Mattblue asked about Reed, the guy who tried to cheer me up with his chicken story when my first dog, Kyu-chan, died. Well, Reed died about 5-6 years ago. I didn’t go to his funeral; I heard about his death from a mutual friend.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s like any other kid from any other generation. There were the cool kids, and there were the uncool kids. Well, I was one of the uncool kids–this is why it cracks me up when Sammy and Paiky try to re-assure me that I’m cool. Hahahah, Yeah, like, “Right.” * Anyway, the cool guys at my all-Japanese Catholic parochial school lived on the Westside. The Eastside was where all the phoofy parents moved to escape the urbanization (read: growing black population) of the Westside. The hardcore Buddhaheads lived in the Crenshaw district. But Reed was from the uber-cool area. He didn’t live on the Eastside or the Westside. He lived in South Central, right in the middle of Watts. If memory serves me correctly, it was near Vernon and Broadway. Man, he invited me over once when we were in the second or third grade and I thought I had landed in a foreign country. I had never seen any area like it. I mean, was from East L.A. where all the Chicanos lived, so I was no virgin to minority central. But this was a bit different.
Of course, being with Reed, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Reed was the largest dude in our class. He was always taller and bigger than any of us. Not fatter, but bulkier. I remember going to the corner store with him to buy some soda pop, Bubble-Up as I recall. And it was an adventure. African-Americans–we called them colored back then–of every size and age. It was exciting.
“Hey there, Reed. You practicing with your friend here?” the old white-haired store owner asked him, as he glanced at me over his horn-rimmed glasses.
“No, he just came over to play,” he responded.
On the way back to Reed’s house, I had to ask, “Practice what?”
Of course, in the third grade, playing the guitar didn’t make him cool… yet. It was just a distraction to him and his friends. We would have baseball practice for our church league and Reed would always come late.
“Hey, man. We finished running drills, already. Where you been?”
The dude was always practicing classical guitar, which is what made him even better on electric. And by the 6th grade, that made him ultra uber-cool.
From then until about 11th grade, we grew apart. Reed got to hang out with the cool crowd, the Westsiders to whom he would teach easy guitar chords and riffs to songs like Cream’s “Sunshine of your love” or Steppenwolfe’s “Born to be wild”. I got to hang with guys with names like Meldon and Kim who taught me how to play chess and play the characters from The Man From Uncle (can you say Illya Kuryakin?).
However, at 17, when I found myself in a budding rock/dance band, they asked me if I knew a bass player. I was not the best keyboard player around, but I could raise my stature in the eyes of my cohorts by providing a solid bass player. Reed.
Well, we rocked together for a short while, I elevated myself to the world of cool, as fleeting as it may have been. After the band broke up, we went our separate ways again. And after high school, I only saw him twice in J-town. He was glowing about having been named salesman of the month for a beer distributing company, not a mean feat in a town with a ton of beer salesmen. But I had heard that Reed had gotten into worse things than I. We had all done our share of pharmeceuticals in the band, but apparently, Reed went hardcore, and after experiencing problems with his first marriage, he was on a downward spiral. He had apparently cleaned up his act by the mid-90s, but by then his body was a wreck and he passed soon after due to a number of medical complications. He was in his early 40s.
I will miss his guitar…
* I didn’t reach cool until I started to work part time and then hooked up with some people to start a band. Ref. NLUTE
This is so different from my other queries, but have you lost anyone to drugs? For me, Reed wasn’t the only one.