Emerald City

Smoke gets in his eyes, but George couldn't be happier than rockin' out with Phoenix's young, loud, and snotty

"Bwian," I say to my pal Brian -- because of the Monty Python film Life of Brian, but who I really like to call Emerald Brian since I know so many damn Brians -- "who all is playing again?"

"Smut Muffin, Shark Pants, Dirty Babies, and other punk-rock bands," replies Emerald Brian over the phone as I'm taking more painkillers in search of relief from my bloating abdomen, which is now at the point of either releasing an alien baby or exploding in a huge filthy mess straight out of The Meaning of Life, another Monty Python film.

Waiter, a bucket, please.

GI ill: George fights a tummyache while the loud, stinky room spins around him. Good times.
Matthew Henry Hall
GI ill: George fights a tummyache while the loud, stinky room spins around him. Good times.

"Sounds good," I tell my pal, and promise I'll make it down to the show the following night.

"You need anything special?" Emerald Brian asks.

Just those words out of his mouth almost bring tears to my eyes. Emerald Brian is that kinda guy. Who would do anything for his friends. And has. And I've seen it, firsthand. The guy is more generous than Santa Claus, and unlike Mary Tyler Moore, whose smile couldn't turn on a light bulb, never mind the world, Brian's smile could make peace in the Middle East.

Plus, his roommate Kim rules. She worked over at the Mason Jar and booked all the bands. Poor her. But she's neat, unlike Mary Tyler Moore's neighbor Rhoda, who has got to be the worst Long Island JAP I've ever seen next to my stepmother.

Every time she's on TV, I change the channel and bitch and moan about how much I hate her. Spoiled rotten, can't accept good men, wears polyester shirts that you know have to itch. Fuck her. And my stepmom, too.

Fuck. Where's my shrink's number again?

The next night, I get a ride over to the Emerald, and as usual, I'm dressed in my black punk-rock utility vest with the U.S. pins. I can't drive myself because I'm in too much pain, and on too many painkillers. I fear that if I were to be behind the wheel, I'd forget I was in Phoenix, and start thinking I'm in some video game like Grand Theft Auto or Twisted Metal, and start running over people. Not that they don't deserve it. Walking in the middle of the night in the middle of the street dressed in dark colors. What the fuck is wrong with them? Yes, we should have more traffic lights around so people don't have to jaywalk, but you have to be almost suicidal to try to cross a street at night in this town if you're not at an intersection. This place is DARK. In New York, we have streetlights -- well, until we shoot them out with BB guns. But here? Frank from Blue Velvet must love this place. "Now it's dark."

Anyway, I'm greeted at the door by my friend Mike. A big, tall, bald guy who has enough good karma around him to light up Las Vegas during a blackout. Actually, he likes to be called Mike Red. So Mike Red it is. Why not? We got The Baron, Jersey Mike, and Emerald Brian. Mike Red isn't gonna break the bank.

But Cean does. That's pronounced "seen."

He works behind the bar with Emerald Brian. When I ask Cean why his name is spelled like that, he tells me his parents were hippies or Gypsies or whatever. That whole 1960s thing.

I sigh and nod my head in agreement, remembering the bad STD I once caught from a chick named April Mary Sunshine.

Fucking hippies.

I'm still talking to Mike Red near the entrance of the bar when the show finally starts. I've already seen him play twice in his band Sound of Birds, so he tells me about his other projects: Sonorous, and some other group with the word Tijuana in it. I try to remember the name, but images of Herb Alpert just keep popping into my brain.

The Dirty Babies take the stage to play their very punk-rock brand of rock 'n' roll, with guitar leads that are simplistic but do the job perfectly. They sort of sound like The Heartbreakers meet The Stitches meet Electric Frankenstein meets The Dead Boys, and I find myself sort of grooving to their whole sound and the Emerald Lounge's whole vibe. The place stinks of spirit.

And cigarette smoke. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg had one good idea?

Anyway, the whole club is filled to the rim with punk rockers. Mohawks and leather jackets everywhere, and it's summer. Yeah, February does count as summer around here.

The room is so loud it's hard to concentrate on the conversation I start with Emerald Brian behind the bar.

He's wearing a black long-sleeved shirt, worn-out blue jeans that look like mine, and a cap with an ad for some cement-mixing company. I ask him if he's dressed up "punk" for the night.

He smiles that Emerald Brian smile, and then we both shift our eyes toward the crowd, which is growing larger by the second.

I'm sure if he wore a Dead Kennedys or AZ Punk shirt, he'd make more in tips. But that ain't Emerald Brian's style. And that makes him all the cooler. We also laugh a little as we watch Cean frantically run around behind the bar trying to play catch-up.

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