PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

6: Shaddup-a you face!

Some people took me out to eat. I was hungry. It had been a while since I’d actually eaten a meal of any kind. So I was quiet, and happy to be in the little Italian restaurant.

The tables were spread with those red and white checked plastic tablecloths, a water glass full of breadsticks, and a mesh covered wine bottle with a white candle in the top. The waiters were older, traditional, sporting the red cotton aprons, and white shirts, with slicked back hair. They treated us with calm courtesy, despite our vile appearance. It was really nice.

Everyone was mellow from the red wine, when Maude ordered it they asked for her ID, but not anyone else, so we all got to get a little buzz on while we scarfed the bread sticks, and looked over the tri-fold plastic coated menus.

I did my famous get quiet and feel sorry for myself because I don’t have any money but I’m fucking starving routine. Where I wait until everyone has announced what they are going to eat, Maude was getting veal, so was Thayne, Maude’s best friend was getting spaghetti with meat balls, and Juliet and Catherine decided to split a plate of linguini.

Then I say a little too loud something like “How much do you think a small salad is going to cost?”

And if that doesn’t spark the right fire I’d say, “Do you think they’ll let me just sit here and eat bread sticks?”

Then if there’s a mention of a per person minimum on the menu (happily pointed out to me wherever appropriate) I’d make like I was getting up, and fully prepared to meet everyone outside after they were don eating.

Someone usually said something like “What’s the matter, don’t have enough money?”

I’d look down and say something like “It’s cool. I’ll just meet you after.”

And Maude, or some other person with a job and a soft spot for me would say, “How much do you need?”

But I’d pretend not to hear, and start grabbing my shit.

Eventually someone would come through and just say it “I’ll buy you something, sit down.” Which I never had any trouble hearing.

So we’re punk, and we’re drunk, and we’re eating for free at this cozy little place, and everything’s going just fine. I’m making quite a bit more time with Maude than I’d thought I’d be able to do after we got together a few months earlier.

I was totally into her, and we’d been hanging out for a few days. I finally got her to let me stay at her place, and she actually said out loud that she knew she was going to regret it. I laughed. We ate all her food, drank all her booze, and then lay in bed together smoking. I started to make out with her, and softly feel around on her when she gets up and says “I gotta pee.”

The idea that women urinated and took dumps always ruined everything for me. Like a pretty friend who can’t stop talking about her period or her cramps. Just took the magic right out of the room. So the heat was off.

Then I went to go down on her, my only real skill as a junkie lover, and she firmly pulled me back up to her chest and said “No, no no…”

I was really confused. So I actually asked her “Why not?”

She paused for a second, exhaled sharply and said, “Because I know you don’t want a mouth full of contraceptive jelly.”

She seemed really frustrated with me. Short. Like I’d really blown it. So I agreed that I didn’t want a mouth full of that, and just kinda cuddled with her and went to sleep.

We hadn’t spoken since. Although we had spent some time together with other people around. Gone to a couple shows. Just regular hanging around. And tonight she was talking to me. Looking at me. I was glad.

Then this song comes on the fifties style stainless steel juke box where the guy plays the accordion and sings “What’s-a-matta you? It’s-a-not so bad, It’s-a-nice-a-place, So, shaddap-a-you face!” And no one could believe it.

So I throw a few quarters into the machine and set it to play over and over and we all start singing along to it. The restaurant lit right up. Everyone was singing along. It was as if we all felt a sense of communion in the warm glow of an immigrant’s tale of coming to America and being slapped around by his a-mamma.

The good cheer and brotherhood seemed to flow on tap, and drizzle out of the olive oil bottles onto the floor. We were swimming in it, there were barrels of it, and plenty to spare.

One woman, a slight, mousey, librarian of a lady in a Romanian peasant’s blouse and dog hair maxi got up onto the table top and began a rousing can-can routine. Everyone cheered their heads off. The waiters roared through the room with fresh white cloths swinging over their arms pouring free wine for everyone. The manager, a perfectly round man without a neck or a waist, and a bristling mitt of hair on his head, burst out with an operatic baritone which drove the three dozen guests into a euphoric frenzy of Italian delights.

