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Too Far

It was the most abhorred sound to the ear:  A combination of pain and anguish, layered on top of a man’s hysteria.  It seemed to have come from down below, from the streets.  Perhaps, not unusual for the streets of Manhattan, but it’s been years since I had left.  I had wanted space — and space I had received.  Miles of it, with dozens of different cities crammed into one.  And the distance between each other was at times too significant to mend with compassion.

“Fucking spoilt!  Some people don’t have anything… (mumble, mumble, hmmmm).  Why are you like this…”  (Here, I thought he called her by her name.)   “YEAH!  YEAH, YOU ARE!  SO FUCKING SPOILT!”

I looked out of the window.  The end of spring hadn’t yet burnt off the green from the hills.  I studied the bits of lawns, visible in between the rooftops of my street.  The next street over had a more monochromatic look to it, with a row of two-storied, eggshell-colored buildings with those thin metallic windowpanes, painted white, only strong enough to withstand the climate of Southern Cal.  The screens of bathroom widows were narrow and dusty.  An Armenian looking woman, with a hairnet stretched over her auburn perm, was unloading the trunk of her son’s SUV, in the uncovered parking spot of the building below.  The son, with one leg on the ground, the other — still under the steering wheel — was staring at the screen of his mobile phone.

“YOU!  YOU!  YOU took all of it!…  (mumble, mumble, pain).  And now, I don’t have a savings account!”  (He must’ve said her name, again).  “I’ve sacrificed everything!  FOR WHAT?!”

The voice of the screaming man appeared to have no effect on the son or the mother, both consumed by their business in the parking lot.  I unlatched the sliding doors of my patio.  The accumulated dust had discolored the doormat underneath my feet.  It felt grainy.  The rains of this past winter had marked the pink, uneven floor with circular stains, with jagged edges.  I should really make a habit of sitting out here more.  But the work!  The work.  It consumed every bit of presence in a day; until half a day’s sunlight passed and my desire to find myself amidst other humans — completely burnt away.  And the slowness of an aware mind would be gone, gone, gone, into the daze of exhaustion.

The man by now was screaming.  Just screaming:

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH.  (Inhale.)   AAAAAGGGGHHHH.  AAAAAGGGGHHHH.”

Angst.  One uninterrupted, unidentifiable sound, leaving a mouth crooked with pain so immense, I imagined, it had to seem impossible to survive.  But he would land on the other end of it, most likely.  Because even if one reached the edge, the threshold, the limit — too far, unthinkable for a human heart — one would have to go on living.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH…”

The mother, who had begun hanging the beige plastic bags onto her bent forearm, like unshapely lanterns, looked up.  She’d heard it too.

“You said, I don’t fucking love you anymore!  YOU!  YOU SAID THAT!  This, morning… (Mumble.  Moan.  Name?)  And then you went to work!”  (A squeeze of empathy made me brace myself.  I had begun disliking detours from my earned tranquility, even if it disguised itself as apathy.)  “Now, you have to live with that!  You said that!  YES!  YES, YOU DID.  And now, you live with it!”

The mother had to have said something to her son; because now, he too looked up.  Unready to confront humanity, I scurried off inside.  Quickly, I slid the door.  It thumped against the frame, too loudly.

I walked along the outer edges of my place.  I learned my ear against each of the four walls.  One of the walls vibrated with another, “AAAAGGGGHHH!”  The sound was happening next door, and I could now make out the words.

“Go try it, Lena!  Go!  Go see for yourself how other people live!”  He looked so young the last time I saw him.  In time, such loss shaves off years.  With most people though — it compiles them.  “But if you think I’m going to walk away in silence…”  His voice cracked then.  He stopped.  I think he broke down.

I stood against the wall.   In a short while, it was a woman that began speaking.  She had been silent until now.  “Mumble, mumble,” I could hear.  “Mumble, mumble, mumble, hmmmm.”

I could remember her:  A tall Russian girl with that particular face that looked majestic in photographs but slightly off in person.  Tall, blonde, blue-eyed and slightly timid, she suffered from an awkwardness in how she moved her body.  I’d met her in the lobby once.  We shared a giggle in an uncomfortable closeness while getting our mail, from our neighboring mailboxes.

“I hearrd,” she finally spoke, “zat you verre Rrussian to.”  Her accent stumped me.  After two decades of living here, I had acquired the arrogance of a native.  She waited for my answer, locked her mailbox and leaned her back against the wall.  Her legs outstretched in front of her, for meters and meters, as it seemed.  And when she saw my sizing up the distances before her, she pulled them back.  Her face blushed with a sheepish smile.

“Yes,” I spoke looking at her lips.  I wanted to decipher how she spoke.  “Yes.  It’s been years though.”

“Oh,” she ran her fingers through the hair behind her ear.  “Verre… um… you frrom?”

This would’ve been the perfect time to switch to our native tongue.

“I am from the West Coast,” I said in my second tongue, catching myself pronouncing things slower, directly to her mouth.  Something was off there, definitely, besides the accent.  I thought it could’ve been the structure of her jaw.

