The funniest thing happened to me on the way to Zed Records
A road trip, Beer Nuts, the Hessian, a Gravy Hog & the Huntington Beach Surf riot while under the influence of LSD
For it to work I needed to steal a razor blade and I knew just where to go. There was a stash at the Bandstand Beach restaurant where I worked as a busboy slash pot scrubber slash potato peeler. It was one of those rundown seaside cafes that tourists flock to on the scenic Esplanade that are a dime a dozen in shit towns that hug the sand. All week long they came like cattle for a measly single-laned drag that was infested with kooks and locals looking to either score a piece of ass or bust some heads, either way it was fight or fuck and the poor valleys didn’t know it was hunting season.
The assistant manager, a bronzed-tooth-grinding-Aryan-Adonis with a penchant for shaka-brahs kept his blades in the utility closet. He lived for corny jokes, innuendos and chopping up fat rails for our eager high school hostesses, an insatiable partier, they say that’s what ended his pro-beach volleyball career. I liked him, he let us drink beers out of to go cups and encouraged the heckling of tourists when it got slow. What else does a kid from Santa Cruz want?
The mission was pretty basic, while salivating over dog-eared issues of Flipside fanzine, we dreamed of going to Mecca… Zed Records in Long Beach. Zed had the finest imports and best hardcore vinyl hands down. A friend said his cousin saw GBH sitting in the parking lot drinking beers, it’s where Jello bought towering stacks of 45s and a close drive to the best marquee in the world. On any given night Fender’s Ballroom boosted Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Slayer, Bad Brains, Adolescents, Agent Orange, Big Black, Wasted Youth, etc., etc., super shows that ran off word of mouth, you just had to be there.
But there were a few minor setbacks to getting there. Like, I didn’t own a car… Long Beach was six hours south… I didn’t have a driver’s license… and, oh, yeah I was only 15 years old. But, my man Ruins knew a soft spot– the Hessian.
Dave the Hessian had a cherry red ‘67 Volvo 122 but with one problem– expired registration tags. The car was his father’s, but his dad was dead, so that was cool, and his mom was a junkie so there was no one in charge to ask permission. To make this work we needed a plan and my idea was genius. Find a car with good tags and skin them off with my razor, stick ‘em on ye ol’ 122 and viola!
Three’s a charm and two cuts later I managed to peel a month, a year tags and the end of my thumb off clean. My thoughts left me as fresh blood flowed from my hand forming a satisfying puddle, I dribbled west side in stained red on the scrubbed concrete. But Dave wasn’t impressed, he had an unfounded grudge against me. But he was my ticket out. Play it cool. He kept hollering, where the fuck is Ruins? in sing song.
As I waited for our mutual connection Andy Roy who went by Ruins back then to show, I watched the streets in bemusement knowing an adventure of a lifetime was minutes away as ordinary fucking people begin their day of work. One cruised by in a matching powdered blue jogging suit, looking constipated as the morning fog burned.
Then a patchouli-soaked-banana-slug-hippy approached me, hey, dude you heading south? Then a few more bubbled up. Shit, these fucking transplants were coming with? Out of reflex I shouted, Andy, where are you!?
But it didn’t help. He never came.
With a 100 bucks for records, a liberated 6-pack of Silver Bullets from the Bandstand and a jumbo pack of Beer Nuts, it was time to shine. The hippies were ready to split, so quiet as a mouse we coasted Dave’s sweet ride out of her tomb and halfway down the block not to bother his wasted mom. We hadn’t even cleared county lines and the drugs were flowing, every time the Hessian took his hand off the wheel the car started shaking like one of those paint can mixers at Ace Hardware. Was the car breaking down or maybe he couldn’t drive while burning one? Every now and then, the long hair with a homemade Camper Van Beethoven shirt giggled, how ya doing, Dave? Is it working?
Time flies when you’re having fun and we were over the fucking moon. We hit the artichokes 4 sale signs and the dude who sold Nazi memorabilia going through Moss Landing in record time, my body melted in the Volvo’s plump overstuffed backseat. It was a little house party up
in there, shouting and slurring, occasionally the cars hard shake slapped me back to the realization that we were driving
The Hessian whimpered, dude, fuck that passing trucking fuck just left the craziest trail. Oh shit! He was tripping. Hallucinating or not, he was making good time, but it was wearing on him, the pressure was whittling him down.
