Saw another one the next time I was out walking. He was not even as tall as my shoulders, his Asian body not much more than a bent skeleton under a backpack, with gray lined skin stretched across his face that say Grim, lines that crease from top to bottom on through his features like ripples from a stone thrown in water. His mouth at the bottom proclaims the main emotion that created the lines, a grim line curved down in a classic frown. You wonder what this 4.5 foot tall bent old man, walking down Sunset Boulevard with a backpack on, has gone through in his life.
I live on the north end of Thai Town where it borders Little Armenia in East Hollywood, and people from Thailand Cambodian and Laos, all different Southeast Asian people populate my neighborhood. Sometimes, with the palm trees in the sky and the music, the Thai alphabet on the store signs, and these bent over refugees on the sidewalks, I think I might be in Bangkok, or some other outpost on Earth for persons running away from the evil that seems to dominate this planet. Los Angeles. The few native born Americans in this neighborhood are refugees from somewhere else in L.A.
Like me, I'm a refugee from my own life.
For instance, women who ran away from husbands who beat them hide in shelters on these streets, structures that look like family homes. You don't see the native born's much on teh sidewalks, and if you meet them at a support group, it’s not cool to say when you see them later, oh hey, hi, remember me from Whatever Anonymous meeting? Plus, it's likely that as soon as the native born Americans straighten out whatever personal problem landed them in this neighborhood, they get outta here as fast as they can.
That's what I'm going to do.
The fantasy used to be to get outta this neighborhood by moving to Canada where I can swim in clean lake water. But just for the sake of the title of this story, I should adjust the fantasy and now just dream about going to a different point along Sunset Boulevard.
You only have to go a few miles west of here to find nice homes, a few more miles and they become huge mansions - gated communities of Belair begin at Sunset.
Everything begins at Sunset Boulevard, the entire history of L.A. begins at Sunset Boulevard.
I am sixty one years old next month, but to look at me from a distance I know I appear older. My body is not bent like a Cambodian's, but usually when walking I have to find a certain rhythm that balances pain with movement. You see, I am mostly homebound with PTSD induced body pain they call Fibromyalgia, because they don't have any other name for it, or any known treatment. Still, sometimes I have to get to the end of the block no matter how bad I hurt. The only way to get there is put one foot in front of the other and walk, but with each step, the pain shoots -
No, shooting pain does not describe it. It’s an ache that is always there, and as soon as I use whatever muscle group, all the pain is in that region. Some people say it’s the connective tissue, others used to call it muscle pain and tell us we were just out of shape -
Anyway, it’s painful. Worst place it hurts is the buttocks these days, and I know that is probably because in order to do my job I have to sit for nine ten hours at a time, at a computer and my buttocks muscles are in use - or the connective tissues, whatever.
So my ass hurts.
I'm walking along Sunset. Take a step, the pain is onerous.
I have these techniques I use so I can make it to the corner and buy a coke or whatever, get a breath of something besides Armenian cooking in my building.
One technique I use is music. When I listen to R&B through my Walkman, especially, my legs and hips and whole body just sort of project me along the sidewalk. I think to myself, I'm grateful that I did all those dance classes and tried to perform all those years, even though I totally do not have the body of a dancer, so mostly I just looked ridiculous, at least I taught myself how to feel the music.
So now as I dodder along my side street trying to reach either Sunset or Hollywood boulevards - civilization and transit outta here - if the pain gets really bad, often I just turn around and go back home. Thank god for cable TV, as this happens way too often.
But sometimes if I listen to the music, I can do this Timothy Leary thing in my brain and just become the music, then sort of direct my feet to go one foot in front of the other, and I'm inside the music, so I don't really feel the pain.
For those moments, I don't even have a body anymore.
Then I do another Timothy Leary thing and think, music is the key. When you die and join whatever the consciousness is that you join, somehow as you're transporting there, the sound you hear is a lot like Earth music.
This other memory of Sunset Boulevard has invaded my brain now for the last year or so maybe longer, the day I was dancing in front of Sylvester Stallone. Okay, this is not some Salome fantasy written by the woman in Sunset Boulevard, the movie….
In the 1980s period on Sunset
I got a job at Rogers and Cowan Public Relations and as I look back now, I could have handled that a lot better as well.
But anyway, since the PR firm barely paid me enough to pay the rent in my one-room apartment in West Hollywood, I had to find a second job. Reading through the trade papers - as I did in my hours of free time at Rogers and Cowan, all I did was sit there, there was nothing for me to do, they just wanted someone filling that spot who came to work every day and wore good clothes, and I did that, so I sat there all day reading trade papers, once in a while the phone would ring. I’ve had lots of jobs like this when I was younger and prettier - I would look through classifieds for a second job.
