Zachariah & the Lobos Riders are set to release their newest 6 song EP “Cloud Road.” Z details how this surprise record came about…
Cloud Road EP * 2020 By Zachariah & the Lobos Riders
In December of 2019 I blew out my knee playing basketball. I vowed to return to the court within a year and elected for surgery in January of 2020 – Following the surgery came the Norcos. As a decent wine drinker, painkillers were never my thing and I have been able to avoid them after major surgeries – of which I’ve had my share… But this time, things were a little different. Lying in bed, unable to walk or barely get up to use the bathroom, I would play a lot of music and drift off into the spacial tranquility of a few pain pills. At first it was 2, then it became 3 and I was pretty soon out of my bottle… The doctor had told me it would take about three days to not need them anymore, I was on day 11. What came to me during these lost moments was a lot of lyrics about childhood memories, dreams dying, and the main street that I grew up on in Tucson Arizona in the 80’s and 90’s… Cloud Road. The first song is the raw file you hear “Cloud Road Painkiller Freestyle.” That was done in one take off the dome. I quickly understood why so many artists get involved with Vicoden, Percoset etc. These five songs came to me in three days. The sixth was written for the TV show “Breaking Bad” but ultimately not chosen. CLOUD ROAD (CLICK FOR SAMPLE)
A different approach for me for sure. A nod to my teenage years in Tucson dying to go anywhere… now looking back and realizing I have gone everywhere. What’s next? I need another motivating factor to push me into whatever is next…
PRAY TO THE LORD
Back in high school, my friends and I would drive around all night and break into unlocked cars and steal stuff. We then took the stuff to Zia Records for trade money, Play it Again Sports for cash and second hand shops… One night a few guys broke into my old football coach’s truck and he was watching us from his window. At one point, one of the guys said he saw him flash a gun. We ran. The part about dropping my high school ring at the scene of the crime is based on a separate incident involving a girl’s bedroom when her boyfriend stopped by – but combining these two incidents into this song made sense.
MY MIND GOT MIXED WITH WANDERING
Yeah, where does the motivation go? I think I speak for a lot of young people here when I talk about how we all want to find that one comfortable place but then see something else a little more appealing just around the corner. I wasted a lot off my 20’s looking for something else and not recognizing what was in front of me.
JUST A LITTLE INTERMISSION
Again, painkillers had me rapping to myself a lot. And for some reason I was doing it in a Humpty Hump – Special Ed voice… This is a nod to the 90’s hip-hop I loved – and it’s really just a joke – as most of my rap songs are.
CLOUD ROAD PAINKILLER FREESTYLE
When putting this EP together, I came across this a week before releasing it. It is the seeds that grew into the title track of the record as well as the “Intermission” song. I was rapping into my phone on a galaxy of pain meds… In a studio this might actually be dope.
THE BALLAD OF JESSE PINKMAN
Since I rhymed about Jesse Pinkman in “Intermission,” I felt like this fit on this record as well. I wrote this before a season of breaking Bad and sent to the EP’s, tweeted about. And had a lot of show fans RT it as well. Ultimately, someone heard it and said they did not need any new music. So FUCK THEM. This song deserves to be heard, even if the show hasn’t been on for six years.
This past weekend, I decided to have a yard sale. It sounded like the perfect idea. A fun and social way for me to unload the over-crowded boxes that had been shoved in the back of my garage and turn them into some serious cash. After all, who wouldn’t want to buy my old snap button western shirts I once wore on tour with my band? Or my vintage t-shirt collection that ranged from soft 1970’s Wild Turkey Bourbon logos to an original Rick Springfield Working Class Dog Hanes Beefy-T? Or even the dozens of valuable beer coozies I had collected rifling through Goodwill crates across the country that I just never used? And what neighborhood fashionista wouldn’t jump at the chance to own a pair of my wife’s designer leather pants for a steal at $100? Or any of the hundreds of blouses she had earned working in the fashion industry for twenty years? The way I saw it, my yard sale was more of a vintage pop-up shop than a junk sale – and I was expecting nothing but a hipster, gypsy crowd with millennial money in their wallets and a dream of buying an old suede fringe vest on their minds.
Oh how wrong I was.
The Craigslist ad I had placed stated that the sale would begin at 7 o’clock in the morning. However, a crowd of freakish haggling ghouls began showing up at 5:30, knocking on my pre-dawn door asking me if I would give them a sneak peak into my wares before everybody else arrived. Some came by van, others by bike. One man, I had assumed by the sleeping bag he carried, had camped out on our sidewalk the night before like we were about to release tickets to a One Direction concert. Suddenly, having a yard sale became somewhat frightening but I thought of all the time it would save me having to deal with ebay and those pesky fees, shipping costs and trips to the post office.
Our first early morning visitors were two Spanish-speaking men who were very interested in knowing if we had any “tools for sale.” Having only owned a screwdriver, some nails and a hammer in my illustrious DIY carpentry career, I calmly told them no – before inquiring if they would be interested in a brass Jackson Browne belt buckle.
“No, gracias,” the older gentleman said. He took a look at my daughter’s rusty Frozen decorated bicycle before driving off.
The guy with the sleeping bag asked if we had any bedding and/or pillows for sale. I told him no, and asked him if he’d be interested in a Jane Fonda Workout vinyl record.
Our next visitor arrived around 6:00 a.m. She was an older, haggard bag lady who had over 45 satchels draped off of her weathered bicycle. In the knapsack that was slung around her shoulder she carried an actual brass tai-chi sword that she insisted on wielding in front of my son in a terrible re-enactment of her early morning lesson she had just taken in Griffith Park. After frolicking around the sidewalk like Westley in The Princess Bride for 25 minutes, she finally walked in and inquired about buying some iron rods and curtain rings we had recently taken down from our inside windows. Originally, these rods were purchased for $300 when my wife was doing some interior decorating to her old home in Laurel Canyon. Feeling generous, I offered her the rods and rings – with the curtains included – for $200. She stared at me as if she was about to run me through with her weapon. She mumbled something beneath her breath and eventually moved onto the junk table I had assembled in the back corner. She picked up a set of hippopotamus salt-and-pepper shakers and giggled while examining them.
