Last day in Los Angeles, I decided to make my life more complicated.
I'd been crashing on a futon at some friends' West Hollywood apartment for the whole week. I had a fake aunt that was going to be my backup (a friend of my mom's from childhood: no blood relation, we'd met her briefly when my family visited Los Angeles in the early 80s), but it looked like it was going to be easier for me to just stay in West Hollywood. My mom had reconnected us through email a few months before the trip happened. Once the woman had my email and volunteered to be my "second mom" in L.A., she started putting me on her email forward list, sending me a bunch of Tea Party bullshit. I was avoiding her. I'd been meaning to call her since I got to L.A., but I kept putting it off and eventually figured I'd write her once the trip was over, explaining that I'd been too busy on the trip and suggesting I'd see her during my NEXT visit.
A few days before the end of the trip, she emailed me.
"Where are you?"
She contacted my mother, who contacted me. I had to deal with it.
I apologized over email. Suggested that maybe we could do dinner on my last night.
She countered by suggesting that we should have dinner AND that I should stay over at her house so that she could see me off at the airport the next day.
I gave in. I imagined her house would be bigger than my friends' apartment; maybe I could sleep on a nice bed for my final night in L.A.
I left the comfort of West Hollywood and traveled to an area that I would learn is called Lincoln Heights
Auntie's house turned out to be a hoarder's paradise. My mother had claimed that she was wealthy from the sale of some property and hadn't needed to work for some time now, but my mother is often wrong about a lot of things. Auntie had had a business renting tents to film productions for many years. She claimed that a lot of her tents could be seen in big, famous movies. From what I gathered, business had dried up over a certain period of time. One of her sons helped pay for the house.
When I got there, she let me use the bathroom in the master bedroom:
Instead of a bed, I'd be sleeping on a narrow oriental bench that she'd set up with some beddings...
(This is not it, but it resembled this.)
She had two grown sons. The one who was a bit older was hanging out with us that night. A totally laid-back stoner-type who talked like that turtle in FINDING NEMO. He'd go off on all these nonsensical tangents, easily carrying the weight of the conversation without me.
"Money doesn't work, man. Historically, money-based societies fail. And who has all the money? THE BANKERS! We need to find something else..."
"It'd be fun to see what would happen if all the government just went away, you know? And everything stopped working! Like, the buses stopped running and the electricity just got cut off! What would people do...?"
"I love hanging out at parks, man. It's my favorite thing. I just like playing there, climbing things. I don't go on the swings as much because I'm getting too old. I'm almost 40, dude!"
He was almost 40 but between his youthful looks and his... simplified
view of the world... I thought he might be in his 20s...
The younger son was in classes till midnight; Auntie told me we'd get to see him in the morning, but she showed me some pictures of him:
I just needed to make it through this trip.
After an uneventful dinner at (L.A.'s version of) Chinatown, the older son suggested that he and I could get some beers.
He drove me in my rental car. It was an improvement over the beat-up old thing he'd been driving. "Dude, look at your tank, it's almost full!" He knew a bar that was nearby.
Bars in L.A. are completely different from NYC bars. I've been to my share of NYC bars and I went to range of L.A. bars during my week there, but the lowest L.A. "dive bar" looked like a little palace compared to some NYC haunts. The one he took me to had nice carpeting, a leather-padded bar, pretty couches. It was like a theme park version of a bar. We had a drink a piece. I figured that would be it. We'd retire back to his mom's house, watch one of her favorite conspiracy documentaries and I'd hit the oriental bench for some shut-eye.
But my new friend was not satisfied. "There's this other bar I should've taken you to! They show these old horror movies on the walls, man. I'm taking you there, dude, let's go..." I played along. My last night, why not?
The next bar was a little further away. He talked about his life. He worked at a Natural History Museum. He had a kid who was 9 or 11 or something. He kept repeating the fact that he's almost 40 and how he'd love to leave L.A., move somewhere else like Hamburg, Germany, where he didn't have to drive.
We arrived at the bar but there were no horror movies on the walls. He asked the bartender about it and the bartender suggested that they probably just played horror movies for that one night because someone brought in a DVD. We each had an beer and a half. Talked about women. I figured that was where the night would end. Except now, he wanted to get a little high...
Drove back to his mom's house and he told me to wait in the car. He went up to tell his mom that he was going to keep me out for a little longer. Retrieved some pot from his car and brought it back to me in the rental. I generally don't smoke pot if I can help it, but I'm trying to play along here. I end up taking three big hits when I should've just taken one. I get higher than fuck. I realize that I am smoking pot with a stranger in a rental car that I have to return tomorrow morning. And now the stranger wants to take me for one last drink.
We drive all over the place. I have no idea where we are. He's pointing out the different areas we're driving through, giving me the jungle tour. Between the drinks and the pot, I'm just trying to keep my head screwed on.
We stop at some train tracks as the crossing gates lower and the bells begin ringing. We hear a train approaching. The stranger looks like a kid on Christmas day. "Oh man, I've always wanted to try this...!"
Without any further explanation, he gets out of the driver's seat and walks up to the train tracks. I have no idea what he's up to. Is he going to lay down on the tracks? Is he going to try to jump the train? I'm drunk and high and I'm wondering if this is my cue to hop into the driver's seat, turn the fuck around and leave whatever this scene is about to be.
He begins climbing a ladder at the crossing. He climbs halfway up before dropping down as the train begins to move past us. He returns to the rental car with a giddy grin on his mug. "If there weren't people around, I would've climbed all the way up!"
U-turn. He takes us to Japan Town... which, like everything else around L.A. right now, is just a ghost town...
Everything is so clean and empty, it looks like a set.
We find ourselves in a bar where this weird experimental jazz band is freaking out, which does little to calm my nerves. We both get a beer and a shot. When he's not looking, I dump my shot out. I am too far gone. If I were in NYC, I'd hightail it out of there, hop a cab or a subway train. Here, there is no escape.
When we leave the bar, he says, "It's gonna be about 15 minutes before I'm straight enough to drive..." And that's how people drink and drive in L.A., ladies and gentlemen. We just start walking around the place and I have no idea where we parked the car anymore. I am increasingly aware that I've just met this guy, I'm not related to him, I don't know where I am or whether he's got a bigger plan yet to unfold.
We return to the car. He starts driving. Really fast. Down really empty roads. I begin to imagine that this would be an awfully stupid way for me to die...
And then before I know it, we're back at his mom's house. Miraculously. The lights are still on inside. It's only about 12:30 but it feels like 3am. "You know the drill. If my mom's still up, don't let on that you're high, dude..."
Thankfully, Auntie's not still up. I'm too high to conceal it at this point and not in the mood to watch a conspiracy theory doc.
Almost-40 shows me how to turn off the lights and gives me a big hug.
In the morning, I have breakfast with Auntie. Meet the younger brother of Almost-40, who isn't quite as out-there as I'd feared. He'd laid-back, but in a different way than his bro. He's going to school to become a sound engineer or something.
We get the rental car back right on time. Auntie and younger brother see me off at the airport. "Next time, you stay with us for the whole trip!" she insists.
I check in, make my way through security, settle in at the departure gate. And for the first time in a week, I begin to relax...
Labels: Los Angeles 2010