“Oh,” she said again.  “I sought you verre frrom Moscow.  Zat’s verre I’m from.”

“Go, Lena…  Go back home, if you want…”  The man was sobbing now.  Un-peeling myself from the wall, I stood deciding how much space this tragedy demanded.  Too many witnesses increase the shame.

I wondered how many days it would take each of them to find their way back.  Or had they lost the sight of it for good?  When bearings are lost along the way, it’s harder to recover.  I looked out of the window again.  The mother was gone.  So was her son’s SUV.  I sat back down and returned to work.

“WAIT! Oh, yes, wait a minute, Mister Postman!”

But I prefer to think of him as my personal Clint Eastwood.

I don’t run into him much, maybe once a month.  At first, I notice the white clunker, with the profile of a blue eagle plastered onto its side panel.  Considering that most of the time, it’s a complete clusterfuck on my street, I usually see his car parked in the handicap spot, at the end of the block.

“How ever does he manage to not get cold?  or hot?” I study the missing doors and the rusty metal of the vehicle.  Zero isolation in that car.

Shit!  I can’t even call it that:  “a car”.  It’s more like a golf cart, really; and I’ve often wondered whose genius idea it was to have the most important and the most underpaid government workers riding around in those things.

And those uniforms!  Can’t some company get a better handle on the tailoring of that seemingly itchy baby- and navy-blue getup?  Sometimes, I’ll watch some other skinny postman drudging a metal basket filled with mail through a block (but not my block!), and I feel sorry for the guy.

But not this one!  My guy — is proud.  Methodically, he returns to his little postal truck and grabs only as much mail as he can carry.  He approaches each house with the respectful knowledge of its property; the habits, the characters of its residents.  He must know all the local dogs and learn the manners of the cats basking on our lawns, porches or window sills.  And even with the wild tenants, he must be well-acquainted:  the curious raccoons, the badass skunks; the hooligan porcupines and the bullies that are the local coyotes.  (But only when they’re in packs, of course.  Alone, they are pathetic.)  Yet, I imagine he navigates their territories with an even pace and a calm demeanor.  They live here and have done so with more sensible behavior than the humankind.  And even though he is not at their service, he knows to respect their rules.

Because he is my personal Clint Eastwood, and that man — never loses his good graces.

There is an abandoned house in the middle of my block.  Or, so I thought.  I thought that surely something sad must’ve happened to this house, leaving it to be occupied by the local homeless cats and runaway teens.  But then again, the front yard of it is so overwhelmed by weeds, that only a wild thing cat navigate through it.  And yet, I see him, sometimes — my quiet hero of methodical existence, my occasional man of the hour — and he come around to the side fence and hurls a tied bundle of mail to the doormat.  I guess the house is not abandoned after all, but it still must have some sad stories to tell.

To my building, the man usually arrives toward the later part of the afternoon.  The Hollywood Postal Station is in the same zip code as this block, but by the time he leaves, all the surrounding streets turn into a disaster of screeching, honking, smoking metal.  Yet, he endures — my bearer of good news and deliverer of late notices, my confronter of procrastinators and the messenger of long lost loves.  And then, he returns the next day with another handful of mail.  Another truck-full of messages.

And if on occasion, I find him in the downstairs lobby, I watch him sorting out the papers with what seems to be a knowing smirk.  Can he decipher the message of each envelope just by the look of it?  Does he know which handwriting belongs to a lover, and which — to a child?  Can he feel, by touch, the perforated patches caused by the tears of a heartbroken girl, pleading for her love to return?  Does he wonder about the timezones, the climates, the political regimes which each message must endure — in order to make it to the bottom of a mailbox?

“Good day,” he’ll say.  Not really a question, or a statement that taunts me for my own option.  Just:  Good day.

I don’t even know his name.  I call him “love”.  Sometimes, I ask him about the traffic, and in the winter, I bring down as many tangerines as I can fit into my palm.  I wait and study him, as he continues to shuffle the papers into the identical gaps.  No matter my impatience or the importance of an anticipated message, I NEVER interrupt.

Today, he said, “Hold up!”; then, grabbed the only bill inside my mailbox and handed it to me.

Shit!  And I don’t even know his name.  But I am sure he knows mine.

“Bad news,” he stated.

I pressed the white rectangle to my chest and tried to find my father’s face — on his:  “Not really,” I shook my head.  “Just:  Steady.  Steady news.”

“Well, that’s alright then,” he said, with every decibel sounding like my personal Clint Eastwood.

My constant memory keeper.  A man of relevance despite the change of times.  

My patient overseer of human interactions, a witness of our faults and generosities.

And someone capable of chronically forgiving our race — and then come back to work to prove it.

“All the Lonely People: Where DO They All Come From?”

She always comes in here, right around this time (which probably says a lot about her, and the same — about me).

And when she appears — she is impossible not to notice.

You can tell a lot by the way a person enters through the door. Some come in with certainty, as if they own the joint.  Some have indeed been here before:  They call out to the sleepy cashiers or the slightly baffled manager, and the rest of us are meant to take notice of the commotion they’ve created.  Others slip in quietly:  They tread their ground with no presumption; and I would like to think they spend their days causing the least amount of damage, in the world.

