Last Night at The Blasters

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blastersposterblog

I rarely go out.

RARELY go out.

You can ask anyone.

Over the years my aversion to shows has become so legendary that when I do appear people think that I am a figment of their imagination.

But I have recently been dipping my toes in the water again…

Feeling the need to swim back into music…

A show here… a show there….

An impromptu trip to Bakersfield to see Johnny Two-Bags and Salvation Town with X, and a walk around the Buck Owens museum and suddenly…. I’ve been feeling “all in…”

Bobby De Luna:

Bobby D.

a known musical recluse as well… must have been feeling my “itch” because he began to call and harass me about it.

“You went to Bakersfield without me fucker? Call me back.”

And so, it wasn’t surprising that he would be the one to ask me to go to The Blasters, The Knittters and X at The Observatory.

And I really wanted to go… I did.

I wanted to see the music… I wanted to watch the performances of many of the musicians I grew up with… I just didn’t want what goes a long with it: Huge crowds of people, a flood of memories related to my sketchy rock-and-roll past, and a night wedged into uncomfortable clothing.

But the drive for music was pulling me… added with Bobby’s way of forcing me out of my rat hole… the way he always does… with messages like:

“If you don’t come with me I’m going to come over and slap you in the face right in front of Nana”

or…

“I swear to God D.D. Grish, if you even think about cancelling mother fucker…”

or my personal favorite…

“I’ll let you out of dinner before the show but… if you try to cancel going with me… I will come over and make your children orphans”

Fine Bobby.

I get it.

I’ll go.

I spent hours working my way into about five pairs of spanxs and then a corset to really hold in those years of massive cupcake eating.

I knew that I had succeeded in looking pretty decent for an old lady when Dylan, my son walked into the bathroom and said, “You look really good mom. Wow… Your boobs are huge.”

I thanked him for the compliment and was pleased to see that Lexi, my daughter, had done my hair and eyelashes in such a way that for once I actually looked put together and not like the disheveled high school professor I had become; hair in a messy bun, glasses somewhat askew on my face, tell-tell coffee stain or cupcake smear down the front of my shirt.

At The Blasters

I waved goodbye to my kids, teetered off on my four-inch red heels towards the street where I wobbled at the curb and waited for Bobby to pick me up…

I watched as he drove right past me.

I called his cell phone and before I could even say anything he said, “Jesus… was that you I just passed? I thought it was some really good looking tranny.”

Fucker.

We road off to The Observatory, parked about ten miles away, and walked our pilgrimage with a multitude of others until we arrived at our musical mecca.

It had been about fifteen years since I had been to the venue.. back when it was still known as The Galaxy… and as I walked through the corridors, past the small band room to the main stage… I was overwhelmed by the packed house.

Years of being in just these types of band situations caused my instincts to kick in and I found myself immediately jockeying for a position: across from the emergency exit, tight against the rail… close behind a photographer with a very large tripod, and Bobby standing behind me to block my back.

I settled in.

The Knitters were already on stage and the sound was fantastic.

Deep and rich, each instrument blending together in a fine mix of Americana… the members at home on stage and in their own skins after so many years of being seasoned performers.

It was amazing to see so many people wedged into one place, now way too old to slam dance, fight or push… everyone bobbing to the music and having a really good time.

For a moment I actually felt comfortable and safe.

For a moment I thought “Hey… maybe I can deal with a crowd if it is as passive and happy as this one…”

For a moment it all seemed okay until the only walkway turned into a bottleneck of people, backed up from the stage door to the front entrance, and I felt panic set in.

Having almost been trampled once at a rabid ACDC concert some time circa 1986, my fear of being trapped in the crowd intensified in magnitude until I gave Bobby a quick nod… barely waiting for a response… before pushing my way towards the outside smoking area where I actually text’d my man to come and pick me up and bring me home.

“Where are you?” was not the response I was looking for but, was the response I got from Bobby De Luna who text’d me back first.

I was about to type him back when another text from him rolled through…

“You better not fucking ditch me D.D. Grish”

I looked around at the other panickers sitting in the smoking area with me, heard their own hushed whispers to spouses and lovers through a variety of smart phones… and thought, This is ridiculous, before I plastered on my best Barbara Stanwick steely face and strutted back into the club.

I made it as far as the small band room before I heard the roar of the main stage, freaked out, and detoured into the quiet sanctity of the small space, where the next band was just getting ready to take the stage and only a few of their die hard followers were waiting to hear them play.

It was there that my messiah appeared in the form of: Steve Cunningham.