In the back of The Hollywood Reporter was an ad for a receptionist at a new gym opening up on Sunset Boulevard. Now remember in the 1980s, gyms were the new bars. People went to gyms in new sweat clothes to meet each other, there were juice stands where you got seven dollar fruit drinks and the guy next to you saw you had enough money for a seven dollar fruit drink, so he’d sidle up to the next stool, and there you go, pickup, 1985-6 style…
Okay, I was my usual bulky self, but thanks to bulimia, and an obsession with long walks and jogging and aerobic dance classes, I was in a particularly good looking period at the time. I answered the ad including my work phone number, so when they called back, they went through the Rogers and Cowan switchboard. Now R&C are so famous as THE PR FIRM in show business, in fact, Henry Rogers was the first publicist in show business who treated it like a profession. He is so slick an perfect….
I'm sure the fact I was working for Rogers and Cowan by day and wanted to work at The Rubicon, let’s call it, at night, as I can’t remember the name of the gym, hearing Rogers and Cowan on the phone when they called me was probly the main reason the Rubicon was SO ENTHUSED to hire me. I rushed me into the job as Receptionist at the Front Door of The Rubicon. I got so excited about the job, and by then was so bored at R&C, that I immediately quit R&C, and decided I’d just live on the money I got from the Rubicon. They said, what? You quit Rogers and Cowan and the Rubicon guy changed my job there. Now instead of shining at the entrance, I was receptionist in the back of the building, between the gym and the shower rooms. So all I got to see was people walking by all sweaty on their way to the showers.
Plus they put me on the overnight shift, so I’d just sit there, again with nothing to do but answer an occasional phone, and sometimes I’d sit my whole shift and not see a person. Apparently, the Rubicon spent a gazillion dollars on this glass and mirrors palace, with a sound system to die for - and there were never more than 20 customers there at the same time. Usually there was nobody, especially in I think they gave me the overnight shift.
But they were on Sunset, near Crescent Heights.
Okay, one of the benefits of the job was you got free membership in the Rubicon, so when I wasn’t working, I’d don a leotard, go into the center room where they taught aerobics class, only I’d go in there when there was no class going on, so usually not one other person in there. So there in the center of the Rubicon, surrounded by glass, so all the workout equipment was around me, and if there WAS anyone there they’d be watching me, I’d dance.
Now at this point in my life I was in perfect shape, I think a size four, very toned as I used to also jog from Santa Monica Pier to the Marina and back, or from where I lived at Holloway and Sunset all the way to Beverly Hills and back - I took a lot of dance classes at Edge Dance Studios as well, where professional dancers train - I’d be in there with my hulky body, it’s hulky even at size four, I think it’s my shoulders - hard to explain.
Okay, so Rocky aka Sylvester Stallone was one celebrity who would show up at the Rubicon, maybe he was one of the investors. So one day I was in the center room, and as usual the music was blasting loud and perfectly wonderful coming through the sound system, I’d start at the barre near the mirrors, bend, stretch, and I could take off and do this incredibly creative and beautiful - improvised dance to the music, again that Timothy Leary thing feeling the music. Now understand, I was already in my late thirties by now, so I was no ingénue doing an audition, I just was dancing - and since I’d been going there now several times a week and doing this thing in the middle room with the mirrors an the windows, I was really in good shape, everything was just right - the dance was amazing.
Rocky stood there amazed, his mouth hanging open, entranced watching me. I look back at this now and think, wow, I could have really connected with someone who could have found out what an amazing writer I am and - something. I could have a better job right now if I’d handled this one moment right.
Instead - I knew he was watching, I knew the dance was amazing, I knew he was even thinking, wow, I should do something with this. And I danced over towards him, and as part of the dance lifted my head and our eyes met -
And I shot him the angriest, meanest, most hateful look you could ever imagine. It just came out of me, like how dare you stare at me, and you think you are good enough for me? His face changed from awe to shock, then I turned and dance away, looked back, and he was walking away, doing that oh the hell with it gesture a person does with their hands, waving me off. He walked away and I somehow felt victorious.
Another incident like that pops up.
I was temping at Paramount. It was the six months or so they had me there as the Receptionist/Assistant to writer Larry Gross, who did all his writing at home, all his business from home, so again, I was sitting in an office by myself doing nothing all day except I had to be there in case the phone rang.
