When Johnny died he had some unfinished business. He was still bitter about Joey. The two hadn't spoken in years, not even when Joey himself was dying. They had in essence gotten "divorced," sharing custody of the band and showing up for parental duties when needed.
Bands are like marriages, and most marriages end, even if the "end" means just going through the motions.
All of these Faulknerian free associations came from an article I was reading about Johnny in Mojo while I drank dark beer at a bar in Marin. That and the fact that I was in Sausalito, the site of the recording of what is perhaps one of the greatest albums ever created amidst divorce, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. While the record unfolded here, Buckingham and Nicks were going their own ways, the two McVies (Christine and John) were breaking their chain, and people who appreciated the band's early blues direction were about to lose their favorite group to the teeming millions who would buy the record.
For me, Sausalito is the town that divorce built.
I ended up there by accident. I wanted to shift my gaze from the usual Mission and downtown nightlife and peer up through squinted eyes at an entirely new scene, the Marina. I hear if you look hard enough you can just about make out the cast of Friends. But being myopic in a new part of town, I took a wrong turn and landed squarely on the Golden Gate Bridge heading north. From there I wound up at the end of a smallish bar on the main drag of Sausalito, a place called the No Name Bar. A three-piece jazz band was playing "Cry Me a River" in the corner, locals were hunkered down around their tables, and the bartender left me to myself to read my magazine and occasionally refill my glass. The bar was a lot like the town: cozy, slow, and overpriced. Like so many hippies who came to San Francisco in the '60s, people come to Sausalito to settle in, to hunker down, to die.
To my left were two young, well-scrubbed gents who had also apparently taken a wrong turn. "I can't fucking believe you live here," laughed one, lifting his glass to his lips and revealing a very expensive watch beneath his white button-up. The two had been spending the bulk of their conversation debating who should get fired the next day, how many CFOs a company really needs, and how much better a certain co-worker looks now that she has gotten her fake tits. When their conversation drifted to dating I had a harder time pretending not to listen.
"Yeah," continued the guy who seemed to have emerged directly from a Tom Wolfe novel, "Alexi is really cool. Really, really cool. In fact, I even found myself falling for her." He paused, took a breath, then said, "I got over that quick."
So this was the mythical male species I had heard about, Homo sapien assaholis: corporate-climbing, commitment-phobic, overly concerned with physical appearances, and ultimately looking for the kind of girl he can take home to his very rich parents when he enters his "must get married" stage. Fascinating.
"Alexi was sensitive," said his compatriot.
"All fucking women are sensitive," he replied. "It's all about getting that thing and then getting yourself home."
Being in the town that divorce built, I couldn't help but jump a few years forward for him. He is making six figures, he has a beautiful, sensitive wife who raises his kids and does yoga, and he jerks off to she-male porno on the Net every night after she goes to sleep. He will eventually leave her for a twentysomething intern.
I was just getting ready to finish up my Johnny Ramone article and skedaddle when in walked a couple who were obviously on their first date. They were both in their 40s, so perhaps they were also on their way to their second marriage. She was long and pointy, with a sharp nose, angular hips, and an easy smile. He had a precise hairline and John Cusack's eyes. They had met at a restaurant down the street only a few hours earlier, but chemistry and alcohol had already rendered them a couple.
I listened to them learn about each other and share freshly minted inside jokes. When the band played, she sunk into his chest and tapped her fingers on his arm. At the mike was an aging Summer of Love pixie, her long hair parted in the middle and cascading down her Guatemalan vest. She sang a song about a broken heart and an empty glass. The bartender bought the two "lovebirds," as he called them, a round of drinks and I pushed my bowl of popcorn toward them in a cheapo attempt at giving them my blessing. I realized that in a town full of endings it would naturally follow that there would also be a lot of beginnings.