holding trousers up with one hand: Our humiliation complete.

Like cattle herded into the final chute of the slaughterhouse, our only avenue of protest is to shit: we hit the United Lounge and take a crap.

Helsinki dawns bright and warm, 25C air temperature mocking the NorthFace jackets and Polar thermals in our carry on luggage.

We wander supermarkets and Town Square, take a ferry out to the stony Fortress guarding the harbor.
There, we run our hands along the rough-hewn walls, wondering at the gallons of steaming blood spilled here in the name of Sovereignty.
Would we have the courage to stand among the ice and rock, grip a scabbard slick with viscera, to defend our land against the invading horde?

We take another photo and post it to Instagram instead.
We are not men.

A backstage conversation with Posh Boy

Robbie Fields has made adjustments to his never-ending World Tour and appears, incredibly, in the check-in que of the Presidentti.
We chat easily there in the Lobby, interrupted only by the waitress bringing a tray of overpriced drinks and the shy tourists looking for Anthony Bourdain’s autograph.

We begin with the small talk of the weary old men we have become, but are soon transported back to the garage in Cerritos, youth and excitement barely contained before Mom comes in and tells us to shut off the amps and come eat some dinner.

Tavastia Club

Berlin lies waiting, less a mother with open arms than a patient spider in the dark corner of her web.
Everyone passes through this city.
Some stay, recognizing the limitless possibilities of this place: Old and New, East and West.

Some stay because they never close the goddamn bars in Kreuzberg and they miss the tour bus.
Doomed to a future of wee bottles of Jagermeister and a daily diet of Donner Kebap, it is a fine purgatory indeed.

Punk & Disorderly Fest Berlin

We pay our respects at the Ramones Museum and then eat currywurst in the shadows of Brandenburg Gate.
Then it’s on to Dresden to witness the legacy of horror there.

There, we gaze upon the cathedrals blackened by fire bombs.

A sudden revulsion now, and we are forced to pay up the 30€ to use the WC at a Starbucks.
We blame our knotted intestines to curry powder and room temperature Mayo, though we know our nausea bubbles up from a deeper source.

I am unable to find the ß upon my keyboard when referencing Roßwein.
A minor inconvenience, surely cured by some cryptic combination of ALT/CTRL/F6 etc.

But I like that I cannot spell this character, its stubborn refusal to bend to the Anglo invaders.
Everyone here, everyone everywhere speaks English.

They do so with charming accents, and without fail apologize for their tentative grasp on the language.

We are shamed: forcing our utilitarian phonetics upon these graceful generations.
In the name of goodwill, Anthony learns curse words and vulgar phrases at every stop.

He is able to ask someone to please go fuck themselves behind the knee in a fine Bavarian accent, for example.
A sincere if humble consolation to our hosts.

Jugendhaus, Roßwein

We visit with Jay in Hannover, our ex-patriot brother sensibly accustomed to the Euro lifestyle.
It occurs to me that Jay has always been a European at heart, his timing and gait far more in tune with the civility of this continent.
To bicycle to the market, to eat fine cured meats upon grainy breads.
Restaurant meals are eaten and then, amazingly, digested at the same table:
A third Kaffe ordered before a thought to request the tab.

He has found what was perhaps missing in Arcadia.

We sit impotently on the runway 40 minutes after landing, the GE turbines idly spinning in anticipation of an open gate.

We gaze out oval windows at the purple sunset over Los Angeles, the palm trees wilting in the shimmering haze of burnt jet fuel.
Home again after just a long weekend gone, really.

But the distance traveled and hours gone have little to do with the journey.
Though we have been awake for 23 hours we will wake up tomorrow on Greenwich Mean Time still.

We’ll stumble down to the curb in gray dawn light and search the horizon for a spire blackened yet defiant, survived against the will of the West.

Blue Diamonds II


Drunk Bob comes up to the bandstand just after we bring Solomon Burke’s Cry to Me down soft.

There’s maybe 12 people In the bar, light even for a Thursday.
But at the Honest Lawyer they booked you for 3 straight, Thurs through Sat, four sets a night.

Bob has spent most of the set dancing by himself. This after every female in the room has turned down his invitation for a twirl.

No matter, he is the king out on the parquet, all by himself, and now he comes right up to me and claps, applause as much for his own gyrations as the song.

His solitary clapping echoes in the now silent room, a wayward shutter on a haunted house.

