At the tail end of August and start of September, my brother Napoleon and I spent a few days out L.A.-way - our "homemegalopolis". I promised to post a second installment about that short trip. And here she be.
When Nappy and I left Phoenix, Airheadzona, the highs were topping out at 110 to 113 degrees. We drove 6-hours west, to Los Angeles, which was experiencing highs of 77 or 78 degrees. For that reason alone, the brief trip was worthwhile.
Brother Nappy and I grew up in Santa Monica on Sunset Avenue. Here's our street, looking east from the front of our old house. Overall, the street appears greener than it did in 1969, when we first moved there (and I was just going into the 5th grade). I can tell you that countless hours of Wiffle Ball and football games were played in this street. "Do a Down 'N' Out'; I'll hit you as soon as you cut in front of that red car".
Speaking of red and automobiles, it was also in this street where brother Nappy got hit by a car and had his leg broken:
OK, here's a couple photos of the house we grew up in on Sunset Avenue:
I know what you're thinking! You're thinking . . .
WTF?! Stephen told us he grew up on one of the lower rungs of the economic ladder. He told us that he and Nappy once played on an otherwise all-Black baseball team! He told us he was a po' boy! Now I find out he grew up in a European-style mansion!
Ha! Believe me, you're not half as surprised as my Brother, my Sister, and I are! If in 1974 we had been miraculously transported to this house as it looks today and asked if we'd ever been in it before, all three of us would have said, "Of course not!" In the 1970s when we were living and fighting in it, this place looked like a rectangular, light beige cracker box. To see the remodeling that has taken place is astoundingly jaw-dropping to us.
Nothing about the exterior of that house suggests it might be the one we were raised in, and there are only a couple indications remaining inside the house that one could point to as clues that it's the same place. The staircase to the basement just inside the front door remains, as does the multi-level shelf running against the wall in my old bedroom. Otherwise one would have a hard time convincing me that this is my boyhood home.
Probably what I found most shocking of all was discovering that in one of the bathrooms in the house where I grew up, one will now find a... a... a... bidet! Hokey-Smoke!
Some photos of my old bedroom follow. Who'da guessed that the bedroom I lived in as a child would one day be a wine cellar? The wine racks are where my closet used to be:
Right about where the large light blue and gold vase stands (in the next photo) is the spot where my stereo system's turntable sat during my teen years. That's where I'd listen at night, with all the lights turned off, to Pink Floyd records, "Revolution #9", and to the Alice Cooper songs "Years Ago"/"Steven", and I'd just let my imagination run wild and freak me out!
Yeah, this is also the room I used to enter bleary-eyed after a drunken night in Westwood Village; where I would daydream about Jean Gonzalez and other beautiful, feminine creatures that I was infatuated with in my girl-crazy youngsterhood:
And there's the big window in my boyhood bedroom - the same place where Nappy went through the glass in 1975 while playing Birdie Ball (a variation on baseball we had invented using a badminton birdie). Nappy came running up the stairs with the severed artery in his arm shooting blood everywhere. After running out into the street hollering insanely, I came back to my senses, reentered the house and literally saved the Napster's life. (He's still holding a grudge against me for that.)
My old buddy Kelly "Andy" Anderson committed suicide in 1986. In Part 6 of the blog series "My Homemegalopolis", I posted a very short poem I had written long ago, while Kelly was still alive. It starts out:
The sun yawned and thought about calling it a day
Kelly and I sat at the entrance to his garage on gasoline cans
Well, here's the alley mentioned in the poem. I can't remember with absolute certainty which garage was Kelly's but I'm fairly sure it was the light beige one adjacent to the garage door that's open:
Same location but looking south toward Pico Boulevard, in the direction of the gas station where Kelly once worked:
Near the Anderson family's apartment, at 14th Street & Pico in Santa Monica, is a cemetary. Kelly's sister Vicki and his mother Betty are both buried there. Although Kelly's name is also on the headstone, he was actually cremated and his ashes let loose in free-fall by some parachuting buddies in Kern County.
I remember one night that Kelly and I had been drinking - back when only his Sister was buried in the family plot - he and I sneaked into the cemetary near his apartment, and Kelly who was far more intoxicated than I was, told me how much he cherished the sentiment etched into his Sister's headstone: "Loved More Than Tongue Can Tell". Then he passed out sprawled across her grave. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.
Some of you may recall an older blog bit of mine in which I mentioned playing for the chess club championship of my junior high school, and how the opponent who most intimidated me was a blind boy - Glenn Katz. Well, the Katz Brothers - both of them born blind - are buried in the same cemetary, no more than 8 feet from Kelly's Mom and Sister. Note the braille at the upper edge of their headstone:
And surely you remember me mentioning numerous times my "Bay Street Daze" with The League Of Soul Crusaders - the wild partying time of my early twenties.
Below is the infamous Bay Street in Santa Monica, near Pico and Lincoln Boulevards; this is where the insanity occurred. Our house (address: 824) was located where the dark brown condominium stands at left. You can't see it too well in this photo, but on the left at the corner is the dry cleaners where the police department conducted regular stakeouts of our house, (wrongly) suspecting that we were dealing drugs. Hell, we weren't even doing 'em! (Well, most of us weren't, anyway.)
Two blocks from our house at 824 Bay Street was Jolly Jack's, our favorite local watering hole. Right next door was Lucky Liquor store. Over the years, we almost wore a trench into the alley walking from our house to J.J.s or L.L.s and back again.
Lucky Liquor is still there, but Jolly Jack's is now The Novel Cafe, a trendy coffee shop for the tattooed and pierced "In Crowd" trying to fool itself that it is "nonconformist". (Wanna be a real "nonconformist"? Lose the tats and piercings pronto!)
