The California sun is a many-faced God and summers spent beneath it tend to overstimulate the pituitary gland. All that vitamin D and bare skin can make a teenage girl behave recklessly. (Case in point: the Manson girls.) For me the sun was intoxicating, and intoxication usually had regrettable consequences often with regrettable men. The only thing I ever regretted about my time spent with Anthony Kiedis was not fulfilling his request for a kiss.
Just before the Red Hot Chili Peppers bubbled out of the primordial funkadelic onto the streets of Hollywood, the four of us assembled in Alison's living room to drop the needle and dance 'round the fire. Someone produced a jar of mushrooms that we passed between us like a ceremonial chalice. All the honey in the world couldn't make them palatable, but we didn't care—the turntable was eager to get to work and so were we.
Alison carefully slid the vinyl out of the protective paper sleeve and cued the groove. "Wild and Peaceful" was the soundtrack to our communal plunge into the psychedelic boogie, Kool and the Gang our party ambassadors in the cosmic get-down.
I used to be critical of punk musicians who continued to perform past middle age. Seeing my favorite bands ravaged by drugs and gravity made me cranky. Unless they were producing new music it seemed like a money grab or worse, a pathetic plea for relevancy in a world that had already reinvented them. As embarrassing as clawing for attention and small change can be, nothing seems worse than selling-out. I remember going to see Social Distortion at the Ventura Theater around 2011 and being devastated by the band's descent into commercialism. I mean, I was well aware of Social D's trajectory and kept tabs over the years, but seeing it live and in 3-D brought next-level disappointment. As someone who's seen Mike Ness plunge the depths of addiction and climb out of the wreckage, I just couldn't reconcile the gilded production of a mature Social D with only one original member (albeit the most important one) and a pimped-out tour bus (a far cry from the brokedown palace that legendary manager Monk Rock held together with spit and chewing gum in Another State of Mind). Truth is, I was a far cry from the girl who once spent her nights slam dancing (not to be confused with "moshing") her way from the Cathay de Grande in Hollywood to the Cuckoo's Nest in Orange County and everywhere in between. That was the real issue. I was irritated by my own irrelevance and the specter of my middle-aged "curves" being shoved into a vintage house dress. I was grieving.
What a difference a decade or two can make. Last week I came across a few recent interviews of John Doe and Exene on YouTube and the bells in my aging brain sounded. Actually, it may have been the tea kettle, but nonetheless I got it. I got why X was still touring (sans new material) despite John's jowls and Exene's thinning hair. I understood that, though they've settled down, the rebellion and creativity that studded their chi was authentic and eternal and not only still relevant but crucial—especially now. In the process of coming to terms with my heros getting old I was able to reserve a tiny bit of respect for my own journey to geezerville and the velocity thereof. The same people who helped me navigate my early twenties are guiding me through my senior moments. God bless Exene and her lack of fucks. The world's still a mess and it's probably still in her kiss.
At 19, with seven years of hair growth laid to rest in a dumpster behind a West Hollywood salon, my self-image was forever altered. Where my long hair had provided me last-ditch popularity credentials (at least where boys were concerned) my new hair accomplished the opposite. My new hair declared me the prodigal outcast, headed back to the fringe without apology. My new hair talked back to the mirror. My new hair had balls. As I descended the carpeted spiral staircase of our upper-middle class home, I could hear my mother in the kitchen sharpening the tools of her suffering. I anticipated some resistance, but didn’t imagine there would be tears. I wasn’t entirely sure her tear ducts still functioned. Such is the cruel truth about daughters and mothers. And there we stood, facing each other across the avocado-green tile counter. Two petite women with very little hair, equalized by our self-loathing, unified in our disdain for each other, humbled by the power of a haircut.