We spent the next day doing tourist-y type stuff, starting on Haight St. Upper Haight was crowded with tourists, losers, dealers, and cretins. Lower Haight was an improvement. We got some lunch and went into a place called the Toronado that had eighty different beers on tap, none of which I'd ever heard of. I asked for a Molson and the entire bar went silent while everyone stared at me. I revised my request to whatever type of frosty cold lager they had, and was presented with a good beer called Golden Bear. Bekka asked for Anchor Steam and received the same treatment I had. Apparently the local stuff wasn't snooty enough for this place. Bekka shrugged and said, "Gimme whatever pale ale you have. Surprise me." Jane asked for the same. Both got pints of India pale ale from an East Bay brewery called Lind. We sat in there and lapped up beer for two hours. It struck me that no one ever seemed to leave, they just kept drinking and watching the horror movie playing on the bar TV.
I had the bartender call us a cab. When the driver asked where we were headed to, I simply told him, "The Financial District." This wasn't a good enough answer, so I asked to be let off at the Montgomery Street BART station. This he could handle. Still packing a good beer buzz, we wandered aimlessly, taking in the sights of the gigantic office buildings and the soldiers of industry who are housed in them. We found the Transamerica Tower and went up to the observation deck. A couple tourists stopped snapping pictures out the windows long enough to ask us if we minded if they took our picture. We allowed it. On the elevator ride back down, some turkey in a thousand dollar suit recognized Bekka and asked for her autograph. What the hell, she may as well get warmed up for it now. He held his briefcase like a desk as she simply wrote, "XXX Kisses, Becky Page" on a sheet of blank paper. We walked to the Embarcadero and watched the skater kids work out. Then we headed over to the Hyatt and caught a cab back to the motel.
On our way back to the motel I asked the driver his opinion of bicycle messengers. "They're damn pests," was his response.
"How so?" I asked.
"They run red lights. They go the wrong way down one-way streets. They challenge pedestrians. Some of those fools take the brakes off their bikes. Basically, they routinely break the law in ways you or me would lose our licenses for doing, if we were driving. They think they own this damn town, they sure as hell act like it. So what makes you ask?"
"Just a conversation I had with a messenger. She was convinced that cab drivers are all homicidal towards anything on two wheels."
The driver chuckled bitterly. "Yeah, that's the level of arrogance I'd expect from a messenger. Tell you what, if you hear of a messenger getting injured at work, I guarantee you they're the one who put themselves in that situation. If they'd obey the damn traffic laws, they wouldn't have the troubles or risks they do. The only way someone on a bicycle can get hurt by a car and have it totally be the car's fault is if they get doored."
"Doored?" I asked.
"Bicyclist is riding along a line of parked cars. Someone opens the door to their car at just the wrong moment. Crash boom bang. The cyclist has been doored. Never happened with me, I know to check my mirror before I go to get out. I don't wanna hurt nobody. But lemme tell ya, I've been doing this job in this town for seventeen years now. I've had three altercations with messengers, and all three were running red lights. Two went over my hood, leaving their bikes embedded in my fender. The third guy t-boned me right into my passenger door. He broke the glass with his face. His damn helmet kept him from crushing his skull open on the door frame.
And all three times I took advice I was given when I first started: if you tangle with a messenger, do not move. Lock all your doors, roll up your windows, sit there and call your dispatcher to tell him what happened. Don't get out of your damn cab until you see the cops show up. If you're so damn worried about the messenger that used your cab to take himself out, say a prayer for him. But getting out leaves yourself vulnerable to the messenger's buddies. Don't matter what company they work for, it's all one big tribe. Any messenger or messengers that come along and see what happened, and see it was a cab that was involved, well, they're gonna be in your face. They'll swing a chain or one of those big bicycle locks on you. Never mind the damn messenger was running a red light, it's still your fault. I call 'em a tribe, and I mean it. Those messengers are savages."
