Welcome to the sample platter section.
Last Chance for a Slow Dance
Holden was parked at the end of the bar with a whiskey rocks. She wrote in a pocket-sized notebook, taking a sip every few sentences. She could hear Charlie’s awkward hiccup laugh he saved for dumb jokes usually cracked to impress a girls from across the room.
Holden accepted Charlie's behavior out of complacency. Charlie was a flirt and had, more than once, kissed other girls, but tonight she knew they would be sleeping in the same bed.
The needle pop on vinyl followed by a long, soothing note from a trumpet calmed the room down a teenth and made Holden feel like she was in a Philip Marlowe pulp; sipping whiskey and scribbling down notes in a dark bar while the rest of Los Angeles chitchatted.
"What're you writing?" A kid in his early twenties stood next to Holden. He was adorable and reeked of the not-yet-broken-by-LA innocence Holden lost many moons ago.
"Just writing down some ideas."
"Cool, so you're a writer?"
Holden stifled the urge to stab this kid with sarcasm for being so very observant and said, "Yeah, sorta."
"That's cool, so am I. I wrote a script my friend wants to make into a movie."
"Oh yeah?" Holden gulped her whiskey.
"Yeah, it's pretty exciting. What's your name?" The kid held his Midwestern white hand out.
Holden wished she were drunker for this question. A drink or two more she could lie; three drinks or more she could deal with the reliable fan-boy reaction with false adoration; six drinks and she could annihilate this kid's bright-eyed L.A. dreams.
"Holden." She shook his hand, firm in his fishy grasp.
"Holden? Like Holden Caulfield?"
Holden drank the last of her whiskey. "Yeah." She waved down Ian, her favorite bartender.
Ian was like an older brother bartender though she was weirdly attracted to him with his muscly arms in tight fitting punk rock shirts and blue jeans rolled at the bottom over boots. He wore a flat cap that hid his buzzed gray hairs and thick glasses. He was too old for Holden, but not too old to watch out for her.
“What'd you need, girl?”
"Another Maker's rocks."
"That's so awesome that your name's Holden! I love that book so much!"
"So does my mom."
"That book is why I started writing."
Holden glared across the bar at Charlie. In the early days, she would twirl her hair and he'd rescue her from the Salinger monologue. Somewhere along the way, she cut her hair and he became too busy flirting with skinny brunettes and her equally attractive friends and forgot about the signal.
"Don't tell anyone anything, if you do, you start missing everybody." The kid looked at Holden with a shitty grin of anticipation. "It's from the book," he said, excited to have reminded her. "What's your favorite part?"
"I'm always saying 'glad to have met you' to someone I'm not glad to have met at all."
Ian set down Holden's whiskey, but waved her ten away.
"Love you," she told Ian.
"I love that part!"
Holden stood up with her drink and held her hand out to the kid. "Glad to have met you," she said and walked away.
The kid's friend came up to him. “Did you get her number?”
“You know what her name was!” The kid said, his eyes wide with wonder.
Daytime, somewhere in a field away from houses except an abandoned camper to the left. Years of elements have torn this small camper apart. The siding has snapped off from sunny afternoons and the wooden frame has rotted from long winter storms.
Freddie walks barefoot through the weeds. He’s bleeding from sharp roots and sticks. He can’t feel pain, but he can feel the cold mud splatters on his ankles.
Home is the opposite way, but he’s going forward, toward the naked forest of autumnal trees.
This wasn’t right; his chest was heavy with a panic attack ready to engage.
He looked left at the camper. The window was long ago shattered and the screen flapped in the wind. Inside, a hooded figure shrouded in layers stood nonchalantly holding a knife to a boy’s throat in front of him.
Freddie stared at the hood, then the boy, but he kept moving. He stepped on a broken branch, the pointed, splintery end stuck in Freddie’s foot.
The pain was shocking, he tried to lift his foot, but he was too heavy to balance and he fell backwards into the dry weeds.
“No!” A small voice squeaked.
Freddie straightened up to see beyond the brush back to the camper, but the boy and the hooded figure were gone.
“Wake up, wake up, wake up,” Freddie yelled into himself.
Three A.M. at the I-Hop on Sunset Boulevard was a shit show. The actors and musicians of Hollywood were dressed in their popped collars and H&M dresses holding on to each other en route to the booth then clamoring over the table into a seat. They asked the veteran waitress for coffees, waters, and pancakes at a volume acceptable only to the other drunks in the dining room.
Gabby and Freddie were on their own level tucked in the corner booth watching the circus. Their irises were black saucers behind the sunglasses they bought at the “Five Dollar Everything” store on Hollywood Boulevard when the acid first set in.
Freddie stared down at his coffee. He tapped it with his finger every few seconds.
Gabby stared straight ahead at him. Her cheeks dimpled and her lips quivered from a suppressed laughter she felt rising to her chest.
They ignored a plate of stuffed French toast that seemed like a good idea when they sat down, but once it began breathing Gabby drowned it in blueberry syrup and Freddie stabbed it with a fork.
“You guys need anything? A box maybe?”
Freddie and Gabby looked at the waitress standing at the end of their table. The single tattoo on her arm, standard green inked stylized words, told of a life outside I-Hop; a life that understood why Freddie and Gabby were wearing sunglasses at three a.m. with an untouched plate of food in a part of town they didn’t live.
“Or more water.”
“Can we get a water to go? Like, do you guys have bottled water?”
“I can put water in a to-go cup. You guys want some coffee too?”
“Sounds great. Can we get a box too?” Gabby smiled with blissful condescension.
