Los Angeles, CA
Stephen Elliot wrote something about how L.A. is the perfect place to be discovered and to hide out at the same time. I'm paraphrasing here... but since everyone in the City of Angels is desperately seeking attention, all you have to do is stand still and you'll disappear.
That's an accurate description of L.A. that I've come across. Elliot simply summed up one the main reasons why I migrated to the left coast and settled down in La-La Land -- it really is easy to disappear within the city limits and become invisible. Lost in the shuffle.
I needed a place where I could hole up and write with minimal distractions. L.A. sorta fit. Everyone insulates themselves from the rest of the world by riding around everywhere in cars. When they aren't in cars, they are attached to their cell phones, sort of like a post-modern security blanket. And when people go home, they hide behind the walls of the internet.
I love New York and think about returning to my hometown every single day, but the city is expensive and a difficult place to hole up and write and hide out. NYC is really just a bunch of small islands connected together by the most amazing public transportation system in the world. Too many chances to bump into people who I don't want to see. I have over three decades of ghosts, former lives, and dozens of different circles of friends and classmates festering in a couple of the five boroughs. NYC is the base for my family. With the exception of my brother, I don't miss seeing any of them at all. The only way I might be able to avoid known acquaintances is to live out on Staten Island or on the outskirts of Queens. Who the hell would want to do that?
NYC offers up too many distractions. Too much to do, so much fun to be had. I'm not a daily drinker anymore, but I love hanging out in dive bars strewn across New York. On the other end of the spectrum, L.A. is devoid of culture and I'm not tempted by the dreary plastic nightlife. I rarely wander into that world because the douchey denizens who frequent the bars and clubs make those places unattractive. Instead of wasting my time and money in those black holes of intellect, I surrounded myself with good books and funky music and holed up in an anonymous apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills.
Over the last couple of years, I looked at L.A. as the place where I'm going to sleep and recuperate after a long bender or lengthy stint on the road. It's the place where I went to work on Lost Vegas. But now what? Ideally, I'd love to have two apartments -- one in LA and the other in New York City -- but that utopia isn't cheap.
I really didn't know what to do with myself when I finished the re-write to Lost Vegas. The book is still not complete, but this stage is finally done. While I wait to work on the next stage, I had a open window. Small, but it was open. I could have fucked off, but I didn't want to lose momentum so I decided to take four days off and begin a new project on the Monday after the Super Bowl. The new goal is to crank out as much as I could before I fly to Uruguay at the end of the month and the German Butcher finished reading/editing the latest draft.
It felt odd to do nothing. I scheduled the Super Bowl as a day off but that left three free days. I'm not one to simply rest and do nothing because there's always some sort of work to be done. If I'm not working, I'm partying, and sometimes the lines are blurred between the two. But I made a conscious effort to do nothing -- meaning no writing, no work emails, nothing related to that world.
What did I do? I barely left the couch. I smoked hashish for three straight days and embarked on a Mad Men marathon.
Molly sent me a gift card for Christmas which funded the first season of Mad Men on DVD. I watched season 2 and 3 on my laptop via the intertubes -- 39 episodes in all over that three-day period. I only left the apartment to walk to Jack in the Box for a BIG ASSED ICED TEA. I rarely left the couch except to retrieve cups of Jell-O pudding from the fridge as my only food stuff. The Hash and Pudding Diet. Try it some time. Much healthier than cigarettes and gin.
During the foggy bender, we had two unexpected visitors at the front door. We never get drop ins. That's why I was startled. I was too faded to get paranoid. I was mostly annoyed that my Mad Men marathon had to be paused.
The first knock on Friday night was from Nicky's parental units. I hid the smoking apparatuses and gave Nicky the OK sign to answer the front door. They decided to drop on in and check up on Nicky because she hadn't returned her parents' calls. They were worried that something bad had happened. Maybe they saw that episode of Intervention about huffers and thought Nicky was passed out after huffing too much pine-scented Pledge.
Well, they had nothing to worry about because Nicky finished off a rather boring and ordinary work week. Nicky did not hide her discomfort of the parental pop in as they invited themselves into the apartment. The TV was on with the Lakers/Denver Nuggets game about to tip off. Nicky's father wondered if I had money on the Lakers. I told him the truth.
"No. I don't like to bet on the NBA, even though I'm going to put a few bucks down on Oklahoma City against Golden State tomorrow night. I always bet against Golden State."
Nicky's mother wandered into my office. The door was wide open and she noticed a picture of Derek Jeter with his fist pumping in the air. That photo captured his reaction as he rounded the bases after he hit his infamous November 1st home run in the 2001 World Series (of Baseball).
Luckily, they didn't stay long and only moderately killed my buzz. I told Nicky that I would have politely kicked them out had I been writing.
I returned to my routine like nothing happened until a second knock on the door almost 24 hours later. Alas, it was your typical L.A. blonde in distress. The flowery fragrant 20-something sister of our neighbor across the hall had locked herself out of the apartment. My neighbor was out of town and her younger sister had cat sitting duties. After feeding the feline, she went outside to make sure she parked her brand-new tomato red BMW in the right parking space. In the process, she accidentally locked herself out and left her phone inside the apartment. She knocked on our door seeking a wrench and/or to borrow our phone to call a locksmith.
I gave her a wrench and watched as she unsuccessfully tried to unscrew a locked window. I told her it wasn't going to work and offered to see if I could break into the apartment via the alley. Sometimes my neighbors on the first floor foolishly leave their bathroom or bedroom windows open -- but not that time. No open windows to squeeze through. I was too high to try to pick the lock, but not high enough to think I could kick the door in. I couldn't save the day.
She borrowed Nicky's phone and called a locksmith as the loud meows of the cat from inside the locked apartment increased in volume. She gave the locksmith my number, which was important because he had to call back twice. He originally took down the wrong address and called the first time to verify where he was headed. Twenty minutes later, I got another call. He couldn't find the building and went to the wrong unit next door.
The locksmith showed up and he looked like Bobby Bracelet -- but with a nervous twitch. Not shitting you. I did a double take and wondered if it was the hash fucking with my head. L.A. Twitchy Bobby was happy to help out the young blonde which is why he took twice as long to get the job done.
Another crisis averted in the slums of Beverly Hills.