Tag Archives: skid row

Life After TV

homeless at home

Today marks the beginning of a new era. I’m preparing to enter the next phase of my life as a member of Los Angeles’ transient community.

Four months ago, the show that I was working on was canceled. In the months that followed, I quickly spent all of my money shooting a short film that risked the lives of five or six of my friends plus several hundred strangers who were driving north and/or south on Highway 1 near Big Sur in mid-May.

Then one day, about two months ago I was in the red. I took my dog for a walk, applied for four hundred jobs and then it was June. I was still in the red. I took my dog for another walk, went on three hundred job interviews, and then it was July. That was Tuesday.

But the past is the past and what’s the point in dwelling? Insert quote about being fiscally responsible and thinking ahead and not being any happier, but being generally safer and more stable if you do. C’est la whatever, bruh.

In preparation for my new life, I’ve been looking at living spaces. In a lot of ways it’s similar to apartment hunting: identify a neighborhood, list the things you must have (parking, on-site laundry, proximity to grocery stores, gym, etc) and then drive by at night to see if it’s as nice as it was during the day.

When you’re looking at outdoor living spaces a few obvious places come to mind: under freeway overpasses, Skid Row, Cahuenga Boulevard, industrial side streets, shrubbery off of the freeway. I’ve decided I don’t really have the heroin problem it takes to live on Skid Row, and I’m too old and not punk enough to join the Hollywood homeless, so I’m basically limited to living near the freeway in a bush, or in some abandoned building in the warehouse district that doubles as a brothel/stash house. Now that I’ve identified the area, it’s time to consider the things I can’t live without.

Silver Lake Youth Hostel

Ideally, I’d like to be close to a center of commerce so I have a short commute to where I’ll do my panhandling. Secondly, I’d like to be close to the L.A. River so I’ll have access to some wild life and a place to bathe on a regular basis even if the water is only a couple inches deep.

Since I’ve never been much of a camper or an outdoors person, in preparation for my life outside I plan on buying everything I’ll need to live comfortably under an overpass near the L.A. River (so far Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Boulevard bridging Silver Lake to Atwater are my top contenders). “Everything” includes a 16 person tent because I like my leg room, a gun because I’m scared of raccoons, five boxes of Uncrustables because their life expectancy is longer than mine, and a gym membership because just because I’ll be homeless doesn’t mean I am going to become a lazy, out-of-shape fuck, too.

In a lot of ways, this is like when a doctor says, “You’re dying. Go home and get your affairs in order.”

Getting my affairs in order looks like this: designing my panhandling signs so I’ll be able to compete in the cutthroat climate of trying to get people to give me money.

Design

Getting a haircut.

Haircut

Breaking the news to my fiancée that we’re going to be in a long distance relationship from now on: her up in the hills, me down by the river drinking prescription cough syrup and fishing for alligators.

fishing on actavis

Once I’ve done all of that, I think I’ll finally be able to focus on the important things in life. I’ll get to be one of those people who is like, “yeah man, one day I was just like, what am I doing with all these material things? This isn’t how humans are supposed to live. So I just gave everything up and now I only have what I need on a daily basis. A toothbrush, an air guitar and my integrity.”

And it’s not like I’m just going to fall off the radar. It’s not like I’m moving to Humboldt County and giving it all up. No, I’ll still be in L.A. I’m just adjusting my lifestyle to my cash flow. So if you’re ever down by the river, don’t be a stranger. Come say hey!

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It Takes A Village

The idea of raising a child with my neighbors has crossed my mind. Going off of what Oprah said—that bit about a village raising a child— I recently assessed my neighbors, my village.

There are between six and seven of us that would comprise this village. The floater is named Ted or Theodore. I’m not sure if he actually lives in the building or if he just hangs out on my porch and asks for beer. Ted, who may or may not live in apartment 201, is friends with a man who does whose name I do not know. I’m not even sure if they’re friends, but they’re both black and Ted spends his days sitting in front of apartment 201 so I assume he knows the person who lives there.