I said, "The one I spoke with seemed convinced that cab drivers purposely target messengers. What do you respond to that?"
The driver shrugged. "Look, I'm sure there's a few assholes out there who will give messengers a hard time for the sheer sport of it. Most of us would have no problem with them if they'd ride more responsibly. Me, I've got better things to do with my time than mess with somebody. Messengers seem to forget that cab drivers are out here trying to make a living too, just like they are. And under the same damn circumstances in a lot of ways: pick up, deliver. Pick up, deliver. The more you carry in a day, the more money you make. And time is of the essence. If messengers weren't so damn arrogant, I'd be just fine with them. You said the Sunset Motel, right?"
I assured him I did.
"From outta town, are you? Where you from?"
"San Diego," I replied.
He grinned at this. "I was stationed at North Island when I was in the Navy. Loved it down there. So they don't have messengers in Dago?"
"Nope. San Diego is a normal town that was dropped from a distance, and splattered. Everything is really spread out, you need a car just to buy a pack of smokes. San Diego doesn't have a strong downtown like San Francisco does, the town is really decentralized. I'm sure there are messengers, but they all drive cars to get the job done. Not a lot of cabs, either. Everybody has a car."
"Huh. Yeah, I spent my time either in the sin pits on Broadway or going for walks around Coronado. How is that place, anyway?"
"Which one?" I asked.
"Coronado," he clarified.
"A-heh! Still the same quiet retirement community I've always known it to be. The residents still hate that tourists are attracted to the place. They tried to crack down on motor homes a while back. Passed a law saying anything over eighteen feet in length could only be parked for a certain period of time, otherwise it would get a citation. What they didn't consider was the size of the land yachts the residents drove. Some Cadillacs are over eighteen feet, along with Lincolns. People were getting cited for parking their own cars in front of their houses.
"As far as Broadway goes, it's getting gentrified. The bars and strip clubs and peep shows are all going out of business. Hell, Horton Plaza has been completely changed. It's now a shopping mall. They even tore out the fountain. Not like San Diego needed another mall."
"Damn shame. I had fond memories of that place. That, and getting dressed in civvies and going drinking at the Hotel Del Coronado, hoping to find a rich woman who was into sailors. Here's your place, bud."
We pulled in the lot of the motel. I gave him thirty dollars on a $21.60 fare and told him to keep it, and thank your for the insight. He waved a hand and took off, talking to his dispatcher. The three of us went up to our room and flopped on the big bed, feeling the lazy effects of our beer buzz. I reviewed the plan: get to Ivanka's around six. Everybody indulges in their favorite drugs, including Ecstasy all around. Take off for Berkeley in the Cutlass. Grab a bite, then go to the liquor store for a couple pints of liquor (Wild Turkey and Johnnie Walker). Get a buzz on. By this time the doors to the club should be open, so we'd go in and check the place out. With a bit of luck Chromewagon would be there already. Ginny was an acquaintance of the bass player and could get us introduced. I had the big bag of Ecstasy, so we would share if they were interested. Ginny was sure they would be.
Ginny and Ivanka marveled at the Cutlass. We headed off for Berkeley, taking the Gilman exit off I-80 and anchoring the car a block from the club. The club itself was a squat brown brick warehouse sitting at the corner of Eighth and Gilman with a sign over the front reading "The Caning Shop." I wondered about this declaration. I could hear hardcore playing from inside, but the front door was still locked, so we continued our way up the street to get some food. I had the beer munchies, so a Big Mac sounded just about perfect.
After our meal we went to the liquor store. Ginny hadn't lied, three teenage punk rock kids were outside looking for someone to purchase malt liquor for them. Bekka sighed and collected their money, and followed me in so I could make my own purchase. She got them their forties of St. Ides, I got my decent booze, and we headed out. The kids, two guys and a girl, reached for the bottles and were blocked off by Bekka. "At least wait until we're not in front of the store," she told them.
"So where are you going to drink those?" asked Ginny.
