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My Name is Paradise, by Nickole A. Pepera


by Grace Krilanovich


The Rainbow Room was his haunt, an office/cafeteria that served whiskey. He lived right around the corner, so more often than not he could be found holding court at his usual table in the front, or otherwise at the bar. He met business associates here, sometimes with a loud band playing in the background, and recently he had arranged to be interviewed on the patio for a Canadian anthropologist’s heavy metal documentary. He had done himself up in full Allgemeine SS regalia for that one, swaggering into the bar with his peaked officer’s cap and its Danziger Totenkopf insignia; he was fit for the camera. Now he just appeared normally, in his tour get-up: black jeans, black button-down shirt open to the waist and leather cuffs; the host and steward of one supreme specimen of a Fu Manchu that hung like a valance over some nice white teeth. He hunkered down in his booth.

He knew at that very moment, not three miles away, aging KROQ deejay Rodney Bingenheimer occupied his usual booth at Canter’s Deli, daintily nursing a bowl of veg barley soup — the kitchen set aside a special batch of day-old because he liked it better. Rodney, in his latest incarnation as our regular Andy Warhol-West, held the fort in his version of the Max’s Kansas City round table. Only difference was that he sat alone, soft brown eyes blinking out into the dining room these countless hours while his immaculate GTO waited for him mere footsteps from the door. It may have been even more in keeping with the Warhol spirit of aloof sociophobia after all. He was unwittingly waving the flag of middle-age male loneliness for all of us.

The tide had shifted away from the sleazy rock ‘n roll he pioneered with Motörhead, into a more femmey sludgy scoliosis rock that nonetheless cited him as an influence — Mark Arm of Mudhoney appeared to rarely even take his Motörhead t-shirt off. Which was flattering and all, but lately the band had been feeling like it was on the wrong side of the fickle zeitgeist. Not that they didn’t make a living at it; he was always up front about forming Motörhead as a venture that aimed for success, for financial solvency, not as some misanthropic experiment in trapping fans and the press in a sticky web at the foot of the stage just so that you could complain about their insistence on liking you. Suddenly it was uncool to be on a magazine cover, to be liked, to play arenas, to fuck your fans.

Maurice, the cocktail waiter, brought him his bourbon and a platter of crudités, which he ignored. It was the early ‘90s, at a time when young men in shredded jeans took up space on stage with their thin flailing bodies, preoccupied with worry about things that didn’t even exist 20 years ago, he mused. Their bands were good, most of them, with an aching want that was fashionable for its time. Plus, he could tell from the band t-shirts they wore that they had good taste. He still hated Venom though.

Lemmy thought to himself, after he had ordered his gridiron fillet of beef charred like the devil’s tongue, about his narrow escape from the resigned life of the British petit bourgeoisie, a role his parents seemed bent on killing themselves to set forth for him. He was born little Ian Kilmister, nestled in the womb as the Nazi Blitz rained bombs and the Second World War wrung out its final drops. Britons huddled in hellpits, shelter for benevolent beasts, often choking on the poison gasses of antique factory lighting that the British Army used to illuminate the passageways connecting shelters. He shouldn’t have even been born at all, but it seemed some compensation to know that the stakes were as high as they could get, that his mother labored in the middle of a charred and destroyed continent; all around the dying, lodged in the ruins, fell silent.

Which had something to do with his longtime adoption of Nazi chic in his stagewear and band iconography. A version of the Iron Cross, the “Maltese Cross,” had long been employed by renegade longboarders in the beach towns of the South Bay to signify their antagonistic freewheeling abandon of all things proper. The punk rock kids in Hollywood scattered swastikas over their clothes and walls that were too bare, just itching for a little prankish cop-and-parent-baiting. He wondered about the silver swastika Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wore strung on a long necklace at Woodstock. That seemed different somehow. He didn’t give a fuck about prodding regular people into hating him; but while Lemmy donned bits and pieces of the SS uniform culled from his extensive collection, his group’s demon cat/skull emblem on its first album bore a swastika. Not quite blaring, but not inconspicuous either. His indecency was long standing and fully entrenched, even as bass player many years ago for a space psych prog rock band that kicked out cosmic jams under a seizing light show. The chicks lined up for him like nobody’s business then—



