Song Of The Day 2/24/2017: Steve Perry – “Oh Sherrie”
The Final 34
Three Stories About Hans JohnsonI’d like to take a break from the linear narrative for a bit, if you don’t mind. I’d like to tell you three stories about Hans Johnson.
That’s not his real name. And it’s pronounced “Hahns,” not “Hanns.”
Hans was many things.
He was a reluctant spiritualist. He was a common thief. He knew how to build things. He had a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook. He built a career out of his surprisingly deep knowledge of psychedelics. He was deeply cynical. He was very loyal to his friends. He told them when they were full of shit. He even told me when I was full of shit.
He cried once in front of me, after a particularly revelatory acid trip in which he’d seen God. He was an atheist. We made tapes in his house. We spent minutes at a time trying to out-pun each other. He didn’t smoke.
Once we went to a McDonald’s while he was tripping on acid. It was me, Hans, and a girl one of us was seeing (Hans, I think). No, wait, it was a girl, but neither one of us was seeing her. Anyway, we were sitting at a table. There was a little cardboard promo on the table inviting the reader to come and be an employee at McDonald’s. Hans started to read it aloud.
“The people at McDonald’s are just like you,” he read. “Hard-working, driven, and on acid.”
That’s not one of the three stories I was going to tell though.
The following three stories are completely true, action-wise. I may have taken the liberty of making up some of the dialogue but I’m sure you’re okay with that.
Hans’ favorite groups were Pink Floyd and the Boomtown Rats.
Gary's BirthdayOnce Hans, my girlfriend at the time, one or two of our other friends, and I went to a birthday party for a guy named Gary in Sacramento. I didn’t know who Gary was. I assume one of us did.
It was at a modest house a few miles outside of downtown Sacramento, right around the point where you start wondering if you’ve wandered into the suburbs, or whether you were still in metropolitan Sacramento.
The only people I knew at the party were the people in my party. The other party guests who were guys were thin, lanky and in various stages of mustache development. I think there were girls there, but not many, and they were much the same as the guys.
The kitchen at the party had been cleared of all tables, chairs, and seemingly appliances. In the middle of the kitchen was an impossibly large mountain of booze. Tons and tons of beer, California (Wine) Coolers, and a couple of bottles of harder stuff.
Everybody was half-drunk by the time we got there. Gary introduced himself and never addressed us again. His friends scattered to the outer realms of the house and weren’t really paying attention to us, so we went outside. It was a cool night.
I was wearing my trench coat from yesterday’s story. The lining on both the pockets of my trench coat had worn away. I couldn’t put my keys in the pockets, because if I did they’d fall into this vast empty space within my coat and it would take me a minute to fish them out. One way you could look at it is that I still had the pockets, but they were extremely large.
Anyway, the four or five of us were hanging outside Gary’s house (or whosever house it was), kind of ignoring the incoherent bacchanalia that was going on inside.
We decided that we didn’t like Gary very much.
“Where did you meet this guy anyway?” I asked Hans.
“Me? I don’t know him. I thought you knew him.”
“I don’t know him. I have no idea who he is.”
“Weird,” said Hans. “Rhonda, do you know him?” Rhonda was my girlfriend. That’s also not her real name.
“I’ve got no idea who he is,” Rhonda said. “I thought he was a friend of your brother’s.”
“I don’t think so.”
We paused and finished whatever we were drinking.
“Hey, Paul,” said Hans, “did you ever get your keys from your pockets?”
“Yeah, I did. It took me about a minute.”
“Sounds to me like you need a new coat.”
“Or I could just have the pockets sewn up.”
“Yeah. You could do that too.”
We paused again.
“Hey, Paul,” said Hans. “Would you mind going in and fetching me a California Cooler?”
I looked at Hans. “Sure. I didn’t know you liked California Coolers.”
California Coolers were like Mountain Dew mixed with the worse rosé wine you could imagine, which has to be pretty awful, because there is no such thing as good rosé wine.
“I don’t know,” said Hans. “Something about tonight just feels different.”
“Okay,” I said. I turned to the rest of our friends. “Anybody else want anything while I’m there?”
“Yeah,” Hans said, “why don’t you bring me a beer as well?”
“Along with the California Cooler?”
“Both of them at the same time?”
“Yeah,” said Hans. “And get a couple for yourself, too.”
“Yeah,” Hans said. “If you run out of hands, just put ‘em in your pockets. ‘Cause you’ve got all that room now.”