“These are fun,” she exclaimed.
“My mom brought me those from Morocco,” I told her, lying. In reality they were Goodwill purchases I had used as a prop in a film I had made with my brother in 2011.
“Could you do ten bucks?”
Again, she laughed and twirled around the yard and started speaking what seemed like French to nobody in particular. She wrote her name down in a tiny notebook she had hidden in her stocking, ripped the page out and handed it to me. As she pressed it into my palm, she whispered, “Call me when you realize you’re asking way too much money for everything.”
I looked at the slip of paper. Her name was Laurette Soo-Chin-Wei Lorelai.
Around 7:15, the floodgates began to open. More and more groups began appearing, asking for mainly larger items such as furniture and floor lamps. I was somewhat amazed that no one had snapped up the Crosley turntable, the Pablo Neruda collection of poetry or the coffee table book Nudie: The Rodeo Tailor. After 45 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if that sword-carrying woman was correct… Was I charging too much?
I quickly Googled Yard Sale Etiquette.
According to yard sale laws, the average price of most of your items that are not bulky or still in the packaging – should be around $1.00. My average item was in the 5-10 dollar range, and in my mind, totally reasonable. It wasn’t until I made my first sale that I had a change of direction for the rest of the afternoon.
In 2007 or so, I had bought my son a collectible Star Wars denim jacket with R2-D2 and C-3PO sewn on the back at a trendy Farmer’s Market for $45. Even though he had probably thrown up and peed on it a few dozen times during his toddler-hood, I felt that $30 was a fair asking price. When I mentioned this to the interested woman who had been measuring it up against her own 3-year-old’s torso, she scoffed and hung it back on the rack.
“Ay de mi!” She said in Spanish.
Determined to make my first sale, I decided to bargain with her.
Now, I come from a long line of world-class bargainers. My mother and late grandma used to waltz through Canal Street in New York City with peacock-like confidence, able to nudge an unwavering vendor into dropping the price on an imitation Louis Vitton handbag from 500 dollars to roughly 50 cents in under three-minutes. Together they played the street like silver-tongued Jewish barter hounds, satisfied only when departing the area with 3-5 purses, imitation Rolexes and fake Prada luggage beneath their arms. They have been taking me to the secret inner space of fake handbags since I was about two-years-old and as far back as I can remember, they were the Ronda Rouseys of price negotiating… In fact, I recall one legendary trip where my mother actually made a profit while buying a purse.
Throughout the years, I have mastered the talent myself, but mainly when talking down a woman who once offered to cornrow my hair on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. I have also, never really been the haggled, only the haggler… Nevertheless, I felt that my family history had prepared me to challenge this woman over the Star Wars jacket to the very end… and I would not give in.
“Maam, could you do 25?” I asked.
“How about one dollar,” she said.
“What?” I screamed. “This is Star Wars! Like, collectible!”
“Senor, I will give you two dollars.”
At this point I knew my grandmother was watching down from heaven like a boxing trainer watching her prizefighter take hits in the ring. I refused to back down, so I just slowly lowered my price until she agreed. I decided I would not go lower than 18 dollars.
“20 bucks,” I said.
“3 dollars,” She barked,
“18?” I pleaded.
“Adios, senor,” she said, walking away. Oh my God! What was wrong here? Had I lost the sale? Was I going to be stuck with this jacket in my garage for the next 30 years? Like most hoarders I thought to myself, maybe when my son has a kid of his own, he will give this to him… but I knew that was a long way off. Finally, I surrendered. Mainly as a way to break the ice and make my first sale of the day.
“Maam? 3 dollars is fine,” I said. The lady reached in her wallet.
“How about two?” She offered.
I paused. I looked up at grandma, undoubtedly shaking her head in disappointment from that great Nordstrom’s Rack in the sky.
“Fine,” I said. She pressed two wrinkly dollars into my hands and just like that, I was $42 in the hole, but I had made my first sale of the day.
As the day wore on, my prices dipped lower and lower. I sold a handful of action figures for .25 cents a piece, a stack of vintage T-shirts for a dollar each and had the day’s biggest score when an unopened buffet dish that we had received for our wedding in 2004 went for $4.00. Nearly every item of clothing I was selling dropped in price by 99% by noon. My wife’s leather pants went for two bucks. The Rick Springfield shirt went for a dollar, as did the Mumford and Sons shirt, some Jack Daniel’s glasses and a silver booze flask that had an engraving of a man bass-fishing while naked. As the yard emptied, my wallet grew fatter and fatter – albeit with one-dollar bills – until I found myself exhausted, bored and anxiously wanting to count the bankroll in my pocket. My guess was that I had made $100 or so, based on the flurry of quick deals I made unloading the DVD collection, stacks of children’s books and my unbelievably large collection of novelty trucker hats… which had sold to some professional tree service men who had been working on a job a few blocks down. (Which might explain why if you drove by Franklin Avenue last weekend, you saw six guys on ladders wearing hats with My Other Car is Your Mom on them).
The most disgusting sale of the day went to the three ladies who argued over who would get to wear my wife’s used LuLuLemon Yoga pants. In retrospect, I probably could have sold them to some perverted Japanese businessmen in a vending machine for $60 a piece. Instead, I settled for – yep you guessed it – a dollar.
A crisis struck when I sold my son’s old Nintendo Wii console for ten bucks. Originally, he had wanted $100 for it… Which is 90 dollars more than what the smug bastards at GameStop will give you for the same item. Convincing him that I was a master salesman, I let him give me the Wii to sell at the yard sale instead. Sadly, I buckled early and let it go for $10.00 and I threw in some accessory called a Skylanders Portal. Not even sure that the console worked, I was just happy that I had made a double-digit sale. My son was not thrilled at all.