Without the decency of telling us he wrenched the car whipping it to the shoulder, forcing my tallboy to spill saturating my shorts. Give the man some air!
The hippy riding shotgun leaned in, singling me out, do you wanna a hit? I didn’t see a blunt, but that didn’t matter, I was highly agreeable. He rambled on, big pearly whites, microdots me boy-o, eat your acid like a good lil’ boy, hairy eyeball fixed on my third eye. Resting on the fender next to my window was Dave, he looked different now, like he was wearing a Halloween mask of a sweating, stressed version of himself, eyes bugged and dazed, he babbled to someone or anyone, I can’t go back, if I drive they’ll send me back. The seriousness of what he was saying made me take pause and then bust out laughing. Wasted. Barely able to stand, the Hairy Eyeball guy heroically volunteered to take the helm till we hit LA.
Locked-armed the Hairy Eyeball was now barrelling down the two-laned highway, the car was knocking hard and struggling to drive straight, as he belting out, can’t hold the wheel any longer, she’s breaking up in balls out Star Trek mode, he was Scotty dutifully taking us into warp speed. Like the Millennium Falcon punching it to light speed as the universe’s stars race into illuminated lines, we never hit those streaks either. My fate was in the hands of vertigo and I loved it. Absolute bliss is eating acid, watching the sun come up and go down while snacking on beer nuts, that rush of staying up till dawn, but since we left only a few hours before. I was pretty sure it was still the same day.
My depleted sixer of cerveza was warm, staring at my Shark watch, I thought about everything and then about nothing. All I knew was that the most important thing in the whole wide world was planting my forehead square on the 122’s ice cold window, eyes burning through the horizon, thawing into the road, the car’s deep vibration absorbed me in, the shaking spit me out, over and over and over, again and again. I was tripping hard and Highway 1 never looked so beautiful.
Here’s a brain teaser: how long does it take after dropping homegrown Santa Cruz acid, partaking in Humboldt's finest and slamming beers while hermetically sealed in a shaking Volvo that’s steering is out of whack to figure out the mixed tape is stuck and looping?
Then the driver confessed. It’s God man! The hand of God was shaking us, wherever we end up is meant to be, as he rambled I got a whiff of us. The fermentation of burnt steering fluid, b.o., weed, patchouli oil and feet marinating was nauseating. Fucking hippies. Then my little eye spied: Seal Beach. Do you know what that meant?! Next stop wasn’t goddamned Long Beach, it’s motherfucking Huntington Beach! A ton of bricks hit me. How did we miss da LBC? That DI song, “I Hate Surfing in HB” looped in my brain, that was sobering.
Meanwhile in the zone, doing his best Bridge Over River Kwai… the driver wasn’t budging, driving straight to Rosarito for all I knew. And this was weird, Dave the Hessian was back at the wheel, when the fuck did he start driving? Not only had I no recollection of even stopping, but a driver switch? I blocked Hessian out of this whole experience. Staying true to form he was mumbling again, pleading, like a drunk in a choir, the car became pin drop silent as we tried to Rosetta Stone his gibberish, this man held my trip to Zed’s in his hands, I wasn’t going to let him botch it. My pleas to turn around fell on deaf ears, in desperation I threatened to Mapplethorpe him*. In a sorta half-assed shrug and a bizarro peaceful expression, his whisper became loud: come hear Uncle John's Band playing to the tide, come on along, or go alone, he's come to take his children home.
Yet again pulling a classic Dave by yanking the wheel hard, we jack-knifed, spun two donuts and skidded into the roads shoulder. For about 30 seconds I felt like I was in a movie. My instincts took over and I bolted towards the ocean side of the car as if it were going to explode. I really wanted it to, especially since I was tripping, that would have been amazing!
With my feet firmly planted on the crunchy beach grit that dusted PCH’s pavement a sensation of doom suffocated me, I experienced something I'll never forget, the surreal feeling of a dripping, wet dog, I couldn’t shake the mental image of myself as a soaked mutt. I’ve heard people refer to this experience as discovering one’s spirit guide animal. Sweat as thick and dry as a St. Bernard’s saliva was stinging my eyes. It felt like 1000 faces were scolding me.
Was it because they knew I was failing 10th grade Spanish? I’ll never know.
Then panic imploded my gut, I could feel the cops coming, so I stuck my thumb up. A jacked-up white Toyota 4Runner scooped me up. As we drove off I watched the Hessian dance around his dead dad’s Volvo like a witch doctor, the smoking wheel his sacrifice as the dumbstruck hippie bros stood there, heads down getting smaller and smaller.