Thank God for my friends who work the shows.

Steve’s face lit up and so did mine as we hugged and laughed before he gave me a backstage wrist band and told me to go get comfortable.

I almost ran outside to go around to the back where I called Stephen, my man, and told him I didn’t want to go home yet.

“I’m almost to the club,” he moaned. “What the hell?” but being the good man that he is, turned around to kill some time before we agreed he would come back and get me at 10.

I walked through the backstage gate and was greeted by the faces of many of my old friends.

Suddenly, I felt like I was 20 again… on stage in my petty coat, bullet belt, half naked except for a small leopard skin jacket and a bra:

LeopardJacket

I watched as John Doe walked past… and smiled to myself thinking that he looked like a 60’s version of my grandpa now, with his little skinny pants, funky leather vest and cowboy shirt, gray long hair parted to the side, greasy and straggly and remembered the night that I once hula danced for him at Disgraceland, Tupelo Joe on ukelele, Pleasant and the Lame Flames dancing by my side, Joe, my ex-husband, grinning from the couch as he watched in quiet admiration.

Exene was standing in the corner, looking like a cute little punk plump sugar cookie, cigarette in one hand, beer in the other, whispering conspiratorially with a girl in a green cowboy dress, yellow and black bumblebee boots, and purple hair about God knows what… but still courteous enough to hide her smoke and booze, in the photo I instagramed to my students as she smiled as innocently or as innocently as Exene ever possibly could…

Exene and Wood

I crossed through the lot and headed backstage to find Drac, my friend in charge of the event, and ran straight into Jonny Ray Bartel who plays stand up with The Knitters.

I smiled, not realizing that no one recognized the woman that was here tonight… no longer the skinny blonde in the petty coats, my long dark hair and black glasses, my twenty pounds of plump frame, hiding the girl I used to be.

“Hey Sassypants!” I said.

He walked past me, turned around and give me a dirty look, until about five minutes later when he realized who I was and came up to give me a big hug.

“Shit, D.D.” He said. “Sorry I was upset. My bass pick-up kept falling out during the set.”

It was a nice lie…not recognizing me… the way he hid it in the truth.

I told him it sounded great from the front… no one knew… and I wanted to add; Can’t do anything about it now… you’re done playing… But he rolled his eyes as if I was just appeasing him and went off in search of his brother.

My phone whistled.

“Where the fuck are you fucker?”

Bobby De Luna.

“Backstage.” I text’d back and couldn’t help but smile knowing the response I was about to get.

“Fucker. I’m gonna stand out here and be a civilian.”

I giggled to myself, I could just imagine what he was going to say later, once he found out that I was ditching him at 10.

I listened to The Blasters, caught up on the lives of all my old friends, lamented the people we had lost over the years, to drugs, disease, and alcohol, before taking one last look around, making a mental photograph of the moment, Exene now singing Jackson with Dave Alvin from the stage, Phil waiting to make a grand entrance, the new up-and-coming baby musicians huddled together in their own little group, before heading out the gate and walking to the marquee where I would wait for Stephen to come and pick me up.

Later, I would be half naked in the car, removing corset after corset, unwilling to sit in pain the entire ride home, not caring who might see Ms. Wood, their favorite high school teacher, rolling down the freeway in a state of undress…. dying for relief, and a late night Del Taco red burrito with a large coke….

But for right then, for just that moment… I sat on the curb… and listened to the last few songs of The Blasters and felt the melancholy of the evening washing over me… wishing that I had documented every moment of our young musical lives in each of my writings, in each of my songs, a photograph of everything we once were… locked in time… forever immortalized.

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Joe Screams Like a Girl when Confronted with Aliens in the Gauntlet of our Hallway

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Fire In The Sky2

During the late 80’s early 90’s there was a huge resurgence of alien movies and Joe, my ex-husband, was obsessed with most of them.

But, Communion freaked him out so badly, that he actually became terrified of extraterrestrial beings.

When alone, at night in our house, and our house was a big dark house… he would often let his imagination get the better of him and believe that around each corner these guys were lurking:

comalien2-thumb

And that they would gang up on him and do this:

fire-in-the-sky

I can’t say that I did anything to reassure him otherwise.

Like the rest of the members of the Grisham family, I have quite a penchant for childish yet evil practical jokes and so… I often times would listen to Joe rant on, as he smoked a cigarette on the porch swing, his eyes sketchy, sure that he had just seen a little scary man eyeball him from behind one of the large neighborhood trees… before I would look over his shoulder and shout, “Joe! Watch out! He’s after you!” Taking great joy in watching him scream and squirm before running pell-mell into the house to hide.