“You’re the WORST!” He screamed at me. “That was worth at least 300 dollars!”
One thing that kids fail to recognize is how fast technology loses value in today’s ever-changing world. Still, there was very little convincing him that I had struck a decent deal and he continuously stuck his head out the door and screamed at me for my “epic fail.” Ultimately, I ended up giving him the ten bucks even though I was the one who had bought him the original console for $275 back in 2010. Screw technology.
Around 4, the traffic had dwindled down to some neighbors, who we basically just handed items for free to get the stuff off of our property. Although it seemed like a bunch of things had been sold, I was still staring down a massive pile of clothes and books and toys and albums and knick-knacks and just straight up garbage. I prayed for some Saudi billionaire to walk in with a briefcase full of cash and just tell me he was taking the whole lot for $50. Alas, it looked as if my day was over. I cracked a beer and peed on a cactus.
And then, like a boll weevil out of a nearby hedge, Laurette Soo-Chin-Wei Lorelai re- appeared, tai chi sword in hand, pushing her bike in my direction with a Cheshire cat-like simper on her face.
Like a panther she strutted around the sale, inquiring about every single item remaining. She decided to mention that she was a regular on “the scene” and that she could tell you what was going to sell the minute she sets foot in someone’s rummage sale. She offered to help me whittle down my items to try and resell the next day for the bargain price of 10 dollars an hour… I relented. All I was thinking was “get the hell out of my yard.”
I started gathering everything that was left over and throwing them in boxes. She suddenly slid next to me, holding the iron curtain rods, the rings and the hippopotamus salt-and-pepper shakers from earlier.
“Ready to make a deal?” She asked.
“Lady,” I said. “Give me five dollars and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”
She handed over a bill, pressing it into my palm and stared directly into my eyes.
“Told you so,” she said.
That night I didn’t finish cleaning up. I was too wiped out. I left the majority of my once valuable wardrobe out for whoever in the neighborhood wanted it. A few things disappeared, which I didn’t even care about. It might be cool to see the neighborhood homeless guy wearing my old Blues Traveler T-shirt.
The next morning I threw all the remaining crap into my car and drove it directly to the Out of the ClosetThrift Store. I shoved it into a filthy back room along with thousands of other donations. As we unloaded all the boxes and unsold clothes and books and toys, they asked me if I thought the huge haul of stuff was worth more than $500. After all, a big donation would serve as a great tax write-off at the end of the year. Unaware of this little loophole, I figured that, yes – this crap was definitely worth more than $500.
They gave me a slip to present to my tax preparer and I drove home, satisfied that I had at least made a donation that would help me out financially.
As for my bankroll, I finally had the chance to count my earnings at the end of the sale. For nine hours of bargaining, labor and sweating under 100-degree weather, I had made a grand total of $47.
Somewhere up in heaven, my grandma was shaking her head in disappointment…
Zach recently began shooting a multi-episode series for History Chanel – where Zach travels deep into the heart of America to find the most unique and unusual people, jobs, locations and history he can find! Produced by Bullet Point Films, expect the series to premiere on TV and online in late 2017 or early 2018! Here’s a sneak peak of Zach at Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York and in Grand Teton National Park… Look for him on the road!
Re-Examining the 1997 NBA Draft – If I Had Been Selected…
(Originally published @Nerdist Sports 2017)
At the end of my senior year in college – despite having not played organized basketball since high school and maintaining a 1.8 blood alcohol level for four years straight, my friends dared me to declare for the NBA draft. I wrote an official letter the NBA commissioner David Stern and presented my accolades: Six-foot-two. 3.8 G.P.A. Fraternity scoring leader and dunk contest winner on the 8-foot hoop in the parking lot.
I wasn’t selected.
Looking back now, I have to argue that I might have been a better pick than 75% of the players in the 1997 NBA draft. Sure, the draft produced perennial all-stars Tim Duncan (#1), Chauncey Billups (#3) and Tracy McGrady (#9), but for every one of those guys, there are three Ed Elisma’s (#40), Bubba Wells’ (#34) and Ben Pepper’s (#55). Who’s to say that if I was chosen in the late second round I wouldn’t have made a better impact than a guy like 44th pick Cedric Henderson?
I was too short to be a forward, my high school position. My handle wasn’t strong enough to compete for a point guard slot, so basically, my only shot was to be drafted as a shooting guard – and my guess is I would have been picked somewhere around 46 – where Orlando took Alabama marksman Eric Washington. (Whose best year came with the Idaho Stampede in the NBA D-League in 2010).
Due to some late garbage time minutes, I estimate I would have averaged roughly 1.2 points a game… Which is more than draft picks C.J. Bruton (#52), Roberto Duenas (#57) and Nate Erdmann (#55) ever averaged in their careers.
The 11th pick of the draft was a guy named Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Nobody past the top 10 picks truly ever made a big statement in the NBA. Sure, Stephen Jackson (#42) was a key piece to the 2003 Spurs, Bobby Jackson (#23) was a sixth man sparkplug and Mark Blount (#54) was a dependable center for a few teams – but overall, 1997 was pretty mediocre… Even though I once bought into the ESPN theory that Jacque Vaughn (#27) would be the next Allen Iverson.
My own personal draft journey began after a two-game playoff run in the annual 1997 fraternity basketball challenge.
It was in a game against Pi Kappa Alpha. Their starting point guard tried to take me off the dribble to the left. I stuck my arm just above his bounce and poked the ball free into the open court. I ran after it, scooped it up and laid it in for the victory. My fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi had won our first play-off game in 10 years. In our next contest, we gave the brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon a good run, and I poured in 21 points. Ultimately, we lost on a late technical foul call when I got kicked out for calling the referee a “dickbag.”
