Thursday, September 4, 2014

Alcyone, Chapter Forty: Gelatinous Bubba

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“Ye gods, Scootie! Don’t you ever let up? It’s gettin’ dark.”

Scootie chucked an old surfboard into Geoffrey’s truck and studied the pile. “Hard to let up when you’re on a roll. I’m just finishing this load for the first trip tomorrow.”
“Well, as soon as you’re done, let me know, ‘cause you and me is goin’ out.”
“Where to?”
“The Lighthouse. Got someone I want you to meet.”

In 1924, an eccentric millionaire named Andrew McNab heard about an old lighthouse being readied for demolition on the Sonoma coast. He immediately purchased the rights and had it removed piece by piece to a hillside south of Hallis. The old beacon was still working, but Andrew only fired it up on New Year’s Eve and Zachary Taylor’s birthday.
Thirty years later, McNab passed away and left no heirs, so the state auctioned it off to Jerry Kahovic, a recent transplant from Baltimore. In the early eighties, when Kahovic retired back to Maryland, he sold the place to two exuberant young ladies named Sandy Karrow and Angie Limpus. They must have done a good snow job on the conservative Kahovic, because they were lesbian lovers who wanted to turn the place into a rock club – and had obtained most of their seed money dealing pot in Santa Cruz. They set it up as a non-alcoholic, 16-and-over operation, with an upstairs bar for adults, and drew a regular crowd of bored Hallis teens who couldn’t make it to Santa Cruz. And now, the beacon was switched on every Friday and Saturday.
Geoffrey and Scootie sat upstairs, eyeing the fuzzy peppered lights of Hallis and trying to avoid the beacon every twenty seconds when it flashed by their seats. Scootie forgot and looked right into it, then grabbed his eyes.
“Damn, Geoffrey! This place is dangerous.”
“You will learn, young Skywalker , not to look toward the bar.” Geoffrey grinned. “So here’s the scoop. My friend’s name is Eric Childress. He moved up here from San Diego three years ago, at the age of  sixteen. Apparently, his family life was not what you would call ‘enriching.’ He got a job at Puccini’s Pizza, was night manager within a month, and rented out his own little beach house north of town, right across from the Servo station. He assembled a band – bassist from Aptos, lead guitar from Pacifica, drummer from Redwood City – and he persuaded each of them to move in with him. There they had the time and luxury to work on their music, supported entirely by Eric’s wages and various parental contributions.
“I guess what I’m trying to get across is that this dude is intensely serious, and he’s picked bandmates who are similarly inclined. They have a remarkable repertoire of original songs, an impressive musical tightness, and a captivating stage presence. In short, they are going places.”
Scootie tore a strip from his beer label and wound it around his little finger. “So why does this sound like a sales pitch?”
“Because,” said Geoffrey. “All Gelatinous Bubba needs to get over the top is a publicist.”
“Gelatinous who?”
“Gelatinous Bubba.” The answer came from a thin, strapping kid with all the native markings: three earrings, one nose ring, barbed-wire tattoo around his left bicep, and buzzcut dark hair with dyed yellow leopard-spots. He sat next to Scootie and extended a hand.
“Howdy. I’m Eric.”
“Hi,” said Scootie.
“And Gelatinous Bubba,” said Geoffrey, “is the band.”
“Brief explanation,” said Eric. “I was talkin’ to some babe from Texas one night, and she was sayin’ how, back home in Brownsville, there were guys whose actual Christian name was Bubba. She said she would never date any of them, because she could never imagine, in the middle of sex, saying, ‘Oh, dooh me, Bubba!’ I said that sounded a little gelatinous, and... there you go. So, Mister Jones, are you going to make us famous or what?”
Scootie smiled. “Don’t you think I should hear you first?”
“Dude! You will be dazzled by the manner of sound produced by the almighty G.B.”
Nineteen-year-old rock icons who say “Dude!” with that level of conviction are rarely wrong. Geoffrey and Scootie reported to the ground floor – windowless and painted black – and prepared for the onslaught. Ten minutes after it started, the mosh pit began to spit out the wounded: bloody noses, split lips. And those were the girls.
As for the band, they displayed some impressive range. They opened with jangly minor chords, deep, half-spoken vocals, then stomped into the groaning, distorted churn of grunge, the drummer flailing away as Eric pulled his voice higher and higher. After that, they were all over the place: a punk polka thrasher, a pogo-stick ska, a hip-hop groove with sampled vocals, and a Zep-influenced grind with operatic vocal lines and unexpected shifts of meter.
Scootie was guessing that, to the band, none of these technical descriptions would mean a thing. Like many young musicians before, they knew not what they did – they just did it. This was what happened when you bought a bunch of instruments and locked yourself in a beach house for a year. He could already see some jackass recording exec blowing the gold dust from their wings and condemning them all to an over-produced Slicksville.
What clinched the deal was Eric, who juiced his voice for every possible nuance, from backseat whisper to full-throated roar. He also didn’t mind having fun. He sang an entire song with the microphone held against his neck, just to see what it would sound like. He then spent the encore ripping off pieces of his shorts and flinging them into the mosh pit, till there was nothing left but his bikini underwear.
He was still mostly naked, swallowing from a bottle of spring water, when Scootie and Geoffrey arrived in his dressing room.
“So, Scooterman,” he said, out of breath. “Are you gelatinous?”
“I’ve got one last question,” said Scootie. “You ever heard of John Cage?”
Eric split his goatee with a band of big white teeth. “Four minutes, 33 seconds.”
“In that case,” said Scootie. “I’m gelatinous.”

Photo by MJV

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