“Ah…” I said. “Rhonda, would you like something?”
“I don’t like beer.”
“Okay. I’ll bring you a California Cooler.”
“Thanks, honey. Bring me two of them.”
“Two California Coolers?”
“Right. Say,” Rhonda addressed our other two friends, “Paul’s going in for some beer and wine coolers. Anybody want some?”
“Sure,” one of our other friends said. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“I’m having two California Coolers.”
“Paul,” Hans said, “just bring us all two drinks apiece. I’ll have a California Cooler and a beer, Rhonda’ll have two California Coolers, you’re having whatever you’re having, and just get our associates a couple of… whatever. Your choice.”
“Just put everything in your coat pockets.”
“‘Cause you’ve got all that room.”
“You can carry a whole lot of stuff in those pockets if you put your mind to it.”
“So go get as much as you think you can hold in those pockets.”
“All right then.”
“But you know what?”
“I think I left something in your car.”
“Yeah. Before you come back with the booze, could you go out and check the trunk of your car?”
“I could do that.”
“Thanks. I really need that thing in your car.”
“What is it?”
“That’s not important.”
“Okay, I’ll look for it.”
I went into the house, moved to the kitchen, and loaded my pockets up with ten bottles of beer and California Coolers. Nobody was around, or was too drunk to notice me there.
From there I went to my car, fished my keys out of my pants pockets, opened the trunk, and placed all but three of the bottles in there.
I walked back to the yard where Hans, Rhonda and the other two were standing.
“Here’s your California Cooler,” I said to Rhonda.
“Hans, here’s your Cooler and your beer.”
“Oh,” Hans said, noticing my hands were empty. “Didn’t you get anything for yourself?”
“Whoops! I’m sorry. I was so busy concentrating on your order that I neglected to get something for me.”
“Ah, that’s too bad, man. Look, why don’t you go in and get yourself something?”
“All right. You know, I think I’ll do that.”
“Great. And while you’re there,” Hans said, “why don’t you get me another couple of beers?”
“I could do that. Rhonda, you want anything?”
“No, I’m good,” said Rhonda.
“I’ll bring you something anyway.”
“Whatever you like.”
“Oh, and Paul,” Hans said, “did you find that thing of mine in your car?”
“Ahhh, you know, I just plum forgot about that thing of yours that’s in my car.”
“Oh, okay. Well, that’s no big deal. But would you mind taking another look before you come back with my beers, and Rhonda’s liquor, and whatever you’re having?”
“I sure will.”
“You’re a pal.”
I went back into the house. Same situation as before. Nobody was upright at this point. I think a couple of people were laughing.
I returned to the mound of liquor in the kitchen. I stuffed my coat pockets with 12 bottles of either beer or California Coolers or both. Then I went back to the car, opened the trunk, and deposited all of the bottles there.
I went back to the yard where Hans and Rhonda and our friends were.
Two minutes passed.
“Hey, Paul,” Hans said.
“What's up, Hans?”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really thirsty.”
“You know, Hans,” I said, “I am too!”
“Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t you go into the kitchen and get us all some more beers with those deep coat pockets of yours?”
“I will! And I’ll go back and look for that thing you left in my car!”
“You know what? I was just going to suggest that!”
“Great minds, right?”
“Off you go.”
We repeated that routine another five or six times that night. Just when we’d had enough of it, we all left the party as meekly as we could.
We drove back to Hans’ house, opened the trunk, and counted: Fifty-one bottles of California Cooler, fifty bottles of cheap beer, one fifth of vodka, and a half-bottle of a whiskey unfortunately named Sunny Brook.
They stayed in my car for a week with a blanket over them, until we found a place to have a party with a few friends.
We neglected to invite Gary. None of us ever saw him again.
The AvocadoWe hung out at Café River City a lot. It was a slightly more upscale version of Denny’s, open 24 hours, on Howe Avenue in Sacramento. After movies we’d meet up there and hash things out. Or sometimes we’d hit it when we’d already seen all the movies and couldn’t think of another thing to entertain ourselves with.
We usually tried to sit in whatever section our favorite waiter, Tshombé, was working. We loved him. He endured us.
One night I was there with Hans and another friend of ours. It was either James or David. It might have been James’ brother Everett. It’s easier for me if it was James, though, so I’m going to make it James.
We were looking at the menu. I’d already decided on the club sandwich.
“I don’t know,” Hans said, “I’m kind of in the mood for breakfast.”
