You can take the girl out of Spenard but you can't take Spenard out of the girl.
January 26 - 29, 2007
Day 39: Austin bound
Woke up before the sun peeked over the horizon. I was glad I'd chosen to go to Alley Oop Fantasyland in Iraan, TX, this morning because that meant I got to get off the interstate and head north (instead of east - directly into the rising sun). Also saw a couple deer on the way - first real wildlife I've seen in quite some time (not including birds).
There's not really a lot to Alley Oop Fantasyland. It's the size of a small neighborhood park. According to a plaque, the guy who wrote the Alley Oop comic strip came up with the idea while in the town of Iraan. There's a museum with a sign boasting "Indian artifacts" but it was closed for the winter.
I was the only person at the park this morning. I wandered around and took photos of the few things there. It took about 15 minutes. I could've done it in less time except that I smoked a cigarette too.
What caveman would be complete without a top hat & cigar?
...or a pet dinosaur?
...or a wind turbine blade?
After this little diversion, I headed back to the interstate and drove through a whole lot of nothing until I got back off the interstate again - this time onto US 290 headed to Austin. I swear, US 290 should be renamed "Dead Deer Drive." I have never seen that many dead deer along the the side of the road. I probably saw about three dozen - all in varying stages of decomposition. Sorry, but I didn't get any photos of the deer corpses.
Got to Austin around 3:30pm - a couple hours before my internet friend got home from work. His name is also Bret (but with only one "t"). I sat in my car outside his house reading a book until he got home. I took a shower and then we went out for Mexican food and margaritas with his real-life friend, Glen. Then we went back to his house where we sat up talking and drinking the tequila El Paso Brett bought us.
Day 40: I'm going to another party!
Last night, Glen & Bret talked about a costume party they were invited to at a house called The Pink Palace. It's a huge Victorian house inhabited by 8 or 9 friends of theirs (and yes - it's pink). Now that I have been properly vetted by Bret, I too am invited.
I have no idea what I am going to wear. Normally, I love costume parties and enjoy creating costumes from scratch. I have appeared at previous costume parties in such guises as Yoko Ono and the Hawaiian god, Lono. But tonight I am at a loss. With only a day's notice and using only what I have in the car - I have nothing. My only thought is to go as the kind of person who doesn't go to costume parties.
Meanwhile, Bret has put together a very convincing Secret Service costume.
This afternoon we went to go see The Departed. Not Scorcese's best film, but an entertaining way to kill a couple hours. But I just couldn't buy the idea that the cop psychologist would fuck Leonard DiCaprio's character. Am I supposed to believe it just because he's Leonard DiCaprio? C'mon!
But the theatre was really cool - much like the Bear's Tooth back in Spenard. The only real difference between the two was that here you write your order for food and/or alcohol on a piece of paper and stick it in a slot in front of you. Servers roam the aisles looking for orders in the slots. When they see yours, they grab it and then unobtrusively return with your food and beer. You never have to leave your seat for another drink.
After the movie, we went back to Bret's house and moved my car to a nearby friend's driveway. Last night, a neighbor's car parked on the street was broken into - the thieves broke two windows and ripped out the backseat to get into the trunk. To be on the safe side, we moved my car off the street. It would suck to have all my stuff ripped off so close to the end of my trip.
Day 41: Whatta party!
Oh, man! That was one fun party. Four blessed hours where I didn't once think about what a mess my life has become. There were probably 200 people there. When I showed up without a proper costume, I was issued a top hat, magic wand and a plush bunny.
Bret's Secret Security outfit was convincing enough that when we first walked in, heads turned and a hush fell over the room. It took a second for partygoers to realize that he was just a guy in a costume. Of course, nobody mistook me for a real magician.
When I found myself in group that included people dressed as Hugh Hefner and Lord Steele: Porn Star At Large, I knew this was a crowd who would appreciate the story about the day I met Ron Jeremy. I've told that story many times over the last couple years and it is a very well-rehearsed piece by now, but last night was the absolute best retelling I've ever given of that story. Hell, it's not even a story anymore - it's a monologue. And a damned funny one, too.
Last night was probably the last great party I will attend in a long time. I highly doubt I'll be going to a lot of swank parties - or telling the Ron Jeremy story - in rural east Alabama.
Once again, I woke up hungover. After a leisurely morning of internet surfing and a tasty breakfast cooked by Bret, we picked up my car and I packed up the few things I'd taken out for my stay. I was on the road by 2pm.
The truck that is bringing a pallet full of my belongings to Alabama may arrive as early as tomorrow. I picked the absolute cheapest shipping alternative which means the driver is actually expecting someone to be there to help him unload the truck. I hate to pawn that duty off on my family there. It may not show up tomorrow but, just in case, I really want to be there when the truck arrives.
