I awoke early. I had Ari make me a light breakfast and I went into the television room. The set sounded like a power generator when I turned the knob on. I tried several stations and finally stopped on a morning news program. It was a program about dirt bags. I liked to keep abreast. Maybe I'd see an acquaintance on it. The host was attractive. Cathy Capulet. I rested my breakfast plate on my chest as I slouched down into the arm chair. Kathy's face was like a fuel tank. Her pupils were full, they were very knowing. Her eye lids the fill line, a subtle curve of sadness. She had the gas cap in her right hand. I bit into my English muffin as she spoke:
"In keeping with Channel 20's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: an attempted suicide."
She put a revolver behind her right ear. There was a shot and the program faded to black. My mouth was dry and I sipped the orange juice beside me. Some of it fell onto my shirt. I brushed it and the crumbs off of my shirt and set the plate down on the table and the glass on the plate. I switched through a few stations. Then I went back to Channel 20. Gentle ben was playing. There was irony in there somewhere. I was sure of it.
I caught the bus line out of Altadena. I ended near Hollywood. It was a short jog to the whorehouse. My girl was busy so I sat in the parlor with the dirt bags. Irene brought me some wine. Irene was the madam. The skin on her neck and jowls looked like a plastic shower cap on a hook. She knew my grandfather. She would occasionally clasp me with one hand as she went by. Her palm against my ear and fingertips around the small of my head. She'd squeeze lovingly, in a kind of fond remembrance.
The muscle at the front door was Antonio. Tony. He was a brute of a Sicilian. A kind of Gentle Ben strong arm. You wouldn't know it to look at him. That was back in the days before the IRS and FBI cut the nuts off of Italians. It use to be that you feared any Italian guy you came across. Now its Mexicans and Blacks. It wasn't the guns or the muscles. Its the principle that a dangerous mother is anyone who doesn't have anything to lose, or has nothing to gain. With Tony you could never be sure what he was thinking, you didn't know what he loved or if he loved anything. He was a conversational black hole. You could talk to him and get no response. He just sucked all information into that bulging brow and rivet like eyes.
My girl was Izzy. Isabelle. Izzy made my heart sing. She had a solid nose. Her hair was onyx. So were her eyes and lashes. Her skin was alabaster. Her lips were soft, even though she sucked on a cigarette like it was life or death. I wish I could remember how she kissed. Boy did she make me laugh. Izzy was some kind of girl. Izzy and I went at it only once. I didn't have it in me to go all the way. I paid hearty for her company. You wouldn't use your grandmothers diamond wedding ring as a drill bit, ya know.
I sat against the headboard and Izzy lay across me. Her knees over my thighs, every time I made her laugh she pulled her feet in hugging my legs.
I slept for an hour after we talked. I dreamed of waves crashing around me. In it I flailed and tread vicious waters. It was violent. Izzy awoke me just in time.
Izzy poured some cognac and lit a cigarette. I sat up, still in my shorts.
“Am I keeping you?”
“You know you're V.I.P. Daddy. Don't worry about it.”
I wondered if she called everyone daddy.
“Hey Iz. I'll take a shot of that.”
“Hun I could only give it to you straight. You sure 'bout that?”
“Yeah. I got a lot on my mind right now. That's how its done, ain't it?”
“Less messy than sticking your head in the sand.” She laughed. She brought me a dingy glass of cognac. As inept as I was in the manners of social culture, I was even more so in the drinking culture. I tossed the liquid lightning back into my throat. I choked on the fumes. I felt like petroleum had been thrown on my face.
“You were s'posed to sip it Daddy.” That laugh of hers.
She sat down beside me and lay into me. Her breasts against my side, she reached her arm across my chest and fell back. I took Izzys cognac and tossed it back. I felt a numbness in my limbs, like when your leg falls asleep. Had the world been sitting on my body and lifted away with the cognac? Was my body wakening up from falling asleep?
If there was a deeper wisdom in the bottle I was aimed to find it. The rain came in spurts. It came with the men inside. I left the whorehouse and realized I'd have to wait for the next bus. I was legal enough to get beer at the bar near by. I decided I'd attend my first dirt bag convention. I wondered if beer held the same wisdoms as Cognac. If I wanted cognac, I would have to go back to the whorehouse to get it. Cognac would cost me too much per hour.
I'll tell you something about Hollywood. its a people zoo. We study celebrities, snap photos all the time, waiting for them to start throwing feces at their cage. Boy do we eat it up when they do. Thats all it is, a damn people zoo.
I learned in that long hard walk of stupor, Jazz is the sounds of the city. Its the engines turning over. It's the loose muffler on wet asphalt. It's the air conditioning units. Its a woman in heels on the street. Her hips driving nails into your head. I reveled in the dirt bag universe. At least here even the cons were real. They were apart of the cosmic balance. Far and away from the schemes of Miranda and Lucretia I faced at home. The city smelled like piss and bile. It was unashamed. There was no perfume over it. Maybe I didn't respect it, but I could appreciate it.
The Tar's Pit Bar was indiscriminate. It blotted the strip near La Brea avenue. It was full of geezers. Living fossils. It wasn't quite twilight yet. I wanted to wretch. It wasn't the cognac. The women lacked more than class, in some instances body parts or attributes like teeth. Some of them abundant in other cases; blemishes, scars, weight. The hags were simply mirrors for the men. Fun house mirrors, a few, the majority of them fitting facsimiles.