Of course that’s a lie. But I tell you, if there were any justice in the world that’s exactly how it woulda been.

In some places the drunken restaurant sing-a-long is tradition. I’ve seen it happen spontaneously all over the UK, or anywhere British people go on holiday, but not in Berkeley. In fact, it you might risk your personal safety (or at least your reputation) by singing anything out loud, anywhere, at any time. Unless, of course, you are an isolated, and delicate flower of an art student, with a slightly too thick of a hair braid, and look just a little wrong in your beige body suit and clogs. Maybe then you’d get away with it. But probably only if you’re singing some folksy type tune that no one knows.

I remember standing in the import isle of Odyssey Records, they’d been playing the Negative Trend track off of the ‘Tooth and Nail’ compilation, and this fucking hippy lady in a leotard and pleated denim skirt just walks behind the counter and turns it off. That was bad. Really bad. But what made it the worst was that she put on some stupid fucking feel-good earth brother music where the singer is singing about “jammin’.” Fuck I was pissed.

Then she starts singing along. “I wanna’ jammin’ with you…

Jesus fucked a money’s ass. Shit. It was like someone lit my head on fire. I just didn’t know what to do. I had a half a fountain coke, a knife, a loose chain and I was on fire. I walked up to the counter and just stared at this lady. She had her goddamn eyes closed and was doing that lame hippie dance where you stand in one place and flop your arms around all limp. Fuck I hated this lady.

So when I realized that I was not going to be able to burn a hole into her with my mind, I said “Hey hippie!”

But she didn’t stop her hairy-legged gyrations.

So I said, “Excuse me!”

But nothing happened. I was fiddling around with the crap in my pockets, trying to figure out what I could throw at her, when some other guy came up to me and asked “Is there something I can help you with?”

He was one of those ‘eight is enough’ looking guys. Like the sort of dude that might perform best with a glass of milk, sitting under an apple tree. But he was also sort of big. So I said “no… Forget it.” and sloped out of the store and stood outside for a while. Eventually I just left.

Back at the restaurant, what really happened was that I liked the ‘What’s-a-madda-you’ song a lot. Especially the spoken riffs as the song faded out where the singer says, “Ay! What’s-a-madda-you, eh? You shaddap-a-you face and eat you s’getti like a good boy, anh?” That part really killed me. But by the fourth play through, the staff had had enough of my annoying little tricks and unplugged the jukebox.

I was angry about it, but my companions glared at me, and so I didn’t get up and plug it back in like I’d intuitively thought to do. So I pouted instead. Didn’t say thank you to Maude for buying my some spaghetti, and stole the tip off the table.

The plan that night was to go to some show at the Savoy Tivoli. The Young Marble Giants were playing, and I really wanted to go. But when we got over there nothing was happening. The place was closed. It was only 11 or so, and we hung around. Eventually it seemed like it was off. So we cruised around the city in Maude’s car.

She had a pale grey mustang, hardtop. It had a nice back seat. You could just sit back there, all slung low, and peek out the windows. It was a nice ride.

I hadn’t been able to get that song out of my head. So I was shouting “Ay! What’s-a-matta-you?” at people out the window. At first everyone thought it was funny. Some of them joined me. We’d shout it together at a stoplight, and then peel out and roar through the intersection, laughing. Great fun.

As the night started to get old, we headed back up Market Street toward the bridge. We were stopped across the street from Zim’s, and I spotted these three guys with shower caps on in the cross walk.

I said, “Check out those guys in the shower caps!” But no one seemed to mind them.

So I rolled down the window, stuck my head out and shouted “Ay! What’s-a-matta you? You shaddap-a-you face an eat you s’getti like a good boys!” complete with the Italian hand gesture. Everyone in the car busted up laughing.

