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Friday, June 29, 2012

11: Billie The Girl And Simon The Boy Go To L.A. To Become Famous

Welcome to chapter 11 of Life's Funny That Way, a novella I wrote 21 years ago when I was a junior high school teacher in Japan.
A couple of points... I reference the Mohawk and the Mohican. Even then I knew that there were no Mohicans, and that the real band is known as the Mohawk. Creative license was used to tell a joke, and one of the few times (I think) where I knowingly screwed with real facts. Sorry Mohawk nation.
I did once go fishing with the Mohawk chief about 19 years ago. 
Allan Burns, did create My Mother The Car, but despite that, he went on to create timeless classics like The Mary Tyler Moore show, Rhoda, and Lou Grant.
Oh... and Robert Mitchum was indeed once arrested at a reefer club back in 1948, so he did like 'the herb'. 

Chapter 1             Chapter 6
Chapter 2             Chapter 7
Chapter 3             Chapter 8
Chapter 4             Chapter 9
Chapter 5             Chapter 10

Billie The Girl And Simon The Boy Go To L.A. To Become Famous
chapter xi
Billie and Simon emerged into the dull light at the exact same moment on December 21, 1941. It was an unprecedented event in Rideout Memorial Hospital history. Such as it was. Never before had two mothers (best friends at that) given birth at the exact same moment at this hospital before. You take your glory where you can find it, and Rideout Memorial certainly did.
Simon and Billie were best friends, but neither remembered a bit of the future lives they had shared separately but always infinitely entwined previously.
Simon worked after school, in the only shoe store in Yuba, California. He hated it with a passion, but it was the only life he knew at this moment. He now constantly dreamed of making it big as a rock 'n roll star since it became the music last year.
Billie, the other half of Rideout Memorial's claim to fame, walked quickly into the show store.

"Hi Simon! I need some new running shoes - see?" smiled Billie to her best friend.

Simon glanced down past her white knee-length dress and drank in her tanned legs with teenaged adulation. Her pink toenails poked through her canvas tops.

"Well, we got these new shoes in from some company called Reebok," he said holding a pair of white tennis shoes with multi-hued flaps and panels stuck to it. "They say it let's you be you."
Hi, it's me the Writer again. I just wanted to tell you that years later when Reebok became famous the world over, they dug this timeless slogan out from the mothballs and enshrined it in he hallowed halls of advertising for all to wonder at in amazement. There. That should get me a free pair of shoes! And, if it doesn't - likely - that's okay, because I just made that story up.
"Hah! More like it lets you look like a flake! They're goofy!"

"Yeah," mused Simon, "they are kindda futuristic - hey! I heard you sing at the school concert last night! You could be a professional!"

"Thanks," blushed Billie as she sat down in the store's lone chair.

Simon kneeled down and pulled her shows off her sockless feet. He chanced a glance up her skirt to her white cotton panties "Now that was heaven!" he smirked to himself.

"Uh, Billie... y'know I've written some songs, and, uh, I was wondering if you would like to see'em or what?"

"Of course, Simon! When?"

"How about now?" he squealed as pulled out a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to her. He sat down on the right arm of the chair and tried to peer down the top of her dress, but was actually distracted by the smell of her apple blossom hair.

"I just wrote it today," he said. "It came to me in a dream last night! What d'ya think?"

"Did you write this about Jenny Wonderbrau?" teased Billie.

"No!! I wrote it for.. er, I just it it is all," stuttered Simon.
Jenny Wonderbrau was previously her own unmet grandmother, a woman who is unrecognized as being the inspiration for a certain type of brassiere that would later titilate many a young boy leafing through his mother's spring catalogs.
He continued: "I know the lyrics are overly simple, but the lover in everyone should be able to feel the deeper meaning of within."

"I like it Simon. It's good. Real good. Do you have more songs?" asked Billie, deeply moved by Simon's previously unknown romantic side.

"Yeah, loads!. They aren't all love ballads like this - most are like those new songs people call Rock and Roll! Y'know, you could sing them! I want you to sing them! You could be famous like Eddie Cochrane (who in a later life became the first person to ever die after inserting his fingers into a home computer disc drive and his tongue into a working toaster. In still a later life, death occurred when the placement of numerous cans of Dole synthetic pineapple were placed in a microwave which was then turned on)," blathered Simon. "We have to go to L.A.!"

