I had a meeting, because when you live in Los Angeles, you have meetings. I had not been in town for very long, and I referred to the street I had taken as Sepul-VAY-da. Everyone laughed at me.
Before I had any friends in the city, I would drive around at night. There was no internet, or at least I did not have access to it, and so you would have to leave your house if you felt lonely. I had a Chevy Corsica which was terrible and I would drive east on Hollywood out to Western. There was a mud wrestling joint there called the Hollywood Tropicana that I never went in. Lack of courage or lack or interest. Lack of funds, too.
There was a video arcade on Western. I went in there and played the game where you get to shoot people with a sniper rifle. What fun is shooting aliens or zombies or werewolfs? I like shooting people.
My first apartment was #706 1748 N. Orange Drive. The building was called The Madison, and it was 12 stories tall, which is very tall for Hollywood. There are 40 and 50 story buildings in downtown, but most of Hollywood is two and three stories high.
(I had to live in Hollywood. I was 23 and from New Jersey. Where else could I live? What would be the point in driving cross-country unless you could live in Hollywood?)
The man who ran the building was named Bert, and he wore a suit to his office in the lobby of the building which was in between the elevators and the front door. When I was late with the rent, I would sneak out through the parking garage. I was late with the rent a lot.
The reason there aren’t many tall buildings in Hollywood is because there shouldn’t be. The earth quakes occasionally. I was with a woman named Michelle for my first earthquake. It was very late, and she was tied up on my futon. We had rented a Playstation from Blockbuster and bought some cocaine, and after we ran out of cocaine I tied her up on my futon.
This was a consensual binding, mind you.
The door started banging back and forth like someone was trying to get in, and we both became wide-eyed. I ran to the door, still hard. Looked through the peep. No one. The real shaking started, and she yelled at me to untie her.
I still feel lousy for laughing.
Mah Huang was legal back then. Delicious shit. It came in tinctures from the health store, pure herbal Chinese speed, with a black rubber stopper that you could suck up the rust-colored liquid and squirt it into a shot glass and drink with water. Hamburger patty in the morning. Chicken Caesar salad at night. Easy way to get down to 140.
Doesn’t matter. Always someone something-er in Los Angeles. Prettier, funnier, skinnier.
That’s what everyone in Los Angeles tells themselves, anyway.
Theresa came out to visit me. We met in Jersey and dated in Boston, and I should have married her. I used to fuck up and make her break up with me so I could pitch pennies at her window in Cambridge and talk my way back into her bed.
We fucked and slept on the futon on the floor. She left after a day-and-a-half. I was strung out on pills and my head was swaying.
Brian was the guy I got pot from. He had vicodin, too, and valium and xanax. I bought them all. The vicodin was my favorite, smiley and scratchy, and the other pills were lovely and relaxing; I would take a barbell to sleep and listen to the same Miles Davis record every night on honking big headphones with a curly extension cord connecting them to my stereo across the room.
I don’t remember much of her stay. I’m sure I could not keep up a conversation or a hard-on.
She married a guy I know. Two kids.
Canter’s is on Fairfax. There’s Jerry’s Deli in the Valley, and Nate & Al’s in Beverly Hills, but Hollywood residents go to Canter’s on Fairfax. After two in the morning, which was Last Call, everyone in the restaurant was drunk but there were rarely fights. No one wanted to get 86’ed from Canter’s. Your agent would hear about it.
The waitresses were battleships.
There were phones at some booths, princess models screwed into the wall where the jukebox should be, and you could call your reprobate friends or your drug dealer or your bass player. You could not make long-distance calls, no matter how clever you were.
Canter’s serves chicken-in-a-pot, which is exactly what it sounds like. Take a chicken, simmer the fucker alongside some potatoes and carrots and whatnot, serve. You have to rip the chicken apart yourself, but it is very tender and so it is easy. There is a basket of bread on the table fit for dunking in the broth.
I had a pair of leather pants. They cost $220, and I bought them on Melrose Avenue. I was skinny enough so my ribs showed, and no ass whatsoever. The Army/Navy store on Hollywood sold olive-green shirts with bullseyes on them like the tail markings of a British Spitfire, so I bought five of them in size S and they clung to my starved arms. Rings, too, and a watch with a thick wrist-flap made of leather, also.
My hair came down to my shoulders and I wore a pair of aviator sunglasses I had bought at a gas station.
O, Lord, bless me for the mess I was in my twenties.
And may He bless you, too.
Nancy and I were fucking in my bedroom on Gardner Street, and we were vocal fuckers. We would update each other on the state of our orgasms, and cheer one another on. She was pale and had a plump ass and a waxed pussy. Straight blonde hair. She was a production assistant.
The windows were open, and when we finished there was cheering from the sidewalk below. A man and a woman. They had been listening to us. We laughed, and then we smoked a cigarette, and then we fucked again.
1200 North Gardner is right above Santa Monica Boulevard and a couple blocks below Sunset. West Hollywood slopes up from Beverly Boulevard to the Hills. It is easier to go down. There is a 7-11 at the intersection, and the Astro Burger, and Hunter’s. Hunter’s is a transvestite bar with black-and-white awnings. It is closed when I move in to the neighborhood, and does not ever open. No one buys the property and the black-and-white awnings remain. The bar is its own ghost.
There are Russian repair shops on Santa Monica, and a porno theater named the Pussycat. I applied for a job there, and did not get a call.
Fini was next after Nancy. She had curly blonde hair, and she was short with very big tits that she wore tight, ironic tee-shirts to emphasize. Instead of a purse, she carried a metal lunch box with Spider-Man on it. I had run into her once or twice, and then we talked all evening at the bar at the World-Famous Hollywood Improv on Melrose. She said “Good night” and then came back and asked me something else–she had already given me her number–and then left again.
My friend John, who was older than me and had been to Vietnam and been married several times, said,
“You know she wants to fuck you, right?”
It was nice of him to tell me.
I wrote a few screenplays in Los Angeles. You could be evicted from your apartment if you weren’t working on a screenplay, so I wrote a few. They were shit.
There’s nothing I can’t do better than 20-year-old me.
Los Angeles was at the vanguard of ‘No-Smoking’ rules, and it was forbidden even in bars. Still, after midnight, the bartenders would break out the ashtrays and all the drunks would gladly light up at the bar instead of walking outside every few minutes.
They were cheap, though. West Hollywood had smoke shops which were actual smoke shops and not just head shops mislabeled. There were always deals in them, too. Marlboro Mediums two-for-one. $2.40. The guys behind the counter were sketchy and foreign, and the store was certainly a front for something-or-other, but still: two-for one Marlboros.
The first time, I used twine. I do not know why I had a ball of twine, but I did, and I wrapped it around my left bicep twice and put the rope in my mouth and pulled.
The best thing about going to movies in the afternoons is that there’s no one in the auditorium except for fuckups like yourself, and so you can move around and laugh and talk back to the screen without fear of reproach. In a full screening, there’s an expectation of silence and morbidity; at 2:00 in the afternoon, all seven people in the theater are fucked up and weird and jobless and there is a certain détente.
The New Beverly Cinema was a revival theater, and it showed art films and documentaries. I befriended a pimp in a sky-blue suit there once. I saw The Filth and the Fury there twice.
Nancy hated Fini. They knew each other. She held my jaw with both hands and held her head straight with mine and said,
“She’s a fucking retard.”
Nancy had blue eyes too large for her face and straight blonde hair. Fini had curly blonde hair and her eyes disappeared when she smiled. I took her to the World-Famous Hollywood Improv on Melrose and we sat at the bar drinking red wine. Brown liquors are bad for you, but red wine is the color of blood and therefore holy and so were drinking red wine. She was wearing a very tight tee-shirt, and she had very big tits.
Nancy was there, too. I don’t know why, I don’t remember. We caught each other’s eye, and I drank red wine with Fini some more. My cock was hard, and we drank red wine, and Dionne Warwick was singing.
Do You Know The Way To San Jose?
Gonna piss, I said to Fini.
There was a small theater connected to the World-Famous Hollywood Improv. One-man shows and whatnot. Stage, soundboard, audience. Small theater. There were bathrooms backstage, and Nancy was standing in front of one. I followed her in and she turned around and kissed me angry and grabbed me by the back of my neck; I gathered up her ass in both hands and lifted her onto the vanity. She unclasped her jeans herself, and I was out of mine, too, and hard and in her fucking her against the cheap dryboard wall.
Neither of our pants were off, just puddled at our ankles. I came in her, and she kissed the place where my neck meets my ear. Right behind the lobe.
I wore 501’s at the time, so I buttoned up my fly and went back to Fini at the bar.
I’d never felt more manly than when I was lying to her.
I was back to 140 pounds again. Crystal meth will do that to you. I was wearing shorts that I had cut from cargo pants and long-sleeved shirts; I would hold up my shorts because I did not have a belt. I desperately needed a haircut.
All of these problems could be cured with a needle.
Or put off for several hours.
The sun comes up early in The Madison when your curtains are busted and you are strung out on pills. The windows point east and the view is of the Yamashiro restaurant and the Hollywood Sign, The sun lives in the east, and when your curtains are busted there is no defense against her but pills.
Eventually, the sun wins. She’s a motherfucker that way.
The sun always comes up in Los Angeles, even if you are not there.