Friday, April 12, 2013

La Ronde -- The Modern Jazz Quartet

In my last post I told you all about the big black Buick Electra convertible I used to drive around San Diego in.  Sometime after that day in Tijuana, my buddy John came over from Phoenix with a couple friends of his and we all enjoyed a boy’s “lost weekend.”  By Sunday morning, we probably didn’t enjoy it so much.  Regardless, the Buick was the perfect party-mobile for the occasion.

The four of us tooled around San Diego, bar-hopping and checking out the beach scene.  Then on Saturday night, we went downtown San Diego to attend “Street Scene.”  During Street Scene, the whole Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego is basically shut down for this huge party.  It has music stages set up all over the place and artists of all genres come and play.

Our fearsome foursome hit the Street Scene.  After scoping out the babes and checking out some music, we roamed over to the St. John’s Hotel where some friends of mine had rented a room.  This was a time prior to the St. John’s remodel and my friends room had access to the ledge right outside the window.  Now this ledge was not meant to be a party balcony, but it became one.  

The St. John’s is perhaps 12 to 15 stories and is shaped like a giant “E.”  The back side of the Hotel made up the horizontal lines of the “E.” My friend’s room was on the top floor and their window overlooked the back side of the Hotel.  All they had to do was pop open the window and we were outside walking on the “E” shaped roof.   Like I said, this was not meant to be a party balcony.  There were no guardrails, no parapet, no anything.  You could walk right up to the edge of the ledge and look down upon Street Scene.  You could sit down on the ledge of one arm of the “E” and chat with someone else sitting across from you on the adjacent  ledge.  

It was extremely fun hanging around up there.  I ran into my ex-girlfriend.  Seeing her there was probably a factor in us getting back together and eventually getting married.  So in retrospect it was a romantic evening as well as a fun one.  One of my guests, who had never met my girlfriend commented, "You guys have a history don't you?"

Anyway, I digress.

Eventually, my bros and I partied enough and we decided to call it a night.  I took the city side streets back home as a way of giving my guests a tour of the town.  We were strolling along nice and easy.  

Now the Buick only had an old-fashioned AM/FM radio.  The station I usually had it tuned to was Jazz 88.  On this particular night, with everybody half passed out, the slow Jazz tune playing on the station seemed totally fitting.  It so happens that Long Beach also has a Jazz station.  Jazz 88 in San Diego is 88.3 FM.  The Long Beach station is 88.5.  Regardless of which station I tuned the radio to, it would often switch back and forth between the two depending on what street I happened to drive down.

On this night it switched back and forth about every 10 seconds or so.  The song on 88.3 was this slow, mellow tune.  The song on 88.5 was this swinging, upbeat Jazz number.  It kept switching back and forth for the whole drive home and made its own sort of trippy Jazz instrumental.  I was probably the only one of us who noticed, but just as I pulled into my driveway, the final switch-over fell onto the mellow tune just as it was coming to an end.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

I hope you don’t expect to hear this amazing switcheroo Jazz tune.  It would be impossible for me to re-create it.  However, in commemoration of that night, I offer this upbeat Jazz number called “La Ronde” by the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Strange Days -- Humble Pie

It was sometime back in the Spring of 1993.  I had just recently moved to San Diego.  I had moved in with a couple of guys from a business fraternity at San Diego State.  Shortly after moving in with these guys, my great aunt, who lived in Fresno, passed away.  She left all five of her nephews a little cash--about $5,000 in cash.  

This was the first time I ever had that amount of loose cash.  I had always been just living paycheck to paycheck.  I would blow most of my money on partying and the rest on necessities .  This time I decided that I would put some away into a savings account and the rest was for something nice.  That something nice turned out to be a rebuilt 1970 black Buick Electra convertible.  It ran nice and it looked structurally sound.  I thought it was a good value, so I bought it for $2,000.

Let me tell ya, that was one cool vehicle to go tooling around Southern California in.  My friend Jeff and I picked up a couple hitchhikers one time.  I drove through the desert mountains over to Palm Springs to see my Buddy Pete.  I tooled around downtown San Diego acting like some goomba from the mafia.  Whatever...

The car was in good shape, but the front bench seat needed reupholstering in a bad way.  One of my new roommates was into remodeling cars and he suggested I go to Tijuana to get the job done.  He had done it to his original, rebuilt 280Z and it looked like they did a good job.  It was inexpensive too.  I agreed but asked him to come along to show me the way.  

It was a beautiful sunny spring day as we cruised down Interstate 5 to the Mexican border.  It didn’t take us long to get through the border check point.  The highway continued for a mile or so when my roommate made me exit abruptly.  I swerved to the right down the exit ramp that swooped back to the left and turned right onto a city street--no traffic lights or anything.  

I was going a good 40 mph when I had to slam on the breaks because a half dozen Mexicans had run right into the middle of street.  They were waving their arms and yelling.  It turned out that they were all “salesmen” for their respective upholstery shops.  They probably saw my big black Buick rolling down the freeway ramp and freaked out.  I ended up pulling into a shop randomly.  Primarily because I was trying not to kill anyone.

I had always heard that one could bargain for good deals down in Tijuana, but I didn’t think it would be this easy.  This fellow told me it would be $700 or something like that.  I got a look on my face for about one second and before I could make a comment, he was down to $500.  I think I ended up getting the job done for like $300 in the end.

Now while those fellows worked on the car, my roommate and I had no option except to hang out on Revolucion Boulevard.  Revolucion was the main party drag of Tijuana--for the tourists anyway.

My roommate and I got some food and some beers.  While I was sipping on a beer and looking down onto the street from the balcony of this restaurant, I heard some music on the juke box that caught my attention.  It was Humble Pie.  

I paused for a moment in amazement.  I had been in bars all across America and I could have only wished that some old Humble Pie song would be playing from the juke box, but it never happened.  Suddenly I come down to Tijuana and what do I hear?  Humble Pie’s “Strange Days.”  I made a comment to my roommate but he didn’t know who they were.  

Anyway, the Mexican’s told us it would take about 5 hours to do the job.  It ended taking 10.   We eventually ran out of cash and ended up just standing around and waiting out in the dirt alley watching the guy do his work.  While we stood there, we noticed another American standing out back of the shop next door.  He did not have a happy look on his face.  We started chatting and commented on how long it was taking.  Turns out that fate worked in my favor that day.   I could have pulled into any shop on that road including the shop next door.  It turned out that this other American had not only been waiting all day like us, but his guys had actually fucked up the job.  They had actually done damage to his car.  My guy, on the other hand, did a great job.  I was very pleased.

In fact, I was pleased with whole experience.  And in commemoration of that experience, here is one of my favorite Humble Pie songs, “Strange Days.”

OK.  It seems that YouTube in the past 24-hours removed this song.  So you're going to have to make a bit of an effort to hear the song.  Click on the link below.  See the song list (someone has posted the whole album) and go to the 28:50 mark.  There is where you can hear the song.

Thanks for reading.