Sunset Pub, Kimm and Kelli sitting in

We’ve been at it a couple years now, and our watermarked schedule notebook is packed.
After 2 weeks at The Lawyer we have a Saturday afternoon wedding reception, then there’s the Grand Opening of the new Wells Fargo branch on Firestone Blvd.
At the end of the month we are back at the Elks Lodge in Newport, where they have you play Auld Lang Syne at midnight as they circle the dance floor in mysterious configuration.

We got this.
Henree DeBaun on the drums now, he sings the classic blues numbers in a silky tenor, while laying down a swinging backbeat.
Eldred does the wild rockabilly stuff, sings the Buddy Holly and is reliably up on the bar for a guitar solo at the drop of a ten in the tip jar.
I get the Elvis stuff, though we’ve been known to throw The Cramps’ Human Fly in at the end of Heartbreak Hotel.

And then we have our secret weapon, Ron Davis, who holds down stage left Entwistlian solid.
We bring him up to the mic mid set, just after midnight, for a scorching When a Man Loves a Woman.
Slays them every time, slays.

We got matching tuxes for the formal affairs, white and black jackets. The set list is, oh, 150 songs by now?
You get your special requests though, so we each take turns going down to Licorice Pizza to buy maybe a Harold Melvin cd and getting down the chords to If You Don’t Know Me By Now.  We leave the tabs on each other’s answering machines, have it down for that party Sat, will ya, ’cause it’s the birthday girl’s favorite.


Of course, the fellas come from a place where musicianship is the foundation, their pasts in hard rock and blues bands only help to  spotlight my rudimentary guitar and vocals.
No matter though, we have a blast out there.
Third set of the night features a 15 minute version of Twist and Shout/La Bamba, the dance floor as beer-slippery and elbows flying as any slam pit at Cathay De Grande.

It’s a priceless education I’m getting here, learning to play so quiet the first set to slowly edge the day drinkers into the night.
We’ve learned to handle the drunks and hecklers, swerve at the last moment to avoid a sloppy kiss from a  horny old lady who just sang along to the Patsy Cline set.

And when we later regrouped as CH3 a few years later, for the great Old School Reunion of 2000, I took those lessons with me.  The power of live music, its pheromonic pull to the lonely and searching soul.   Doesn’t matter if you’re playing Wetspots or yet another creaky version of Proud Mary, you are making a circuit complete on a Saturday night.

Bob waves me down close to his face.  The air is sudden;y infused by Crown Royal and Kool Menthols.
Great stuff my boys, great. So do me a favor will ya, will ya play Danny Boy for ol Bobby?

We look at each other and shrug, anyone know how to play Danny Boy?
I start to tell him nah when Bob pulls out a wrinkled fifty and drops it into the tip jar.
Me and Mike look at each other-key of C?

Sure we know Danny Boy, we do now.


Blue Diamonds

So this flyer pops up on the ol newsfeed now and again.
Understandably, people are amazed.

Whoa, dude! You guys actually played with The Ramones?
And then: so how old are you??

Yes, that gig happened, and before you ax,  no we didn’t get to hang out with them  as they were pretty much hustled in and out of the shed for their set.
I did, however, get a quick glimpse into their green room where – swear to God -I saw Johnny eating a slice of pizza.

I was thrilled to see an actual Ramone eating pizza, perhaps a gastronomic satisfaction on par with actually witnessing a lioness take down and feast on a gazelle.
Johnny looked up at me, then over to a roadie, then the door was slammed shut.

You would think this would be the absolute pinnacle of our career, the full-circle fantasy of playing alongside the very band that got us into, and finally out of, the garage.
But when I see this poster I am really reminded of the sad condition we were in as a band, and how the final days were telegraphed, if not tattooed in all of our inner eyelids.

That show was on a Monday, and just the day before we came home from an awful, decadent Midwestern tour.
We were alcohol bloated, burnt out, squeezed into mildewed leather pants: all aviator sunglasses & cowboy boots, trailing a cloud of AquaNet Pink responsible for a acre-sized hole in the Ozone layer.


My look, 1986.

It was the final lineup of CH3 before the reboot: I’m up there being a lead singer, for fuck sake. Kimm and Jay Lansford doing the  guitars, hillbilly madman Ron Wood on drums.
The new kid Mike Dimkich has been shanghaied into bass duty on this leaky vessel, wide-eyed and not yet drinking age.  That didn’t stop us from forcing him to get drunk nightly and pimping out the cute new kid to the local sluts.
As we swung through Chicago, Detroit, Lansing, Flint–all places that held a soft spot for us in earlier years, we were met with disdain, disgust-and worst of all-no recognition at all.

