LA WEEKLY JULY 20-26,2001
A recent Friday night I got aboard the last Metrolink train to Lancaster to visit a friend who works in a bar there on weekends. I had some misgivings. Friday nights are an all-black crowd, Saturdays all-brown, and I'm a tall white boy with long, light-colored hair. Also, I'm fond of biker jewelry. I was prepared to face the worst thing that could happen, although I had no idea what that would be.
My friend was glad to see me when I settled in at the bar with my first zombie. I checked out the crowd, and I realized that I was being sized up by both the men and the women. No one seemed surprised or irritated, so I let down my guard. As a deep-bass, funkish reggae played, the crowd at the bar thinned, and I found myself with another zombie, sitting next to a fly black girl who leaned against me as she looked the other way sipping her gin on the rocks. I used my oddest opening line: "What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?" The girl laughed and spoke to me without turning around, "Guess it was the hangover on my 21st birthday." Fair enough. "What about you?" I asked her drinking buddy, a squat sister with cornrow hair. The girl looked away with a terrible sneer, "Missing The Simpsons on TV," she hissed. After a few more tries at conversation and one more zombie, I headed to the dance floor.
The mood had changed, and I was aware that I was getting some hostile looks. A few times I was patted on my lower back. They were either looking for a piece or testing my strength. The dance floor was packed with madly dancing bodies surrounded by the usual ring of males getting up the courage to dance with the single women on the floor. I checked it out for a few moments. Fuckit, back in my punk rock days I learned to dance by myself, and I wasn't going to just stand there with that awesome, massive beat ripping the house down. I scooted out into the middle of the crowd. I started stomping, dancing in a freakish Silver Lake stylie and having a great time; I didn't give a shit. I saw anger and disbelief on the faces of a few of the brothers, but I was getting too drunk to care. They must have thought I was some kind of white-boy madman. I had to be dangerous, or dangerously insane.
As I careened around the dance floor I became aware of a flashing red light that appeared and disappeared. I finally pinpointed it to a couple who were dancing in the middle of the floor. Every time the brother would speak or laugh, a red light flashed out of his mouth. What the hell was it? I gyrated closer to find out what was happening, and after a few moments saw that he had a light-up false tooth, an LED tooth that flashed. He saw me looking at him and smiled broadly, showing it off. I gave him the thumbs up and clapped. He made some motion with his hand, and suddenly a huge woman appeared in front of me, crooking her finger at me and moving her bulk around in a sensual come-on. She was enormous, smashing into me to the beat and cooing "baby" when I'd throw a hip motion she dug. The guy with the light-up tooth looked on in a weird manner, and I caught a few glances from the sidelines that told me I'd better get off the dance floor - that bad things were going to happen if I stayed.
At the bar again with another zombie, I began talking to a beautiful sister drinking cognac on the rocks. "What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?" I asked. "I guess the time my daddy died," she said. "My father died a few years ago," I told her. "It'll get better." She looked at me like I was made of shit. "I ain't talking about my father. I'm talking about my boyfriend." At that moment I sensed someone rushing up behind me. It was the brother with the light-up tooth; he pushed between us and ordered a shot of gin. I gulped my zombie and started talking to him, figuring that my acknowledgment of his outrageousness gave us some kind of camaraderie. "What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?" I asked stupidly. He gave me a look of pure evil and hatred, his tooth flashing in my face. "The first time I ever met a white man, that's the worst thing that ever happened to me. And the best thing that'll ever happen to me is when all y'all white motherfuckers are gone." He turned and walked into the crowd.
"I'm sorry about that," the girl said. "But you gotta understand. It is the worst thing that ever happened to him. Could be it's the worst thing that ever happened to me." She held her drink and stood up. "And maybe you shouldn't ask us that question, or you'll be telling people that the worst thing that ever happened to you happened here."