It was a late Christmas present when I got the call from Dead Ted. He had driven up from San Diego to Santa Monica and was walking the streets trying to find a place to buy cigarettes. As soon as he found some, he would be going indoors into some place with music and screaming and wouldn’t be able to talk.
For too long, he had been out of contact, and the last time we had spoken he had been going through troubles. He had been betrayed by a friend who was working for him, and Ted had needed to fire him because of it. On top of the emotional blow, he had needed to step back behind the bar again to take up the slack.
He said that he had gone quiet partly because he was overwhelmed with running his new business in the midst of the crisis, but partly because he was embarrassed to be going through troubles that he looked at as a rookie mistake. You should be able to know who to trust, right?
As soon as someone knows the forever answer to that one, pass it on.
Given a choice, life is better if bets are placed on people maybe doing the right thing and being surprised if they do what is wrong.
Now Ted had come through the storm over to the other side. He had sold his business for a profit, and he was planning on surfing in Costa Rica while he planned his next steps. He is known for treating bands well. In this world, that doesn’t mean throwing piles of money at them. It means treating them with respect and understanding, even kindness. Do that and great talent will follow you to dive bars and play for chips and salsa.
Now Ted is unfettered and has a future to plan. He and I had been through alot – maybe too much – at the club. While we would talk in the office after shows until dawn, we planned his business launch. He did it in the best way, honoring the club’s owner and opening outside of the market area. When he launched his new place, it felt like our circle had expanded rather than us having lost him.
What he might not have realized is that he kept me safe during those dark nights. There was a group that had been brought into close association with ownership that brought nothing to the equation besides suspicion, hatred and violence. One of their circle had a great scar across his face. This had come from Ted, courtesy of another time before had he decided to change his life.
But the guy with the scar treated Ted like the quarterback of the high school football team, with Scarface being the waterboy.
The new guys might put me in danger, but they were never sure that Ted wouldn’t hurt them. And they probably thought that we were lovers because of the time we spent together, never concluding from their weak and broken perspective that either of us were doing math at 4 a.m. …But they filled in the blanks with their imaginations and their hatred of me went underground.
Between Ted and the cops, I knew that someone was willing to draw blood on my behalf if it was needed. I have no doubt that God made them His partners.
Ted and I laughed about being so glad that we had gone through something that left us financially wrecked but had changed our lives for the better. Everything we had been through had given birth to visions even as it had stripped us down to the essentials.
One of the graces we left with was having new identities.
He wasn’t a dangerous drunk anymore, and I wasn’t fragile. Put us in front of someone who had known us before and we were unrecognizable.
After four blocks of searching, he still wasn’t able to find a place in Santa Monica to buy a pack of cigarettes. The last of his vices, it branded him as an outsider in the shiny sparkly tourist area that no longer allows homeless people to sit down anywhere in public, making them subject to lawful harassment if they rest on a park bench.
As Groucho Marx once said, I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would let me in.
I told Ted that he would be eligible to be an exile to Los Angeles Island, circa 2013. Post-earthquake and the setting for “Escape from L.A.” with Kurt Russell, it was where undesirables are sent by the Fascists after having their citizenship revoked. Acceptable reasons for banishment include being a Muslim in the Midwest…and smoking.
But Ted had surfed the tsunami – but with me instead of Peter Fonda – and landed well – but into his new vision of his new life instead of into a red Cadillac convertible driven by Steve Buscemi before he got famous.
Ya got to see this movie again…
And for my Christmas celebration, this Christian ate oysters for breakfast and spent the day in a dark theater watching “Django Unchained” with my family. The “D” is silent…When the bad guys got their payback, I cheered with the whole crowd. I only covered my eyes once from the gore. And I laughed when Quentin Tarentino cast himself in a cameo wherein he gets blown up with dynamite. Afterwards, our Christmas dinner was held at a diner where we had chili dogs.
Now the New Year has come upon us. It will be 2013, the time when Snake Plissken had his L.A. adventure and re-set the clock of the earth.
No chains anymore. And unlike Django, there is nothing silent.
Quote of the Blog from “Escape from L.A.:
Brain: “…I swear, Plissken, I thought you were dead!”
Snake: “Yeah. You and everyone else.”
Image of me, courtesy of me.