The card we’re interested in here is the one in the bottom right corner because it’s very much “on story.” (That image, incidentally, was the most family-friendly of all the “vintage erotic playing cards” I found online—some are downright shocking and I’ve seen the “Beaver Hunt” rejection box at Hustler Magazine.)
I was standing in the beer aisle at the grocery store when I was approached by an old, wiry hessian in a denim jacket. He placed his hands on my shoulders and squared me off so he could better read my shirt. I didn’t resist because I had never been molested in the beer aisle before so I was interested in seeing where this was going to go.
The old hessian then proceeded to read my shirt. My shirt said, “Listen To Black Sabbath.” After he finished reading, which I felt took longer than four words required, he stepped back and laughed a maniacal laugh and asked, “IS THAT A COMMAND? HAHA!”
When I got home, I put 11 beers in the fridge and opened one for myself. After a long sip of cool, refreshing alcohol, I put the can on the counter, pulled off my “Listen To Black Sabbath” shirt, and threw it in the trash.
The original Big Brother design (or “no design”) inspired a lot of knockoffs, including the entire “word shirt” style that is still in vogue today. Despite being aware of the knockoffs I was a little taken aback to discover that people are still ripping off a Big Brother shirt and selling it online. But not very well. The abomination on the right, for instance, is described as: “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath! This one's dedicated to late nights in the studio and cranking up the music til the printing is done. An homage to one of our favorite bands we blast while we're burning the midnight oil, we encourage you to try it out as well.” Kooks.
That was a long time ago. Last century even. And that old hessian? It was Ronnie James Dio—I’m kidding, it was not Ronnie James Dio, but he was the fourth person that afternoon to come up to me and comment on my “Listen To Black Sabbath” shirt. I love that shirt, but I did not enjoy the attention that it brought me and so I never wore it, or any Big Brother shirt, ever again.
I have obviously forgotten the lesson I learned from that experience because I recently bought two new band t-shirts: a Grateful Dead shirt and a Motörhead shirt.
I feel like there’s a band in here: Motördead. They play Grateful Dead covers at the speed, style, and volume of Motörhead. And vice versa: they perform Motörhead songs in the style of the Dead (for hours). (Chris Reed, if you haven't already, please?)
Here are the reasons why I bought these two shirts:
1. I needed new clothes. When I was the editor of a skateboard magazine I used to have so much skate apparel thrown at me that I had a massive pile of clothes in the corner of my office. Nearly 20 years later that pile is, of course, completely depleted and all my clothes are in tatters. Until very recently, I’ve been under the delusion that free apparel is going to continue streaming across my desk just like it always did. I still haven’t completely accepted it yet, but I’m slowly coming to the realization that I’m going to need to start purchasing my own clothing just like everybody else does. These two shirts represent a movement in that direction.
2. The Dead shirt is sorta ironic, sorta real. I can name more than three songs, for instance, but my favorite Dead song is, “Touch Of Grey.” This is significant because Dead Heads HATE that song. It’s like saying you’re into metal and your favorite song is “Enter Sandman.” The Dead makes me giggle. Also I saw them at Shoreline in ’93 back when Jerry was still alive. I had an out-of-body experience on LSD. A spider invited me to accompany her down a dark, sinister tunnel with a green light at the end, but I declined.
3. Motörhead shirt? Because Motörhead.
I immediately checked myself, “Now hold on a second, David. Do you really want to become a band shirt guy?” I assume that, much like tattoos, once you get two, you have to go all in? And then the real question is: “Do I want random dudes nodding at me in public and throwing devil horns in my general direction because of my stupid t-shirt?”
Fortunately I did not have to debate this question on the floor of my cranial chamber, because the universe sent me a sign the first day I wore my Motörhead shirt.
Tania scored a room at the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood and dinner reservations at the legendary Magic Castle itself. Tania LOVES the Magic Castle and thus it’s a very special occasion when we get to visit. You have to get all gussied up and wear a suit and a tie.
Prior to dinner, we lounged by the pool and I proudly wore my new Motörhead shirt throughout the day. No one said anything to me. Although, admittedly, I spent the whole day at the Magic Castle Hotel pool and the only people who saw me in my new Motörhead shirt was a family of black kids who I’m pretty sure don’t even know who Motörhead is. Plus they were too busy doing cannonballs, screaming, and ordering popsicles from the Popsicle Hotline to even notice us—yes, there is a red phone next to the pool that says “Popsicle Hotline.” You pick up the phone, say, “May I have a popsicle, please?” and then someone shows up with a bunch of popsicles on a tray. The Magic Castle Hotel truly is a magical place.
If you order an “Icy Mike” they pretend like they don’t know what you’re talking about.
