Plastic People

Somehow I managed to find a fresh copy of “Absolutely Free” by the Mothers of Invention. It changed my mental landscape forever.

I don’t remember exactly but maybe I bought my first Mothers album after hearing Freak Out at the home of a friend of a friend.

At 14 my friend, Janice and I wanted to be in the know but we weren’t really.

There was a “head shop” on 3rd Street in Santa Ana. Janice lived near there and so did Eddie. 

Eddie had a sweet little shack nestled in a well shaded area not far from 3rd Street. He was just a few years older than we were. We wondered how he managed to have his own place so young. Maybe it was a little place owned by his abuela.

He had all the vital necessities for hanging out — a turntable, candles, a little bit of furniture and the sun coming through the windows. What more could you ask?

Why the headshop? Hanging out at stores is one thing you are free to do at 14. Your parents never object when you say you’re going to the store. It’s a public space, a commercial enterprise. Instead of the mall we webt to the psyche shop.

 We were just beginning to feel the need to adorn themselves in a way that advertised our aesthetic preferences. We’d go the the Army Navy store downtown on 4th Street and buy Navy bell bottoms. That was the only place that bell bottoms existed in our town. The J.C. Penney’s still had huge pictures of tractors on the walls and not in a kitsch way. It was a slow-to-change agricultural community.

These days kids have Hot Topic plopped right down in the middle of the straight suburban mall. Hot Topic is corporate fake-subversion and they invite children into their mock-dark hipster atmosphere. 

But the best thing at the head shop wasn’t any of the merchandise, it was the people. Our imaginations fueled the belief that there was something really cool going on if we could just stumble on to it. On 3rd Street we thought we could brush up against “it.” mostly it was just other kids looking for the happening.

Teenyboppers sat wordless in the blacklight room where every inch of the wall space was covered with posters. Occasionally some brave soul would bring a guitar and sit plunking on the strings.

Joe Sosa was the king of the cool head shop teens. 

Joe was a mestizo, a coyote. Many of us in southern California back then had mixed heritage. If your people were from Mexico or farther south you probably had native ancestors. All of the west coast from Alaska to South America had been richly peopled with countless tribes. 

He had long, long brown hair, great bone structure, rock solid thighs from squatting to paint art canvases and he had huevos. No other guy his age dared to be so bold.

Joe was an artist and a star in his own mind and we picked up on his super-cool stylie thing. He made belts of leather and fur and wore them and he’d been to San Francisco!

He was an outrageous hustler of chicks. Part of his legend was that he was the son of an ” indian prince” of a tribe in northern Mexico. Sorta lame but just knew exactly what to say to snag a 14 year old girl’s attention. He mesmerized them by the dozens.

He didn’t stay interested any girl for long.

He would come to a party with one girl and leave with another. His rap was flawless on a 14-year-old level.

He kind of looked like this boy, Guy Blakeslee, a nuevo folk slinger of today (I meant to say slinger).

I found his picture while searching for black light posters. He has a band called Entrance and an album called “Prayer of Death.” Check him out at this LATimes music blog “Buzz Bands.”

Here’s Joe now.

After a few hours at the head shop Janice and I would inevitably return to her mom’s apartment to listen to the Doors “Strange Days.” 

The week we found out about the Mothers of Invention and I bought “Absolutely Free” we barricaded ourselves in my bedroom and absorbed the whole thing.

With “Plastic People” and “America Drinks and Goes Home” Zappa pointed out the hypocrisy of both sides of the straight/hipster dichotomy. He laced together the satire with his unique compositions and played gadfly in his straightforward manner.

“Call Any Vegetable” was musically my personal favorite. Can something be subtle and blatant at the same time? I think so.

It was dusk by the time we finished. And as we walked out on to the street dotted with humble homing modules EVERYTHING LOOKED COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

I had been schooled by Frank Zappa. He was the father of my consciousness.

I would go back to J.C. Penney’s and buy a pair of well made overalls, just like Zappa wore.

I stole this pix of Zappa in his overalls and the fab GTO’s from Jessica Pratt’s myspace.

 Janice and I made it to a Mothers of Invention show shortly thereafter. Frank was hanging out before the show and he talked with us a bit. He looked us in the eyes and treated us as if our minds were fully developed even though we were only 14 years old.

I sorta wanted his motherly love but I was a very late bloomer.

This image is from a web page of “pre-emptive prayer cards” which asks the question

“Why wait for karma to kick your teeth in before you start whining for divine intervention?”

 I don’t know who the artist is.

Zappa-based Blog Kill Ugly Radio.

Once again I have tripped down the back alley of memory.

I guess it’s okay. I’m trying to remember while I still can. I’ll spin it into a quilt of fuzzy comfort for your amusement.

Even the Mothers remember for your amusement.

Check this grande mothers site. Flashback.

Next up I’ll think about Frank and the Girls. You know who.

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One Response to “Plastic People”

  1. […] vs The Seeds, 9th Grade War The day I published my Mothers of Invention post I checked into my Etsy shop and found that I had sold a print of my freshly cropped Frank […]

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