Sunday, June 26, 2016


There was some fade to him, as if he'd once been brightly colored, but had mellowed over time. Chas would tell a story from his teen years or his early twenties and we'd all be slackjawed in response. Lucky thought he was making the stories up as he went along, but I don't think so.

I grew up in a family of liars. Dad hustled in every way to acquire goods for the household and his con jobs often required creative lies. Mama bought crap from yard sales, fixed it up and sold it again, often with inventive tales about an item's origin. We lived about an hour from Hollywood, so her origin myths often hinted at various celebrities and the latest gossip involving divorces, scandals, and windfalls. They were both good liars.

The trick to being a really good liar is to keep it simple and to keep your head and NEVER admit you're not being truthful. Bad liars, which is most of us, get nervous and add way too much detail. Practised liars know they need to remember the lie and retell it the same way, so they'll try to bend truth rather than make up an entire fiction. That way they can more easily recall the core of the embellishment.

So no, I didn't think Chas made up his stories. They were too low-key and unembellished to be lies. Besides, the stories were clearly not intended to alter our perceptions about this rumpled looking, 60-something-year-old man. He usually interjected stories when he thought there was a lesson to be learned.

He had apparently been a high-energy go-getter in 1968 and lucked into an assignment as an assistant to a Rolling Stone reporter. He carried equipment and suitcases, went out for food, made phone calls, and any other task the dude demanded as they attended a series of concerts across the western half of the country. He showed us photos of himself and the reporter at gatherings with famous people.

Chas met Linda Ronstadt during the latter part of her Stone Poneys years. She was 22. He was barely 18 and he fell hard. He left the Rolling Stones gig and followed Linda around for eight months. Then she dumped him, just left him in Albuquerque - held her hand up as he was getting in the car. "You're not going," she said, and the convoy of cars drove off without him. He saw that his duffle bag was on the ground and he realized someone had been pulling it out of the trunk while she had her hand in his face. So it was orchestrated. He was heartbroken, not just to be dumped by the beautiful girl he loved, but also that the people he thought were his friends all knew his fate before he did. But he survived.

He told that story to demonstrate to the younger co-workers that anyone can survive heartbreak. Another time he told us about getting arrested with less than an ounce of weed. It was Texas, so he expected to end up on a chain gang or something. But after nine days, they let him go. He never did find out why. Every story had a lesson in it. The moral of this story was to be prepared to do the time if you're going to do the crime.

The only unintentional glimpse into his past was revealed after he gently intervened as a customer was repeatedly swatting the legs of a screaming child. He was visibly upset after the encounter. I put my hand on his shoulder as he slumped on a bar stool. "My father used to beat me," he said, almost in a whisper. "I hated that rat bastard."

So yes, he was faded. But even his fade had texture and richness. He was a tapestry, but the glory of the design was only revealed over time. I'm just lucky I got to see some of it.

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