Local young couples come in here, to play out yet another day in the perseverance of their love.  It’s them against the harsh world — together.  Them — against us!  And I don’t blame them:  Togetherness — is hard enough.  So, I watch them seeking refuge in each other’s company, because they still haven’t lost their love’s ability to hear — to receive each other — completely.  They still haven’t taken the privilege of their intimacy for granted.  Lucky kids!

Other times, this is the place for friends:  buds and girlfriends, best friends.  And they vent to each other about the little injustices in their relationships and lives; and expect alliances from the people at the other end of the table.

But she always comes in here alone, right around the same time. It is her voice that I hear first:  It sounds like baby-talk that comes from a child who’s having a hard time growing up.  I’ve often heard that voice from children with newly born siblings.  They aren’t ready to share their parents’ love yet, and they still cannot comprehend where their self-importance has gone.  So, they regress, even if only in their voices.  And that’s exactly how she sounds.

Her clothes are simple, most likely begotten from a thrift store:  A pair of loose jeans of no particular label and a long-sleeved crew neck sweater of pastel color.  She wears thick, beige socks around her perpetually swollen ankles and a pair of nursing shoes.  It’s not that she appears poor, just not well-off.  And for that, the rest of the joint finds her at fault.

Or maybe, it’s her face:  Something is not right with it.  Her brown skin is deeply lined, although there is an overall puffiness on her cheekbones, forehead and neck; and under her eyes.  The distance between her ears and chin has collapsed due to her absent teeth; so, she protrudes the lower jaw and smacks her lips a lot.  The eyes are bulging and big, striking in the lightness of their hazel color.  They make you lower your own gaze when confronted with hers.  They are fully present, no matter how far and how long her mind appears to have been gone, by now.

“Can I sit here?” she’ll say, in that baby voice, asking for a group of girlfriends to move their purses from the chairs at the table she prefers.

That table is the worst!  It’s right by the door, in the outer row, with the draft hitting her from both the outside and the overhead vents.  When sitting there, there is no way she wouldn’t get in the way of people, coming over for their refills of coffee and water; and I’ve seen a few act discombobulated by her positioning.  But she is sitting right by the door, as if already apologizing for not fitting in here. And before we notice — she will be gone.

The girls always act rushed when they move their bags, and they get uncomfortably silent once she finally sits down.

“Can I have some ice for my drink?” she’ll ask the Mexican fry cook, from behind the glass counter.

It’ll take a few tries to notice her:  She is tiny, plus, she’s got that baby voice on her.  And sometimes, if the kid at the fry station is new, he cannot understand her while he studies her face with embarrassment.

And I suspect it is her face:  We all get stuck on it a little.  Something is not right — with her face.

She’ll then sit down quietly and eat her meal so methodically she betrays her lack of family and money.  Only the people that have known poverty eat like that.  And I wish to apologize to her — for all of that pain and injustice; and for the shunned reactions of others.  They think if something isn’t right with her face — something must be not right with her.

But her only fault, really — is the lack of beauty.  She is not exotic, as retired youth has a chance to become.  Neither is she dignified from the excess of money to take care of herself.  She is simple, plain and just a little strange.

She comes and leaves alone; and while completely alone, she starts and finishes her meal.

One of these days, I shall strike up a conversation with her (but only if she’s willing to let go of her loneliness), and we’ll share a meal.  And we may even share a silence.

Because she always comes in here, right around this time, alone; which probably says a lot about her, and the same — about me.

“Go Home — And Be A Better Boy! (Although, Sometimes, It’s Tricky.)”

“This is the human heart,” an actress with my name was saying in a film, last night.  “It’s light — and it’s dark.”

Well, actually, she sounded more like my motha:

“This eez ze human hearrt:  Eet eez light — and eet eez darrk.”

The actress with my name was playing a Russian prostitute, and she’s got some serious chops.  She is an East Coaster, more of a European:  One of those disciplined artists, with a compassionate heart.

In a film, she is arguing with a potential john about urban decay.  He is a landscape architect obsessed with the world’s dark corners.  She, however, lives amidst them:  In a civilization collapsing on itself like a giant snake swallowing its own tail.  And somehow, she has a better grasp on human patterns than a man studying them, for a living, while being buried up to his chin in his sterile theories.

(I used to love a man like that.  Holy fuck!  He almost took me out of the game.)

“This eez ze human hearrt:  Eet eez light — and eet eez darrk,” an actress with my name was saying in a film, last night.

But all I could think was:

“Tired today.  Is this where I burn out?”

It’s been hard, living around here.  In the beginning, there were difficulties related to the mere survival:  shelter, work, learning the geography of this place.  The fucking landscape!

I would figure it all out, in less than a year — and that would be the easy part.  Because it still wouldn’t let up.  The survival would get easier, sure; but somehow it never amounted to anything.  Every day, it felt like starting from scratch:  Paying the dues.  And every day, I would feel I could just burn out, at any moment.  But giving-up — was never really an option.  So, I just kept pushing.

