Poverty & Hunger - the summer of 1996
Updated: Feb 15
It was great to be off the streets and be able to get a good night's sleep. But now the real challenge began - how could we survive longer term in Hollywood?!
Sabú & Xavi behind the Whisky.
Sabú's mom offered to pay the rent for the apartment to keep us off the streets but where would the money for food come from?! When food becomes your main concern, it's really hard to find time and energy for anything else - we spent a lot of the summer of 1996 just assembling enough scraps over the course of the day to make the pain in our stomachs go away. In retrospective, we think that our moms kept their support to a minimum because they hoped we would abort the mission and come home. No chance in hell. We rather spent our days spare changing in front of McDonald's!
We recall finding quite a lot of food on the streets, half eaten restaurant meals, discarded by rich people, half eaten burgers (had to shake out the ants), school lunches left at bus stops, that sort of thing. We'd eat it all, no questions asked.
Mc Donald's had a thing that summer where you could win meals by answering questions about Disney movies - Sabú's a Disney expert, so we did well on that. There was this awesome dude working there, Alan, who would always give us super sized fries when we came to claim our free small fries... That's the kinda stuff that really makes a difference!
Then there was a deli across from the Whisky where we sometimes bought food when we had money and the owner took a liking to us. He'd sometimes just let us have food "on credit" and when we later wanted to pay him he'd be like: "you don't owe me anything". He also once gave us two neat white shirts which we were supposed to wear to job interviews... yeah, that didn't happen. Instead, we wore them on stage! But such a nice thought, though! We really appreciated it!
Would you employ this kid? Xavi during the "Give it to the Sea" photo session at the Pacific, wearing one of the shirts the deli-dude had given us. Tie and everything!
Spare changing was alright, too, people tended to be very friendly, especially if you just asked them to straight up buy you some food. One of the kindest things was, when a young couple gave us some of their food stamps!! It's often those who themselves have very little who are most willing to share!
Once, this fancy lady who was sat in one of the posh restaurants on Sunset Strip with a much younger boyfriend waved us over and asked us, if she could buy us a meal. She then had us sit down at the table with them, with her boyfriend swooning "you're an angel!". That was a weird situation, we kind of felt like she was just using us to stage this performance for her boyfriend. But the food was awesome, so who cares!
Then there was the time when this dude asked Xavi if he wanted to earn $10. Xavi was like "okkkk... for what?" Turned out the dude wanted to look at him while giving his one-eyed trouser snake some airtime. Ugh!
Xavi & Sabú on Santa Monica Blvd, summer 1996.
Or when we trekked to some church pretty far away that did food hand-outs, where we had to sit through a very long sermon (in Spanish), right in the middle of a heatwave, too! Then we left with nothing but some yoghurts and a bag of onions. We fried the onions but let me tell ya - fried onions are a great side but a whole meal of JUST fried onions is very, very unpleasant. Put us off onions for years!
The gas station across from the Whisky had cheap soft ice where you'd pay by the size of the cup you chose and you'd get to fill the cup yourself. We became masters of creating these huge soft ice cones in the smallest cup - that was like high level engineering! The staff was always super nice about it, they never complained.
And on days when none of the above happened, we just existed on Ramen noodles. We'd share one packet for lunch and one packet for dinner. We bought them in plenty packs at Food4Less which is where they were cheapest. It was also a 16 mile return trip which we did on foot...
Skinny AF but so rock'n'roll! Photosession behind the Whisky, 1997.
That no-food summer did one positive thing: it cured Xavi's eating disorder! If not eating is not a choice but becomes an outer existential threat, perspectives change... Xavi has never puked since!
After some months, our moms came to visit, saw that we were bent on staying and started supporting us a little more. We also found a job at a record store selling bootlegs, run by Bob the coke-head who just paid us cash, no questions asked - remember, we were illegal immigrants, the normal job market was inaccessible to us. So with our basic needs covered, we kicked the band into gear, got a drummer and recorded our first demo, "Tunes from the Gypsy Swamp", ready to conquer Hollywood!