Weird shit happens when I wear Warren Zevon t-shirts. That tracks.
I love t-shirts. I also love Warren Zevon. For my birthday, Christina got me two Warren Zevon t-shirts because she loves me.
On Saturday, I put on one of my Warren Zevon t-shirts and took Christina to breakfast.
Lawyers, Guns & Money is a song that tells the absurd story of a privileged young man who visits Cuba, where he drinks and screws his way into some really deep international doo-doo that may, or may not, involve the Russians, too. The chorus is the young man’s plea for help:
Send lawyers, guns, and money, dad, get me out of this.
When the cashier at Bob’s Big Boy asked me about my shirt, I said it was a Warren Zevon t-shirt.
This happens a lot. Warren was a songwriter’s songwriter and a humorist’s humorist. Nearly all of his songs are dark, most of them are hilarious, and many of them are heartbreakingly beautiful. But aside from Werewolves of London, Warren Zevon always had more of a cult following than anything approaching stardom.
I tried to explain this to the cashier, but it didn’t really register with her. It probably didn’t help that Warren died twenty years ago. Before he left this world, Warren went on Letterman one last time, sang some songs, reminisced with Dave, and told the audience the secret to a happy life: “Enjoy every sandwich.” You can find that appearance on YouTube, but I’m not sure how a young woman, who was probably born around the time Warren died, would even know to search YouTube for that clip. Unless one of Warren’s songs trends on TikTok—between the fickle tastes of Zoomers and the hard-nosed tactics of the music licensing gods, there’s always a chance, right?—I don’t think Warren’s fan base is likely to expand. Which is too bad because Warren’s gallows humor is more resonant with each passing year. Also, he wrote some eternal bangers, especially Desperados Under the Eaves, Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, Mohammed’s Radio, Carmelita, and My Shit’s Fucked Up.
But there are Warren Zevon fans still walking among us. That’s why I wanted the t-shirts. I figured I’d wear a shirt featuring an obscure musician and maybe make a friend. But in this case, I had clearly figured wrong.
“Honestly, that shirt is kinda scary,” the cashier said. “It’s got guns—scary. And lawyers. I don’t like lawyers.”
“Don’t forget money,” I said. “Everyone likes money.”
The cashier tried to force a smile, but I could tell I had lost her. So I gave her my money and went on my way.
The next day, we went to a friend’s birthday party at a Los Feliz bar called Ye Olde Rustic Inn. Since it was a dive bar, I decided to fly casually. I put on my other Warren Zevon t-shirt. This one shouldn’t cause any trouble, I reasoned, because it was just a picture of Warren and his name. No bad vibes there.
Christina and I picked up our friend Mia Toretto (not her real name) on the way to the bar. We parked on a side street and since we had time, we decided to get dinner first. But as we walked to a nearby vegan restaurant, a woman’s voice screamed out.
The screaming woman was someone Christina used to know. She was drunk. Her friend was less drunk. They had been drinking and watching football all day at another Los Feliz bar called the Drawing Room, but they had stepped outside to vape.
“That was like an hour ago,” the less drunk woman said.
“You gotta come inside and meet my husband,” the very drunk woman said.
We didn’t want to go inside the Drawing Room. We wanted to get dinner. But drunk people don’t make requests, they make demands. We went inside.
As we entered the Drawing Room, a burly dude in a Jets jersey noticed my shirt.
“Warren Zevon,” he said, “hell yeah.”
I felt good about my taste in music. I felt good about my sartorial choice. And despite the fact that we were in the wrong dive bar, things felt promising.
While Christina chatted with an old friend, Mia Toretto and I struck up a conversation with the drunk woman’s husband. To protect the guilty, I’m going to give him an alias. We’ll call him Crockett Tubbs.
Like his wife, Crockett Tubbs was also drunk. Really drunk. But he seemed friendly, and we were sort of stuck there, so I asked what he did for a living.
“I’m a detective,” he said. “I work narcotics!”
Suddenly, the picture came into focus. Crockett Tubbs was built like a linebacker. A pair of Oakley sunglasses dangled from his thick neck. He looked like he was either twenty-eight or forty-seven.
“Do you know [REDACTED]?” Mia Toretto asked.
“Yeah,” said Detective Crockett Tubbs. “No wait, who?”
Mia Toretto explained that [REDACTED] was a friend of ours, a homicide detective who works in the Valley.
“Oh!” said Detective Crockett Tubbs. “I thought you were joking, like you were asking if I knew a guy who isn’t, like, a real guy. Like, you know, a TV detective.”
“Wait, do you know Harry Bosch?” I teased.
“Yeah, totally, Bosch,” Detective Crockett Tubbs said. “Wait, you guys really know a cop? Like for real?”
“That’s suspect. I might have to arrest you guys.”
Mia Toretto and I laughed, but just in case it wasn’t a joke, I played another LAPD nepotism card.
“Full disclosure, I also know [DIFFERENT REDACTED COP]. Do you know him?”
“Wait!? You know two cops? That’s super suspect. I’d bust you, but I like that Warren Zevon t-shirt.”
“Hang on,” I said. “Are you telling me that my Warren Zevon t-shirt is a get-out-of-jail-free card?”
“Yeah,” Detective Crockett Tubbs said. “Cops love Warren.”
Holy crap, I thought, new shit had come to light! This t-shirt wasn’t just a fan magnet, it was a license for lawlessness. What would Warren Zevon, a man who struggled with booze and drugs most of his life and who never achieved enough commercial success to reap the rewards of merchandizing, have thought about a narcotics officer fan? Honestly, I don’t know, but there’s enough irony there for Warren to have written an entire album.
Or maybe not. Detective Crockett Tubbs was clearly intoxicated, and Mia Toretto and I had already established that he was bad with names. Was he confusing Warren Zevon with Warren G? No, that didn’t make sense. But then again, none of this made sense. We were in the wrong dive bar, talking to a cop who didn’t believe we knew any other cops. And inside that nonsensical narrative, I had found a musical hack to the rule of law? No way, I thought, I need to clarify this pronto. But before I could ask a follow-up question, shit got weird.
The lights went out in the bar. No, really, the lights went out right after Detective Crockett Tubbs told me “the cops love Warren.”
In the darkness, someone screamed. Someone else said something about free drinks. Then another person screamed. And another. I heard a snarky comment about paying the electric bill, followed by booze-soaked cackle, then speculation about disasters—everything from a power outage to the apocalypse.
I felt uneasy. For one thing, I don’t see too well in the dark. For another thing, I’m a stoner, not a drinker, so a dive bar with a narcotics officer just isn’t my cup of tea. But as it became clear that the darkness wasn’t going away, the situation began to feel dangerous. Six-dozen drunks stumbling around in the darkness inside of a dive bar built for three-dozen drunks is a recipe for mayhem.
I looked for Mia Toretto, but all I saw was the abyss of a windowless dive bar. I looked toward the bar where I had last seen Christina, but I couldn’t find her either. I couldn’t see anyone, not even Detective Crockett Tubbs, and he had been standing right in front of me when the lights went out.
The situation felt Zevonian, at least to me. One minute, the dive bar had been a scene of revelry. The next minute, there was darkness, fear, uneasy chatter, and wild speculation. As my anxious mind served up one terrible scenario after the next, I found a small comfort in Zevon’s gallows humor.
Send lawyers, guns, and money, Christina, get me out of this.
And she did!
Maybe because my wife is a badass who takes action while others are still taking stock, or maybe because Christina was “Sober-Wan-Kenobi,” she was the first person to remember that her phone is also a flashlight. Using her glowing phone to guide the way, Christina found my hand in the darkness…
and led me toward the light.
And if you use Substack Notes, please Restack this story because it won’t Restack itself.🙏
An audio coda for this Warren Zevon story!
Press play to hear what happened after we escaped the dive bar…
lawyers, guns & paid subscribers
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You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you’ve got answers.
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How are your vibes when you enter a dive bar? No wrong answers here.
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