A woman asked me why I didn’t attend last Tuesday’s City Party. I hesitated before I answered because I knew what I was going to tell her would most likely contort whatever image she had of me beyond recognition, if not redemption. But I owed her the truth.
I explained it’s not because I don’t enjoy a good party (or a good city for that matter), but having recently streamed Black Sunday on Netflix, I’ve developed an undue paranoia about being in large public gatherings.
To refresh your memory, this was the 1977 thriller in which Bruce Dern portrays a disgruntled vet intent on blowing up the Super Bowl with – wait for it – a blimp.
Now, the rational part of me knows inherently that between Homeland Security, our own police department and the fine folks at Goodyear, this will never happen.
The dark, strange fantasist in me, however, can’t turn off the storytelling machine long enough to believe it. When I’m on a jag, my mind is like the ’72 Mercedes I owned in the ’90s. Once the glow-plugs were warmed up and the diesel engine was cranking, I’d be damned if I could actually get the beast to actually turn off without idling for 15 minutes after the key was back in my pocket. It’s the same when I get a notion. The motor starts and won’t stop. This is great for the writing gig but makes me a bore at parties, especially city parties. You know, the ones where it’s up to a plucky squad of misfit vigilantes to save the day.
Yeah, that’s the other part of the story – not only do I see the set-up, I see the character arc of the unwitting antihero who stumbles across the evil plot and assembles a ragtag band of highly-skilled yahoos against a rapidly ticking clock and somebody with either preternaturally blonde hair or no hair and scuba gear where their face should be.
Now, here’s the plot: Some Napa death cult (it’s a thing) has ascertained that the cremated remains of M.G. Vallejo are stored in an urn in City Hall. The ashes apparently have magical powers that will give the cult leader dominion of Sonoma and the power enslave its citizenry and produce a wine that will turn the world into his zombie army.
The chaos of the City Party will be perfect cover for the heist and provides a great moment for the hook-handed villain (the result of a crusher-de-stemmer accident) to take the stage and do the typical bad guy, “you pathetic people of Sonoma,” speech as he spells out his evil plan. Among his hijinks is the bomb that’ll go off when the party’s band hits the high note in The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.” And the band can’t stop playing because a) they’re possessed and b) they have to play the whole three-hour set to get paid.
Naturally, the lead in all my Sonoma-based, action-adventure, mental movie is James Marshall Berry. Look at Berry’s mugshot for his I-T music column and then look me in the eye and tell me you can’t see him rolling onto his back having just thwarted some baddy and groaning, “I’m too old for this sh–.”
I’m pretty sure he says that just getting out of bed.
Of course, James is a few steps ahead of the Napa nemesis thanks to a series of esoteric observations that only he could recognize. I have no idead what these would be but they would be cool, trust me. Then he realizes the band is covering the 1970 live version of Whipping Post recorded in NYC, which is 11 minutes long. This is just enough time to send Ken Brown and George Webber into City Hall to get the urn before the baddies (Ken has a key, George knows what it looks like).
Meanwhile, Berry tries to unplug the amp but it’s soldered into the outlet, ditto the guitar chord to the head, which leaves Berry no choice but to destroy the amp. But it’s not just any amp, he realizes, it’s a 1962 Marshall Bluesbreaker Combo. “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another,” he sighs as he looks over the crowd of Sonomans, their sea of faces roiling in motley, joyous waves. He regards the amp, which could fetch an easy $10K on eBay, not to mention sounds sweeter than an angel on dope.
He looks skyward and asks no one in particular, “Did it have to be a Bluesbreaker? I mean, they named it after the Clapton album for crissakes.” Then, in a definitive gesture of love for the people of this little Valley, he puts his fist through the speaker cabinet and pulls out a fistful of wires like the entrails of an animal, just before the crucial note. Sonoma is saved.
It’s Die Hard with a Viognier.
So, that’s why I didn’t go to the City Party. It’s just too much damn excitement.