Thursday, January 28, 2016

NIGHT SONG






I made the video Night Song in an attempt to capture the essence of my Hollywood past.
Full-screen viewing is best
( Jayveesonata on YouTube)




Having been raised in Southern California, I was very familiar with Hollywood from an early age. It wasn't until I moved there, however, that I became acquainted with the seedy after-dark underworld - - a toxic, highly addictive subculture far removed from the touristy glitz of daylight.


 I arrived at a perfect time - - when Hollywood was still a unique and fascinating place - - sorely tarnished, of course - - but still desperately clinging to genuine links of the golden past. Old buildings and remnants of old landmarks still remained. Out-of-state and foreign investors hadn't yet made their mass intrusion - - bulldozing history and reinventing the entire place, transforming it into a tawdry Disneyesque parody of what it used to be.

The characters who populated the Hollywood night scene were largely innocuous misfits like myself. Crime was relatively low (or, at least it seemed that way in my blissfully youthful ignorance). The LAPD hadn't yet started their unrelenting campaign against sex -  particularly gay sex. 

Through the eyes of an eager, fairly inexperienced youth, it was a perfect setting in which to immerse oneself in the safety of anonymity and to escape the harsh burdens of reality.

In retrospect, it now seems like a different world, a different time. The image of myself young, alone, haunting the deliciously toxic midnight boulevard of broken dreams ......is like watching a stranger far removed from my present self.....


Hollywood Boulevard
long after midnight

The night is hazy with a subtle shroud of mist mingled with smog. The street is nearly empty. The frenzied crowds of annoying tourists are long gone. Those few souls who remain are hardcore night freaks like myself. Phantoms among shadows. Drifters, transients, hustlers, hookers, somnambulistic dreamers. 

The air is chilly and deliciously damp - a subtle reminder that the ocean isn't far away. In the east, beyond a drifting shroud of haze, an orange October moon is rising - inspiring the lurid depths of my Gothic imagination.

I'm sporadically sipping whiskey from a flask that I keep hidden in my deep coat pocket, while chain-smoking Cools. Whiskey provides artificial warmth and courage. Cigarettes make me look tough (or so I think).

I have a switchblade tucked in my right boot and a handful of quaaludes stuffed snugly in the lining of my coat pocket, along with other assorted sedatives. My boots click on the star-studded sidewalk. I casually read names on the faux bronze stars.... .....strewn like an endless litter of fallen stars.....echos of Hollywood's past. Now their names are obscured by time-worn neglect and globs of used chewing gum.


I glance at my pale blonde reflection passing in sightless window eyes: corduroy coat, Billy Jack hat, jeans slung low on dangerous hips.....unintentional imitation of a midnight cowboy.
This isn't my true self. It's the ghost of somebody else. A parody of a street hustler in search of an unattainable score. 



I'm not a real hustler. That's not my scene. I'm a casual cruiser. An incidental poser. A mere prop in this enormous midnight tableau. Never paid for sex. Never let anyone pay me. I'm a staunch champion of free exchange. And I'm easy.

Most of the real hustlers are on Santa Monica Blvd. That's their tacky territory. Mostly pathetic street kids, newbies to Tinseltown, hooked on drugs and illusions of never-attainable fame. Hitchhiking for a ride to nowhere.

One or two unenthusiastic male cruisers stroll aimlessly on Hollywood Boulevard. A few female hookers lurk in the anonymous shadows of doorways, staring silently with cold hungry eyes. There's little business for anyone at this late hour.

A kid comes up to me out of nowhere. Ragged and young. Even younger than myself.

"Hey, wanna buy some blue blotter LSD? Three bucks a cap." He sounds desperate.

"Nope. Sorry." I tell him. I'm not into acid. Ironically, I knew someone who was in prison in Chino for selling blue blotter acid.

Soon I encounter another young man walking on the Boulevard. Lean. Sullen. We pass each other, both seemingly disinterested, but our eyes meet. Contact. Suddenly he stops, turns around.

"Hey, do you know what time it is?" he asks. An all-too typical ploy to induce conversation.

"Yea. Must be near 3:00. Time to go to bed." My choice of words are intentional.

"You know any place where we can go?" 

"I live a few blocks away," I tell him. 

It's as easy as that.

He follows me, with the simple semblance of a lost puppy. In time, we abandon the misty chill of the autumn night in favor of an anonymous interlude, a futile attempt to quench our shared loneliness.