What’s going on there? asked the driver, he was totally Orange County. Dunno, just a bunch of kooks, I shrugged, it was the first time I ever used that term in a real conversation, it just felt right, he liked that answer and handed me an ice cold Silver Bullet. It was ‘86, the look was squeaky clean white blond bowl cuts, Town & Country tees and fluorescent trunks for all. I sat between three girls in the back. After six hours in the echo chamber I was back with my people, kinda. They were heading to the OP pro surf contest in Huntington Beach, that’s where I was going right? Fucking Occy, fucking Curren! The girl to my left agreed, MTV’s there, Dweezil Zappa such a babe! The one to my right passed me the most miniscule roach I’d ever seen, I was in good hands. That was until I noticed the presence of pure insidious evil.
The dashboard’s bobblehead. It was freaking me the fuck out. No matter where I looked this mini unblinking Chihuahua with a gold chain and stone-cold gaze was mocking me. Its tiny little head disapprovingly shaking and bobbling just like my mother.
Dude, cover that dog’s face it’s giving me the creeps, I said white knuckled. But, Holy shit, was all I heard from the driver, I couldn't make out if that was more of a question or a statement?
Trapped in my own personal ASMR video my fear faded to curiosity. All I wanted to do was touch the lil’ doggie, feel its abrasive Chihuahua peach fuzz and squeeze its head off. The driver starting swearing again, I couldn’t make out the words but I could tell it was no good. I was anxious. They say one side effect of acid is paranoia. Never trust a hippie.
My body could sense chaos and my eye was drawn to what looked like a live re-enactment of the old flickWeekend, no it was Fellini, it was bananas, the heat wave and color of half-naked bodies made a beautiful apocalypse.
The 4Runner’s posse started to panic. I needed to bounce fast. Using my psychedelic spirit animal powers I teleported to the streets and ran. Inhaling a robust amount of body heat. I barely dodged a mob of frat boys out for blood, a cop in short shorts was yelling at the clouds, it scared me as I watched him push a girl, they tripped and the earth swallowed them. I was pressing on hard lapping it all up, barely avoiding the creepy crawling light mice on the floor.
A piercing POP, POP, POP crashed into my consciousness, so organic it made my skin tingle, the sound was ambrosia to my ringing ears. I needed more and fast. I sprinted towards it. Was it gunfire?
I stopped dead in my tracks… because I’ve never seen anything so poetic since.
A magnificent gravy-hog of a man, part vigilante but all beef jerky was swinging his Louisville slugger. He was ridding the world of car windows, popping them out one-by-one. His sinewy orange muscles glowed an aura of dedication from a bygone era, a journeymen relishing his skill, it was the work of a genius, his flow flawless. As I sat in complete awe a psychic transcript explaining his art was being mainlined to my brain in real-time.
But, at exactly my most absorbed moment a jolt to my arm struck me. It was cold, moist, like a wet smudge of a dog’s nose. This shock totally interrupted my psychic connection with the Gravy-Hog, it made me realize he was just fucking shit up, taking advantage.
Then my peripheral vision locked on a fist coming towards me, it was the same beef jerky orange but with a peaceful aura, calmly passing me a Silver Bullet in slo-mo. You’re pretty mellow man, been here long? I studied the face that the fist belonged too for a long time. It was that of a poet warrior, like Steven Seagal. Some people behind me were laughing, another was crying, I don’t know, was all I could get out, things all around me were being destroyed.
We both stood there just smiling.
These days Zed is dead (never made it) and the OP Pro is now the Vans US Open. Thinking back, it’s amazing I had no idea that Huntington Beach was breaking down before me. I just figured it was bad acid or a psychotic episode. For a long time I wondered if somehow the Gravy-Hog was part of me? What did he represent? And is my spirit guide animal really a sopping wet dog? My answer didn’t come until about two years ago while skimming through a zine. I was immediately drawn to a photo of the beach, a dark black cloud of smoke choking the horizon. And the blimp! A beautiful Good Year blimp serenely floating above the chaos. And flanking the sea of ant like rioters is an orange sinewy beach goer, naked from the waist up. It gave me total déjà vu. It wasn’t him, but this guy could be the Gravy-Hog’s little brother. Or, on second thought–– maybe we’re all Gravy-Hogs in this melting world?