Jimmy's Big Fight
Something Like Paisley had been playing Scarlett O'Hara's in Hartford. In CT, this was sort of a big deal, like the SF equivalent of Bottom of the Hill or maybe the Independent. We'd only been playing together a year or so, and had recently crossed that threshold from "shitty" to "not bad," which had our late adolescence brimming with hope. None of us were riding out of Berlin on our athletic skills, so maybe it'd be rock 'n' roll.
This would've been around the time of our breakthrough album "Youth in Asia." "Breakthrough" because we'd been on the radio. College radio, the tape given to a friend by a friend at Trinity, but still. Driving around town, flipping through stations and picking up your own tune? A pretty sweet fruit.
So this show at Scarlett O'Hara's was memorable for a few things. One, I had just started drinking. This would've been right around the time of my first arrest. So I am pretty sure at one point I took off my shirt and may've...yes...put my long hair in a ponytail. And, no, I am not proud of these things. And also, my best friend, Jimmy, would beat up the bouncer at the end of the night.
But first, the show...
SLP really was a special little band. One of the lesser tragedies if life, like Cinderella says, is not "know[ing] what you got till it's gone." I thought this rock 'n' roll was easy, could just start another band and recapture the magic because, egotist I was (am?), I was the magic. But a band exemplifies wholes greater than sums. Or is it the other way around?
For those new to the blog, there is an earlier post that talks about members and whatnot, so I don't want to repeat myself. But a quick recap. This lineup would've been Me on bass and vox, Chris on guitar and vox, Noah on lead, Jim on drums, and Greg on alto sax. Our sound? Think "garage band with art rock pretensions" as li'l Patty Foster liked to say, and this being the '80s, the birth of alternative, and the saxophone, and you can add another ska/college/Jesus Jones element if you'd like. (I hid my Springsteen pretty well in those days.)
Chris and I split the singing and songwriting. At first. But like most partnerships, the dominant personality eventually takes over, and by this time, it was probably more like 70/30 me. Which sucks because I was best working with Chris.
So the show rocked. There were girls. Or at least a girl.
And Jimmy was there.
Jimmy Soyka was my new best friend. He was two years older than I, and very cool I thought. He drank beer and once dated Jodi White. And if you don't know who she is, well then you probably didn't live in Berlin in the late '80s.
Jimmy lifted weights and used to wrestle. He was probably in the early onset of alcoholism. But nobody is an alcoholic at 22. He was just a good looking guy with surfer hair who got good-looking girls and had impeccable taste in music and liked to drink.
And he had a temper.
Jimmy came to all our shows. Sort of like Barry B. and the Creeping Charlies. But, y'know, taller, and without the glasses.
We rocked three sets. I remember we opened with Dave Gimour's "Cry from the Street" and that we played this super-fast punky "I Am the Walrus," totally skipping that gay "sitting in an English garden" part. It would've been somewhere between fan favorite "My Father Thinks I'm Gay" and Noah's note-for-note "Sultan's of Swing" solo that the "ponytail" incident occurred.
And Jimmy started losing his temper.
Jimmy has a problem with alcohol and losing it. Last time I took Jimmy to a bar was after my second divorce in 2005. His fiancee had just left him for a wide-hipped Irish chef. He was not in a good space. After the bar shouted last call, Jimmy began looking around the bar, shouting at any woman still there, "Whore! Whore!"
This night, the object of his scorn was the bouncer.
Who knows what set Jimmy off. Maybe it was that the bouncer looked like Kip Winger. Or that his beer had gone flat. Or that he didn't like that last Jesus Jones' song we played. But when we finished it was close to 2, and packing up, Jimmy hung with the band. The bouncer said since he wasn't in the band, he had to leave. Jimmy did not like this, and he challenged the bouncer to a street fight.
We all gathered in the middle of Scarlett O'Hara's little alley. Jimmy was a buff guy, but the bouncer had about forty pounds on him. 'Cause, y'know, he was a bouncer. But like I said, Jimmy used to wrestle. Like a cat, he pounced! Or...rather, moved quick enough to land several punches to the bounders head. Problem was, Jimmy smoked. A lot. And it had been years since he wrestled, and though he was still pretty buff, he was also developing a bit of a paunch. After those punches, Jimmy was finished, winded. He still had enough to out-point the bouncer. So for most the rest of the fight, Jimmy used his footwork, huffing for breath, in-between calling the bouncer a cocksucker.
Remember: the line score the next day doesn't show whether the hit was a screeching liner or a bloop. And in the record books, this goes down at the only time I've seen a friend beat up a bouncer.