Yesterday, I got to have a good, long Skype session with my friend Zach, a former KZSC comrade. Our conversation, I am happy to report, was quite brilliant. We discussed the rise and fall of Microsoft and Nintendo, the inferior design of Facebook, and Yahoo’s inability to even try to compete with The Google Overlords. During a brief moment of non-internet related banter, Zach mentioned that he was planning on teaching himself how to play the accordion. I said that I could imagine him playing at The Poet And The Patriot; a bar in downtown Santa Cruz that only serves the finest beers and the cheapest wines. We then got to talking about how fantastic it is to sit at the bar at The Poet and watch the frat boys and sorority girls order shorts of Jaeger and Patron, only to be turned down by the hard-assed, Irish bartenders. “It helps keep out the riff-raff,” said Zach. “If they want that shit, they can go to The Red.”
The Red is as trendy as it gets when it comes to downtown Santa Cruz drinking establishments. There are drinks with funny names, or “signature cocktails,” if you prefer. The girls are wearin’ mini-skirts, and everyone looks like they’ve showered. The place smells of cologne and sugar cane, and it’s impossible for bums to sneak inside. Despite all this, I could still walk in wearing jeans and a t-shirt and no one would glare at me.
There is a lower-level of The Red that is quite unlike its upstairs counterpart. The lower-level allows smoking. The lower-level isn’t as well-lit. The lower-level isn’t the place to go for a neon pink “signature cocktail.” The lower-level attracts girls in mini-skirts with tattoos on their arms. The lower-level…just…feels more like home. I used to hang out at the lower Red with my good friend, Ellanee, when we were in college. We’d stay until closing time, having a blast being total assholes to all the poor fuckers who offered to buy us drinks.
“Ya know what I always loved?” I said to Zach, “The lower-Red. It’s scuzzier.” Zach laughed and said, “You would like the lower-Red, you classy, classy lady.” I knew he was being ironic, which I found rather funny. I also found it a bit perplexing. In what ways, I wondered, am I not perfectly classy? I burp in front of people, and I don’t give a shit if I’m caught grocery shopping in my pajama bottoms, but I don’t consider myself especially unclassy. I had to settle this. I said to Zach, “You know what? It’s because I’m too much of a chicken to actually be scuzzy, so I’m attracted to people who really are. I live vicariously. It’s like I’m Lawrence Ferlinghetti and I’m just chillin’ watching all the Neil Cassadys run around. They’ll all die, and I’ll be an old person riding my bike to my prestigious bookstore.” Zach just laughed and said, “Imagining you as an old lady on a bike is funny.”
Scuzzy people. Scuzzy fuckin’ low-life people. I love them; especially, you guessed it, the males. Yes, I am a Good Girl who loves Bad Fuckin’ Boys. Not just any bad boy, mind you. I’m talkin’ vagabonds. Drifters. Rockstars. DIRTY HIPPIES! The poets, the painters, the shitty novelists, the song-writers, the filmmakers…All that bullshit. I love ’em stoned, I love ’em drunk, I love ’em strung out in the street quoting T.S. Eliot. I love ’em in torn clothing with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and knowing smirks on their lips. I love five o’clock shadows and dirty coats that smell like bourbon and old shoes. I love long hair and bare feet and sage-scented panchos. I love paint-covered hands. I love foul mouths. I love bar fights and run-ins with the police.
Oh, how we danced away all of the lights, We’ve always been out of our minds…
I know, of course, deep-down, that I could never ever have a meaningful romantic relationship with a scuzzy son-of-a-bitch. I know that. I really, really do. However, until I find my sensitive, loyal, well-mannered family man who makes six (or more) figures per year, I plan on continuing to fall in love with all the wrong men — at least the ones I see on the silver screen and hear on my shitty speakers.
I am not sure what my love for scuzzy men means. Is it purely voyeuristic? And why? Am I rebelling against my suburban upbringing by idolizing vagrants? Do I think that I have the power to take a starving artist and transform him into a well-to-do member of society? Do I just wish Nick Cave’s “Hard On For Love” were about me? Is this my specific take on penis envy? Again, I am not sure. All I know is that pictures of young Marlon Brando are great, but stories about young Marlon Brando living in his dirty New York apartment with a pet raccoon excite me even more. I can’t explain it; I can only explore it.
Let the exploration begin!
SCUZZY SON-OF-A-BITCH #1:
The Derelict That Started It All
Those skin-tight jeans. Those red Adidas. That thick Scottish brogue. That foul mouth. Yes, Mark Renton is definitely my kind of sexy motherfucker. Add to the mix a debilitating heroin addiction, and I’m in Good Girl Heaven.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I was 14-years-old. When I saw Mark Renton overdose on heroin and sink into The Mother Superior’s living room floor while Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” oozed through the room, everything suddenly made sense. “This is it,” I realized. “I’ve always loved this stuff, and I’ve never known it.”
NOTHING was the same for me after that. Eve6 and Blink 182 and Dave Matthews Band were replaced by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. If a book involved heroin, I had to read it. My poor mother had to listen to Nevermind The Bollocks everyday as she drove me home from school. I found a dusty old copy of Naked Lunch on my parents’ bookshelf. Everything that came out of the UK was kickass, and everyone who made music in the 1970’s was a God.
Conversely, everything that was popular sucked. It sucked hard, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Thanks to that period of my life, I own way too many obscure Ewan McGregor movies on VHS (if anyone would like to join me to watch Lipstick On Your Collar or Scarlet & Black, please let me know), way too many books about punk rock (still haven’t read Lipstick Traces), and way too many copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico (CD, vinyl, two-disc remastered, burned copy of the two-disc remastered…). Clutter aside, when I think about what may have happened to me if I had never fallen in lust with a fictional drug addict, I get very Existential. For example, if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mark Renton, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old music, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old music I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old records, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old records I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Jim Morrison (MORE ON HIM LATER), and if I hadn’t fallen in love with Jim Morrison…Would I have gone to UC Santa Cruz? Would I have had my own radio show? Would I have met half the people I consider my friends? Would I have seen Patti Smith live?
Would I be into GAGA?
Life is just extraordinary, isn’t it? If it hadn’t been for a little crush on an actor that turned into a tremendous fascination with various human subcultures…I mean, there’s nothing else I can possibly say, really. I can’t possibly add more profundity by writing a few more measly words, can I?
How about this: thanks, Mark Renton, for being so Goddamn tragic. And HOT.