My Dinner with Keith Morris

I lay up my second shot on the 18th, total chickenshit move.
But between me and the green, now just 145 yards distant, lies a kidney shaped pond of water framed by cattails.
What is it about fucking Water?
I am suddenly terrified of the shimmering pool as if I am a green skinned sorceress surrounded by winged monkeys.
Oh, if it was just terra firma between me and that white flag, I would casually pull the 7 iron and give it a firm but easy swing, confident of ending up somewhere within two putts to end the day.
But this innocent water feature seems to have a gravitational pull of a Death Star, sucking balls out of the sky to claim yet another victim for its murky depths.
I end up grabbing a a five hybrid and swap out the Pro V1 for a scuffed range ball, acts of desperation that can only ensure failure.
And of course-of course!-I take the worst swing of the day, arms disconnected, already looking up before I even make the downswing. The ball shanks 45 degrees off the face of the club, spinning maybe 75 yards before skipping off the surface of the pond twice.
The tiny splash it makes before disappearing into the green water echoes like the bitter laugh of a cruel stepfather.

I’ve disrupted a couple of Canadian Geese lounging in the cattails. They honk in protest before taking flight, disgusted by the bad play.
And suddenly I am alone in the desert, on the walk of shame to the drop area, and its fucking hot.
I wonder at the importance I’ve assigned to hitting a tiny ball around the yellowing fairways in the midday heat, at the silliness of wearing a collared shirt-tucked in– per clubhouse rules.
Punk rocker? Me?

The carnival lights of Pappy and Harriets sparkle in the desert night.
We all clutch our vaccination cards and smartphone rendered tickets in either hand like unholstered Colts as we walk down the dusty ghost town street of Pioneertown.
We are masked as outlaws, bandanas replaced by N95s.
Heading for our fated showdown with the motherfuckin’ CircleJerks!

When they announced the dates to their comeback tour–what, for the third goddamned time?–we pledged to be there for night one.
For who knows what disaster or plagues those rascal Gods have planned for us in the near future.
We may be shuttered yet again by another variant of virus, or chased to the hills by anti vax zombies, who the hell knows?
Band tours are announced, rescheduled, then cancelled.
But it seemed as though it just might happen, this wonderful gig, though if we were all told to turn and evacuate at the last minute it would not surprise me.
But as we finally pass security and get into the gates I see Arab standing stage left and a dozen familiar faces, smiles unmasked, that I allow myself to believe we are going to see the Jerks play once again!

Negative Approach kicks off and the night is suddenly filled with with purging rage.
John Brannon up there shouting like the world’s most pissed off guy who has finally reached a human voice on the customer service line, his eyebrows inverted like two crows diving for the same roadkill.

Kimm and I wander around the crowd between bands, but we go only a few yards before we are stopped by an old friend or a fan of the band wanting a photo with us.
They see us standing together and take a startled second look, like children running into their third grade teacher in the supermarket.
It becomes apparent when we are together we become a different and altogether logical entity, like Bert and Ernie or weiner and bun.
His spiky blonde head, my tragic gigantism, together we equal those dudes from that old band.

We chat with a few more kids who tell us how their parents used to like us, then we decide to separate and walk to different corners of the corral.

As I wait for the band to come on, I am surprised by just how much I really want to see the Jerks play again.
They always seemed The Stones compared to Black Flag’s Beatles, or maybe they were beyond all comparison…. The Who?
A band that always embraced the ragged edge in urgent blasts of sound, The Circle Jerks remained the true standard bearers of So Ca hardcore, never wavering from the path of good old honest punk, man.

And out front, always Keith Morris.
He saunters onstage and welcomes the crowd in his nasally drawl, sounding like your favorite uncle who always asks about your love life as he slips a twenty in your shirt pocket.
Approachable to a fault, Keith has always been there for a chat, often helping our own band out with touring logistics or a gifted opening slot.
Between his three mega bands and countless offshoots of bug killing monikered projects, he is there in the darkened back of the club, a fan when not on stage.
He has become our own punk rock Bill Murray, a beloved elder statesman.

But then the band kicks in and he becomes the snarling frontman of our youth, belting out song after song in the same bark and meter. A sound that conjures up the wild hot nights of the 1980s, transposed to voice the rage of this fucking world and its horrors.
A dust cloud rises from the desert floor, and though the venue is all outdoor the temperature of the Earth is suddenly hotter.
People raise their goddamned phones, naturally, that natural reaction nowadays to prove they were there.
But my faith in mankind is restored when kids start climbing atop each other’s shoulders, launching their bodies across raised hands.
Iphones and drinks go flying, dust becomes mud.
People start pocketing their precious electronics against the mounting mayhem and have to just watch and listen, be in the moment of this night.

It’s Greg Hetson up there next to Keith, those familiar tight kneed jumps, and all is right in the world.
Joey Castillo on the drums is a monster, and good old Zander holding down the bottom, I am starstruck once again that Joe Strummer had this guy on speed dial.
Song after song is played, and when Keith announces they are only half way through twenty seven fucking songs on their set list I am forced to find a cup of water and a seat.

I worry about bands going out on tour, amidst viral threat, expected to rage on cue as if they were teens.
Keith and Brannon both, having to get out there and pour out their souls and shred their throats nightly.
And while it may seem silly, all of us elder gents shouting above the guitar and drum, it only takes that first song to remind us of the value, a reminder that we shall import our meaning to the experience.
Whether confessing to a rage that somehow still burns at 60, or trying to get a small ball to disappear into a hole

The band plays Wild in the Street mid set, the crowd goes fucking wild.
It is epiphanically charged moment, the punk rock ethos suddenly clear as the stars hanging crystalline above the upraised arms of the Joshua trees.
That shared thing that allows us to wear a black and red sock to work, to get horrendous but cheap haircuts.
We wear Black Flag T shirts to the supermarket and buy the ugly fruit.
Because we know the fruit still tastes just as sweet and it’s only hair, it will grow back, and, hey! The fuck you looking at?
Because it’s not that we don’t care,.
We just don’t care what you think.

The next day I’m still in the desert, back on the course.
After the clubhouse turn I ditch the Travis Matthew polo and put on my sleeveless No Values T shirt.
The course is deserted again in the midday heat, and I crank my phone speaker volume.
Spotify choosing Circle Jerks songs off some algorithm they suppose will appease me.

I am now on the 18th tee, and I barely notice the pond standing between me and the flag.
I see only a mild lawn that I will own like a bitch, the water feature as inconsequential as a puddle of spilled Pabst in the desert dust.
From the cupholder in the cart, Keith sings I Wanna Destroy You, and I can’t help but laugh, a maniacal, knowing cackle that sends the geese into flight.

The ball launches pure off the face of my driver, and it disappears into a white expanse of sky.
I turn away, not even caring to track its flight, because I destroyed that thing.
Punk rocker, me.

Our Last Gig: Commissary Costa Mesa

I stand at the bar waiting for a Red Bull.
It’s past ten o’clock, you see, and I am unused to being up so late.

I stifle a yawn and try to snap back into nightclub mode, for we still have a set to play.
For the past glorious 18 months I would usually be tucked in bed by this ungodly hour, playing Golf Clash on my Ipad until it slips, finally, from my loosened grip.
Another day ends with a sigh and snore even before the tablet clatters to the ground..

The Daughter is suddenly at my elbow.
She has has migrated toward Dad With His Wallet Out, opportunistic as a hyena sidling up to a lioness chewing on the haunch of a downed wildebeest.
I sigh, ask the bartender to hold up, and ask what she’d like.

She is apparently fetching a round for her crew as well, and she recites an order of highballs and fruity seltzers that sounds like an incantation to summon fallen Indian warriors:
White Claw, Moscow Mule, Seabreeze, Ice Pick……Geronimo!
The bar space before me is suddenly cluttered with slim cans and cocktails concocted from cinnamon whiskey and fluorescent mixers.
I slide two twenties across the bar, and when the bartender looks down at my cash dubiously, surrender two more bills.

The Daughter has already danced back into the darkened depths of the club with her arms filled with drink, while I shell out my last cash for a suitable tip.
But I smile, for I am, at least for a single shining moment, a useful Dad.

Spider is up on stage, and it’s good to see our old pals once again.
The room is ruled by youngsters, dancing out of sheer joy and pent up energy.
Elbows fly, legs pump.
The club adopts the giddy vibe of a dog park, the butt sniffing attendees going crazy and off -leash.

It’s our old bandmate Alf up there on drums, slamming the skins and having a blast.
He plays with a renewed energy, and I have to admit it is bittersweet.
Like seeing an old flame now thirty pounds lighter and remarried, happily moved on from a hilarious yet doomed relationship.

It occurs to me that Alfie was the first to be a Father, though he is years younger than me or Kimm.
He started a family admirably young, and now counts Grandkids among his audience while he sips bronzed beers during his Sunday patio sessions.

I wander to the cordoned off backstage area, where Nick huddles with the other drummers.
They warm up their wrists and complain about singers.
Steven from Shattered Faith catches us up on his rockstar twins from The Garden, and their plans to play at vast halls on their upcoming Fall tour.
I wonder aloud if they perhaps need some aging punk rockers to open the show, or maybe even sell merch.
No response.

Bobby shows me photos of his own grandkids on his phone, unable to resist gushing while he talks of their crawling adventures.
Punk rockers reduced to big old softies, I tell ya.

I wonder about my own legacy.
“Now here’s a record your great grandpa made, waaaay back in the 1980’s,” I imagine a future offspring saying.
A toddler chews on the corner of a faded 12″ EP sleeve, my photo on the back: a long dead numbskull grin searches for a trace of dignity in the future
“Oh, here we go. Here’s a song grandpa wrote, it’s called Wetspots. It’s about pre cum.”

The Shattered boys hit the stage, and it is always wonderfully jarring to see Branden up there stage right.
He appears as if a hologram from their younger selves amongst their graying heads.
His slim Thunderesque guitar posing is a cruel reminder of what we all once were.
But he stands next to Pop, and Spencer looks over at him with fatherly pride.

As Anthony tunes his bass backstage, he eyes the cans of Modelo floating in the melting ice water.
I can tell he is tempted to grab a couple for stage, then hide the rest under seat cushions for after the show.
Usual backstage etiquette.

But tomorrow he and Amy will be hosting a party for baby Nova’s first birthday, so he grabs a Monster instead.
After taking a sip he makes a face as if he has just tasted the tears of a sad, sad clown.
It will be our first time meeting his kiddo as well, having watched her grow up these past twelve months by cell phone photos and emailed video clips, isolated safely while the world went about it’s deadly viral business.

I will watch his baby destroy a birthday cake with her bare hands, have her first astonishing taste of sugared icing.
And the world, it will suddenly open up to her, with all its sweet joys and bitter consequences.
I resist reminding Anthony that soon he will be Dad With Wallet, but by the time his daughter is drinking age a round of drinks will cost the same as a 12 volt Lithium car battery.
And he will pay it, and gladly, if just for the chance to stand next to his Daughter for a moment before she disappears into the night.

We play and it is one of those nights.

The bass drumhead breaks, I forget half the words to forty year old songs.
We are off by just that much, a millisecond of groove lost after the long layoff.
But Who cares? seems to be the theme of the night, as people are happy to just be out and together.
During our third attempt to play You Lie I look over and Alf is up onstage again with us, shouting along to the chorus.
He conducts us successfully to the end of it, and I hug him in grateful relief.

When we play Make Me Feel Cheap we bring up Max, Kimm’s son to join us onstage.
He stands next to Pop, and the eyes get a little weepy out there on the dancefloor.
Max, the spitting fucking image of Kimm at that age, straps on Kimm’s Gold Top and joins in with ease.
The crowd loves it, senses how much we love it, and we keep him up there for the set closer of Got a Gun.

With Max up there I have an unnerving sensation in my periphery, that jeweled corner to my left, where for the past forty years I have felt the reassuring presence of Kimm next to me on stage.
I see him as a young man, and imagine that I am young once again as well.

But we get to the final choruses, and I find that I am winded.
Out of practice, out of shape, I croak along to the final shouts, then finally just step back from the microphone.
And it does not matter.
The song blasts on, and young Max steps up to the mic and sings my part.
I watch as the pit boils and the crowd yells, while a new generation carries on.