"The creek," came the reply.
"That's where we're headed too. Let's roll."
We followed Ginny and the three kids through a light industrial neighborhood, across a parking lot, and down an embankment. Sure enough, there was a creek down there. It needed cleaning. Bekka poked a toe of a creeper at a condom wrapper. A wag had nailed a board to a tree, written on the board was the words "Welcome To Fried Water Creek!" Below a second board was nailed, this one reading "Clean up your shit."
Bottles were distributed and cracked open. We toasted to what we hoped would be a good show. The three kids got a gander of what we were drinking and said, "Whoa, you guys got the good shit."
One of the two guys looked at Bekka and said, "You know, I think I recognize you, but I don't want to say where from."
Bekka replied, "Enlighten me. I don't offend easily."
"Do you do porn?" the kid asked.
"Guilty as charged. I'm Becky Page."
The kid gave a nervous smile. "Yeah, that's the name I was trying to come up with. My stepdad is all hung up on you, it pisses my mom off. He made me watch a few of your movies with him."
"Wait, he made you watch my videos?" asked Bekka.
"Yeah. He's convinced that I'm turning out to be gay, so he tries to get me interested in girls. I already am interested in girls. I guess he thinks that because I'm not constantly bringing home girls, I'm about to go join Queer Nation for lack of anything better to do. It never seemed to occur to him that maybe I'm just not comfortable watching porn with my stepdad."
Bekka said, "Wow. Your stepdad is kinda fucked up. One of those fans I'm embarrassed to have."
The kid looked hopeful. "Actually, when we get to the club, could I get your autograph. It will piss him off to no end that I got to meet you and he didn't. Who knows, maybe he'll finally let the subject of my imaginary homosexuality drop."
"I know exactly what I'm writing for you," said Bekka. She pulled her Bic out of her jeans and handed it to the kid. "Light this," she said.
Confused, the kid did so. Bekka held her hand above the flame for a few seconds, then moved it She took her lighter back. The kid still looked confused, as I'm sure the rest of us also did.
Bekka explained. "See, now in the note I write you, I can thank you in all honesty for the hot time you showed me. A bad joke, but one your step-dad doesn't need to know about. In fact, you have permission to tell him about every nasty thing we did together that you can think of. Just keep it believable."
"And don't tell us about it," I interjected. "I'll end up turning it into a script."
We drank in peace, talking about the forthcoming show. I announced my intention to let the whole spectacle wash over me like a wave. Ivanka laughed at this. She was new to the punk rock scene, and would be getting hit by a wave herself.
"So what are the bands gonna be like tonight?" I asked the locals.
"Spitboy is helluv rad, they're hardcore," said the teenage girl.
Ginny said, "Chromewagon is pogo punk, um, Tribe 8 has a fairly straightforward rock sound, with tinges of punk to it. Dirt Bike Gang owes a lot of their sound to Babes In Toyland or Jesus Lizard. You've gotta watch the performances, too. Dolly from Chromewagon dances like a drunken marionette!"
"Just so long as the bands aren't populated by misandrists," I said. "Hearing lyrics taken from that 1973 style, all-men-are-pigs attitude makes my balls recess. If that's what we're dealing with, I'll move the car to the front of the club and blast the Mentors as loud as I can."
"Don't worry about it, Lenny. It'll be a friendly scene. Just a bunch of rock-loving daggers, and I guess one band of feminists. I don't know much about Spitboy."
The third teen said, "Spitboy are cool, they don't harsh on dudes. They're more Camille Paglia than Catharine MacKinnon."
We finished our drinking and started to amble back towards the club. The empties were gathered and deposited in a dumpster in a parking lot. A security guard eyed us, but didn't say anything or move closer: not at $4.25 an hour, he wasn't being paid to be curious.