For nearly an hour, I sat in traffic yesternight, to get to a hood only a mile away from my own.

“Could’ve walked this fucker faster,” I thought, while crawling behind a retiree fond of riding the breaks of his Chevy.

As soon as the one-lane street opened into a turn-lane in the middle, I zoomed around him.

“Christ,” I swore.

But then, I found myself behind an orange bus that added to the relentless heat wave with its boiling exhaust fumes.  I rolled up my windows and crawled behind it for another couple of blocks, while riding my breaks.

“Fucking hot!” I thought.  “Is this where I burn out, finally?”

But giving-up — wasn’t really an option.  So, I kept riding.

I cranked up the AC.

The houses on this stretch of Hollyweird wear that used-up look of a transient neighborhood.  They serve as temporary shelters to those who come to test their luck.  But the newcomers would figure it out, in less than a year, and move to more comforting neighborhoods; taking tiny slices of whatever was left — with them.  There are a few parks here, some dodgy playgrounds.  And I wouldn’t dare to find myself walking here, at night, through this fucking landscape.

“This eez ze human hearrt:  Eet eez light — and eet eez dark.”

Did I just say that out loud?

Don’t know.

Tired today.

And it’s fucking hot.

I rolled down the windows again.  Might as well.

The smell of the collective exhaustion entered my car immediately, and all I could hear was the screeching of occasional breaks, punctuated by distant sirens.  No human voices here.

The traffic kept crawling.

“I could’ve walked this fucker faster!” I thought.

On Vine, an ancient Nissan jumped out of a pathetic shopping center and into the lane ahead of me, as if it were driven by someone looking for his own suicide.  My breaks screeched.

“Idiot.”

Then, the urban kamikaze proceeded riding his breaks.  To avoid a suicidal thought of my own, I studied the dusty white building of an Armenian church.  On its stone fence, a security guard was talking to a working girl with enormous sparkly fake eyelashes.  Both were about to start their shift.

“This eez ze human hearrt.”

Did I just say that?

Don’t know.

Tired.

I turned into the first side street and sped up.  A lanky kid with an Afro jumped out of an alley on his skateboard.  He was beautiful.  I started riding my breaks behind him.

“Fuck it!” I thought.  “I can walk this fucker faster!”

I parked behind a Grand Cherokee with chipping red paint, no longer glossy.  A hefty, tall man walked by, on a cracked pavement, audibly talking to himself.  He saw me looking, stopped muttering.  Gave me the middle finger.

“ASK ME,” said his neon orange shirt.

“This eez ze human hearrt,” I said out loud, yanked the hand break and stepped out into traffic.

“Does Enchantment Pour Out of Every Door? No! It’s Just on The Street — Where YOU Live.”

The street on which I live:

I seem to have memorized its every nook, and every speed bump; its every crack on the road.  Lord knows I’ve had enough time for that, for I have been walking it; strutting, running, driving — surviving — on it, for nearly six years.

Six years.  Who knew I’d last here for so long?

Just a week before I first landed here, I was promising a beloved back in New York:

“I’ll be back in a year.  Don’t worry.”

He didn’t:  The beloved moved on to another love, and suddenly I had no reason to come back.  So, I stayed here — for just a bit longer.

The street on which I live:

By now I know the patterns of its residential parking by heart.  This funky red house right here collects vintage cars, taking up quarter of a block for their parking.  The Spanish style apartment building at the other end:  People are always coming and going there; and if you sit in its driveway long enough, flashing your emergency lights at the rhythm of your heartbeat, you are guaranteed to get a spot sooner or later.  You gotta be quick though:  Keep flashing the lights and come upon the decked out Hollywood dandy, reeking of cologne, or the unsuspecting Armenian girl getting in her car, for a night on the town.

Pull up, roll down the windows:

“You leaving?”

Try to smile.  After all, they don’t owe you jack shit.  And if they let you take over their spot, give ‘em room to pull out.

Then, wave:

Gratitude seems to go a long way, around here.

Whatever you do:  Don’t park in front of this abandoned structure right here.  Because it’s not abandoned:  It’ll filled to the brim with emaciated cats and a single resident the face of whom I’ve never seen, for the last six years.  At nighttime, a window always lights up in the attic.  The front door is barricaded with abandoned furniture.  The front yard looks like a field of wild weeds and overgrown bushes.

Still, whatever you do:  Don’t park there!  That unattended garden with berried trees will kill the paint on your car.  And whatever you do:  Don’t feed the cats.  The sign written in crayon on the front gate says so:

“DON’T FEED CATS.  THEIR NOT HOMELESS.”

In my second year, I finally earned an occasional parking spot inside my garage.  I had been bouncing between jobs, one more terrible than the other; and after settling for a decent night gig, I negotiated to share a spot with a neighbor:  He would work the graveyard shift as a security guard; and by the time, my club closed and I came home with blistered feet, he’d be leaving for work.

