Oscar Spoiler

It was unusually cold this February in Los Angeles.

My car had been sitting in the sun. When I got in, I noticed immediately how warm it was. It was like sitting next to the heating vent eating your cereal before the long walk to school in the snow, in long ago days growing up in the Midwest.

The warm car was so comfortable, I just sat for a while experiencing the simple pleasure of the sun and a windshield.

In truth, I was reluctant to leave my apartment parking lot. The Oscars were scheduled for tomorrow just up the street. Traffic was already getting heavy and aggressive on the street I lived on. I didn’t really want to face it.

I don’t care much about the Oscars. I like movies and all. But, when I watched anything like that, it used to be the Grammys. Every year I would watch and say, “Next year I’ll be there.” It got a little depressing, so I stopped.

When I pulled out, there was a lot of horn blowing as cars trolled the street for parking. In the chaos, I made a mistake and turned right towards Orange Drive. Orange spills right onto Sunset Boulevard but it cuts at a strange angle. So it is normally an intersection that is congested and hard to navigate. I would like to talk to the city planner who made these decisions. I doubt he is alive, and from the design of this intersection, I’m sure was a man not interested in my or anyone’s unsolicited advice or opinion.

To make matters worse, someone -who is probably still alive- gave someone a permit to put an In-and-Out Burger on this corner. So now, everyday near lunch and dinner, cars full of carnivores turn the already congested Sunset and Orange into a parking lot that smells like grease, death and religious fundamentalists.

I finally break through and am speeding down the familiar streets of Hollywood. I drive past a Bank of America. People are out front with signs protesting. It seems Bank Of America has all of their money in off-shore accounts and investments so they can claim they are not keeping their heads above water. Our government then gives them your tax dollars – $2.3 billion for 2009 – in tax benefits.

It makes me happy to see people standing up and saying “NO MORE!” But there are not enough of them. Most of us are picking out what we are going to wear next year at the Oscars.

As I drive past the BoA, I look back over my shoulder and see a man holding his protest sign. It says ” MORE LUBE, PLEASE”. I smile and drive on. It’s a good day to be alive in Los Angeles.

Best Picture 2011

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

1991 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Lestat)

Serial # 90921344

This is the fourth Les Paul I have owned.

It was the mid-90s. I’m bad with timelines, sorry. I had just left a band that had been taken out to dinner by all the major label A+R guys and girls. It was strange leaving the band because it was my band. I really thought we were going to do it. But the closer we got, the more heroin and cocaine our singer shot into his arm. He was talented, but the destruction of himself and the people around him outweighed his gifts as a singer and front man. A fact I only recognize in hindsight.

I had started a couple of other bands and was staying low-key and independent, which was actually quite fashionable at the time. One afternoon I get a call from the ex-singer. He needs to get out of town quick and need some cash. He wonders if I would like to buy his black Les Paul nicknamed Lestat for 450 dollars. I had played the guitar a couple of times and thought it was a decent instrument. It had all original parts except the tuning keys had been replaced with Sperzel tuning keys and the truss rod cover that originally said standard had been replaced with a cover that now said Lestat. I said I would buy the guitar. But he said there was a catch, which there always was.

He (ex-singer) was at a bus stop several blocks past Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue, then a very bad part of town. He was in front of the pawn shop his Les Paul was in. I would have to find a way down there – I didn’t have a car at the time- give him the 450, he would then go in the pawn shop get his guitar and then give it to me. 450 for a Les Paul Standard was a pretty good deal. I wasn’t doing much else that afternoon so I said yes.

I walked to Sunset and La Brea and started to hitchhike. This was much more acceptable than it seems to be now. I was walking and hitchhiking for a couple blocks when a white jeep pulled up to the curb. In it was the sometime girlfriend of a bass player I had worked with. She was an ex-porn star now supporting herself doing “this and that”. She gave me a ride all the way past Western Avenue to the pawn shop. I was very thankful for the ride and told her so, then got out. Not too long after she gave me this ride she got into methamphetamine. One night she called my then-girlfriend and said that I was hitting on her during the ride.

The ex-singer was sitting on the bus stop. Not on the seat but on the back of the seat, so he was higher up. He was wearing his black leather trench coat that he had worn on-stage so many times after the day he stole it off the sidewalk rack in front of a store on Melrose Avenue. He also had on wrap-around sunglasses. His girlfriend was sitting on the seat below him. They had some old luggage and grocery store bags full of their belongings. They looked like people you would normally avoid.

The ex-singer jumps of the bench and says hello. We small talk a little but don’t make eye contact. I give him the cash and he goes inside the pawn shop. I sit next to his girlfriend on the bus stop. I remember when they met. She seemed so clean and straight. She really loved our band. She barley spoke a word as we sat together. Her hair was really stringy and she looked dirty and despondent. I had tried to help them a couple of times in the past. But there is really not anything you can do. I had spent a lot of times feeling helpless, angry and confused. It wasn’t that long ago we were talking to record executives. I remember realizing I had put all my hopes, dreams and hard work into the same basket as a time bomb. It was a bad joke. I tried to hold it together. You start feeling like you’re bailing water on a sinking ship and you go below and your crew is drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. I grew a little hardened and distant in those moments.  The fact that my friends were now at a bus stop, homeless with a couple of suitcases barley fazed me.

He comes out of the pawn shop with the guitar and hands it to me. We shake hands. His hands are clammy and dirty. I say goodbye, turn and walk away. I didn’t see or hear from him again for a long time. He’s a Republican now and his parents bought him a house or two. But he can’t drive because he’s had a few DUIs.  I don’t know what happened to the girl.

I played this guitar on most projects I have recorded since. Mostly a bunch of  independent stuff you would never have heard of. It has a very dark tone, never bright. Through a Marshall jcm 800 this guitar is magic.