Monday, March 21, 2005

Billy the Kiddo; Little 5 Points, Atlanta Pt. 1 (short story)

...written on the run but the ride was fun...

So I was over at my home-biscuit's crib the other night to co-pilot on a baby-sitting mission during which we started playing tunes and whatnot. In an effort to avoid having the neighbors scream "Hang the DJ," a la Morrissey, I discovered an LP that I hadn't heard in totality for over a decade: Hole's Live Through This. I hadn't checked that plate since I used to frequent The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club when I lived in a galaxy far, far away; Atlanta's Little 5 Points neighborhood back in the 90s.

I'll tell you, when I heard that opening to "Violet" I was instantly teleported out of Los Angeles and sitting at the long bar in the big room peering over the edge of my glass goblet at license plates from all over the country. <BAMF>, just like the X-Men's Nightcrawler and shite, yo. When Hole came out I was working as a lead cook at this Jamaico-Cuban joint called The Bridgetown Grill which was esconced smack-dab in the middle of an ecclectic assortment of head shops, record stores, vintage clothing boutiques, restaraunts and bars which lined the main pedestrian drag and park area that faced Euclid Avenue.

In those days "Hot-lanta" was immersed in an international charm offensive as the city had won the bid for the Olympics and people flowed in from all over the globe to set up shop; I'd just left school with the band I was in to stake our claim in the Jewel of the New South. Back in it's 90s-era heyday, the yokels who lived out in Marrietta, Cobb County and Stone Mountain would drive down to see the natives in their nose-ringed and graffiti-covered natural habitat...the weirdos...the street hustlers...the runaways...the artists...the outcasts...the people. This was back when the influence of the Seattle Sound and Gen X would reach the crest of their cultural prominence, soon to recede into a national mindset that would yield the culturally questionable times we now live in, Clinton was in office and this was way before Monica-gate and the Floridian coup de main of 2000 but I'm digressing so let's press FFWD.

The power of a song to bring memories and images (good & bad) has never been lost on me, I embrace it all and as I checked this Hole LP in my friend's crib in Pasadena, it was having its way with me in the forgotten memories department. By the time I got to "Doll Parts" I was sucked into the vortex of a full-blown episode of remeniscing, specifically about this chick I knew who used to tend bar at the Yacht Club, although we hoodrats called her Billie, her real name was Wilhemena which I found out later but I'm getting ahead of myself. Billie was a dead ringer for that chick Sarah Gilbert, who played Darlene, the wise-cracking, raven-haired daughter on Rosanne's sitcom, only taller, older and sexier in that "I'll-kick-your-ass-good-if-you-don't-whistle-in-the-weeds-to-my-liking" kind of way.

The kitchen staff at Bridgetown and the Y.C.'s bar crew had an unwritten quid pro quo arrangement -- we'd shoot over succulent meals of jerked ribs, chicken, salmon, tuna, ceviche, etc on the down-low and, once we clocked out, we'd slide up into the E.A.Y.C and get faded on their extensive list of libations- they didn't serve hard liquor at the Yacht but they did have one of the largest selection of beers, lagers and pilsners in the 404 area code. I should know, I've tried them all at least twice and that's no porkie-pie. Oat sodas from all over the planet, cute waitresses and a culturally diverse clientele; while sitting at the bar it wasn't impossible to witness a bearded biker next to a Rastaman, next to a laced up skinhead sitting next to a Native American traditional dancer (in full garb), next to an aging, obese three-toothed stripper (off duty from the Clairmont Lounge), all sucking their favorite flavors from beer steins while John Coltrane's "Love Supreme" oozed out of the speakers...suffice to say that on many a night after work the oceans roared and the waves crashed as glasses clinked together until we all saw the crack of Dawn's ass -- an inside joke at the Y.C.; Dawn was this petite Irish lass (lilting brogue, red hair, the whole bit) who worked the taps and could drink a 300lb man under his stool while simultaneously topping off mugs. When she had "a brick in her hat" towards the end of the night,however, she'd get a trifle randy and drop trou for "a poke in the whiskers" with whomever was left standing...hey, everybody needs a hobby and I'm not ashamed to admit that I know for a fact her carpet matched the drapes, so to speak.