That means means covering 950 miles in 24 hours. That also means driving in the dark - which I hate. There's no good direct interstate route unless I went through Houston or Dallas so I took a lot of smaller roads. I had a unexpected delay when I missed a turn in the dark and wound up on some two-lane road in the middle of nowhere. I finally got to Tyler, Texas, where I promptly got lost.
I finally found the interstate and made it to a rest stop in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I'm going to grab a few hours sleep.
Day 42: The home stretch
Woke up at 4am. Scraped the ice off my car, added some more oil and got back on the interstate headed east. A straight shot all the way to Anniston, AL, where I turned south to my teeny tiny town.
I hardly saw any of Louisiana. The sun came up just before I crossed into Mississippi. Ugh - driving directly into the sun again. I would've loved to have stopped somewhere for breakfast and waited for the sun to get a little higher, but I had a lot of ground to cover.
I put the visor down to shade my eyes and was left with a small window of visibility between the bottom of the visor and the top of the dashboard. But that didn't stop me from going 85 miles an hours. I don't think I stopped the car once in Mississippi. Just drove straight on through.
I thought I had seen the greatest town name when I saw a sign for Chunky, Mississippi. But later, when looking at the Alabama map, I found a town called Bug Tussle. That is officially the greatest town name ever. Someday I will have to take a trip to Bug Tussle, Alabama, just to check it out.
I crossed the Alabama border a little after 10am. I stopped at the visitor's center / rest stop to stretch my legs and stock up on tourist brochures. After about 20 minutes, I got back in the car and continued on my way.
In Anniston, I turned south off the interstate onto US 431 - only an hour to go. When I was only a few miles away from my final destination, I noticed a strange cloud formation ahead.
I soon realized that this hole in the clouds was hovering directly above my new home. I mean directly above it. Before I could decide if this was a good omen or a bad omen, a small blue bird swooped low in front of my car. I hit the brakes but it was in vain. The tiny bird smashed into my grill. Looking in the rear view mirror, I could see it's lifeless body lying in the middle of the road.
I couldn't help but worry that the bluebird of happiness had just committed suicide, using my car as its method of self-destruction. That can't possibly be a good omen.
January 24 - 25, 2007
Day 37: El Paso & Juarez
Woke up at the crack of noon today. Brett and I stayed up until 4:30am, talking and drinking. When I finally got moving, we went out for Texas BBQ at a joint called The State Line. Mmmmmm.....pulled pork and coleslaw on a bun.
After filling our bellies, we drove around El Paso to see a few of the sites before heading across the border to Juarez. I like that my epic roadtrip has taken me to three separate countries: U.S., Canada & Mexico.
Brett with El Paso in the background
We walked across the bridge to Juarez. When you look to the river below, you can see that the concrete banks have been covered with political graffiti. I doubt you can see it if you cross the border by car. Even though my knowledge of Spanish consists of asking for another beer and inquiring on the location of the bathroom, there was no mistaking the sentiments of the graffiti artists.
We walked around Juarez - mostly just people watching and snapping photos. Didn't do much shopping but I do love Mexican-Catholic religious items so I just had to have the black candle that pleads with Santa Muerte to bring death to my enemies. I also picked up a Santa Muerte scapula for Angela. It was a whopping three dollars for both items. Brett also picked up a fifth of tequila for me to bring to our mutual internet friend in Austin.
All the female mannequins had big bodacious butts
This mural was actually back across the border in El Paso
Day 38: Lord, I'm 5000 miles from my home
Well, 5164 miles to be exact. I originally had the idea of making it to Austin tonight but changed my mind after waking up hungover at 10am. Driving almost 600 miles in a day was really only feasible if I was on the road by 8am - not 11:30am. Waking up at 7am was really only feasible if Bret & I didn't stay up drinking until 3am.
So instead, I opted to drive halfway today - stopping at a rest area somewhere between the towns of Bakersfield (pop. 30) and Sheffield (pop. 400). One more night sleeping in the car. It's been weeks since I've slept in the car - way back in Oregon. At least it's not so cold here.
There's not much out here West of the Pecos - just miles and miles of desert.
I stopped for gas in Fort Stockton but passed on the chance to visit Paisano Pete - the world's largest statue of a roadrunner. The sun was sinking and I didn't know exactly where Paisano Pete was. I was worried that by the time I found him it would be to dark to get a photo. Thought it does raise the question: Where is the world's second largest statue of a roadrunner?
But I am close to Iraan, TX - home of another old-school roadside attraction: Alley Oop Fantasyland, based on the long-gone Alley Oop comic strip. Don't imagine they get many visitors anymore except people like me who still worship at the altar of roadside Americana.
Since I'm in the car tonight I should be up at the break of dawn. I'll hit Alley Oop Fantasyland first thing and then return to the interstate headed towards Austin (where I'm staying with another internet friend).
It's just as comfy as it looks
January 21 - 23, 2007
Day 34: Movie night with an internet friend
Today I hooked up with one of the first in a series of internet friends I'll be seeing on this trip. These are all people I have not met before in real life but we all frequent the same message boards at a particular news site.
