lmost a year had passed since the last time I visited my family in Phoenix, so I flew down on the last Friday in July for mom's 80th birthday that Sunday. I rented a Kia from Enterprise that handled much better than the Chevy Cobalt they gave me last time and drove to mom's. As soon as I walked in the doordéjà vushe said she thought I'd lost weight and made me weigh myself on the bathroom scale. After I loaded her walker and clothes into the car we drove over to my brother Gary's house in Glendale, where his wife Martha served lasagna from Costco for dinner. That night before she went to bed, mom asked if I was going to stay up and watch TV. I told her I was going out and she threw her inevitable separation anxiety fit and tried to talk me out of it. Eventually I made it out of the house and to a goth club called Tranzylvania at a bar called Palazzo.
ocated on North Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, by day Palazzo is an Italian restaurant decorated in an elaborate Venetian ballroom motif with glass chandeliers, ornate floor to ceiling columns and tapestries, a wrought iron balcony that wraps around two walls, and a hardwood bar trimmed with gold leaf and carved topless maidens. On Friday nights, the dance club Tranzylvania lights the bar in purple and projects goth artwork onto the walls.
bove left, a naked vampire chick on all fours is taken from behind, while on the right the viewer is confronted by the nude posterior of a woman going down on a guy seated on a throne. Behind the building is an outdoor patio and bar, but I didn't spend much time out there because unlike San Francisco, where you go hang out on the street to cool off, it was much warmer outdoors than in. The dance floor held a large crowd mostly attired in goth accoutrement, and the music reminded me of the mix at Death Guild a few years back, old school fare like the Cure and Siouxsie tossed in amidst mostly mechanical EBM stuff. I had to dodge overly swirly goth dancers oblivious to smashing into others more than I would've in San Francisco, but had fun getting my groove on and left around 2:30 in the morning.
s much as I love movie theaters, I have to admit watching a film on an audio/video setup as nice as my brother's is pretty enticing. Since the length of time that theatrical releases take to come out on DVD has grown shorter, it's no wonder box office revenues are dropping. If I didn't live in an apartment building and could crank the volume on a system with that much audio fidelity and visual sharpness, I'd rent a lot more DVDs than I do. After the movie I drove over to Scottsdale to a bar called the Rogue. I'd looked for the place the last time I visited but couldn't find it, and after mentioning that in my blog I got a message from William Reed, the guy who promotes and DJs a dance club there on Saturday nights called Shake, who told me to let him know when I came to Phoenix again and he'd make sure I found it. I emailed him and got directions this time. Driving east on the 101 freeway, I watched flashes of lightning erupt from thunderclouds stretching for miles above the desert.
xiting on McKellips Road, I drove past images flickering on an outdoor drive-in movie screen as heavy rain began to fall. I found the Rogue about a block north of McKellips on North Scottsdale Road, next to a mom and pop convenience store.
he bar was crowded, and off to one side was a DJ booth and a small raised dance floor about ten by fifteen feet wide, bordered by a wall decorated with a mural of famous punk rockers.
illiam Fucking Reed, as he's known in the trade, was on the decks and I said hi and gave him a couple of mix CDs. He spun a cool mix of britpop, punk, glam, and indie stuff, and I hit the dance floor and started to bump and grind. The guest DJ up after William played some good stuff too, but persisted with constant digital scratching that grew annoying fast and broke up the rhythm of the songs because he wasn't always on the beat. While I was hanging out, one trendy young dude asked if he could take my picture because he said I was the coolest guy there. Many cute girls, a few of whom walked right over and introduced themselves and asked me my name. Must've been a big fish in a small pond, that seldom happens in San Francisco. I had the most fun dancing with a tall good looking redhead named Nancybelow left, with the doorguywho really knew how to shake it and danced with me most of the night.
self-described punk rock bar, the Rogue reminded me of my all time favorite dive in San Francisco, the Chatterbox, which in the late 80s was on Valencia Street where Amnesia is now. Owned by a woman named Alfie who looked like a long lost Ramone sister, it had a Kiss pinball machine and a Kiss makeup kit hanging over the bar and Guns And Roses and Ozzy and Stones posters and every time you walked in some screaming punk rock or glam or heavy metal record was blasting and some bitchin' music video was on the tube and no lame people ever hung out there because it was too edgy and one night Johnny Thunders staggered in and scrawled his name across the wall with bright green paint, which when the Chameleon took over the place they painted over with Dr. Seuss characters, which is about as good a metaphor for the art damaged infantilization of the SF music scene as anything I can think of. The Rogue has a little of the same vibe, and I had a great time.