As I listened to "Live Through This,," I recalled one particular Saturday night after going coast-to-coast on the grill; "coast-to-coast" was a term we cooks used for when we pulled a double at the stove which began when the doors opened at 9am and didn't end until the joint closed -- essentially a culinary hell (both literal and figurative) as you sweated gallons of perspiration through lunch, mid-day and dinner rushes, it took at least a half hour to wash the charred-food smell out of your hands with a toothbrush. All told, "coastin' " was a grueling 14 hour undertaking but lets just say we had our "means" of getting through those pesky physical limitations and leave it at that.

By the end of my day's forced march into the weeds, I was still coasting on the effects of the aforementioned alertness aid, so I went over to the Yacht to drown the lingering jitters in a vat of barley, hops and whatever the guy passed out on the floor had had. When I pushed open the big glass door and walked inside the club, Courtney Love was shrieking "Someday, you will ache like I ache," during the chorus of "Doll Parts." I quickly noted that Billie was tending bar or at least preparing to, as she quickly rolled straight past me from the direction of the walk-in fridge with six cases of Newcastle stacked on a dolly. She waved, parked the hand truck behind the bar and began to load up the reach-in coolers with "Yellow labels," her back to me as my eyes were drawn to her heart shaped back yard, a beatiful thing to behold; I filed that image in my "arse archives." I am a man, yo.

As I bellied up to my usual spot, towards the rear near the dart boards, Bill eventually made her way over to me and started chatting me up with the latest neighborhood gossip -- people tend to tell bartenders everything and that includes me. While conversing with Billie it was easy to see why so many had tried to pickpocket the pooty, she was fine. Her jet black Betty Page-do (cropped on top, long in back) and that little diamond nose-stud came together in that "I'm-cute-but-I'll-hurt-ya" way: every time I hear a person make noises about "the most dangerous animal on the planet being a human male," it tells me that they've never encountered a woman like Bill in their lives. She's the type that makes men leave their wives and families at the drop of a hat, blinded by that combination of aura and genetic blessings which is why I'd always intentionally kept our banter off of the prurient path, who needs that kind of rejection? According to the L5P wire, Tim Bodaggario -- this 6 ft tall dreadlocked Italian from Red Bank, NJ -- had finally finished his apprenticeship at the Sacred Heart Tattoo Parlor and he was given a chair to start inking his own clients. Ras Clay -- a skateboarding dread who preferred the long board decks-- and his hippy girlfriend Kelly had just had their baby, they named him Zion and Shuffles, this old street urchin who dug through the neighborhood dumpsters, had gotten into a knife-fight with some 'skins from the suburbs and a couple of people got hurt in the melee. Most of the skinheads in L5P were S.H.A.R.P.S. (Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice), not racist National Front wannabes but the tale ended on the upbeat as Billie explained.

The 'skin poseurs didn't know that Shuffles was a neighborhood fixture (like Ossie Davis' character Da Mayor in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing") and when they started harassing him they kicked over his shopping cart/mobile home right in front of the Yacht Club which was packed with regulars who, consequently, poured outside to assist "Shuff" by handing the teenaged punks their asses. "Bikers, Dreads, Goths, everybody jumped was a sight to be seen," Billie trailed off as she smiled at the memory...*

*I wrote this while in transit on the subway as I headed to a screening at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood - still on the quest for a new Bat-Mobile, kid. This tale's been nagging at me every since I left my homeboy's house so I pulled out the pen and made use of it. I thought I'd post what I have as the first part, don't know when I'll have time to finish...I'm pulling up to the Hollywood & Vine station which is right across the street from the Frolic Room. In the spirit of what's written above, (holding pinky to chin like Dr. Evil)... I think I'll ease on up in there for a smoke, a shot and a beer before I stroll it on down to Hollywood & Highland. Obviously, there's more to Billie the Kiddo...(put a spinning question mark here)...but for now, there's a pint with my name on it across the, is that a Starbucks next to Pantages?...Laters, CeeP.


Blogger mj said...

2 words, ceep: finish, this.


8:19 AM, April 02, 2005  

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