Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section Three: You don’t have to crazy to work here but it helps
Part Two: Three Years Later
“He was wrong” Hannah said to her daughter Michelle, sitting on the sofa of Hannah’s Beverly Hillbillies mansion, with a cement pond in the backyard and servants in the front. “I wasn’t a groupie when I was your age: did I sleep around? Sure I did. But I only slept with people I liked. I didn’t fuck rock stars because they were rock stars and let me ask you, who wouldn’t have fucked your father?” Hannah lit a cigarette and blew the smoke towards Michelle, who completely ignored her Mom, while she cradled her boyfriend Mike’s head in her arm while he dozed. “Anybody would have done it, anybody did. Do you know how many girls have begged Mick Jagger for sex, who have wanted to be with him, and I was: and you are the proof. You’re a one girl selfie.”
Michelle had heard it before and for her entire life and tuned the voice out. She’d told Mike five years ago, when he was researching a gossipy “Unknown Children Of The Stars” story for some freelance internet gig, “Maybe I am, maybe I’m not, but we can’t prove it, Mick doesn’t care, Mom doesn’t need the money and I don’t need a fucking dad, so fuck it right?” The story got written without Michelle but Mike pursued her anyway and now 5 years later, Mike was out of work after another exposes ended in a libel lawsuit and the death of his career and Michele kept him anyway.
Hannah wandered around the room aimlessly, the décor a hideous mix of Gypsy psychic palaver and half-baked nouveau American, steel and tarot cards. When Michele’s Grandma came to visit, she would put on sunglasses when entering the house and not take them off till she left for the day. “I knew this day would come, Hannah. I told you one day Mick would admit the truth, would accept you as his daughter. Look at you, look at those lips, of course you’re his daughter. You look exactly like Mick…”
“If Mick was a smoking hot Cali babe…” Mike muttered under his breath. Michele smiled and kissed him and Hannah began to get angry. “You see, everything I’ve ever said is true. I really do commune with the dead, I really have the power, I am an influencer.”
Michele didn’t really agree with any of that, though it is true her Mom could do things that made zero sense to anyone, that defied the laws of gravity, she was too much her Mom for Michele to take much notice of it and ever since Mick had come to her, interrupting a séance, to tell Hannah he was sending her on a mission and to hang on for more instructions, Hannah had become even more bizarre than usual. In private, Mike had called Hannah a spoiled little brat who had failed to bother growing up and Mike, who had moved from the Mid-West with a punk rock band called the Pagans and after five years of studying journalism at UCLA and failing to crack the local scene, had to chose one or the other and chose the other, had something of the old Protestant work ethic in him, kicked out by life, and Michele’s trust fund. and not yet 30, Mike spent his days at a nine to five job, and regretting it.
In trying to decide his next move, Mike knew he needed money even with a very rich girl, for self respect, to center himself, just for rent –he couldn’t expect everything from her, but he knew he didn’t want a serious profession. He chose life as a biller for an osteopathic health insurance clinic. Sounded simple enough, but nothing ever is. It could be a brutal, stressed out place, and there was no calming influence. Everything was a disaster; everything was a matter of life and death, even though it wasn’t. In a bizarre never never land, he sat with two middle aged black women and a a 20 something with tattoos all over his arm, and they sort of bonded together despite all odds to the contrary.
One of the women called it a world where it was always three o’clock in the afternoon: there was always more to go, something else to do. “It’s stupendously vacuous”, Mike had once explained to Michele when she picked up him early one afternoon, maybe a year prior. “All these things that don’t matter in the slightest seem to loom hugely over the world and the ony thing that matters is why is Blue Cross Blue Shield suddenly refusing payment… I have to stop myself and remember that none of this counts, just hope for the best expect the worst, but what would I do if my check bounced?”
The thing is, in the working world, time passed simultaneously very slowly and very very quickly. Phil had been there three years and they had staggered by in a heartbeat. He would wake up in the middle of the night with Michele next to him, and a creeping anxiety would take over him: this was to be his life. He wanted to be a rock star or a writer, paint, anything, but here he was and if he didn’t pay close attention a life time would pass him by and he would be in the exactly the same place. It couldn’t happen and he couldn’t stop it.
For everything he hated about the nine to five world, deep in his heart he found the boundless dreariness comforting, the handful of close friends, from Monday blues through hump day to TGIF, from drinks after work with people he had nothing in common with yet felt a kinship as unbearable and sad as the “You don’t have to crazy to work here but it helps” that Shakina, his Secret Santa, had given him the first Christmas he worked there and that he poured his morning coffee in. The cold that felled him one February and the way the girls had mothered him, a closeness and handled his work load while he dozed sick at his desk. A family within a family, the culture of work and yet also the culture of friendship, a certain human connection that permeated the department. All the things he didn’t want but was honor bound to be.
Michele didn’t even consider these things, since one of the central concerns of life, making money had never affected her. Michele’s Grandfather had left her enough money to do nothing, a cardinal sin that had inflicted Hannah her entire life, with a difference: Hannah had loved that same Grandfather, her pa, very much.
Hannah and her father were home by the pool one afternoon, her father snoozing on a lino in the pool, Hannah a 15 year old girl with serious Daddy issues, the youngest and prettiest in a family with two sisters and two brothers, she splashed her pop playfully, but he didn’t move and then again and then again. You can’t fake that sort of love, you either have it or you don’t, and Hannah had it and while her siblings did as well to a degree, her Mom was clear eyed as they buried him. Her father was fifth generation wealth and lawyers had forged an ironclad will that left a great deal of money, but no power to manage the huge real estate business to either sons or daughters. It went two generations down, and wouldn’t let either or anyone bankrupt themselves, neither the children, nor his partners in the business, if they wanted to.
The effect was pretty self-evident, all five kids drugged and partied and Hannah’s Mom went from one useless affair to the next, collecting one boy toy after another, even to this day, when, at the age of 83, her boyfriend was 45. As for Hannah? Hannah went wild but she wasn’t very heavy into drugs and she wasn’t a big time groupie, she fucked stars yes, big stars, names you’d recognize as well as you recognize Mick’s name, but she wasn’t a star fucker, she was a fringe party girl, upper Beverly Hills bad girl. Beautiful, wild, undereducated but not dumb. And she was nursing a broken heart, call it incestuous, it was at least a form of Elektra syndrome, but it wasn’t SEXUALLY sexual, she didn’t think of Daddy that way, but as she partied her life, Hannah kept her heart untouched with just pops name on it. As she went to clubs, or slept in her bed, swam in the pool, drove her Porsche, she imagined him besides her, talking to her, advising her, and while she never took his advice, she at least knew what she might be better off doing.
Hannah was 20 when she met Phil, arrested for driving under the influence, which she was but not very, she was patiently waiting for one of her mountains of lawyers to bail her out, she saw him leaving the precinct. At first she wasn’t sure if he was a perpetrator or a cop, but the close cropped haircut gave him away and as she rushed up she grabbed his arm and turned him all the way around. “Are you leaving?” she asked.