Freddie stared at the waitress walking away.
“I love her. She doesn’t want us here, but she taking us like a champ. I love her.”
“Did we pay?”
“Yeah. You paid when she brought the toast.”
“Are you sure?”
“Gabbs, I’m not sure you’re real right now.”
“We should go. I should leave some money just in case.” Gabby slid across the booth dragging her vegan leather jacket along. She dug through a pocket and found a bundle of cash. “How much do you think I need to leave?”
Freddie stood next to her, pulling crumpled bills apart.
“You should leave her twenty.”
“Are you sure? Do you have any cash?” Gabby took the cash back.
“Here, just leave this and this.” Freddie took a twenty and two ones from Gabby’s hands and put them on the table. “They’re on the table, you can’t take them back now.”
“Okay, let’s get the hell outta here.”
Gabby took off in a quick, stiff legged run through the dining room. Freddie followed from the opposite side of the room, getting to the front first. He hesitated pushing the door open, Gabby ran straight into his back, shoving him through the door to the outside world of Hollywood, California.
MY ACCIDENTALLY ANDROGYNOUS LIFE: A LOVE STORY
I’m twenty-one and I’ve just arrived to Los Angeles to be discovered as a talented female writer-director...
One thing about me was discovered – my ass.
Catcalls ranging from “sexy girl” to being stalked in a hardware store by a man asking if I ever considered a career in adult entertainment to the most popular “great ass”.
My reactions evolved from fear to “Yes, I do have a great ass.”
I’m twenty-nine years old and I’m sloppy drunk fighting with a guy who’s flying high on a tab of acid about why he’s dragged me through muddy feelings and left me.
He says, “You’re not the sort of woman I’m looking for.”
I’m crying. Thirty is edging around the corner and here I am, drunk off my face begging someone to love me.
No dress, liquid eyeliner, or hair product will save me...
I’m back to square fourteen. 1999.
I’m sitting alone at the middle table in Electronics, the only girl who elected to take a shop class.
I am a lamb in wolves’ pasture just wanting to build a speaker.
Behind me, CENSORED and CENSORED spout words at my back:
“Hey, Herb! We have a question for you.”
For the first time, I feel words like knives.
“Herb, what sex parts do you have?”
Laughter cracked like grenades.
“CENSORED, how do you think It has sex?”
Crushed and confused, I leave stoic and tearless until I duck into a bathroom stall.
**Names have been censored due to safety and legalities.
Manhattan Murder Mystery
It’s a Monday night at Harvard and Stone and the show is running late, but what else is new? It’s L.A. and this is a music show, besides most of this crowd is here for Manhattan Murder Mystery, possibly the only band who can take on the last time slot and have a bigger turnout than the headliner.
The riff raff gathered near the stage hold cheap beers or a smuggled concoction poured into a bar glass. This is prep for the inevitable “social” Matthew Teardrop would be calling for later in the set. For now, the small crowd pressed together rabbles loudly over the sound check, hugging as though it’s been a dog’s age since they last saw each other when in reality it’d been two day since the last party and a week since the last show that gathered the community under one rotting roof. Feelings and time are often forgotten at Manhattan Murder Mystery shows, newcomers are welcomed by MMM veterans who have endured life with the band’s slow building career.
The house music lowers, Matthew Teardrop stands with his back to the audience and right index finger pointed in the air. The opening notes of “Smokey Mountain” are greeted with raised drinks and out of sync cheers. Swaying to the rhythm, gears shift as everyone yells with Teardrop “and tonight” and bodies begin knocking into each other. It isn’t slam dancing, it isn’t hugging; it isn’t done in spite or love; it’s an understanding gesture. Those standing so close to the Harvard and Stone stage have been relating to Matthew Teardrop’s lyrics for amounts of time varying from weeks to years. With verses of self loathing in its most heartbreaking forms – remembering an old flame’s number (that long time MMM followers will spout out along with him) and choruses questioning whether he ever wanted to live at all, Matt Teardrop surfaces the thoughts everyone has, but never talks about.
A fan favorite, the soul crushing “Luxury Liner”, slows the room down as everyone stands solo with only elbows brushing as the notes from Mateo’s keyboard take us “down by the docks” while Matt Teardrop reminds each heart of a once good time now lost. The room turns somber during this song, occasionally someone will shed tears, but no judgments are ever thrown at an MMM show.
Before moving on, Teardrop raises his glass filled with the finest Canadian whiskey and says, “Who wants to take a social?”
Following the count off on Laura’s drumsticks, the bands goes into “Too Tough to Survive”, another (at the time) unreleased MMM song new to most Harvard and Stone patrons standing at the bar, but familiar to the people dancing with spring heels and no regard to those standing too close to the circus.
After years of shows, some more infamous than others, Manhattan Murder Mystery has long been a legendary whisper in L.A. A band everyone and no one has heard of until this year when they signed with Indiscretion Records who will be releasing their overdue album, Dumb.
To tide us over, a fan and friend of MMM, Mike James, directed the video for “Too Tough to Survive” featuring many faces fans and friends dancing and hanging out at the Church of Fun. The video is fun and oddly nostalgic; it also restores hope that despite Manhattan Murder Mystery breaking through to the masses, we can always count on Matthew Teardrop slowing down the band during their finale, “Cop Car”, to hand over his guitar to an unsuspecting friend, start the crowd chanting “I was in the back of a cop car” before disappearing outside for a cigarette while the audience dances their last bits of emotions out until the next MMM show.
**This was originally published to Playtime Posse.