Magic Johnson has AIDS and I am on several hits of high powered blotter acid.
I have just witnessed multiple adult male people attacking one another in complex, swinging-gate battle maneuvers with real swords and fully armored suits.
I have seen the entire, worldly sky turn a particularly deep hue of orangebluegreenredvioletohmygodlookatthatcloud!
…only to vanish into a yawning mist of darkness.
I am in love with a girl named Jay who has dropped out of school and who uses me to create fake printouts of her straight A grades. She keeps a blow up sex doll named “Nancy” in the window of her dorm room with a bottle of pills tapes to one hand, a set of fuzzy handcuffs lashed to the other, and a pair of wooden clothes pins snapped onto its rubbery nipples. She has come from Seattle and swears that some friends of hers in a band called Nirvana have a new record that is going to slay me. Her attempts at producing a tape to prove this are thwarted by the tape deck in her Honda CRX, which spews plastic tape out of its slotted mouth. In an attempt to one up Jay’s musical knowledge, I counter with my Bay Area rock band stand-by, Primus, but do not really impress her. “Too circus,” she says, dismissing them.
It is 1991, the drug has me in its delirious grips and I am on a bicycle with wheels that are at least 300 feet tall. I am peddling in oblong loops and weaving my way hazardously from the cool, viney park where the original Robin Hood was filmed and where knights still battle one another in great clanging racket to the relative safety of my dorm room at Craig Hall in Chico, California.
On my merry, twisted way I am intercepted by a crowd of rowdy freaks. I recognize most of them. They are dormies, a mixed crowd of jocks from my dormitory, Craig Hall, along with a bunch of stoners from Bradley, the neighboring building. They snare me with promises of good music. “Mother Hips, dude! Don’t you KNOW?!” a pretty redhead with wild, curly hair yells, smacking me on the shoulders from behind like I was a drum kit.
Now I am walking the other direction, back towards town. Backpacks brim with cold beers. Joints materialize and then disappear in a cloud of trailing smoke. The late summer night air feels superheated. A tall girl with long, slick black hair leads us. We are going to a bar called Juanita’s.
The acid is wearing off, but I am fairly certain that Magic Johnson still has AIDS. That really happened, didn’t it? I ask. I am standing outside of a packed burrito joint on a street corner. I do not wonder what I will be like in 20 years. I do not think about money, or work, or bills, or sick relatives. The only thing that I can see, the only thing that I can feel is the music that blares out of the open door to the business that I stand outside of.
I am 19 years old. My brother is 21, but I have lost his old identification card already and he refuses to provide me with another.
You may not enter, a freakishly large person says sternly, in a language consisting primarily of grunts and cocked eyebrows. I want to go in. I can see the backs of the band that is playing. The drummer is wedged into the window box, his dirty blond locks flinging sweat droplets that catch glimmers of stage wash as they sail by. He pounds on his tiny drum kit. The drummer smiles and looks off to the side while he slams his instruments. He seems cool. He is dressed just like the crowd that inhabits Bradley Hall, the dorm that is situated across the sand volleyball pit, just a few hundred yards of physical space, but light years and an alternate universe away from the jock dorm that I landed in.
A weird, furry black Cossack hat juts out above the shoulders of the tall guitar playing-singer-fellow in the middle. He is impossibly thin. His clothes are not like mine. His guitar looks old. His voice is deep and low and high and all over the place. The guitars wail together in a way that I have never heard. The band is slow and then fast. It is country. It is rock and roll.
I can see the pretty girls lining the front of the stage, swimming in their tank tops.
I want IN. I am not an outsider here. This is my place. These are my people. I ask the large person about my candidacy for entry again. He ignores me. A diversion is necessary.
I have many friends. The dorms are good like that. I see a girl that I know. She is Jay’s roommate. Her name is Bean. Bean, I ask. Can you do me a favor? Sure, she says. She is small like a bean. I am also somewhat in love with Bean. I am somewhat in love with every female in Chico, California, but Bean is pretty and likes The Black Crowes too.
Bean, I need you to crash. Into a pole. Here, use this bicycle. Fall down and be fake hurt. I have to go inside. I have found my people. No, no Bean, you are also one of my people. I didn’t mean it like that.
Bean crashes into a pole on my bicycle, falling down in a heap right in front of the doorman. It is a real crash. She moans in pain and does not wink at me. The large doorman is chivalrous. Bean sounds sexy when she moans.
I wave to Bean and then slip into the noise maw that throbs at the doorway. I am IN. A friend hands me a pitcher of Sierra Nevada, the local brew. I drink from it directly, thinking it is all for me. He laughs. Been lost in the desert? He asks. I spill the top third of his pitcher of delicious amber nectar when my legs are commandeered by the dizzying rock that fills the room. They are driven into uncontrollable fits of spastic movement by the bass line that is played by the jock hippy who lays down a driving, raunched out fuzz-soaked rhythm.
The two singers join voices. They have Been Lost Once. The have Been Lost Twice. They will Probably Be Lost Again. Someone yells CHEEEEK-O. The crowd screams. I scream. Mother Fucking HIPS! Yells a tall man who will go on to be a professional fly fisherman. My future roommate hands me a joint. I’ve never seen him before. These cats are GOOD, right? He yells, a wide Cheshire grin all that is visible from beneath a greasy, curled baseball cap. The cats are turning this burrito joint upside down with a previously unimaginable blend of guitar interplay, time-changing starts and stops, their balanced harmonies suddenly shifting into feedback-inducing amplifier stands.
I am IN. These are my people.
Twenty years pass like a summer day spent lounging at the creek. Jay is lost. I look for her dented blue Honda CRX in most every town that I visit. The pretty redhead who helped introduce me to the best band that nobody has ever heard of was decapitated by a crazed maintenance worker in Yosemite in 1999. Bean is gone too, along with my bike.
The band is still going strong. Hardly anyone outside of the California rock scene has ever heard of them, except the coolest people that I know. That will change, though. Eventually, true greatness is discovered by the masses.
But somehow, despite the mountain of changes – the revolving jobs, a series of serious ladies, new towns, the other bands, the losses immeasurable and the occasional personal triumphs, I am still IN that bar, dancing with my people.
Almost all of the quality friends that I have were formed or have derived from friendships that were created on that Chico summer night in 1991. I have never been out on that curb since.
God Bless The Mother Fucking Hips.
Editor’s Note: The Mother Hips’s debut album, Back To The Grotto is available as a free download here.
For more from Corby…