Lost in Spice

The phone rings and I let it go. (That the thing still operates is shocking enough, considering I haven't opened a bill in months.) I sit some more and do nothing. The ringing stops.

Then it starts in again, and instead of picking it up, I count off the rings. The person trying to get ahold of me is a persistent bastard, and the agitating jingle finally lets up after a count of 25. Christ.

I get up and move to the kitchen. I open the refrigerator, grab another Old Milwaukee Ice and return to the couch. The beer pops open with a flick of the finger, and I lift the magic potion to my mouth and pour a good amount down my throat. The phone sitting on my coffee table starts in again . . . ring, ring, ring . . . it just keeps going . . . ring, ring, ring . . . on and fuckin' on . . . ring, ring, ring. Finally, I can take no more, and I grab the receiver, yank it to my ear and bark: "What? Whaddya want?"

"Er, Blake?" came the weaselly whine from the other end, and I instantly knew it was my New Times editor, the last person on Earth I ever want to talk to. "Jesus," he said. "Why don't you try picking up your phone once in a while? You never know, Blake, ya might get somewhere in life."

"Why don't you try not calling people up and letting the fucking phone ring into the millennium?" I ask. "Maybe ya wouldn't have so many fuckin' enemies in yer life, pal."

"Yeah, sarcasm noted, Blake."
"So whaddya want? Is New Times gonna gimme a raise? Fat chance, you guys prefer your writers lean and malnourished and . . ."

"Knock it off," he interrupts. "Spice World is why I'm calling. I want you to go to the movie. Write about it."

"You heard me."
"Wha . . . ?"
I hang up.

Less than a minute later, the phone rings again. I answer it, knowing full well I have absolutely no intention of bearing witness to any G-rated puppy-dog porn meant as jerk-off ammo for 12-year-old boys.

Instead, I could say I went, then write the piece and pocket the expense money.

After some quick math, I say into the receiver: "I need 20 bucks for the movie and popcorn, plus another 20 for beer on top of my usual column pay. And oh, yeah, I'll also need $125 for cab fare from my trailer to the theater, 'cause the LTD is up on blocks and the nearest showing is all the way in Phoenix."

"Listen, Blake," came the response. "You'll have to find your own way to the theater, and I'll give you 10 bucks for a ticket and a bag of popcorn. That's it. And I don't know if you've ever been to a movie theater before, but they don't serve beer with the popcorn."

"So? I subscribe to the BYOB theory; besides, you mean to tell me all New Times is willing to cough up is 10 bucks for expenses? I bet you spend more New Times dough on coffee each morning."

"Whatever, Blake . . . look, I gotta go. You know the score, so save the receipt and I'll reimburse you. And look at the bright side--you'll be able to get the hell out of your trailer-park jail for a day." Click. The line went dead. He hung up on me, the bastard.

Well, a few days later, my column was well past deadline as always, and I had to get the hell out of the stinking trailer, so I gave in to my editor's request and braved the two-hour-plus bus ride into Phoenix from Apache Junction.

The mass-transit system in greater Phoenix operates under the evil right-wing presumption that its users are second-class citizens and therefore should be treated as such: A timely arrival at one's destination is but a dream, and the lengthy waits one must endure at bus stops suggest that only an idiot would partake. I got on the bus headed for Phoenix.

I get off in midtown at a used-record store to hawk the crap promo CDs I brought along for quick beer $$$. (I unloaded the Great Expectations soundtrack, Yoko Love, Alannah Miles, new Heaven 17 and one that my editor said he wanted back [!?], Zep's BBC Sessions.) I hoof it a good two miles to the theater with a quick stop at a Circle K for a couple 40s of King Kobra malt liquor.

The theater is situated in a fading strip mall--a dismal chicken-wire-and-spit affair with hearty helpings of stucco sprayed on to simulate architectural depth and house various rip-off retail and food businesses--one of many that make up a good portion of the Phoenix landscape. A man could die here and no one would notice.

Worse, as I walk closer to where Spice World is showing, I see a line of mass-produced suburban white kids snaking out from the box office; cum-filled, prepubescent boys wearing $150 shoes and mall coifs, and even younger girls chewing gum with a snotty vengeance while aping MTV hip-sway. And, like me, they are all there to see this decade's version of the Madonna PG slut-goddess. Joy.

I find a car parked under a tree a good hundred feet from the action and have a seat on the hood. I reach into my bag, pull out a 40, crack it, take a swig and wait. I watch and drink as more brats are being dumped from shiny, pricey, parent-driven cars.

