A Blue String and an Orange Flame

Thai food for dinner – a staple of my musical life.  Thai food: ordered into the studio during countless recording sessions, sought out in the tiny hours after late gigs, survived on for days after the gigs. My very earliest gigs could’ve been framed in glass noodles – as a matter of fact, I parted from my usual green curry with basil tonight to revisit my old standby, and I ordered the silver noodle soup:

Exhibit  A:

glass-noodles-1(small)

glass-noodles-1(small)

(Glass noodles, with overexposed backdrop of Arclight theatre, Hollywood CA.)

And then, something happened to me.

In one luscious moment, the soft glide of the noodles, the flirtatious bite of the spiced broth, and the sweet hint of chopstick wood sent me back to 1987. My physical person was across the table from Bear, but my astral body was already gone.

There I was in the cracked, red pleather booth at Chan Dara - surrounded by frizzy corner plants and framed pictures of the staff with Tina Turner and David Bowie. I was struck still, a millennium in a millisecond, swamped in my own Marcel Proust freak-out.

Shirley,-noodles,-balloon-c

Shirley,-noodles,-balloon-c

Now here I am: 7 years old, at the top of the second set, up in a tall chair, with my knee-socked legs dangling 2 feet above the industrial-chic cement floor of Thai Ice Cuisine. Shirley temple to my left, noodles in the center, a blue balloon tied to my right wrist.

Between 1986-1990, I had three places I called home.

During the week it was my mom’s house in the hills. In those reluctant, white-out mornings which overcast my weekdays, I woke up into the fog which sleeps on Laurel Canyon. It was beautiful up there, clear to my present mind still, long after the blur of grammar school.  In the afternoon it was golden, and there was a hill of cattails behind the house. A celebrity moved in and remodeled after we moved out…but I’m digressing now.

During the weekends, my homes were Hollywood at night, and Venice Beach in the daytime. Dear God, I could write a whole other blog about the Venice days alone, but once again I’m losing focus... ‘til later.

balloon(web)

balloon(web)

So I’m sitting at Thai Ice Cuisine, at one of those black-lacquered round tables, on a stool, over soda and noodles, with a blue balloon tied to my wrist. Dad and I had been at Venice Beach earlier that day, and there had been some sort of hippie to-do, and I, being a kid, got a balloon out of it.

It’s what you do with a balloon: you tie it to your wrist, so all day long people can see that you got a balloon. The other reason to tie a balloon to your wrist is so that you can hit other people with it. When you hit somebody, it will bounce back off of them and the string will yank it back to you - and then, procuring the snap-reflexes of a kid, you can hit them again! And it makes this great bobble and squeak sound.

Over and over. Until your dad tells you to stop.

Ok so anyway (sorry, I keep losing focus), I’m sitting at Thai Ice Cuisine, with my balloon from Venice Beach.

By now there were some teeth marks on the blue balloon ribbon, because I’d been trying to get it off me. Forks and knives had been unsuccessful. I think they had different limits on plastic content in the 80s…. I think the “kid-paraphernalia” industries must’ve been unregulated to a shocking degree. This string – wherever it is now, in whatever landfill, will outlive me for sure. I’m sure it’s 40 feet underground by now, making relations with Barbie heads, and cassette-tape guts. I’m sure in another 10 years the pressure of compacting will breach all containers buried above it, releasing the tainted contents of cleaning agents, fertilizers and freakish modified chemical genes - aging and mutating. I’m sure in another 20 years it will meet with condensed radioactive waste drippings, and begin to evolve on the molecular level. I’m sure in another 30 years, the seeds of sentience will blossom, and the blue string, like a vile putrid spinal chord, will join with the 60-year-old head of “Work-out” Barbie, and lo…the frozen blue eyes will glow…..

(ok Sorry! Sorry. Focus focus focus focus!)

Anyway, I’m at Thai Ice Cuisine, and I’ve gone through most of my Shirley Temple, and I realize I have to pee. The rule of thumb on gig-nights was that I was allowed to wander around the room to a reasonable degree, but not out of my father’s sight. The bathrooms were around a block-glass wall – more of a façade, really – bookended by frizzy plants, which may have been of the plastic variety. This was definitely out of sight, so I had to get a chaperone. Usually my dad would walk me to the bathroom and wait outside, but he was in the middle of the set, so I had to find another grown-up we knew.

(spotlight stage right. The silhouette of a woman, gradually she is illuminated)

If Venus were draped in deep reds and blacks instead of blonde locks – deep reds and blacks, graduating upward into ropes and winding rows of black braids, warping and waving into regimented lines across her head – and if instead of a shell, she were throned on a bar stool, lifted in toxic grandeur towards release of chirping laughter, coyly hidden behind a row of 2-inch orange, acrylic talons - you would see Dolly….

To be continued next week! (with fewer losses of focus) What will become of the blue string, slowly eating into little Raya’s wrist? What is the Orange Flame? Will young Raya ever get to pee? Find out next time! …..same Bat station…..

Raya Yarbrough

Singer, Composer, writer of absurd stories about LA, chanteuse on Outlander, BSG, DaVinci's Demons, & I used to date Dick Grayson.