In the morning, I’d have to get up, get dressed and re-park on the street, often finding my neighbor under the berried tree, still in uniform, feeding the cats.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he’d explain to me, as if caught redhanded; and his tired face fit for a Native American shaman would make me wonder how he got these emaciated creatures to come out of the house, in the first place.

At the end of that year, I would want to move:

“Stay!” my roommate recommended.  “That’s just your second-year itch.  Everyone gets it in LA.”

Curiously, I’d drive around other neighborhoods:  funky or cheesy, some parading their wealth, others — their transient despair.  I would do that for a week, applying to a couple of New-York-like buildings.  But then, I’d come back to my street:  That was just my second-year itch.  Everyone gets it in LA.

The street on which I live:

The faces of its residents have been tattooed into my memory, even after they move on.  And many have moved on.  A couple of working girls in my building with decent night gigs:  They’d get so tired surviving on this street, and in this city, while waiting for their big break.  A few would eventually land a small acting gig — a stand-in for the big break — and they’d move to better places, better streets.  Some would leave for their boyfriends’.  Others — would go home.

That pretty blonde, who used to be a redhead in the first year of living here:  She got her first speaking role on a canceled show.

“It only took five years,” she said to me in my garage, and she scoffed with such scorn, it made me want to move on.

Her roommate, a pretty black girl with extensions and a shaggy dog, had already left.  She couldn’t wait for her big break any longer.

That pretty blonde, who used to be a redhead, would be gone within a week.

The security guard with a tired face fit for a Native American shaman would leave too.

The street on which I live:

Some of the faces seem to stay here forever.  There is the family of a jeweler — a family of good faces — that lives in a rustic house with wooden furniture.  They don’t smile much; but by now, the mother of the house has learned to nod at me, while she waters the lawn at sunset.  And the lonely old woman that always knocks on her second story window:  She would seem quite sad in her dementia, if she weren’t so childlike.  And the handful of Armenian men, selling random goods in their front yards every weekend:  They get quiet every time I walk, strut or run by; and they keep smoking their cigars.

The street on which I live:

There seems to be so much humanity here, and so much mercy.

In the gated house directly across from my building, there is supposed to be some sort of a shelter.  Another building, half a block up, serves as a home for homeless teenagers and runaways.  And than there is that abandoned structure right here:  It gives shelter to the forsaken cats.  But at least,

“THEIR NOT HOMELESS.”

And at the end of last week, someone had made a new shoefiti:  At the intersection that leads to my street, a pair of Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slipper was thrown over a telephone line.  Some say these shoes are meant to be stolen or unwanted.  And sometimes, they belong to a departed.

 

“You Meet Me Down On: Heartattack and Vine”

This is an ode to you, my Holly:  

You’re looking quite glorious this morning — all decked out in sunlight so bright it appears hazy; with your birds going bonkers in trees, as if they’re still coked-out of their little heads since 2 a.m., once you closed your clubs and bolted shut your dive bars.  And if it weren’t for the frequent sirens (those fuckers woke me up today!), I could pretend I lived somewhere like paradise.  Or the Greek Isles.  But only until I step out — out and into — letting you hit me with your tales of humanity, my Holly, of which you have galore.  

You weren’t so easy to fall in love with, my Holly; and it doesn’t really make me cool to fess up to it. 

It is much cooler to dig New York.  Because New York always treats you like an arrogant lover to whose skills in the sack you find yourself quickly addicted; confusing all that lust, and all those hormones — and its reeking fluids — for love.  But when it doesn’t work out with New York, you are sure to find another brokenhearted with the same addiction.  Then, you can all hang your heads over your drinks at a random dive bar — in Holly — and share your scars.

With you, my Holly, it’s different.  You are much quicker to reveal your armpits and your glitz.  You’re such an exhibitionist!  But it took some serious hanging with you and more patience than I knew to possess to discover the pockets of those tribes and ‘hoods to which I didn’t mind belonging. 

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly!

To the jingling sound with which you tickled my ears yesterday, at one of your art spaces.  It was so dainty and arhythmic, I was sure it belonged to a lovely, fragile installation I just had to see.  But when I looked around for the source, I found it on the ankles of a tiny girl-child, in the arms of her Indian mother.  So intensely was my stare, the young mother got startled at first.

“She’s lovely,” I said; nodded and quickly walked on by.

The woman relaxed and smiled.  “It’s alright.  She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of us’,” she must’ve thought, of me.

Oh, Holly! 

It surely helped that you’ve found my skin color so perfectly democratic from the start:   Smoothly, I become “one of them,” “ethnically ambiguous,” or just “not from around here” — depending on whom you ask.  To my comrades visiting from Beverly Hills, I am “sort of white” — but mostly “spiritual”.  Next to a brown man, I am his “hot Brazilian girlfriend”.  But really, it’s the Chicanos and their gorgeous, curvy brown girls that dig me the most:  Somehow, they know I’m not above their strife, not too far off from their survival.  And the further in crawls your long summer — the darker I get — the more I become “one of them”.  And it is just my fucking luck it’s more fashionable to be “exotic” anyway, around here.  Around you, these days.  