Brandon drove from Tucson to pick me up. He showed up with a cooler full of Mexican food for me from another internet friend who had to work that day: Tamales, mini chimis, chips and other delicious treats.
It had been raining on and off all day so we decided it was a good day to see a movie. We chose Children of Men. What a wonderful film! Highly recommend it. We heated up some of the chimis at the house and snuck them into the theater. I highly recommend that too since theater food generally sucks and is always overpriced. Afterwards, we grabbed a couple beers at a bar near the university.
Day 35: Time to pack the car again
The car is probably the cleanest it's ever been since I bought it back in 2003. It's been washed inside and out. Most everything has been repacked and I'm almost ready to hit the road again. Got a full day ahead of me tomorrow - a good 7 or 8 hours of driving to reach El Paso where I'm staying at the home of another internet friend, Bret.
Day 36: Onward to El Paso
I got on the road at 9:30 this morning. Fortunately the weather was good today - sunny most of the time. It had recently snowed along much of my route. Much of the desert in New Mexico was still covered in a couple inches of fresh snow.
Foolishly, I thought I was done with snow
Along Interstate 10 in Arizona, big yellow billboards started popping up cryptically asking "The Thing - What Is It?" and directing travelers to take Exit 322. I have a big love for crazy roadside attractions so, when Exit 322 appeared, I happily veered off the highway to find out what the hell The Thing is.
The Thing is in a building behind a gas station/convenience store/souvenir shop. Actually, there are three separate buildings - each housing a large collection of curiosities. It's a real old-school roadside attraction - and at only $1.00 a gawk, it's a terrific bargain.
The Thing is kept in a glass-covered case in the last building. I hate to spoil the surprise so I'm not going to tell you what it is. You'll just have to take Exit 322 and pay a dollar to see for yourself.
I pulled into El Paso as the sun was setting. I got to Bret's place right before he had to go to work for a couple hours. Minutes after saying our hellos, he left me - a relative stranger - alone in his apartment. But then we're not really strangers - we're internet friends. So it's okay. Tomorrow, we go to Mexico.
January 20, 2007
Day 33: ARIZONA SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!!!!!
The people next door went to Flagstaff this weekend and brought back some snow which they dumped in the middle of the cul-de-sac. I saw the snowball fight from the window and went outside to investigate. When they noticed me taking photos, someone yelled "Innocent bystander!" and the snowballs started flying my way. What else could I do but grab a handful and join in the melee? Lucky for them I throw like a girl.
January 18 -19, 2007
Day 31: A month on the road
Has it been a month since I left Spenard? Fuck. It still has not sunk in that I really left - much less that I am moving to a tiny town in the rural South.
I bought a new camera today. I had a gift card that I was planning on using in Alabama to stock up on non-perishables like soap, toilet paper, pasta, etc... But I cannot live without a digital camera. Just can't do it. Won't even try. So, I used the gift card to buy a sleek silver Nikon. Still cost me $70 out of pocket. I almost doubled my pixels, but lost half my zoom power.
The old, broken camera
I was able to stick the old memory card in the new camera and save the photos I took right before the tragic accident that cost my dependable Kodak its life.
I'd taken a number of the worker who trimmed the palm trees in the back yard.
Then of course came the bright idea to get some poolside shots my traveling companion, Donner the Dead. I only got two photos before Donner dove into the pool and I dropped the camera on the pavement while running to save him.
This is the last photo my old camera ever took. The kicker is its not even the shot I wanted. At least the Mexican workers got a big kick out of me and Deb fishing a goddamned caribou head out of the pool.
Day 32: The rains came & the sneezes went away
Today is the first day in a while that I haven't been sneezing every ten minutes. My guess is it has something to do with the rain we got. All I know is I'm glad to stop sneezing.
Deb's working a boxing match today so I spent most of my time organizing my stuff and cleaning out the car. Almost time to repack the car again. I'm leaving Monday or Tuesday for El Paso, Texas. The car is clean on the outside - Deb washed it the other day and cleaned the windows inside and out. She even bought me a new lug nut, an oil cap and a gallon of motor oil - which should be at least enough to get me across Texas (remember, my car leaks enough oil it should be named the Exxon Valdez).
Since I neglected to do so earlier, here's a photo of Deb and Bill, my most gracious hosts.
January 14 -17, 2007
Day 28: Isn't it supposed to be warm in the desert?
The Alaskan chill has followed me to Phoenix. It was in the 20s last night. Saw on the news that it was even below zero in Flagstaff. Of course, it warms up a bit during the day. Unfortunately, not warm enough to consider swimming in the pool.
Everyone around here has covered the plants in their yards with blankets to protect them from the freezing temperatures. It's a nice neighborhood so it's funny to see all these pretty gardens looking all ghetto covered in blankets.