I imagine that’s how it is for a band like, oh say, SmashMouth these days.
They come back to town, but instead of playing in the decent halls they held court in the 90’s, they find themselves on the grassy outskirt sidestage of Temecula’s Wild Wine Week festival.
How can they not feel a bitter ache as they roll their own amps on stage, following the opener: ShrekMouth (a tribute to SmashMouth)

So when we finally regrouped after that tour and the Ramones gig, the calendar lay plenty empty before us, missing Kimm’s frantic scribblings that usually kept us busy on bandstuff.

And as it so often happens, that stage of CH3 came to a close not in some fiery ball of Gallagher-esque onstage fistfights, but a lazy disintegration as everyone goes off to explore other projects.

Jay regrouped with  Steve Jones in The Unforgiven,   the rousing Western-themed band that set off a Major label bidding war in the mid 80’s.  Another CH3 survivor Larry Lee Lerma later joined them in a pared down version of the group, just teasing us with a full-blown Stepmothers reunion.

Jay was soon out on those big stages that we never quite got the hang of inhabiting,  pulling off the outsized rockstar moves with ease.

Kimm and Mike paired off in Bulldog,  a tasteful pop rock group that included future Wool and Concrete Blondie Al Bloch on bass and vocals.   They were soon grinding it out on the Hollywood circuit, yer classic Coconut Teaser  type of act that got all the foxy Westside legal assistants out and dancing at Madame Wong’s on a Friday night.

I had the treat of being left with beloved knucklehead and future Facebook grammatician Ron Wood.  We started a little act called Stagger Lee with my old Artesia rock heroes Mike Eldred and Ron Davis, formerly from the band Metro Hotel.


Pettibon flyer!

I dunno, we were going for a sort of AC/DC rocky thingy, but somehow our hearts were not really in this new act.
You know when things feel right, and this wasn’t it.

Ronnie soon drifted off to God knows where, and we found ourselves practicing in rented rooms, hustling for gigs, picking up stacks of fucking tickets for a Wednesday night slot at the Troubadour.  ick.

One night after a sweaty practice session, we found ourselves at The Embassy Lounge in Artesia, the bar right next to our beloved Gold Brique. The Brique was just beer and wine, so it was next door to the Embassy if you really wanted to get into the hard booze and fuck up your morning.

We sat over buckets of Jack Rocks, drowning those typical sorrows of a band relegated back to opening slot on pay to play shows.
I guess every band has that existential crisis. What the fuck are we doing here–I mean, for what?
How far removed have we become from that kid who first plugged in a guitar and hit a shimmering open E chord that shook the house, if not the world?

What happened to that? That Joy.

The bartender came over and mercifully topped off the highballs, then stopped and squinted at us.
Let me guess, y’all are a band right?
We grunted into our glasses, almost ashamed to admit to being part of this sordid racket.

Well, hell, why don’t you guys get up and do some songs?

She gestured to a darkened corner, and there was a little bandstand I never even noticed before.

“Well, we’re not that sort of…act,” we started.
Every musician is used to this shameful spiel when trying to explain your oeuvre to a civilian who just wants to hear a nice number that they know.

But before we could go on, she chimed in.
Free booze rest of the night?

Nine minutes later we had a combo amp and snare drum on stage, Ron plugging his bass into the house organ’s Leslie speaker.
We knew we couldn’t blast them with our hoary rock shit, so everyone came up with an old standard we could stretch out for 15 minutes and capitalize on the open tab:
Roadhouse Blues? Kansas City? Hey, The Temps–My Girl!

We started with a shuffling blues number, amazed to be playing at a volume so low you could still hear Vin Scully’s melodious tenor calling out the 10th inning against the Giants.

An old soggy couple stopped their ongoing argument and looked at us playing.
They tapped their fingers to the beat for a bit then got up from their booth and actually started dancing.
Tentative at first, then the muscle memory kicking in as they picked up the swing. She threw back her head and hooted as her husband twirled her around, now doing their very own version of the Lindy Hop, a forgotten language of the far better days of their youth.

And they were dancing to music that we were playing.

We looked at each other and grinned at the absurdity of it all.
These people had never heard of The Roxy or soundchecks or opening slots.
They didn’t give a fuck who got a Palladium gig, or burned with jealousy when one of their friends landed a major label deal.

They were in a bar, a band was playing and they were dancing.

We brought the number home and he dipped her down low for a finish, and then placed a rare kiss on her cheek. The rest of the room clapped.

Then he came up to us, put a five in an empty pint glass and we were a bar band.


to be continued