All day I was acutely aware we were going to the dark side. I received mileage updates from the Walsh Brothers as they made their way down the coast to Los Angeles. I used to think they came down for shows, but really, they come down for the stories. I am drinking beer with co-workers in the early afternoon as a liver stretching exercise. I cannot decide if it is hot or cold outside. Eventually, the guys are nearby and I need to get out of Culver City to meet them at my Beverly Hills apartment. We spend a quiet afternoon catching up, trading war stories, recounting the time we toured up in Davis and Garrett was assaulted by a strange, round woman who threw a full pint of beer at him in a pub on the main drag. Later that night, I fell asleep in a late night eatery and woke up on Tom’s floor so glad to be alive it was strange. I also slept in towels, which was super convenient for a morning shower.
We are blasting music and streaking south towards Costa Mesa. I wonder if we will hit Angels/Dodgers traffic, as they are playing an exhibition match. I am texting anyone I know in the area, which is limited. What will Costa Mesa bring? We are going to play at somewhere called Tiki Bar and I have expectations of drinking Dark and Stormys or Mai Tais or just something tropical. I am ready for baseball and rock and roll.
We reach the 55 and take it directly into Costa Mesa. Immediately, bad vibrations. There is a queue of cars stretching miles down the road heading in the opposite direction. It is a massive DUI checkpoint and like so many freeways into beach towns, this seems to be the only way out. We are just getting started. I don’t plan to drink myself into a bad situation, but beach cops are dicks and even the thought of having to pass sobriety tests seems like a strange fraternity prank. I grab Tom and emphasize the importance of us finding alternate means of return, even it if means caulking Ichiro and floating him up the Pacific to Malibu. We are not getting rolled. Not on my watch.
The Tiki Bar is in an industrial area. It may be the least tropical place I have ever seen. I am not even sure pineapples can live in these areas. It might be illegal to possess one. Seeing someone with something tropical on this drab, gray street would be cruel. This is the kind of street where people get into trouble. A police officer is doing weird maneuvers in the parking lot and it is causing me to think I am breaking the law, although it is still too early in the night for that.
The doorman is helpful and watches our gear as we find our way into parking lots. Tom’s Burgers is well let, but we are the lone car. It seems to make Ichiro stand out for a car theft rather than hide from one. It is almost like a spotlight. You can almost imagine the burglar being like, “These lights really make it easy to see what’s inside the car. This is really a pleasure robbing you”.
We take to the bottle once inside and scan the crowd. It is a jungle filled with cougars. This is Orange County, after all. Not the cougars on an ABC television show, but real life wild cougars. Some cougars are actually at the watering hole with their cubs, which is totally strange. It is a night for strange news and bad vibrations. A quick glimpse to the television above the bar reveals the Dodgers throwing away an exhibition game against the Angels. Our minor league shortstop boots a routine grounder. The Angels celebrate less than the five people in the bar who are watching. I forget where I am. This is Angel country, which is not in L.A. County for the record.
During our first song, strings explode from guitars. Orange County knows I am here and she wants me gone. Strange things happen to me in this place. I have slept in parking lots, cheap motels and fields. I have never been so sure a place cannot stand the site of me. After our set, we are in some sort of outdoor holding area running around like pigs in a pen. It is hard to focus on conversation as I keep thinking the sky might fall.
Late at night we are taking the back road out of Costa Mesa and flying north. The industrial complex off the 405 glows like some resort in hell. Steam billows from vents underground and there is an American flag painted on the side of the largest building. I’m listening to music with friends and I get that bright eyed feeling where you break through all haziness and see clearly for a few minutes. We stop at Morgan’s and play video games in the middle of the night. By the time we step out onto his front lawn, it is nearly 4am. I cannot express enough how alive I feel when I am awake when most of this city is asleep. I feel like I am on borrowed time. If you know me, I feel that way a lot. There is added value after midnight.