This was the period I was temping through show business temp agencies, so it was post Rogers and Cowan but before ASD AMD Trade News (?) Or after that but before coming up pregnant with Lizzie. Somewhere in there.
Every day I’d go to this office in those cool old buildings at Paramount, they've been writers offices since the studio was built. Rickety but clean and renovated wooden buildings with lots of windows, and the refrigerator and snack cabinets, which I could stock with anything I wanted, so I’d call this internal Paramount number and place an order and fill the refrigerator with bottles of wine and Perrier and sodas and beers and then would entertain the guys from the crafts shop across the way. . . . that’s another story.
I’d been all by myself in Larry Gross' office for a while and the phone rang, it was the personnel guy saying, they had an even better slot for me. That Mr. Warren Beatty wanted me to come work for him in his offices on the other side of the lot. Somehow I got it from the conversation with the personnel guy, something he said, or maybe the tone of his voice the way he said it - I got the idea that Beatty had seen me and asked them to get me. This, again, was during a really hot looking period, and I still wore the clothes I’d learned to wear at R&C, short stuff, the mini skirt was back like bombshells then.
Something in the personnel guy’s voice made me feel like this was an arrangement, maybe made by an assistant of Beatty's as a surprise or joke on the actor-producer, put me in his office the way I am - that the personnel guy and the assistant were setting me up because they knew I'd want to fuck Beatty and maybe he would want to fuck me, maybe they heard about me from the crafts shop carpenters ....
So I turned it down.
The personnel guy was shocked and surprise? “What? Maybe you idn't hear me, I said you'd be working for Warren Beatty?”
I was in one of those fugue states I’d go into and the job offer didn't feel right. I think I knew I’d be going after Beatty and make an embarrassment of myself, I don't know what I was thinking, but I turned it down.
These days in my funks, as I wish I lived in a neighborhood where someone at least steamed the sidewalks every now and then, but instead in a funk because I hate walking through all the filth in this stretch of Sunset - I think about that time I turned down a job working for Warren Beatty as well. What would have changed in my life if I’d taken that job and grown there? Maybe he would have noticed what a good writer I am and given me an assignment.
Truth is no one noticed how smart I was in those days, I was too busy distracting them with a short skirt and boots and a thin blouse with a bra that was also so thin my nipples projected through. It was the same when I was at NASA, though the skirts were longer. That obsessive aggressive sex maniac dominated everything about me. . . .
So anyway, today I am this little old lady living in a hovel between Sunset and Hollywood east of Western and west of Normandie, not the worst part of town, but not someplace I would have even driven through in the 1980s. We just knew it amongst ourselves, never go east of Gower. Never go farther east than the Hollywood Boulevard on and off ramps near Gower. . . .
Now I'm a mile east of Gower way deep into it.
The gunk, the dirt, the mess on the sidewalks, as the city continues to gentrify and everywhere you look they are building luxury condos - which seem to then remain empty after being built, as they are demographically designed for this fantasy population every developer in America has been trying to reach, that one percent of people who still have money today, and they have all the money. So the rest of us can barely scrapple together a month’s expenses, and we’d love to have a new place to live but forget it, since only thing being built in Los Angeles is more luxury condos.
I live in this one bedroom apartment, there are three of us here now. Lizzie moved back in, bringing a girlfriend with her. I love it when we have a friend living here with Lizzie as Lizzie and I don't fight as much if there is someone else here. Her whole life, there has been this missing piece, a father, obviously. But since no father ever showed up, we've filled the hole with her friends instead. And when she has friends living here with her, so with me as well, everything goes fine.
Right now Michelle is here and I really like her. She was raised in foster homes, so when she turned 18 she was turned out into the world to be on her own - (maybe save up for one of those luxury condos someday in the future) - and even though she used the state’s one time only scholarship money for foster kids to go to one of those trade schools that teaches you to be a dental technician, I don't think she really wants to do that kind of job. And most people around here have stopped going to the dentist, so not many jobs are opening up.
So Michelle's putting in applications at dental places as well as book stores and all that. She’ll have a job soon. Meanwhile Lizzie and I are not fighting.
The corporations love my daughter’s generation, who just slough in and accept their minimum wage work and live in shared one room apartments. The corporations even supply these kids with a uniform to wear - like Lizzie’s at Walmart, a one hundred percent polyester blouse she wears with tan pants - the corporations know they're not paying these kids enough to buy decent clothes, so they make sure at least when they are at work, they wear this spot-proof polyester shirt decorated with the corporate logo….
Anyway, I work here at this niche job I pretty much created for myself working for reality TV shows etcetera transcribing their videotapes. I watch the tape, write down everything that is said and insert time codes every thirty seconds.
I sleep in what would be the dining room of this one bedroom apartment. I have a futon that is stuck open, which is too bad, as if I closed it up every day there would be more room, but I can’t even lift it to close it, so it stays open.
Right next to it is a series of tables, a couple with stuff on them, then the main table where I have my computer, the DVD player and TV set, all set up so I can work. I need to type into the computer what I am seeing from the DVD on the TV set. Since this is also the only TV set in the house anymore, the cable box is also on this table. Because at night I pick the TV up and turn it facing the bed and watch TV until I fall asleep.
I cannot go to sleep without a TV set on, because then my mind starts thinking about horrible memories, and I end up crying in the kitchen before I know it, which is not hard as the kitchen is right at the foot of my bed.
Which is great, since I use the timer on the coffeemaker as an alarm clock. I tell myself it’s because I want the smell of coffee to wake me up, instead I usually am lying there waiting, then I hear the click, as the coffee maker starts up, and I jump out of bed saying, okay, another morning, let’s go for it.
I have to get the transcribing done as early in the morning as possible, as we have no AC, and in the summer, once all the fans start up, plus all the noise from my neighbors - Armenians holler a lot - I can’t do my job in my house after 10 AM or so. Actually the neighbors start hollering about seven -
But all in all I can’t do the job in the afternoon at all, even with my $35 headphones that pick up every sound on the recording. It’s amazing how much noise we live with and don't even notice it, but anyway, I have to do my job early in the AM.
I have all these wires. Because I pick stuff up and move it around on the desk, all the wires the speakers, the DVD player and it’s cables to the TV, the lamp toppling on the side of the cable box - I also have to turn the cable box a few degrees left and right at night as in the daytime I watch the one tiny TV set from my seat in front of the computer. At night I watch from bed, so have to turn the cable box a few degrees to be able to hit it with the remote control….
So after a few weeks all these wires are tangled up under the table. This table is the one nice even sort of new piece of furniture we have. I bought it online and it is slick and black and metallic. But I don't have the proper tools to assemble it, so the places where screws should have been bolted in with an electric drill, instead I’ve bound them together using duct tape.
Duct tape and Fixodent. Two things you can’t do without in twenty first century America. The Fixodent is to hold in the teeth that are falling out but you can’t afford a dentist.
Anyway. I have Duct Tape holding the legs on the table. Green duct tape.
I sit on a couch. One day when I was in the hospital in 2007, the Armenians across the way got new furniture, so they gave us their three couches, one big one and two small ones. When I came home from the hospital they were in the apartment, and I’ve never been able to get them out, they're kind of oversized. So I use these couches for whatever. Drape drying sweaters over their backs, use the seat cushions to pile papers and files from a particular topic I'm researching for my own work.
I have the long couch pulled up alongside the table, so I can sit on it when at the computer (the couches are very light so can be moved around easily) - and then when I'm not working and want to watch a movie or something and don't want to go to bed, I can watch from the long couch
Anyway, it’s all very screwy.
And I end up with this mess of tangled wires every few months - oh don't forget also there is the modem for the phone, the modem for the internet, and the scanner copier machine, which also needs a lot of cable and don't forget the phone wires - the answering machine and the fax part of the copier both have phone wires as well.
All those wires are underneath the table and every now and then I have to take time to turn everything off, then get down on the floor and one by one untangle the wires.
This should be a time for meditation and relaxation, maybe some Yanni music in the background, but instead I usually go nuts, scream at “how could these things get so tangled” then bang my fist on the floor and untie another knot of wire.
Then in the middle of everything I have to drop it all, pull myself up, scamper around the couch and then going, Oh, oh no, oh no - I run to the bathroom, and always barely get my underpants down before the pee starts rushing out, just make it to the toilet, sometimes have to clean up a few drops from when I didn't make it -
This happens two or three times a day maybe more. Little white haired size 4 to 2X depending on the part of the body you're measuring, little old lady scampers by my daughter’s room (the one bedroom) going Oh-oh and then I just barely make it to the toilet. After cleaning everything up, I go back and be this tech pro reconnecting all the equipment.
That's my life today. I keep hoping this is just a stopping off point before the next exciting stage, but I could end up just treading water here keeping my head above the tides, for the rest of my life. . .
Pant pant pant
Meanwhile I try not to get too bent over from the weight on my back...