It was after that game, while consuming a lot of Natural Light beer, that I decided to declare for the draft.
On draft day 1997, I sat on my mother’s couch with baited anticipation as the others had their moments. I ordered some pizza for my family. My mother thought I had lost my mind.
As the evening progressed, I had seen enough of the long, tailored mustard and pinstriped suits making their way to the podium to shake David Stern’s hand. I watched as guys like Tony Battie (#5), Danny Fortson (#10) and Antonio Daniels (#4) put on those crisp new NBA caps. I accepted the inevitable as the first round telecast came to an end.
The second round was only on the radio, so I sat in my Civic, listening in.
“And with the 48th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, the Washington Bullets select Predrag Drobnjak from KK Partizan, Serbia.”
Really? A guy named Predrag was taken? Nobody could even pronounce his name. So what if he was a six-foot-eleven three time Euro League National Champion? I played on the frat tournament second runner-up team!
Most of the players from the ’97 draft ended up overseas, injured or, in Ron Mercer’s (#6) case, involved in a strip club assault or two. I was no different – except for the fact that I never played one minute in the NBA.
Then again, neither did Serge Zwikker (#29), Mark Sanford (#30) or Gordon Malone (#44).
I still think I would have had a shot.
Ed. Note: Zach Selwyn currently averages 15.2 points per game in his over 40-YMCA league.
I recently came across this class picture from my elementary school in 1985. Oddly enough, I have a vague memory of taking this photo and trying to express my disappointment with the world at that time. I had no idea back then that the photo seemed to say to my parents that I’d rather be dead at the tender age of 10 than at my school picture day.
I look depressed. I look like I had already lived five lives. I resemble the type of child who would be marked as a potential serial killer in the future. Amazingly, I remember what was going through my head that day. I was dealing with things like my parents recent divorce, the fact that my “spike haircut” would never want to stand up straight like the other kids. I didn’t smile because my two front teeth resembled something that would have made all species of pacific northwestern beavers jealous. I also remember that my mother made me wear the cloud patterned shirt I am wearing in the photo that day. Maybe if I was Prince I could have pulled that look off, but as a sullen, depressed 10-year-old Jewish kid stuck in Tucson Arizona in the 1980’s, the cloud shirt just felt like a desperate plea for attention.
At the time I was rudderless. The girls were not interested in me. I had become somewhat overweight. My baseball ability had dwindled following a broken arm the previous summer and my basketball skills were starting to translate to bench time more than the starting five. To top it off my grandparents had taken my sister and I on a two-week Caribbean cruise a few weeks before where I spent the majority of the trip being bullied in the youth center by a freckly-face kid from Florida named Robbie who insisted on flicking my ears until I cried almost daily. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about that cruise was when my grandmother came down to the youth center, smacked the kid across the head and said, “Stop flicking my grandson’s ears!”
As you can imagine, it only made him go after me more.
In fifth grade I was forced to go to Hebrew school three times a week with the looming threat of a Bar Mitzvah hanging over my head presenting quite possibly a challenge that I could never live up to. My main interests lie in collecting baseball cards – which is where I spent every penny and has been well documented in my previous works. I was also trying to make my 3-year-old brother a future baseball Hall of Famer – but he wasn’t interested in the slightest. Baseball cards were everything to me and the bottom line was, when my mother came home and saw me lying on the floor alphabetizing the 1982 Atlanta Braves Fleer set, she didn’t exactly think I had any sort of bright future.
My house was less than peaceful, with my sister and mother not getting along and a new presence in the home – my mother’s boyfriend. He was a recovering alcoholic who had moved to Tucson for a fresh start and began working at a $40,000 a month celebrity rehab facility that was frequented by movie stars and rock stars. His saving grace was that he loved music, and played it constantly around the house.. and that he was pretty funny.
He also loved baseball.
My other obsession with skateboarding, which I was not very good at due to a massive fear of falling and breaking my arm a second time. Yet, I wore the clothes and accepted the fact that I was a “poser” to the cooler kids because it made me feel somewhat connected to something. I was also being forced to take piano lessons by my mom although I was technically allowed to quit in sixth grade.
I quit the day I started sixth grade. Again, another regret.
37-years-later, looking back at this photo, I distinctly remember Mrs. Knight’s fifth grade classroom. It was small – with only eight of us – because they had to separate certain students into a fifth/sixth grade combination class. Luckily the two cutest girls were in class with me. Laura Krapa (tough last name, I know…) And Tina Jarem, who I mercilessly teased and occasionally punched because she had absolutely no interest in me.
And then, there were the three other boys in the class.Ryan, Brandon and Bryan. Being the lone Jewish kid, I was constantly mocked with slurs and insults that I learned to turn into comedy – but I was never invited to their Cub Scout meetings or their swim meets. The three boys were all terrific athletes and overachievers had surpassed me in almost every single category in life at the time – from sports to girls to popularity. When you’re 10-years-old, you feel as if you will never grow out of these situations.
One day in the lunchroom, I overheard the boys discussing their three-piece band that they were going to assemble to play the talent show. Being that my obsession with the Beastie Boys had grown to absurdly fanatical following their appearance in the hip hop movie “Krush Groove,” I somehow thought that if I could just be AdRock or Mike D I could climb out of this despair in which I had been wallowing for the majority of 1985-86. It certainly helped my cause to know that the Beastie Boys were actually Jewish… So, I offered up my services as a rapper and at first, they laughed.
“Dude our song is not a rap song” they said.
I said it didn’t matter because I could rap over anything.
Lo and behold, it worked. That night, I wrote eight of the worst hip-hop bars ever assembled and brought it to school to audition for my three classmates. They were blown away and my career as a performer started just as the 5th grade began to come to a close.