The young girls, just kids, escaped from their boring parents’ house or dull school routine in Reseda or Torrance or Hollywood or Artesia, hopped a bus or sat on some guy’s lap in a friend’s car to his hotel room to the stage door at his concert to his apartment or to his booth at the Rainbow. Here he would focus his attention solely on her on her cool clothes on her sense of humor the things she said about the goings on around her. It was her night, her night to hang out before he hit the road again. They always liked the attention; his fans were always a bit more unhinged and wild than others, with a fractured intelligence — he liked to think — that made them lay it all on the line to buy his records, to wear his emblem, to huddle at the bottom of a greasy stage to hear him play.

He was meeting one such teenage queenie, a girlfriend-on-call who he had sent cab fare to come up from Long Beach and spend the night with him before he disappeared onto an idling bus for the next leg of the tour.

It always made him feel strange when they cited his lyrics as evidence of what was transpiring. He had written a song about corrupting teenage queenies called “Jailbait,” sure, and stood by it, but it still felt disingenuous when compared to a real flesh and blood person sitting at his side. He could tell she liked him a lot because her hands were moist and he didn’t want to disappoint her by being a shitty predicable human being.

Just then he tuned back in to the bustling scene at the bar, where — wouldn’t you believe — a sludgy grunge hit was blaring out of the speakers and he caught one or two key lines:

And I know how it’s to be

There is nothing more for you and I

Some are young and some are free

But I think I'm going bliiind

It had a heavy dragging weirdness, which he liked, though it seemed like the kind of song knuckleheads in big shorts would mosh slowly to, round and round the wet floor as if at a nightclub track meet: “little lady can’t you see? /  you’re so young and so much different than I / I’m 93 you’re 16 / can’t you see I’m going bli-ind…”

She walked into the bar, as if on cue. She had on little animal-print Capri pants and a wooly sheepskin jacket. Her hair was fried and he loved it. He loved everything about her.

Aurora was 19, from Long Beach, where she lived in a 1950s tract house with her parents, but assumed the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities for her younger sisters and brother. She had her own battles to fight, up to and including an itch that she couldn’t resist scratching — she was a groupie for rock ‘n roll gods in clanking studded leathers. She was also planning on running away from home in a month. Fuck it all.

She looked at Lemmy with a casual stare, at his effortless grace. Mutual respect was flicking like laser beams from both sides. She knew he wanted to fuck her, and she felt okay about it, secure in the predictable chain of events and the apparent gratitude that pitched up a little in his gravelly voice.

He was a reptile for her. Never shying away from his despicableness, instead he wallowed in his underlying animal lust (which he felt that all men, those who were honest with themselves, should shape and cultivate like a big fabulous beard) and by proximity, lured it out of others — that freedom, that abandon. And for that they were obsessed with him, fully in his thrall. The girls were legion; they had been for decades, long enough for him to let it define the arc of his life. He prided himself on the fact that the ones who followed his band were the most crazy, interesting, the most escapey and strange with a brightness that spoke of the life residing inside. They were not like most girls. They were the reptilian faithful, and he wouldn’t let them down.

But maybe all rock ‘n roll bastards thought that; maybe Jerry Garcia — maybe fucking Don Henley — prided themselves on having the bitchingest girly fans, as if the lure of Captain Trips and “The Boy of Summer” could be codified and ranked. But Lemmy knew better, he knew that none of the old geezers had any say in it. He had gradually grown to realize that they were beholden to the girls for so much more than they would like to admit. The girls went back to their lives at the end of the night, they went back to ownership and control of things that were real and sucky, sure, but they were nonetheless watched over.

Him, he was stuck somewhere on a ramp that led up to paradise, that disappeared into the clouds; time clung to him like wispy sugar lichen.

All she wanted to eat was crackers out of the little wicker basket, part stubbornly, part anxiously . . . He felt free to touch her, so he started by stroking her neck and shoulder.

