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
“Wow!” says Bambi. “That’s so cool. Were you in a frat?”
In unison, seven powerful “NOOOs!”
Bambi’s confused. Bambi leaves.
KK has a shlips episode: For just a few moments, he’s compelled by unknown powers to formulate a conversation around the onomatopoeic Dungeon word “shlips,” which has many meanings, depending on how it’s inflected.
KK points to the menu, raises his eyebrows and addresses me formally, as if I’d just offered to take his order. “Gentleman Jack,” says KK. “And I think I would like to drink it . . . from a shlips glass.”
I nod. “I’ll check with the bartender.”
“Yes. I would like one serving of Gentleman Jack,” KK repeats. “And I’d like to drink that from a shlips glass.”
“On the rocks, or neat in the shlips?” I ask.
“From a shlips glass, please,” says KK. “Look — it’s snowing outside!”
Indeed, the kinetic window display in the thousand-dollar-souvenir store across from us has begun spewing white blobs of . . . something.
“Dandruff?” I suggest.
“Yes.” KK closes and hands me the menu. “Dandruff, on the rocks, in the shlips glass. Thank you.”
About a third of the ’80-’81 Dungeonites fare well in the year-end lottery and return to the Dungeon for ’81-’82. Others share Dungeon annexes — apartments nearby. Animal fares poorly; he doesn’t get drawn in the lottery, and he doesn’t have money for an apartment. Fortunately, we’ve made friends with the janitorial staff — we call Ruby, the supervisor, “Mom,” and she calls us her boys — and they come up with a solution: Animal’s given the key to a spare storage closet. The room’s about 5 by 5. Animal’s 6-foot-1 or so. But he fixes it up nice, with a broomstick diagonally across it, for hanging his uniform and non-basting clothes, a trifold mattress to sleep on, a hot plate . . . everything you need, plus free rent. When someone on the floor stays over at a friend’s or goes home for the weekend, Animal’s given the vacant bed, which frees up the storage closet for Rum Raisin, who otherwise sleeps on various floors.
I get Room 122, KK's and Brellis' old room, right next to the lounge: prime Dungeon real estate. I rebuild my loft so that it doesn’t meet fire codes. Roommate Terry Williams has the downstairs to himself, and I have a semiprivate bachelor-pad crawlspace — not enough room to stand, but you can sit cross-legged — complete with hard-liquor storage and a bong bar. Posters of the Who and Led Zeppelin, black and blue lights . . . the floor drug emporium.
“WOULD YOU LIKE MORE EGGS, MEAT?”
(My parents meet Animal and Beef, both of San Diego. My parents live behind a liquor store in Garden Grove — a good place to stop off. Thereafter, my parents refer to each of them, ingenuously and interchangeably, as “Meat, or the other one.”)
Since we arrived in Las Vegas, I’ve been reminding everyone to set aside a few minutes to spew out short bios into my recording device, for the story. “Five minutes, tops,” I say. “People take you more seriously if you can prove you’re nonfictional.”
No takers until late Saturday night. Others have been standing in line in front of the casino-level elevators, waiting to be allowed entry to the special elevator that goes to the Ghostbar, or to some other chamber of sonic horrors. I can’t take it. I haven’t been drinking. I grab some junk food and head up to 20109. Figure I’ll listen to some audio notes, figure out the story.
I wake up my laptop. The door opens. It’s my sober roommate, Spike, leading a quartet of basties — Rum, Rotty, KK and Little Kurt.
Rum has apparently talked everyone into making statements. Except for Toby, who’s gone off to stay with local family. And Animal, who’s gone to sleep.
The subjects find chairs or beds. I crawl and lurk, a worm, a praying mantis, fine-tuning microphone angles, checking sound levels, wolfing down a cheeseburger and a refreshing beverage. I’m an expert interviewer.
“Somebody go,” says Rum.
“I’ll go,” says Rotty. “My name is Wally Schlecht-Fledgenheimer, spelled the half-Jewish way. I started UCLA in 1980 and graduated in 1984. Then I went to law school, and then I went in the service. I was a captain in the United States Army — an Airborne guy. After I got out of the service, I went to work as a lawyer and got married. I have a stepdaughter who’s 12 and a half, and we live in the town of Alamo, California.
“When I was in the military, I did criminal defense, and now I’m doing product liability and class actions. Sometimes I work with Animal. He does some investigative work for me.”
“Perfect,” I say. Much of his testimony even seems to be true.
“Spike here,” says Spike. “I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Brainy kid in a barrio junior high school. Got my ass kicked all the time. Then I transferred to a high school in a rich area, and I was the poor kid, ostracized. The Dungeon was the first place I felt like I fit in. I lived there for three years. Majored in economics, then went to graduate school at UC Davis. When I got out of school, I really thought I’d know where I was going, and what was going to happen, and what was going on. It turns out I was completely full of shit. Maybe that’s why it’s kind of nice to get back together with the Dungeonites. It takes me back to that time when I still knew everything in the world.”
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