About a month ago, I went to the opening of a music store in El Cajon called Guitar and Bass Land.
A guy was talking about how he plays bass in a Dio tribute band. I wondered if there was a following for such a band. I think he said they were called Neon Knights.
The reason Dio fans were there — aside from the classic-car show going on in the parking lot and food being grilled — was because former Dio and Black Sabbath drummer Vinnie Appice was scheduled to come by.
When he showed up and was signing autographs, I asked him if his parents hated having two drummers in the family (his older brother is Carmine from Vanilla Fudge). He said, “They didn’t mind. He’s ten years older, so once he was out touring, that’s when I started playing at home.”
I asked what he thought of the Tenacious D song that made fun of Dio. He laughed and said, “It was great. [Dio] actually became friends with those guys, and Dio was in their movie. Jack Black was supposed to perform with us a few different times, but it never worked out.”
As a guy was handing him the Mob Rules album to autograph, I asked, “Other than body parts, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?” He said, laughing, “There’s nothing weird about body parts.” He added, “I signed someone’s forehead once.”
I asked if the guy was going to have it tattooed, and he responded, “Geez, I sure hope not.”
I headed to the next party in North Park at around 6:00 p.m. It was put on by an artist named Larry. My friend told me his stuff was “out there.”
There was nobody in the open garage, but I saw some boxes with abstract pieces of art in them. I saw a sign that read, “A Tim McGraw Art Show.” I asked a person walking up, “Is that the country singer?” I was told it’s a local artist.
As I glanced at photos in a box, my friend Ken showed up. He told me we were supposed to walk down Alabama Street and look for clues. We were to go into the Live Wire for the final clue. I had no clue what the clues even had to do with anything.
We saw a box tied to a stop sign, and we couldn’t figure out the clue. An artist ran up the street, telling us we were supposed to take the black light out of the box to see the writing on the sidewalk. I said, “I’m glad you came over. The people in that apartment up there were looking at me like I was about to break into their car.”
I called the phone number on the sidewalk and was told to take a photo of myself and send it back to them. This was part of the project. But I’m one of the few people that has no camera on my phone. I told Ken, “This thing is getting too complicated for me.”
He told me they do some weird art pieces, one of which was a table at Balboa Park with a sign that read “Free Advice.” Ken laughed, saying, “One guy sat down and started talking about how he was dating three women, and he really wanted advice.”
We went into the Live Wire and saw a Barbie doll on the bar, which was a clue. I pretended to go up and buy it a drink. I asked her, “Do you come here often?” A woman nearby laughed. Ken said there was supposed to be a video playing. I glanced up and saw Blazing Saddles on the TV. He said, “I think it’s that monitor over there.” Again, more obscure stuff that I couldn’t figure out.
I downed a few shots of whiskey and headed to my next party in La Mesa. It was for a barbershop opening — a bunch of young guys in business. They’re big in the rockabilly scene, and many of them are in car clubs around town. That explained the long line of lowriders and hot rods I saw when I drove up.
The place is called Dapper Jay’s Barber Shop and Hot Shaves and has the red, white, and blue pole out front and lots of vintage stuff inside. Vargas Girls prints were on a few walls. The place was packed.
I grabbed a red wine and mingled.
I saw a photographer named Marla who was from L.A. A few people were talking about her being involved in some big projects. When I talked to her, she told me about something called the “Characters Project” in New York that she and 11 other photographers participated in. It was an antiracism campaign.
She said, “It’s a great way to express yourself in this big melting pot and not get shot for it.” She was taking photos of a few of the guys with lowriders.
I asked one guy how much he put into his car. He laughed and said, “Man, you don’t even want to know. I put in $10,000 the first year and a half of having it.”
As we were talking, I saw an older woman congratulating her son on opening the business. She seemed proud as she smiled and looked around.
After hanging out for an hour, I decided to head out. The guys were going to stay another hour before taking the party over to the Riviera Club.
The next day I got a call from one of the owners, who said I dropped some car-insurance information on the floor of their shop.
As I was driving over to pick it up, I thought about the Kirk Douglas autobiography I’d read years ago. He said when he was a child and his family was poor, his dad would still spend money to get a shave at the barbershop. As a rich actor, he finally had his first shave and loved it. However, he did find it a waste of money and said he’d never do it again.
Dapper Jay’s charges $16 for a haircut and the same for a shave. I figured I’d splurge and have my first shave.
During the shave, they use three hot towels. While my face was covered, a homeless guy came in and was raving about how much he loved the shop. I didn’t get a look at him, but I’m guessing he could’ve used a shave.
Every time one of the old rockabilly songs came on, I ended up talking music with the guy shaving me. I heard a lot of Johnny Cash. When I heard an obscure Eddie Cochran song, I asked who chooses the music. He told me all the barbers pick discs, but I’m guessing everything in their collection fits the theme of the shop.
When my shave was done, he told me it was on the house.
I asked if I could also get a free lollipop. He said, “No, but you can have some aftershave,” and then he splashed it on my face.