- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Still, Theodore the Underground Rock Explorer was pretty irritated about covering for me.
"Jessie, you're late at least twice a week. Whether it's been raining in apocalyptic quantities or not."
I ignored him. He was in a bad mood. Theo was almost always in a bad mood because his wife was riding with an all-chicks motorcycle club instead of working, and his teenage son had two silver rings in both eyebrows and a D- in History and French.
I rummaged through a stack of CDs on a shelf labeled appropriately JESSIE'S SHELF. It didn't mean that the other jocks couldn't take the stuff on my shelf and play it, it just meant they had to put it back on the shelf when they were done, which of course they hardly ever did.
I found "MacArthur Park" easily enough. Nobody else but me would play that. About two weeks ago, when the rains first started, I spun the tune Internet voters tabbed "worst song ever" for a one-time joke that morphed into a listener-requested habit. As the heaviest rainfall in L.A. since 1897 deluged down, if I didn't play it firstthing, people called me up and yelled at me.
I leaned over Theo and plopped the CD in the player. Sometimes I played the Donna Summer disco version, but today it was Richard Harris warbling about MacArthur Park melting, conjuring up images of tie-dyed shirts and beaded headbands.
Theo got up and handed me his headphones. "This stupid song is just one sign of it."
"The apocalypse?" I asked.
"Turning the big 3-0. You're getting more and more maudlin. You need a steady relationship, improve your mood."
"Having a steady relationship hasn't done that much for yours," I countered.
Theodore looked at me closely. I made an effort to smooth my normally straight light brown hair, which was, due to the rain, all frizzed up now like I was doing an imitation of Bette Midler imitating Janis Joplin in The Rose.
"Still seeing that drummer?" Theo asked.
"He played guitar," I said. "Drummer was two years ago." Followed by six months of abject celibacy, a record I feared I was now destined to top.
"Played guitar, past tense?"
I kept my eyes, hazel, but sometimes in romantic moments, described as "golden," averted from Theo's inquisitive gaze. I really should learn not to tell anybody I knew that I ever dated anybody.
Richard Harris was building to a raging musical crescendo. "... Someone left the cake out in the rain ... all the sweet, green icing flowing down ..."
Of course it wasn't cake icing, it was mud and water oozing away this February, causing road closures, collapsed roofs, cracked foundations, and flooding down the banks of the Hollywood Hills and the Pacific Palisades in terrible waves no surfer would want to ride. Compared to problems like that, breaking up with a guy I hadn't so much as kissed since Thanksgiving seemed pretty trivial.
My gaze finally met Theo's. "Yeah," I admitted, "I'm officially single again."
Theo patted my shoulder. "You ought to front a band. Call it the Ex's," Theo said. "Am I right? There was lead singer guy, that was before you came to work here, but you were still mooning over him when you started. There was flute guy, then drummer guy, and now guitar guy. You need to hook up with a bass player next, and a roadie, and you'll be all set."
I laughed as appreciatively as I could. Theo circumvented the bucket our roof was steadily leaking into and left me alone in the sound booth.
It was just a week ago that the guitar guy, otherwise known as Jack, and I were standing out in the rain by my car that wouldn't start, and I'd still, more or less, emphasis on less, considered us a couple.
Jack was holding the umbrella. He wasn't even wet, not one little bit. The water was beading up on his nicely rainproofed cowboy boots, his jeans weren't damp, his stylish fur-trimmed ski parka was zipped up to his neck. The rain was soaking my leather jacket, never intended as a raincoat, and running down inside my T-shirt and splashing on my jeans.
To be fair, he'd started out holding the umbrella over me, while we tried to figure out what was wrong with my car-wires just damp, battery dead, alternator shot, whatever. I didn't have a clue, and even though it was his idea to look under the hood, it turned out he didn't either.
It was then that he blurted out, "Jessie, I really care about you."
And I, stupid sap that I was, looked up at him under the big black umbrella, looked into his dewy blue eyes, at the smooth, sunken cheekbones framed by long blond hair, and I just pushed aside all the doubts I'd been having while he was off touring with his band the last four months.
He was so artistic and haunted and had a beautiful way of playing a twelve-string guitar while looking into my eyes, the same soulful way he was doing then. I'd almost forgotten, that was all, because we'd been apart so long, mostly just leaving voice mail messages on each other's cell phones every night.
I said, "I know. I care about you, too-and-"
"Wait." His fingers were on my arm, pressing firm enough to silence me.
"I care about you but." His voice got all choked up. "I met this girl the other night, at the bar I was playing up in SLO-look, I was attracted, okay. Really, really attracted. And it hit me, it hit me hard, you don't feel like that, like I felt, if you love somebody. So even though I still care, I just don't think I love you. Anymore I mean."
