Los Angeles vs Los Angeles

January 29, 2007 – 10:07 am

I’ve been going to Los Angeles an average of every other week. I head for downtown, check into the Stillwell Hotel on 9th and Grand, happy to pay the $49 a night for a clean room with a bathroom. It’s not the $5 a week Kerouac would talking about. For $49 he could cross the country twice. In all things being equal and if you believe the inflation, $49 isn’t a bad deal. They always have a room and the price never changes, even on New Year’s weekend.

Hank’s is the hotel bar. “One of the last good neighborhood bars!” proudly displayed. It’s an old time bar with old time drinkers. If I’m by myself I’ll sit at the bar, and depending on the bar tender, I’ll do a fair amount of looking. There’s this one. She’s always friendly. Skinny body, but a little puss gut that for some reason turns me on. She’s covered in tattoos and smokes a lot of cigarettes, often disappearing from the bar to go outside. If I’m with someone, typically I’ll go in the back room, turn on the TV for some background noise and I’ll get drunk with someone, hopefully someone good, usually it’s not. There’s a picture on the wall of Hank and his wife. They look like a happy couple, probably from Brooklyn originally. A frame hanging on the right side of the bar of the New York skyline confirms my suspicions. I think I would of liked Hank. Probably a good hardworking east coast man who decided to go where the action was during the early 40’s or 50’s. Downtown was a different place in those days of the large movie houses that line Broadway.

A good working class crowd unaffected by the illusion of Los Angeles. They’re over it. I imagine a few may have come to LA, 20, maybe 30 years ago, following the dream and been through hell. Having nothing, being used, compromising themselves, taking chances, considering suicide, burning, cutting, crying, laughing, cheating, snorting, bleeding. These days, some rich midwestern family has a beautiful daughter that can sing and dance. They pay for everything. They want her to give it a try. She goes to LA. She tries. She fails. She comes back home and is famous forever.

Today Broadway is a virtual Tijuana, selling mostly junk, controlled by Latinos and smells of good food cooked right on the street. Mmm, bacon wrapped hot dogs. The smell is amazing. An intoxicating combination of everything bad for you. Enough nitrates to choke a horse. I still can’t bring myself to actually eat one. I guess money has made me a picky spoiled bitch.

I go to LA to take it all in. LA moves so fast and this is why it works. This is what saves people. LA is never the same place twice. The people are always different. People are still poor. People still work hard. The latino community is active. The people believe in revolution and the spirit of the people and their ability to change and they understand their power. Why can’t I say the same about San Francisco? Is San Francisco so stuck on being San Francisco that it’s like a screaming child that has just run out of energy and the screams have turns into faint whispers eventually falling asleep. If it’s me, tell me, show me, what the fuck I’m doing wrong. Why when I randomly go to Los Angeles, I meet people, I talk to people, I even like the homeless. Why is it that I feel like I can be who I am in Los Angeles? Yet I have to hide in my room, limit my conversations and dismiss my chances here in San Francisco?

I’m sitting under this tent smoking some hash that someone brought to the party. I can’t help but to analyze every situation, every movement, every conversation with fierce anticipation. And even with everything happening outside the windows of my mind, it can’t compare to the millions of ghosts which find themselves entering my brain. I laugh, to myself, or was it? The idea. Meet at Hope and Pico. A van will be there to pick everyone up and take you to the party. My first thought, the old school raver checkpoint that I figured was more myth then anything. We met some people at the checkpoint. I offered them a smoke of the pipe I was igniting. I was already drunk. Three Gimlets at Musso and Frank’s.

The van arrives. We’re still hitting that pipe in the van. The mushrooms are taking control. There’s always a battle between the mushrooms and the alcohol. Usually the mushrooms win and I get a sudden blast of sobriety and a concurrent flash of disorientation and intense focus. For some reason visuals are mild in my experience with mushrooms. I often feel cheated when people tell me their stories of vivid colors and liquid perception. For me it’s almost always a flurry of insane thoughts. A journey to the center of the mind and an inspiration for alternative thinking. Everything is interesting because you see it for what it really is. Reality leaves us broken. Reality defies the imagination and closes the doors to possibilities you would otherwise dismiss at the surface. I see the beauty in humanity and the depths of the soul through obligatory glances and one word conversations.

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