This insatiable quest for connection is merely a raw physical union, very far removed from an emotional one. Anything remotely emotional is quickly and permanently expunged. A crude and ruthless requisite for survival on the streets.

It is an old story.



21 comments:

  1. it amazes me that you are still alive to tell the tales.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In retrospect, it truly amazes myself. No one would believe the adventures I had in my reckless California youth.

      Delete
  2. I think that this is one memoir that would make a interesting read. I too did and still do on occasion stupid things. I sometimes don't know just how lucky I 've too been.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I lived dangerously and recklessly, and - at the time - had an extreme death wish.
    I also must have had a guardian angel lurking somewhere.....

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've known you a long time back from AOL Journals and read a lot about you. I would agree yes You've had a guardian angel looking over you from day one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've probably revealed more than I should, Paula, but I'm greatful that you've stuck with me all these years.

      Delete
  5. I can almost feel the damp chill ... it makes me want to pull the covers a little tighter.
    At the same time, I can't wait to read your memoir!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is very difficult to convey in words what my life was like back then. I'm delighted to know that I've been reasonably successful in reconstructing the atmosphere. I think my memoir would be an interesting read.

      Delete
  6. The "quest for connection" even for emotional survival was --still is-- a strong general motivation, not confined to a specific time but ubiquitous and ongoing. Your post speaks to a very large audience. You have a valuable skill here, Jon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've given a new perspective to my humble thoughts, Geo. The quest for connection is indeed a universal theme, with many layers and variations. Emotional survival isn't easy for anyone....

      Delete
  7. Your post reminds me of my wild nights in Chicago during the late 1980s. I'm lucky (and glad) I survived. Now I'm a recluse poet (some say). I watched your video twice - it's THAT good :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad that you liked my video, Dylan. It is nearly impossible to understand or relate to unless you have had similar firsthand experiences - like we did. The lure of the night and all its dangers & possibilities is addictive and special. And poetic.

      Delete
    2. Right on. Plus we are among the lucky few that survived that mind numbing era. So many beautiful people died. Someone has to tell the story true :-)

      Delete
  8. You kept your guardian angel busy, I think.
    Glad you survived. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes the biggest fools (like myself) have the best guardian angels....

      Delete
  9. Although I grew up in Southern California, I never spent any time in either Hollywood or even downtown L.A. My adventures were limited to the suburbs, although picking up guys in bars for one night stands probably did carry an element of risk. As you said, those were more innocent times (or incredibly stupid youth)

    I personally kept my escapades hidden from my family. I am curious if your mother had an inkling of the life you led.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not proud of my past, but I'm much more open about it now than I used to be. Hell, at my age there's nothing to lose.

      Yes, my mother did know about my lifestyle. She was sophisticated, intelligent, and compassionate, although certainly not pleased. I think the most simple way I can put it is that she tolerated it and was - sometimes - in denial.

      Delete
  10. Jon,
    Just last week we walked that same Hollywood Boulevard on the (sometimes) tarnished stars on the Walk of Fame. Oh the history there. Of course the tourists were out en masses, seeking to grasp the wisp of the Hollywood magic. Even so, we had a grand time. This year however, we didn't go at night. An oversight which we will correct next year. By the way, thanks for the tip of Santa Monica Boulevard. That I didn't know.
    Ron

    ReplyDelete
  11. I thought of you and Pat when I posted this - and I'm so glad that you were there again. My favorite time was always after midnight, but there's something intriguing about Hollywood Blvd. any time.

    I'm sure things have changed now, but when I lived there Santa Monica Blvd. was teeming with hustlers, most of whom "hitchhiked" along Blvd. all night long.

    One of the best cruising areas was in the alleys along Melrose. It was one of my old haunts. And, of course, Selma....

    ....sorry, I'm getting carried away.....

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think you had more than one guardian angel. More like a whole battalion of them. And I'm glad you did. Judging by the things you've told us on your blog, and the sometimes haunting way in which you tell them, I'm reeeeally looking forward to reading your memoir. I kinda hope you go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to a agent or publisher. I think it'd be a hot seller with some backing.

    Guess what? Your poetry book arrived in the mail today. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many thanks, Susan - I just put a response on your blog.

      Delete

I love comments. Go ahead and leave one - I won't bite. But make sure you have a rabies shot just in case.