"L.A? Yeah, right! Me, a rock and roll star? Quit being so goofy Simon."

"But you like the words! You're a good singer! Even though I can't play any instruments, I can hum the music in my head real good, and real musicians can play it! It'll work! Heck - I'll even be your manager!"

No one is sure why Billie just didn't tell Simon to "take a chill-pill, daddy-o", but she instead said: "Even if I say yes, our folks'll have a bird! Besides - what about school? We still have four more weeks left before we graduate. If you graduate, that is," nagged Billie.

"I can wait, if you can," he answered. "And you just leave the folks to me," smiled Simon confidently.
And so it came to pass. Simon, too. He, like a person who once refereed a bareknuckle championship boxing match, barely got his math credit, causing many in the Yuba City Board of Education office to wonder if Mr. Shipley (Simon's math teacher and, in a prior life, a father who would allow his shiftless son to travel to Japan to become a fisherman - part of a story that will be told later) was accepting financial remuneration from an undisclosed source (IE, a bribe).

He was.

Anyhow, they got their diplomas and their parental permission,too.

Billie couldn't understand why it was so easy, but let's just say that at some point in the past, the people who would one day be Claudia van Berke and Imogene van Horne owed the person who would later be Simon a very big favor.

That story will be told later. Probably in the next chapter. But for now, let's just say that even though people have no knowledge of past lives or relationships, they seem to possess a sense of morality that won't let them completely forget past debts.     
Simon had been good to his word, as always. He had many worthy songs, plus a hitherto latent ability as a manager.

After just one day in the city of Los Angeles, Simon had lined up a tryout for Billie and her new group, The Clouds.
Three weeks earlier in Simon's basement in Yuba, three young musicians were trying to follow the tone-deaf hummings of their new manager.

"Uh, I think that's in the key of 'G', guys," offered drummer Biff Handy, who once threatened to beat up Simon in the 3rd grade because Billie liked him better. He was, in his only previous incarnation, a paramecium in a pumpkinhead sunfish caught by a Mohawk Indian who would later die from some unknown stomach ailment. Unlike the other book and crappy movie, this was the real fate of the last of the Mohicans.

"No, no. I'm pretty sure it's 'E-flat'," guessed guitarist Alan Burns (previously a triceratops that would eventually make its way into the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. He was also a Greek sheepherder addicted to couscous and Aristotle. Not the writings, but the man. He also made the closest guess.

"What's a 'key'?," asked Ray Douglas, the bassist. Ray would die horribly two years later when his homemade kiln exploded while firing up some ashtrays. Remember kids: Don't smoke! It's bad for your health! Ray would later inhabit the body of a University of Toronto literature student who will discover that she is allergic to the printed word.     

Just as Simon was about to whack Ray on the head to stop the Writer from getting out of hand, Billie burst in!

"Guys, guys! I've just come up with a name for our group! The Clouds! Well, what d'ya think?! Good, huh? I knew you would like it! It came to me in a dream last night! Well, gotta go! See ya later, alligator!"

She was gone before the band (and Ray) knew what hit them.
Later in Los Angeles, The Clouds wowed the club owner with numerous stormy new rock and roll songs. But, as Mr. Friendly said, Billie's crooning of the love songs brought new meaning to the word 'memory'.

"It's weird," said Mr. Friendly, "but that song makes me want to hum. Okay - you guys got the job! But only for a week. We'll renegotiate then, okay?"

"Yeah, man, sure," mumbled the band in unison.

"When do we start?" asked a very proud Simon.

"How about tonight?"
Mr. Friendly (he offered no first name) was the sole proprietor of Dante's Club Inferno, just off the Sunset Strip. The club was in the basement of the Paradise Found Club for boorish, snooty men who would meet every evening for three hours beginning at 6PM, to try and figure out just what the heck Milton was actually writing about. They never seemed to run out of conversation.

Dante's, was decorated with garish relics of someone's nightmares. Various photographs of people eating some type of pie was present the most often. There was also a candy cane wallpaper covered with a thin layer of soot on the walls. Unbeknownst to all but Mr. Friendly, was that if you were to lick the wallpaper, you would taste peppermint. Of course, you would probably also get ill, because besides being dirty, Mr. Friendly liked to lick the walls after closing time.