I’ve never been inside apartment 201, but in the time I’ve lived above it I’ve come to hate all of its residents. First there was a harem of Romanians, aged sixteen to sixty. They were loud and they moved to Temple City. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were in jail or dead. I never knew any of there names. We were neighbors for about a year. After the Romanians headed east a Korean-American girl from the Bay Area moved in.

She worked at Petco and had a Pomeranian. I’ve never considered myself a violent man, but I often thought of throwing that little dog off of a building to get it to shut the fuck up. The Korean-American girl with the terrible dog was gay, in a very closeted way. She had a black girlfriend from Richmond, which is the most dangerous city in California. Her black girlfriend liked to sit on the porch and sing Dave Matthews songs. She once asked if I was a musician, and when I told her I wasn’t, she scoffed and went back to singing about rain or whiskey or South Africa. Or maybe all three.

Then apartment 201 was dormant, which was great because I have hardwood floors and love to tap dance. I never practice my tap dancing when I’ve got a downstairs neighbor; I’m far too courtesy.

After the dormancy, came the man who lives there now. He burns incense and watches Law & Order all day. He’s either a veteran or disabled or just has a really nice hustle, which allows him to drink beer and smoke blunts all day. He doesn’t own a car. I’ve never seen him go farther than the porch. He has a lot of guests, like Ted, who I think might be his friend or roommate. His guests must go to the grocery store for him. They must buy his beer and his weed. They must do his laundry. I once peeked into 201 and amidst the plumes of incense I saw a McDonalds trash can and an arcade era Pac Man. This nameless man would probably have to take on the bulk of the babysitting for our village since he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t leave his apartment.

Next to 201 is apartment 202, which has a rotating list of tenants. At the helm is John. John is from Florida. He used to be a teacher, but he cashed in his pension at fifty and moved to Hollywood to pursue the dream of becoming wildly rich and famous. That was about nine years ago. He’s currently working on a novel, which he wants to adapt into a play. He’s also writing an album.

John spends his days at the library on Ivar where he has become friends with the local transient population. One local bum is named Nancy. Nancy is his girlfriend. Sometimes she comes over to “watch movies” with John. Nancy spends her days hobbling around mind-bendingly drunk. I once saw her pee on my lawn the way a dog would. A female dog. She just squatted and peed while I was checking my mail. She wanted to know what I was looking at and I told her, I’m watching you pee on my lawn. It was difficult to ignore. I apologized for watching her pee on my lawn in the middle of the day.

She pulled up her sweatpants and hobbled down to Pla-Boy liquor for another fifth of vodka. John knows how to pick them. Or maybe Nancy does. Either way, they’re the oldest and only couple in the village so they’d be the grandparent figures to the baby. If no one else was around—which is impossible because 201 never leaves—Grandma Nancy and Grandpa John would watch the baby. They’d probably spoil the baby with things the rest of us “village parents” disapproved of like bananas dipped in mayonnaise, and moscato.

Above 202, and across the hall from me is the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson. The lady with the painted face is a very sweet old lady who sometimes wears a Carlos Gardel hat. She does not have a job, but she manages the recycling for everyone on the block. She’s not afraid to jump into a dumpster for a few of Nancy’s bottles of vodka. She’s also not afraid to tell other recycling hunters to beat it. She’s very territorial.

The lady with the painted face has a long face with meticulously drawn eyebrows. Her eyes are enormous and brown like a horse’s. Her hair is has a slight wave to it and because she’s black, I think this means that she either wears a wig or she has “that good hair” which I’ve heard so much about from black comedians and rappers. Yes, the lady with the painted face has that good hair. She also has a son or a grandson.

The lady with the painted face looks to be about one hundred so I can’t imagine anyone knocked her up recently. Besides the kid’s only about three and we’ve been neighbors for four years. At no point was she ever pregnant, but one day there was a child. Of course, there were men. Men who wore wife beaters and stared me down as I unlocked and locked my door. But these men never stuck around or introduced themselves. This was fine by me. I’d hate to include one of them in our village raising group only to find out they can’t really commit to child-rearing due to previous obligations.

