Rock for Daddy, Baby
"That wasn't so bad," I tell Wendy as we exit the Continental airplane that just flew us from Newark to Portland, OR. Wendy just stares at me.
"Okay," I admit, "there was some turbulence."
Wendy stares harder.
"Well, P.J. did kinda bark under the seat in front of us," I concede.
"How would you know?" Wendy finally says. "You took two Xanaxes and only woke up for two minutes to swallow your dinner."
I admit she's right, as usual, and suggest that on the way home she should take some pills as well. She says she'll think about it.
As we wait for our suitcases and AeroBed and shit we talk with Wendy's younger brother, Derek, and his firstborn daughter, Tess. Who's in her terrible twos. His wife Bernadette and his second daughter Brooke are home. Asleep.
"They were searching everybody," Wendy explains to her brother, "even little children. Yet they didn't even look twice at us."
I silently curse myself for not sneaking on that tiny pile of drugs a friend had given me for the trip.
"They didn't even take my tweezers," Wendy proudly proclaims, "and there was a big sign at Newark that said, among other things, NO TWEEZERS."
"Gweezas?" asks Tess, who is finally feeling brave enough to poke her head out from behind Derek's bluejeans. Her eyes are as blue as the ocean and her hair blonde as the sun. Obviously there's some Jew missing there.
We finally get our bags and start the short drive home as P.J. jumps excitedly around the floor of the Volvo looking for kiddie crumbs.
"Ya mind stopping at a supermarket?" I ask Derek.
"We got everything you need at the house," he replies.
"Really," I say, "I just need a few things."
So we stop. I don't want to tell Derek what I really need, but he tells me he needs a sixpack. Of Bud.
As I enter the supermarket, I notice it's the size of an airplane hangar. As are most stores outside of New York. I run my cart up and down each aisle, sometimes passing two carts on my right, picking up my prunes, my figs, my prune juice and my fiber laxative pills.
Traveling plugs me up.
It was either these natural remedies or a coffee enema. And I hate all that caffeine. Not to mention being filled to the rim with Brim.
Eventually I find the beer aisles, next to the liquor aisles. Then I go to the cashier and give her my credit card.
"Ined eye day," she says.
Not understanding Oregonian, I tell her she's holding my credit card.
"Ined eye day!" she says again, louder.
"Ined eye day?" I ask.
"Ya-huh," she says.
"Ined eye day?" I ask again, totally confused.
"Yes!" she yells. "Ya ned eye day!"
"Ya ned eye day?" I ask, even more puzzled.
"No," she fumes, "ya ned eye day!"
"I need ID," I finally say to her.
"No shit," she says, in perfect English.
I reach into my chain wallet and retrieve my driver's license.
"New York?" she asks as she looks at me with my bleached blond hair, my black punk-rock jacket, black women's stretch jeans and sneakers.
"Taint real," she tells me.
"What?" I kind of scream at her. It was a long flight and the Xanax was wearing off.
"I'm gonna have to git the manager," she tells me.
"Fuck the beer," I tell her, "just gimmie the other stuff, okay?"
Instead of saying anything to me she grabs this big black microphone in front of her, pushes a button and says, "Manager to eye-L three, manager to eye-L three."
"What seems to be the trouble?" the manager asks the idiot.
The idiot explains that "taint no way" I'm the age it says I am on my driver's license. The manager looks at my license and tells her she's right, and thanks for bringing it to his attention, and what a good eye she has, and how she's a hard worker and stuff.
"Excuse me sir," this horn-rimmed idiot then says to me. "Do you mind coming to my office?"
I tell him I do, that I am the age that it says on my license, that I'm old enough to buy beer, as well as needing to buy prunes and fiber pills, and to leave me the fuck alone.
"There's no need for that kind of language," the manager tells me as he begins to walk away with my credit card and eye day.
"Give me back my fucking cards," I say to the guy, "please?"
The guy tells me if I want them back and don't want to be arrested, I should come with him.
The word "arrested" kind of bothered me, so I followed him.
We went back to his little office, which was located somewhere behind the deli section, kind of near the bakery, but not quite where the produce was. He had me sit down while he turned on his computer. While he's doing this, I know Wendy and Derek are wondering where the hell I am.