A balding, sadly aging museum guard with a blubbery body absorbed me with his wet eyes, yesterday.  No way he could ever afford a girl like me; and if he happened to touch her, she could only tempt him from behind the screen of his computer.  Or from a stripper pole, at a safe distance.  When I looked at him, he freaked, turned away and adjusted his crotch.

“Don’t look now, mister,” I thought at the back of his clammy bald spot, “but you’re standing right in between DIVORCE and REAL HUMAN HAIR.”  (They were signs that some artist found ironic enough to replicate and hang onto the wall that the sadly aging man was guarding — but for not enough money to afford a girl like me.  The irony — worked.)

“She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of them’,” he must’ve thought; and when I granted him the last profile of my face, he turned away and adjusted his crotch — again.

Oh, Holly!

I am anonymous, like the hundreds of your graffiti artists that tag your skin with their marks.  My markings are not as well distributed yet (my publicist sucks!); but I too prefer to blend in, moving in between your demographics, collecting my stories when no one is looking, often in the dark. And once the mission is accomplished, I walk away with enough surrender to not have to sweat about what’s going to happen to my work.  Because, once I’ve found what I dig in life — humanity, of which you, my Holly, have galore! — patience comes as easily as breathing.

I am content with being your next Bukowski, hanging with you long enough to see your other layers (not necessarily pretty or dignified, but always relevant) and drooling at your girls:  Yesterday’s stunning Filipino creature in a tiny, ruffly skirt with strategically placed beauty marks all over her face.  The funky Harajuku girls who stormed past me with their fashions and smells and chatter, making me grin moronically and confusedly.  The African princess on your subway with a wide wrist band of faded gold who played with the ringlets of her hair for the three very short stops.  The young Mexican girl accompanying her awkward, unknowing boy who granted me a tiny nod:

“Aren’t you brown?  You must be ‘one of us’!”

This is an ode to you, my Holly; to your being so many things, depending on where I look, how long I hang, and whom I ask — sort of like me. 

You are sort of like me:  democratic, and anonymous, and not above the strife.  You’re “one of them” when I find you discomforting, “one of us” — when you reveal something I don’t mind poking.  Or jotting down, leaving my mark. 

Strangely, against all fashion, I’m into.  Into you.  I’m into your people.  And as I continue to walk your streets — so strange, worn-out, used-up, repaired; tagged and marked-up; not necessarily pretty or dignified but always poignant — I offer my ode to your humanity, of which, my Holly, you have galore.

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly…

Welcome to Hollywood! What’s YOUR Trip?

“How is it out there?”  I got a text from a long lost comrade, on the East Coast of my youth.

It came in between my feverish dreams on behalf of the girl next door with a terrible cough; and another girl, also sort of next door (more like behind the door diagonally across the hall from mine), who insists on slamming that fucking thing every time she leaves or returns to the premises.  (And considering that the girl behind the diagonal door is a new starlet in Hollyweird, she comes and goes quite a bit.  I also presume she must be quite forgetful, ‘cause that door usually gets slammed a dozen times before the joint returns to its habitual silence.  All that noise — from one little girl!)

Oh, and then it was one those fire drill days in my building; and once I returned to my heavy, sweaty dreams — after the new starlet finished her door slamming for that portion of the day — off it went:  A horrific sound of metal on metal, meant to save the living and to wake the dead!

I reached for my earplugs.  Normally, I sport those if going to bed after midnight:  when the ghetto birds come out to cruise my ‘hood and wake up the girl next door — and her terrible cough.  But yesterday morning, I was meant to sleep in.  (I had been awake for half the night, every night of this week, due to a heartbreak-related insomnia.  FUCK.)  Except:  I forgot to read the memo plastered on the door of our garage earlier in the week.

“Probably another filming notice,” I dismissed it at the time.

But the memo multiplied like an occasional stampede by rodents; and by the morning, it appeared on every door of the joint.  When the drill when off, I stumbled out of my apartment into the corridor, with purple earplugs ‘n’ all:

“Is there smoke?”  I thought, trying to remember where I used my laptop last, before finally falling asleep:  ‘cause that’s the only thing that was worth rescuing.  “If there is no smoke, I’m going back to bed!”

“Dear Tenants!”  I first read the paper on the diagonal door before noticing my own copy.  I skimmed over it.

“Cocksuckers!” I thought.  So much for sleeping in!

I closed the door, jammed in my purple earplugs further and went to the fridge.  That’s where I keep my coffee, you see, and anything else that I would hate to see be invaded by a stampede of rodents.  Top shelf:  Hemp milk, honey…  FUCK:  I’m out of coffee!  Totally forgot!  Must get to Trader Joe’s today, but:  FUCK.

I got out a gypsy skirt, utilized it as a dress, took the stairs, stepped outside:  Lovely.  Perhaps not really a beach day, but still:  Lovely!  I took out my purple earplugs and walked to the 7-Eleven on the corner.  Behind it, a construction that’s been going on for over a year was starting to look like a building, not a skeleton of steel beams, and plastic, and fiber glass.