I think the painted lady will be the crazy aunt. I mean, she is crazy. She’s into voodoo and has tarot cards tattooed on her forearm. She also occasionally dresses up as a geisha or in a power suit. She doesn’t have a job and she is reliable… I think. Her son or grandson will be the brother to the baby. It’s a big commitment, but he has no say in the matter because he’s three or so and he couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of printing.

I reside across the hall from the lady with the painted face. I will teach the child many things, but I will not be around often because it’s important that the most important person in any baby’s life is less of a person and more of a caricature of one. That way, the baby will not know how deeply flawed I am and will instead strive to be impossibly perfect. Every couple weeks I will swing by to take the kid skydiving or teach it how to order bull testicles in Japanese. The child will think I’m perfect.

However, I will make one mistake during my time living and raising the baby in our village. I will seek the hand of a Filipina mail-order bride name Bouri. Bouri will hate the child because my love for it will be strong and predate the credit card transaction which brought Bouri to America. Bouri will be a very jealous woman.

One day, while I’m out planting avocado trees in Alta Dena, Bouri will steal the baby from right under John and Nancy’s boozy noses. The man who lives in 201 will see all of this happen, but he’s sort of like Rapunzel, trapped in his first floor apartment with no way out. He’ll yell to Ted for help, but Ted won’t help because there’s no beer in the deal. The lady with the painted face and her son or grandson will watch from the window as this happens.

The lady with the painted face will pull from her drawer a stolen lock of Bouri’s hair, her passport, a pillowcase and nail polish remover. The son or grandson will boil onions with mangos from Manilla and cough syrup.

Bouri will run with the baby to Studio City. She will end up across the street from Universal… so maybe she’s technically in Universal City not Studio City… there’s no way to know. But there is a bridge and it looks down on the L.A. river. Fifty feet below water will slowly trickle in an eastward motion. Just a couple of inches boxed in by graffiti and concrete. Bouri will raise the baby above her head.

And suddenly, out in the avocado fields I’ll have this weird sensation that something’s wrong. “The baby!” I’ll say. Everyone around me will look at me like I’m crazy, but I’ll take off running. I’ll run like Zola Budd or some other famous Kenyan runner. Barefoot, fast, without passion.

The lady with the painted face will fill the pillow with Bouri’s hair and passport. Her son or grandson will spoon the onion, mango, couch syrup concoction into the pillowcase.

On the bridge, Bouri will be struck by a small shower of acid rain. It will sting then burn, finally melting her skin.

The lady with the painted face will ask her son or grandson for more, Bouri will be drenched with the voodoo elixir.

The baby will fall to the ground, wrapped in whatever Moses was wrapped in when they sent his ass down the Nile. Bouri will melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West. This is will eliminate my need to have to pay her alimony. This will eliminate the need for the man in 201 to come forward as a witness for the prosecution in the People Vs. Bouri St. Germaine. Next to the puddle formerly known as Bouri is where I will find my son or daughter, which I will raise to be the next John Roberts or Richard Brautigan or Michael Phelps. We, as parents, don’t really have much say in this matter, do we?

In thirty years, John and Nancy, Ted and the guy who lives in 201, the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson and myself will go on talk shows telling harmless anecdotes about the time a village in Hollywood raised a child. Another All-American success story.

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Skid Row Skewer By The Neapolitan Mastiff

Chapter 1: Los Angeles – Wallow In The Mire

Three minutes ago Walker was doing key bumps on the side of a rented, classic Hollywood estate, in Laurel Canyon. It’s just after four a.m. and he’s standing in the middle of a dance party in Somebody Famous’ living room. Everyone is wearing bowties or formal gowns and masks. Mardi Gras masks, Halloween masks, one twenty-something male wears an astronauts helmet and a scarf around his neck for support. Another guest, whose age is unknown, but sex is certain, wears a neon ski masks, but no pants as he dances under flickering fluorescent light. To Walker, it feels like that movie Eyes Wide Shut. Only tonight, or this morning really, the crowd isn’t quite as polished, there aren’t any Australian actresses and the drugs aren’t nearly as rampant, excluding him, of course.

