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A San Francisco Christmas

After the third song, eXtreme Elvis burst from a large gift on a separate stage. He was wearing his usual white rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and a Santa hat. He orked his way around the bar singing various Elvis and holiday songs.

As Christmas time was approaching, my brother realized that he would not be able to get enough time off from work to come back to New York for the holidays. I decided I would go visit him for Christmas. My brother lives in San Francisco. This would be my first time back since the week of September 11th, when I felt very guilty about being in such a beautiful place while things in New York were so horrible.

I made the necessary arrangements and flew to San Francisco a week before Christmas. My brother came and picked me up at the airport. I did not have many goals on my trip. I was mostly just interested in spending some time with my brother and relaxing.

One goal I had though was to see the final San Francisco performance of eXtreme Elvis. The performer known as eXtreme Elvis (EE for short) has been entertaining the San Francisco Bay area for several years now. He toured the East Coast last year and parts of the South and Southwest this year. He’s decided to move to Los Angeles, but wanted to bid San Francisco a fond farewell.

His act has sometimes included urine and feces. In his New York debut, the extreme King drank from a pint of beer that had been augmented with is own urine ("Oh, we do this in San Francisco all the time," he joked). Only once did he hurl feces at the audience, but once is enough. "There’s something about shit," EE told me last year. "You only have to do it once." His reputation for club mayhem caused the first venue to chicken out, so the event was moved to the Odeon, a club owned by Chicken John, who learned not to fear flying feces while playing guitar for G.G. Allin.

The Odeon was packed by the time the band started playing, almost an hour and a half later than the show was billed to start. The audience was treated to EE’s band, outfitted in festive Christmas attire, playing along with the extreme King’s disembodied voice coming from somewhere. After the third song, eXtreme Elvis burst from a large gift on a separate stage. He was wearing his usual white rhinestone-studded jumpsuit and a Santa hat. He worked his way around the bar singing various Elvis and holiday songs.

Elvis told a sad story from his youth, recounting a time he made a snowman on a family visit to the mountains and couldn’t take it home to the San Francisco (EE’s mother, who handed out candy canes before the show, was there to verify the tale). He explained that it was his dream to make a snowman for Christmas, and that he had gone to the mountains early that morning to gather snow. A cadre of EE’s helpers began hauling snow into the club in wheelbarrows. People began grabbing handfuls of it and a snowball riot erupted inside the club. Beers were knocked over. A guitar amplifier shorted out. It was exactly the kind of pandemonium crowds have come to see. Enough snow made it to the stage and eXtreme Elvis made his snowman, with a tampon nose donated by a member of the audience. He sang several more songs while being occasionally pelted with snowballs. He finished with a rock and roll rendition of ‘Silent Night’ which saw EE rip off his clothing, run amok around the club, and finish with a belly flop upon his snowman. He then invited his band onstage to hit him with snowballs as a final goodbye. He had a show booked the next night in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the U-Haul parked outside the club that had brought all the snow also held EE’s belongings and eXtreme Elvis was set to drive straight to L.A. that night.

As Chicken John directed his staff to clean up the enormous mess of snow and water that was left in the Odeon, fans continued their snowball melee outside with the leftover snow. It was another classic eXtreme Elvis moment. Los Angeles won’t know what hit them.

The next night the Bottom of the Hill club hosted the Dwarves, one of the most raucous punk rock bands San Francisco has ever produced. I saw the Dwarves in November at the Continental in New York, and it was one of the wildest shows I’ve ever been to. The end result was at least one demolished microphone and some destroyed plumbing and soundproofing. I was banged up for weeks afterwards. The Dwarves took to the stage in San Francisco with the same ferocity. Guitar player Hewhocannotbenamed walked on stage wearing nothing but a big devil’s mask. While not as violent as the New York crowd, the San Francisco audience was just as lively and it was a larger show, it being the Dwarves home town. The Fresh Prince of Darkness, the guitar player who was wearing clothes, dove onto the drum kit at the last song, and the band left their instruments in heap, feeding back in an obnoxious whine as they disappeared. It was another classic Dwarves show.

Much of my time in San Francisco I spent with my brother, who is a bartender at the Royal Exchange, a nice bar in the city’s financial district. I spent some quality time with him, even though half the time we were at each other’s throats. My brother isn’t used to entertaining family for long stretches at a time, and my being in San Francisco for a week and a half certainly put a strain on his already thin patience. He gave me a lot of shit, which I handed right back to him.

"You wouldn’t last long in the military with your attitude," my brother told me at one point (he’s a Marine Corps veteran).

"And you must have a cock the size of a peanut to be giving me that bullshit," I snapped back.

And so on.

My brother Jeff and I fought a lot when we were younger. I don’t know why that is. Maybe the Irish are just naturally hateful people and have the decency to hate each other as much as any other races. Maybe we’re just too different. Our politics are completely different, as is our taste in music, women, movies etc.

One night at the Royal Exchange, we sat down to eat with Jeff’s friend Mike and his father. My brother’s friends said that we look nothing alike.

"We used to think that there was a mix-up at the hospital and that we’re not really brothers," Jeff said.

"But that’s OK," said Mike’s father, who looked like Donald Sutherland on acid. "Even if you’re not, you are." If in fact there was a mix-up at the hospital or if our mother was fucking the mailman, I don’t want to know. I’m glad to be Jeff Sheahan’s brother.

We spent most of Christmas eating and talking to family back east on the phone. We watched TV, walked around, and ended the night drinking a few beers on the roof of his apartment building. San Francisco was quiet and beautiful, its hills sparked with white and yellow lights and thin ribbons of fog floated silently through the California night.

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