I have to admit, there is something very pleasurable about watching a big, dangerous man that looks like the devil, scream in fear.

So much so…. that when Fire in the Sky came out on pay-per-view cable, and Joe wanted to stay up late night and watch it, I knew beyond a doubt that this would be the time to pull one of my best pranks ever.

I had already seen the movie, caught on a flight back from Nashville, and watching it on the airplane, mid-day, drunk on gin and tonics, made it seem almost comical more than terrifying.

But I could see that in the stillness of a great, dark house, how the mood and music of the film, could weigh heavy on your soul and lead you to believe that things were going bump in the night.

I told Joe I would be happy to stay up and watch it with him, even though I had already seen it, and so, we settled in, Joe in the blue recliner by the stairwell and me in the black recliner by the far wall.

I watched as Joe’s eyes grew large, his mouth turning into a small little terrified “O” shape.

The dark wood paneling of the room….. the large glass sliding doors reflecting images of pale white aliens all around us… the cold drafts of the old house blowing under the closed doors… the creaking of the beams… had Joe curled up tightly in his chair.

He was almost in the fetal position as he absorbed every moment of the film… his gaze barely lifting from the screen… only from time-to-time looking to me for some sort of maternal reassurance and still… he couldn’t stifle his weird “Oooooo! OOOOOOooooooos” a sound somewhat a combo of a siren and a guttural growl type of scream… each time a new and unique creepy little man appeared.

I tried not to giggle each time he reacted.

His dark hair spiked up wildly all about his head.

His heavily tattooed arms covered in skeletons, demons, and dragons.

A living oxymoron in my family room.

It was hard to keep a straight face.

I pretended to be just as terrified as him, by the idea of being captured by a small little man, saran wrapped and anally probed but it just somehow didn’t work for me.

I always wondered why Christopher Walken’s character in the film, didn’t just take a bat and “swing away” like Joaquin Phoenix in the film Signs.

They were little guys!

Christopher Walken, creepy in his own right, should have been able to take ’em!

We were about thirty minutes a way from the end of the film when I put my prank into play.

I yawned loudly several times before I got up from my chair, walked over to kiss Joe on the forehead, and told him that I was just too tired to finish the film.

He looked at me in total disgust.

“I know you’re gonna hide somewhere and scare me,” he said.

I smiled lovingly.

“Don’t be silly,” I kissed him on the head again and brushed back his hair. “I wouldn’t do that.”

He glared at me… he knew a fake when he saw one.

I walked away from the living room, and hid behind the kitchen bar, way back in the corner between two bar stools.

I knew that if I just stayed there, I would be able to trap him in the “gauntlet” of the small hallway and hopefully make it near impossible for him to open the hall door in time to get away.

I snickered to myself as I breathed quietly and waited.

“I KNOW YOU’RE  HIDING!” I heard Joe yell from the living room.

I stifled a giggle and held my breath.

A few minutes later I heard him again.

“D.D.” he shouted. “Knock it off! I know you’re over there.”

I didn’t move.

I didn’t breath.

I waited and sure enough, the grandfather clock soon struck 11:45 and fifteen minutes had passed, and Joe had forgotten all about me.

By midnight, the film was over, and I heard Joe rise to turn off the TV.

I realized at that moment, there was only one light left on in the house: the laundry room light on the far side of the kitchen.

Joe would have to pass me to turn it off before going to bed and if he looked in my direction, my prank would be ruined.

I pressed my body deep into the shadow of the corner and watched as he walked bravely past me, head held high, to turn off the laundry room light and walk the very short distance from the kitchen to the front hall, alone… in the dark.

He made his way into the small room and I took the opportunity to creep out of my corner quietly and hide against the wall by the front door.

Once he turned off the light, I would be completely hidden in the darkness and Joe, his eyes not yet adjusted to the night, would be completely defenseless.

The house went black.

I dropped quietly to my knees and waited for his footsteps to approach.

Once he passed by the front door, I waited for him to be trapped in the small closed cult-de-sac that the front wall of the house, the closed hall door, and the small half-wall separating the passage way from the living room created, and knew that he was screwed.

I made a horrific high pitched gurgling noise… and grabbed at Joe’s legs.

He rushed forward and ran face first into the closed hallway door: It was a loud and terrible crash of a sound.

I reached for him again, this time barely nipping at his heels as I gurgled some more.

