Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Tag Archives: GAF&B

Dance With Me

Possessed of a prominent nose
Sloe eyes and sensuous smile
Regina, dancing muse
Real-deal belly dancing, repleat

with silver – snaking around
slender arms, on her ankles
shandangling about her svelte,
supple, flexible waist and hips

Her ultimate adornment was
her boa, whose name time has
swallowed, but whose image is
indelible; the trust, the sure

partnership, he lovingly
encircled her neck and arms,
living jewelry and friend

Slow their duet, slithering
in a Roma-tinged tango,
she so proud of her partner
The two cast a potent spell

Regina often allowed me to
help deliver him back to the
safety of his Indian woven
basket, his genie bottle

He graced my arms with
a cuddle. Warm skin, still
damp with her sweat from
his beloved perch, Regina.

Years later, still dancing,
Regina contracted that
slow-eating cancer, yet retained
her smile, her love of life

Now Regina has crossed over
to the side where pain is no more
Snakes in the hereafter are lining up
for the chance of just one dance

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Regina Star was just that – a queen and a celestial being. She worked with us at the fabled Great American Food & Beverage Company. I have combined several instances in her life to create this portrait. Having love snakes all my life, I was humbled by Regina’s trust that I carry Jack’s basket around at the GAFB 30th anniversary. Cancer had ravaged her body, and yet she danced with the same grace and self-assurance, Jack extending his head past her hand to view the audience. A whirling force of nature, our Regina. May she be at peace.

Oh, and one word to the “eeeew, snakes are slimy” crowd: The next time you are near a boa constrictor (preferably one recently fed!), if you aren’t game to have it be on your body, at least caress it. The smooth skin, the warmth, the decidedly non-slimy nature of snakes… trust me, you’ll dig it!

Written for the Poets United prompt for poems in praise of snakes. Peace, Amy


At the Great American Food & Beverage Co., Wilshire at Sixth (1979)

Joe’s behind the keys
Doug, Lisa and I singing backup until
others join the fray, Carolyn on cabasa

This restaurant is like nothing ever
Ever
EVER

Smells mingle and linger
Rib sauce, beer, whipped cream
Sweat and hot chocolate

Sounds bounce and dervish
Music: Tambourines, guitars,
ivories, voices of every color and timbre

It’s late, so Jamie takes to the piano
“Heartbreak City” in the key of frenetic
Climbing on tables, raising hell, crazed

Chuck on “Takin’ It To The Streets”
We gather around him, the army of
musicial pacifists, guitars the only weapons

No mics, just naked acoustics, so I have to
wait for a lull and take the piano with great
intention to render “Skylark” as it should be

People wait for hours outside
Munching veggie trays, waiting for
two hours just to get in

The floorboards harbor stories
of naked piano players, cooks banging
fudge pots, making fun of musicians

Of after-hours massage lines, practical
jokes magic serving starving
The life of a singing waiter or host

Poppy stops in, baby River bops in his arms
He laughs when he smells the Divine Weed
wafting from the kitchen

Enrique the dishwasher knows three words
in English: “E-spread ‘em, babeeee!”
Kitchen staff schooling him

Late nights playing pinball for free
Greggie found the key and we laugh and
drink and sing the old songs, it’s quiet now

Lights out, don’t have to go home
but ya can’t stay here…
Farewell, my youth, my touchstone

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Fireblossom wanted poems about a specific place. How about a specific place and time, with specific people? For those of you who never experienced the Great American Food & Beverage Co. in Santa Monica in the 70s, this is only a taste of the wild, wickedly fun, wantonness that was the G.A. A place that holds me fixed in time and space, a place where I went from girl to woman – and from beer to beyond. Peace, Amy


Poem never made it to my blog until now – yet it was my first proper freestyle rant (on gentrification of L.A.), written while I was hanging with Riley, Marcia and Jesse on a trip to SoCal.  Reason I’m putting this up?  A friend of mine needs a KICK IN THE BUTT to jump-start writing her own stories of those years.  God, I miss it so, the Boardwalk, the cheap breakfast, the neverendingness of it all…  Amy

Venice Then and Now (1979, 2012)

