Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunset Boulevard is the one constant in my life

Gotta get this story back on the boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, the only constant in my life.

At different times since the 1960s, I’ve lived on different parts of Sunset Boulevard, so this story could almost be told by starting downtown and going west all the way to the Pacific, with stops along the way to describe what happened in that block.

There was a doc office at Echo Park and Sunset where I got diet pills in mass quantities back in the 1968 when I lived a half block up the hill in a $20 a month flat. In 1970 when I was living at the Yoga Ashram in Burbank, we’d drive down to the farmers market somewhere on Sunset near Echo Park to buy fruits and vegetables.

Sunset and Vine was My Corner for selling L.A. Free Press in 1969. I'd pick them up down in Silverlake in a stack for 15 cents each, then sell them on the corner for fifty cents.

This story does not, however, go chronologically from downtown to the Coast, with me ending up a serene old lady in my condo over the Pacific. More like it takes loops and detours, especially once the storyline moves into Hollywood. Actually it always was in Hollywood.

I was seven years old when we left Illinois to move to California. Even then, in that early PTSD state, I was babbling and jabbering, “I'm going to California to become a Mouseketeer.” I’d say that to everybody I saw, when they mentioned, oh you're moving? “I'm going to California to become a Mouseketeer.”

My dad had just built his dream house in Bartlett, a town outside Chicago that was still rural in 1955. My dad drew the blueprints.

Then suddenly we moved. It was right around the same time I took the neighborhood kids up into the tree house to show them what Father Horne had showed me. Also around that time I’d been thrown out of Brownies because of some nasty comment I made while we were gluing feathers onto construction paper turkeys for Thanksgiving. Right before we moved, my dad and I drove down the two-lane Highway 20 all the way to Chicago to a big building where a “bishop” stood over me and told me to stop babbling about what Father Horne had done to me.

Evidently I just couldn't stop babbling, maybe that's why we moved. We picked up and moved from the dream house. And I was so excited, babbling, “I'm going to California to become a Mouseketeer.”

I think Father Horney may have molested my friend Mary Feeney too, because of the way I keep remembering her from St. Mary's Elementary school in Elgin, first through third grade. Her family picked up and made a sudden move at around the same time we did, only they went to South Dakota.

One of the last things Mary Feeney said to me before she moved was, “Remember my birthday, March 19th 1948.” Or maybe she didn't say that. But for some reason I always have remembered her birthday. And that her family moved suddenly, and they were also a slightly dysfunctional family going to St. Peter Damian Church in Bartlett, founded in 1949 by Father Thomas Barry Horne-y.

Yes, there really is a Father Horney. God blessed me with a perpetrator whose name Father Horne lends itself so well to blogging this truth and memories.

I didn't become a Mouseketeer when we moved to California. I became fat. I remember exactly how the fat started. I was in the bath, my mom came in and said, “Oh Kathy, if you keep gaining weight like that, none of the boys will like you.” That began an eating frenzy that did not stop until I reached puberty and realized I wanted the boys to like me. Boy did I.

So Sunset Boulevard and all it represents was reaching out to me, even back then in the early 1950s, a little girl sitting in the backseat of the family Ford, driving across the country on Route 66 for our family's new life in California, where you just found Walt Disney at the local five and dime and asked him and you became a Mouseketeer. . .


The main place this story goes in loops and detours is on Sunset Boulevard from East Hollywood where I live today to West Hollywood, where I preyed in my nadir days.

A few weeks back I tried yet another time to connect with a Church. Funny, after all that's happened, I still crave a church in my life. This one I thought would work, because I've seen the music director play at the place I go for occasional Bible study a few blocks from where I live, and he is SUCH a talented singer, songwriter, musician.

I decided to try the church where Pastor Patrick is music director.

Such a funny coincidence. It turned out that this church is geographically same place as another stop on my Sunset Boulevard trolley ride.

The Hollywood Church meets behind The Guitar Center, in the auditorium of Gardner Elementary School. If you walk outside during church service to have a smoke and look out on the street, you look almost directly into the apartment where I lived when my daughter Lizzie was born in July 1988.

Just off Sunset, behind the Guitar Center, up a few blocks, the apartment I moved to in Central Hollywood when I was about five months pregnant, a totally strange neighborhood, out of range of any of my old friends in West Hollywood. I moved in around April and started buying baby furniture.

Now in 2009, I forgot that a few months back I’d told Patrick the music pastor of The Hollywood Church the subject matter I write about, on other City of Angels pages, pedophile Catholic priests and the havoc they wreacked. I told Pastor Patrick I need spiritual guidance while I'm writing these stories. I was asking for help.

