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Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome Back - An Excerpt from "The Inevitable Downhill Slope"

Passersby wouldn’t have even recognized John Sebastian as the thin, bespectacled lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful. The bloated, filthy character slumped in the cold corner between the wall and the dumpster, with a crusted, colorful trail of dried vomit adorning his tattered shirtfront could have hardly been mistaken for the zitherplaying songwriter from the 60’s.

He began to stir and squinted at the sunlight streaming into the alleyway where he had passed out. He had long ago broken the last pair of glasses he had—around the time he had sold his last zither, and now saw most of the world in kind of a beautiful haze. Sebastian stumbled to his feet and brushed absently at the crusted puke on his chest. It flaked off and dissolved in a puddle of urine at his feet. “Good Lord,” he moaned, suddenly dizzy and nauseous. The last thing he remembered was partying with Evel Kneivel at a seedy dive, where Kneivel let him squeeze his colostomy bag and guess what he had eaten for lunch. The thought made Sebastian spew a little more vomit down his shirt. Kneivel had made an early exit after attempting to jump the pool table in the motorized cart that took him from place to place. He had bellowed something about George Hamilton being a talentless hack as the ambulance driver loaded the gurney and the bartender pushed Kneivel’s damaged cart into the alley.

Evel and his legendary scooter

A different alley, Sebastian thought, putting his legs into drive and beginning the short walk to the street. Sebastian suddenly thought of his friend Rick Danko, and the time the two of them had crashed at Ringo’s pad during a weeklong cocaine/methanphetamine binge that had left Danko with a permanent stammer. Danko had implored Ringo to lend them ten thousand dollars, claiming “Robbie’s good for it.” Ringo, drunk and stoned out of his mind wrote a check with knuckles bloodied from beating his wife, Barbara Bach to an unconscious lump.

Robbie and Rick - "Robbie's good for it..."

“Here you go,” Ringo had said, handing over the draft. He held up a bloody, swollen fist. “If Robbie doesn’t make this good, he’s in for some of this…”

Sebastian laughed and made his way up the boulevard. Pedestrians gave him wide berth, as much due to the ugly squinting as to the smell that emanated from his clothing. “Fucking Ringo,” he said, his voice soft and remindful of the golden pipes that had sold millions of records. Suddenly, Sebastian remembered: He was trying to find Gabe Kaplan, the star of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” the 70’s TV show for which he had penned the theme song. He figured Kaplan would be a soft touch for a couple thousand dollars. Enough to keep him in crack and malt liquor for a couple of weeks anyhow. And Kneivel had told him that Kaplan lived in Vegas now, made his living as a professional gambler.

“Try partying with Micky Dolenz,” Sebastian had slurred. “That’s a professional gamble…” Kneivel had laughed heartily, shortly thereafter hurtling the motorized cart toward its bleak and painful demise. Las Vegas, Sebastian lamented. It might as well be fucking Australia… Just then, a speeding Bonneville hurtled around the corner, its top half up, like a sail in the wind, reminding Sebastian of the song “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. The driver was wrestling with the top, cursing at the top of his lungs, his hands nowhere near the steering wheel when the car careened into the curb and smashed into Sebastian, who even with his poor vision, had realized that this was going to be big fucking trouble.

Charles Martin Smith, unaware that he had just pulverized John Sebastian like a Salisbury Steak, heard the unmistakable voice of the Lovin’ Spoonful as it lingered in the air. “And he ate up all o’ my corn…”

“What the heck,” Charles Martin Smith said, briefly pausing in his struggle with the convertible top. “That was the Beach Boys, wasn’t it?”

And the car continued to rocket toward Topanga canyon.

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