Peter Case

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Chapter 8 The Frozen Chosen

 

JUNKYARD LIVING IS EASY TO DO

Danny and I started playing together as a duo, with Bert often adding a third voice and guitar. It was a loose, almost jokey band arrangement. We had no serious intent to make records, play gigs, have hits, or go on tour. We were strictly street: happy to play on corners indefinitely.

We needed a name for the outfit. Bert was voting for The Babies, but that didn’t seem to fit. I thought Beri Beri and The Incredible Symptoms had a nice sound, in a show business kind of way. But Danny came up with three: the Stumble Bums, the Gutter Dogs, and the Frozen Chosen, all fine names, I thought, but maybe the first two, though they fit, might sound kind of negative. So, the Frozen Chosen it was, for the rest of the year.

Danny had natural harmonization ability; he could jump in and sing on anything I was doing: We started singing Everly Brothers, Rolling Stones, everything with a harmony. He’d play lead solos; I held the rhythm down with loud open string/first position shuffles, chord patterns, etc. We’d started attracting a lot more attention out there, getting a few more quarters tossed our way and having a few laughs too.

I’d still wander off for days, doing whatever I felt like, exploring the city, leaving those guys to go on without me. I’d play solo, meet someone, just take things as they’d come, and get to a point where I just didn’t give a shit about anything. Fuck it.

I moved into the junkyard. It was right on the bay in Sausalito, a muddy patch of land jutting out into the water, a quarter mile past the last houseboat pier, way behind the Heliport.

The junkyard was lorded over by a long-black-haired outlaw that everyone knew as “Fish Trap John.” There were a dozen or more abandoned trucks out there, some up on blocks. Danny was sleeping all the way down by the water, in a broken VW microbus. It was obscured from sight by brush and a paltry tree on its last days. I moved into an abandoned yellow school bus, back up the strand. I got my bag from the Edward, stashed it there, and no one messed with it.

Up by the road was a free soup kitchen called “The Open Door.” It was in a tiny, weathered, white shack. The soup they served was watery, thin gruel, with no taste. A hippie in robes named Running Water was always there, maybe he ran the joint, I don’t know. There was an outdoor shower in back of the Open Door, cold water only, no towels, but it served in a jam to get clean, wash the hair, improve the image, before the hitch hike back down the 101 for a big day of street music in town.

Some days I’d start drinking before noon. I could do anything I wanted. Danny too. I remember crawling on our hands and knees down Beach Street in the middle of the day, draggin’ our guitars and drinking out of big bottles of whiskey and rum. It might’ve been somebody’s birthday or something. Though, maybe not. Tourists were walking around us, parting like the Red Sea as we came through, down on the ground, blind drunk, and caught in a laughing fit. I was laughing so hard that time, I died, I really did.

That night a bunch of us ended up crashing around Richie the trumpet player’s pad, in the Larkin Apartments. I woke up on the floor with a hangover the next morning and took a big pull on the bottle of 151 rum that I’d been cradling in my sleep. Rise and shine!

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