his is my family's first house in Phoenix. Dad says they bought it in 1953 for $7800. I don't know enough about architecture to name the styleNeo Modern American Cinder Block, perhapsbut I love the minimalist look of it. Nothing but completely horizontal and vertical lines, without one detail on the house that would form anything but a 90 degree angle. Even the roof is entirely flat.
left mom's, taking with me a 1950s Smith Corona portable typewriter I bought her years ago that she never uses anymore, and I drove across town to dad's house in Mesa. I went for a swim in his pool, which also was 90 degrees, and for dinner my stepmom Kathleen served chicken and rice from Costco. Later dad made homemade vanilla ice cream and I ate way too much. That night I planned to go to a blues jam at a bar downtown called Club Central, but when I called to find out what time it started I found out the jam had been discontinued a few months ago. The Rhythm Room also usually has a Monday night blues jam, but that particular Monday night the bar booked a regular band, as they had on the Monday night when I last visited. I'd seen listings for afternoon and early evening jams on Sunday but was busy spending the day with mom on her birthday. I haven't had much luck playing music on my trips to Phoenix.
ounter Culture is located in a residential house that has been converted into a cafe, but just barely. The kitchen is now an expresso bar, and if you drive up to the kitchen window on one side of the house and honk, you can get coffee to go without getting out of your car. You enter the place through a dirt covered back yard, which is scattered with run down lawn chairs and tables, into what looks like a family room added to the rear of the building. Lounging on sofas in the living room at the front of the house were a few kids with laptops taking advantage of the free wifi. I wandered down the hallway until I found the bathroom, which still had a bathtub and shower. I wanted something to eat, but all the pastries were sealed in plastic and looked borrowed from the local 7-11, so I ordered tea and sat outside for a while listening to some local hipsters trading what in metropolitan Arizona passes for insightful observations about how the Internet has impacted social interaction and life in general.
ike me, she's a semi-recovered record collecting addict, and was familiar with two stores I worked at, Lou's Records and Rough Trade, from visiting them when she made record buying trips to California. From Stinkweeds I drove over to North 16th Street to visit a custom cowboy boot maker named David Espinoza. I showed him my old pair of Stewart cowboy boots made in Tucson which, after twenty-five years of coast to coast wear, have begun to split along the sides. Not much can be done about it he told me and stuck a piece of silver duct tape inside to help hold them together. I drove back to Mesa to a shop called the Mesa Typewriter Exchange, to see if I could sell mom's old Smith Corona. The owner said people give him for free most of the typewriters he repairs and sells. He only offered me ten bucks for it, so I took it back to dad's and went for another swim and ate more homemade ice cream. Later that night I went to the Rhythm Room and saw a good rockabilly band from Prescott called the High Rollers. Only about twenty people turned out to see them, probably because Social Distortion was in town that night. The highlight was when an old hippie biker dude with long grey hair and a beard, wearing a red headband and paisley shirt, began waltzing a chair around the empty dance floor and yelled There ain't enough girls here to do any dancin'!
ednesday dad and I drove over to Shepler's where I bought a leather cowboy hatband for myself and a John Wayne mug for dad. He took me to a cafeteria called Country Kitchen or something like that, which had an all you can eat buffet for five bucks that attracted many seriously overweight peoplethe place scared me. Back home for more homemade ice cream and one last dip in the pool. Before I left for the airport we took some pictures in the back yard, and I snapped one of a rifle that's been in the family for over 150 years.
ccording to dad, who was told this by his grandmother on his mother's side, in the 1860s the rifle was carried off to the Civil War by a young teenager from the Gregson clan of Paris, Tennessee. He returned home the following year, riding a flatbed cart pulled by a pair of goats because both of his legs had been shot off, but he still had the rifle with him. Probably a load of bullshit, but it's a good story. The rifle itself is an old flintlock that was at some point converted to a double trigger mechanism that separately cocks then fires. Dad had much of the brass on the barrel replaced, so it probably isn't worth much as an antique, but it's a groovy object that he says he'll leave to me when he croaks. My brother wants it too, but he's getting dad's collection of antique western revolvers.