The first rush of adrenaline that you get when you walk off of a stage while wearing your coolest T & C Surf Design shirt and Gotcha shorts with a pair of knock off Ray-Ban Wayfarers you had to borrow from your mother, is a feeling that cannot be described. But any person who has ever performed live knows what it is… It’s the moment when you receive that first look from a girl in your class that says, “Oh my God you’re so much more than I thought you were!” In this case, it was Tina Jarem. Still, I was too afraid to be her boyfriend. She moved away that summer.
Music helped me turn my life and outlook around. If you look into the dead eyes of the kid in this photo, you can see how that experience helped turn me into a more positive person. Within a few months I had my first non-camp girlfriend, Amy. We only lasted about a week, but for me that’s all I wanted. It was like a résumé builder. I developed more humor more confidence and as luck would have it even grew a few inches by the next year.
That summer at camp my longtime counselor Mark took me under his wing as his ‘project’ hoping to develop me into a ladies man. Looking back, it seems weird that he would spend 30 minutes doing my hair before Shabbat services on Fridays. I guess he wanted to make sure I looked ‘fresh.’ With gallons of Dep Gel being slathered into my “never wanted to spike up hair” – I was finally able to get it somewhat reaching towards the sky. Only later, when my hair went curly, did I realize that I had always had wavy hair and that a spike haircut doesn’t look too great when you’re 10-years-old and trying to look like Billy Idol.
When sixth grade came to a close, we reformed the band. The baseball cards took a backseat a couple years later when the guitar was picked up and I suddenly discovered all elements of performing.
Today, at 46, looking back at that photograph of that lost child makes me think of my own children today. I can often spot in a family photo my son’s eyes adrift, looking like there’s no reason for him to be there. My daughter occasionally blinks on purpose to ruin a picture too – the way I did many times before as a kid. The only advice I can try to give my children is that it all gets better and that they need to try new things or else nothing will ever change. I never say that they have to stick with those things, but one of them will hopefully catch their attention and change their lives the way that music did for me on that talent show night in Tucson, Arizona.
I’m not sure why I wrote this today other than the fact that I’m getting older and I think you start to look back at moments in your life where things change. As your own parents get older you start to think about how innocent it all was back then and how we all grow up so quickly and what really matters is love, care, kindness and friendship.
I still keep in touch with those guys from the band even though they have all gone onto different pursuits. I’m still releasing music, however, even though not many people listen to it. It’s still therapy. It is hands down the best medicine that there is and it comes out whenever I am lucky enough to perform live with my current band.
My only regret? I wish I still had that cloud shirt so I could wear it on stage…
This morning I drove past two skinny homeless men with multiple missing teeth who were smoking cigarettes before nearly running over a mangy stray dog panting in the street. I made a left turn at the Hustler Hollywood store, narrowly averting a woman who was squatting and urinating into a discarded water bottle. I eventually parked and walked around my car, side-stepping two discarded needles some dog crap and a used condom. I dodged a speeding Hyundai that was being driven by a dude vaping and texting at the same time before opening the passenger door… and helping my kid get out of the car.
“Ready for school?” I asked.
Welcome to Hollywood.
I was raised in a peaceful, quiet corner of the desert where coyotes and jumping cholla cacti were my biggest fears while walking to school. I didn’t see a homeless man until I was about 13. Hustler was a magazine that only prisoners and truckers read and needles were something only a doctor could get a hold of. Yesterday, my son asked me why the guy who lives in the dumpster across the street from his carpool pick-up lane is always shouting, “Ho ass bitch” while shuffling down Selma Avenue.
I am raising my children in Gomorrah and it’s starting to freak me the fuck out.
This school year, my son’s entire fifth grade class was moved to a new school campus – about 10 blocks north of the previous campus where they had been since kindergarten. The new campus is on Selma Avenue and is a stone’s throw from the Hollywood YMCA. It’s also a block south of Hollywood Boulevard, nearly 10 medical marijuana dispensaries, six seedy bars, smoke shops, two run-down hotels, a vintage street clock that has been permanently set to 4:20 and about nine tattoo parlors.
Back in my 20’s, when I was stumbling out of the bar Boardner’s (a block away from the school on Cherokee), I could never imagine that someday my son would be taking “Beginner Spanish” 50 yards from where I once puked after a night of Vodka – Red Bulls. I never thought I’d be raising my kids anywhere but some pristine little tucked away school with manicured lawns and open fields and morning sing-a-longs. Little did I know that barbed wire fences, metal detectors and cement soccer fields were going to be the norm for my children…
At a back-to-school meet and greet two weeks after the first day, some other parents expressed their concerns as well.
“We just don’t like the way the school feels,” an angry parent offered.
“We are striving to make everybody comfortable,” the principal, a 40-something man named Reggie replied.
“It’s hard to be comfortable when I smell marijuana every day when I drop my kid off,” another mom piped up.
Hollywood has changed immensely since the rundown 1990’s. Tourism is up, souvenir stores are making great money and people from all over the world are still traveling here to take photos of the sidewalk where an actor’s name is etched into a star. Of course, when the tourists come, so do the hustlers. You’ve seen them selling rap CD’s, trying to get you to take the TMZ Tour and drunkenly swaying into your photos while dressed up in a piss-stained Spider-Man costume demanding five dollars.
Look, my high school was no picnic. I witnessed a shooting, a lot of fights and certainly saw my share of LSD and dirt weed from Mexico, but I was in high school… Not fifth grade. Being raised in the desert certainly shaded me from the inner city realities of gang-ridden America, but I was also lucky enough to travel to places like New York and LA to see how other kids were growing up. Ultimately, their fast-paced lives had a strong effect on me because I headed for college in Los Angeles the minute I turned 18. Thinking back about my childhood dreams, I turned my son one day after school.
“Hey dude, where do you want to live when you grow up?” I asked him.
“Probably the beach… or New York I guess.”
Obviously he hadn’t thought this one out. Not me. By the time I was ten, I had it narrowed down to Los Angeles and Los Angeles.