“Afternoon, m’am,” a bearded man in an orange helmet grinned at me in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven.  These guys are awesome:  construction men who are often warn their invasion of an neighborhood with signs like “Caution:  Men Working”,  “Men Working Above”, “Caution!  Men!”

“Afternoon?” I responded.  What frigging time WAS it?  Come to think of it, that fire drill memo did mention 12 noon.

Armed with my watered-down coffee, I rushed back to my apartment.  Sure enough:  12-fucking-30!  FUCK.  I gotta publish!  The horrific sound of the drill made me consider visiting some coffee shop at a walking distance, but then you never know with those, in Hollyweird:  Some lonely exhibitionist may always impede on my work there, and then I’ll need my purple earplugs again.  I got to work.

After a typical three-hour session which sometimes feels like a catharsis, and other times — like a mean constipation — I finally got around to returning my messages.  There was a semi-flirtation by an old lover.  Cute.  Then, there was the request to take a raincheck on a date from a player I just met.  An actor.  Of course:  What was I thinking?  Two lines were sent to the old lover, one — to the actor.

“How is it out there?”  I reread the text from my long lost comrade.

Right.  What to say to that one?  I stumbled around the apartment for a little longer (the fire drill was finally over), and decided to do a little research on behalf of my curious witness, on the East Coast of my youth.  Because I’ve been out here a bit too long, to be easily impressed to give him the answer he may want to hear; so I thought:  Why not take a little walk while running errands?

First stop:  The bank.

“I’m SO glad there is no racism out here!” 

As soon as I stepped in, I overhead a white woman do her spiel in front of two clerks, in the lobby.

“Right, right, right,” one of them was responding.

They didn’t have a choice but to listen to her.  None of us did.  I began testing those dinky pens with strings, just so I could sign my checks.  Apparently, she had just returned from Paris and was “shocked” — “SHOCKED!” — by the state of the racial affairs over there.

“I tell you:  This is exactly why Los Angeles — is the best place on the planet!” 

I looked over at the African American security guard by the door:  Was he as uncomfortable as me?

“Right, right, right…”

The white woman was finally marching out, laughing at her own joke, seemingly relieved (had she just fulfilled some civic duty?); and as she passed the security guard — now holding her door — she ignored the courtesy to thank him.  Oh goodness!  I was already craving to get back to my apartment.

But:  FUCK!  I’m out of coffee!  And didn’t they just build a new TJ’s around here?  I decided to walk around a lil’ more.

“How YOU doin’ today, mami?” — a Chicano was smoking outside another bank I passed on my excursion.  I examined him, head to toe:  I’ve been out here a bit too long to be easily impressed.  Then, toe to head.  The head was smirking, disarmingly.

“Good,” I answered.  Fine:  I looked back and pressed my lips together (my version of a smile); then kept walking.

“Nice poom-poom!” he hollered before I disappeared behind the sliding doors of TJ’s.  And how would HE know?!  FUCK.

Screw it!  Quickly, I picked up my staples:  I’m pro.  A woman on mission.  Besides:  The inside my apartment was starting to feel very tempting.  

Ahead of me in line, a young mother was venting to the cashier:

“My son was beating up a boy over these seaweed snacks!  And I was like:  You’re in kindergarden!”

The cashier smiled uncomfortably while stuffing her bags with what looked like a month’s supply of seaweed.  The young mother looked back at me for some better sympathy.  I pressed my lips together.

“I mean:  This is what the children in Hollywood fight over!  Seaweed.”

She took her time paying, while figuring out which credit card was going to work that day; and finally settled on writing a check.  This — was gonna be a while.  I put down my items.  Scanned the shelf of Zico coconut water.  Oh!  I NEED me some of that!  I grabbed a about a month’s supply, and approached the tortured cashier.

“Rough shift?”  I said.

He pressed his lips together:  “Just another day in Hollywood.”

I packed my own bags, paid cash, took a different exit to avoid the smoking Chicano and stepped outside:  Lovely.  Perhaps not really a beach day, but still:  Lovely!  I strutted home.

Oh, but:  FUCK!  I’m out of coffee.  Totally forgot to buy some.

FUCK.

“Cali’s Where They Put the Mack Down.” DO They?

Okay, my New Yorkers:  Avert your eyes here.  I’m gonna bitch a lil’:

Where the fuck is my sun, LA-LA?

This tan-o-rexic is seriously freaking out here!  How in the world am I going to carry on with my image of an ethnically ambiguous honey who attracts the gazes of dem white boys and brothers alike, if I let my skin lose the shade I’ve been working on so hard this summer?  Besides, everyone gets a much more mellow version of me after I’ve seared my skin under the cancerous rays.  So, really, my tan — is good for everyone.

(Hmm.  Where is my Not Like button ‘round here?!  Not Like.  Not Like at all, LA-LA!)

As if the life of a single girl in this city wasn’t hard enough!  First of all, everyone in LA-LA, regardless of their occupation, acts as if the entertainment industry is their money-maker.  In order to afford a life in this expensive city, we all work insanely long hours (even and especially those of us who choose to be self-employed); and it takes an equal amount of dedication to we wedge in some sort of a social life in between those 16-hour days that reek of production jobs. 

(For the single ladies on the hunt:  The men who work those bloody production jobs are quite easy to pick-out.  Beware:  They’re overstressed workaholics with quickly graying hair, chronic jitters acquired from serious dozes of caffeine, with a special talent of juggling several mobile devices and alcohol drinks with Red Bull.  They also tend to be overly dramatic when they don’t get the answer they want; because unlike for the rest of us:  Their time.  IS.  Money.)

But when we do get out for the sake of recreational — or procreational — activities, we are confronted with further challenges of this vast city.  No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone’s immediate beef with LA-LA is:  The distance.  Because this city spans for over 500 square miles that include mounts and valleys, ghettoes and beaches.  It can be a pretty mother fucker though; but we all would enjoy the ride a bit more, if it weren’t for the world-famous Los Angeles traffic.  (This traffic, by the way, is the very reason I’ve chosen to be self-employed; because when trying to get to my receptionist gig with its 8:30 in-time a few years back nearly gave me a heart attack and forever ruined my profanity censor.  Oh yes, sire:  Driving in my passenger seat — is not for the weak of heart, or for the tender of ears.)

It takes a special amount of expertise and temper to get to places on time.  But when in pursuit of a social life, one does have a choice to evaluate whether or not the event — or the person — is worth going the distance.  Brutal, ain’t it?  Yep.  I would never say it to a player’s face, but if he resides in the Valley, he and I — are just not meant to be.  Especially with these current gas prices!  Yeah.  Nyet:  I don’t do the Valley.  (I barely do Burbank, yet even then I cringe.)

And don’t even get me started on our City’s parking regulations:  It’s an exercise in deductive reasoning!  I’ve been known to deconstruct those poles with three-to-four plaques about permits and street cleaning and towing zones — for ten mins, easily!  Nowadays, if I’m ever late to a date, I don’t blame it on traffic.  I just roll my eyes and wipe my forehead:

“Phew.  Those parking signs!”

Anyway.  So, say you’ve arrived to your date safely and somewhat on time.  You’ve shared a meal.  The player has walked you to your car (which hopefully has NOT been towed by then).  What do you next?  Ahem (insert an cringe):  Not taking a walk, that’s for sure!  We don’t walk ’round here.  Because there is no better way to attract trouble than taking a stroll in pretty much any neighborhood.  Sure, you could drive yourselves to a park, but there aren’t many of those here either.  Besides, in the eve, most of them become a camping ground for this city’s homeless; and something tells me, you don’t wanna disturb their sleep.  So, why don’t you just grope each other against that safely parked car of yours; then, say, “Night-night,” and drive off while texting sexy messages to each other?  Fun.

With all of these factors considered, dating becomes a tricky and quite a stressful thing in this City of Angels.  But the one thing you cannot do — is leave your plans up in the air.  Because there are way too many factors that can distract both of you and detour your coffee date so far off, you’ll never get to it.

Last night, for instance, a cutie was making plans with me via texting; and oh, how intense he sounded!  (Call me old-fashioned, it would be my personal preference for him to pick-up that same phone and call me.  But then, I’ve lived through so many failed date plans and flaky arrangements, that I wasn’t getting my hopes up in the first place.)  But the player was very persistent — and quite specific:  He established the time, the date, the place AND the duration of our coffee date.  When I cracked a joke at his expense, this LA-LA native texted:

“I may be young, but I’m still a man.  I am very specific about what I like.”

Mkay then!  Sounds like someone’s been thrown for a loop a coupla times in his dating life; but yes, sir!  I’ll see you on Friday, at 17:36 Pacific time, on the South-East corner of Doheny and Sunset.

Now, I don’t want to ruin your party any further, my kittens, but this is not just a matter of my cunty-ranty opinion.  Apparently, official studies have been conducted on the topic of our strife and their conclusion is:  Dating in LA-LA — sucks!

I personally still have some hope, but according to this bit (forwarded to me by a bicoastal comrade), our city is actually the worst for any romantically recreational — or procreational — activities.  Why?  Learn about it:

“Anthropologists have noticed a statistic that correlates nicely with the social and sexual permissiveness of a population.  It’s called the sex ratio — the number of men for every 100 women.  In places where the sex ratio is low (i.e. excess of women over men), social morals are relaxed, women go out a lot, and everyone has a ball.  Where the sex ratio is high (i.e. excess of men), people go out less and attitudes are more conservative.”  

According to this blog — not written by yours cunty-truly, but by a man (!) — LA-LA’s excess of men makes our dating life quite hard to navigate.  (And you’d think that for a single girl this imbalance in sex ratio would be a good thing.  Damn.  Can’t a kitten get a break?)

So, instead of waiting for our now officially sucky dating scene to improve, I personally choose to entertain myself.  Hence:  Where the fuck is my sun, LA-LA?  Seriously.