Saturday, August 25, 2007

Proof of Life....

Apologies to all and sundry for the long absence.

I was scalded into silence by the reaction to my Hillary post. My good friend of 30 years cut all ties with us and cancelled his daughter's wedding based on the post. I remain stunned and mystified....and a little gun-shy. It was his buddy Lazer that I thought was a danger to humanity.

I suppose I have a different view of friendship. I don't ask that my friends agree with everything I think or believe.....actually with anything at all beyond the basics: honesty, loyalty, solidarity. One of my best friends is a crazy Republican who loves George Bush. We just don't talk politics, but if I or any of my people have any medical problems whatsoever at any time of the day or night, she will post a nurse in their room at the questions asked.

Another friend of mine is a recovering car-thief, recovered meth addict and all around ne'er-do-well. I first met him when I gave him a ride hitchhiking outside the Village. He had five pizzas with him, and offered me one for a ride to Lambert Flats....miles out of my way. It turns out he and his friends in PG would call up the pizza place and order a bunch of pizzas. They would wait an hour, then go in and buy some sodas. They would notice the stack of pizzas and ask about them. "Somebody ordered them and didn't pick them up, dude." My friend would then offer them five bucks for the pile and start hitching home. Hey, cold pizza is a bachelor's anthem.

A couple of months later I picked him up again. He was going home from Valley High, the continuation high school. He said they were doing a fund-raising hike up Sniveley's Ridge for the sports equipment at the school. My friend wondered if I would sponsor him on the hike. Sniveley's Ridge is a gnarly hike, and a vicious bike ride that has cost me lots of sprains and lost skin. I told my friend: "Hey, I am a soccer coach....why don't I give you guys a bunch of soccer balls?"

My friend: "Thanks.....but we already swiped a bunch from you. We have that covered.....What we REALLY need is footballs and basketballs....."

Later, after high school, I hired my friend as a dishwasher, feeling like I was doing something profound for the community. I was showing him the ropes: the machine, the layout, the laundry room. My friend: "No, dude. I know all about the laundry room. Whenever I couldn't get a ride home from school in the winter I would just hide out in the laundry room. I would turn on the dryer for heat and snuggle in to the linens and wait for morning."

My friend was an awesome worker. He still had periodic bouts with the drug, but he was always there for us. We trained him as a bartender and he worked with Slab, Steve Thomas, and a torch was passed. The entire accumulated wisdom....if that is what you can call it....of the Eighties and Nineties Bar World descended through Slab to my friend. Slab lit up the creative, social, technical animal that lurked inside my friend and what emerged was a Neal Cassady re-incarnation....running my bars, running his mouth....delighting half the people and offending...well, who cares?

My friend enrolled at MPC and played football for them. He worked two jobs to afford the apartment near the college, and went to all his classes. He was good, and fulfilled a life dream playing as a linebacker. One of his jobs was working lunch shift at the Blue Lagoon on Cannery Row. He could not get free until 3:45 pm and would run back to MPC for practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The coach would belittle him in front of the team if he was five minutes late, and demoted him to special teams. Then he took a major hit tackling a guy on a punt return, broke a vertebra, and lay in his apartment in pain until he was evicted and kicked out of school.

We put him up in our guest house, and covered him while he recovered physically. Eventually he got a low level job in construction, got a girlfriend, got an apartment, and moved away, back to PG.

I must say that my friend channels Neal Cassady not just in the natural brilliance of his language and the agility of his mind. He is also really bad with cars. I have never met anyone who can drive so improbably, frighteningly fast in bad cars on awful roads and emerge unscathed.

Well, most of the time. My friend has wrecked three of my cars: a VW Jetta, an Alfa Spyder and a Triumph Spitfire. By some unfathomable connection to the Void though he has turned a profit for me on each wreck. The Jetta we loved was unsaleable at $9k. Insurance paid $14k. The Alfa cost $2500. Insurance paid $4500. It is really a lesson in attachment trying to be mad or not be mad at my friend for wrecking cars that wind up financing better and safer cars for me.