I also thought I needed therapy while I'm writing these stories. I may need both, but the very nature of the problems caused by being raped by a pedophile priest keep me from being able to seek help for the problem.

From other human beings, that is.

Patrick is about 26 years old but he looks 19, and he was not raised Catholic, his father though is a Baptist minister at a church across the hill in Burbank. Maybe that's why he got so hesitant.

When I told him about City of Angels blog subject matter, he stood very still, then said after a moment, “Wow, that's really intense,” then suddenly had a reason he needed to be on the other side of the room.

I forgot about that conversation, and at another gathering asked him, “What time is it again that your church behind The Guitar Center on Sunset meets on Sunday?"

He answered, “Eleven o'clock.”

I said, “Oh, I thought you said last time you had to arrive by nine AM?”

He forgot he had said that, then he looked at me again and remembered why he'd said that. "No, it starts at eleven."

I said, “Great, then I will be able to get there after all."

But he was already in conversation with someone on the other side of the room.

I should have seen the signs, it wasn’t going to work out, but I didn't, I went to the church, and had the usual experience a person who publicly admits they were raped as a child by a Catholic priest and want justice has when they go to a church. They never called me back.

You fill out their forms, "Welcome cards" or sign the "Visitor Book" saying, yes, contact me, or fill out a form that says "Fill this out if you want someone to call you."

I write down, I'm a journalist, I sing, I want to be active any way I can in the church. I will volunteer.

And they never call.

Maybe they Google my name and see City of Angels and decide not to call me.

I guess. I don't care.

Because at that church everyone was about 40 years younger than I am.


At a lunch they serve after the service, I sat across from a woman who had just moved to L.A. from the Midwest. She's working in a mall, but she's really a singer-dancer-actress, with amazingly beautiful eyes, a lot like my daughter's. . . and a gazillion other singer-dancer-actresses in L.A. Her eyes still glimmer with hope, my daughter's don't.

Inevitably there in the lunchroom, the conversation strayed, and I mentioned, Yes, I was an actress here in Hollywood myself in the 1960s. Big mistake. Because then she started to ask me questions about it.

I could not say a word. I must have looked tragic through her eyes. How could I describe the lurid scene I fell into, making porn films- I hesitated--

"It's, it's a lot different now," I finally murmured.


I would be so much better off if I could move away from this place that is so full of horrible memories.

But today I don't even have five dollars for a transit day pass, how can I think of moving? Yesterday I missed a hearing on the new Father Michael Baker civil case in L.A. because I could not get to the Civil West courthouse.

Well I had the five dollars, I had been holding onto it to get a transit daypass and go to the October 26 hearing, but then my daughter needed the five to get to her job, as her ride didn't show up. And I really am pained up lately anyway.

Lizzie and I are both waiting for our next checks. We often run out of food and cash the days before the next check. I should be skinny, but when there is no food, you end up eating lots of starch with oil and salt on it... or pastry. About the only place giving food away through foodbanks in L.A. today is Starbuck's, so if you are hungry and go to one of the places for free food, you leave with a sack of pastries.

That's why poor people in America are so overweight.

I decided, we are better off just being hungry for a few days.

And this, I have only told one person the following, and he said I should post it on my blog, but I didn't, until now, two years later, and not in the promoted part at #5, but here at City of Angels 2:

In 2007 when I started the blog, sometimes I would go downtown to Superior Court to document dive and I couldn't do it, because I get really nauseous if I stare at a computer screen with an empty stomach. We used to go weeks with no food in the house back in 2007.

Now in 2009, it's only a few days that we go without food each month.

I guess the economy is recovering.

I've gotten used to going without food now, it's helping me lose weight.

Involuntary fasting.

What I used to call the George Bush Diet: If ya ain't got no food, ya don't eat.

Still, I missed the hearing last Monday and will probably miss the rest of them.

Will have to just write what I can write from my bed for now. I've gotten a lot more crippled and a lot more sick the last few months, and honestly, it hurts to walk to the bus stop anymore, it's just not worth the pain.

Will just have to write. Write and write what I can without leaving my bedside.


So I may not have had any epiphanies at The Hollywood Church behind the Guitar Center on Sunset, but standing outside the auditorium, I could remember me back in 1988, pushing little Lizzie in her stroller around on those very sidewalks.