Cappuccino now gets passed across a bar that saw a lot of Bloody Marys in better daze:
I've walked in and staggered out of that front door more than once:
Nappy and I stayed at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on El Segundo Blvd. in Hawthorne (Beach Boys territory). Just a couple blocks from our place on the same street was a donut shop called Christy's. As soon as I saw it I had a kind of deja vu feeling, as if I'd been there before, even though I was sure I hadn't.
And then it gradually dawned on me why the place seemed so familiar. Although I'm not 100% sure, I strongly believe that the Christy's donut shop sign is one of those I designed while working for an Inglewood sign company back in 1984:
One day, Nappy and I went to Santa Monica Beach hoping to do some body-surfing. The last 5 or so times we've gone home to visit, the surf wasn't breaking big enough to bother going in for. I had come to the conclusion that the surf no longer breaks as impressively as it did in our Body-Surfing Era of the 1970s and very early '80s.
Finally, this time, we visited when the surf was at least rideable. It wasn't much, really, but everyone we spoke to was marveling at how big the waves were breaking. "What the--?! Are you serious? You think that sh#t'z big?" One chubby little lifeguard girl from Lifeguard Station 28 even told us we were "crazy" if we went in there, due to a combination of surf size and heavy riptides.
Well, we went in anyway. The waves weren't the least bit intimidating ("back in the day" we would have discussed beforehand whether or not surf like that was even worth getting sandy and salt-encrusted over), but the riptides were ridiculous! Just standing in waist-deep water, I was getting pulled so strongly to the Northwest that I feared I was going to wind up with a hernia!
That was the last straw for me! I am now stating, for the record, that Southern California's Pacific Ocean has gone to hell. I will never even bother to take a swimming suit on any future trips to L.A. I'm really mad at the water, and might even take an axe to it the next time I visit. The P.O. can F.O.! But I am grateful that I did have so many opportunities to ride the waves back when there were waves to ride.
Since the surf sucked, Nappy and I got out of it pretty quickly, dried off, and walked up
We paid a short visit to the Fred Segal store at 500 Broadway in
On the morning of our last day, Nappy and I went to the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Arlington Avenue, where my dear acting buddy Martin Brumer was killed in 1989 at the age of 28.
You’re looking at the last street my friend ever drove down. He was heading south on Arlington (i.e., driving toward the camera in this view) and got to this cross street - Washington Blvd.
As I stated in a much older installment on this blog, at the very moment Marty Brumer entered the intersection (seen below), a car thief traveling west on Washington Blvd. and trying to elude the police in a high-speed pursuit, ran the red light and plowed right into Marty’s car. My best buddy was killed instantly, right there.
[Here’s a LINK to the old blog bit about this sad story.]
Although I have visted Marty’s gravesite numerous times, this was the first time since the fatal accident occurred 22 years ago that I was able to bring myself to visit the site of his death.
Considering that Marty was in the midst of fashioning a professional acting career for himself, it’s almost ironic, really, that from the intersection where he was killed, one can see the “Hollywood” sign in the distant hills:
A photograph of the accident scene that appeared in the Los Angeles Times newspaper a day after Marty’s death indicates that JR’s Mini Market (seen below) was also there at the time.
So I went into the market to get something – something somehow related to Marty. I wasn’t sure what to buy, but after being in the market for less than a minute, I knew what I should get . . .
Back when the rest of us boys were running wild and drinking like sailors at ‘last call’, Marty was taking care of his body. He only rarely drank anything more potent than Evian water or orange juice. When I saw the 10 oz. bottle of orange juice in the refrigerated case, I knew that’s what I should get.
[Sorry, Marty, but “from concentrate” was all they had. I looked for “fresh squeezed” , believe me, I did! But I wasn't going to find "fresh squeezed O.J." in that neighborhood.]
Below is a life-sized cardboard standup of Antonio that greets you at the door (well, you can’t expect the real Antonio to stand there all day, can you?)
In the background is Antonio’s bar – in my entire life, that’s the only bar where I ever put drinks on a credit card. General Poohregard and I were at Antonio’s one day in the mid-1980s. We’d had lunch and as we were walking out, I saw that the Dodger game was on the bar’s TV set and that Fernando Valenzuela was on the mound.
But what really sealed the deal was when I noticed the advertisement mirror on the wall proclaiming the quality of Jameson Irish Whiskey. I thought about McDole putting away six doubles of Jameson from the bar and sinking into a deep, apathetic slumber, mumbling, “Blinkin’ Cowboys, Blinkin’ Cowboys…”
So I pulled Pooh to the bar and said the Jameson was on me. That was all the arm-twisting Pooh required and we put away a couple drinks of Irish whiskey that I put on my credit card ‘cause I was outta cash, and then we headed back to the house on Bay Street to see what was being poured there.
Another “Trip Tradition” that Nappy and I have developed is - when going to Los Angeles - we always make a stop at the Hadley’s Fruit Orchard store on Seminole Drive in Cabazon, CA. Sometimes we stop on our way to L.A., sometimes we stop on our way back from L.A., and sometimes we stop both coming and going. But one way or another, we always stop.
Hadley’s has date milk shakes and like eleventy-million prepackaged snack stuffs you’ll probably not find anywhere else.
Hadley's also sells a large variety of unique, hard-to-find soda pops. I bought a bottle of something I’d never heard of before: KICKAPOO Joy Juice . (Don’t worry, Pooh, I would never really kick you!) The label boasts that it’s made from “The Original Dogpatch Recipe”. Uh... OK... whatever that means.
But I gotta tell ya, KICKAPOO was really good! I can’t say, “It tasted something like this or something like that” because it didn’t taste like any other soda pop I can think of, but I would definitely buy this stuffs regularly if I found it selling anywhere near me.