Playa del Rey and Venice Beach, California
7:05 p.m.: Seated at a fine restaurant. Intelligent, attractive, interesting and sometimes flammable man on one side of the table. Me across.
Trout with almonds. Carrot soup. Half a bottle of chardonnay. Mountain elk.
Dessert: the one on the cover of a magazine that made me want to dip my finger onto the page and come away with a drip of chocolate. The photo that led us here.
9:15 p.m.: Relocated to Venice. Began to drink a hallucinogenic tea by which I would break away from this particular plane for a while. Tried not to laugh while listening to music blast from the flammable man’s bungalow as we sat outside next to his green, non-operational VW van. The leaves began to breathe, the tendrils of the fig tree reached out to me.
9:45 p.m.: Readied for a walk. Considered all the times my mother and the media have warned me against walking around Venice at night. A klieg light was observed in the distance, and it was decided that we locate it simply by walking toward it. The flammable man turned off lights, locked doors, while I made a phone call. A phone call Out. I immediately wanted to go back In. It felt portentous that the flammable man’s understanding of klieg light was from a Lou Reed song. I thought he might turn the lights on, put the needle on the record. Instead, we set out onto the streets of Venice.
10:30? 11:30 p.m.? The houses astounded. Every block an amalgamation of contrasting modes of architecture. Observed: a house with a big open porch on its first floor, and on its second floor, a large wheel, like you could steer the house away and down the street. This boat seemed to be posing as a house. We stood away from the house, looking, looking. Our investigation amounted to nil. We walked in the middle of the street amid much laughter, which appeared to be ours.
At an undetermined time, the klieg light was found. It was parked in front of a fictitious business. A dance party undulated inside, and we could see the inhabitants from the windows, behind the FOR LEASE sign.
1 a.m.: The ocean. The reason I moved back to Los Angeles. To be closer to this place, the ocean I knew so intimately I could fall asleep feeling its rhythm after a long day in its waters. The full moon. Jupiter, visible in the black cloth. Stood in the sand, letting my feet sink in, me and the flammable man sometimes looking at each other full in the face during innumerable conversations, which were actually a series of character sketches of people we know, people who are enigmas to us. Including us.
We walked towards the Santa Monica Pier. Everyone we encountered stood by, shadowed, empty of harm. Hilarious uproars burst out of our mouths. I picked up a seashell. I could feel every single grain of sand on my fingers, which felt strangely comforting.
1:45 a.m.: Back at the bungalow. Did I want to drink the rest of my mug of tea? No. We broke open bottles of cold beer instead. A chessboard was set up. Moves and strategies and rules were discussed, the Los Angeles Times Chess News was consulted. Black won two pawns. The beer coached us along.
3:30 a.m.: Photographs of each other were taken from across the chess board. We were opponents. Still, we helped each other with every move. We got up from our chairs, looked at the board from a variety of angles. The flammable man stood at a diagonal, his eyes on the board as he tipped another brown bottle back. I stood, with my back against the linen cupboard, across the bungalow, watching the chess board, keeping safe harbor for my queen. It was speculated aloud how we wanted to react to the other person’s move. It was discussed how this method of playing chess is sometimes like life, but not often enough like life. A Love Supreme played on the radio in its entirety. And then: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.
5:30 a.m.: We took to bed. Small, slow breaths. Daylight threatened. Closed my eyes. Fell.
Killradio Office, Los Angeles
The office reminded me of a clubhouse. We walked up the stairs past several closed doors with posters and flyers for psychics, vitamin and herb sellers, a therapy group.
After unlocking the door we brought in our twelve pack of Negro Modelo and set it on the industrial green carpet of the inner sanctum, past the room of computers flickering their own witchy energy into the stale air. In the room where DJs arrive at all hours of day and night, there were flyers of political and musical persuasion competing on every inch of wallspace.
I liked that I could smoke in there.
I asked for an ashtray and Boy Howdy (hereafter referred to as BH), the DJ on that night, that hour, located one from a cupboard filled with audio equipment. It was the same gold-colored glass ashtray my mother had, has had since I was a tiny kid.
The studio reminded me of my own days as a DJ at KAOS radio in Olympia, Washington. I had a solo show for one year, but it was everything BH could do to make me say ten words on the air.
“Air”—it was an internet radio station.
That place, thick with record albums, compact discs, old mugs filled with pencils and scissors, fans, mikes, flyers, was the perfect place to empty out the contents of your pockets, and it appeared that many different people had.
The studio reminded me that I used to date musicians habitually and I had recently broken that cycle without intention. Eating burritos across the street after the show, ten o’clock at night, I was also reminded that this kind of thing was a sometime ritual for me, years before: the stacks of music, the freeform folks walking in and out, the empty pockets and piles of ephemera, the loud music, the late-evening dinner after two beers on an empty stomach.
I missed it.
In this studio of an internet-sometime-pirate radio station, there was a certain scent I liked, that light mildewed carpet smell that reminded me of band practice in the garage and the loveability of people who don’t give a shit that the place is a mess. If you could peel back the first layer of band flyers, various political posters, newspaper clippings and photos of someone’s arm or half of their face, what would be left?
The DJ played nineteen-eighties music and I felt that twitch in my eye muscle and wondered if my eye sockets still looked bruised and if this eighties music thread was going to last, and if not, which direction it would go next.
The DJ played old David Bowie. He quietly tried to pierce my heart with what he loved, knowing or not knowing that it was what I loved, too.
In the same way that that place reminded me of band practice and emptied pockets and stubs of cigarettes, it reminded me of my friend the monk. His birthday had just passed and I thought of him but did not email him, nor did I send a card in advance. He seemed beyond birthdays now and he was beyond all the plans I now made, the ones I vowed never to make, like living with a lover again, and taking on two new cats, and getting married. My monk was in a West Virginia monastery. We once thought we would marry each other for the potential gift registry at Dees in downtown Olympia.
After I spilled beer across the DJ’s Husker Dü album I wiped it down with a dirty canvas bag on the table that wasn’t mine. I thought for the third time how much my innermost soul would like some Purell. I touched the bottle opener one too many times.
There was a baby doll high up in a corner with a pink and white checked dress silkscreened with the name of the station. There was a plastic cup with plastic spoon and knife on a table. I detected a very slight smell of reefer. The DJ, a man with thready limbs, knobby veins, leaned over the turntable.
I spotted a precariously hung newspaper clipping: “Girl Scouts Burn U.S. Flags—Out of Respect for Old Glory.”
My fingers were sticky. Dry.
I wondered why I must always succumb. Especially in italics. Like that. Succumb.
Another poster announced: “WE ARE A WEBCAST STATION.” Underneath that, in red marker, “Gorilla.” A homemade cardboard sign, blue, with red marker letters: “be your values.” A small, dorm refrigerator, covered in stickers. Papa Smurf played guitar on a shelf of compact discs.
I wished I could fuck the DJ in there. He was playing Devo. I wanted to fuck him because of his thready limbs and knobby veins and his short, short hair and his shiny black shoes. Maybe because Devo was playing. I could even forego the Purell. Maybe.
It’s good that I’ve decided to marry him, I thought.
There was a poster for a vintage film called “Cobra Woman.” In a blue photocopied poster of someone in their plaid underpants, I couldn’t tell if I was looking at their front or back end.
Out the window, someone jog-shuffled across Beverly Boulevard.
I teetered in my chair. A bottle fell over and dribbled beer onto the carpet. The carpet that had absorbed so much already.