That evening we put on our fancy clothes and went to the Magic Castle. I remembered how to tie a tie, Tania looked beautiful, we had a lovely dinner, we saw a bunch of astounding magic, played the fart button, and drank some cocktails. I’m prone to drinking too many cocktails at the Magic Castle because I like drinking too many cocktails at the Magic Castle, but also because there is a practice common to a lot of magic acts that makes me very nervous: calling on a member of the audience to assist with a trick. I’m not afraid of it, it’s not a fear of speaking in public or anything, I just don’t want to be a part of anyone’s magic trick.
In the downstairs bathroom at the Magic Castle this box is on the wall behind the door. If you press the right button you will be treated to the most fantastic flatulent soundtrack.
On this particular evening, my fear (didn’t I just say it’s not a fear?) was exaggerated by a performer who began asking members of our small audience what their “favorite card” is. He was coming dangerously close to me and I was getting worried because I don’t have a favorite card—I don’t gamble, I don’t play cards, and thus the only card I can really say is my “favorite” would be the ace of spades because I love Motörhead and I’ve been banging my head to that song for nearly 40 years.
“And if you choose an ace as your favorite card,” the magician said, “then you’re a basic bitch.”
He didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what he implied: if your favorite card is an ace, then you’re dumb.
“Okay, now I’m definitely picking the ace of spades,” I thought. The easiest way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. Fortunately we never got to find out what my punishment would be for choosing the ace of spades because the magician never asked me for my favorite card, but the ace of spades did make an appearance during the next show we attended.
The magician was named Hannibal. He’s a very large man, with a messy beard, long unkempt hair, and he is fond of wearing vests and pocket watches. He had the peculiar ability to look disheveled and dapper at the same time. He was also very arrogant and confident in the way that nerds tend to be when they know that they’re smarter than everyone else. I liked Hannibal immediately.
It’s like “shabby chic” for men: “disheveled dapper.”
Hannibal’s specialty is sleight of hand magic and he’s very good at it. He performed a myriad of impressive tricks for us before he came to his last trick of the night that involved a deck of cards. I don’t remember what the trick was specifically (cocktails), but at some point the deck of cards was proffered to me and I was asked to select a card.
Guess what card I picked?
I squealed like a little girl (cocktails) when I turned the card over: the ace of spades. “AAAHHH!” I shrieked. And then blurted out, “I was, like, wearing a Motörhead shirt all day today—ohmygodthisissooooototallyfuckingWEEEEEIRD, ohmygodohmygodohmygod!”
Hannibal paused in his performance to attend to my outburst by raising an eyebrow, then he slowly asked, “That’s the way I like it, baby, I don’t want to live forever?”
“YEAHHH!” I screeched, “THAT SONG! ‘THE ACE OF SPADES!’”
While “Ace Of Spades” was released in 1980, I remember this performance on The Young Ones in 1984 totally blew me away. If you have never seen The Young Ones, I recommend it—although not with me, I know every line and I’m incapable of not saying them out loud.
In hindsight, it was certainly an interesting coincidence, but at the time, to me (cocktails), it was a Monumental Magical Motörhead Moment (Mmmm): I had been wearing a Motörhead shirt for the first time in my life earlier that day, a magician had told me not to choose the ace of spades, I then decided the ace of spades is my official favorite card (basic bitch), and then I randomly selected the ace of spades from a deck of 52 cards during a magic trick. Trippy.
After the show, Tania and I retired to one of the many bars in the Castle to enjoy a nightcap while I marveled at the synchronicity of the incident (Police shirt?). It wasn’t HELLA trippy, but it was kinda trippy. I am always pleased by these kinds of coincidences because it feels like I’m getting a glimpse at some sort of Cosmic Grid that we’re all connected to. We finished our drinks, stumbled back to our hotel room, and went to bed.
Next thing I knew, I was nude and, more importantly, outside.
I had no idea how I got there, but I vaguely realized that I was on the wrong side of my hotel room door because I had been awoken by the sound of the door locking—CLICK—behind me. Oh shit, I thought, I have no clothes on and I’m in public. No big deal, I’ll just knock on the door and Tania will let me back in. Silly me.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock. “Tania?” Knock, knock, knock. “TANIA?”
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! “TANIA, OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR…”
Still no answer. So I walked around the corner to look in the window. There was Tania asleep in the bed. “TANIA!” I banged on the window, BANG! BANG! BANG! “TANIA!” She was less than ten feet away from me, just snoozing away, asleep, passed the fuck out, unconscious. “TANIAAAA!”
I went back and forth between the door and the window pounding on each for at least five minutes at a time. The hotel, incidentally, is a former apartment building, so all of the rooms face out to a central courtyard and pool—so not only was I nude in the hallway, I was nude outside and on the highest floor. Meanwhile, all the noise I was making, banging on doors and windows and yelling “TANIA!” had awoken our neighbors.