"Uh-huh," says the manager.
"What?" I ask.
"Well, Mr. Tabb," he says, "it seems you are indeed who you are saying you are. And your age is correct."
"No shit," I say.
"You New Yorkers," he replies, almost laughing.
When I get back to the car and Wendy asks what took me so long, I tell her that supermarkets in Portland have better security than any airport I've ever seen.
She and Derek just stare at me.
Meanwhile, P.J. is giving Tess kisses, and she squeals in delight. Over and over.
?Almost 10 bowel movements later, my best friend for 22 years arrives in Portland. He'd moved there years ago, and was now working in the San Francisco area while keeping a place in Portland. He thought he could come visit earlier, but got tied up with work.
And that was okay. I spent most of that time just hanging out with Bernadette, Derek, Wendy, Tess, Brooke and P.J. Brooke was just 10 months old and learning to walk, and Tess was learning that the word "no" can be used almost as much as I use the term "punk rock."
Meanwhile, P.J. was learning that babies drop lots of food, and they are not to be humped. Wendy was learning that the term "cold" meant a whole different thing in the Pacific Northwest, and I was learning that this town has the highest number of strip clubs per capita of any city in the United States.
And that these strip clubs are all-nude. And they serve alcohol. And they allow 18-year-olds to strut their stuff.
The town literally reeked of pussy.
So Aaron comes to town and asks what I want to do. Of course I tell him I want to go to the strip clubs. He tells me that that's stupid, that there are museums, art galleries and great punk clubs like the Satyricon, which I remember playing back in the 80s with the False Prophets. I remind Aaron that I live in New York, that we have museums, art galleries and punk clubs as well. What we don't have is 18-year-old girls putting their vaginas so close to your face that if she's untrimmed her pubic hair could poke out your eye.
Aaron finally agrees to take me to "those places." On the way to one of them, he finally admits to me he's gay. Something I've known for 22 years but, obviously, he didn't. So I offer to go to gay strip clubs as well, if he'd like.
And he takes me up on that offer.
But first we hit the straight ones.
One, called Union Jacks, is by far the best. It could almost be my home away from home. As soon as we walk in the door we see a punk chick dancing onstage to Iggy Pop. After taking a good long look at her, I glance at the bartender, who says, "Hey George, what's up?"
For a moment I feel that Twilight Zone thing where I think I'm falling off the side of the Earth. Then I realize I know the guy from New York. I look around and see other punk rockers I recognize, as well as drunk old men who I don't.
"Christ!" I exclaim to Aaron. "This place is Mars Bar with naked girls!"
We watch more punk chicks dance to the Ramones, Dead Boys and even Black Flag. It almost makes me want to move to Portland.
Then this guy I know from Mars Bar gets me really high. And that almost makes me want to move to Portland.
Then this hot stripper chick who looks like Bettie Page sits next to me and asks if I like her body. Having just seen it as close as a gynecologist could, I tell her I do, especially her pierced clitoris. She tells me she's 18.
I say, "Eighteen? And you dance to the Dead Boys? How did you even hear of them?"
She tells me her father turned her on to them.
I begin to feel kind of iffy about the Northwest.
Then she tells me who her father is.
And I decide that I don't want to live in the Northwest.
Obviously our days of Johnny Appleseeding the punk rock across America had sprouted. And its blossom was beautiful. But knowing who planted it kind of ruins the whole thing.
So I grabbed Aaron, we said our quick goodbyes and got the hell out of there. Before anyone could call me Daddy.
?That night and the next one Aaron and I hung out at a place called Silverado, which had a big sign inside that read "Cruising Mandatory." It also had naked guys onstage flopping their dicks around like wounded salmon, and a barrel full of condoms that disappeared faster than a free line of cocaine at a glam-rock show.
As Aaron and I hung out, we talked about his coming out of the closet and how tough it was. We talked about the available men in Portland. Aaron told me he knew most of the guys in the bar, and it was just a gay thing to pretend that he didn't notice them. Or them him. I looked around and understood why.
