In gratitude: Hollywood.
My daughter finds them deep in a box while playing hide n seek in the bottomless closet under the stairsway, a spooky kind of kid haven. They lived wrapped in a an old silk scarf dotted with remnants of a moth feast. It was mixed among too small and discarded for another day bathing suit bottoms and old hand made cards smeared with wax and pastels and the bags of old photographs we found in the abandoned apartment in Harlem. Ohhh, Mama, I like theeeese. And she puts them on.
Of course she would. They’re shiny and red and gold and large and absolutely fantastic. They came from Venice Beach. Fifth sunglass hut down on left. Circa 1999.
Even though the light was low and the air carried a gray drizzle as thick as oil, I had to snap some photos of her wearing them. It’s like they were made for her. Maybe they were.
She hops up on the window ledge and sticks out her thumb. Through the camera lens I can’t tell exactly what’s she’s doing. I thought for a moment she was making a ‘gun hand’.
Are you shooting me?
No Mama! She giggles. I’m trying to get a ride…to…to…where is that place I was born again?
Yeah. Hollywood. I’m trying to get a ride to Hollywood, Mama. [I won’t mention the gulp of fear and discarded faces of vile predators that swallowed me up whole when she sang that out. just a minor snag in my parenting evolution].
I am thankful for Hollywood, mama! That’s where I came from! [a bit earilier we talked about gratitude, what that particular day’s gifts had been and who we were thankful for.]
Me too, Mi, I am thankful for Hollywood, too. She’s a good old town.
And all you New Yorkers out there in your perfectly black pencil skirts and your noses in the air, take a step back. We all know what city is The City. And all you San Franciscans, I can hear you laughing with your recycled messenger bags all the way to the Mission, and fine. Let’s just leave it at that. And if you are from like London or Tokyo, then l got nothing on ya.
* * *
Thank you Hollywood. It seems like such a mess of a place to be thankful for, and let’s face it, my deepest graces go unsaid: health, food, shelter, breath, love. The ones I have to dig a bit deeper for tend to be wildly obscure, and sometimes even brought to the surface by a five year old. But today it’s without a doubt. Hollywood.
I met my sweetie in Hollywood, back in the day before it was in the least bit a cool place to live. At that point you could live in a quintessential Sear’s Craftsmen for little to nothing without really having a job or a purpose. It was cheap, the food was good, the beaches a bit north were phenomenal, the music was roaring and the streets were filled with odors that only an artist could really appreciate. The day I fell in love with my man, it was just post-sunrise and I was frolicking on a [now formerly] nude little beach also known as Zumerez. I was writing in my journal with just my bottoms on. He had just caught what would be my fish dinner that night. He used a long stick with a spear coming out of the end [for the fish and me] I never looked back.
Hollywood gave me Science, and JuJuBeats and Nocturnal Wonderland and dub lab and Jamaica Gold and Dub Club and that fantastically deboucherous dancing freedom of leaving a club drenched in sweat and stepping into the misty air of a city built along the ocean. The grainy saltiness of smog infused sea air around 3am after dancing for 5 hours on the look for some spicy falafel is ingrained in me forever as bliss.
Hollywood gave me Squaresville (best vintage clothes) and Cafe Tropical (best cafe con leche) and Erehwon (best local market) and Lola’s Chicken and Waffles (best chicken and waffles EVER) and the Hollywood and Taft building (best electronic music culture PR job in there) and Self Realization Fellowship (best silence) and Runyan Canyon (best city hike) and Laurel Canyon (just a cool spot filled with musicians) and Topanga Canyon (God hangs out there) and Naader (my yoga teacher) and Space (my yoga studio).
Hollywood gave me Jack Grapes, my first real writing teacher and the best advice on writing I have ever heard: write like you talk. If you wouldn’t say it that way, don’t write it that way. It was there, in his classes, I first learned to say I am a writer and meant it.
Hollywood gave me many kicks in the ass and a night in jail and sexual harrassment and the opportunity to experience honest to goodness assholes and black boogers from really dirty air. Hollywood gave me a good schooling in street smarts.
Hollywood gave me really.bad.coke.[which also gave black boogers].
Hollywood gave me a large and well loved fashion boot collection.
Hollywood gave me five tattoos and a few piercings.
Hollywood gave me so many hassles and such anxiety and heartache that I had to leave for a year and go live in a cabin on a river in the Sawtooth Mountains to just breath and lay in the grass and talk to god. And when our lease was up there, Hollywood called me back and I was ready for her.
Hollywood gave me earthquakes. and mudslides. and fires.
Hollywood gave me prenatal care atop a mountain with views that go on forever and homebirth support and it was in that city that I rode the wild birth of my first daughter, who arrived in our moldy, yet cute one-bedroom apartment in Silverlake. It gave me sunny morning walks with my new baby girl, snug in a sling, me as a new mama, proudly wearing bright red sunglasses and sneakers and a carrot juice in hand. It gave me early morning yoga classes taught with my baby girl strapped to my chest and mid afternoon rides to the beach to introduce my daughter to the ways of the ocean. Hollywood watched me as I went from a girl, to a woman, to a mother.
Hollywood gave me mural art and traffic jams and wild mushroom tamales and almost an MFA.
Hollywood gave me Watts Towers and La Brea Tar Pits.
Hollywood gave me Griffith Park and The Getty and LACMA and Mann’s.
Hollywood still gives me family, friendships that are magic, age-old sisterhood, endless and boundless. Hollywood hold her hand down on the bench next to them, saving me a seat forever in the foothills of her hips and waist.
Hollywood put me in a academy award winning movie (no shit! and I only had to smoke about 75 cigarettes in one day for the part!)
Hollywood gave me an invitation into Nickerson Gardens and Imperial Courts, the housing developments where I was able to do some of my life’s most fulfilling and frustrating work.
Hollywood has always been my muse. She poked me when I wouldn’t get out of bed and she tempted me with her grime and and her guts. She ignited in me the fire of my evolution and looked me in the eyes and said grow the fuck up now. I can say all this, looking back with such sweet spot nostalgia and no regrets as I sit here in my land far, far away.
I bow down and give big thanks to that absolutely immoral, materialistic hijacker of common decency. I bow down and say thank you to the vibrancy and technicolor hilarity at it’s finest. There will always be a connection there, it’s the home I love to hate. In my heart and body and closet, there will always be little bit of Hollywood and that I am proud of. And no matter how country I get, it will at least shine through in her: