San Diego

Well, the goddamn time has changed and the days are as short as Alf’s pubis—that’s short, people!
It makes you long for the distant Summer evenings, when you would toddle out of the Irisher after Happy Hour and still have the golden glow of the sunset accompany you on the walk back over to O’Malleys….

And so goes 2009 as it comes to its own evening, yes?
It’s late in the year, and we no longer have the energy to lose the weight or dye the hair for these last few gigs.

Besides, I’m thinking a dash of grey will add to the roguish look, eh?

I’m imagining a little Joe Perry action:

Or, hey–maybe they’ll see a resemblance to this character!

Yeah, whatever—Me, I stay away from the Garnier Ultra shine #14 Blue/Black for a month and here’s the look I achieve:

Someone's looking fabulous!

Yer ol pals here at the CH3 ranch did a lot of travelin and serenadin’ these past 12 months, and just a couple more gigs on the calendar before we put a busy year to rest–

What’s this? Another gig down South? Goddamn, that makes it about a half dozen times we’ve played San Diego in the past year!

You know, we really enjoy travelin down the 5 and playing there. Lots of really cool friends and bands we know down yonder, and besides–they got some green chile burritos available at 3a.m. that make you Pavlovianally start drooling at last call !

Let's be honest---way better than groupies or drugs!

But it wasn’t always this way.

Oh no, there was a period of time–let’s say 1982 til the recent past or so–that CH3 was not welcome down in the Greater San Diego area.

What’s that? What happened Uncle Mike? Tell us a story!!

Well, alright, but then it’s straight up to bed with you feckin brats!!

Long, long ago….

Young and innocent, and we smelled like freshly shampooed puppies!

You see, way back when in the early days of this punk thingy, we had no internet, no myspace or facebook. No Hot Topic!
There was no Punk Rocker global community, and so the different cities would have their own little tribes. Many were the nights we would pull into the parking lot of some warehouse or abandoned roller rink, only to be met with the angry glares of the local crew, viciously guarding their own little scene from the outside invaders. You had to prove yourself worthy if you ever wanted to come back, and believe me brother–there were plenty of burgs that didn’t want to see our little act again!

We were fortunate to have an ep out on the powerhouse PoshBoy label, though, and that opened a lot of doors!

The EP was released and we were still scratching for local gigs–Cuckoo’s Nest on a weeknight, maybe a garage party in LaHabra. But reviews started coming in, a few copies got sold, and we were steadily getting offers to play bigger gigs!

One Saturday evening, as I was collecting the shopping carts in the Fedmart parking lot,

hmmm? what? What’s a Fedmart you say?
Well, it’s a little before your time, but imagine a WalMart, only with a much lower class clientele-ya got me? A White Trash bonanza catering to the local families that arrived drunk and arguing, and left with their carts piled high. Gallons of blue label vodka and menthol cigarettes, that was their usual booty.

And after loading their pickup trucks with their nutritous supplies, do they bring their carts back to the front? Or even to the cart corral in the middle of the goddamn parking lot?

I think you know the answer.

No, they leave it to some poor schmuck, doing an eight hour– eight hour! –shift of doing nothing but collecting carts. Even bagging groceries was better than that gig, and I usually passed a Saturday afternoon doing just that.

There I’d be, silently nursing my hangover as I bundled the groceries. Jauntily snapping out two brown bags at the same time while winking at the Donna, (cougar cashier with bad skin), I would calculate the individual minutes left on my shift and the time it would take to be home, drinking a cold Coors Banquet in the shower.

Understand me–an easy job. At least compared to double fours humping shopping carts over a 2 acre parking lot…… Didn’t even need to expunge enough breath to ask, paper or plastic? —-it was even before that choice was an option!
Only the wisacres and hard asses pulled cart duty, rebels with big mouths who were always begging someone to clock them out while they went to meet their pot dealer at the Brique.

Do you want the Smirnoff in the bag ma'am? Or will you be drinking it on the way back to the car?

So where was I? Right.

One Saturday evening, as I was collecting the shopping carts…..wha? Why was I out there collecting the carts? That wot you say?

Don’t know if I ever told you about your Uncle Duane, did I?

For the love of God, Duane--do not take a drink while I'm in the room!

Ah, gee, he was a swell guy alright. In fact, I believe he got me that swell job at the Fedmart.

See, I was just a college kid at the time, doing my term paper on Mesopotamian Influence on Early Egypt and practicing in the garage most every evening. But Mom was getting a little fed up with my 6 unit workload and constant monitoring of the Twilight Zone reruns that played 6 times a day on KTLA channel 5…

Oh, for fuck sake! It's a cookbook ya dummies! How many times have I warned ya?!

So I figured a part time job would be the best way to keep the peace and insure our practice privileges, at least for a while anyway. Rockstardom right around the corner and all that don’t ya know….

So Duane gets me into The ‘Mart and all is fine for a while: me putting the frozen chicken in the bottom/marshmallows on top, Duane sweating his ass off in the parking lot, pushing a 25 yard long line of carts back to the store front, they only to be used and scattered again. Sweet.

Goddamn you! I just put that fucking thing back!!

Long story short, they pushed DW about as far as you can, which is to say 3 weeks into the job. Something about spending too long behind the Snack Bar soda fountain while a line of irritated alcoholics waited at the empty Cart Poole.
I can still remember Duane flipping off Richard the Creepy Shift Manager and throwing his apron into Black Chuck’s face. Duane looked at me and raised an eyebrow, an invitation to throw off my humiliating costume as well and join him at the Brique for a night of drinking and boasting.

Sadly, I shrugged and turned back to my bags, figuring correctly that it wouldn’t be the last job Duane would get me into or fired out of.

So there I am, resplendent in red vest over short sleeve button up with brown polyester clip-on tie, minding my own business. I slide a 24 pack of Lucky Lager out of a cart’s lower tray, gentle as birthing a foal into the new day of a misty meadow. That’s when Richard the Creepy Shift Manager tapped me on the shoulder. “Magrann-you got the cart shift. Now.”

Fuckin Duane.

It’s 3 weeks later and I’m still pulling Cart duty evey Saturday. I know it’s a punishment, especially because Richard sees me ride to Fmart on the back of Duane’s Interceptor 500. Duane never misses a chance to rev the throttle and squeak a meager burnout on the Mart’s front sidewalk, and Richard the CSM never tires of pointing me out to the hot parking lot.

The ocean I swam. Over and over and over....

One scorching Saturday, let’s say 4pm, I’m humping the line back to the front. Saturdays are the worst, because you have so many goddamn carts out there and the lot is so full, you can’t possibly get them back to the store before they run out. A vicious circle, so you start lining up more and more carts, and on this day I’ve got as many as I can possibly steer from way back here. Richard the Creepy Shift Manager comes out of the automatic doors and yells for me: “Magrann! Phone! Personal Call!”

I abandoned my conga line of shopping carts, allowing the first one in the row to break free and bump harmlessly into a Datsun B210 in the handicap space. Richard glared at me as I walked past him into the store. “What I tell you about personal calls, huh?!” I rolled my eyes in response and went to the phone behind the information booth/cigarette dispensary.

The cold air of the store’s guts shock me for a moment, and I struggle with the dark spots that swim before my eyes. Black Chuck shakes his head, the fuckin kiss ass.

“Yeah, what?” I say, phone to my sweating head. It’s Kimm on the line. I can hear Duane in the background.

“How’s the cart business?”
“Fuck you. What?”
“Dude. can you get off, like right now?”

“No. I don’t know. What’s up?”

“Dude,” and I can hear Kimm grinning. “We got a show with Black Flag. Tonight. San Diego.”

Oh, but you kids are tired, ain’t ya? We’ll finish this story up another day. Maybe.

San Diego II

As the 5 freeway makes one more long curving dip Southbound, say around San Clemente, the Pacific suddenly appears over your starboard shoulder.

I love that part of the drive, when you leave the numbing concrete of the suburbs and you finally see the landscape give way to the vast blue ocean. Even better when yer in the back of the ol Blue and White Chevy, cold Coors Banquet in hand, 999 casette playing distortionally full blast on the Blaupunkt. Loud as the music plays, it is still no competition to the roar of the crew: Duane’s braying laugh, Kimm and Larry arguing out a set list, Chris yelling at all the backseat drinkers to keep their beers down on the fuckin’ freeway. A chick is screaming from somewhere in the gear compartment, begging for a bathroom stop. We’re going to San Diego to play with Black Flag!

The Blue and White....Home on the Road

After the call from Kimm, I went back out to the Fmart parking lot where Richard was still glaring at the stray cart lodged up against the Datsun. I stepped around him and pulled it back, wiped off the black scuff mark with a spit moistened thumb. No Harm Done. “Heh. Sorry about that Richard. No more calls, got it.”

“Get back to work Magrann. You just lost your break.”
“Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that. What’s the chance of cutting out early tonight?”

He looked like I’d just asked to shit on his beard.

My work day-in fact my entire career in the food services industry- ended 90 seconds later with my vest and clip on tie draped over Richard’s fat head. As I waited for the blue and white to pick me up out on South Street, I looked back and saw Black Chuck walking out to the parking lot, his head hanging low, resigned to the task that was now his. Heh.

An hour 15 minutes later I was sipping that cold Coors Banquet and watching the sun being pulled into the blue sea, singing along to Titanic Reaction. And an hour after that we pulled into some rec center outside of downtown San Diego.

We're here!!!

The promoter was hopping around the parking lot, relieved we’d finally made it, yelling at the kids to throw away their beers and get inside the club. This was some last minute gig, and he thanked us for being able to make it down on such short notice—also, something about Black Flag trying out their new singer, some out of towner named Henry. Oh, and we were supposed to be onstage, like, now!

We loaded the gear in and up a flight of stairs, right onto a low stage facing a hardwood dance floor. We set up fast and tuned guitars with shaking hands, trying to look like we didn’t care in front of the SD punkers who didn’t know much about us. Maybe they heard the EP, but we looked a lot goofier than the record sounded-that’s true.

What the...? But they sound like they have mohawks!

You could smoke indoors back then, and the air was blue with Clove cigarette smoke. Kimm and I checked the stage volume, someone cut the Buzzcocks off the PA, and we turned to face the crowd. We kicked it off with Got a Gun.

Sometimes when you play a gig everyting goes wrong, and you remember that. Pants split on stage, someone kicks the mic right into your face and splits your lower lip in two. But truthfully, most of the time the shows are like the rest. You play the songs you’ve rehearsed a thousand times and you do the set on auto pilot for a bored crowd, then you pack it off the stage and look for a cold beer.

But sometimes, sometimes it all goes right.

On this night the crowd wanted to hear music, they wanted it, to connect their boredom and rage with loud guitars and drums. The guitars stayed in tune, Burton didn’t forget any countoffs, the pit grew with every song. Though the stage was low, the ceiling was maybe a standard 8 footer and covered with acoustic cottage cheese. With every windmill of my arm (because now we’re feeding off the boiling crowd and pulling off the rockstar moves that have been performed only for the bedroom mirror), I would hit my knuckles right up into the ceiling. With every song my knuckles grew bloodier, and the pickguard of the Rickenbacker was soon spider webbed in red.

We end the set, soaked in honest sweat and breathing hard. When we get the guitars back to the shared dressing room, Dez and Chuck actually come over and talk to us!

Understand- Maybe 13 months earlier, Kimm and I stood in the back of the Fleetwood and watched a Black Flag set.
It was a frightening and exhilarating thing to behold, and truthfully made us wonder if we had the sand to exist in this world.

Now, I’m standing there with Dez, and he’s shaking his head as he holds my bloodied hand in his.

Chuck and Kimm continued talking, a conversation that would lead to our first real tour of the Southwest. Henry Rollins came over and introduced himself, he seemed a little keyed up for the gig, one of his first with the band. He said he’d heard the EP and liked it.

Hey! Who's the new guy?

A loose and magical night. Later, when they went into Revenge, Henry tensed up those neck muscles like only he can, and screamed the words into the mic: It’s not my imagination, I’ve got a gun on my back! But the band didn’t kick in on cue, just turned to each other and laughed as Henry almost fell off the riser with the momentum unanswered. I don’t know…standing there on the side of the stage, we felt like we were in on the joke, musicians.

OKay-Again, Gun on my back!....Oh, c'mon guys!

We loaded out of the club early Sunday morning. Wet with sweat, gulping at the fresh air, dizzy with the promise of, well, anything! after a gig like that. The local punks were on our side, helped carry out the gear. One crusty even surrendered Burton’s cymbals that had been swiped and hidden in the pizza oven. Nights like this don’t come often to a young band, and I think even then we knew that.

The promoter was pleased and pledged more great gigs in the future.

He made good on his promise, but with the very next trip down to San Diego we fucked up everything.

San Diego III

So we have a Myspace page, yeah. Facebook, Twitter, sure.
All that crap.

I’m sure in a few months we’ll have some goddamn Iphone app that lets you match CH3 drink for drink on any given night on tour. You know, so you can stay in sync with your favorite band member!

*chime* Anthony Thompson alert *chime* now drink 24 ounces of Pabst Blue Ribbon and insult a celebrity.

Gotta keep up with times, ya know! In theory, all these delicious tools are there to help us promote the band, spread the word. It’s a new day when all you have to do is digitally cut and paste up a flyer, photobucket it, and send it out enmasse to everyone within a 75 mile radius of the show zip code.

Personally, I miss the day of scissor and glue, the trip to Kinko’s in the middle of the night.
The stacks of flyers hand delivered to Zed’s, only to be quickly tossed in the trash by the China White guys when they followed us in with their flyers…..

Selling for 15 bucks on ebay..and to think we used to wipe with these things!

But most of the time, these various web sites seem to be there solely to allow young bands to contact us, pleading to get on a show. It’s tough, hell yeah! We rarely have any say in the lineup, but was it really that long ago when we had to kiss ass to get that opening slot on a thursday night?
Eh, guess it was.

...and this we vow, Commandatore' We will bring in 45 people and let all the bands use our drumset!

After the Black Flag gig, things started to fall into place for the band. In an early interview with No Mag, Henry put us in his list of top 5 acts (when we played good). I think he changed his opinion a few months later when he had to step over my drunken body onstage at the Minutemen compound in San Pedro. Heh….nice shoes, Hank!

We were getting some good words written about the ep, the cool kids started coming around to the shows, and Robbie called one fateful day and told us it was time to come back to the studio and record the full length follow up!

The gun, the hands, the cheesy font--and yet it all works!

But best of all, we were getting called all the time to be on these shows. Amazing gigs–the first closing of Al’s Bar with Circle Jerks. Huge daytime fests at the Olympic Auditorium…..A gig with Fear!
And an actual concert, I guess you would call it-with security guards and a huge stage-opening for the Professionals!

I guess a couple of these guys were in a band before, am I right?

I know now we were experiencing that zone of popularity, when the thing is no longer in your hands. We were as baffled as the other local bands were jealous of our fortune. It seemed like every time Kimm came to practice he had another gig set up, playing with one of our heroes, or I would answer the phone and what? It’s Craig Lee on the line, and he wants a quote for Thursday’s LA Weekly!
It was a nice ride, and we don’t hold our breath that this train will come back any time soon to pick us up again…..

One day Kimm came into the garage, jotting something down in the little planner he always held, the days’ answer to the Blackberry. Larry and I were already in there with Burton, trying to play Temples of Syrinx. Kimm looks up, puts hands to ears, arches eyebrows in question. “What the fuck was that?” says he when we cut it out in mid We are the Priests!

“That, my friend, was a lil something by a band called Rush.”
“Rush. Oh my God. That was not Rush.”

Burton immediately goes into some Neil Peart solo, about the only thing he really practiced. Fuckin drummers. Not like we had any songs of our own we needed to work on, wot? Kimm and I had to continue our conversation over the P.A., shouting over the ridiculous drum fills.

“NAH. HEY ARE WE ALL FREE ON THE 12TH? BURTON SHUT UP! FUCK! Okay, we good on the 12th? It’s a Friday.”
I look around the garage, Larry nods, Burton shrugs. Burton had brought a huge Iron Maiden poster to staple up behind his set.

I looked at Eddie, he seemed fine.

“Yeah, we’re good, what it be?”

Kimm grinned, made us wait a moment, and I knew it was something good.
“Get this–San Diego, the California Theatre….With. The. Cramps!”

Oh man.

Larry: Cramps!
Me: Fuck Yeah!
Burton: Which ones are the Cramps?

ah do you understand??

This is what I was talking about. These shows seemingly appeared out of thin air. And before you know it, we’re sharing a dressing room with a band that we were covering-badly-just a few months earlier in the garage.

“Fuckin Awesome Kimm..when is it again?”
“12th. Friday. I’ll confirm tomorrow.”
“Whew. Cramps. Really? We should practice huh?”

Kimm strapped on the Red Ibanez Destroyer and tuned up.
“Alright then gentlemen. Shall we?”

Forever geeks at heart.....

“And the Meek shall inherit the earth….1-2-3-4!”

Click to hear the Temple of Syrinx suite from 2112!

San Diego IV

A full beer can arced the darkening sky and landed with a solid thunk on the van roof, the sound solid and somber as a coffin lid being slammed shut. I glanced back and saw the shillouettes of the San Diego punkers gathered around the stage door, the tips of their cigarettes whirling as fireflies underneath the lone lightbulb that lit the entrance. You could tell they were regrouping for another assault on the Blue and White, and I asked Chris to get us the fuck out of there as the rest of the crew inside yelled and taunted the punkers across the parking lot.

