“You got a few dollars you can give me?”At the Amtrak station last week I heard, “I need ten dollars to catch a train to Oceanside.” Her voice came over my shoulder as I was bent over readjusting my pile of carryons. I looked up into a face you see a lot in Southern California, the aging crack head. Angular cheeks, rash-y skin, mouth indented due to missing teeth, a face that may once have been pretty but now reflects years of tricks at truck stops and Inland Empire street corners. She speaks with that accent you hear a lot in the lower rent areas of Southern California, the under-educated mangled word structures. Lots of “ain’t doing nothing’s” and “you know’s” and “I'm just saying’s.”
She put her forearm in my face. “These abscesses hurt so much,” she says in a cooing voice, “they hurt so much,” she repeated and I stared at her forearm, lined with scars of a junkie. It like a shock choreography shot in a Tarantino film, right in my face. Some of her abscesses were healed and hardened, some recently scarred so still red and brown, some fresh and oozing. I stared and stared, then thanks to my survival instincts I looked down and realized-
With her other arm the junkie was reaching for my laptop which was at my feet, as I’d been in the middle or readjusting my carry-ons when she approached me. I grabbed the laptop as her hand was just inches from it, put it back on my shoulder, and slipped out of the seat in the Amtrak waiting area to get away from her.
It was about the fourth time someone had asked me for money as I waited for my train out of L.A. last week. I went over and joined a guy who later sat next to me on the train and I realized his way of avoiding ever getting up until he got to his destination was to wear adult diapers. Hmm.
My departure from L.A. came with a comic routine as you can’t take bags on Amtrak that weigh more than fifty pounds. When I arrived I found out one of my bags weighed seventy something pounds, the other was 14 pounds over. So I'm on the floor in the Amtrak ticketing area, rearranging and rearranging my suitcases and everything got scattered, my clothes were thrown slipslod sloppy around in the suitcase and I think some stuff spilled out and got lost forever somewhere in the ether of the train station floor and people surrounding us. I ended up right there on the floor packing an extra bag that weighed forty pounds, and it would just cost ten dollars to send it extra, but then I couldn't check it because it was plastic, which they said would tear too easily.
I said, no problem, I’ll just add it to my carry on. If all I had done is go sit in a chair and wait for my train to come, the extra 40- pounds of carry-on would not have been a problem. But I'm so neurotic and wasn’t wearing an adult diaper and wanted to get away from L.A. so bad, I asked my friend to deliver me to the train station four hours early just to get out of my apartment as quickly as possible because I hated that place so much. So I mean at some point I had to go to the bathroom. Then every time I walked, the pile of bags on the carry on cart kept toppling more to one side or the other.
Why was I carrying so much weight with me?
I packed the scanner and brought it with me to Albuquerque.
I had packed my HP Inkjet 5600 in a large suitcase, and stuffed it tight with sweaters. Then in all the frenzy of getting the bags down to under 50 pounds, I threw the inkjet back into the suitcase without tightening the zipper tighter. So I spent four hours in the Amtrak station and later 16 hours on the train worrying that the scanner would be broken by the time I got to Albuquerque because it would be jiggling around, and it was all because I felt so rushed at the ticket station, when I shouldn't have felt rushed, I mean, I had four hours. If only I’d packed it tighter, if only.
Damn should have tightened the zipper on the suitcase, I kept repeating to myself.
But it's fine as you can see from the post I am about to put up at City of Angels 8.
I hate L.A. As I waited for my train, lugging around that extra 40 pound bag that kept overturning my whole carryon wheeler, five times someone came up to me asking me for money, not spare change but dollars. The woman who was telling me how much the abscesses on her arm hurt as she was using the other arm to reach down and grab my laptop was just the last person from L.A. I saw.
After another foray around the Amtrak station forever rearranging my carryons, having them topple over in doorways landing me on the floor repacking, I'm daydreaming about the days you see in black and white films, when gentlemen would never walk by and leave a woman buried under heavy suitcases, but not today, not in L.A., in L.A. if people see you struggling, they stand alongside and watch, waiting for you to drop something, so they can scavenge it.
At one point with that carryon that kept toppling over and I'm an old lady with gray hair and wrinkles, I was having so much trouble, all those people just kept walking by me, like I was invisible doing all that struggling. If only, if only there were some civility left in the world.
“These abscesses really hurt,” she said and put her forearm in front of my face, so I was looking at these pussy scabs up and down her veins. Then my eyes were riveted, just like she wanted, with her other arm she was reaching down for the laptop I’d set on the ground next to me. Goodbye L.A.
Now I've been in my Extended Stay room in Albuquerque for one week, and last night I wrote, “I'm so looking forward to getting up tomorrow morning, my coffee pot is set for four AM but I know I’ll be awake in the minutes before it begins to perk, just waiting for it. Here I am on my outpost, my space station, this splash of city thrown along a flat part at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.”
I'm doing what I always wanted to do. I'm set up in a place where aside from my little transcribing job, I have nothing else to do but write. Part of that 40 pound overflow in my luggage was caused by the book manuscript I have with me now that just needs a good rewrite. It's all here beside me in boxes here in my hotel room in Albuquerque.
I feel so at home here, in a way I feel like I'm still in L.A., which is my hometown, like it or not. This little city Albuquerque is like a tiny L.A., so much is the same here, just cooler and smaller. I get on the city bus here and the same exact voice announces the next stop, and “Please use rear exit.” They have the same machines by the driver where riders press their passes on an electronic thing and it gives out the same exact “beep.”
To me, Albuquerque looks like L.A. exploded and a splotch of it landed here at the foot of the Rockies and just kept on with daily life like nothing ever happened. But since from one end of the city to the other is only about 10 miles, it's like a little version of L.A. that's so much more manageable. I can get from one side of town to the other on the bus in an hour for 35 cents as they recognize I'm a senior citizen here, and they don't in L.A.
So here I am in this nice clean hotel where I pay about 70 percent of what I paid to live in L.A. and I can still do my job, that's why I was able to make this trip, plus I took Social Security early retirement, no I didn't get a big chunk of cash from someone as people in my emails and phone calls seem to be inquiring.
I can walk in this neighborhood without getting accosted.
After being in Albuquerque less than a week, already something is changing in me. I'm eating breakfast. For years I couldn't get anything passed my clenched teeth until late in the afternoon every day. Three days in a row here in my little hotel room, I've not only gotten hungry but been able to eat in the morning. I think that's a good sign.
Can’t believe how hard it was to get out of L.A. I talked about it almost nonstop beginning about 2006. I finally did it.
Here is another pic and a video from last Saturday. In Albuquerque riding hot air balloons is part of the lifestyle.
Watch the video of balloons going across the sky posted earlier today.