By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I noticed a shabby acoustic guitar propped against the wall. It was little more than a beginner’s guitar.
“You mind if I check out your guitar?” I asked, acting like I’d barely seen one before.
“No, go ahead. It’s a piece of shit, though.”
I started fiddling around with a basic 16-bar blues, adding some flourishes here and there in case he was paying attention. His focus never strayed from the computer monitor.
“It has a nice dirty sound,” I said solicitously.
“Yeah, you think so? Let me see that,” he said, a bit annoyed.
He then proceeded to rip into a furious jazz/blues progression, fingering chords beyond my comprehension.
“Nobody uses 13ths anymore,” he said.
“I spent some time at a fancy music school,” he told me as he handed the guitar back like he was handing an empty glass to a busboy. “On a scholarship.”
He went back to the computer with an inspired volley of curses, pleas, cigarettes and exclamations, interrupted only by business calls.
“Most of my clients are stars who don’t want to go out of the house,” he scowled after one call.
I started strumming the guitar again. Without looking at me, he held up his hand and told me to stop.
“I just have to concentrate on this part,” he added to soften the blow.
A few tense assaults on the keyboard followed. Then we waited for signs of life on the monitor. Nothing. Even Colin seemed deflated. Then he hit a few more keys, sucked in his breath and watched as images started to come to life on the screen.
“Does that look like your desktop?” he asked. A familiar configuration of icons and folders appeared before me. His tone had switched from that of a SWAT-team sergeant to one of almost paternal concern.
“Yes, it is,” I said, awed.
“Now what folder contains this novel you were so worried about?”
I told him to click on the file code-named chnovel.doc. It opened.
“All there?” he asked gently.
“Yes,” I said. “Thank you. Thank you.”
I felt like crying. I searched for some way, other than the $250 check I was making out, to show him how much I appreciated everything: the motorcycle, the black couture, the cheap cigarettes, that I was in the home of a genius who doesn’t take new clients, watching him turn my despair back into hope.
He must have sensed a sappy moment coming on, because he picked up the guitar and started improvising a punk song. It was something about a dark bar, last call, a priest and Randy.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said when he was done. “It’s what I do.”
Conventional Wisdom: My Car, My Self
The pursuit of personal identity through automobile affiliation is not new, but coursing through the circles of New Car Hell at the L.A. Auto Show this weekend, I find its ultimate expression — and maybe an entire philosophy of life — in a pamphlet, for the rectangular little Austin Mini Cooper, called “The Book of Motoring.”
“Let’s burn the maps! Let’s get lost! Let’s turn right when we should go left! Let’s forget everything we know about driving!” This car seems just a step away from offering apartment listings in Silver Lake and a gift certificate to the Soap Plant. And, perhaps in an attempt to sell cars to the confused, the marginally depressed and the slovenly, the pamphlet advises, “Don’t freak out if your mini gets a nick or a ding. Just think of them as scars. And as most people will tell you, scars are sexy!” What better way to get those sexy scars than to forget everything you know about driving?
I’d kind of like to buy a new car, but trying to figure out the differences between the various models sends my eyes spinning in opposite directions. I thought a trip to the L.A. Auto Show would help. My friend and near rock god Andy Prieboy agrees to play Virgil to my Dante.
“Mud men and mints spells Toyota,” Andy says suddenly. We have just been handed a box of Toyota mints, an obvious seduction ploy for the muddy-boy contingent, who must be the target consumer group for Toyota’s Rugged Sport Coupe, a car so angry and muscular it looks like a fist with the face of a grouper. “Boys will be boys,” says the commercial playing nearby. The screen shows little boys playing in mud and then transforming before your eyes into hard-living mud-covered men. Here at last is a car for guys for whom there is no such thing as too much mud. Not me.
“Welcome to Humshwitz,” Andy says as we walk up to a section of the L.A. Convention Center that looks as if it’s been transformed into a POW camp. Inside a chainlink fence posted with a sign that reads, “Danger. 500,000 volts,” and beside a faux control or gun tower, the brand-new Hummer rises and falls on a hydraulic lift. “Unique. Authentic. True. Daring. Powerful. Reliable,” reads the sales copy.
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