Julian Grant

Number One Fan

Simon leaned over to me, his hair falling across his eyes as he stroked my thigh and asked me if he could suck my dick. It was the first time a guy had ever asked me that and the first time I called someone a fag to their face.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when he punched me hard for what I said.

He was a couple years older than me, and way smarter, a local guy I’d met randomly at the skatepark downtown and we’d become friendly once we both noticed each other’s moves on our boards. We skated the small park smashed into an old supermarket in a shitty part of town where they’d jobbed-up hardwood half pipes and skateruns inside the old Loblaws supermarket at Lansdowne and Bloor as kids from the burbs (me) and from the inner city (him) all flocked there to thrash. It was a dump of a place but it was our home for one whole Summer and a Winter before it got shut down for not paying the heating bill or something.

Of course, this is where I heard the Ramones for the first time. They’d slap Rocket to Russia on the shitty house PA that used to play canned shopping muzak and the boys from NYC kicked out the jams. We’d rip and thrash in the open freestyle area and smoke Export A’s headbanging all night and day. I’d even score angel dust, which was a thing back then, from the scary black kids that hung around the makeshift snack bar but never skated. They’d just watch the stupid white kids try to kill themselves all fucked up on dust and laugh when we fell.

One time, I got too high on something Simon and I had split spending all the money we had, and I ended up out of my cheese-eating head in the grey winter snow, not wearing my jacket, my board forgotten, my brain fried. Simon bundled me up and took me back to the place he shared with his mom down on Dufferin about a block away. She worked nights then and by the time we got to his place, I was hopelessly lost and shivering badly. He’d slipped me into his own single bed after giving me a double dose of codeine cough medicine while my teeth grated back and forth until I passed out.

I know I slept because the next thing, he was in next bed next to me, pushed up tight, spooning me from behind. But I was warm and safe as I smelled the fresh mouth he would offer me once he knew I was awake. I could feel his wintergreen breath of my cheek, his arms around my waist warming me as his thick cock stiffened against my ass.

I think it was his evident chubby that finally brought me back.

We fought, he kicked me once I called him a fag and his bright tighty-whities shrunk in anger as he told me to get out of his place and never come back. I said crueler things to him, got dressed in a rush and stomped out of his place, no idea where I was, in the middle of the night. I’d lost my skateboard, my mind and my only downtown friend all because I got scared that he was queer for me. See, I’d had zero experience with guys back then — I was from Etobicoke. There was this one guy, Steven Tiesdale everyone tormented at school, a totally out kid long before being gay was fashionable or even safe, but apart from that, I was clueless. I just knew about fairies and fags from TV and the movies and thought they were the enemy or wrong — fucked in the head. They liked cocks and just wanted it up the ass or in each other’s mouths and that was sick and stupid and not for me.

So, I bought a new skateboard and kept chewing out a rhythm in my safe little ‘hood not ever going back to Lansdowne because I might see Simon and I was too embarrassed by how everything went down. He’d been nothing but kind to me and I introduced me to Joey and Johnny and Tommy (Forever) and Dee Dee and I’d had my little hissy meltdown and then totally fucked up our friendship. He’d given me the gift of the world’s greatest band and I’d been unforgivably cruel and naive. I just tried to push him out of my mind, conveniently forgetting about the musical education he’d given me and our past friendship and even our skate park before long. So, I dropped him but kept the Ramones and moved on as best I could. I’d cut out the pictures of them I’d get occasionally from Creem magazine if they even covered the band, hating the grainy black and white newsprint pics but cherishing the fact that I knew about them and nobody else did where I lived. Guys at my school were still into Triumph and Rush or Genesis and all the old bullshit dinosaur rock gods and whenever I dragged out Rocket or Road to Ruin and tried to put it on at the parties we’d have, I’d get shouted down by drunk gals and guys telling me to turn that punk shit off.

But I never did. Not until they made me.

I bought more than a few LP’s of the same albums that got trashed by the assholes I called my friends. These were the fuckers that would throw beer on the band on the stupid Monsters of Rock tour they ended up being mistakenly booked on years later. I heard that Johnny flipped the audience off and the band raced to safety after just three songs. It was a mutual fuck you. You either got ’em or you didn’t. Gabba, Gabba Hey, One of Us. One of Us. Or a Pinhead forever.