We were free spirits, flowing with our Karma
Floating in a pot-scented breeze
But now it’s all money disease
Dis-ease about security sucks marrow from bone
Creativity from full-blown, fine, eclectic minds

The intersection: Hollywood & Vine… correction: What I Owe vs. What Is Mine
In your soul, the blues; on your mind, the dues
Paying for the right to live here, by the whispers of waves
Near palatial pavilions of the potently paid
Praying we could once again live back then, back when all was sensual, all serene
And the Venice Boardwalk a little less Green

Rave all we want, the money’s moved in
It’ll never move out ‘til tsunamis tumble Venice back to the trashy look

of hash-clouded, bearded marginals
Undulating madrigals with open guitar cases
Accepting quarters from faces unlined by gotta do gotta go gotta take this call

It’ll take the fall of L.A. to get it back to stay
No matter how much money they spend, there’s always more expense
for parking meters, Margaritas, Mercedes-Benz
What became of the real-deal drifters, grifting their way through a shroom-filled haze
Jingles and Frank and ragged reggae days
Muscle-bound bods of men well-oiled, well-pumped, unshod
Stores with honey-drenched Haagen Dazs in paper cups with wooden spoons
A pennyweight on a Mylar balloon –

we sent it skipping ghostlike toward the Venice Canals

Now they’re scum green
But the ducks don’t mind, they’re doing fine
Today I said hi and they called back
Money can’t make ‘em go anything but QUACK
If ducks = local charm, then why not beach bums, doing no harm?
Charm, like beauty, in beholders’ eyes
No room for human clutter, sweep ‘em in the gutter
like Rudy’s 42nd St., makes me shudder

The rich have L.A. well in hand
No handouts, no hand-me-downs, just put ‘em out, put ‘em down
Set down roots upon roots much deeper, roots of hippies without beepers, laptops,

Blackberry speakers attached to the ears of societal sleepers

Cops in Oakwood busted humble places – put those grandmas on their faces
Fat cats watch the breaking story – 5:00 talking head in her glory
Unless it’s your grandma’s face on the floor, it’s a sound byte, nothing more
And folks who really give a shit don’t have time to protest it
Scrimping, scraping takes its toll – staying, praying Rent Control isn’t eaten whole
by well-heeled leeches who want their condos near the beaches

Rich vs. Poor, at the boiling point
God, this city needs a joint

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil


Yes, indeedy, for all who remember the “420” reference (which is still used, but no one remembers why because they were too stoned when they heard the story). Anyone who knows the story and DOESN’T Google it, please mention when you comment! A true story, from my time in California dubbed by my BFF John as “Amy: The Lost Years.” (ED. NOTE: If we can carry Smart Phones and get run over in traffic because we’re texting, why can’t we legalize pot? At least it would keep us in one place!)

BEST. WEED. EVER.

Al’s homegrown pot came with
a guaranteed sweet spot.
“Play ball!” A homer every
at-bat; no rain delays.

Sun never shone as brightly
nor cohorts giggled so spritely
as when Al pulled out his bag of
Mendocino County One-Hit Wonder.

Sage green and ruinously resinous,
it rendered rolling practically impossible.
So smooth on the intake – and
zero-to-sixty in seconds flat.
One joint could turn a mob
of tired, cranky, post-shift waiters into
drooling zombies in search of Cheetos.

Al went off the radar years ago,
but the memory,
the melody lingers on.
A cloud of laughter, profuse swearing,
groan-worthy punning, sexual innuendo,
and whispered promises forgotten by morning…

All sent up years ago as a scented offering
to Bacchus (who probably got a contact high).

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Wherever you are, Al, you are missed. Not just for your weed, either.


Banjo Man (1980 and now)

He shines like a dime when he picks up his ax
He needs this job; these, the flinty hard facts

He smiles and he banters; he’s playing the game
Of what to do once you’ve been dumped by Big Fame…

…If he knew today what we’d thought about him
He’d think “singing waiter” much more than a whim

So many bright moments when we thought, “Oh, man,
he’s a mensch, a survivor – he’s part of The Plan.”

If time were more flexible; had I a jinn,
would that we could do it over again

Humanity, best learned recouping your loss
Humility, best served with extra rib sauce

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Photo courtesy of Musician’s Friend