It's not warm enough to stain the patio deck either. That's supposed to be my job while I'm here - staining the deck. Deb's paying me some much needed cash for the job. That's why I'm staying in Phoenix longer than originally planned. I need the dough.
Went to the Indian reservation today for cheap smokes. Damn, I'm smoking too much. That shit's gotta stop. But I know it won't stop before the end of this roadtrip.
Day 29: When the hell does it warm up around here?
Still cold. There was even a little ice in the backyard this morning. I saw that the weather is cold and crappy in Texas too. What the hell? People are blaming me for this - claiming I brought it with me. Trust me, folks - I didn't bring it. My car is packed full - where would I have put a weather system?
Day 30: Cough Syrup of the Gods
Woke up feeling like hell. Goddamned Jagermeister. Deb & I stayed up late drinking, talking about old times. Moving pretty slow today. Fuck, I'm never touching that shit again. Give me tequila instead.
I've been enjoying a Lower 48 tradition that is illegal in Alaska: Happy Hour. Man, I've missed $2 beers. Also ate a lot of sushi today. Still have not started staining the deck though.
Day 31: It ain't a party 'til something gets broke
I don't know if it's the change in weather or if I'm allergic to some plant around here, but my throat is scratchy and swollen along with a stuffed-up, runny nose. I'm constantly sneezing. Otherwise, I feel fine.
A few Mexican illegals came by the house today and offered to trim the palm trees for really cheap. It was interesting to watch the guy shimmy up the trees and cut down the palm fronds with a chainsaw. With my fear of heights, this is a job I could never do.
While Deb & I were hanging out in the backyard watching the men work, I decided to get some shots of Donner the Dead out by the pool. I figured between the caribou and the Mexican workers, I would have some nice new shots to post on the site.
Well, all was going well until Donner decided to take a header from the beach chair into the pool. I rushed to his rescue but in the ensuing melee, dropped the camera on the pavement. This is why I can't have nice things. The Mexican workers are probably still having a good laugh about us crazy gringos.
Now the camera is fucked up - the lens is pointing at an awkward angle like a broken limb. We took it to a camera shop but it would probably take 2 weeks to get it back and for the price of the repair I could buy another camera.
Needless to say, don't expect any new photos for a day or two. But I will work something out soon - I cannot live without a digital camera. Don't worry, I have a card or two up my sleeve.
While in Phoenix, I was hoping to visit an old friend, Kearon, who is incarcerated at the nearby Red Rock Correctional Center. I knew him back in my days at Disgraceland when he was the bass player in my old roommate's band.
About seven years ago, he committed a heinous murder that landed him on the front page of the newspaper for several days. Don't know why he did it. Frankly, there was no good reason for it and I won't try to make excuses for what he did, but I would've still liked to visit him while I'm here.
See, Alaska ships a lot of its felons out of state to Arizona. I think it's absolutely despicable that we farm our convicts out to another state so far away - but that's a rant for another day. I wanted to visit Kearon mainly because he probably doesn't get many visitors being incarcerated 4,000 miles from home. I thought it might be nice for him to see an old familiar face.
Unfortunately, I learned that I cannot visit him unless I am on his visitation list. To get on his visitation list, I would need to wait for the results of a thorough background check on myself - a process that would take about a month. I wish I would've started the ball rolling before I left Alaska. But a very helpful employee at the prison looked him up the system and got his inmate number for me and gave me the info I need to write him a letter.
January 12 - 13, 2007
Day 26: Last day in Hollywood
The Alaskan cold has finally found me. I can run, but I can't hide. The weather system that brought those frigid temps to Anchorage a few days ago has arrived in Southern California.
I've been taking my laptop out to Rick's deck where I've found a unsecured wireless signal. I can only get the signal out on the deck - nowhere inside the house. It's been nice to sit outside and gaze at the city lights while on the computer, but now it is rather chilly out here. And that wind isn't helping.
The locals are all bitching about how cold it is but I have trouble equating 45 degrees with unbearable cold. I did break down though and put socks on before coming outside tonight. Even Alaskans would have agree: It's not barefootin' weather.
I don't have any pics for today but I will share this one of the lamp in my room. There's a little switch in back that makes her dance. I love this lamp.
Day 27: By the time I get to Phoenix....
I didn't get on the road until noon. I didn't arrive at my friend Deb's house outside Phoenix until 8:30pm local time. Can't believe I forgot I was losing an hour on this drive by crossing a time zone. I was hoping to get here earlier so I could go to the Phoenix Suns/Orlando Magic basketball game. Deb was working the game tonight (she's an audio engineer) and got me a free pass.
Also, just a short walk down the street from the sports arena, friend & fellow Alaskan Matt Hopper was performing. I was really hoping I could hit both events tonight, but it was not meant to be. I didn't want to park my car full of crap on the streets of downtown Phoenix, but I didn't have time to empty my car at Deb's house and then go downtown.
