Thursday, May 14, 2009

Memory from another life

When I was 22, I moved to Los Angeles. At the time, I had quit college twice (boy, was I stupid when I was young); I was living with my parents and working for minimum wage at a hospital. A friend had ended up in LA and kept urging me to move out there so finally I did. I packed all of my worldly possessions and flew out – the first time I’d been on a plane since I was 15 months old.

A little tangent: My possessions fit into one small suitcase, one large-but-not-ginormous suitcase, and one good-sized box. My age has now doubled but my possessions have exponentially increased.

A second little tangent: At 22, I had nothing to tie me to any particular place. At 44, I am in exactly the same situation. Sad? Free? Some of both, I think.

After a few months, my friend moved out to live in sin with her boyfriend and I ended up with my own sweet apartment in a building near the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Normandie Ave. The building is in a part of Los Angeles that has seen much better days (Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman lived there in the 1940s, when they were married). My pad was on the 7th floor and had a pretty cool view of the Ambassador Hotel and downtown Los Angeles. It had built in cabinets in the “dressing room” and a Murphy bed. It had floor-to-ceiling windows and no air conditioning. There was a pool on the roof of the building. I loved it; it was my first real place.

As I said, the neighborhood had seen better days. That section of Normandie was the dividing line between two gangs – one Hispanic, one Korean. It also, apparently, had a nice little drug scene. I had no idea about that until one night after I’d gone to sleep. A bright, BRIGHT light woke me up, shining in my window. I was on the 7th floor – where was that light coming from?

A police helicopter, that’s where. The police had raided a building down the block and on the other side of the street. They had a number of people spread-eagled against the building and were using the helicopter’s search light to illuminate the area. I sat at the window and watched people get arrested for quite a while that night.

Another night, I climbed down the fire escape to eavesdrop on Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman performing a scene from the TV show “Beauty and the Beast.”

Yet another time, a commercial (for gum, I think) was filmed outside the front door of the building. The production people spread mounds of shaved ice around to replicate snow. It was the middle of summer. They were having a hard time keeping it looking fresh. LOL I remember how cold it felt to walk between the mounds of “snow.”

I loved LA. If I had had a car, I’d probably still be there. But it’s tough to get around Los Angeles without a car...I guess it was my destiny to come back to the middle.


  1. I've grown up in southern California and yet my only experience with LA is the occasional trip in, fighting traffic and crowds, to see a show, concert or sporting event. And, as "OC" as it sounds, I don't enjoy going to LA like some people do. I know people who drive up to LA all the time to party, but I prefer to stay in Orange County.

    It's just neat to hear stories like this. I wouldn't mind visiting YOUR Los Angeles. Well, except for the gangs and drugs, of course.

  2. My sister had an apartment with a Murphy bed - I was SO jealous!

  3. My best friend used to move a lot. She made it a point to only own as much stuff as she could fit in her little Triumph.

    I wouldn't have had the courage to live on my own in the big city at that age.

  4. That sounds so entertaining--I've never lived in THAT big a city so I'm a little jealous of you!