Dear Readers, I'm trying something new: old-fashioned, serial storytelling. Just like in the old days, when we'd gather around the wood-paneled radio for a swashbuckling episode of Captain Blood or the rousing trumpet of the Lone Ranger, enrapt for 30 minutes until the hero finds himself in a jam with no foreseeable way out and we're left hanging with the ubiquitous words, "tune in next time!".
Well, apply that device to Penthouse Forum, and you've got my latest installment in two parts: Sex Pistol.
Part 2 will be posted next Sunday. I assure you it will be worth tuning back in...
SEX PISTOL -- PART I
It was the summer of 1999. I was 23-years old, waiting tables at a trendy, cosmopolitan brasserie in Boston called the Blue Cat Café. The Blue Cat was known for its jazz, specifically Acid Jazz. I’m pretty sure I know what Acid Jazz is, and I think I like it. I don’t want to look it up on Wikipedia though, in case I’m wrong.
I had just returned from Los Angeles after a year and a half working for a movie producer. I was living at home, with my parents, searching for my next career move; I figured the best way to explore my options was to work nights, snort coke, party with sexy bartenders and then drive home through my quiet suburban hometown at sunrise, my window rolled down, taking in the smell of freshly cut grass and listening to the ching-ching-ching of automated lawn sprinklers. I lived rent-free. My only expenses were sanity and self-respect.
Each day I pondered my future, from noon to 1:00 PM, while lying in the bed I slept in as a teenager, too lazy and guilt-ridden to go outside for a morning cigarette. For a week straight I watched the recast of the MTV Movie Awards—Will Smith dancing around and singing about the Wild Wild West.
“Fuck L.A.,” I said, turning the TV off and throwing the remote into the corner of my high school bedroom. I stared across the room at my Dan Marino poster. “And fuck you, too.”
By August I was depressed. I was already sick of my twenties. I wished I was 35 and living in a house somewhere with a real job, a 401k and health insurance. I missed eating lunch during daylight. I missed prime time television. The Sopranos was a national phenomenon and I could never watch because I worked on Sunday nights. Life was passing me by.
And then, one night, Carol kissed me in the Blue Cat bathroom, and I found my raison d’etre.
Carol was the Blue Cat deejay on Thursday and Saturday nights. She was an older woman, and by “older” I mean somewhere around 30. She had short, spiky, frosted blonde hair and an angular, German face. She wore leather pants every night—sometimes maroon, sometimes black. She reminded me of everything good about the 80s. Whenever she entered the restaurant—usually around 10:00, when the crowd was peaking—it was like a sonic ripple, something I felt more than saw, like a rock star moving through a throng of fans. She was stopped by at least eight different people on her way from the front door to the deejay booth; each conversation seemed important and personal. I watched her as she hugged, kissed on both cheeks, listened, laughed, talked intently, narrowed her eyes, put her hand on someone’s shoulder, scratched her nose, ran her hand through the back of her short hair (a habit). I watched her as she methodically removed her 33” records from a leather case. She examined both sides of each disc before playing them, brushing the vinyl with horsehair. I watched her every time she went to the ladies’ room. When she walked she stuck her hands in the back pockets of her leather pants; she took long strides, her hips wide and commanding. And I’d just stand there, holding a tray of water glasses or a breadbasket, lacking any self-awareness, unable to register my emotions. I felt like a schoolboy living in an Aerosmith video.
She played remixes, mostly; my faves were a Macy Gray/Elton John mashup and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Them. One night I mustered up the courage to approach the deejay booth and make a request.
She saw me coming and smiled. My bowels got loose and squishy. “Can you play that Van Morrison song?” I shouted over the din of the crowd. Back then I didn’t know Van was the lead singer of a band called Them. I just knew it was his voice wailing on the track.
“I’ll play it next. For you.” She nodded and smiled again. Her cheekbones were high. Everything about her was exotic, European, sophisticated, way out of my league.
She played it next.
I asked some of the older, seasoned, gay waiters about her. “She’s married and she has a kid,” they informed me. “Why? Do you like her?”
“No, I just…” Suddenly four gay waiters surrounded me, all smiling with their eyebrows arched. They reminded me of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, sitting on top of his mountain perch, rubbing his chin, devising a plan. “She’s married,” I said. “So what difference does it make?”
“Well, she’s married, but she’s not married married. Know what I mean?”
My eyes darted across each of the waiters. “Forget I said anything.”
