Back Door Man
You men eat your dinner
Eat your pork and beans
I eat more chicken
Than any man ever seen, yeah, yeah
I’m a back door man, wha
The men don’t know
But the little girls understand
“What the hell is that chicken line about?” Rick asked, turning down the volume on the SUV’s stereo.
“Jim loved his double-entendre, man. Underage girls, maybe? It’s a Howling Wolf song anyhow,” Chris said.
They were in an alley in Venice Beach, wondering how the night got so fucked up. It was 5am. Just ahead was the rooftop where Morrison once spent the summer, or so Rick claimed. Their hostel was a few blocks away. If the LAPD was looking for them, that’s where they’d be.
It went south early that night, when the Dutch girls offered to make pancakes for everybody. The girls asked Rick and Chris for mushrooms to put in the pancakes. They obliged because, well, the Dutch chicks were hot. Eating so much psilocybin, however, probably wasn’t a good idea.
But the insanity really began a few months ago, in NYC.
Chris pushed the buzzer and shuffled in a circle, nervously looking at his feet. The apartment on East 10th Street was ridiculous–three stories linked by interior staircases. How much did a place like that cost?
John was a cool guy. But his place was usually filled with suck-ups–people passed out on couches or smoking weed on the balcony. The door clicked, Chris walked in and got on the elevator.
His coworkers were always yapping about wild nights at the clubs. Ecstasy, coke, whatever. But he never saw any of the drugs. And as a 24-year-old in bachelor’s paradise, that wasn’t cool. So Chris asked around until someone gave him John’s number.
The first time he went there, Chris asked for two hits of E. John laughed and pulled a plastic tub of cocaine out from under his bed.
“I sell to other dealers, guy. You’re wasting my time.” But something about Chris made John change his mind. For one thing, he seemed normal. And while John was sure the kid wasn’t a cop, he asked good questions. Everyone wanted something from him, but nobody was genuinely curious about John.
Chris even came to see his band play out. And somehow they became buddies, of a sort.
The condo’s front door was ajar. Pasted around the doorknob were three Fraternal Order of Police stickers, the kind you put on your car to get out of a ticket. Chris walked in and saw John coming down a glass staircase.
“So I lost my job. What can I get for my last paycheck?”
Chris had worked as an entry-level research analyst for a Wall Street firm. The money was good but the job sucked. Then the recession hit. If he hadn’t been laid-off he probably would’ve been fired soon, and all he felt was relief at being let go. Over the last few days he found someone to sublet his room in Williamsburg, and decided to drive across country. Today was his last day on the job, and he’d jumped on the subway and headed to the East Village right after work. He was still wearing a tie.
John’s first reaction was sympathy. But he knew Chris hated his job, and the idea of a roadtrip–just packing up and getting the fuck out of Dodge–gave him a vicarious thrill.
“Keep the paycheck. I’ve got something special for you.”
An hour later Chris walked out into the delirious energy of a Friday in Manhattan. It was that first spring weekend, and it felt like everyone was going to hit the town that night. He had several ounces of weed in his bike-messenger’s bag, a thick pouch stuffed with mushrooms, 40 hits of E and two tabs of acid.
Rick walked into the hostel’s group bedroom and saw the shady New Jersey kid peering into their guitar case.
“Sorry, man. I just wanted to strum a bit,” he said.
After mumbling something, Rick closed the case. He saw the bag of pills sitting in the open, next to the tuner.
The mushrooms had kicked in a while ago. Rick grabbed the bag, went downstairs and joined Chris at the billiards table. While he stared at the wood and watched the grain patterns swirl, he told Chris what he saw in their room.
After dinner several people had asked to buy drugs off of them. They sold a few hits of E and some weed, but not much. Why? Because it just felt better than saying no. Then the Aussie couple asked Chris where they could score heroin. He told them he had no idea, and the guy winked at him.
They were mostly incapacitated at this point, but Chris kept his cool. He settled Rick down, and a few minutes later saw him dancing with a skeazy looking woman. She was wearing some sort of lace top, and even on shrooms Chris could tell she was a prostitute. Rick couldn’t tell, apparently.
