HOLLYWOOD UNDERGROUND…A TRUE STORY

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BRIEF EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE

A ONE WAY TICKET TO TINSEL TOWN

This is a great crossroads, that special place in time, where textbooks give way to reality and young men set out to make a name for them self, no matter the cost. This is also where I have found myself, staring point blank down the barrel of an adrenaline fuelled, high octane journey to chase this lifelong dream and I cannot help but feel anxious, excited and relieved that it’s finally happening and yet somewhere deep in the marrow, I know the odds of getting there couldn’t be more insurmountable. I stagger, because the eviction notice on the front door indicates that any minute now the landlord and someone from the Sheriff’s office will be here to make sure the premises are vacated. And that’s probably for the best. It is a quiet time here and this is usually my favorite part of the day, a time when the craziness hasn’t risen to high volume just yet and the possibilities of the day are as endless as any imagination. It isn’t always this way though, because here, in this sardine can studio apartment where I lived while attending California State University, Long Beach as a film and journalism student, the walls are shellacked with so many thick coats of old stale light gray paint that you can almost feel the history oozing from the cracked pores and crevices. Here, when a neighbor’s phone rings you have to double check your own to see if it wasn’t yours that was ringing. Here, when there is an argument in the apartment building or simple conversation, immediately it is broadcast for an audience of thirty or so tenants and their friends who can all hear every word of it and comment accordingly. Yes, here, you hear every toilet flush and every bedroom romp.

It is 5:30 a.m., when I double check the backpack that contains everything left to my name. There is an Apple laptop, some clothes and a pair of hair clippers. There are also two screenplays I’ve written recently. The first one is called Utopia and it’s a pride and joy. The second one is called Hell Ride and it is a straight-to-video type gore fest about a serial killer on the loose in an amusement park. There is also the short film on a VHS tape with IDTV scribbled in bold black ink on the end label, the short film that I’d written and directed and had spent every waking day and night on and one that turned out to be far from Citizen Kane. It was made with Pell Grant money to be honest and consisted of fast, hyper, colorful dialogue with a faster paced storyline utilizing unlicensed music and molasses infused ketchup that looks surprisingly real as blood. Oh the irony, because over a month ago now, I was kicked out of the journalism and film programs for making this film and neglecting an audio tape reel to reel assignment for a Film Audio class in the process. As a result, I flunked the class and lost all financial aid and well, here we are. My CSULB ID card sits on a window sill and a candle burns, because the electricity was shut off days ago now and the flickering light bounces and dances off the small face of the ID and in the haze, the picture morphs and it’s weird at first, because the young face on the college ID doesn’t even look like me anymore. The real truth is that no cap and gown, upcoming internship or diploma seems to matter anymore, because now it’s on me now to make something happen and this is a scary thought for anyone.

My head wants strong coffee, but instead I sip the warm, burning booze that gives me chills and somehow convince myself this helps. By now the shoe box apartment is virtually barren. What was once headquarters to a dream and launching pad for writing sessions, watching video scenes we shot and glowing conversation about the future is now but the last chapter in a journey. I contemplate the “what ifs,” but not for long and so I grab up the backpack and walk out just before the sun. The old shaky cheap front door sways wildly in my wake. There is no need to lock it and there is no need to look back. There is only what is over the next horizon. There is only tomorrow, though there is no telling how many tomorrows may be left.

It is a crisp morning, the smog rolls but not too thick, birds are singing and the sun is flirting with the idea of peeking out. Thirty minutes later, hard dress shoes of early morning employees clack the sidewalks of downtown Pine Street as cafes and coffee shops brew in opening rituals. Two passing ships in the dewy morning air call out like old friends in the Pacific when I take a blue line train heading towards downtown Los Angeles. I sit and gaze out at a city on the move and I can’t help but think that about myself, only I’m heading in the opposite direction. Looking out at these city streets that once saw me come of age and greeted me with open arms, this city that held a tomorrow with great potential, I turn on my Sony Walkman headphones and KROQ 106.7 in Los Angeles is the soundtrack for this grand departure. A new hit that booms into my eardrums at an ungodly level and yet it feels oh so right. The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony, plays soulfully and as the blue line train pulls out, the city that once held the keys and bridge into adulthood passes me by in a blurred choppy filmstrip of boutiques, strip malls, restaurants, and any other establishment that I have come to know, only to be replaced with similar versions of the same a little further down the tracks.