Saturday, November 15, 2008


Buzz and the Ramalamas were originally just going to call themselves the Ramalamas, but all three of them agreed that when you play exclusively instrumental music it is especially important to have some sort of a hook so that people can easily identify your band. In their case, it was guitarist Buzz, so named for his severe blonde flattop and incredibly toothy grin which always made him look like he was buzzing like a madman: hence, Buzz and the Ramalamas. There were some ego flashes during the discussion of the new name in which drummer SuperChuck insisted they name the band after him (which was sensibly rejected when it was pointed out that the band’s name would then sound far too much like a popular candy bar) and bassist Ed wanted to call the band Short for Edwina (which she felt would finally clear up the confusion about her seemingly masculine name, but was also sensibly rejected by the others as it was, in fact, a really bad band name) but eventually good taste won out and Buzz and the Ramalamas was one for the ages.

One thing Buzz and the Ramalamas were of one mind about, however, was their music. Although they shared the same beach culture as the surf bands from Sacmo, the Ramalamas (and other bands of their ilk) were insistent on being classified as hot-rod music and not surf music. The distinction, according to Buzz: “Hot-rod music has a fuzz-tone guitar sound; surf music has the guitars all wussed out with reverb.” He pronounced the last word the way one might pronounce garbage or cancer. Another distinction was that the surf music bands sometimes used vocals – no self-respecting hot-rod band would ever stoop so low as to sing. Again, Buzz: “Words are for squares.”

About two miles from the beach proper was Ramalama HQ, or as it was known to the straighter citizens of the Eurcata seaside community, 222 I Street. The HQ was one of the tall, thin buildings that dominated downtown Eurcata, and from the roof one could see down the steep decline of I Street all the way to the beach and the ocean beyond. On cloudless evenings the majesty of the panoramic red-orange sunset was something that could erase even the most bitter dispute betwixt rodder and surfer.

This particular evening, however, SuperChuck was far less concerned with the Sunset on his Horizon than the Krampt Macaroni and Cheese on his Stovetop. He sent Ed out to get butter about half an hour earlier, and had seen no sign of her since. As with most HQ attempts to make Krampt Macaroni and Cheese, despite the fact that there were only three ingredients for the cheese sauce (milk, butter and the radioactive orange cheese powder) they were inevitably out of at least one of them. This time it was butter, and what should’ve been a ten minute trip to the Kwik Gulp had already taken Ed three times that long. SuperChuck turned off the burner beneath the powder/milk mixture and peered out of the tall, arched kitchen windows toward I Street, three stories below. He saw no Ed, and the rapidly diminishing glow of the sunset did not improve his vision or his attitude. SuperChuck swung into the next room, looking for Buzz.

As usual, his hair left the room before he did. In addition to possessing a thundering, tom-tom heavy drum stylee, SuperChuck also possessed the most impressive head of hair in the entire Sacmo/Eurcata area. His afro was so large and so pervasive that it often seemed to possess a will of its own, wobbling around on his head like a great gelatin dessert wobbling upon a plate. SuperChuck was perceived by most folks as only a pair of bulging eyes and bulbous nose floating beneath that massive tsunami of hair, and his place hunkered down behind the drums onstage did nothing to dissuade people of this misapprehension. Both of his bandmates, however, would testify in court of law that SuperChuck not only possessed a full body but also the creepiest pair of bone-white, hairless legs they had ever seen, and that he unfortunately emphasized this fact by always wearing beach shorts accompanied by black basketball sneakers.

SuperChuck found Buzz in his bedroom, reclining with his acoustic guitar in his great big drag racer bed. Any eight-year-old might be able to claim that they slept in a “race car”, but only Buzz could actually claim to sleep in a hollowed-out T120 drag racer ever since he replaced its bad luck motor with a king-size mattress three years ago.

SuperChuck waved to him from the doorway across the length of the T120. “Hey!” he shouted over the din of the strummed acoustic. Buzz stopped playing, looked up, and flashed SuperChuck a trademark blinding grin. Buzz’s face seemed mostly made up of parallel lines: his brush-stiff hair, his huge straight teeth, and even the three hairs on his chin that stood straight out at ninety degree angles. Alternately, his slit eyes, pug nose and tiny baby ears barely existed, much like SuperChuck from the nose down. Each of them was a bright splash of basic features with the forceful purity, and memorability, of primary colors.

“SuperChuck! Rider of the stomach-ways. When are we, uh, making with the Krampt?”

SuperChuck gestured wildly. “That’s just it! We’re not. I asked Ed to go get butter almost an hour ago. She’s still not back. The Kwik Gulp is five minutes away. If my calculations are correct, I have absolutely no idea where she went.”

Buzz strummed lightly, pursed his lips. “Her methods are mysterious.” He suddenly struck a sour chord. “Wait a minute. Did you give her any money?”

SuperChuck nervously shook his head. “No. Why?”

“You know Ed’s always broke, hero.” As if to punctuate Buzz’s statement, the sound of breaking glass suddenly erupted from the kitchen. SuperChuck threw himself back from the doorway, afro flying, and Buzz leapt out and over the T120’s front wheels, right after him.

Ed sat on the big wooden kitchen table, eating a stick of butter, while a soft breeze blew through the large hole where one of the kitchen windows used to be. Broken glass was strewn all over the floor nearby. Ed, featureless behind black wrap-around shades and under a powder blue hooded sweatshirt, seemed terminally unconcerned. She continued eating the stick of butter, the stray wisps of long blonde hair that escaped from her hood the only potential hints at her gender. Otherwise, Ed was the type of girl that might need a band name to advertise to the world that she was, in fact, a girl.

SuperChuck and Buzz stumbled into the kitchen one after the other, out of breath. Even after they stopped moving, SuperChuck’s afro nervously shimmied back and forth above him, continuing to advertise his mental state. He looked at Ed, trying to remain calm.

“I have so many questions, I don’t know where to begin.”

Ed gargled out through a mouthful of oleo, “I got the butter,” and pointed to the remaining three sticks next to her on the table.