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
Photo by Anne Fishbein
CAGGI IS DOING HIS REGULAR FRIDAY-NIGHT GIG. HE CALLS IT Loop du Jour, and right now, through techno-gadgetry and his own guitar prowess, the crowd is being treated to "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," "Stairway to Heaven" and "All Along the Watchtower" in a staggered series of classic riffs over which he wails selected leads from each song.
Did I say crowd? By that I meant a dozen or so friends and Novel Café regulars, none of whom seems as impressed by Caggi's genius as I am. Well, one other maybe, and that's Caggi's girlfriend.
I worry about the future of his tip jar. There are about eight dollars in there, and two of them are mine. And so far there hasn't been a rush on Loop du Jour the CD. In fact, not one has been sold. Most of the people in here have seen this act before, and the novelty's worn off. That doesn't make it old, though, just familiar. Comfortable.
"Cheersfor freaks" is how Caggi describes the Novel Café. I'm sitting at a table watching him with Crash and The Kid. Crash is the guy on whose couch Caggi has been flopping for nearly a year. The Kid used to be a hair model. He lives upstairs on the fifth floor, in the same shoebox he's been sleeping in and hijacking cable into for as long as I've known him.
Through the front window I can see a guy who answered to "Man Tits" when Crash said hello. With him is a young lady whose profession, I'm told, is to help make people's scatalogical fantasies come true. Beau's out there, too. She makes jewelry. Came to the beach from inland awhile back and set up right there at the café. Earlier I heard some of the regulars discussing her sleeping arrangements with some concern.
They look out for each other, in a manner, down here around Main Street. Even if they don't always know each other's last names. Credit is extended at the pub. Couches offered up. Keys given out. Cigarettes passed around. That type
Caggi's a funny one. He's dead broke. But his dedication to Loop du Jour, which will pay for cigarettes, trumps more lucrative opportunities with actual bands. Band politics are a drag, Caggi says, and besides, Loop du Jour is "the future."
And the Novel Café is one place where his girlfriend won't get carded.
Did I mention that Caggi is 45?
Tonight, Amish John will be joining Caggi onstage for a spoken-word performance. Which means he'll be sliding his chair closer to where Caggi's set up in front of the window. When he does, Caggi starts improvising some jazzy hepcat lines.
Did I say spoken word? Well, that's what they told me, but it starts out more like a low, gurgling rumble that begins in John's diaphragm and takes on some kind of freight at the back of his throat.
The anticipation builds.
"Do it, John! Get Amish on us!" Crash shouts.
John lets out a forlorn whelp that builds into a few yaps --
"Come on, baby, go fucking Amish on our asses."
-- that submerges into a heart-wrenching growl, that finally surfaces in a torrent of yowls and moans and wails. I'm not sure what the hell is going on, but then I realize he's barking the blues. And doing a damn good job of it.
Caggi has also teamed up with Crash. They started improvising Billy Terwillerger, The Rock Operaat parties some time ago, and now it's sort of a local phenomenon. It's an epic about an adopted boy who thought his name was Billy Sfoot but later learns he's really Billy Terwillerger. It involves plenty of mother-son issues and a man's search for his identity. The Cloven Naef (Novel Café) is an evil character in the story. "Fengshui," "Magic Fatty Man Titties" and "Piñata Clash" are some of the song titles.
But I gotta tell you a few more things about The Kid. He's the one I go back with the longest. He's a heartbreaker. Almost guaranteed to break your heart and keep you coming back for more. He once looked like John Taylor from Duran Duran. Not anymore.
The Kid can pinpoint where and when it all started to go wrong. It was the time he got a call to do a show put on by Sebastian and was dissed for "recession" by a Laurent stylist who favored a young gun with thicker hair. The Kid bravely finished the show, but then he went out and got a "boy's regular" cut and never modeled again. Lately he's been reduced to trading the CDs he's scammed from record companies for Xanax.
In the middle of the barking, The Kid randomly pulls one of the hundreds of books off the shelves that line the Novel Café's walls. He takes a quick look at the cover and slaps it down in the middle of the table.
The book is a 1970 Harlequin romance featuring a beautiful brown-eyed blonde on the cover. Out of the anatomically wrong corner of her eye drips a single tear. The book's title is Bleak Heritage.
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