We got to the club and got in line. Stepping inside the door was a revelation. Ginny hadn't exaggerated, literally every surface was covered with graffiti. A sweetish, slightly unpleasant odor came from somewhere. I was standing in a pool of something. And Napalm Death was playing over the monitors. Every one of my senses was being assaulted, and I loved it. I looked over at Jane, who was looking around the entryway with an expression of pure joy. Bekka looked amazed, Ivanka looked aghast, and Ginny looked confident.
She stepped forward into the main hall and scoped things out. Off in a far corner several girls were gathered in conversation and it was upon them Ginny focused. She said to Bekka, "Chromewagon are here. Are you ready to meet them?"
"Yes, yes I am," said Bekka.
Ginny led us to where the girls stood. She got the attention of one, saying, "Hey Brenda, I think I have someone you guys might wanna meet. Um, Brenda, this is Becky Page."
Brenda focused suddenly and with interest on the girl standing with Ginny. Her jaw dropped. She said, "Holy shit, it is you. Dolly...." She began tugging at another girl's arm.
The other girl looked over and said, "What's up, Bren?"
"Becky Page is here."
Brenda simply gestured at Bekka. Dolly pulled off her sunglasses and stared, as if at a mirage. A smile began to grow on her lips and a decidedly un-lesbian-like squeal began to erupt out of her throat. She finally made her self speak: "Oh my god! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.... Um, hi! I'm Dolly. What are you doing here?"
Bekka smiled and said, "I heard you wrote a song about me, and I decided I wanted to hear it being performed. My friend says it's a very flattering song."
Dolly looked rather pink. "Yes, it was written from the heart...."
Brenda said, "Bullshit, you were using an entirely different part of your body when you wrote that song."
Dolly glared and said, ".... It was me letting my fantasies out for some air. I hope it doesn't bother you that I've had dirty thoughts about you."
Bekka laughed. "That's what my entire career is based on."
"Ms. Page --- Becky --- for the first time in my life I have a crush on a celebrity. I don't know how I'm supposed to act. To me, you're the most beautiful woman in the world. It doesn't even bother me that you have sex with men for money. I know this is going to sound out of line coming from a stranger, but can I kiss you?"
Bekka stared at Dolly silently for a moment, long enough for Dolly to get a worried look. Then she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Dolly's neck, and kissed her. Gently at first, then with fire and passion. The kiss continued. One of the other girls started to applaud. Soon everyone had joined in. When the kiss broke off, Bekka said, "Is that okay fan service?"
Dolly said, "Let me take you home. Or we can go back to your place. Please, I want to spend time with you. They won't miss me here, I'm just the one who yells into the microphone. Our guitarist can cover vocals, we could take off right now...."
Bekka said, "I think it's time to introduce you to people, starting with an important one first. Dolly, this is my husband, Lenny. Lenny, Dolly."
I stuck my hand out and she briefly clenched it. With shocked eyes she said, "You've been standing right there all this time. You watched me make out with your wife. Dude, you're either the ultimate Zen master or the biggest pushover in the world."
"Maybe a little bit of both," I replied. "So far as you kissing my wife goes, in the time that I've known her I've seen Bek-- Becky do all sorts of things with her mouth. I routinely see her have sex with other people. Her giving a deep kiss to someone who is both a fan and the lead singer for a rock band is not about to bother me. I know who she's going home with at the end of the night. Like she said, she does good fan service."
Dolly pouted at me some more, then allowed herself to be introduced to everyone. She already sort of knew Ginny, just by dint of both of them being bicycle messengers. She had her fill of delicious bisexual chicks in the forms of Jane, Ivanka, and of course Bekka (who reintroduced herself with her real name). Dolly was sad to learn that Bekka was attached --- and to a guy--- but coped with it far better than some of the fans we'd met doing signings. Her and the rest of the band were grateful for the free Ecstasy, too. Bekka and Dolly talked some more, Bekka explaining as much of our lives as seemed prudent. Dolly explained that Bekka was the first time she'd been attracted to someone she'd seen in a video or magazine. It had to be real life for Dolly to be interested.... Until Bekka came along.