Soon the line starts moving, and the last few golden gulps of the King make it down my throat. I'm feeling better--the beer is casting its spell. I slip the remaining full 40-ouncer into the handy oversize pocket on the inside of my coat. The bottle fits snugly, ensuring it easy access inside the alcohol-intolerant theater. I wait for the last kid to enter before I move in.

At the box office, the pimply-headed boy behind the glass exchanges my cash for a ticket and offers me a mouth-breathing stare like I just crawled up from the sewer. It crosses my mind that perhaps I may look to him as if I was from such a place. It then crosses my mind that perhaps I am.

I get my ticket, have it torn at the door and make my way in. I stand in line for a tub of popcorn. The kids around me all have perfect skin, hair, clothes, everything. They're designer kids. I can't stand it.

I bail on the corn and head for the darkness. The place is packed. I find a seat midway down. I turn in the aisle, and upon hearing the usual "look at that weirdo" whispers, I intentionally step on a half-dozen expensively wrapped toes until I arrive at my seat and sit down. I pull out the second 40, unscrew the cap, and swig in giant dollops. Next to me, a dorky duo of pube-sprouting boys with fat faces take notice of the drinking and gasp. The little girls on my left are obviously appalled as well, and when I look at them, they quickly turn away as if I'm some freak show.

Then darkness drops, dull previews pass, and the screen lights up with sculpted Brit-babe synthetics moving in calculated, serpentine gyrations to tepid Euro-disco, what I came to expect. Spice World's trite satirical arc is as unnerving as the overfed brats who surround me; no inventiveness and no fun--as monotonous as suburbia. (Though the scene where Hootie and the Blowfish are called before a judge for passing off shite singles is a watchable moment.)

The room starts to take on a sticky warmth as the Spice Girls' taut derrieres and porn-star power-pouts have the boys in the theater owning up to wood.

Here I realize I ain't gonna make it through. The heady concoction of seventh-grade locker-room tepidity and all things Spicy is putting that unmistakable prepuke tingle in the back of my mouth. I'm getting ill.

Quickly. Uh oh. I pull another swig from the King in an effort to wash down the inevitable. It's no use. I look at the screen, and more puffy pretenses ensue. Uh oh. The theater's spoiled enclave starts to spin. No.

Oh, Jesus, no. I jump up and make for the aisle. The nearly dead bottle of malt falls to the floor and shatters. I get to the carpet and start the exit-bound ascent. I feel the pungent gak make its rumble. It churns low as I run up. I'm almost to the double doors when it hits. A death's door sucker punch. I die 10,000 times in a glorious instant. The avalanche of chunky sewage sprays forth, and it's as voluminous as it is stinging. I'm surrounded by white faces, mouths agape. I cry for my mother. Father O'Leary from catechism appears before me. He says I must repent. A raging chorus of disapproving moos from the bratty throng thunders into my skull. I fall on my knees, then my hands. I close my eyes and fall over. A lounge version of Spice Girls' "Do It" creeps in and flowers are everywhere. I go under and . . . the deep blue of an early-February Arizona sky awaits . . . and it's a lovely sight.

Led Zeppelin
BBC Sessions
(Atlantic Records)

For alla the "Jimmy Page is God" rhetoric, there was always the long-donged crybaby wuss-jive of Sir Robert Plant and his rain-on-anyone's-parade yelp of manly chest-hair-growing, sexist jive to round out what was arguably the biggest pussy band of all time: Led Zeppelin. And I ain't talkin' no small-time New Kids on the Block puss-train, either. I'm talkin' the Real Deal, the arena-size peach, the whole Swindle that was Led Zeppelin; the same Led Zeppelin that took yer money and never looked back; the same Zep that condescended upon the virtues of the Quaalude-queen leg-spread without so much as foreplay or even a kiss, but made bank by immortalizing such songs as "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" and "Whole Lotta Love," to name but two among countless other smears; the same Zep which, by some bong-loaded miraculous fluke, took drivel-drip dirge like the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven" and chest-pounded like it spoke to the American Teen--like it was somethin' profound and pertinent to them; the same Zep who bored us to kingdom come with self-important, unironic rock-star self-referencing in loooong, stupid guitar solos and American bluesman vernacular while Plant paraded in stupid curly locks and the same style blouse my big sis lost her virginity in. Then the drummer choked just after punk rock kicked their wussy asses.

Alannah Miles
(Ark 21 Records)

Aside from the album's title being misspelled, just check above review for Sir Plant and add tits. Oh, yeah, Desmond Child's name turns up, too. And it just goes on and on.

Contact Bill Blake at his online address: nttrash@yahoo.com


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