Most of them looked like Bill Gates.
Aaron told me that's just how gay men are in Portland. Most of them aren't into being flamboyant or radical, but just want to live out their lives in peace. Like Wendy's brother and wife are doing. Most of them don't have the desire to live in a big city and change the world. Or even fight for their rights. They just want to exist.
To most, the weather is the most important thing. It tops the news there every day.
I left Portland a few days later feeling very mellow. I had had a great time with the family, as well as with my friend Aaron. I began to realize that maybe I shouldn't always try to swim upstream, but sometimes just go with the flow.
Who was I to change the world, anyway? Maybe it is just about the music, the beer and the good times. Maybe those Eastern philosophies are right. Maybe it would make me healthier.
All this was running through my head as my pal Dave drove us back into the city from Newark in one of his bitchin' muscle cars. As soon as we got through the Holland Tunnel, Wendy and I got a good whiff of the remnants of 9/11.
"I wanna make those motherfucking terrorists pay," I snarl, "and the fucking lying EPA and our landlord as well."
"Yeah," says Wendy, "time to kick butt."
As I felt my blood pressure rise and my prostate go into spasm, I just look at Dave and smile.
"Welcome home," he replies.
?Ramones, Ramones, Ramones. It's all about them now that they're in the Hall of Shame and Joey and Dee Dee have died. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon saying how great they were. Never mind that these same people never saw a show in their lives.
But the true fans are starting to pay their respects too, and Ramones Forever: An International Tribute, out now on Radical, is really putting its money where its mouth is. Comprised of 23 tracks, this CD features lots of bands from overseas that play Ramones covers, well, weirdly. Some try hiphop, some reggae, some even try that Sonic Youth noise stuff, while others just rock out with their cocks out. But whatever they do, all the bands on this thing understand where their covers are coming from. My favorites here include "We Want the Airwaves" by 5¢ Deposit, and Club Diana featuring Neef doing their very eerie "Here Today Gone Tomorrow." Also, I gotta admit digging the lounge version of "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" by Daan, and Skunk's "Pet Semetary." Fuck it. I like this whole album.
Another Ramones tribute comes to us from trend is dead! called Ramones Maniacs. It's the Ramones Mania album redone with many different musical acts. I like this whole thing as well, and am really impressed by Dee Dee and Youth Gone Mad's version of "Blitzkrieg Bop." Also, the tracks by Blanks 77, Hammerbrain, Cletus and the Vapids rock. However, there's a cover of "Pinhead" by Furious George that sucks. Sorry.
Speaking of the Ramones, I met this guy Evan years ago, who was a friend of Johnny Ramone's. He's got a band up in Beantown called the Nines, and he's just self-released a CD called Junk Food. With songs like "Laura's a Liar," "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda" and "Bad Thing," you get the idea. 1 2 3 4!
The Business is this old punk/oi band that played CBGB recently. They also just put out a CD-EP called Hell 2 Pay on TKO. I like the band, but the name of the record shoulda been "Hell Toupee." Take a look at them and you'll understand. Anyway, rockin'!
Also out on TKO is the Riffs' new CD Dead End Dream. Not only do these guys look like the L.E.S. Stitches, they sound like them too. Well, they also sound like the Sex Pistols. And a lot of other punk bands. Including New York's next big band, the Kick. Anyway, the Riffs play old-school punk and the production here is clean and good. The singer is really snotty and I love the tune "White Line Kids." They go!
Duane Peters & the Hunns have a CD called Wayward Bantams on Disaster. For those of you who don't know, Duane was like this rad skater from years ago who did all those gnarly tricks on his board and practically invented a new vocabulary, as well as a new fashion, dude. Anyway, complete skate rock here, like all that other stuff from Southern California that ends up usually being on Epitaph and doing the Warped Tour. Good, if you're into that sort of Left Coast stuff. But if you ask me, it's the sun that's fucking them up.
Finally, I got the Spunk Lads' new CD called Paddington Station on Triage. These guys claim to have been around in 1976 in London.
Of course, I may know their kids.
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Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
Coming Up in Central Park
George Stubbs’ Horse Sense
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies