Monday, March 9, 2015

ANATOMY OF CORRUPTION





Why excavate the past, Jon?

Because the past is all we have. For better or worse, it made us what we are today. Don't ever count on the future.

I was nineteen when I first lived in Hollywood. It was a lean,wild,reckless time - - long before I went to college, or became a musician and freelance writer, or hobnobbed with the Tinseltown bigwigs. 


I loved the addictive allure of Hollywood but I was never starstruck, never desired fame or fortune. All I wanted was freedom and blessed escape. Escape from the raw brutality of reality. Escape from myself.

Despite being young and naive, I wasn't exactly thrown as a sacrificial lamb into the seedy underworld of eternal darkness. I'd been subtly preparing for it, almost unconsciously, for a long time. When I had finally broken out of my sophomoric shell I was more than willing to be corrupted.


Corruption doesn't come easily unless it's desired. By my mid-teens I was already planning the metamorphosis. I loathed my timid, nerdy, skinny, shy, self-consciousness. I yearned to shed the ghost of my pale passivity and reinvent my entire self.

Self-hatred is easily attained. All it takes is the psychological and physical manipulation of an abusive parent. My father was a master at destroying others. As with most abusers, he targeted the weakest: my mother and I. We were his physical punching bags and the recipients of his verbal humiliation for as long as I can remember. Strangely enough, to this day, I've never quite abandoned my feeling of worthlessness.

I worked diligently to assume a new image and a new attitude.  Although never remotely athletic, I forced myself to swim, surf, lift weights. Soon I had a deep California tan and my hair was bleached golden from the sun. I got contact lenses. Started to smoke and drink. Had my first sexual affair. It lasted nearly three blissful months. April through June. 

First love affairs are emotional agony for pathetically sentimental novices. When it ended, my heart was shattered. I was so devastated that I hopped a plane for New York. Spent the summer with relatives in New Jersey.

Much later, when I hit the hardcore streets of L.A., I learned to suppress sentimentality and became a master heart breaker.  I'll hurt you before you hurt me. That was a requisite for survival. And it was all part of the game.

The big turning point happened after I returned to California. The breaking point. It was inevitable. In late September, my father and I had one of our worst physical encounters ever (and believe me there had been many). 

When I was fourteen, he fractured two of my ribs. When I was sixteen he savagely attacked me with a shovel. My father's maniacal temper knew no bounds. When enraged, his sole intention was to kill - - and that's no exaggeration.

The latest incident was over a very trivial matter, as usual, but this time I wasn't passive. I dared to provoke and defy him. My father was plied with beer and blew like Krakatoa. His strength was superhuman. He had me in bear hug, forcing my head down against my chest, trying to break my neck. When I was finally able to get free I stumbled dumbly, gasping for breath. He knocked me through a glass sliding door, then choked me into unconsciousness. I was down for the count and out like a light.

Much later that night - battered, bleeding, and shaken - I found his handgun in a closet. I waited by the bedroom door until I was sure his hideous snores were deep and steady. Then I crept in, stood by the bed, pointed the cocked gun directly at his head.

That moment was an eternity. All I heard were his snores and my increasing heartbeat. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, the image of the gun became more distinct - as did the consequences of my intention.

If I killed him, I'd destroy myself (not to mention my mother). My father's life would be expunged, but so would mine. In essence he'd be the winner, as usual. I withdrew from the room and planned my escape.

I've told this story many times before: how I left the house barefooted, only clad in jeans and a T shirt, drove to Seal Beach, spent the night sleeping in the sand. How I sneaked back to the house in a few days, when my father was at work, and packed a suitcase.

I rented a cheap one-room studio apartment in Anaheim. Casa Cordova on Lincoln. It was on the second floor. From my bed I had a view of the nearby drive-in movie. Every night I'd lie there, drinking beer, watching the silent screen.....the same muted images over & over.....

I remember the night Judi came to visit. She was one of my closest friends from high school. We drank Cokes and Bacardi Rum until long after midnight. Then - on a wild whim - drove to Huntington Beach. We wadded in the water, then let the increasing breakers slosh over us. We were drenched.  

I loved being drunk. I loved the night. I loved this sense of absolute freedom and endless possibilities.

"I'm going to Hollywood!" I suddenly said.

"Hollywood? What are you going to do there? Seek fame and fortune?"

"Nope. I'm gonna immerse myself in stardusted dreams of escape."

Hollywood. In early October. 
I was young and hot, eager and unknowingly desirable. I assumed the identity of a faux cowboy. I was mysterious - shrouded in the safety of anonymity. I became streetwise, learned the ropes.

And I became deliciously corrupted as I embarked on a wild and reckless course of absolute self-destruction.


This YouTube video, which I made about a year ago, aptly captures the essence of my Hollywood nights (best watched full-screen)
it can also be found on my YouTube channel jayveesonata













20 comments:

  1. I'm glad you were brave enough to NOT pull the trigger. It could have ruined your life forever. Like the video.

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    1. I had a lot of hate back then but I was never a violent person. Murder simply isn't in my repertoire. Thank goodness.

