The Lizard King

Long, curly hair framing an impetuous, sensuous face; a chunky, beaded necklace clinging to his lean torso like the serpents he so often rhapsodized about, this was Jim Morrison in his prime. The photograph, taken by Joel Brodsky, captured the iconic rock star on one of the last days he would ever look this good, before degrading into a bloated, bushy alcoholic. A beautiful man who had it all, Morrison would be dead in four years. According to the photographer, Morrison was blind drunk during that photo shoot in 1967. You couldn’t tell from the pictures. He looked alive and virile. The camera had lied.

Not long ago, you discovered an old picture of yourself, shirtless playing table tennis in the backyard of your father’s first California house, in Santa Monica. Tanned and lean, with long brown hair, you were also wearing a beaded necklace. Was this your Jim Morrison moment, where you looked as good as you ever would? You remember not feeling that way. Like Morrison, you’d been a chubby kid. Those insecurities were still there even if the pounds weren’t. You recall being proud of your lean body but frightened by it as well. New skin or not, you trembled inside it. You looked cool but would never feel that way.

And just like your hero, you would become an alcoholic. You’d also written your share of bad poetry.

Goddess of burning urination

Clap Trap, A small-breasted nymph

Groveling for lust you succumbed

To pumping her indifferently

In this city of women

You lay dregs and drunken exceptions

Routine masturbations

Are cock and ball hand me downs

You’ve forgotten the rest, thankfully. It lies buried between sheaves of old papers somewhere in the garage. But the photograph brings it all back: summer break from college, visiting the old man in California. Looking at it now it’s tempting to think that this was the time of your life. Yet you remember that trip to LA as anything but.

The first night, borrowing your father’s car, you’d gone with your brother to Hamburger Hamlet, supposedly a cool place, according to your dad. You remember him telling you not to stay out late or bring home any chicks. He’d winked. You can still remember the envy in his eyes. Oh, to be young again, he said loudly as you paraded out the door.

But the evening was a dud. You were too young to order beer and you certainly didn’t pick up any women. You didn’t even speak with one. Entombed in a leather booth, you and Jesse tried valiantly to look like you had it going on. In a half hour you were done eating. It was painful. The sun hadn’t even set. You couldn’t go home now. Your dad would be so disappointed. The two of you decided to drive into Hollywood and check out the strip. You smoked a joint and turned up the music. But no amount of posturing could hide the fact that you were a couple of clueless teenagers in their dad’s Honda. You’d spent the rest of the evening killing time, waiting for it to be late enough to return home with a semblance of your dad’s fantasy intact.

to be continued

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