Actually, those aren't the only things I ended up not doing this weekend. I also did not go to Poway (near San Diego) to confront Tom Hibbs - the ex who successfully kept me in the dark for over 5 years about the fact that he was already married.
I really thought I was going to do it. Maybe it was an uncommon attack of common sense or perhaps I'm just chickenshit. What the hell would I have said? Could I even believe anything he said? And in the end, what difference would it have made? He'd still be a liar and my life would still be in shambles. Nothing would change (except today's update would've probably been more interesting).
I just have to accept that he's a lying douchebag that doesn't give a shit about me and I'm...well...not to put too fine a point on it...I'm a naive fucking idiot.
January 9 - 11, 2007
Day 23: Maybe you can go back home...
Today I drove a little around Hollywood. Went back to Western Avenue again to marvel at how much it's changed. The old neighborhood just doesn't seem the same without the Pussycat Theater's giant marquee reading "Buttman & Throbbin." I see the White Horse bar is still on the corner. I wonder if it's still the same old dive or if it's been gentrified too.
There's now a big bank on the corner of Hollywood & Western. When I first moved to this neighborhood, it was a vacant lot. A small park was later built there, but it was completely enclosed in a tall iron fence that was locked 24 hours a day. Look - don't touch! Atop the locked gates was a sculpture of two disembodied hands holding the handle of a shopping cart. I guess that was supposed to represent the homeless people who couldn't sleep in that park.
I drove down my old stretch of Sunset and saw that many familiar structures were gone, including my first apartment and the building where the Copymat used to be. I spent a lot of time at Copymat. A friend and I had a small business that required lots of color photocopies. That's how Stan & I met - he was working there at the time. Hard to believe that was half a lifetime ago.
The building where I used to work at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) is also long gone - but that was torn down while I still lived here. It's been a Sunset Gower Studios parking lot for about 15 years now. For my last couple years at SIR, I bounced around between the old Santa Monica Boulevard and Culver City locations before finally landing a sweet office at the West Hollywood location in the old Director's Guild of America building (which has since been demolished).
SIR is now located at the corner of Sunset and Wilcox. In a strange twist, the new Copymat is kitty-corner from the new SIR.
Saw a few familiar faces there but, after 13 years, most of my former co-workers have moved on. It was funny that my old boss, Ken, kept me waiting for an hour before giving me a nickel tour of the joint. Looking back on my six years of employment there, it seemed like that's how I spent a good portion of my time - waiting for Ken.
Speaking of employment there: My old job is opening up again very soon. Rick (the friend I'm staying with) would love it if I came back to work with him. Back in the day, we were the unbeatable accounts receivable team.
I can't wonder if a higher power is trying to tell me not to go to Alabama. The day I left Anchorage, I was informed my successor at Surreal wasn't working out and my job would be available again that afternoon.
I am reminded of the old joke about the guy who won't leave his house during a flood. First a truck comes by to save him but he sends it away saying "God will provide." The water rises and a boat comes by to save him but he sends it away saying "God will provide." The water continues to rise and the man climbs on top of his roof. A helicopter comes by to save him but he sends it away saying "God will provide." The water keeps rising and the man drowns. When he arrives in Heaven he asks God why he didn't save him. God replies "I sent you a truck, a boat and a helicopter! What more did you want?"
SIR's new digs are just down the street from two nasty hotels where I lived during my early Hollywood Days. They are both still there - and probably both still nasty.
The worst of the two was the Mark Twain hotel. The one thing the Mark Twain had going for it was there were telephones in the rooms. You couldn't place any calls but at least you could receive them. But, when I stayed there, the Mark Twain was horribly infested with cockroaches - one of the few insects that I just can't stand.
Also, you couldn't stay longer than a week at a time. Nobody was supposed to "live there" so once a week you had to pack up your shit and go somewhere else for the night. After 24 hours, you could check back in.
The nearby Gilbert Hotel at Wilcox & Selma didn't have such a stupid rule. It didn't have phones either but at least it didn't have as many cockroaches. It still had plenty of roaches though. This is the place where I learned that an almost empty bottle of cheap wine makes a great roach trap. Just leave half an inch of cheap wine in the bottom of a bottle and set it in the corner. Within a week, the bottle will be at least half full of cockroaches.
I lived here for about 6 months in 1988
The Gilbert Hotel has the distinction of being mentioned in a Tom Waits' song: A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Blue Gun. Even though it was written 10 years before I lived at the Gilbert and mentions Nebraska instead of Michigan, it could've been written about me:
it's raining it's pouring
now there's a place off the drag
Day 24: Walkin' after midnight
I cannot spend a week in Los Angeles without going out at least one night. I don't have the money to club it up like I used to, but I have to go to at least one bar while I'm here.
I have no idea which of my old haunts are still around. I decide to go to a fairly new place that's only about a mile and a half away (close enough to go on foot): Tiny's K.O.