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  2. Jon, once again I'm astonished at your resilience, not just your talent for repeatedly sliding down icy slopes but for getting up again and carrying on with life. You are, as someone whose writing I read and ideas I appreciate, not the logical product of your upbringing. My father-in-law, one of the best and kindest men I've ever known, had a similar beginning --from childhood to Iwo Jima. He returned from chaos determined to live deliberately, peacefully and helpfully. He told me personal histories that his children still do not know, and never will. So I can't agree with one of my favorite authors --"Erewhon" etc.-- Samuel Butler, that "Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children." Sometimes, even the unhappiest pasts can produce people of character and compassion. I consider you in admirable company.

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    1. Geo, my resilience surprises myself. I'm always reluctant to reveal ALL the bad things that happened in my life because nobody would believe it. My blog only offers the Disneyesque version.

      Thankfully I didn't inherit my father's violence. I'm much more like my mother. She was truly my anchor and my savior.
      Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

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  3. Astonished, yes. You're a survivor, my friend - and through your words, we're the beneficiaries. While I can't identify with an abusive parent, I totally "get" what you're saying about self-loathing and wanting to transform oneself. Thank you for your candor, Jon.

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    1. What I've written is only the tip of the iceberg. As I've previously said, if I ever revealed everything nobody would believe me. I forgave my father, during his final years.After he died, all the hate vanished.

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  4. We are the sum total of our lives experiences, our past are our strength today

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    1. There are so many people who have told me to forget the past. That would be an impossibility. As you said, it's where we derived our strength.

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    2. Jon,
      Like you I'm not one of those proponents for forgetting the past. The past is who we are now. My recently departed friend a The Cajun evisicarted me in his last blog post as "one who lives in the past" like it was a bad thing. With all due respect to him, but he was totally wrong. I make no excuses for recounting my past nit should you. Most of us spend our adult lives reconciling to out past. You keep on writing about your past, Jon, that's who you are. I appreciate everything you write because we learn more about you. You're a very strong person Jon and you're very interesting. You are s treasure and I sm honored to know you.
      Ron

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    3. Sorry about the typos, it's 1:45 AM in the morning at the hospital and I'm getting a new rommate here my hospital room. I can't go to sleep until they get him settled.

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    4. Ron, I've occasionally been told to forget the past. That is a complete impossibility. The past is the total sum of what we are today. I'm not wallowing in it, I'm simply regarding it through the perception of time. As I've said before, you sure as heck can't count on the future.

      I hope your new roommate has settled in and you can get some rest. It's nearly impossible to rest in a hospital, with all the annoyances.

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    5. You're so right Jon. I hardly got any sleep last night what with all that ruckus at 2 in the morning. The poor guy is a partially paralyzed brain damaged Viet Nam vet. He fell and broke his hip, he was in a lot of pain. I felt so bad for him. He's quiet now bug his cell phone is ringing but he's not answering it. I don't know why. Bill and I are waiting got my doctor and a possible discharge today.
      Ron

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  5. Jon,
    Every time when I read of your horrible father I think of how lucky I was not to have a father like that. I just cannot imagine growing up in an environment like that. As I have mentioned before, my father was distant, didn't like me and constantly put me down (and like you, I still have those feelings of worthlessness). However, he only stuck me once (a punch to the side of my head knocking me into the bathtub I was cleaning) when I was 16 years old. That you survived the unimaginable hardships you did when you were growing up is a testament to your worth and strength of character. You are a fabulous person Jon. Many love you and you have more talent than most of us can ever hope to achieve. I hope that someday you will complete your quest for peace and happiness with that other person, whoever he or she (there are some really nice women out there!) may be.
    Thank you again Jon for sharing your most personal story with us. Nothing but love out here in the blogosphere for you my friend Jon.
    Ron

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    1. You're a treasure, Ron, and your friendship is greatly appreciated. After you recover from that knee surgery, I hope you'll return to Hollywood - and dance again!

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    2. Jon,
      I'm returning to West Hollywood next year but maybe not dancing. I'll watch and smiling.
      Ron

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  6. It took real guts to put the gun down and walk away. That moment in time defined you. When reinventing yourself there is comfort in the safety of anonymity. The new world you found was full of experiences that most of us will never know. It is always good to revisit the past to see how you got to where you are.

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    1. I revisit the past in astonishment, because it unfolds like a novel. In retrospect, I'm surprised that I survived.

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  7. Very true that he would have won if you had done it...powerfully told Jon...

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  8. Thanks, Keith. In retrospect, I don't think I would have had the guts to do it. The rational side of my persona won.

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  9. I can relate to a lot of your feelings, and I'm very impressed that you were able to forgive your father. That proves how much more of a man you are than he was. Hold your head high. You are a survivor, and one with a very kind heart.

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