January 22, 2014 - by Nick Schneider
It’s approximately 11:00am on another exceptionally clear Santa Monica morning. It’s brilliantly sunny outside with just a small dose of humidity. It feels good, it feels balanced. The universe is in perfect proportion as I sit in a Coffee Bean, suck down some caffeine and wonder why my hangover isn’t worse than it is. I should be on the verge of death. Maybe it was that omelet at 4 in the morning. I think IHOP may have saved my life. I suppose there just might be a legitimate reason to keep a restaurant open for 24 hours.
I saw it last night. In many ways it was sad but, like everything sad, there was a thin glimmer of sweetness skirting around the edges, ducking in the shadows when it’s most needed in the light. An IHOP at 4 in the morning is a rather lonely place: there was a lean, middle-aged Hispanic man slowly, achingly washing windows, a patron passed out in a corner booth, tired-looking waiters, a table full of surprisingly subdued teenagers. The smell of burnt bacon was permeating the atmosphere. Next to our table sat a couple, a happy-looking couple, happy not because they were wasted like us, but because they seemed to genuinely enjoy each others company. The sweetness embedded in the sadness. Or maybe that’s just what I perceived from the situation. I don’t think I need to reiterate my state of intoxication.
Rusty’s Surf Ranch
Saturday night on the Santa Monica pier- a cozy, family-friendly patch of LA that’s clean and jovial and crowded with children lining up for the ornate merry-go-round and luminous Ferris wheel and boisterous roller coaster. So rock n’ roll. This time, however, we actually did feel like rockstars, mostly because we played like rockstars. From the first note we were locked in- we were the band that killed three hour gigs in Bay Area dive bars, the band that could dominate a stage when the music was executed effectively, the kind of live band I always dreamed of being in. It’s hard to explain the feeling when everything goes right. Failure is easy, success rare, so you just don’t become familiar with it enough to describe it accurately. All I can say is I never feel better, never more satisfied or content, than in the middle of a great gig. It’s that impossible sense of connection we so strive for with our fellow man, one that gets lost and muddled in the complexities of language, the vast disparity between thoughts and actions, the fact that what we say is often not the same as what we mean or, at least, what it’ll be interpreted by others to mean. Music is that intrinsic bridge of communication that brings people together far easier than mere words ever could.
But every high is balanced out by a low of equal intensity, and bridges of communication can be burned without even a box of matches. And LA, that beautiful woman hiding a dagger behind her back, allows all her demons to run free at night, making me soberly remember why I left the city in the first place.
After the gig the band decided to head out to a hip bar in Venice, one that looks like every other hip bar and blasts the same mix of 90s’ hip-hop like every other hip bar. Outside we passed the homeless covered in filthy blankets and ragged clothing, the reassuring presence of the LAPD, a man passed out in a pile of his own vomit, skate punks with storm trooper boots and faces full of metal, and hordes of gorgeous women who probably considered themselves models or actresses but who, during the omniscient daylight, were coffee baristas or retail associates. Here was the notorious LA discrepancy in full, graphic detail: Glamor and Vomit; Fantasy and Reality; what one would like to (or is led to) believe about the city and what it is really like. Make-up washes off, expensive clothes degrade, like everything else, with time, and the superficial myth of LA living can be built and dismantled on the same street corner.
There was a moment in the club when I was nursing a pricey beer- wishing I was much more drunk to better tolerate the noise and sweat and noxious smell of desperation oozing from every man and maybe a few of the women- and looked up. Above the bar, encased in glass, was a stuffed mongoose baring its fangs like it couldn’t stand the music either. Then I noticed all around the room hung various animal body parts- a bison’s head, antlers, a hawk, etc.- all staring down at the mass of crushed bodies, the drunks hanging off bar stools, the overworked bartenders with hard faces, the men grasping at dresses and fingers, the women stealing secret looks through heavy mascara, the loners and the rejected frantically working iPhones…How strange, I thought in that moment, it is to be human.