He shrieked in misery… it was a banshee of a howl.

He kicked and clawed at the closed hall door, crying out as he tried to basically climb the wall and find solace from the monsters, somewhere up high in the corner of the ceiling.

It didn’t work.

He screamed again and threw himself backwards into the wall, smashing a framed antique photograph of a long deceased family member before dropping like a lump, into the corner of the small space, as the upstairs stairwell light suddenly flashed on and my mom screamed,  “YOU KIDS STOP THAT GOD DAMN RUCKUS DOWNSTAIRS!”

Now at this time, Joe and I were already way into our late 20’s but… the sound of my mother’s voice on the stairs stopped us COLD… as if we were two naughty little children.

For a moment, we stayed silent in our solidarity.

We waited.

She stood at the top of the stairs, assessing the situation, deciding if she would come down the steps and berate us.

A few moments passed, before we heard my mother’s bedroom door slam shut and I began to laugh like a maniac as I slid down the front entrance way wall.

“I hate you.” Joe said as he got up, turned the hall door knob, hit the light switch, and stomped off towards the bedroom in a huff. “I fucking hate you.” He repeated.

I looked down at the floor and saw that he had broken the frame of the antique painting.

“Oooooooh!” I taunted. “You are in so much trouble now!”

He turned one more time and flipped me off before he barricaded himself in the bathroom and to this day… I don’t know if it was protection from me…. or protection from the aliens that lived in all the corners of our old family home.

I got up and readied myself for bed, not sure if my husband would be joining me.

Finally, I tapped gently on the bathroom door.

“Joe?” I said.

No answer.

“Joe,” I repeated.

“What?” his response was sullen and somber.

“Are you coming to bed?” I asked sweetly.

“What about the broken frame?” he said. “What am I supposed to tell your mom about that?”

I tried not to giggle as I gave my response.

“Just tell her you were so afraid of aliens that you broke it in your mad rush to escape their carnage.”

“Fuck you!” he snapped.

I gurgled at him one more time and went off to bed.

Joe and Dave Light the Street on Fire: A Cautionary Tale

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Joe and Dave

When I first married Joe, he was the lead singer for a well-known punk rock band and Dave Mello, was his best pal and his new bass player.

They were always together making surf boards, surfing, working on cars, having their little “bromance” and as any good wife knows… it is a joy when your husband has a best friend.

Their “boy” project at the time was a 1959 Ford Fairlane that Joe was in the process of restoring.

He had just had the engine rebuilt at a shop, and he and Dave had the block back under the hood and were in the process of priming the carburetor when all hell broke loose.

I was minding my own business, upstairs in our small apartment across from what now is the Long Beach Towne Center.

I was keeping an eye on Dylan, who was barely 18 months old, as he rode on his favorite rocking horse, which sat sideways next to the large picture window, watching his Dad and “Uncle” Dave work on the car down in the street below.

“Da,” Dylan said which he used freely for both Dave and Dad and just about every other thought he had under the sun in that little baby brain of his.

“Yes,” I cooed. “Dad and Dave are working on the car.”

He rocked on his little horse excitedly repeating, “Da! Da! Da!” as he watched the boys work.

“Yes,” I repeated. “Da. Da. Da.”

I walked into the other room for just a moment, when I heard a sound that any parent knows is trouble: the sound of complete silence.

The rocking horse had stopped.

The baby made no noise.

I paused in my housework and listened before I heard the words “Uh oh” from Dylan’s baby mouth.

Now, I had never heard Dylan say anything but “Da” so that was shocking enough. But the word that followed just about floored me.

“Shit” I heard the baby say plain as day and then the springs creaked on the horse, his feet padded a few steps, and his little hands began to bang against the plate glass window as he shouted “Da! Da! Da!” at the boys below.

I dropped the laundry I had been folding, and rushed into the living room to find the baby now quiet, head leaning against the window, his eyes large and round, his hands pressed flat against the glass, his mouth in a tiny exclamation of an “Oooooooooh” and before I could even start to comprehend my two-year-old’s first full word being “shit,” I saw a large plume of smoke hanging above the hood of the car in the air, and Dave yelling at Joe, “Try it again! But no more gas!”

To this day, I don’t know if Joe actually really didn’t hear Dave say “No more gas” or if he was just being obstinate, but… he completely ignored Dave and poured a large stream of gas from the gas can in the carb before he raised his empty hand in a big “thumb’s up.”