“SHUT THE FUCK UUUUP!” I heard from multiple rooms.
This is the pool at the Magic Castle Hotel. The arrow in the upper left is pointing to our hotel room window and the balcony that I was nude on. In the foreground you can see Tania, The Underwater Handstand International World Champion, doing a little off-season training.
The longer I remained outside, the colder I got. Naturally I began to wonder, “Well, how did I get here?” (Maybe I order a Talking Heads shirt?)
In hindsight, I think the similarity between the layout of the hotel room and our bedroom at home was to blame: both feature two doors at the foot of the bed, one leads to the bathroom, the other to the hallway. In the hotel room, however, the doors are reversed and in my somnambulistic state I chose the hotel hallway door mistakenly “thinking” I was entering my bathroom.
I was painfully reminded that the reason I was outside was because my bladder was full. I looked at my penis. Curiously it seemed smaller outside than it does inside. Conversely my gut seemed bigger outside than it does inside. The latter eclipsed the former. I slapped my tiny little outdoor penis around a couple times in an effort to rouse it, but to no effect. It made me wonder if my bathroom mirror at home is like a car and “objects in mirror are closer than they appear?”
As I was pinching my tiny little outdoor penis and crossing/uncrossing my legs all while banging on the door, a young black man appeared on the stairs below me. He was poised to open a door when out of the corner of his eye he saw me: a nude, white male at the top of the stairs. We looked at each other for a moment before he asked, “What are you doing?”
I indicated, with a wave of my hand, THIS: you know, just being nude outside.
I could tell by his expression that my explanation was inadequate and so I mumbled something about being locked out of my room and apologized for any inconvenience my nudity may be causing him. I wished him good night.
He squinted at me and I could see that he was sizing me up, trying to figure out what my deal was. It didn’t take him long to reach a decision. “I’ll help you out,” he said suddenly and began marching up the stairs towards me. I remember not being alarmed by this at all, but rather I was worried that I wasn’t wearing a mask—I wasn’t wearing anything, yet I was worried about covering my face?
When he reached me at the summit of the stairs, he asked, “This one?” indicating my hotel room door.
“Yes?” I said wondering what was going on.
He waved his hotel card over the sensor, the lock turned green, and the door clicked open. “There you go,” he said and wandered back down the stairs from whence he came.
I said, “Thank you,” hurriedly opened the door, rushed inside, and closed it behind me.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. And, believe it or not, this is also family friendly compared to the rest of what I saw—although that fella’s not pouring vodka on a “tiny little outdoor penis.”
The card, the ace of spades, symbolizes a lot of things—it’s the highest, most valued card in the deck and thus good luck; it’s also a symbol for asexuality; etc.—but it’s probably best known as “the death card” and that’s the angle Lemmy takes in the song:
“Read em and weep, the Dead Man’s Hand again.”
I feel like I experienced some sort of ritual life/death ceremony that night because I drew the death card earlier. First, I was born (lucky me) (a Kinks shirt?) when I was kicked out of the womb (the hotel room) and cast into a cold, dark world, naked, freezing, and filled with urine. Then I spent what felt like an entire lifetime knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door trying to climb back into the blissful Nothingness of the womb. An “angel” heard my “prayers,” came to my rescue, unlocked “the gates of heaven,” and allowed me entry to the paradise of the afterlife.
Whoever that man was—an employee, I have no idea?—he is a fucking angel and I am forever indebted to him. Since he came from below, I wonder if he wasn’t one of the mysterious, superhuman Nephilim?
I also wondered if I were a black person in a position to help a white person, would I have helped me? I mean, why? White people don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to empathizing with the plight of any other race, particularly black people. My angel was not obligated to be benevolent, but he was, and I am eternally grateful. (And it makes me all the more baffled by how white supremacists imagine that they are somehow the “superior” race when nothing they do is noble, virtuous, or honorable?) I hope that when I am in his position I will do the same because the greatest thing you can do on this earth is to be kind to everyone and all creatures. I don’t know who that angel was, but: thank you. (I should probably contact the hotel directly, but I’m sure you can understand why I wouldn’t want to expose myself, or that incident, again. I just need to say “thank you” out loud.)
The first thing I did when I entered heaven was take a big ole piss. I had to go so bad. It was like a fire hose. I was under the impression we wouldn’t have to deal with that sort of thing anymore in heaven? Then again it was one of those really long and heavy pisses that almost feel orgasmic, so maybe that was why? Then I slid back into bed and cuddled up with the Goddess that runs the place—I had died and gone to heaven. And that’s the way I like it, baby, I don’t want to live forever… —Dave Carnie
Oh how I’ve missed reading about how you navigate through the world. This article has transported me back into the late 90 early 2Ks where times were simpler and skateboarding wasn’t so serious. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your craft. I think I’ll wear my Danzig shirt today