The DJ on the second floor stares into a computer and comes up every couple minutes to throw his hands up in the air. Before Walker’s first line that night he joked with a couple friends about his fear of coming down. Walker and company sat around in the apartment’s only heated room delaying the inevitable. It was a half an hour or so until midnight. All three had woken up within the hour for this party and convened at Walker’s. It was his idea.

It’s not that Los Angeles is cold; it’s not, not even in late February, but blood thins faster than it thickens. Everyone in the room is intimately familiar with thinning blood: alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, prolonged desert stints, the lists goes on. Not to mention the three months of stagnate, hundred-plus degree days of sitting around, waiting to get off work to cool down. To swim to the bottom of a shallow swimming pool and wait for summer to end. Anyway, no one knows, at least not in this threesome how to thicken blood, so on this sixty-one degree night, they sat a few feet a way from a wall heater and waited for it to kick in.

Walker stares up at the DJ wondering what drives someone to want to jockey Serrato on a MacBook. Music is white noise at most, behind all the watching, staring, posing and smiling when you’ve finally been caught. But first there’s watching. The way lips moved, the way bodies hung or slouched or pulsated. The way people waited for bodies to come towards them touch them, kiss them and left them to refresh their noses, lips or lungs.

Walker feels a hand on his chest and looks down at it. He follows the vascular extremity to a thin wrist that led to an arm, which connects to the heart of an androgynous dancer. Walker becomes quietly upset. Or rather concerned she or he could tell how fast his heart is beating and how dire, physically, he actually is. Inherently, Walker feels if he or she felt what he feels, he probably looks like that war vet with no legs who he sees everyday at the last stoplight before he gets to work.

The vet is always waiting, smiling, without any fucking legs and all he wants is one of the eleven quarters that is sitting in Walker’s center console and Walker feels so bad that he can’t even bring himself to look at the guy, let alone give him a quarter because Walker knows that he’ll start crying if he gets any closer than where the vet is and where Walker sits with his window up. But he always drives past and a hundred meters later, traveling at thirty-five miles per hour he’s already completely forgotten the Vet existed. And he won’t think of him again, not once, until the next day when he has to see him again.

The hand, which belonged to a rather androgynous creature, pulls Walker’s shirt, nearly yanking him from where he stood. His legs were already wobbly, to the point where he was scared to move them for fear of exerting too much, but also afraid to not move them enough to keep time with an impossibly fast beat and also to prevent cramping.

The voice, which belongs to the androgynous hand, breathes hot, caustic air into Walker’s ear. “You should dance with us. We dance platonically.” She or he, talks like a robot, Walker thinks. The hand, then the body of the androgynous dancer retreats in what Walker feels is just in time. Walker looks down and thinks he can see his heart protruding past his ribcage.  He wonders if other people have noticed.

His heart, it’s not palpitating with any consistent rhythm. It feels like a drum solo in the height of the Post-Punk, Hardcore Movement that once ruled South L.A. It’s at some house party in a neighborhood that used to be white and suburban in 1981, but thirty years later is a low-income, largely Hispanic barrio. Back in 1981, the drum solo could last thirty more seconds or thirty more minutes depending on the crowd, the drummer’s health (was he straight-edge or hopped up on homemade speed?) and whether he actually had the will to keep going or just wants to say fuck it. Walker prays his heart doesn’t say fuck it, all other elements on his side. The party has yet to crescendo, he’s the most lethargic thing in the room and the room is most definitely not a minority-stricken slum, in fact everyone keeps talking about Connecticut.

