Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Road Trip with Mojo Nixon

We are into the third week of Blapril here and my weekly posts about it are coming later and later in the week.  I may have to work on that.

The Blapril commeth

This week is getting to know you week.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

As with so many things, I am perhaps a bit skeptical that there is anything I can write here that would end up with anybody reading this “knowing” me very well at all.  I can recite biographic facts, dates and times of specific events, games I’ve player, colors I favor, religious beliefs, or my astrological sign and leave you no more the wiser as to who I am really.

And that leaves aside the deeper philosophical question of who we really are in any case.  Do I even know me?  Who am I really?

I get annoyed when I go to family gatherings and my siblings seem so keen to dwell in the past.  Specifically, nothing that happened after high school ever seems to come up.  Not that I am against living in the past.  This blog is, in a way, a shrine to the past.  We are, it seems a product of the past, just the sum total of our experiences existing in that razor thin sense of the present.  It isn’t that they go to the past, but they pick such a mundane part of the past to bring up.

So rather than something formulaic or statistical, I am going to tell a story about a past event that popped into my mind earlier this week.  It was sparked by Mojo Nixon.  I saw somebody asking, “Where the hell’s my money?” online about the stimulus checks we’re alleged to be getting some day, which just happens to be the title of a Mojo Nixon song.  So I brought that up in iTunes (you can listen to it here on YouTube if you so wish) and started listening to it and the rest of the tracks on the Frenzy album.  And that sent me back to when I first heard one of his songs.

It was the summer of 1987.  Or maybe 1988.  Bill and Tony and I were headed south out of Silicon Valley… that name was still fresh and meaningful back then… towards LA for the Crossroads of the West Gun Show.  It took place at the Panoma fair grounds and was the largest guns, militaria, antiques, and collectables show west of the Rockies at the time.  The event was absolutely huge, spread out over multiple event halls, and my friend Bill was (and remains) a big military collectables guy, so was headed to the show to scout items, make deals, and meet potential sources.

I think I had some vacation time handy, so went along.  I am not sure how Tony got invited, or who Tony really was other than being some sort of Armenian royalty whose family fled the place when the Bolsheviks took over.  He had a Russified Caucasian last name, put in for gas, and was good company, so he was welcome enough.

For some reason I ended up driving us down to LA.  I had a fairly new Mazda 626 which had a decent stereo and a cassette deck… the idea of a CD player in a car was at the luxury end of the market, if at all at that point… and we were pushing various tapes in the deck as we made our way south.  I didn’t have a lot in the car.  I think we went through the Repo Man sound track, but  I tended to listen to books on tape in the car on long rides, which were fairly common as my girlfriend at the time was going to Chico State, a four hour drive north from home.

Tony had a tape though.  He had Bill put it in the stereo and Mojo Nixon came pouring out of the speakers with I Hate Banks.  I had never heard him… or heard of him… before, but for three twenty somethings on the road in the middle of nowhere it was about the perfect sound track.  I don’t think we played another tape on the trip.

Interstate 5 is four and six lanes of blacktop through the middle of nowhere for most of its run through California, interrupted only by a bad smell as you pass by Harris Ranch.  So a loud sound track is appreciated.  We rolled on through the summer heat, windows down, yelling along with Mojo.

It wasn’t until we hit LA that we ran into traffic.  The fairgrounds are off of the 10 in LA, which is a major artery in the congestion that is LA.  I seem to recall seeing my first car pool lane on that trip, down there on the 10, or maybe on the 210, which required three people per car to use.  There were three of us, so on we went.

We stayed at a Best Western near the fairgrounds.  I still have a postcard from it.  We checked in, put our stuff in the room, and went out into LA for the evening.  I have almost no memory of that evening, not due to drink but just the fading of time.  I do recall, however, that we wandered into a record store where I found a copy of Back from Samoa by the Angry Samoans on CD, which I purchased and still have.  There is maybe 20 minutes of music tops on that CD.  Short songs were the punk thing.

The next day we got up early and headed to the show.  This is also a bit of a blur, though I recall going by the booth that had on display a Walther PP pistol owned by Heinrich Himmler.  I am not sure it was even for sale, but it was the center piece of somebody’s booth.

We spent a lot of time digging through displays of wings and badges.  Bill’s current passion was pilot wings and he could spot the good from the bad.  This was at a time when a lot of WWII stuff was becoming collectible and, thus, valuable.  Things that were laying in heaps into the 70s were suddenly becoming interesting as the 50th anniversary of the start of the war approached.

