100 Miles of Nostalgia, and a Prayer.

Angelyne, Hollywood Blvd 1995

Angelyne, Hollywood Blvd 1995

Why?

It’s been a lazy August. I get up every morning at 5:30, make coffee, get into my running gear, think better of it, and sit in the living room with a book. The desire to run has left me for a while. My body needs a vacation. I’m not so young anymore.

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Nostalgia.

AC100 was first run in late September, 1986. I arrived in Los Angeles a year earlier, August of ’85. I was a person of some minor significance in the Texas punk scene, or rather what came after it, since punk was pretty much dead and gone by then. I came out to LA because I was tipped off that I was being ripped off.

I had been working with a record broker named Tabb Rex, a shady California cartoon who had an office on the corner of Santa Monica and El Centro, full of weird African fertility art and a pair of snarling dobermans. He lived in a dingy room in the back with his Texan beard Darlene, who apparently suffered from some sort of gruesome gynecological disorder that left her incredibly bitter, even more bitter than one might be living in a dark concrete bedroom, no bath or shower, with a sleazy closeted gay surfer who earned his living ripping off punk bands.

Hollywood Tattoo

Hollywood Tattoo

I was tipped off to all of this by Tabb’s publicist Johnette, who fronted a band called Dream Six that soon morphed into Concrete Blonde.

Johnette was the first girl I met who could drink me under the table. She turned me on to Oki-Dogs, the official food of LA punk rockers and male hustlers: kosher hotdogs, oily chili, velveeta and pastrami all bundled up in a giant flour tortilla and served with greasy fries by manic tweakers who would shove your order in your hands before you were halfway through placing it, even sooner if you talked Texas slow like I did. Sullen, sunken eyed, shirtless in parachute pants street hustlers gathered round the place looking hungry for food, money, drugs, whatever they could get their hands on, especially if they didn’t need to suck cock to get it.

I moved into the Tropicana Motel where Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and countless other icons of renegade excess had lived, in the heart of West Hollywood across from the Sports Connection gym on the sidewalk outside of which were all these muscle-bound Freddy Mercury look-alikes preening and flexing in Daisy Dukes, army boots, and baby-tees.

“Oh honey, I just looove your shorts” the desk clerk would say every time I walked by.

All the gayness made me nervous.

I’d come back from my new job working in the warehouse of Soundsgood Record Imports in Santa Monica, stop off for an Oki Dog and a twelve pack, return to the Tropicana, slip past the desk clerk, lock myself in my room and watch latest updates on the new serial killer who was on a rampage in LA, quotes by AC/DC splattered in blood on the walls, soon identified as Richard Ramirez from El Paso, another guy like me who maybe shouldn’t have left Texas, who looked just like my buddy Tony Offender. The police were nowhere near to catching him and finally a bunch of guys in East LA spotted him in a liquor store, chased him down and nearly beat him to death before calling the cops.

I found a ghetto apartment off Willoughby and Vine that reeked of cat piss. The previous tenants spray painted it black and left enema bags amidst the wreckage; “Rip-off Ricky Must Die” written in magic marker above the bedroom door, indelible ink that no amount of paint would cover up. The place was actually safer than it seemed because the cops were keeping a close eye on the building, stopping by often in the middle of the night looking for someone named Olga who did a brisk business in used auto-parts, which probably accounted for the ever changing assortment of cars stripped and on cinderblocks in our parking space in the alley. The big hit on the radio the end of that summer was X’s Burning House of Love, big glossy bombast from a once great punk band. All-American sex symbol Rock Hudson was dying of AIDs. Every night, dinner for two, $1.69, a single quart of Burgie beer and Springfield macaroni and cheese from Safeway. The Safeway of the Stars. Welcome to Hollywood.

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Jean says…

Richard Provost won the first ever running of AC100 in 1986, with a time of 21:52:11. It was run in the fall.

I had a little office on Hollywood Blvd, in the Outpost Building, across from the then closed Egyptian Theater. Jean called me at the office.

She said “I’ve got something to tell you, and something to ask you.”

“Go ahead.”

“First I need to ask you if I can borrow your white shirt tonight.”

“Alright.”

“Then I need to tell you I think you should move out.”

She showed up with my suitcase two hours later. The Tropicana was full, so I checked into the Holloway around the corner, and then we went out to dinner next door. She was wearing my white shirt.

I’d already called the girl with whom she suspected I was having an affair. I’d been keeping Rachel abreast of the situation. We thought it was funny because we’d never so much as kissed even though Jean was hysterically convinced otherwise and no amount of denial would dissuade her, and so the fact that Rachel and I weren’t fucking became our little secret, the thing we had between us that Jean didn’t know about, the nudge-nudge, wink-wink little pact that made her feel so excluded. All of which changed that night. I had a friendly dinner with my wife I’d just split up with a few hours earlier, cut it short without rushing it, waited at the motel for Rachel, we went down to the Scream and saw Janes Addiction, and then back to the motel and fucked our brains out.

I moved into a place near Pico and Robertson with my old boss from the now bankrupt Greenworld Records, Charlie Brown, who had an office in the same Outpost Building that I did. Charlie ran Triple X records along with Peter and Dean, two other Greenworld refugees. They also managed Janes Addiction who were just starting out and were the house band down at the Scream in its original downtown location. The guys from Janes were often at the house. I remember Dave Navarro as an eager beaver kid just out of high school. He’d say “I’m really influenced by classical guitar!”

Scream downtown 3:30am little deathrock girl in black fishnet everything, huge eyes, a can of aquanet in her jet black hair has me walk her to her car, gives me a chaste peck on the cheek while she squeezes my crotch. We go to Canter’s and then to my place. She’s from Ontario, or Pomona, or someplace out there, she’s still in high school, she says she always has to be on top, she says she likes oral, she says she wants to tie someone up but the high school boys are too afraid to let her, afraid she might just leave them there, says they might be right, rubs her foot on my crotch, she still has her shoes on, says not to try and seduce her, she’ll seduce me instead, slowly, at which point she already has. She says she likes the power. She’s still wearing a fucking retainer.

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Still in Hollywood.

September, 1987. Raji’s on Hollywood Blvd, across from the Frolic Room, propped against the wall, watching a band. I lit a Camel cigarette. Anne slid up next to me. I’d first met her only minutes earlier. She took the cigarette from my mouth, stamped it out, reached into a silver case, pulled out two fancy European colored cigarettes, lit them both in her mouth, put one between my lips and said “Here, try these. My husband buys them for me.”

She looked just like Lauren Bacall.

The second running of AC100 took place somewhere around this time. Jim Gensichen won with a time of 19:37:13. Jim O’Brien was third, with a time of 19:51:47.

Anne. Halloween night 1987 in an old office on Hollywood Blvd, the only light coming from the street neon filtered through the Venetian blinds, slow drizzle outside and she still looks just like Lauren Bacall, she’s brought a bottle of champagne and an original pressing Dinah Washington album. We listen to the record, we drink champagne, we stand at opposite ends of the window saying nothing, looking out at the rain through the blinds because we don’t dare look at each other, until eventually we do, and soon enough we’re up on Mulholland, rolling around in the rain and the mud, 2am, Los Angeles sprawled out below us.

Shooting up, Echo Park.

Shooting up, Echo Park.

She tasted like sweat and cigarettes.

Fall of 1988. The 3rd running of AC100. I was kinda contemplating maybe I should try another 6 months clean up. 28 years old, and my liver couldn’t take much more without a break every now and then. Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling had just debuted. A friend called said they were filming a video for his song “New Tattoo” so I went down to the Whiskey and saw just about every tattooed rocker chick I knew back then – there weren’t so many as there are now – none of us looked as good as we had maybe four years earlier, and I recognized enough girls I had dim and not so dim “intimate” memories of, and the first two sentences of every conversation I overheard were “So-you auditioned for G.L.O.W. yet? So-you had your AIDS test yet?”

I was just a few years shy of 30. I wasn’t dead yet, and I saw that I wasn’t likely to go out with a glorious bang but rather a slow painful fade if I kept it up much longer. Self preservation instincts kicked in and slowly forced me out of blissfully debauched ignorance and into uncomfortable denial. I got my first of many tests the next week. A few months later, the one of those girls that I knew best was dead. RIP, Bobbi Brat.