(God, there’s so much misery in my life. This story has way too much Poor Pitiful Pearl in it, but what can I do? It's all true. Maybe I'll turn things around while I'm writing over the next months and that will be part of the story .... )

Standing there outside the elementary school auditorium filled on a Sunday with young Christians from the Midwest moved to L.A. to break into show business, I could see yet another chapter of my life and its connections to Sunset Boulevard, what should have been a happy time.

Me with my newborn baby.

But instead as I stand there what I remember is having to call a cab to go to UCLA Medical Center 9 months pregnant, and the Iranian driver wouldn't carry my suitcase, then having the baby in a welfare ward where all the other women were surrounded by extended family members babbling in strange languages while me and Lizzie were in our bed alone, never had one visitor. Then my insurance wouldn't cover more than three days in the hospital, even though I’d had a C-section.

So I had to come back to that apartment that is today across from The Hollywood Church, one day after giving birth, in all that post surgical pain, and take care of a newborn baby, again all by myself. In that one bedroom apartment that looks out on the alley almost directly at the school auditorium where The Hollywood Church now meets, and where a few weeks ago I was standing on a Sunday because 21 years later I could not stand to stay through to the end of a church service ...


After the baby was born, I kept working. I had a lot of freelance writing jobs, for trade magazines, work I'd lined up after being fired as editor in chief of ASD-AMD Trade News in West L.A. in 1987, one of the numerous jobs I've had that lasted less than one year.

I thought, maybe it's even a godsend that I got fired and then got pregnant. I'll work at home. Then the baby will be in her playpen, I’ll be writing all these easy articles for 80-90 dollars each, and we’d be fine.

We weren’t.

I tried carrying newborn Lizzie with me to do in person interviews, thinking, no problem, she’ll stay quiet in her baby seat while I interview these people and take my pictures.

One story was for ASD-AMD, a feature about an army surplus store in Santa Monica, an assignment I got from the guy who got my job, after I'd hired him and trained him as my assistant. The movie Baby Boom came out right when I got pregnant too, with a similar storyline, but it really did happen.

I boarded the bus with the child pouch on my back and rode to Santa Monica, where I parked baby Elizabeth on a shelf in the store and started taking my pictures. Then the baby took this unbelievable bowel movement, a liquid one that overflowed her diaper, went all over the inventory on the store shelf where I'd set her down.

Within minutes the owner maneuvered us outside onto the plaza. I was trying to clean the baby and put a new diaper on her, there on a bench outside the army navy store. The owner did not want to be interviewed anymore.

I did turn in a story, but it wasn’t very good. It was lacking details.

So I tried to just take assignments that I could do from the apartment, newborn Lizzie by my side. For one article, I called a politician, a state senator I think.

I left a message, went about my little life as a new mom in that Martel Avenue one-bedroom, playing goo-goo gah-gah with the baby, then just as the Senator returned my call, Elizabeth got hungry.

No problem, I thought.

I put the baby on my left breast nursing, so I could still use my right hand to take notes and tried to do the interview with the Senator, the phone balanced on my shoulder- wait, which shoulder.

Needless to say, I could not concentrate, the senator got annoyed, the story died and did not even get written.

Then a kind of post partum psychosis set in, or maybe just panic at reality. I knew I’d never make enough money for us to live on if we stayed in that $970 a month one-bedroom apartment I'd moved to from the $1100 a month studio in West Hollywood, all good prices for L.A. in 1988.

It was late October and it had now stoppd being hot hot hot since July with record smog levels. I was convinced L.A. was about to have an apocalyptic disaster and the baby and I had to get out of there fast.

I got newspapers from around the state to figure out where to move. The only place that had apartments I could afford that seemed livable was Humboldt County, California. I’d never been there, but I'd smoked their product. I packed up and moved to Arcata with my three month old daughter, because that's where the closest airport was.

I had this image of Northern California: idyllic lifestyle, warm hearths, redwood trees, lumberjack men who were still intelligent conversationalists.

Always dreaming.

Left Sunset Boulevard and all the memories it holds for me behind, I thought, never to come back.

And here I am again. And Lizzie still lives with me, she's twenty-one now.


At the Hollywood Church, I could not sit still during the service. I kept paining up and having to go outside. So I was holding onto the chainlink fence and stretching, standing outside the church meeting place staring at my old apartment.

God, I thought, if I’d stayed there, my daughter could have just gone to this school, had a solid stable life, more or less, considering we were still living in Hollywood.

Instead I took us on this PTSD induced roller coaster ride, running away, always running away running away. We moved I think 13 times before we ended up right back here anyway, now in East Hollywood, on a side street that runs between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards.

Always drawn like a magnet back to Sunset Boulevard.

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