There are no more Ramones on Earth.

Tommy Ramones joined his three brothers.

I was lucky enough to catch them in 1976.

On a winter night I was walking up the Bowery. I heard CALIFORNIA SUN from a bar. I walked inside. My life was changed forever.

They were our band.

Here is an excerpt from my punk novel THE END OF MAYBE about that evening.

Gabba Gabba Hey.

Johnny nodded across the avenue to the leather-jacketed crowd underneath a white awning emblazoned with the letters CBGBs. The Palace Hotel next door was a close relative to the Terminal Hotel and Sean glared at his new acquaintance with a twinge of disappointment.

“This is it?”

“What’s outside had nothing to do with what’s inside. This is punk’s opera house.”

The hippie’s disapproval intensified Johnny’s impatience to rip him off and he leapt off the curb to dart through a surge of speeding cars and taxis.

“Last one across the street buys the first round.”

A rattling Checker bore down on Johnny and Sean braced for the soft crunch of steel into a body, except the thin blonde gracefully vaulted across the hood onto the traffic island and dodged two newspaper trucks to safely reach the opposite sidewalk, where he shouted, “I’ll take a Wild Turkey.”

Johnny had challenged death twice in two seconds, but Sean’s mother had cautioned him to walk the other way from any menace to life and limb. He would still be living in the suburbs, if he had followed her instructions, so crossed the Bowery to find Johnny arguing with two men carrying guitars.

“You use the drugs, you have to pay.”

“I owe you nuttin’,” sniveled a crow-haired guitarist, resembling Keith Richard, if the lead guitarist had died instead of Brian Jones.

His pointy rat boots, straight-legged black Levi’s, a stained tuxedo jacket, and a skinny tie knotted loosely on the collar of a rumpled shirt were the fashionable antithesis to Sean’s Frye boots and plaid shirt. The loiterers on the sidewalk were similarly attired in leather jackets or narrow lapel jackets. Sean felt out of place and even more so after Johnny seized the zombie’s guitar.

“Where’s my $50.”

“Hey, I gotta be at Max’s in thirty minutes.” The rocker feebly wrestled for the guitar and Johnny shoved him into a pile of garbage.

“Give me the money and I’ll give you the guitar.”

The onlookers hooted, as if this was a long-running sit-com, and the rocker offered shrilly, “I’ll give you the fifty at Max’s.”

“Wait in line with the other twenty junkies you stiffed today? Fifty or no guitar.”

“Okay, okay.” The skeletal musician forfeited a crumble of bills. “Now gimme my guitar.”

“Been a pleasure doing business.” Johnny released the guitar and the junkie rocker rambled up the Bowery. The thin blonde pocketed the cash and turned to Sean. “This ain’t Kansas or the Emerald City. Trusting no one’s the first rule of this city and the second is always obey the first.”

A taxi halted at the curb and the back door opened for a bleached blonde in a miniskirt, ripped fishnet stockings, and gleaming black high heels straight out of fetish stroke book.

Glowering on the sidewalk the milk-white dominatrix sneered with crooked teeth, “You have a problem with your eyes, caveman?”

Sean stammered, “I haven’t seen anyone dress like you before.”
”You sayin’ I’m a whore?” She flashed sharp fingernails at Sean’s face.

“Sheila, this is my country bumpkin cousin, so cut him some slack.” Johnny stepped between them.

“This is related to you?” The blonde’s laugh sounded like her first of the night.

“Can’t you see the resemblance, Sheila?” Johnny leaned over to Sean’s face.

“I get it. You’re country cousins.” The blonde dominatrix blew the bewildered hippie a kiss and entered the club with a sadistic swagger. When the door shut, Sean asked, “Why she dress so slutty, if she isn’t asking me to look?”

“The girls at CBGBs wear trampy clothing, because they are whores or strippers, who might break your teeth or ask you home for a fuck. I’ll let find out for yourself which is worse.” Johnny opened the thick door and Sean’s eardrums buckled under a subsonic boom. The last band he had heard this loud was Blue Cheer and his guide shouted, “Now hold onto your wig. No more Abba. No more Bread. No more Boz Scaggs. This is the world of tomorrow today.”

The pure power on the stage drew Sean forward and a stringy-haired giant in a yellow construction helmet halted his progress with a meaty hand. “Five dollars.”

Sean dropped $5 before the bearded man at a desk and beelined for the front of the club, where four men in black leather jackets, torn blue jeans, sneakers, and scraggly hair performed a blindingly fast version of CALIFORNIA SUN.

The singer resembling a wigged mantis yelled indecipherable lyrics to the frenzied audience. Each song raced to its end in less than two minutes and Sean unconditionally joined the crowd’s bopping worship of the hard-driving quartet. When the band had exhausted the audience’s energy, the longhaired gnome announced their encore, “PT boat on the way to Havana.”

The heaving mob surged forward and he asked a mulatto teenager with a safety pin stuck in his cheek,

“What’s the name of this band?”

“The Ramones.” The pimply kid rolled his eyes at Sean’s ignorance.

He had never heard of them, but judging from the number of people emulating the band’s get-up, this band had existed for several years.

A minute later the Ramones finished their encore and the jukebox blared a song about Chinese Rocks. Most of the audience surged to a narrow hallway behind the stage and Sean fought his way to the bar, where Johnny handed him a long-necked Bud. He drained the bottle in three gulps and ordered a Wild Turkey from a redheaded bartender wearing a skimpy tube top. After downing the shot he called for another round.

“So how great is this place?” Johnny was pleased by the wad of bills in the hippie’s hand.


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