I carried the torch for the Ramones out there in suburban Etobicoke all through high school by myself, at least until “that” movie came out. That changed everything. We’d always used to get fucked up at the Kingsway Theater, a local movie house where they didn’t care if you smoked pot or drank and when Rock n’ Roll High School played, now all of a sudden it was okay to love the band if you wanted to be with it. That 15-minute mini-concert in the middle of the movie became the new sweet anthem at school and I’d jumped to the top of the cool kids list because I was there first and everyone knew it. Even Julie something or other, this smoking gal in Biology back then was into them now and she asked me to maybe recommend some of their albums for her to pick up at Sam the Record Man down on Yonge Street when she went downtown with her girlfriends. I lent her mine for a couple weeks to copy on cassette and we got friendly, I thought.

When the Two Gary’s, the local Ramones ticket promoters announced an all ages general admission show at the Danforth, I was the first one on the phone calling in and scored five tickets using my mom’s credit card. I ended up asking Biology Julie to go with me and sold the other tickets to Triko, Blyth and McConie at double the face value because I’m not stupid. On the day of the show, I arranged to meet Julie out front of the venue as she had to lie to her mom about where she was actually going and had to pack her “costume” in a bag. I remember that distinctly, her costume. But I wanted to fuck her so I let it slide.

I took the Bloor West bus with the guys into the city and we swung by the LCBO on the way and picked up a big 40 oz bottle of Gordon’s Gin to share as we waited in line all day because it was general admission and we wanted seats up front just before the pit. It was fucking freezing out and we didn’t want to get cold waiting so we got hard liquor to keep warm because getting fucked up fast was a big part of being young. So, we drank the 40 oz quick as fuck, swearing at each other, the cold and pissing off pretty much everyone else in the line.

When Julie finally showed up, she changed at Tim Horton’s into her secret sexy leopard skin leggings and shorty leather jacket and then shivered in line with the rest of the drunk and restless crowd. By the time they let us all in, we were all cold as fuck, I was shitfaced and I had lost all chance of scoring with my kinda-date Julie. Being handsy and drunk and clueless is not a good look.

Then it all gets fuzzy.

I do remember throwing up on her leather boots, Julie screaming at me and calling me names, me passing out in the front seats we had bum-rushed and then sleeping through the opening band. I was pretty sure it was Shrapnel, Joey’s brother’s band.

The rest of the night was flashes only after.

The sour smell of gin all over me, Triko, his nose bloody and busted from moshing in the pit, McConie’s broken glasses and Billy Blyth laughing at me as I tried to stand up on my seat when I heard Dee Dee count it out for another two-minute salvo.

“1-2-3-4,” Dee Dee howled as Johnny power chorded and I Lazurus-ed up and away, wobbling into the air, vomit caking my shirt as I screamed in drunken approval, cartwheeling on my wobbly seat.

That’s when he saw me.

Joey Ramone, salamander cool, his long body twisted at the microphone, pointed a finger straight at me. The spotlight hit and I fell backwards into the poor fuckers behind me, still screaming in ecstasy at having been seen by my idol.

I went down under their sharp heels and heavy boots, empty bottles rolling on the ground all around me as I tried to get away from the angry mob pissed that a stupid drunk high school kid had decided to crash their good time. Fists and feet and spit rained down upon me, and I think I remember kinda covering my head as I clawed my back up into the seats.

I vaulted off the back of the now-trashed chair, holding for one perfect still frame moment in the air, alive.

It ended badly.

I was close enough to bounce onto the stage, landing face first and leaving a streak of blood. There’s a photo of me in mid-flight, a damaged black raven, broken winged and blackout bad that I have somewhere, I think. I know they published it.

The onstage bouncer grabbed me by my belt loop and heaved me off into the risers. I bounced off another surface and went down into a heap.

The band never missed a beat.

***

I staggered up off the floor, my face streaked with blood and tears as the concert thundered on without me. I dragged myself out into the freezing night. The guys at the door all looked shit-scared for my safety. I know I heard someone call me back, maybe something about an ambulance.

My buddies and Julie all stayed inside without me.

I staggered off but it wasn’t long before I collapsed into the gutter, radiating sick and shame. I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it to wherever it was I thought I was going, and honestly I didn’t care by that point.

That’s when I felt a hand fall upon my shoulder.

I cringed, expecting a boot from a fellow concert-goer. That or the hard-knuckled fist of a cop sent to set me straight and drag my ass back home. I glanced up over my shoulder, prepared for yet another blow.

And there stood Simon, just smiling and shaking his head. He was still the same guy and I started to sob when I recognized him. He sat down next to me and took me in his arms. His breath still smelled of wintergreen.

He took me back to his mom’s place and cleaned me up. I sucked his cock and he sucked mine.

It was the best night of my life. Thank you, Ramones.

Sincerely,

Your Number One Fan

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