"Where did you first see me?" asked Bekka.
"In your movie 'Bewitched,'" replied Dolly. "I was at a coworker's place, and he and his roommates were watching it. I was captivated from the first frame, and when you did that scene with the other witch, the one with all the hair, I was hooked. All my straight messenger friends look at porn, so I asked them to keep an eye out for you. I got your Gallery and Hustler issues, and managed to find a copy of your Penthouse centerfold. When you did 'Rocker Girls,' I was in heaven: music and sex together."
"And now you've had your fantasy's tongue in your mouth," said Bekka. "Is the fantasy burnt out?"
"It's a fantasy, it will never die. When I dream, your bisexuality leans more towards women and not men. Also, your husband doesn't exist. And you live in the building across the street, so we can see each other whenever we want. And you like to do kinky things with ice cream."
The staccato rhythms of Dirt Bike Gang started up and we went inside. Inside at the snack bar we found the three kids we'd drank with talking with a lanky guy about my age. Bekka collared the one kid and asked him if he still wanted her autograph. The kid was enthusiastic. "What's your name?" she asked.
"Call me Harry. My real name is Herbert." I got the impression that he would take his contempt for being named Herbert with him to the grave.
Using the back of a show flyer and her Sharpie, Bekka wrote, "Harry - thanks for showing me that really hot time down by the creek! Love you! XXX Kisses from Becky Page."
Bekka told Harry, "Remember, keep your cover story believable. If I need to, I'll back you up. You said your stepdad had my movies, that means he's also got my address. You can write to me care of Inana Productions. Just remind me who you are in your letter and I'll back you up. Okay?"
"Pulling a prank?" asked the lanky dude.
"Sort of. Working on a way to convince that kid's stepdad he's not somehow becoming gay. He got my wife's autograph, which will piss off stepdaddy to no end."
Bekka had stepped up to the counter. The lanky dude said, "Your wife looks familiar, and I can't remember where from. Who is she?"
I answered, "She's a porn star named Becky Page. You'd know her from any of her features, or Penthouse, or Gallery, or Hustler. The best-known thing she's done was a movie called 'Bewitched' that came out in early summer. That's been our blockbuster. Say, you're over eighteen, right?"
"Um, yeah," answered Lanky. "Why, were you going to give me some free porn?"
"Free drugs, actually."
"Really? What you got?"
Lanky started to laugh and covered it with a cough. "So you're just wandering around handing out free Ecstasy, are you? What, are you going to tell me you make it?"
I gave him a serious look and said, "Nope, but I know the guy that does. And Chromewagon already took theirs, and they're doing fine."
Lanky glanced around the room, then said, "Lay it on me. I shouldn't be doing this, I'm a volunteer and they have a no drugs policy. Still, been a while since I've tweaked."
"I promise you won't be disappointed. I'll be around, talk to me in an hour and tell me how you feel. What's your name?"
"My parents named me Jericho, but I just go by Jerry. And you?"
We shook hands and I said, "Leonard, call me Lenny. You already know who my wife is."
Jerry snapped his fingers and said, "Yes, and now I remember the association. Your studio was the site of an attack by a dude with a rifle. Shot you up, but you and your wife managed to disarm him before anything drastic could happen. He's in prison now, a sentence of fifteen years, eligible for parole after eleven."
"How do you know all this?" I asked.
He gave me a steady grin. "I like to keep track of censors. I'm big on the First Amendment. When somebody bursts into a porn studio with a semi-automatic rifle, I follow the story, see if it has any connections anywhere. Jesus, you got shot up. How did that feel?"