“Get yourself some breakfast then,” James said.
The omelette deal at Café River City was a good one. You got two or three ingredients for free. Anything more than that cost 50 cents per item. They had a lot of items to choose from.
“I’m thinking about an omelette,” Hans said. “I don’t know why. I could really go for an omelette right now.”
“Get yourself an omelette then,” James said.
“Paul? You want an omelette?”
“No, I’m having a club sandwich.”
“Do you ever get anything else?”
“You know, though,” Hans said, “I can’t decide what I want on the omelette.”
He perused the menu a little bit more.
“You know, this omelette deal? It’s pretty good.”
“Oh, you mean the one where you get the first few ingredients free, then pay 50 cents for additional ones?”
“Yeah,” Hans said. “That’s a great deal.”
We paused for a few seconds.
“You know what?” Hans asked.
“I wonder if anybody has ever come in here and ordered the omelette with all of these ingredients.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I wonder if someone’s ever come in here and ordered the omelette with all of the items they have here. An omelette with everything.”
“I don’t know,” I said, “that would have to be kind of expensive.”
“Yeah. I wonder how much.”
So Hans sat with the menu, counted up all the items, and calculated how much it would cost to have an omelette with every single one of the ingredients on it.
I think it was about $18. At the time that was an outrageous price for an omelette.
Hans had a twenty on him.
“You know what? I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get an omelette with every single one of those ingredients.”
“Oh, Tshombé’s gonna hate us.”
“No way. Tshombé loves us.”
“The cook’s gonna hate us too.”
“Why? There’s nobody else in this restaurant but us. Let’s do it. Let’s be the first people to ever order an omelette with every last one of these items on it.”
“Uh, no ‘let’s’ about it, Hans. This is your call and your call alone.”
“Whatever. Whoever. I’m gonna do it.”
“Oh, geez. All right, Hans, it’s your money.”
“Get yourself an omelette with everything, then,” James said.
“I think that’s what I’ll do!”
Tshombé came to our table with his order pad out. “All right, gentlemen, if that’s who you are, what’ll it be?”
“Paul? What are you having?” Hans said.
“Uhh, I’m gonna have the club sandwich, with fries.”
“Good. That’s a reliable choice,” said Tshombé.
“I’m just gonna have some fries,” James said.
“All right. Hans, how about yourself?”
“Thanks, Tshombé. I’m gonna have an omelette with everything.”
“Okay, an omelette with… I’m sorry?”
Tshombé looked at us over his pad. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Hans said, “I’d like to have your regular omelette, with every single one of these ingredients on it.”
Tshombé paused and arched his eyebrow at Hans. “You mean, an omelette with…”
“Yes,” Hans said. “Everything. An omelette with ham, ground beef, mushrooms, salami, sausage, bell peppers, onions, che—you know, it’s easier if I just show you the menu.” Hans turned the menu over and pointed to the ingredient list. “I want an omelette with all of these ingredients listed here on it.”
Tshombé stood still and tried to gather his thoughts.
“What is wrong with you?” he said.
“Nothing!” Hans replied. “I just want to have an omelette with everything on it that’s listed here.”
“That’s 50 cents an item after the first three free, you know.”
“I know. I’m good for it. We figured it out. I have the money.”
Tshombé folded up his pad. “Hold on a minute. I have to talk to Mike.”
Mike was the cook who’d been there for years. “Sure, sure,” Hans said. “It’s a special order, he’d want to know about it.”
Tshombé left the table and walked back to the kitchen. James giggled. Hans acted, as usual, like nothing was out of the ordinary.
Tshombé returned about a minute and a half later. Mike was with him.
“What do you want?” Mike asked.
“Look, it’s very easy,” Hans said, “I’d like an omelette—” he brought the menu back out and showed it to Mike “—with all of the ingredients here. We have the money. We’re good for it.”
“He’s good for it, not we,” I said. “He’s acting alone.”
Mike stared down at the ingredient list. He looked up, and gave Hans a look that clearly said he’d served more than enough 19-year-old shits to last him two lifetimes.
“You crazy?” Mike said.
“Nah, I just want an omelette with everything on it. And look—you’re not gonna have enough room to use the normal amount that you put on an omelette, you’re going to have to use lesser amounts of each ingredient, but we’re still going to pay 50 cents for each item. You might stand to make a little more profit with this order!”
“I’m gonna need three eggs,” said Mike.
