Wake Up and Smell the Beer: by Jon Longhi

Jun 05, 2007

In this book, the reader is introduced to the drug-induced prophets of San Francisco in the ‘80s, who lived way, way out on the fringe. Longhi has experienced a ton of strange little moments that prove life and drugs in San Francisco are more unreal then any fiction could hope to be.

            Some finer moments: The Mohawk toupee. A hundred thousand dollar, amphetamine-induced credit card spending spree across the west. A sex toy entitled “The Manrammer.” Getting moped-jacked. A drunk, vagrant Santa. And finally, a performance artist who operates under the concept of “life as art,” and takes it to every extreme imaginable.

The irony here is that the episodes in this book occur in a rapid succession of frames that nearly mirror the experience of doing line after line of speed. It makes for some fast and furious fun, in the midst of the apocalypse of career drug use.

            When it comes to employment, I usually root for the underdog. But in one of Longhi’s stories about a book distribution company, you’ll be rallying around the employer who hires the employee from hell. This benevolent ex-hippie gives a struggling, down and out guy a chance by offering him a job. He gives him an inch. Hell, he gives him a yard. What he gets in return is an employee who does all but burn the place to the ground. Ayn Rand would be chuckling in her grave.

            Overall, I wanted more plot and dialogue, and for the glimpses of the individual characters to be strung together into a larger story. Some brief descriptions here are so vivid they stand alone as statements of the characters’ personalities. I liked hearing about the “interpretive” artist who wore neon leisure suits and taped Styrofoam cups all over his body. I want to know and discover more about who’s inside that crazy suit. At times I was left feeling like I was given an introduction to a story I was never going to fully hear, or seen an interesting person at a party I’d never get to really meet.

            I enjoyed the deeper moments of the Wake Up and Smell the Beer, where Longhi talks about his marriage and wedding party blow out. I wanted more of this depth throughout the book. Nonetheless, there are many highly entertaining moments here, and the book makes for a hilarious read. It’s the cure for a boring bus ride or slow afternoon at work. –Ayn Imperato (Manic D. Press, PO Box 410804, SF, CA 94141)

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