This is a good thing. What’s not a good thing is Walker’s eyes have glassed over. Colors and shapes sliver in front and around him. He knows what would happen if he collapses. Everyone knows, it’s a story as old as Damascus or Aleppo, it’s as old as time. Collapsing between masked Connecticutians high on electronica and aesthetics somewhere in the Hollywood Hills, Walker knows could only mean one thing. He would probably convulse on the floor, getting stomped in time with the beat by Christian Louboutin pumps until he was within an inch of death.

Finally, when the dancing did stop, Somebody Famous or whoever is in charge of taking out Somebody Famous’ trash would discover him, a bloodied mess curled in the fetal position on the floor. A goon would be called by somebody on Somebody Famous’ payroll and given simple instructions: Take the body and dump it outside of a Kaiser Permanente hospital. The goon, being a subcontracted and not prescreened by Somebody Famous wouldn’t have any idea where said hospital was and would instead drive Walker’s barely breathing and bloodied corpse to Los Angeles’ Skid Row. On Skid Row, which needs no introduction to anyone with a penchant for afterhours and warehouse parties, can be slightly intimidating to say the least. On the Nickel, as it’s colloquially known, Walker would be bludgeoned, raped, and generally defiled until finally, his tormenters, having worked up an appetite, would spit-roast and eat him with never refrigerated tartar sauce. Rotten fucking tartar sauce.

Walker couldn’t let that happen. He takes a deep breath. Somehow his body has been moving this whole time and it has taken a toll. Across the room, he spots a velvet-upholstered chair. Between masks, dresses, Dixie cups and bottles of wine, Walker is locked-in on the shimmering, velvet chair. He feels a sudden burst of energy — he knows it can’t last. Walker decides what he has to do is take this energy and walk out of the house, then the gated yard, then on to the street where he will hail a cab. That is, assuming that cabs are roaming the Hills at four-thirty in the morning on a Monday or was it Tuesday? Anyway, once he got in the cab Walker would sit with his head up, paying close attention, focused, watching the meter run up to stay awake. Then he would arrive at his home, crawl into bed and vow never to do anything after dark, ever again.

The chair, velvet and solitary, hasn’t moved, which was a good thing, but neither has Walker. The chair showed itself first so it was Walker’s turn. One foot in front of the other wouldn’t do. The crowd is hovered, amalgamated, and impenetrable.  Walker shuffled along the outskirts of the room. It took fourteen individual shuffles. He squeezed and narrowly missed sports coats with patched elbows and chemically treated tuxedo shoulders. Well-moisturized hair brushed against him. He was almost there. Pallid, bare and probably Connecticutian skin, the softest he had ever felt or at least seen and not felt, tried to lure him and failed. He never took his eyes off the chair. When he arrives, Walker puts his hand on the arm of the chair. It’s well structured, comfortable and reliable. Walker realizes that his body, in its coke-deprived state, might recognize the chair with all its comfort and support for a safe haven, as place to crash. If he gives in and sits down, his body might collapse and be unreachable for hours. Walker’s hand has climbed up his body and touched his chin; his fingers catch a bead of sweat from his brow, then another.

Walker didn’t sit down because he couldn’t. He now knows full well the potential consequences: Skid Row Skewer. Another possibility occurred to him, he could fight back. Yes, he had been retreating since the second he took his last bump, but that didn’t mean he had to give in and just quit. He didn’t have to go out that way. He could buy another twenty bag. He could walk upstairs, and get another twenty bag from the guy upstairs who’s not wearing a mask that keeps talking at the DJ. He could take the bag, patiently wait in line to use the closest bathroom then in maybe four or six dense lines he could give himself the necessary edge to not be a victim. That’s what life is all about, right? Not being a victim. Being proactive. Fighting for your best interest. In one brief bathroom stint, Walker could do all that cocaine and fight back. He wouldn’t even stay at the party. He would just run home,  rather than waiting for the inevitable to happen here. Walker could do it on his own terms, in his own apartment with his own music.  All he has to do is get upstairs.

 

 

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