My favorite moment with my friend and automobiles took place after he got a good enough promotion on the jobsite to buy his first brand new truck, a 4wd Toyota. He celebrated by driving to Moron Bay with my son and racing around the dunes. Inevitably he got in a race with some dune buggies and rolled the brand new truck.

The boys arrived back in one piece, but the truck was all rumpled and driving slightly crab-like from the bent frame.

I took it as another defeat for my friend and despaired: "Adrian, your brand-new truck is wrecked! I feel so bad!"

"Nawww, Mike. It's not wrecked, it's just stone-washed!"

The car karma was not all one-way. One night after working at Jean Hurd's faux Chateau Latour in Pebble Beach for some creepy dinner party I backed my Jaguar into the hidden ditch opposite the Chateau. Stuck like a dick. Fuck. Carmel Chevron was booked out two hours, and Jean has her own private security. I didn't want to get caught in the ditch because I thought she might hire us again some day. I called friend. No problem.

I was with Tall Paul (who incidentally was passed the torch from Slab by Adrian and now holds the Bartender Flame....he was sixteen and still in high school at Palma). There was nothing for us to do but lay in the road and watch the Perseid meteor shower and wait for either Jean's security guys, the Pebble Beach security guys, or my friend.

Suddenly we heard the screaming of an over-revved motor, then squealing tires, then brakes. Silence. Then more squealing, more screaming and something was moving towards us through Pebble Beach. It sounded like the soundtrack from "Bullitt". Screech, screech. Waaaahhh! Shift. Waaaaahhh! Shift. Screech. Screech.

Paul and I turned to each other.


Sure enough, my friend arrived in the stone-washed Toyota and laughed at us, stuck in the ditch in the Jag.

He produced a really expensive, hand-woven hackamore...well, two really expensive, hand-woven hackamores. He had stopped at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center on his way over and robbed two hackamores from prize jumping horses with a vague promise of return or a date, or another wild story for the groomettes responsible. My friend slashed the hackamores, tied them to his stone-washed truck and the frame of the Jag and Tall Paul and I were out in a jiffy.

"I gotta get back to The Rio. Alana and I are having dinner......"

My friend pursued his girl-friend Alana to San Diego. One night I got a call: "How do I make veal piccatta? It is her favorite dish!" It was 11pm, and he was in Safeway. In San Diego. Things were not going great.

We worked out that he had not much money on top of all the other problems, so I walked him through the tried and true Etienne Merle "turkey piccatta as veal piccatta" recipe. He pulled it off, sank the deal, and she moved in with him in PG. Now there is a baby....for good or ill, the spitting image of his dad. Neal Cassady III in all likelihood. My friend now runs a crew building super high end houses in Big Sur. His voicemail now says "Carmel Building and Design, please leave a message...." instead of "Rick Flair!!! Whoooooooh!"

My friend and his girl friend are getting married this October, and we are doing the wedding. Brendan is the best man. We are taking no other business that day.

Tuesday morning this week, after a brutal Monday Night at The Store, the phone rings at 7:55. Fuck.

Screams down the phone: "Dad, I wrecked my bike!" More screams. The phone call no parent wants.

I race over Cachagua Grade, redlining the Jaguar......while I hear the Village fire siren going off, for my boy. I still know the Mass in Latin, and I ran through it at least twice on the way over.

Brendan was relatively fine......he only lost 80% of the skin below his waist and spent the day in the ER at the hospital, sucking morphine and oxycodone like they were PixieStix.

I called my friend right away, because of the automotive nature of the accident, and because he and Brendan are best buddies. We did not get Brendan back home until that night because of all the medical procedures, and just the logistics of taping up that much missing skin.

I fell asleep eventually, still muttering the Latin Mass. When I woke up to check on Brendan at midnight, I found....... my friend, asleep at the foot of his bed. I should not say this in public, but I could still see the damp places on his cheek where the tears had cut through the dust and sawdust.

Now.....A question.......

Which guy do you want covering your back? Who is your real friend?

The lawyer?

Or the car thief?


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