“I think you’ll still come out ahead,” said Hans.
Mike went back to the kitchen, shaking his head. Tshombé collected our menus. He shook his head too, and left.
Our order took a little longer than usual. Every couple minutes we peered back at the kitchen. Mike was going about his job as seriously as he always did.
“You know,” James said, “wouldn’t it be funny if the omelette doesn’t turn out to be that bad?”
Hans smiled. “No,” he said, “it’s going to suck.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “You’re a braver man than me.”
“This isn’t bravery,” Hans said. “This is pure adrenaline. Nerve. This is the kind of casting one’s fate to the wind that spurred on the spirit of American invention, that fashioned our nation into the industrial empire it is today. So often we restrict ourselves simply through our refusal to carry situations out to their logical extremes. Henry Ford wasn’t like that! You showed him the sky, he saw a chariot running across it! You showed Alexander Graham Bell the sun, and he turned it into self-regenerative power!”
“That’s not what they did,” said James.
“That’s not the point,” said Hans. “The point is that we have to meet our ambitions at their utmost extent as often as we possibly can, even in situations that seem trivial or modest. Fortune doesn’t descend upon people who cramp themselves up. You need to manifest your dreams as often as you find a crack for them to go through. Do you understand? Have you ever read Carlos Castaneda?”
“I don’t read that much,” I said.
“You really should. This is what he said: ‘The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse. The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.’”
“Here’s your goddamn omelette,” said Tshombé suddenly.
He laid the omelette on the table, along with James’ and my order.
It was the ugliest omelette we’d ever seen. It was shaped like a monstrous burrito that one eats at a sports bar so they could get their name on something called “The Rollcall of Fire” hanging on the restaurant wall.
“Holy fuck,” said James.
Tshombé laughed. “And you better eat every single bite, dude.” He walked away.
We admired—so to speak—the omelette for about a half-minute.
Hans picked up his fork. “Well, no time like the present.”
He dug in. James and I held off on our own food to hear Hans render his verdict. He chewed thoughtfully.
“You know,” he finally said, “it’s not that bad.”
“Oh, come on,” I said. “Really?”
“Really. It’s not terrible. The asparagus marries well with the golden raisins. And you get that little kick from the chorizo and the green onions. It’s—well, not good, necessarily, but not the train wreck you’d expect. You wanna try?”
“I don’t… well… okay, maybe a bite with some chorizo?”
“I’ll see if I can find you one… ah. Here. Here’s one.” He turned the plate to me. I had a bite of egg, chorizo, ham and shiitake mushroom.
I chewed it and swallowed it. “Well… I don’t think I’m quite as much of a fan as you are,” I said, “but you’re right in that I’ve had worse. Much worse.”
“You guys are crazy,” James said. “I don’t believe you for a minute.”
“I didn’t say it was good,” I said. “And certainly not worth the 18 bucks Hans is gonna blow on it. But strictly speaking, if money wasn’t an object, it’s at least on the level of White Castle.”
“What’s White Castle?”
“Oh, they don’t have those in California, I forgot. It’s this chain in the East that sells these little…”
“Hold it,” Hans said.
James and I stopped. “What?”
Hans peered at the omelette. He started picking at it with his fork and knife. He lifted the fold of the egg to get a closer look and dug around a little more.
“There’s no avocado,” he finally said.
“They forgot the avocado. There’s no avocado in the omelette.”
“How can you tell?”
“I know what an avocado looks like, Paul. I don’t see one in here.”
“You’re kidding. How can you tell through all that mess? Are you sure you’re not…”
“Waiter!” Hans called.
Tshombé approached the table. Carefully.
“Yes, sir?” Tshombé asked. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, well,” Hans said politely, “I ordered an omelette with everything, as I recall?”
“How could I forget.”
“Well, it seems like your chef forgot the avocado.”
Tshombé groaned. “Really?”
“Yes, you can have a look yourself, I think it’s plain to…”
“Really?” Tshombé repeated. “You’re complaining about no avocado?”
“Yes. I’m afraid we’re going to have to send this back.”
“For the love of…”
James and I hid our faces, partly from embarrassment, partly from being utterly unable to stop snickering.
“I can’t believe this,” Tshombé said.
“Look, it’s an honest mistake,” Hans said. “I certainly don’t suspect any malfeasance or ill will on Mike’s part. But I ordered this omelette in good faith. I’m sorry, but we need to send this back.”
