Sabtu, 10 Maret 2012

El Ten Eleven - I Like Van Halen

In 2004 my cousin Sherri called before my planned departure from Bangkok. She was living in LA with her fiance. Michael seemed like a nice man. Anyone was an improvement after her last husband, a speed freak bank robber. "I want you to meet him." Sherri considered me her closest cousin. We weren't family, but saying that we were cousins saved time otherwise wasted on explaining our serpentine connection. "We're thinking about getting married, I want your opinion.""I'll see what I can do." LA was off my usual route of Bangkok-Narita-JFK. My trips to the States lasted no longer than two weeks. I had a business to run in Pattaya. "We're living up in the Hills and he'll pick you up at the airport." Sherri was playing a siren's song with finesse. "You haven't been out here in years. We'll make it nice for you.""I'll come out." I had met her beau the previous year on their visit to Thailand. Michael managed rock bands. Most of them were household names. He had contacts with Hollywood. I had finished a screenplay about a diamond heist on 47th Street. This was a good shot at making the big time. At my age shots at the big time were rare. "I'll detour for you"We look forward to seeing you." Sherri added the 'we' to accent her commitment to Michael."I'll be seeing you."My travel agency PanExpress re-routed my ticket to Bangkok-LAX-JFK at no extra cost.The flight to LAX lasted 13 hours. Michael met me at the LAX in a 1967 Corvette. The light metallic blue convertible was an impressive ride even for LA. The engine sounded in tune. The speedometer went up to 140. The traffic on the freeway was rolling at 40. "How was your flight?" MIchael looked tanned and important behind the wheel of his ride. Other motorists stared with admiration."Brutal." I lay back my head, feeling like I was in a re-make of the 60s TV show ROUTE 66. "Two drunk sex tourists relived their exploits the entire way.""Did you get to sleep?" Michael flew 1st Class. "A few minutes. The only available upgrade to economy passengers is oblivion with a bootleg roofie from a Thai pharmacy. I forgot mine." My eyes were heavy from exhaustion. "Sherri is looking forward to see you." Michael was older than me by a good ten years. The bearded manager had been successful for more than thirty. He was smart. "You know I went to visit Sherri's mom in Jersey.""Really?" I knew where this line of questioning was headed."You don't look anything like the rest of the family." His suspicion was well-founded."That's because Sherri was adopted." Sherri and I had our story down. It was always best to back a lie with the truth, especially since my mind was operating on about one hour's sleep in the last 30 hours ."I'm from the New England side of the family. Irish Wasp. You knew that, right?""That's what Sherri says." Michael hid his frustration and blew his horn at a SUV straying into our lane. "You don't mind, if we stop at the Sony Soundstage for a while?"My driver didn't give me time to say no."Sherri's at work in the Valley." She ran a health clinic for sex workers. "We'll be meeting her later for dinner."Oh." I had been dreaming of bed more than food or Sherri."Van Halen's getting ready for their summer tour."

"Van Halen." I loved ATOMIC PUNK. "Will they be playing?""They're rehearsed the summer concert. I'll ask if they can play that song for you." Michael wasn't promising this 100%, but something in the way he said it made me believe Van Halen owed him. Bands loved anyone who made them look better than good"Great." A small adrenalin surge charged through my veins. The buzz died within seconds. I suppressed a yawn. "I'm all yours."LA hadn't changed in my absence. The palm trees waved under a cloudless sky. Traffic off the freeway was tolerable. People on the sidewalk were exercising rather than walking. Michael drove to 10202 West Washington Boulevard in Culver City. The Sony guards waved in Michael like he was Steven Spielberg. They shared a likeness, however Sherri's beau had his own clout.

"You ever been here before?" He parked at a numbered slot."No." I got out of the car. My legs were wobbly from the trip. "These studios had belonged to MGM. This was the birthplace of GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and SINGIN IN THE RAIN. Now it's better known for WHEEL OF FORTUNE and JEOPARDY.""My father likes both shows." He wouldn't miss WHEEL OF FORTUNE for all the tea in England."If he ever comes out here, I can get you tickets." It wasn't an idle offer. MIchael had pull. Two technicians waved to him, as if he paid their salary. "You ever have any business out here?""Never." I had been waiting for a call from Hollywood for decades. Only my cousin Sherri ever contacted me, although right now I didn't care if I was sitting with the head of a studio. My body was collapsing into a black hole of sleep deprivation. "I'm too well-unknown."

"Your cousin says you're a good writer."

"Nothing special." I had written a script about International Write Off Day, where everyone in the world blows off their debts. It was a comedy. No one had read the screenplay. I admired the size of the sound stages. They built them big back in the 20s.

"Nothing sometimes is a good story." Sherri had informed me that Michael knew agents. A phone call could get my script read. We walked through a door. Feedback blasted from gigantic amps. Van Halen was on stage. A few techies stood behind the sound board. No audience but me. I suppressed a yawn.

"Tired?" Michael waved to Eddie Van Halen. The guitar god returned the gesture with a scorching lick from a red and white guitar. A signature major 3rd ramped for distortion.

"It was a long flight." My limbs were as powerful as a zombie's outstretched arms. A long couch was behind the sound booth. I sat on it. Several seconds later I lay down. The decibel level rivaled the take-off of the space shuttle. My ears were blind. I heard Michael suggest ATOMIC PUNK to the sound engineer. I gave him 'thumbs up'.

Then I faded to black fast.

Michael woke me with a violent shake. There was smoke.At first I thought the sound stage was burning down.

"Pyrotechnics for the show." Michael explained, as I sat up ready to run for the exit.The stage was empty. No one stood the sound board. "Everyone has left."

"Was I asleep long?" I hoped so.

"Out cold. Eddie finished the set and looked at you. He couldn't believe you had slept through his set."

"Sorry." I wished that I was still in my jetlag coma.

"He was hurt a little."

"Why?" We had never met in this life.

"Because they put you to sleep."

"It was jetlag." I hoped Eddie didn't think it was drugs. I had stopped them years ago,unless they were available. Michael wasn't the type. Reefer maybe, but then reefer is a herb, not a drug. "Fuck. I missed Van Halen."

"Sherri's waiting." Michael looked at his cellphone.

They were a luxury in Thailand.

"Let's go meet her then." I noticed a stagehand talking on one. Everyone else seemed to have one. For a second I thought everyone was talking about the man who slept through Van Halen, but I was too big a nobody for anyone to care what I did.

And being a nobody was a luxury too, especially in LA when all you want to do is sleep.

To listen to El Ten Eleven's I LIKE VAN HALEN go to this url.

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