I remember driving from Davis to Fairfield one summer night thirty some years ago and passing a drive-in in the distance showing hardcore porn. Nasty naked hardcore porn. Huge everythings. Probably the biggest TV repairman ever, though we had missed the libretto, having dawdled in Davis an extra minute or two. You have no idea how surreal this was for a couple from Hollywood. Porn was something viewed in faded movie palaces on Hollywood Blvd all dark and dank and icky, full of dirty old men and worst dates ever and Pee Wee Herman. Yet here we were, smack dab in the middle of Reagan country with Jesus on the radio and the biggest fornicators you ever saw getting it on in front of God and everybody. All that flesh on the screen must have been visible for miles. It certainly was a half mile away on the 80. Alas we zipped by so quickly I never did get a line on the plot, and in a minute or two the screen passed out of sight completely and we were wrapped again in darkness but for the occasional Jesus staring at us from a billboard. Sometimes the analog world was like another planet.
Once a nephew of mine wanted to see Hollywood. 1980, I think. Maybe ‘81. We had gone three blocks from home when a beautiful cobalt blue low rider completely tricked out—pipe organ speakers and everything—came rolling down Western from Hollywood Blvd, ran the light, jumped the curb and slammed into a lamp post. The body of the driver was slumped over the little chain steering wheel and you could clearly see the knife in his back. We all stared in disbelief. Well, you wanted to see Hollywood, I said. Cool, he said.
We’ve been four decades now in what are essentially the eastern suburbs of Hollywood. First couple places were in East Hollywood, which is sort of Hollywood’s Brooklyn (I’d say Queens but that’s West Hollywood). In fact East Hollywood was its own incorporated village separated from Hollywood by farmland until it was incorporated into the city of Los Angeles I believe in the early 1910’s. Not that the city fathers had a choice if they wanted water. They lost their independence but they got their water, enough that by the 1920’s in a building boom that would give today’s anti-growth people a seizure the once sleepy village of East Hollywood metastasized into instantaneous suburban sprawl, home to all the low level studio hands and movie proles. There are photos from the top of Barnsdall Hill twenty years apart that are mind blowing: the first an agricultural idyll, something out of Ancient Greece, all groves and fields of grain and vineyards stitching to the horizon; the second, twenty years later, crowded wall to wall with cheap construction and looking basically like it looks today, except for the Home Depot. Hence all the now charming but then just quick and cheap to build bungalows (many still with the original Murphy beds that wake entire neighborhoods with violent skronks and squeaks when fucked in). In the century that followed East Hollywood never has upscaled. Downscaled quite a bit for a spell. We saw that. Sleazebags haggling over a ten dollar blow jobs in the 7-11 parking lot. Ten dollars with no rubber the john said. A minute later he realized he’d been had. They were still arguing as we drove off and a police cruiser pulled in.
So we moved a mile east into one of the tonier and older Hollywood suburbs, Silverlake, though off Sunset amid the bohos and gays and working class, hundreds of feet below the rich folks up the hill. It was a wonderful spot, we loved it. We had loud parties every weekend, and otherwise listened to obnoxious music and screwed to all hours and the neighbors must have hated us. I’d hate us. But crime oozed east from Hollywood in the early 90’s—a crackhouse three doors down, heroin three doors up—so we fled another mile east to the very edge of the Hollywood suburbs on a ridge overlooking—gasp!—the Valley, tho’ Atwater residents refuse to acknowledge that fact, freed as they are from the SFV’s rigid street grid. But up here in our Silverlake aerie we know better—it gets hot as fuck down there on the wrong side of the 5. Plus they can smell the River.
I appear to have digressed from whatever stream of consciousness I’d been in. Whatever, this eddy might be just the place to mention that that heroin house just sold for a million bucks. The rents in the crackhouse are now twice what we’re paying in our hilltop pad. Progress. Anyway, back into the current:
It’s funny to remember that when I was in second grade I began school in San Diego, then Anaheim, then Tacoma, then Anaheim again, then finished on an island off the coast of Maine. That was what, five thousand miles in one year? In 39 years we have moved all of maybe two miles. Same goddamn phone number even. Same stores and streets and stories. Some of the same friends. Virtually my entire adult life and all of my married life in less than two square miles here on Hollywood’s eastside. Hollywood. All our streets run east-west through Hollywood. Our bus lines. Our consciousness. Downtown LA is still alien and exotic and exciting to me, and I worked there for years, in who knows how many of those skyscrapers. Yet Hollywood Blvd, in our downtown, while infinitely stranger than downtown LA somehow feels normal. It’s fucked up that something that bizarre could feel normal, I know, but I’ve been seeing it for four decades. It gets into your DNA, as the hackneyed and scientifically nonsensical meme goes. But it does. I got the shit kicked out of me by cops in the Hollywood jail even. I’ve earned this feeling of being at home in this crazy place. I’ve never even considered myself an Angeleno, not really. I live in Hollyweird.
Gonna Uber to the Lotus Festival tonight to stump around on a cane in a crowd. Maybe I’ll trip over someone’s yappy little dog. Goal is the fireworks. Asians have the grooviest loudest gnarliest fireworks shows. Awesome echoing acoustics on the lake, too, loud as fuck twice and so low you can hear the cinders sizzling in the water. Now that’s groovy. Maybe I’ll find a bench or wall to sit on and trip people with my cane in the dark. Just an idea.
OK, I won’t.
I love the Lotus Festival. It’s my favorite thing at beautiful (really, it is) Echo Park lake all year, at least since the splendid annual Cuban Festival disappeared in a miasma of logistical despair. By the way, I’m really big at these Asian festivals. Not famous, just big. Huge. Looming. Especially in the Filipino section where I am two Filipinos high and they mill around me and make insulting comments. I impress them with all the bad words I know in Tagalog. It’s a very healthy relationship.
[An old Facebook post]
This targeted digital marketing on Spectrum no longer gives us giggling teen dating commercials but ads for catheters, adult diapers, Consumer Cellular and Previgen, the brain supplement with an ingredient originally found in jellyfish which, of course, have no brains at all.
(Coughed up by Facebook from a couple years ago. I don’t remember writing it but whatever.)
My only Toni Basil story was hanging out all night at her pad two tenants later and marvelling at the beautiful patterns a gallon of butternut squash soup had left on the ceiling. The kitchen was a sticky yellow mess but above it was the Sistine Chapel. That was some explosion. Redneck cuisine, his wife said. We ate the scrapings from the pot and talked about Toni Basil. If only she still lived there to see it. If only she liked butternut squash soup. If only she liked explosions and art.
So me and Allen, perhaps stoned, perhaps just stupid, found an aluminum bat and in lieu of a ball spent an hour pitching rocks to each other and smacking them into a corn field in Arroyo Grande. Amazing how far a rock will travel off an aluminum bat. There were a lot of strikes, a lot of pop flies, a few homers, and a few that went straight as a cannon shot towards the pitcher. Neither of us were hit, and we kept at it till my wife came out and asked what the fuck we were doing. Playing baseball, Allen said. With rocks. Well stop it right now, she said. We stopped. Let’s see, that was the late eighties. Allen was in his twenties. I’d passed thirty a couple years before. We were bored and the corn field before us stretched for acres. It made sense at the time. Not so much now.