My son is also already planning out his first tattoo, based on a conversation we had last week. After pouring over NBA star Brandon Ingram’s arms as we were watching a basketball game, he asked me a question.
“Dad, if you could get a tattoo, what would you get?”
“Oh wow, I dunno – probably your name and your sister’s name,” I said. “Something small and hidden and meaningful.”
“I’d probably get Savage in cursive across my eyebrow,” he said.
“You’re not getting a tattoo,” I told him.
“Why not? All the sickest rappers have face tattoos now…”
As we listened to my kid’s Spotify playlist, I heard no less than ten “N-Bombs”, three songs about abusing Xanax, Percocet and Molly and over ten about Gucci, 80,000 dollar watches and ‘Lambos. Every song featured sound effects like “Skrrr” for a cool car or “Skrrrrratatatatata” to mimic an assault rifle peppering an enemy with bullets… Look, I love rap music. I chased a rap career myself at one point… but no 5th grader should be asking his dad what Codeine, Mountain Dew and Jolly Ranchers taste like together.
Alas, the reality of this situation is that I can’t afford to shell out 35,000 dollars to private academies like Campbell Hall or Oakwood… Although from what I remember from college – most of the heaviest partiers came out of these schools. Which gives me some hope… And truthfully, other than the dead guy who was wheeled away from the apartment down the block last week, the school is fun, diverse and growing and I’m actually proud to be a part of the community.
So, as the years roll along, I’ll just have to deal with the syringes, homeless guys and Hustler Hollywood foot traffic for a few more years until junior high. Luckily, that campus is located downtown in a much more secure location…
It’s across the street from an outpatient clinic for opioid addicts…
There is a small stretch of road about five minutes from my house that is known as “Tranny Alley.” The section I am talking about exists on what used to be the most famous highway in America: Route 66. Nowadays, it is known simply as Santa Monica Boulevard and it famously runs the length of the city, cascading into the Pacific Ocean at its conclusion.
“Tranny Alley” gets its name from – you guessed it – the number of transsexual prostitutes working their trade up and down the boulevard. Situated directly between Highland Avenue and Las Palmas, the majority of these prostitutes seem to use a shop called “Donut Time” as their home base. It was here, at this Donut Time, that I found myself picking up a 28-year-old prostitute named “Honeysuckle.”
Any man who has lived in the city of Angels for any period of time has found himself staring at a tight pair of denim shorts walking down the street only to be surprised when the person turns around and reveals him/herself as a guy. Santa Monica Boulevard is usually the place where it all goes down. Sometimes, they catch you staring and send an awkward wink your way at which point you react by either looking the other way or thinking to yourself, Wow… Dude or not, I still got it!
Last week, when I was on my way to pick up my six-year-old son from school, I noticed a pair of those exact denim shorts parading across a parking lot directly in the heart of Tranny Alley. When the person turned around, she had caught my eye – and sent a gorgeous and flirtatious look my way. I watched her cheetah-strut her body towards Donut Time, where she adjusted her top and threw me a salacious wink. I was stunned. She was by far the prettiest girl I have ever seen in Tranny Alley in the 19 years I have lived in this city –and there was even something familiar looking about her… but I couldn’t quite place it. Needless to say, she had an incredible Rihanna-like body with a face like a younger Sage Steele. (ESPN anchor). If she was, in fact, a man – I didn’t care… She was worth making eye contact with.
As I scooped up my six-year-old from school and we began driving home, I decided to take Santa Monica Boulevard again, risking a Donut Time drive-by, knowing fully well that my son often screams out “Donuts!” whenever we pass a shop serving up the fried, round, sugary treats. Giving your kid a donut at 3:30 in the afternoon is a terrible idea, as it often leads to a sugar crash, Lego’s being thrown all around your house and a dinner time screaming match between me and my wife… However, the moment I passed the shop, I noticed Rihanna again… She noticed me as well. She gave me a subtle nod and caught my eye in a flirtatious way, just as my son yelled out at the top of his lungs,
I flipped on my blinker and made a left turn into the parking lot.
My initial intention was not to speak to her. I wanted to get inside the shop, pick out a donut, maybe get a closer look and then speed off towards the park to make my son run off the 550 calories he just inhaled. Instead, she approached me like a long lost girlfriend just as I walked through the door.
“You go to the Hollywood YMCA, don’t you,” she asked as I cradled my son so he could get a better look into the donut case.
How the hell did she know that?
“Uhhm, yeah?” I said quizzically. “Are… you a… member?”
She laughed. I took a quick gaze at her throat. It was Adam’s apple – free.
“I shower there sometimes,” she continued. “I’ve seen you and your kid walking around.”
It was then that I put it together. She was a member of the Hollywood YMCA. I had seen her before, striding around the ground floor, making every pasty-white mother of three uncomfortable by flaunting her ferocious curves and Olympian build. I always had assumed she was a personal trainer or a professional fitness model or something… Looks like she was simply, just a professional.
“Are you a…” I started, before looking down at my son, knowing that no six-year-old should be conversing with a prostitute ten minutes after leaving Math Workshop.
She smiled and rubbed the side of my shoulder.
“I can be anything you want me to be.”
Now I have never been one for talking dirty, but for some reason, her comment uncoiled some inner beast in my loins that had been lying dormant for way too long. I noticed a boulder-like erection burst into my boxer briefs that felt like a Sumatran rhino giving birth. I wasn’t quite sure what it was… but this girl’s voice and body and face were so searing, for that one fleeting moment I truly, deeply in the back of my head, considered throwing away a perfect marriage to the love of my life – consenting to spending the rest of my adulthood couch-surfing in Van Nuys. I felt contented with the fact that I would rarely be allowed to see my children again… And if my wife wanted to take half of all my finances? FINE. These all seemed like worthy sacrifices for one night of rapture with this thunder-bodied beautiful sex bomb who looked like she could break my penis off.