The problem is, a lot of the stuff is faked up.  Less so back then, but it was still pretty common.  Now the odds of anything you run across being authentic are pretty small, but Bill was an expert at spotting anomalies that marked fakes or at least put authenticity in doubt.  And he had a nose for the real deal.  So we spent the day deep in the minutiae of the collectors, occasionally stopping to goggle at some big item, but mostly talking to dealers with wings, badges, and patches.  And Bill found some deals.  He always did.  I remember going over to his apartment one day and finding it full of WWI British uniforms.  RFC tunics with wings in golden thread and uniforms of various regiments with ribbons and buttons shined bright, and uniform caps to go with them all.  He’d gotten them at some auction and they were all about the house as he sorted them and found buyers.

After the show shut down we went back to the room for a rest.  I then went out to meet up with somebody I knew through Air Warrior and hang out.  We nerded about the game for a while and I flew a bit on his account, which is where I twitched to some of the differences in the clients.  One of the controversies of the game, which Kesmai denied for ages, was that aircraft on the Mac client were not as powerful as those on the IBM PC and clients which derived from it, being the Atari ST and Amiga versions.  But playing on his IBM machine it was immediately obvious to me that the planes were noticeably more powerful.  Later it came out that the method for calculating engine horsepower was much more generous on that code base and it eventually was fixed.  But those of us who flew on the Mac felt validated when the news finally came out, not to mention a little superior, having often held our own even when the deck was stacked against us.

I headed back to the motel at about 2am, which back up in Silicon Valley would have meant having the highway to myself.  But LA, even then, was busy around the clock and the freeway, while not rush hour full, was still packed like it was maybe a Saturday afternoon.

When I got back to the motel room it was clear that something had transpired while I was away.  To start with, Tony’s clothes were in the pool, as were all the screens from the windows of our room, and maybe those from a couple of other rooms.  I knew ours were in there because all the windows were open and all the screens were missing.  There was a bunch of paper in the toilet… not toilet paper, but note paper…, the bathroom window was cracked, and the bathroom door had apparently been kicked in as the door jamb was split.   Tony was lying on the floor under the little coffee table that was in our room while Bill was bundled up in the comforter from the bed laying across the foot of it.  He was there because the top half of the bed was wet.

To this day I do not know what they got up to while I was away.  There were some empty beer cans, some of which were also floating in the pool, but not enough to explain wild behavior.  I got Tony up and we fished his stuff and the screens and what not out of the pool and tried to put the room back in some sort of order.  Then I found a dry pillow and a corner of the room and got some sleep myself.

The next morning we got up kind of early… youth knows no end of energy… and quietly checked out of the motel and headed north, stopping at the traditional last point in LA, In-N-Out Burger.

Now there is an In-N-Out Burger a few miles from my house, but back then the last one was off the freeway by Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm and it was the usual routine to stop and eat there on the way home.  So we got out and had our double-doubles or whatever.  It is hard to say what the real draw of the place is, save for simplicity of menu and quality of product and service.  I might pick Five Guys some of the time, given a choice, but In-N-Out can be damn good when you’re in a mood for it.

We ate up and walked out to the parking lot where I put the key in the lock of my blue Mazda 626 2-door and got in, Bill in the passenger seat and Tony in the back.  At that point there was a car alarm going off and Tony, still a bit blurry from the night before, asked if the child’s booster seat had been there on the trip down.

We were in the wrong car.

My Mazda was parked three spots further down the row.  But my key let us into the closer one, or seemed to.  It might have been left unlocked, due to it being equiped with a car alarm, which was what I had been hearing.  It was surprisingly muted from within the car, but as we unassed the wrong car it seemed very loud.

Oddly, this was not the only time I ended up with the wrong car in LA.  My girlfriend and I were down there a year or two later.  I drove her down to LAX because her year of study abroad was departing from there and not up north.  We stayed the night and the next day I went to go put her luggage in the trunk and, when I opened it up there was a huge bouquet of flowers in there, which sent her into tears.  That quickly stopped when I announced we had the wrong car and moved to one in the next aisle which had my stuff in the trunk and no flowers.

Back at In-N-Out we quickly made our way to the correct car and left as quickly as we could, heading north for home once more.  Mojo Nixon once again blared from the speakers as we headed through the central valley heat, zipping along at well beyond the newly posted 65 MPH speed limit.

All of which came bubbling back up into my conscious thought as I listened to Mojo Nixon sing Where the Hell’s My Money earlier this week.  Listening to his music… and I think I own most all of his albums… brings me back to a youthful state of mind full or irreverence and lacking in much of the responsibility that weighs on me today.

So do you know me any better after that?  What if I told you I took that quiz and my top match was Frodo Baggins?  Any better? Probably not.

All of that seems like an eternity ago and very recent at the same instant.  Time is strange, memory is flawed, and in that the past is all we really are.

Being a California child, automobiles enter into many of my youthful tales.  Other car stories I’ve written about here:

The “Bill” in the latter of those two is the same “Bill” in this story.  I might have to record another tale or two involving him.  Maybe our Friday the 13th adventure.  But that is for another time.