Then the guys bolted across the street toward the car. The general consensus was “Oh shit!” Everyone started rolling up their windows. The three lowriders reached my window, as it was just about half way up. A short, stubby hand reached in the window and grabbed at me. Juliet started smacking at the hand, and then pounding it, trying to get it to let go. I just kept rolling up the window. The light turned green, and Maude roars the mustang into the intersection. But the guy hangs on to the window, and slings his leg up onto the back of the car.

Maude starts shouting “God dammit you fucker!” She meant me. “This is the last fucking time you are going to get me into trouble so fucking help me you son of a bitch, cock sucker, fuck!”

I was hurt, frightened and thinking “What did I do? Shit this ass hole is hanging on the roof of the car shouting in Spanish! Fuck.” but I didn’t say anything. I just sat there watching this guy in the shower cap freaking the fuck out with his hand stuck in the window, kicking at the trunk and shouting.

We came to a stoplight, and Maude’s friend starts shouting “Roll the fucking window down! Roll the fucking window down!” And I was like “No way dude.” And so she reaches back and starts reaching for the handle herself. I stopped her, and said it again “Dude, no fucking way!”

She looked into my eyes with a mixture of terror and hatred and says, “Roll the goddamn window down now!

So I rolled it down, just a crack. The hand sliped out of the window, and the lowrider fell off the car and rolled into the street. Everyone turned around and looked out the back window to see if he was ok. He got up. He was fine. He fliped us off.

Soon we were laughing, retelling the story. Making fun of each other for how scared we looked while it was happening. Every thing’s ok.

Back in Berkeley, it’s decided that they are going to drop me off first. I asked Maude if I could sleep at her house, and she laughs and says “Oh honey…” And my spirits rose a little “I got everything I needed from you already.” And my spirits fall. I didn’t understand what she meant. But I knew I wasn’t gonna be sleeping over.

I looked around the car. I’d told Juliet I was gay when she tried to be my girlfriend, so she was out. Catherine was only 11, and while that wasn’t beneath me, she was Juliet’s sister, so that was out. Maude had said no, and her friend and I had already done it in the back of a Marin City bus, a year or so ago, and I knew she hated me. So I said “Just drop me off at Barrington.”

Without a word, the car made a couple of right turns and we headed down the side streets of Berkeley and made our way toward the campus. At a stop light somewhere around Channing Way and Telegraph I see this flat top guy looking at me from his car window. It’s begun to rain, and this guy is really looking at me. Offended, I roll down the window and say “Shatupp-a-you face an’ eat you s’getti like a good boy!” I didn’t yell. I just said it. And rolled the window back up.

When the red and blue lights went on I was completely shocked. Everyone was. Maude’s friend glared at me again and said “You fucking idiot!. Turned out that the flat top guy had been driving a police car, turned out the registration on the car was expired, turned out the cop was really a dick.

After the cop ran the plates, the registration, the license, and asked us all to get out of the car and put out hands on the hood, with our legs apart he says to me from behind “Now what was that you said to me?”

I said, “It’s from a song.”

“What is?”

“It’s from the song at the restaurant.”

What’s from the song at the restaurant?”

“Eat your spaghetti like a good boy.”


“Eat your s’getti like a good boy.”

“I’ve never heard that one.”

He walks back to Maude and her friend and says, “Tell your friend he’s got a big mouth. And he cost you your drivers license and your vehicle.”

Maude starts to cry. Her car got impounded. She lost her license, and I lost at least two friends.

Next time I saw Maude was about fifteen years later. She was nice. It was good to see her. She looked great. I was still sorry.

Next time I saw that cop was about two weeks later. I was pissed off at someone for something and I was kicking a newspaper dispenser. Three US Police cars pulled up and the cuffed me, and talked things over with me.

“You seem to have an issue with public property son.” Says the cop with the big handlebar mustache.

“No sir.”

“Then what’s your problem?” Says flat top cop.

“I was upset sir.”

“Wait a minute… I know you.”

Oh fuck.

“You’re spaghetti and meatball boy. I remember you.”

“You know this kid?” Says mustache cop.

Flat top cop retells the story to mustache cop. They laugh it up.

I’m so fucked.

Table of contents
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24
Musicology, Errata