When I was a teen I ran away from home. Not “Climbing out the bedroom window in the middle of the night” runaway. I wanted to drop out of my senior year, skip graduating, skip college, skip getting a job, and instead follow my heart to Hollywood California. Forever! It took some arguments, but my folks talked me into at least graduating. Then I could spend my graduation money on a one way ticket outta here. No one was going to change my mind. My mom even sent me to her therapist to talk me out of it. After a couple visits she told my mom, “He’s fine. You’re gonna hafta let him do it” or something to that effect. To which my mom left the state to stay with her mother so she wouldn’t hafta be around when I split.
That sorta runaway.
1988 was my graduating year. I was still a virgin in pretty much every way. A bored, frustrated teenager in a dull suburb of Denver – Lakewood, Colorado. And I wanted OUT. My self esteem was at a dismal low. I was barely going to graduate, and there was only one shining smile in my life that lit up my heart whenever her name was spoken. Erika.
She and I had been friends our whole lives. When we were little in Wisconsin for several years, and then later when both our families ended up in Colorado. High school was going to be the first time though that we ever attended the same school. I was so excited about this. We both were! She was the sweetest, prettiest girl to me. That’s really all it took.
It was at this time I was discovering punk rock. I took a picture of Sting into SuperCuts and got my hair spiked. I was finding out about all sorts of new bands while fantasizing about being a punk rocker just like what I saw in the movies. My life at the time was nothing at all punk rock. And I idolized Erika. She was into the scene I wanted to be in at our school. Or better said, They knew of her! Erika became a legend there.
At least amongst the punks & wavers at Bear Creek High 87-88. And deservedly so. She would come to school with some of the most outrageous, imaginative fashion statements I’d ever seen. She was hanging out with real city punk rockers too, with 3 foot mohawks and ten inch fingernails. Like this guy, Deragos who had a huge hawk, and Barbie heads hanging from his spiked leather jacket! Serious shit for that suburb.
She was the first in our school to pierce her nose. She pierced her own nose, during class! Half a dozen piercings on each ear. She dyed her hair and shaved her eye-brows. She even had a pet rat she brought to school and let crawl around in her sleeves. She once showed up to school in a hospital gown with lines drawn on her face like she was insane. But at the same time she was the sweetest, friendliest person you could ever hope to meet. Smiles and nice things was all I saw when I saw her.
Then she ran away, for real. During our junior year, her and this loser guy, Skyler jumped in a beater car and fled to Hollywood to be punk rockers, Suburbia style. In this town news of her escape swept across the scene. Every time anyone was around they’d ask me,
“Have you heard from Erika? How’s she doing? Anything at all about Erika?”
They all genuinely cared about this girl who was so strange and sweet, then just disappeared.
She did return though. She didn’t stay with Skyler long, and early into my senior year, she came back to visit. She wanted me to join her in this adventure. We’d written back and forth a few times so she understood how I was suffocating.
Mind you, Erika had no idea the size crush I had on her. Or that I even had one at all. We were friends. Best friends for all she knew, and to be fair that’s all I ever led her to believe. I was very safe. Our family had always felt safe. And she wanted to bring some of that feeling back with her, if she could just talk me into it.
I arrived in LA June 13, 1988 on a midnight flight. I walked out of the gate at LAX and this guy looking like Slash from Guns & Roses comes right up to me saying, “You gotta be Bob! I’m Mark, Erika’s boyfriend. We’re gonna take you to where she’s at!”
This was the very first I’d ever heard of Mark.
So I followed him out to the street where Tiina (Erika’s roommate) had a car running.
“The breaks in this are completely shot, so hold on!” Tiina warned. Then every time she needed to stop or slow down she’d slam the brake pedal hard as she could on the floor, and maybe steer into the curb, or bump up against something like a sign, or the car in front of her to fully stop. Then she and Mark would both turn, look at me and laugh.
Whenever anyone asks me “What was LA like then?” There ya go.
Erika waitressed the graveyard shift at the Denny’s on Sunset & Gower Gulch. When these two somehow managed to get me there, Erika, in her brown uniform was all smiles. I got a great big hug, a dozen questions, and even more compliments from her. But most importantly, her adoration. Plus she told me anything on the menu that didn’t need the kitchen I could eat for free! Seeing her changed everything. I decided I could do this “pretend to be only friends” thing, as long as she’s nearby.
That night at Denny’s, there was this raggedy dressed woman in a nearby booth coughing, and gagging, and throwing a fit over her table of scattered plates. She kept coughing, and more coughing, yet everyone was ignoring her.
“CALL AN AMBULANCE!” She would scream. She was gagging hysterically while the waiter was standing there with the check, unmoved. This went on with everyone in the restaurant trying to ignore her. Eventually an ambulance pulled up. She made a bit of a scene there on the floor at my feet before they got her out completely and into the truck.
“She does that so she doesn’t have to pay. Works every time.” Erika explained.
That’s how it all began.
• The very next day they took me to see The Vandals! I saw lots of cool shows there. Here’s some flyers I brought from Hollywood ’88.