Dave, oblivious to Joe’s actions, hidden behind the protection of the driving wheel and the opened hood, hit the ignition and I watched as a large fireball exploded out from under the hood of the car and blasted into the air.

“JESUS CHRIST!” Dave screamed as he jumped from the car and then stopped short as he watched Joe, gas can in hand, jump backwards flailing his arms wildly as the flame shot up through the carb, ignited the stream of gas coming from the can, and left a trail of fire that blazed steadily across the sky, lighting Joe up as if he were holding a giant Roman candle on the 4th of July and using it to make fiery decorative loops.

“Throw it Joe!” Dave screamed. “Throw the fucking can!”

Joe panicked.

Mouth open.

He looked back and forth from each hand. I could see from even where I was that his rock-and-roll 90’s hair-do, his giant bushy eyebrows and hipster goatee had been singed to a crisp.

If it wasn’t so terrifying… I would have laughed at the comic farce playing out in the arena below but, I knew enough about combustion to know that if Joe didn’t throw that can within the next few seconds he was toast.

“THROW THE GAS CAN JOE!” I screamed through the glass and though he couldn’t hear me… it seemed my urgent need for him to listen had somehow broken the spell and Joe flung the gas can as far as he could.

I saw both boys rush to outrun the explosion.

For a moment it felt as if I were back in time watching two small children play soldiers at war.

They made it to the curb before the can hit the ground and exploded into a fiery bomb that was quite astounding.

Joe did some weird Chuck Norris tuck-and-roll before he leaped to his feet, leaving Dave behind him face down on the grass, as he ran into the building next to ours.

I watched Dave raise his head.

His look… one of dismay.

Joe had left his man behind.

A cardinal sin when in the midst of the heated passion of a bromance.

We all heard a loud crashing of glass followed by Joe dashing back across the street with a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze as Dave smiled, now sure in his best friend’s love for him, as Joe raced throughout the street, trying to right his wrong, putting out large patches of flame, as Dave looked on in admiration.

“Ooooooooooooh!” Baby Dylan said as he watched from the window.  “Uh oh Mama?” he pointed towards the street and then looked up at me.

I picked him up and cuddled him in my arms, glad to know that he was becoming a virtual vocabulary savant from this apocalyptic event.

“Yes baby,” I said as I kissed his cheek. “Uh oh.”

“Shit,” he said again.

I turned to look at him.

“No, baby,” I said sternly. “No!”

I thought he might actually begin to cry for a minute, but then the fire truck rounded the corner, sirens blaring, lights spinning, and Dylan became mesmerized by their brilliance as I heard the boys’ cowboy boots pound up the stairs and then bound through the door where they pulled the curtains closed, dropped to their knees on the floor, and hid low from “the man.”

They watched quietly, afraid to make a sound, afraid they might be seen, as the fire department assessed the incident.

Black 59′ Fairlane: gas trail circling the motor.

Broken glass: fire extinguisher thrown empty to the ground.

Entire street: burnt and black as if some type of car bomb had just gone off in Beirut.

Neighbors peeking from the windows but unwilling to rat anyone out to the authority: the unwritten rule of all good neighbors.

“Shit!” Joe said.

“Shit,” parroted Baby Dylan.

“He said a word!” Joe exclaimed.

“No shit Joe!” I snapped without thinking.

“Shit,” Baby Dylan said again.

“Jesus!” I snapped. “Are you happy now?”

Dave, always the peacemaker, and afraid that I actually might be angry enough to turn them in myself, snatched the baby from my arms and said calmly, “No baby, no.”

I gave Joe a hard look and mouthed the words, “Great.”

Dylan lay his head on Dave’s shoulder and curled his tiny little fingers through Dave’s long hair and said, “Da. Da. Da.”

We watched hidden for the next thirty minutes until the fire department finally went away, sure that the flames were long since extinguished, as baby Dylan slept in the crook of Dave’s arms.

“D.D. did you see that shit?” Joe whispered, teasing me, as both boys started to giggle in silent fits of laughter and tried not to wake the baby.

“Oh I saw it alright,” I said before I rolled my eyes at both of them. “Not funny!”

They sat on the couch, pretending to be forlorn until I exited the room in a over-dramatic huff.

Like any good mother… I let them believe they were in serious trouble, due for a scolding, and a complete disappointment to me.

I went back to folding laundry in the other room when I heard Joe whisper, “Did you see that shit Dave?”

And Dave, pretending to have a coughing attack just so he could get away with laughing like a naughty little boy, giggled as he held my sleeping baby in his arms happy to be in cahoots with his best friend.