It's an old-school hole in the wall at Hollywood & Cahuenga. The decor is mainly paintings of naked ladies and sad-faced clowns. What I mean is that there are paintings of naked ladies and paintings of sad-faced clowns - not paintings of naked ladies with sad-faced clowns.
The main reason I chose Tiny's tonight was to get a close-up look at the sexiest man in Hollywood: Coyote Shivers. He's one of the DJs there on Wednesday nights.
No, I did not take this photo (I swiped it from his MySpace page)
Of course, no trip down memory lane would be complete without a boozy stroll down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I left Tiny's around 1am and meandered down the street back to Rick's - stopping at Hollywood Liquor to purchase a six-pack of Alaskan Amber. I was tempted to get the 12-pack but I was on foot and still had a big uphill climb to Rick's.
Hollywood Boulevard is a bit more glitzy than when I was here. Lot's more flashing lights and high-tech video billboards. The newer buildings are bigger and gaudier. Certain stretches feel like a huge outdoor shopping mall - which, I guess, is really what it is.
I don't know, I sorta miss the grittier Hollywood - the one whose seedy underbelly was closer to the surface. I know it's still there - just pushed off onto side streets and alleyways.
The Hollywood I remember was like an old whore in smeared make-up with a violent temper but a heart of gold. Every now and then she could clean herself up and turn a few heads, but then she'd start drinking again and turn on you.
She's cleaned herself up a bit since we last met and it looks like her corporate sugardaddies are treating her well (for now). But when the sun goes down, you can still see that crazy bitch underneath.
Day 25: Hollywood Hermit
My stay in Los Angeles is coming to an end. Soon it will be time to push off to Phoenix. I haven't seen nearly as many old friends or haunts as I would've liked to. (And I'm kicking myself for forgetting Gilby Clarke was playing tonight.) For the most part, I've just been hanging around Rick's house.
It's been nice spending time with Rick. With all his health problems and my impending poverty, this may very well be the last time I see him. And while it makes me very happy to visit with him, the prospect of saying goodbye makes me very sad.
You'd think that after all the goodbyes I've said over the last couple months, it would get easier. But it doesn't. Not by a long shot.
Time to pack the car again....
January 7 - 8, 2007
Day 21: 4th & Mission
Puttered around the house for the early part of the day. Heading downtown this afternoon to see my old partner-in-crime, Traci. It feels weird driving in Los Angeles. I always used to walk, take the bus or bug my friends for rides. In fact, Traci always used to say "You know what Jackie drives? Her friends crazy asking for rides all the time!"
I used to be an outcast in Los Angeles because I didn't have a car. Now that I have a car, I'm still an outcast because I don't have a cell phone. I'll never win in this town.
Day 22: You can't go back home again...
A few Rancho readers out there have been very generous in donating funds to my account. My good friend, Deb, has also offered to put me to work while I'm in Phoenix. Barring any vehicular catastrophes, I should have enough money to get to Alabama as well as pay off my shipping bill. Yay!
Traci lives in a great downtown loft - she's been there for about ten years now. It even has a cyc wall- left behind by the former tenant who was a photographer.
This is where I slept This is who I slept with
Traci cooked up a mess of burgers & beans and had a bunch of friends over to watch the season premier of "The L-Word." I have lived without cable TV for a decade so there are many shows I haven't seen - "The L-Word" included. But I'm familiar with the show - it's basically a lesbian soap opera a la "Melrose Place."
I was thrilled to find a six-pack of Alaskan Amber at the store while we were picking up supplies for the party. A little taste of home...
One of the party's attendees was my old friend, Amy, the bassist for Thirst (which is the same band Traci is in).
Amy & I
Traci & I stayed up late drinking beer and telling stories. It's amazing how many of those stories involve one of us getting injured: sprained ankles, 2nd degree sunburns, knife wounds, searing flesh with red-hot metal, a close call with a gas-filled apartment, etc...
Traci is also the proud owner of a brand new Toyota Scion. It has less than 150 miles on it and still has that new car smell. She could almost pass for a grown-up now.
This morning Traci left for work and I drove back to my old neighborhood at Sunset & Western. Wow! Have they ever cleaned that place up! It looks so much nicer than when I was living here.
Some of the buildings on my block of Harold Way were condemned after the 1994 Northridge Quake, but I moved to Alaska before anything was torn down. Now there's all these spiff apartment buildings and even a restaurant on the corner. Somehow it seems fitting that the site of my old house is the only real blight on the block.
This site actually held three houses and one duplex.
When I still lived here in my little Hollywood bungalow, it was a really shitty neighborhood. Many members of the White Fences (one of L.A.'s oldest Latino gangs) lived on this one-block dead-end stretch of Harold Way, boldly selling their drugs on the sidewalk.
They were always nice to me and I never feared walking down this block after dark, but it's not something I would've recommended to others. The yellow sign at the corner read "NOT A THROUGH STREET." Someone painted over a few of the letters, changing the message to "A ROUGH STREET." Yes, indeed - that summed the place up.