Time to go.

My poor baby! What've they done to ya??

I would ask you: who doesn’t want to be part of a gang, hmmm?

I don’t know, to one day be asked to sit at the cool kid table at lunch, or to finally- wordlessly- be allowed to walk home with the dangerous guys. The kids who cut classes and smoked cigarettes in their vans.

Who doesn’t want to belong?

Goin in heavy....

Back down the 5 freeway again, sunset after the daylight savings change, and the clouds gather as we crest the San Clemente curve. We’re not listening to 999 this time though, no–it’s an english Oi! compilation, and the beer we hold is not our beloved Coors Banquet but its darker and sinister stepmother, Olde English 800….

The old Blue and White seems always packed with new faces now, and whenever we load up for a gig there are new names to remember, and new hands- heavy with broken knuckles- to shake.

In the months that have passed since our last trip down South, things have changed. We’re a harcdcore band now, and we are to reckoned with, yeah? We’ve had our picture taken in a dozen tough poses, encouraged by the photographers to knock off the goofy grins and look mean!
The Choc thrift store polyester leisure suits have been replaced by leathers, Docs and fanny kilts. My Mom ventured down to Poseur on Melrose and got me some Brit import bondage pants….Thanks Mom!

Meaning business, bub!

In the van this time down, we have Chris at the wheel as usual and Duane riding shotgun, but we’re also packing along big Oren, a teenager who could easily pass for a 47 year old longshoreman. Also, Olly and his crew from L.A., maybe a couple other Wollum boys, and some silent punk girls with serious eye makeup and self inflicted cigarette burns. Jeff from Wasted Youth is making out with Larry’s kid sister in the gear compartment.

This cannot end well.

So how was the Cramps gig ya ask?

Oh, we never played the gig. In fact, I don’t think Kimm or I ever got out of the van.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot, woozily bloated from the Malt Liquor and charged on English football chants, the van door slid open full. The clatter of empty cans hitting asphalt our intro song, malevolent as black hail on a church roof.

Duane led the charge, and seven men jumped out of the van and headed inside the theatre. Kimm and I stayed in the van to change shirts, and maybe have 3 minutes of silence before surrendering to the night ahead.
And as fast as they were out, Duane and the crew came running back to the van, jumped in laughing and cussing, recounting a roundhouse right that someone had just thrown to knock a fool out cold.

The victim? Oh, gee. That would be the promoter.

This was a popular man in San Diego, and as word spread around the parking lot, the San Diego punkers started for the van. Apparently, the Cramps wanted the venue cleared for soundcheck, but our boys wanted to stay and watch! An argument broke out.

Well, what ya gonna do, really? but throw a punch?

And now fights were breaking out all around the van, we are being yelled at to get the fuck out of San Diego and never come back. Cops are on the way.

We hate you now. Leave.

If you know me or Kimm at all, ya know we’re not known for clearing the room with our fists. We’ve had maybe one physical brawl over the course of our 30 years (and as I recall that was with each other!)

But now we were getting a reputation as troublemakers, thanks in no small part to the manicacs we welcomed along for the ride. We would check with promoters after a gig, only to find we owed them due to the 3 microphones stolen. Or tires would be mysteriouly slashed, and a bartender is threatening to call the cops if we weren’t gone soon.

But, really. Who’s fault was that? Why couldn’t I have the strength to stand and say enough!?

When we first started playing those backyard parties we were the goofy kids, and had a hard time getting the tough guys or cute girls to give us a listen. Now that we had a little cred, not to mention a big guest list and a tank full of gas, we didn’t have much of a problem filling the van.

I ask you again: Who doesn’t want to belong?

A new day for you, kids.....

We drove away, and I looked over at Kimm across the dark van. We saw each other’s eyes for a moment, not possibly knowing that this one night would be the foreshadow to a couple full years of riots, threats, cancelled shows and animosity with a handful of other bands.

We pulled away from the cursing crowd, and distanced ourselves from an opportunity lost. I like to think that I had the romance to look back at that diminishing light as the van pulled away, that even in the midst of the bleeding and yelling, I was as conscience and forlorn as Gatsby staring at his distant green light at the end of a dock across Egg Harbor.

But we know better than that now, don’t we?
I was too young, too drunk or stupid, to recognize it as anything more than a lightbulb.

Merry Christmas!