Friday, December 26, 2008

Leaving Los Angeles: 1985

Life in L.A. had deteriorated. It had become, basically, Mike Jeff and Me living together at Oakwood in West Hollywood (Burbank, really). I was already looking for a way out--had kicked myself for not moving down to Key West where Brock and Matt were--and knew it was only a matter of time (of telling Mike who had asked me to come out to L.A., who had given me a job and shelter) before I sped off and away from SoCal. Then Mike met some girl--the lifeguard at the apartment complex's pool--and he got a house and she moved in with him. That was the end of our stay at Oakwood, which was month-to-month, and also, by that time, Jeff had met a girl (another girl, when we first met him he was living with a woman--Sherri, common-law-wife--and had a little boy from her) who was pregnant with his child and she lived way out in some suburban area west of Burbank, she lived with her mother and some other younger siblings (no father--it was common to find no father in the house in SoCal). So, Jeff moved in with her. But he and she and her mom were gracious enough to let me stay at their chaotic place until I left town--because by that time, I'd set a date.
I was waiting to finish one last construction job for Mike, then was flying to Pensacola and going to some small town on the beach in Florida to see Matt and Holly.
I had Mike's work vehicle for transportation, so I could get around. I had friends at Oakwood and said goodbye to them. Had friends in Burbank and at the Pago Pago Lounge and said goodbye to them. I stayed, illegally, at the apartment (still had the key and it had not been rented and no one came to clean it or check it) for a few nights, but it was lonely and I felt guilty and worried someone would find me and how embarrassing it would be to get kicked out of there. So, as said, I moved in with Jeff and his pregnant girlfriend at her mom's bungalow with her other kids and these three little girls who her mother--no, Jeff's girlfriend--babysat about every day. They were funny little kids and I think that was the first time I ever enjoyed being around little kids and got me thinking that, hmm, maybe, I'd have kids some day. But I stayed there--actually a very pleasant neighborhood with a park across the street--feeling displaced and miserable and antsy and ready to leave. . . It wasn't more than a week, but felt longer.
Then the day came, or rather, the day before the day. That night, Mike took me around to the old haunts he and I had invented for ourselves. We drank. Hung with some old pals--Jeff, Bob and Brenda, maybe James (no, James was gone by then). He had some coke (yes yes, we did coke in L.A. in the 80s) and for some reason we had a cheap motel room on Olive in Burbank (I must have flown out of Burbank, but I seem to recall it was LAX) and we drank and did coke in the room and then never set the alarm and we woke up late and I missed my flight (which set up a round of problems for when I was supposed to get into Pensacola and when Matt was supposed to pick me up) and so Mike dumped me off at the airport and I got another flight but had to wait around and try to inform Matt I was going to be late--I could only leave messages. Matt had no phone--only the restaurant where he worked as a number--and there were no cell phones and I used Mike's Dad's credit phone number to make these long distance pay phone calls. And so, finally, I tumbled into the sky and flew to New Orleans. Then a puddle jumper prop plane to Pensacola--where it was night and I had not heard from matt and I still left messages and waited and waited because he was at work in Grayton Beach--over an hour east--and had to finish the shift and the Pcola airport became empty empty except for a cleaning woman who kept her eye on me and asked if I was staying or what or something (she mainly spoke Spanish and my Spanish is very poor) and finally i got a message from him that he was coming and he showed up and around 1am or so we drove out of pensacola, headed for Grayton which I'd never seen and had barely even envisioned in my head.
It was dark and in my mind it was all just one big city, Pensacola to Grayton, with some unlighted spots in between.
And then in Grayton there was some massive young person party going on (they'd stolen the liquor from some bankrupt bar that had failed to pay them) and it was quite crazy crazy crazy. And then, when the sun came up, I got to see what a fantastic place Grayton Beach was.
But what I remember most about those last weeks in L.A. was staying at the old Oakwood apartment by myself. I felt very alone--almost abandoned--and like a homeless person. I was careful not to turn on lights at night or to make much noise. Had to stay indoors because I was there past the lease, was squatting. I had known--knew--a lot of people there. I don't know why i didn't call one of the woman I knew and stayed with her or ask them to come see me. There was the Lebanese girl whose father was a millionaire living in Greece, there was the musicians daughter (who liked me but she was only seventeen and I refused to mix it up with her because of that) and there were others. But part of it was I wanted to be alone, liked my cold self-pity, and also I knew I was leaving, was going away and would not be back and that my life was no longer connected to these people. Just another transient stop with transient relationships. So, I sat alone with the lights out, listening, squatting in an empty apartment in L.A. That pretty well sums it all up. I never felt connected to the city or region, I was always fighting it, never embraced it much.
But Los Angeles taught me some things. I don't dislike it and did go back a few times. I learned to drive in city traffic there. Learned that I couldn't abandon a wife and kids if I ever had any--something I honestly thought I could do, marry and sire and leave, but seeing Jeff's life and so many other people's in L.A., I realized I did have a level of morality and duty in me that would not allow that (which was why, I guess, I was in no hurry to marry or settle and was very picky about where I invested my deepest emotions). I learned about small bars and their patrons as second families and also learned about alcoholism and lives slipping away in dark dank drinking holes. I learned many things that come with living in a city and ones specifically that come with living in L.A.
But I was glad to leave. Never had a great desire to return.
I'll leave that for others.

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