Asthmatic Giant! Tour Diary
By Darren Delmore
7/25/09 – The Hotel California, Leucadia, California
Hellmore brings his alibi to visit a haunted man in Northern San Diego County.
The driveway to the sober living farm snakes up a mysterious wooded hillside in rural Leucadia, California. I follow cardboard signs reading “50¢ Reed Avocados” while The Beatles’ Abbey Road plays in my Enterprise rental. I’d cut a privately booked Asthmatic Giant! performance short at Emilio Estevez’s Malibu estate to get here before visiting hours were over. Luckily, Heinous Chanus performed the last half of the three hour paid time slot under his new electronica moniker Skeletal Pelvis, with his girlfriend on the banjo and the chick from The Wine Loft on synth. It was good money.
Many of us have been in this position before: when a person close to you says “no” to life. When a close friend lands themselves in the hospital with slashed wrists or drug stuffed livers, crying out incomprehensible message board screen names and vineyard sites when the I.V. administered medication starts running low. Like many geniuses before him, it finally happened to Taras of Surfing photography fame. Last week he was found stumbling on Highway 246 in the Santa Rita Hills with a belly full of Herman Story “On the Road” Grenache and a good month’s supply of Soma and Darvocet.
I was the second guest Taras had requested a visit from at the farm. The first was Danny Bridge of La Jolla, whom I was told by the receptionist was never allowed on the grounds of the recovery center ever, ever again. “Piss on Daniel Bridge,” the old woman summed it up.
Back in December at Casa Dulce studios wherein Asthmatic Giant! was recording, there were no red flag indicators about Taras’ now notorious nervous breakdown. He had just come off his “Quality Suites Encounters 2008” World Tour as DJ Ukrainian Cellphone and had an eyebrow raising amount of cocaine and cash on him. Our triple LP self-titled release was two months late, thanks to a sex-related back injury on my part and a number of passionate and drug related outbursts by the front man of our group, including the night he broke my Gibson SG electric across my head over the debate of whether “Hossegor” would be a synth or guitar based jam (he obviously was leaning toward synth). With Taras in tow, we had to rush through “El Corazon de Pete” and “Ode to Poe”. The tracks were recorded live. He didn’t seem to mind the frantic pace, laughing a lot and drinking through a case of Hug’s 2007 Patchouli Clitoris Vineyard Pinot Noir, with The Ojai Vineyard Bien Nacido Chardonnay palate cleansers thrown in for good measure.
Months later during the final mixing of the vocals at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, H.C. and I exchanged a heavy look of profound realization at the soundboard over Taras’ contribution to our album. The wailing on these cuts sounded very much like a nerve-rattled man who’d seen the very head of Van Curaza pop up from his toilet at first whiz in the morning light, chewing him out for not cropping out the backdrop of Lighthouse in Surfing Magazine. Our record label famously canned “Ode to Poe” because it chose not to shell out the royalties to the dead dark poet, but “El Corazon de Pete” became the emotional crowd pleaser we continue to close sets with, thanks to looping his harried vocals in.
As I pass the Mission estate house with its red curled tile roof and the words “Hotel California” painted above the front entrance, I see bandanna wearing hippies to my left working an heirloom tomato field in tank tops. Large avocado trees form a wall around the parcel. An older woman wipes the sweat from her brow as she passes with a pail of water. I drive around the back, following the printed directions from the doctor’s receptionist. At the dead end I see two questionable cottages, and the one on the right is allegedly Taras’. With ease, I envision a crime scene here with an ambulance and paramedics pulling out a stretcher and a news van and police officers raging. In short, my good friend could well die here.
I get out of the rental and walk up, opening the waist high white picket gate. The skull of some animal is hanging like a wreath on the front door, a big black painting covers a smashed out front window, and broken camera equipment and annihilated surfboard parts are all over the place. I notice variously stained boxer brief’s scattered around the yellowed lawn. All is not right with the world, according to this scene.