All the bands had their own big No,

No hope! No future! No fun! No values!

No Remorse

Motörhead’s “no” was a little different. Nihilistic, sure, but his wide stance at the mike and deeply groovy slide up the neck of his bass spoke to a freedom taken not like a pirate but like a pioneer. Like someone who has been handed the totality of his own life — even to throw away, to drown in a bucket; to stuff up his head with acid, speed, choking down cotton balls. God’s handed you the reins, said “See ya, bloke,” now how do you like that? Now what do you do with that? The splayed fullness of his innovative bass chords was almost spiritual. His easy smile screamed This Is It! Die when you die when you die you’re gonna die . . . You think you’re evil but you’re not! Killed by death, etc. . . .  and other circular lyrics, snakey redundancies.

He leaned all the way out of the booth to summon Maurice so he could order Aurora a drink No, no thanks, she shook her head What! he thought no booze for you darling?

No, she said.

Yet another.

Now, sitting next to her in the booth, his SS cap and jacket piled opposite him, Lemmy appeared as what he really was — just a scraggly old man, an ancient WWII baby grown into a career speed freak who laughed when his teeth fell out in the late ‘70s.

But she finally decided on a sparkling water with a piece of orange floating around inside. He plowed pleasantly through his bourbon.

Earlier in the evening half his booth had been taken up by this industry dude, Mickey. Mickey Pickles was actually his legal name, and he worked at CAA. He came into the bar fresh from stiffing some kids for parking, spent 20 minutes in the can, then ordered several people’s worth of food. Their meeting was brief, just some essential business he needed to okay before setting off on the next leg of the tour. Mickey sat open and loose, socially off for a middle-aged man, but that’s how the whole gang rolled. These industry people were easily identifiable in a crowd by dint of their David Letterman jackets, Bruce Willis jeans and a rabbity way of talking that was not unlike the host of MTV Sports, Dan Cortese. On this guy, Mickey, also a deep tan and groomed eyebrows.

Lemmy ordered Aurora a plate, something the kitchen had in their off-menu repertoire for Chicks Who Don’t Want Anything: salad greens, a pile of stewed tomatoes and grilled peppers, wreathed around chopped hard-cooked egg. A 1960s math teacher’s idea of a female’s appetite.

She went on and on about her family, about raising her young siblings, about crap jobs and plans to stay with friends in Minneapolis. Proper band courtesans were supposed to say less, not more, about their lives, the mundane details of their invariably traumatizing existences. They were supposed to practice an antique knowing aloofness like a chick in a painting, all crackly slo-mo; religious art. Nothing more confusing than having a yammering naked girl on your hands! Most of ‘em, their lips never moved, like a photograph of their face held up in place of the real thing. . . .

She looked at him like she wanted him to stop drinking; a look that could carry so much — did she know it? She makes him find a version of personal responsibility out of the gravelly pit he hides in (the pit, his birthright, as he was born like a stone in post-WWII England, after all).

Her eyes: why won’t he behave? Join the human race? That’s not it exactly; she doesn’t ask that. Who cares? She would say. She wants, shall we say, a man to be a man. She sees in me the possibility — the potential — for me to man up to life. This is why I need her more than she needs me, he thought, his thinking circular in his addled mind. It’s an embarrassing realization he doesn’t shy away from, to his credit.

But what kind of creature hangs it all on another? Who frames it in terms of needing, druglike, the other body, only to postpone the inevitable?

She goes on and on, yammering, holding a piece of carrot in her perfect hands. Outside there’s a shadow strewn all the way across the street, pooling in the crevice between the sidewalk and the threshold of the club entrance. There, at Gazzarri’s, the roadies have loaded all of Motörhead’s crap, have tuned, taped down cords and set lists. It’s the third night of a three-night stand, before the tour winds its way through the southwest. He thinks maybe she would like to go with him, to sit curled up in the back of the bus like a cat while the band assails the stage. There safely he would keep her, teach her, learn to love her — her way. To help her find a way to love the family she cannot leave, from a far off place.


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