Years ago, "The John LaRoquette Show" used my shitty neighborhood corner for exterior shots of the main character's fictional shitty neighborhood corner. This is where I lived during the L.A. riots. On the second night of rioting, my roommate and I were hunkered down at home watching the news on television. We got to see our own house on CNN that night.
I stopped at the market around the corner to pick up some groceries. It used to be a Ralph's but now it's a Food 4 Less. I drove west on Hollywood Boulevard back to Rick's house. Traffic slowed to a crawl along the main drag. Turns out Hillary Swank was in front of Mann's Chinese Theater getting a star on the Walk of Fame. If I would've known that, I would've taken Sunset Blvd. Lots of old haunts along that route that I'm eager to see.
I made chicken salad for sandwiches and kicked back with the newspaper. It's another beautiful day in Los Angeles - sunny & 80 degrees. Apparently, that's almost 100 degrees warmer that Spenard right now. If I've missed anything about this place, it's the weather (or lack thereof).
January 3 - 6, 2007
Day 17: Los Angeles
Facing westward, eyes closed.
The sun on my face
like a big warm kiss from Satan.
I remember how it felt:
Pacific Ocean at my feet, Santa Ana winds
blowin' crazy air full of seaspray -
the spittle of a million lunatics
ranting in a thousand tongues
in Babylon behind me.
It's the first time I've been back to southern California since I wrote those words oh so long ago. That was from my very first slam poem, performed at Alice's Champagne Palace in Homer. That was my first time in Homer too. Sigh...It feels like I'm remembering somebody else's life.
It's weird being back in Hollywood. A real time warp. I'm staying with my friend, Rick. I'm actually staying the very same room rented from Rick almost 19 years ago.
Rick lives in the foothills of the Hollywood Hills. His place is above the worst of the smog so a few of the brightest stars are visible from here (even though there's a full moon tonight). I can still see Orion, but he's not nearly as bright as I'm used to. Nor is he in the same place I usually find him.
Not only am I not in Alaska anymore, I need to keep reminding myself that I'm not going back - not immediately anyway. I catch myself thinking "I have to tell so-an-so about this when I get back." I need to remind myself that this is a one-way trip and Alaska is almost 4,000 miles behind me. I wipe away the tears and light another cigarette.
The cars in California are all really clean and in good condition. Not just the expensive cars - it's ALL the cars. I drove 400 miles today and I didn't see a single car that looked worse than mine.
My car is dirty and dented and full of crap. Notice the hubcap that went MIA on the Seattle freeway. Did I mention I'm also missing a lug nut? (I also lost the oil cap 500 miles ago.) I stick out like a sore thumb. I feel like one of the Joads -I should have frying pans hanging off the side of the car and a mattress strapped on top.
And look at these cracks in my windshield:
In Alaska, my car hardly stands out in the sea of dirty, dented vehicles with missing windows covered in plastic and duct tape. But in Los Angeles, you are what you drive so I guess that makes me a piece of shit.
But that's better than when I lived here. Back then I didn't own a car, so that meant I was nothing. Nice to see I'm finally moving up in the world.
Oh, City of Angels! Why do you make me feel so icky?
Back to Babylon -
where the jack-o-lantern sky
meets the hypodermic sea
and the sun on your face
feels like a big warm kiss from Satan.
Day 18: Unpacking
Started unpacking the car today. I'm sick of feeling like such an Okie. I'll take a few things out for the duration of my stay. There's a closet I can hang clothes in. It's also Donner's first chance to get out of the car and...um...stretch his legs.
I also need to make room for a large framed 50-year-old print that I bought on eBay last year. I had it mailed to Rick's house because it was $30 cheaper than having it sent to Alaska. I also have a even larger original oil painting from the same artist in the car. This same painting also made the drive with me from Los Angeles to Anchorage back in 1994.
Donner the Dead relaxes on the deck.
Talked to Angela on the phone today. It was good to hear a voice from home. Also got in touch with a few old Hollywood friends that I'll be seeing while I'm here.
Not sure what I'm doing tonight, if anything. I'm only going out if someone comes and picks me up. If that doesn't happen, then Rick & I will order Chinese food and spend another quiet evening at the house.
Day 19: Now accepting PayPal donations
Los Angeles is so pretty after a rain. I have that old Wings' song, "Mamunia," stuck in my head: So, the next time you see L.A. rainclouds, don't complain...
I got the bill today for the pallet of belongings I'm shipping from Anchorage to Alabama. Whew! It was a lot. In fact, it damn near cleared out my bank account. Good thing I have these leftover potstickers for breakfast.
I have a little money in my PayPal account but that will take a few days to get to my bank. Even then, it still probably won't be enough to cover the rest of my gas costs. I got a couple things with me I could unload easily on eBay, but that will take even longer for the money to reach my account.