After my all time most tentative knock, Taras opens the door shirtless, with white thermal pajama bottoms on and bandages up and down his arms. He’s grown a beard and his eyebrows are well connected with a touch of grey. He smiles and shakes my hand, and his face looks normal almost. I feel just like old times for a moment, until I remember what this place is and why I am here.
He leads me in across a floor covered in ants, old Wall Street Journals, cans of paint, Surfing Mags, and vinyl album covers of The Beatles and The Who. Suddenly out of a pile of Orange County Registers something squeals and hisses and rushes by. “What the hell was that thing?!” I ask him, lifting each foot up off the ground. “Oh you know that’s the possum,” he replies calmly. “That’s my friend, Darren.” Talk about uncomfortable silences.
The walls of the tiny room have become one large mural, with the faces of everyone Taras knows plus weird celebrities and obscure musicians on there in a crowd. “So man,” I start and fail. Speaking with a recently suicidal man is not exactly the easiest conversation to initiate. What do you say? “So you’re still uh… you’re still here.”
“No two faces are the same,” he says, repeating himself a handful of times as if I’m gone now, with his wild eyes on the mural. I locate me on there and I’m holding a bottle of Clos Pepe with wine stained lips and my glasses on. I’m next to Elliot Smith. Two red fountains of consumed wine are spraying out of both of my nipples onto the faces below me, which include Casey Koteen from Transworld and Jamie Brisick. A Jeff Tweedy album plays on the record player. I walk over into the kitchenette area and notice the Lex Records contract for U.K. vinyl reissues of DJ Momma’s Kitties on a small table in the kitchen unsigned.
“God they buttfuck me here, Darren,” he quickly whispers to me. “You have to get me out of here.” I turn around and he looks dead serious. His fists are clenched. “They force feed us space cakes at sunrise, and a half hour later they come in, put on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and buttfuck everybody.”
“Whoa Taras, that sounds horrible.”
“They stuff organic vegetables up my hole at night sometimes.”
“Well at least they’re… you know… don’t have pesticides on ’em.”
“I wake up with ants in my anus.”
“Man, just-just settle down a sec. Wait, this is a uh… this is rehab, right? Like, come on, an accredited establishment with… with rules and a business license, isn’t it?” My first instinct is to rush to his aid, but I don’t entirely believe him.
“I have every ice cream on the market in my freezer,” he says, opening up the freezer and proving his point with hundreds of dollars worth of ice cream. The rest of the refrigerator is empty.
“Do you uh, do you really live with that possum? In here, man? They let you do that?”
There is a shift in the energy of the room then, and his face goes white and mortified. He clutches himself in a psychotic pose before wailing “Camel Caps Lock Faggot!!! Bandito Del Agua! I’m gonna buttfuck you Thisismyusername!” Two thick older men in blue doctor getups rush in and push me aside, grabbing Taras and rushing him into the back room. They restrain him on his hospital bed. I stand at the doorway and say “He’s-he’s all right fellas. He’s okay.”
“Visiting time is over!” the guy with the ponytail shouts at me.
“Beat it!” says the red haired freckly one.
“Buttfuck! Buttfuck!” Taras wails as they hold him down. “They’re gonna buttfuck me!”
“Give him an IV of the Romulan!” the ponytailed doc yells out, taking off his pants and grabbing a jar of lube. “Quick!”
“Shut it, artsy fartsy! You’ll be seein’ all them pretty colors you love seein’ so much in no time. Give it to him.”
A green liquid is injected into his left arm and suddenly his eyes look up to the ceiling and his body turns to jelly.
“Turn him over,” the red haired doctor says. “I got sloppy seconds last night.”
Speechless, I back out of the doorway. As I scramble with my keys to the rental car, I hear the wailing. It’s the same wailing made on “El Corazon de Pete” if you listen closely to it. It is in essence the heart of Pete, and that heart is blackened for now, and forever more.