One of them must have said something to her, because the following Saturday night Carol started looking at me. Every time I looked at her, she looked back. And then she started smiling at me. Not an amiable, “Hiya friend!” kind of smile. It was the kind of smile a coyote gives to a cocker spaniel that’s chained to a backyard leash. I’m going to eat you soon.
I had no idea what to do, other than take a shit.
So I kept looking at her, and she kept looking back. For two weeks. Whenever our eyes met my neck would get warm, my heart would pound and I’d lose all sensation below my waist. I’d be down on the dining room floor, in my stupid server uniform (a black t-shirt and long black apron—like a dopey samurai warrior), and she’d be up in the farthest corner of the cocktail lounge, behind the turntables, wearing a snakeskin jacket or a buttoned-down shirt with the collar up or sometimes just a tank top, and we’d connect through the crowd of 200 metropolitan idiots laughing and spilling martinis on each other. Just me and Carol, and no one else.
One Saturday night, Carol was absent. At 10:30 I went up to Jay, the manager, and asked if she was coming in. He shrugged and told me he hadn’t heard from her. I went back to the dining room feeling despondent, the way I used to feel when one of my baseball games got rained out. For the next forty minutes I skulked to and from my tables feeling like I was about to cry. I didn’t even want to finish my shift. I was about to ask Jay if I could be first cut when I heard the opening keyboard of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, its sweet, melodic chimes rising and falling over the PA. I looked up at the turntables and saw Carol, smiling at me. It was our song. Our mating call. She waved at me to come over.
“I know you love that song,” she said.
I moved behind the turntables, close to her. “I didn’t think you were coming in,” I said.
“I had to wait for my mom to come over to watch Jeffrey,” she said, and then added, “He's my son.”
“Oh.” I nodded and took a half step backward. She turned toward the crowd, her hands in her back pockets, and then took a step toward me.
“Do you like to do junk?” she said.
“Do you party?” She tapped her nose with a long, crimson fingernail.
“Oh…yes! Yes I do!”
She smiled at me, coyote to leashed puppy.
“Meet me in the bathroom in five minutes. Once the next song starts.”
I walked back to the dining room. A few minutes later “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” ended and a song by De La Soul started. Carol made her way through the cocktail lounge—taking those long, leather strides—and down through the dining room, glancing briefly at me as she passed by. She turned a corner and disappeared by the kitchen, where the Blue Cat’s employee bathroom was located.
I checked on my tables and then followed her.
The hallway leading to the bathroom was empty. I walked down it quickly, feeling that warmth again, rising up from my loins and spreading into my chest and face. I knocked on the closed door. Carol opened it a crack and then let me in. She closed and locked it behind me and promptly moved over to the sink, where she cut up four lines of cocaine with her driver’s license.
“I’ve got til the end of this song,” she said, handing me a rolled-up bill. “Go ahead.”
We snorted the lines. I immediately felt like taking a shit. I backed up against the wall and clenched my butt cheeks.
“This is good shit,” Carol said, packing up her purse. “Are your lips numb?”
I nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“Good,” she said. Then she grabbed the back of my neck, and her mouth came toward me.
We made out for a couple minutes, and then she hugged me, pressing her face against my neck. She told me that she wanted to see me outside of the Blue Cat. “Come out next Saturday night. I’m not working, but me and some friends are gonna take mushrooms and go to Machine. Will you come, after you get off here?”
I nodded, holding her, my mouth chewing on air, the two of us swaying back and forth to the final notes of a De La Soul song.
She never mentioned her husband, or her son, Jeffrey. And I never asked.
The next six days were a journey. At first I was eager, but then I was nervous, at one point (Wednesday) considering declining, making up some excuse not to go, anything.
On Thursday she called in sick, and I felt despondent again. I planned on canceling our Saturday night mushroom trip but after an hour of looking at an empty deejay booth I missed her. I didn't want to be there any longer because she wasn’t around to play our song. By the end of the night I was angry and my stomach felt sick. I was desperate to see her, even for a single moment, standing behind the turntables. Or doing anything at all.
Saturday couldn’t come fast enough.
And then it came, and there she was, walking through the door to the Blue Cat, dressed in black leather pants and a tight black t-shirt with two words bedazzled in rhinestones across her bulging breasts:
TO BE CONTINUED...
Dear Readers, to add another dimension to this storytelling experience I've included a link to the Them song, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". See below. It truly is a mating call...
Daniel Pellegrini is a recovering drug addict with an aggressive form of chronic bowel disease. That means he can't take painkillers after undergoing rectal surgery. He's here to show you just how beautiful life is.
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