I'm not sending out a dire S.O.S. call yet but, if you do have five or ten dollars languishing in your PayPal account, I am not too proud to accept it. And if this farming thing works out, maybe I can send you some fresh produce later this year.
That's what I get for staying in all those Canadian motels.
Day 20: Visiting friends
Last night I stayed in Studio City with my good friend, Rachel. We stayed up until the wee hours reminiscing about the old days: the concerts, the parties, the restaurants, the people...
I also got to sleep with Cash - The Cat in Black
Speaking of restaurants, I had a prosciutto pannini from Greenblatt's for dinner. I had an office just down the street from Greenblatt's for a while. That was the place that introduced me to the heaven that is prosciutto .
One long ago afternoon in the late 1900s, I had gone to Greenblatt's for lunch. The guy behind the counter told me they had a prosciutto sandwich that didn't get picked up and I could have it for free if I wanted. Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a free lunch. I happily accepted the sandwich, even though I had no clue what prosciutto was. Oh, God! It was love at first bite.
I wish I could eat at all my favorite eateries while I was here. Many of my faves have closed since '94, but a few are still around. Alas, I do not have the funds for such things.
Tomorrow, I am going to visit with my dear friend, Traci. Oh, the stories we will tell...
December 31 - January 2, 2007
Day 14: New Year's Eve
Has it really been two weeks? Have I really moved away from Alaska? Did I ever really live in Alaska or was it all just a dream? Have I been in Humboldt County for 24 hours or 24 days? Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.
Last night I slept in the annex of Ty & Hillary's house: A vintage '70s RV (with only 68,000 miles!) dubbed Oscar-Deux. It has heat too!
It felt good to sleep horizontally again. I was out for a good ten hours or more. When I woke up, the sun was shining and it was in the mid-50s. Back when I was a Californian, I would've thought this was chilly. But as an Alaskan, it feels like a morn in June.
Hillary and Ty took me to see the giant redwoods. I never saw the redwoods when I lived in California and this feels like I'm crossing something off my life's to-do list.
Me at the base of a toppled redwood
Day 15: New Year's Day
One thing I didn't tell you: Ty grows marijuana. The man has a license to grow weed. Yes, his operation bears a seal of approval from the State of California. I don't really know what the rules are here, but I whole-heartedly approve.
Ty & Hillary are renovating the house so they've had to improvise on the grow room. Last summer, Ty transplanted some pot plants right into his front yard.
We didn't do anything special for New Year's Eve. A few minutes before midnight, Ty rolled up this crazy Cheech-n-Chong spliff and we sat outside listening to neighbors shooting off fireworks.
After two nights, all my batteries are recharged. Not just those in my laptop and camera, but also the batteries in my soul. I am ready to move on.
Being a holiday, the roads were pretty empty. I had vast stretches of the 101 all to myself. It was a leisurely drive that took me through redwood forests and wine country.
The only distressing moment was when a bird - a pheasant I think - darted into the road. I slowed down but the car in the next lane sped up. The other car hit the bird and volleyed it back to me, throwing the poor thing against the side of my car. THWACK!
It left a cloud of feathers in my wake and a clean spot on the door.
The closer I got to San Francisco, the thicker the traffic became. By the time I was approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, traffic had come to a standstill.
I drove straight through the city at what would've been rush hour - except today is New Year's Day. While this wasn't my first time in San Francisco, this was my first time driving in the city - unless you count all those hours spent playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
I had some serious San Fierro flashbacks while driving the city streets. There was a strong desire to floor it up the hills and go airborne at the top - sailing through the air with the greatest of ease... Angela would understand.
But this is not San Fierro and I am not C.J. No, I am just a weary traveler on my way to Palo Alto where I'm going to see more Alaskan friends: Peter & Kathleen Porco. Kathleen got a 10-month journalism fellowship to Stanford University so her and Peter are on a California sabbatical here. They return to Anchorage in July.
I arrived at 6:30 - just in time for dinner! They fired up the grill and served me salmon, salad and a portabello mushroom stuffed with crab & shrimp. It was delicious - especially when washed down with wine.
Day 16: Day of rest
The three of us went into town this morning. Peter and Kathleen treated me to breakfast at a little sidewalk cafe. Mmmmmm...I love eggs benedict. It's so nice to eat real food again.
We return to the apartment where we each sit at our respective laptops and retreat into our own little bubbles.
I'm bummed about not being able to get ahold of my old friend, Fred, who lives in nearby Fremont. Back in Hollywood, we used to work together and were next door neighbors too. We lived side-by-side in these funky one-room apartments built over a garage near Sunset & Gower. I wonder if they're still there....
It's been almost 13 years since we last saw eachother. I stayed with him in Fremont when I was moving from Los Angeles to Anchorage. It would've been great fun reminiscing with him. Unless I hear from Fred by morning, I will be in Hollywood tomorrow.
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