Jay’s, man, how could I forget? It was at Virgil and Santa Monica, across the street from the 7-11 where you’d see crack sold in the open out front (the 7-11 nearby at Normandie and Sunset had ass sold in the open out front), and then on the other corner back a bit was the Garage, the club of the moment. Used to be a bar for the LACC profs, the name of which escapes me, and then a bathhouse called the Bunkhouse–you could still see where the baths had been–but all those guys died and it eventually became a rock’n’roll bar. There’d always be some shit band on the bill somewhere and while they were playing me and the Pope (aka Greg, but known to all as the Pope) would suddenly get the munchies and split across the street for the eats. I always got a burger and two milks, which the Pope found funny. (Milk? Really? A big guy like you?) He got two burgers and a soda. If Fyl was there she got her burger without chile, but everyone else got the chile. Better than Tommy’s, we’d say. Everybody said that. Jonathan Gold said that. It was an old school burger joint with seats on the outside and there was a bit of a gang war going on in the neighborhood and at least once the place was swept with bullets, so you kept an eye out for slow moving cars full of evil types. But then you did that anywhere in LA back then, it was Murder City USA for a few years. Hard to imagine that now.
It’s also hard to imagine a Jay’s now…hamburgers are hip things, upscale, odd. And the neighborhood is too, mostly. Hard to gangbang when all your neighbors are lawyers and actresses. Sometimes the neighborhood is so safe I feel alienated. I’m not, really, but nostalgia softens edges and bodies in the street become less dead and more just a thing blocking your way to the Coconut Teaszer. (Though it’s harder to forget the hot air leaking out of the bullet hole in the skull into the chilly night air.) But that was in Hollywood, and Jay’s was in Virgil Village, or used to be, it’s all Silver Lake now. Not even Silverlake, but Silver Lake. Two words, as if that upper case L gave it class. I suppose it does, if that’s your thing.
Jay’s went under a long time ago, way back before the recession, when the landlord had some demented idea for a ghastly mini mall. Ugly thing it is, with what used to be Jay’s now a taqueria. The 7-11 is nice now, clean, crack free. The Garage is now a way hip bar the name of which escapes me…sometimes you’ll see nice young people in line outside, waiting to get in. Kids are so nice anymore, so polite. They just had their burger–without chile, sometimes without even meat–at Umami over on Sunset, which is fine. A nice place, tasty, but no Jay’s Jayburger, chile squeezing out from under the bun, a couple hotter than hell peppers, and a milk to settle it all down with. I drive home now late from some jazz spot and sit inevitably at the light there at Virgil and Santa Monica and remember the taste of the burger, the tough guy talk, the laughs, the music loud as hell at the Garage. Scenes are so alive at one point, so vital, it’s like they’ll never end. But they do, with a whimper, never a bang, like they never were. It’s always been like that, and always will be. When all us old geezers gather round some cheap beer we tell tales of those times, a lot of them funny, some even true. None of them important, really, but we tell them anyway, and sometimes I write them down, like this, which makes them history, sort of. I never tell anyone that I’ve written them down, though. Because memories are fun, but being history hurts.