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A decade.

A decade passed, during which time Jim O’Brien set a course record that still stands today, 2 time champion Dominic Grossman was born, George Bush 1 and Bill Clinton both had presidencies, grunge came and went, along with riotgrrrl, acid-house, buffalo style, and a whole lot more. I dropped out of the music scene and left for Italy after someone offered me an airline ticket and work as a fashion model. I did that for a few years and then took up work as a fashion photographer, all the while descending slowly (and then not so slowly) into drug addiction and alcoholism.

Me, Hollywood polaroid, 1995

Me, polaroid, Hollywood, 1995

The LA riots happened. The Northridge quake happened. AC100 was run 7 times. I watched the riots and the quake on TV from London and then from Spain. I didn’t know about AC100. And then on Sunday afternoon in 1994 I got a call from my mother to tell me she was dying and, 15 minutes later, a call from my wife to tell me she wasn’t coming back.

That was a really bad day.

Summer 1996. I went out with a stripper from Jumbo’s Clown Room, except that we never actually went out because I refused to leave the house. She would show up at 3am and wake me up. We would attempt sex because this is what we thought couples should do. We never succeeded, but that didn’t really matter-it was all for appearance sake, and once we got finished with the couple stuff we got down to the business at hand, which was getting loaded. People were following her. Her neighbors had drilled a hole in the wall so that they could watch her dance naked to her Berlioz CD (which I still have. One day she just never came back). People were trying to rob her, steal her money, steal her drugs, steal her soul, and all those same people were accusing her of robbing them, so she never lived in the same place for long. She had bruises and sores and her makeup was always smeared from crying and she didn’t look so great in the sunlight but she looked beautiful in the spotlight. She didn’t taste like salt or smell like sex. She tasted bitter, and smelled like ammonia. Her skin burned my tongue and left a bad chemical aftertaste.

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And through it all, Ken Hamada…

Richard Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder and sentenced to death. He died of lymphoma in prison in 2013 while awaiting execution. He was just a few months older than me.

I woke up on April Fools day in 1997 after a year of saying every morning “I can’t do this anymore, today is my last day, tomorrow I’m getting clean,” and said “I can’t do this anymore,” leaving off the part about the last day and tomorrow, and I’ve stuck to it, longer than I’ve stuck to anything else.

Jim O’Brien went on to become the Cross Country coach at Arcadia High School, leading his team to several nation championships before being scandalously fired in 2013.

Various runners have “owned” the race over the years. The 2000’s clearly belonged to Jorge Pacheco. This decade might belong to Dominic Grossman, who was still a few years from being born when I was sitting in my motel room, eating an Okidog and watching news of the Nighstalker’s terrifying rampage.

The Tropicana Motel, a dingy slice of rock’n’roll history that was home at various times to Iggy Pop, Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, the Beach Boys, Tom Waits, (who had permanent residence), Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Blondie, the Cramps, Johnny Thunders, the Damned, the Clash, Johnny Cash, Dennis Hopper, Evel Knievel, William Burroughs, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, and the Germs, is now in rock’n’roll heaven, along with many of its famous residents, having been torn down in 1988 to make way for yet another Ramada Inn.

And through it all, Ken Hamada has been the race director of AC100.

Old timers wax nostalgic about the good old days and get derisive about the spandex clad ultrarunners of today (as if Dolphin shorts were any better or more authentic). Nobody could hold a candle to Jim O’Brien, they like to say. At the same time, everyone, including the old timers, rails at AC100 Race Director Ken Hamada for not keeping up with the times. It’s not 1986, they cry, moments after dismissing everything that’s happened after 1989.

A lot has changed. Not all of it is good. Not all of it is bad. But all of it is.

We believe in the force of will. We believe that if we push hard enough, we can force changes. We think if we work up enough self righteous indignation in public forums like Facebook we can bludgeon those we disagree with into conforming to our will. Never mind a million years of history to the contrary.

Alright kids, let’s gather round the campfire and say a little prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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