The club, seeing as how it was dark and moody, was very popular with the reefer crowd.
With their stomachs in tight knots, The Clouds waited behind a tasteful red velvet curtain for Simon to introduce them to the audience.

Simon, not very adept at this sort of thing, stepped up to the microphone, swept his arms back and simply said: "The Clouds."

The ruby red curtain lifted.

 Billie slowly walked toward the microphone as a soft blue spotlight draped over her silky body. She coughed quickly, as the acrid stench of Tijuana Gold scratched the back of her throat.

Regaining her composure, she gestured for the band to play and opened her mouth to sing.

And sing she did. She sang so beautifully, that if there were angels listening (a distinct possibility), they would have been jealous (also a distinct possibility).

She sang, and the music carried  up on high...
"Remember the time. Remember the kiss. Remember the stars.  Remember us...
Remember the sky. Remember me. Remember the clouds. Remember us...
Remember sun. Remember see. remember moon. Remember tree.
Remember past. Remember then. Remember last. Remember please...
Remember now. Remember first. Remember future. Remember when."
The spotlight faded to black as Billie backed away from the microphone. The lights jumped back on as The Clouds erupted into a two-minute driving frenzy of cacophony.

When the music abruptly ended and the lights flicked off, the crowd exploded in appreciative applause, led by a guy who looked a lot like Robert Mitchum.
Later (that is - not before, though it could be), after the band had finished for the night, Simon was sitting around the bar watching Mr. Friendly gingerly touch the wallpaper. He turned around quickly, as he heard a heavy wheezing sound coming from a darkened corner of the club.

Simon saw a large heavyset man with no eyebrows sweating profusely from where his hair should be. He slowly approached.

"Good evening, my young friend. Yes, a splendid evening, indeed. Yes, it most certainly is. I am Gaufres Ritz," he said extending a sweaty hand that was eagerly clasped by a now-internally grossed out Simon, "and I want to record your little friends, for my label, yes, indeed, little friends for my label, 'Now and Zen'. Emmmm-hmm."

Gaufres Ritz, in all of his previous 63 incarnations, had been various forms of reptile. At least that had never changed. No, hadn't changed a bit.

'Now and Zen', though not a new company, was taking its first step into the record industry - people were not sure if the company could survive, saying it lacked legs.

Some of the previous clients of 'Now and Zen', included: Napoleon Bonaparte, Jimmy Stewart and Ramses II. Its motto is: "Over 1-billion served". The motto did not say if it had over 1-billion satisfied customers, however.
Loading the instruments into the back of their 1934 Ford Woody that had once been somebody's mother-in-law. This fact was eventually discovered by Allan Burns, who would eventually go onto a successful career writing shows for television, including one about a car, that is perhaps the worst ever TV show.

As was expected, everyone in the group was ecstatic - especially Simon, who noticed Billie's nipples were erect in the chill night air. Billie oblivious to the ogling threw her arms around Simon and gave him a peck on the lips. Simon felt their love  grow... well, something grew... whatever.

He slowly backed away, and bellowed to the band, "Why dontcha take a picture? It lasts longer!"

The band smugly finished putting away the instruments and chuckled about their impending future as rock and roll stars.
As Simon drove the band back to the Motel California, the grey sky began to rumble. In the distance, flashes of light lit the sky. Raindrops began to fall.

For a few minutes, you could actually count them as they hit the roof of the car.

"Twik......... Twik........ Twik... Twik...Twik...Twik."

Suddenly a crash erupted within the car causing everybody to jump.

"Ha-ha!" laughed Biff. "That was just my high-top cymbal tipping over."

The rest of the group smiled weakly, saying nothing.

Then it erupted. The sky opened up and poured forth a river.
Somewhere hiding in a white mist that was now quite possibly there, a laugh began to reverberate throughout the known universe. The laughter grew and grew, until the smell of ozone erupted from within.
Arriving at the motel, the band made a mad dash for the rooms. Billie waited quietly inside the car while Simon readied his umbrella.

Simon could feel her warm eyes watching him intently.

They stepped out together into the storm. Simon put his arm around her waist and pulled her close. They kissed. The kiss of a thousand lifetimes.

Electricity filled the air. It felt as though they had been struck by lightning.

They were.

Life's funny that way.

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