“‘We?’” I said. “There’s no ‘we’ in this! Own this one, Hans!”
Tshombé picked up the omelette plate and returned to the kitchen. We could see him talking to Mike, who had a very calm, yet very incredulous look on his face. Man, did he love 19-year-old kids.
A couple of pregnant pauses went by, as James and I couldn’t believe what was happening. Hans maintained his usual, sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes infuriating aura of control.
After a minute or so, Mike emerged from the kitchen with the plate in his hand, and walked to our table. Without a word, Mike placed the half-eaten omelette in front of Hans.
He then reached in his pocket, pulled out a whole avocado, placed it on the table next to the plate, and walked away without saying a word.
Hans, James, Tshombé and I exploded with laughter.
We paid the bill at the cashier. It came to about $35, which at that time was an exorbitant amount of money for three 19-year-old kids. We left Tshombé a sizable tip on the table.
Hans paid with cash, took out a $5 bill separately, handed it to the cashier, and said, “Could you please give this to your cook?”
We walked to the front door. I turned around and saw the cashier give the $5 bill to Mike. He looked back at us as we left. Just as I caught his eye, Mike laughed.
The MotorcyclistThis isn’t so much a story as it is a fever dream, but trust me, it really happened. I don’t know why, but it did.
Hans was driving, Tina was in the front seat, and I was in the back. I don’t know where we were going. We might have just been coming from Café River City; we were in the area. The radio was on.
None of us were saying anything. We had the windows rolled down. We weren’t drunk, we weren’t doing anything. This is something that occasionally happened in Sacramento during the summer time. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, no immediate need to form an action plan.
We pulled up to a light. In the lane to our left was a gentleman riding a motorcycle. The radio was playing a song that was coming to the end. Then the DJ made an announcement of some sort.
The next song started playing. We recognized the opening notes immediately. It was the synthesizer-bell opening to Steve Perry’s solo hit “Oh Sherrie.”
We sat reverently as the opening notes cascaded, fell, and finally faded. Nobody speaking.
Then there was a slight gap of silence before the vocal. Then the vocal started.
Hans, Tina and I all started singing, well, screaming, at the same time:
“KNOWWWWINGHOWI, MADEYOUFEEEEL! ANDISHOULDABEENGOO-OOONE!”
The motorcyclist to our left was startled. He jostled on his bike a little bit. The light turned green and he sped away.
I don’t it was ever verbalized, but we made a pragmatic decision to chase down the motorcyclist.
Hans turned up the radio. I slid to the other side of the back seat and rolled down the opposite window. We were side by side with the motorcyclist. All of us stuck our heads as far as we could and sang obnoxiously loud.
The chorus came just as we all arrived at the next stoplight. The motorcyclist again to our left. We screamed at him.
“OHHHH, SHERRRIEEE! OOOOUURRR LOVVE! HOOOOOOOOLD ON!!! ‘OOOOOOOOLD ON! OHHHH, SHERRIEEE! OURRRRR LOVE!!!! OOOOOOLDON, OOOOOOLDONNNNNNNN!”
The motorcyclist defiantly, angrily jerked his chariot in motion when the light turned green. He sped away.
We caught up again.
“OOOOHIWANNALETTITGO-OOOOH!!! YEWLLGOOOONHUUURRRINME! YOUBEEEBEHHHAWWWLOOOO!! IIIIMAHOOO, AAAWWIIIBEEEE!”
It was like that Steven Spielberg movie Duel. Except instead of Dennis Weaver being tortured by a killer Peterbilt, it was a lone motorcyclist being tortured by three kids in a compact car who didn’t know any of the words to “Oh Sherrie” except the refrain. It must have been tense. It must have…
“OOOOH! SHEERRRRRIEE! OOOOOOURLOVVVE! HOOOOOOOOLDON!!!!! OOOOOOOLDON!!!!!”
We followed him down Watt Avenue. He kept trying to elude us. He could not.
“BUHYEWNOOOOOHHHHHHFEEEEVER! (FEVER!) THATYOUEVVEIIII NOWHEREELSE!!”
Finally, he snapped into a left-turn lane, and we missed our chance. He turned left and disappeared into the night.
Steve Perry finished the song. We hit another stoplight.
“You know,” Hans said, “I don’t hate that song as much as I thought I did.”
That was Hans. There were other things that happened. Even though we're past the statute of limitations, I won't tell them. I’ll let him tell if he wants to, but I'm good.