And who may or may not be a guy.
I paid for the donut and did my best to shake off the fantasy. As I allowed my erection to lower itself to half mast, I eeked a smile her way and raised my hand, showing her my wedding ring, as if to say, “Sorry, I’m married.”
She laughed and whispered into my ear.
“Single men don’t walk into Donut Time,” she said. “Most of my regulars are married… But you’re the first guy who actually brought his kid along.”
Yeah, about that… I looked over at the boy, eating his chocolate sprinkled donut, unaware that his father could be 20 minutes away from making the biggest mistake of his life. Unaware of “Tranny Alley.” Thinking only of toys and ninjas and the Angry Birds Star Wars toy on his Hannukkah list. Just innocent, pure and happy…
“It’s 50 bucks for a blow-job,” she whispered.
“We should go,” I yelled out to the boy. “C’mon, dude…”
I loaded him up into the car and didn’t even buckle his seat belt. His face was smeared with chocolate. Within six minutes, we were up in the park and he was climbing a play structure as I found myself perversely Google–searching “Sexy Rihanna Photos” on my iphone. Had anybody seen some of the half-naked images I came across, I would have been arrested and thrown in prison for lewd conduct. Looking at soft-core porn on your phone in a public park is probably a bigger offense than actually picking up a prostitute… (I looked that up by the way… It’s not.)
Paranoid, I cleared my history, turned off my phone and did 10 pull-ups on the monkey bars as a way to release some unbridled energy.
I believe I first realized that I didn’t have my wallet about 45 minutes later. We had come home from the park and the Rihanna incident was way beyond me – because by that point, other concerns popped into my head. What time was his soccer practice? Did I forget to email the bank about the house Re-Fi? Why did I forget to buy printer ink? But now, something even more horrifying had crossed my mind: My wallet was gone, and the only place it could possibly be was sitting on the counter at “Donut Time.”
When my wife came home, I told her I had left my wallet at my son’s school and I had to go get it. She called me a dumb-ass and told me to hurry up. After all, we had Nick and Marcy coming over for dinner. I jumped in the car and raced towards Santa Monica Boulevard as fast as I could, praying that Rihanna was nowhere to be found and that my wallet was safe and sound behind the counter. The drive over there shared the same nerve-wracking feeling of a first date in high school… It was mortifying.
As I began creeping along towards Tranny Alley, I noticed that there were a few more ladies of the night walking the street. Most of them were obviously men, and I avoided their looks as long as I could. I managed to find a parking spot at a meter, hoping my presence would go unnoticed. I crossed over the sidewalk and ran towards Donut Time at a swift pace. When I got there, I grabbed the door handle and pulled it open. Before I could slide inside, a familiar voice turned me around.
“Looking for this?”
There was Rihanna, holding my embarrassing tri-panel Velcro piece of shit wallet with a clear sleeve for my driver’s license and a change purse zipper. My driver’s license was in her left hand.
“Zachary Stephen Selwyn, huh?” She said. “You look younger than 37.”
“Uhm, thanks,” I said, not knowing if she really meant it or if it was her way to talk a potential john into dropping 500 bucks on life-ruining sex.
“Where’d you, uhh – find it?” I asked.
“I can find a man’s wallet anywhere. Now you want it back, or what?”
“Yes please,” I meekly answered.
“You can have it — if you run me up to the YMCA – I have to take a shower.”
The first thing that popped into my mind was the Hugh Grant – Divine Brown incident. Back in 1997, Grant was a superstar who was arrested for receiving fellatio in his BMW just north of Tranny Alley from a prostitute named Divine Brown. Following the arrest, Grant’s reputation went from ‘irresistibly charming leading man’ to Mickey Blue Eyes. Divine Brown, meanwhile, has allegedly made close to two million dollars from personal appearances and pornography and is now raising her three well-off children in Beverly Hills…. Advantage: Prostitute.
The other famous incident at the time was when Eddie Murphy was pulled over with a tranny prostitute in his car in the same neighborhood. Although never charged with anything, Eddie has been dragged across the floor by the press since then as well. By offering Rihanna a ride, I was risking my career and more importantly, my marriage. It seemed like a no-win situation…
“Sure, I can give you a ride,” I said.
I wasn’t sure why I had agreed to do it. Part of me believed it was a moment of weakness where I felt like the character “Mr. Incredible” from the film The Incredibles. Downtrodden, bored and eager to find adventure again, he takes on paid missions without his wife knowing -which, at first – get him his mojo back. Of course he ends up nearly dying until his superhero family arrives and saves his ass with superpowers and they all live happily ever after. I wondered to myself if my superhero family would come save me should I get arrested with a prostitute in the front seat of my car… My initial thought was, probably not.
Rihanna handed me my wallet and tried to hold my hand as we walked back to my car. I pushed it away and kept my eyes peeled for any sign of police. At the moment, everything looked clear. We got in and I quickly lowered my radio so she wouldn’t know I had been playing the Rihanna song “What’s my Name” on my ipod for the past 30 minutes. We slowly pulled out into traffic and headed up towards Vine, where I would shuttle her to the awaiting, lucky, pulsating shower beads of the Hollywood YMCA.
“OK, you know my name… what’s yours?” I asked her. After all, I couldn’t keep referring to her as “Rihanna.”
She took a moment to fiddle around with a pair of my sunglasses I had resting against the center console. She put them on her eyes and turned towards me.
“You can call me Honeysuckle,” she said.
Perfect. Honeysuckle? Could there be a more appropriate name for this fiery African-American fuck machine than “Honeysuckle?”
“Is that your real name?” I asked.
“Is Zachary your real name?”
“Than my real name is Honeysuckle.”
“Wow!” I said. “Like the Willie Nelson film Honeysuckle Rose!”
“I’ve never heard of that.”