Over the next hour several people approached Chris, but he didn’t say much. His thoughts were jumbled, and it was impossible to talk. The silent guy at the back of the pool room looked like he was up to no good.
The word had spread quickly in the hostel. Two guys from Brooklyn were passing through town and looking to sell drugs to backpackers and club kids. They hadn’t done anything to dissuade that impression.
Chris could feel their eyes. Most of they guys were intimidated. Girls too, but he liked how a few of them looked at him. As the mushrooms tugged at his brain, he realized his subconscious wanted people to think he was off-the-tracks–cool and a little dangerous.
He thought about John’s 9mm and put on his iPod’s headphones, settling back into his chair.
It was dark on the beach. A group of teenagers ran by and startled Rick and the girl, Candy. He grabbed her hand and walked faster. Then he saw a movement up the beach. The shadow was a person, lying against a chainlink fence.
Candy pulled his hand and kissed him. Tobacco. But he liked it.
“Hey, so I hear you’ve got a hook-up,” she said.
“Huh?” he said, and frantically scanned the beach. LAX was to his left. He could see a series of lights stretching out into the Pacific. The flightpath–big jets from Singapore and Tokyo.
She rolled her eyes and leaned back her head. All he could see was the whites of her eyes.
“Junk, man. Horse. I’ll suck your dick for some. Right here.”
Rick heard the desperation in her voice, and it hit him like a gut punch–she’d be dead soon.
Then he was gone, sprinting and stumbling across the beach. He heard her yelling after him.
Chris was in his room, packing their drugs into his backpack when Rick burst in. He was speaking jibberish and practically hyperventilating.
“She’s a whore. Fuck!”
“I told you that, dipshit,” Chris said, locking the front door. Rick walked into the bathroom, got in the shower and drew the curtain.
Then they heard her voice in the hall. “Rick’s the man!” she yelled, banging on doors. Rick froze while Chris turned out the light and pressed his ear against the door.
She knocked on their door, screamed, and kept on moving. Then it was quiet again, but not for long. They were sitting in the dark, silently, when there was another knock on the door.
“Rick, are you in there?” It was the girl from the front desk, the cute one who had flirted with Chris earlier.
“Nope, just me, taking a dump,” he said, immediately regretting it.
“Look, I know Rick’s in there. Salepo says you guys can’t bring your women in here. The cops are strict about prostitution.”
Jesus. Everybody thought they were dealing, which was kind of true, and now they thought Rick was a pimp. Chris thought he heard a whimper from the shower.
“Okay. Whatever,” was all he could say. And he heard her walk down the hall. He surprised himself by laughing.
Chris then packed up the rest of their gear. He put on his backpack, and threw the guitar at Rick. It took a while to get him out of the shower. He’d gone almost catatonic. But a few minutes later they were on their way out, down the hall, the back stairwell and past the front desk.
Salepo was looking out the front door. Flashing blue and red lights illuminated his face. He was a big man, with a massive amount of hair.
“Had to call the cops on your girl. She was totally out of it.”
“Uhh, sorry about that,” Chris said.
“Don’t sweat it. No more ladies though, okay?”
“Yep. Got you.” He could feel Rick twitching next to him.
“But listen, Chris, I want you to know that we’re glad you’re here. Seriously. You’re good for business,” he said, clapping Rick on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about paying anymore. It’s on us. So what’s the deal, you got errands to run?”
“Something like that,” he said with a smile, and walked out into the night.
They both loved the Doors. Chris had read in Esquire that nobody past their teenage years should listen to Jim Morrison. Then again, Esquire also pushed $700 Italian wingtips. Good magazine, though.
The mushrooms had pretty much worn off. “The End” was at that incredible part, after the climax, when only a soft high-hat and keyboard bass emerge from the chaos. There was a subtle glow to the sky, and Chris heard a bird chirp.
“I’ve seen enough of LA. How about you?” Rick was sitting shotgun, half asleep. He nodded.
“So where to? Big Sur? San Luis Obispo? SF?” Chris said as he started the car, and pulled out of the alley.
“And more importantly, who do we want to be today?”