Thursday, February 20, 2014


Esther's Orbit Room  today

 In the 1980's,  well before  West Oakland started becoming gentrified, Esther's Orbit Room was the  Dive Of Choice among the pioneering punks, artists, and  early Burners who were inhabiting dirt-cheap warehouses in the neighborhood.   When my all-girl band The Screaming Sirens visited Oakland,  I spent a lot of time at Phoenix Iron Works...which was right around the corner from Esther's Orbit Room, hence, I  also spent a lot of time there. Esther's  was known for making see-though Bloody Marys, meaning that the cocktails were 95% vodka.  The place was so  wild and surreal,  I  appropriated a Disney tagline and began to refer to Esther's  as "The Happiest Place On Earth".   Te geriatric cooks who made the best-and cheapest-soul food ever   would be humping  twenty-something  guys with  dreads or blue Mohawks while dancing to Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison". Under the black ceiling which was  flecked -with gold glitter,  Church Ladies in impressive hats would  rub shoulders with  pimps  and  the crew from Survival Research Labratories.  One morning I was drinking with my friend Steve Heck, patriarch of Phoenix Iron Works, as he  turned down an offer of an under- the- bar blow job from a  dwarf crack whore. I never forgave him for that.

These following pieces are from my book  first book, "Senorita Sin"...and were written on the years in the titles.


6:00am in West Oaklanddogs barking off in the distancedown here by the docks, it almost lookslike a post-nuclear movie setBroken windows and burned-down Victorian housesempty lots littered with trashjunked automobiles, overflowing dumpstersstorefronts boarded up with spray-painted plywood

Pucci is opening up the bar at Esther’s Orbit RoomSam Cooke is crooningas she wipes down the barand arranges the retro-rocket red stoolsthat have seen better days...stuffing bursting from the seams

James Brown is screamingan elderly man has a beer and passes out in a corner boothSly And The Family Stone blarePucci pours a line of sloe-gin fizzesfor the crazy rock ‘n’ roll kids who’ve obviously been up all night raving drunk

A rock deal is transacted just inside the doorway

with the day’s first light, somebody spills a drink, a barstool falls over

Percy Sledge is wailingand Pucci doesn’t give a fuckbecause it’s 6:00 in Oakland, Easter Sundaythe after-church crowd will be here soonand they tip real well


The Raiders are winningall the guys are clustered around the big-screened TVand Juanita is up there  too, screaming alongand back here near the doorway, sneaking shots of Scotch “My horoscope said I be havin’ good luck.Said I should call my broker.” She takes a furtive pull of her drink and sniffs:“I ain’t got a broker. Got me a bookie,but no broker.” A man in a greasy navy windbreaker slides in, tries to sell her a camera

“It’s thirty-eight millimeter,” he says “Bran’ new!” Juanita cackles-she’s on her fourth shot

“You mean thirty-five millimeter,” she says.

The man leaves, she stares after himpours another shot , pats her copperfoil hair into placesniffs again, adjusts her dentureswith a discreet little slurp and says, ”My horoscope say I be lucky in love this month…butI think I’m just gonna give my bookie a call.”


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