As she lowered the passenger side mirror to apply lipstick, I found it odd that she was on her way to take a shower and was applying make-up 10 minutes beforehand. She pursed her lips and laughed at her face in the mirror in a way that exuded more self-confidence than any woman I feel I had ever encountered. It was the last thing you expected a “soiled dove” to be doing. I dug deeper. Fascinated by this workhorse of sexual pleasure. I have always been obsessed with those who spend their lives this way… I love their back-stories and their ideals and hearing about the unique way they view the world. Her story was enthralling
As it turns out, Honeysuckle was born and raised in Oakland by a single mother who was also a prostitute. Honeysuckle had dropped out of high school at 16 when she got pregnant, and had lost the baby during childbirth. Disenchanted with everything, she moved to San Francisco were she began turning tricks for as much as $1500 a night. By 21, she was well known throughout the city and pleasured star athletes, politicians and businessmen from all over the world. She had even once been flown to New York for a convention with top brass at a massive electronics company that we all know about. Finally, she settled in LA, where she heard she might be able to work as a high-class call girl and not a “streetwalker.” Unfortunately, most of the girls in Los Angeles who were in that racket were five to ten years younger and from foreign countries. Honeysuckle claimed she was too street savvy to get caught up in that business and she now walks the boulevard three times a week, doing what she can to keep her lights turned on, her weave silky and her body in shape. It was a story straight out of a terrible movie. A hooker with a heart of gold… I wasn’t sure what I believed.
I had one more question I had to ask her. I took a chance.
“So, by any chance… are you a transsexual?” I boldly proposed.
“Honey, please – I am all woman,” She exclaimed. “You know what my father once told me before he split on me and my mom? He told me the best piece of advice I have ever heard. He told me “As long as you got a pussy, you will never go broke.”
I took that in. I have absolutely no plans of ever sharing that advice with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
We drove in silence for a few blocks as she applied more makeup and drank from a mini bottle of grape Five-Hour Energy that was tucked away in her purse. I was only hoping I could make it to the destination without being pulled over by any flashing red and blue lights. As we made a left onto Selma near the new Trader Joe’s, I finally broke the silence.
“So, why do you belong to the YMCA?” I asked.
“The Y lets homeless people in on a 10 dollar -a-month discounted rate,” she explained. “I’d say 50-100 YMCA members are homeless people or hookers… it’s true. Trust me, do NOT go in the jacuzzi.”
All I could think of was the fact that I had taken my six-year-old boy in the Jacuzzi two days earlier.
When we wound up pulling up to the front of the YMCA, it suddenly dawned on me that I had seen a number of toothless men in the locker rooms, shady looking women emerging from the massage rooms and occasional clove-smoking dope fiends shuffling in and out of the front door. Maybe Honeysuckle was telling the truth… The Hollywood Y was as much a gym, a gravity strength pilates class and a Kids Klub, as it was a homeless shelter… I was about to cut my engine when Honeysuckle instructed me to pull to the side of the building.
I did as I was told, now fully aware that the earlier rhino boner I had set fire to had now completely retreated inside of my body. I pulled my car into a metered space and watched her smooth out her shorts so they wouldn’t bunch up. She casually stared back at me with her hazel-ish eyes and put a tethered hand on my upper right thigh.
“The best thing about a woman like me, Zachary, is that I don’t kiss and tell,” she said.
I looked deep into her pooling retinas. She was marvelous. A physical specimen. Probably no older than 27 or 28. Any man with 100 or 200 or 500 dollars was sure to have the time of his life with this woman – but I was simply not going to be that guy. All I could think of was my son and the chocolate smeared across his face and his Hannukkah list and my wife’s smile and my daughter’s growing Hello Kitty collection. I was even looking forward to a small argument about getting the boy a donut at 3:30 in the afternoon.
I just wanted to go home.
Honeysuckle kept her hand on my thigh. I thought long and deep about how I was gong to let her down… I didn’t want to crush her. I mean, her life had been so hard, could she handle my rejection? How would she react? I was nervous. I took a deep breath and reached down into the depths of my soul for what was the honest-to-God truth.
“Look, I’m flattered… but I – I can’t – I could never live with myself,” I said.
Without flinching, her hand was gone from my leg. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and opened the door. Within eight seconds, she had dismounted my car, tossed her weave back over her shoulders and buckled her purse.
So much for her having trouble taking rejection, I thought.
As she walked in front of my car towards the YMCA, I was watching her denim shorts again. It was then that she turned around and ran back to my window. I knew it… I thought. She couldn’t stand to think about how this 37-year-old father and husband had turned down her advances… She couldn’t fathom being rejected or humiliated like that… I KNEW IT! In fact, what I was thinking was, I still got it…
As she persuaded me to roll down my window, I expected another come-on. After all, getting hit on by any woman at my age is flattering, even if they turn out to be a prostitute… I zapped down the pane and awaited her final cry for my love…
“Hey, Zachary,” She began. “You had 50 bucks in your wallet when I found it, so I took it as a finder’s fee… OK?”
She pirouetted and slinked towards the awaiting doors of the YMCA.
I’ve driven by Tranny Alley a few times since, but Honeysuckle seems to have disappeared. I hadn’t seen her at the YMCA either, until earlier this week. I caught her bounding out of the locker room, midriff showing, with micro-beads of sweat glistening just above her belly button. As usual, all the YMCA moms stopped and stared, aghast at her sheer physical presence and beauty, and the older dudes working out on the machines snuck glances as she sauntered towards the door. As she passed by my son and I, she caught my eye and gave me a silent nod. It was all unspoken and perfect and it made me feel comfortable and happy knowing that she was still around and had no intention of changing who she was to appease the eyeballs of others. Only one thought entered my mind as I watched her move through a crowd of bewildered onlookers.
Best 50 bucks I ever spent…
COME SEE ZACH PERFORM LIVE AT THE HAYRIDE! Tues. Dec 11 – 7:30 pm. BOOTLEG THEATER!