That was when I stepped out from under the umbrella.
"Jessie, please-" He slammed the hood of my car and trailed me down the street to the bus stop.
I was only having doubts about this guy? I should've dumped him before he went off on tour with his completely unoriginal eighties tribute bar band, and before I'd lent him five hundred bucks that I realized then I would never see again.
"Come on. Don't go off all mad. I'm just trying to be honest here," he pleaded.
The bus pulled up with a belch and, oh so satisfyingly, one tire skidded in the overflowing gutter and there went Jack's neatly pressed jeans. Not just wet, but muddy, too. There was even a gum wrapper clinging to his drenched thighs.
I laughed. I actually laughed. Every once in a while, the universe slipped into balance. Just a little bit, anyway.
Today, I allowed myself one last sigh for what might've been but probably never was, and then I turned to the task of drawing up my typically eclectic playlist of alt-country, jazz, blues, whatever constitutes rock these days, and old Joni Mitchell.
We don't follow a set playlist at KCAS, we play what we like, not something somebody pays us to like. This kind of free choice is just about unheard of anymore in a major market.
People who don't know me very well and hear what I do for a living always tell me what a dream job I have. Some people who don't know me at all even tell me what a dream life I have.
The truth is, even when my third-hand car is running, the studio roof isn't leaking, the room I'm working in doesn't smell like dirty socks because of the mildewed carpet, and I think I'm in love with a guy because a year ago he put my name in a song he wrote, I don't have a dream life. And being a disc jockey, even working a good gig like this one, isn't the dream job everybody thinks it is.
Out of 158 FM stations in the greater Los Angeles basin, we are number 156 in market share. At any moment, the corporation that owns us could turn us into an automated easy-listening station, or a syndicated all talk, as they've threatened off and on for as long as I've worked here.
Even if we continue to be our independent selves, there's still no job security, because with everybody thinking being a DJ is all fun, all the time, a dream job, there's a million people in line waiting to take your job-people who know the names of bands you haven't even heard of yet, and can also make smart-ass jokes into a microphone and push a CD into a player or a tape into a tape deck just as well as you can.
Also, as is true of many dream jobs, unless you make it to the very top of the dream job heap, it doesn't pay very well. I've made more money waitressing and as a scheduler at a recording studio, which was where I met the record producer who was also the part-time program director here at KCAS at the time. He told me I not only had beautiful eyes and incredibly long legs, but that I had such a great, sexy voice, I should be on the radio. I was hoping he meant my self-produced garage band record should be on the radio, but he meant I should come to work as a jock. We only went on two depressingly chaste dates, then he left and got a better paying job as a computer programmer, but I've been at the station four years.
Some people, mainly my cousins in Cleveland with the stock brokerage, are always asking me why I don't get a real job, or have a real relationship. Like it's that easy.
Right, I turned thirty, so now I need to settle down. Okay, let me just go on down to the nearest 7-Eleven and pick up a package of chips, a Coca-Cola Slurpee, a well-paying, normal job with a future, a husband, and oh yeah, a six-pack of kids to go.
It's not that easy, of course, and anyway maybe I'm still too restless to settle down, or give up, whatever you want to call it. I'm still drawn, I guess, to the romance of lost causes, whether it's the career I never really had as a writer and performer of love songs whose melodies and rhythm elude genre so well no one knows what market niche I'd fit into-so far that niche is "un-signable"-or the lost cause of love with other semi-unemployed, self-involved musicians.
But now, as I turned on the mike, I got the same little thrill I always did seeing the "ON AIR" light snap on.
I started my usual rap. "You're listening to KCAS, 101.3 FM Lost Angeles, and you're tuned into Jessie on this rainy afternoon."
And once again, the universe slipped into balance. Maybe this job isn't exactly a hotshot musical career, and it doesn't offer a solid future like stockbroking, and there're no guarantees when it comes to love, but sometimes you just have to roll with it, rock and roll with it, and trust everything will turn out all right anyway, in the end.
My bus inched its way through rush-hour traffic down Santa Monica Boulevard, past store windows filled with ludicrously overpriced shoes and street people outside those windows holding plastic garbage bags over their heads. It swung down Lincoln where the botanicas and bodegas sit side by side with yoga salons and oxygen bars. It pulled to the curb to switch drivers where Lincoln morphs into Sepulveda Boulevard at the airport. The jets came in low through the clouds, zipping over the ethereal, pastel columns of glowing light that serve as a gateway to LAX, and look like a discarded digitalization from the last Star Wars prequel.
At last Sepulveda's office towers and industrial parks disappeared and the street renamed itself again, this time as Pacific Coast Highway, affording steep downhill views of the ocean and a confluence of dry cleaners and fast-food restaurants and upmarket take-out spots and surf shops through the rain-lashed windows. And then we were in Playa Vista and just down the street from my friend Lisa's club, The Sea Shack, its lights already blazing through the rainy twilight.
Getting off the bus, I could hear TONIGHT'S BAND-THE BEACH BRAHS, according to the marquee over the door, faintly warming up, and I felt like I was coming home.
And of course in a way, I was. I always just walk in after work to hear some music, drink some white jasmine tea. I pore over talent tapes and help her with bookings, emcee many weekends, and yeah, sometimes I get up on stage myself, the unscheduled warm-up act.
In other words, The Shack, like Lisa herself, is an important part of my life. A home away from my nearby apartment with its view of the electric power plant blocking the ocean; one of the last ungentrified apartments on one of the last ungentrified streets in the South Bay, the soft sand crescent of Santa Monica Bay south of the International Airport and north of the Port of Los Angeles that includes Playa Vista.
I opened the scarred wooden door to The Shack, and slipped inside. Once just a big old freestanding garage that housed a fleet of taxicabs, it now had rows of theater-style seats against two walls near the stage, mismatched tables from various auctions and garage sales in the middle of the room, a boxy stage at one end, signed band posters and framed photographs from a variety of eras on the walls, and a long, scarred bar against the back wall opposite the stage.
"Hey," I called out. Lisa was rifling distractedly through a stack of papers at a table in the back.
"Hey there," she said. I slipped into a chair across from her and only then did she stop the rifling and look up at me.
When she did, despite the dim light, I could tell she'd been crying.
I took her hand and squeezed it. "What's wrong?" I asked.
Lisa is only three years older than me but thirty times wiser, a former nurse who cared first for her ailing father who founded this club, and then her husband, after a construction accident. She weathered their infirmities and their passing from this mortal coil, and through it all, kept a smile on her face for her friends. Some of the musicians who played the club regularly called her Mona Lisa, some Mama Lisa. She was nurturing and slightly mysterious at the same time.
But naturally, sometimes she needed comforting too, and even if I publicly played the part of the zany kid sister she never had, as well as the host of open-mike night, I usually gave as good as I got on the comfort and nurture scale. We were very different people, sure, but we both really, genuinely cared about and took care of each other.
"Come on. Tell me what's wrong," I said, releasing her hand. "I dunno." Lisa swiped at her eyes. "Maybe this whole club thing, maybe it's not such a good idea anymore." Her voice grew thick.
I looked at her carefully. She loved the club.
"Why would you say something like that?" I asked.
"They're going to close me down anyway," she said very quietly. "Sooner or later. Sooner, now."
"What? Who's gonna do that?"
"The city. And I just finished fixing it up. The new bathroom. The handicapped ramp I was supposed to provide. New electrical outlets up to the fire code. Reinforced beams, up to the earthquake code. I've complied with everything the city asked for. I guess I should've seen this coming. First one thing, then another, but I really thought I was home free now. Instead, they're gonna take it away."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I said. "Why would the city try to close you down?"
She still wasn't listening. "Took away our liquor license when Dad died. And yet I still get complaints that there's drunks peeing in the bushes. They're certainly not drinking here."
"Coffee can go right through you," I tried to joke, but Lisa was having none of it.
She cut me off with a wave of her hand. "I've got acoustic tile all around this place, and they still say when the door opens, people coming and going, the tile doesn't protect the public."
"Protect them from what?"
"From me!" Lisa said. She drummed her fingers on the table. "They don't want me here anymore. This has always been a mixed residential-commercial neighborhood. And now they're saying this district is going to be rezoned for residential only."
"Going to be?"
"I know it's a political bag job, but so what? Once it's considered, it's voted upon by the council. It's a quirk in the system, it doesn't go to public vote. If the council unanimously concurs on rezoning, the mayor just has to approve. And trust me, he's dying to approve."
"Because real-estate values will be higher. In comparison to all the new town homes they can jam in around here, along with the bloated McMansions, this club and the other mom-and-pop businesses in this neighborhood, are not considered an asset to the community despite their sales tax revenues."
Excerpted from Five O'Clock Shadow by GENIE DAVIS Copyright © 2007 by Genie Davis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 9, 2007
Five O'clock Shadow Genie Davis Reviewer Pamela Ackerson (author Home of the Braves trilogy) A funny and gripping tale. An enjoyable novel where you can laugh with the characters and hold your breath during the dramatic scenes.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.