I laughed. "Being shot is nothing compared to the terror you feel when you drill a guy several times with a damn Beretta and he doesn't go down, doesn't even bleed. He was wearing body armor, Kevlar or whatever. It took Bekka blasting him point-blank with a Colt to get him to go down. He fell backwards down the stairs and dropped his rifle. And he still didn't bleed, he just was hurting from the impact of Becky's ammo. So I've got one leg that doesn't work and I'm trying to get up the stairs to where the guy fell to keep him covered. Becky, who's naked through all of this, is coming down the stairs screaming how she's gonna kill the guy for shooting me. She's kneeling on his chest and punching him in the face with her Colt, hollering about how he's gonna die. They tried to use that during his defense. How Becky pistol-whipped him. The prosecution response was basically, where was it written that the dude was entitled to a fair fight? The jury wrote it off as a case of adrenaline overdose on Bekka's part, the same thing cops claim when they get caught beating up some suspect. It didn't affect the verdict or the sentencing, and that was the important part."
Jerry took all this in and said, "The studio was down in San Diego. Did you move up here?"
I lit a cigarette and said, "No, it's still where it's always been. We're just up here visiting. We've got friends in the City, and we wanted to see Chromewagon play. They wrote a song about Becky. We're just up here playing tourist."
"They wrote a song about her?"
"Yeah, called 'Heavy Petting Becky.' Their singer, Dolly, has quite the crush on Becky. She was quite disappointed to learn exactly who I was. The sort of thing I see all the time dealing with Becky's fans up close and personal. They create a fantasy about who Becky is, and are disturbed when they find out the fantasy isn't real. Her being married is a real blow. If looks could kill, I'd be dead a thousand times over judging by the angry reactions I get when Becky introduces me as her husband."
"Damn," said Jerry. "I don't know if I could handle celebrity. Or in your case, being married to it."
Blowing smoke, I said, "I'd have to check with someone for an objective view, but I think me and Becky are still the same smut-producing scumbags we've always been. We're making better money than we ever dreamed of, that's for sure. And learning you're loved by people who've never met you is a strange and creepy thing. It's even worse because it's porn."
"How so?" asked Jerry.
"Think about it. When do we feel the most vulnerable? When we're naked. Now think about how vulnerable you appear when you're naked and having sex. In porn, it's the audience that's empowered. They can, in their minds, mold performers into anyone they want them to be. And because you're witnessing performers doing the most intimate thing two people can do, you believe that vulnerability will show you what the person on the screen is really like. After all, she just shared an incredibly private moment with you.
"So yeah, our signings always have plenty of proposals for marriage, all by people who have never even met the person they're proposing to. There's a lot of delusion going on. Regular Hollywood types don't have to go through all this, because they almost never go through the vulnerability that having sex on camera creates."
"Do the guys have these problems too?"
I chuckled. "The men in porn are mostly props. They're interchangeable, they're furniture. You can get through a half hour loop without once seeing the guy's face. The camera is focusing on his dick, which better be good and hard, dammit. Unless you're Ron Jeremy or Peter North there's no real glamour to the job, and the pay is crap compared to the women. Especially doing loops, you're getting paid a stipend to have your dick sucked for an afternoon. Men don't have the same vulnerability because they remain anonymous."
Jane bounced up to me and said, "C'mon, let's go watch the band that's playing." She had her arm around the third kid of the three we'd been drinking with. Uh oh.
I gave Jane a pointed look and asked her, "So are you going to introduce me to your new friend?"
"Lenny, this is Will. Will, Lenny."
Will unburdened himself of Jane's waist so he could shake hands with me. I gave him a bit of vice grip and said, "Nice to meet you. You make fast friends."
"Yes sir," replied Will.
"Just don't count on things moving too fast, though, okay?"
"Yes sir. I mean no sir."
Jane glared at me and said, "We're just getting to know each other."
I said, "Write him a long letter, Gator Bait. You have all the time in the world that way. By the way, have you seen Bekka? She wandered off."
"I think she's outside at Chromewagon's van smoking a joint with them. Don't worry about her, and don't worry about me, Lenny. Believe it or not, I can keep my priorities straight."
I sighed and said, "You do that. Let's go watch this band, they've got a groovy sound."