Letter from Hollywood
by Joshua Baldwin
I got the bag of trousers and raincoats you sent. Thanks. Next order of business is to find a mirror and practice my actions.
Oh I met a Venezuelan gentleman last night at a bar over on 3rd Street. He offered to prepare my income taxes but I told him I wouldn’t need that service. Whereupon he socked me in the jaw. Thus I wear a dark expression, man, riding this bus to who knows where. I think I’m headed north on Western Avenue. How does that sound? As always it’s early morning and bright as hell.
In other news I went down to Tijuana recently and had my buck teeth replaced. En route back to Los Angeles we had a layover in San Diego where I drank the finest apple juice of my goddamned life.
This town is funny though. On the weekend an elderly fellow with long white hair pretty much down to his buttocks and a boxing periodical wedged up in his armpit gave me a regular talking-to in the lobby of the Million Dollar Theatre. Absolutely right in my face he spat a long roll of vitriol in what I deduced to be some Dutch Caribbean kind of tongue. Can you imagine.
I offered the man a hot dog and cup of cola. He accepted, and needless to say our relations improved soon thereafter. We talked boxing matters, and later took in the midnight showing of Sullivan’s Travels. When we said goodbye the man apologized for his yelling and confessed he had me confused with his son. Poor gentleman.
Let’s see. I got a fire blanket to lay upon, and a bunch of old polka-dot aprons tied together for a shroud. I don’t require much. I have a portable cassette player and a fifteen-pack of Art Blakey albums.
I’m talking higher powers, numerology, things beyond the ground Freddy. As in what happened when I turned myself in to the Hollywood Police. I walked inside the precinct on Wilcox and how did they respond but to kick me right back out on my ass. I landed on the curb in a hot volume of dog waste. The editor of Dog World is not kidding when he calls Hollywood the “doggiest area” in California.
I marched back in and asked the officer at the desk, Now where’s my free chili? I thought I signed a contract. He lifted his stick and I took the message all right.
I walked on and what’s more, I found a tremendous twisted German-looking walking cane on Franklin Avenue. So even I’m on patrol half the time. We’re all agents of the law once and again. Can’t seem to avoid it.
Of course it’s plenty beautiful here and I shouldn’t complain. But on a night like this, when you can’t find the moon until you go stand way out on the ledge of the freeway and nearly kill yourself for it – well, it’s enough to make a fellow wonder about the whole state of astronomical science.
“You have no style,” a gaffer screams at the sky.
I mean, this city passes through some pretty hazy planes of the space-time continuum. And the lassitude is strong, very strong. Up to a point, I’m a straw dog. Up to another, I’m a stunt double. I’m writing this down with a golf pencil.
The last straw – almost – came when a casting director told me “we don’t need anyone with the crumpled hat look for this picture.” I should have you know in my self-pity that day I went ahead and purchased a two-dollar pair of sandals at the athletics supply and headed for the coastline.
Suffice it to say I live by the cardinal trio ‘dignity, style, courage.’ I walk along Pico Boulevard chin-up like a champion and no body seems to bother me anymore.
It’s actually the very life I fathomed – listening to my own footsteps in the city, passing under the freeway, sleeping in the disused Music Academy garage.
But it was a strange thing came over me that fateful day when I entered the Five and Dime and with my boot knocked over a gallon jug of laundry detergent. The symphony of gagging as the liquid dribbled forth – it put me in a regularized stupor.
I was dragged out of the store by some guard and there I stood on Fairfax Avenue with no place to go but Melrose. I guess the Lord must be in Los Angeles though, because right then I found fifteen dollars on the ground. I went off to the Beverly Hills Hotel for corn flakes, bananas and decaf. And as the saying goes, just like that I was back on my feet.
What I’m trying to tell you here is that my needs are coming into harmony with the requirements of the cosmos. Blending brilliantly with the dance of life, I am becoming an actual element of the cosmic law.
I am no longer swimming against the flow of Sepulveda Boulevard. I am acquiring an intuitive sense of what can and cannot be, and aligning my efforts accordingly.
Remove your mask, Freddy, and show them what you are made of. Relax, I say, and walk upon the road demonstrating some kind of happenstance.
And don’t tell me you’re an actress. Really, man, that’s impossible. You’re a fellow – one of the guys, after all. Why be the imposter with a long wig and implants of the cheek?
You can’t go anonymous in girly disguise, traipsing through this carnival forever you know. Now wise up and wipe off the mascara. That’s no way to win an Academy Award.
Take me as an example! Right now I’ve got a grilled cheese sandwich in my lap and a big old Styrofoam cup of Pepsi-Cola in my palm. I’m a happy gentleman in the moment, relaxed.
Let me run a few lines now, would you?
Strapless bras and cashless men junior – that’s one version of Hollywood.
You know that for me happiness is a broom in my hand outdoors in the fair weather, surrounded by the people Jenny.
Pass the pepper already, would you? These eggs are bland. I’m given to dump some rum on them.
It’s like old town Albuquerque this morning. A dry heat in the historical plaza. Deserted.
And for my monologue: Think about what you’re thinking about and flip it on its head, baby. That’s my method. I think about what I’m thinking about and I loathe the thought of it. Twenty minutes later I still loathe those thoughts. But then I flip the thoughts around and wonder what if somebody heard these private thoughts? Why, I’d be embarrassed to show my face at any party at all. So I banish the very thought of it, the negatives of the thoughts and all the nasty negative thoughts, and I feel good – like back to normal. You try it sometime. I guarantee it.
My only concern Freddy is that I’m not so sure the doughnuts of Hollywood are “now made with real sugar!” like the signboards say. Often I’m really dumbfounded by the commercial pronouncements. I must train myself to ignore them. You were always good at that, weren’t you? Well how about return a favor sometimes, and teach a fellow about life.
Because one thing I know is that a young man must take it upon himself to sit on a bus stop bench and despite all the noise make his father proud. He can’t wait around for people to set up the opportunity. It’s not like he has a third base coach telling him when to bunt. He’s out there alone, and no manual.
Hell we are all right after all now aren’t we? We’re strong men on the make in the United States. Self-sufficient, self-reliant and stuffed with sense. Not stuck up in the very least. On the move and motivated at all times, we drink our mochas in the sunshine. We don’t know another way.
Jesus I think I just saw a rat dash out of a Cadillac’s exhaust pipe. It all happened terribly fast but I’m fairly sure.
Enough. If you are foolish enough to write letters such as these, then I wish you good luck and bid you good morning as you begin that most egregious career.
For at the end of the day we’re all devilled eggs, waiting in line, wondering what’s up. I know I won’t be sitting here at the bus stop for eternity, but it could be a while. So send comic books, please. Comic books and apple sauce, and maybe a little timepiece, too. I have been caught unawares of the hour one too many times. It’s embarrassing when a young lady asks for the time and I can’t give her anything but a shrug.
I guess you could say I’m on vacation then. There’s an odd way about my so-called hotel. Reginald the doorman gives me drags from his mentholated cigarettes. And in my room there is the painting of a penguin.
My boy it turns out this place really is all it’s cracked up to be. When all is said and done it’s all right with me and that’s all there is to it.
Tell the family hello from their uncle in Los Angeles. Tell them I am living on the Pico Boulevard here, at the very western end of it in a little green gashouse. I got all the provisions. Wheat, bologna and sugar. It’s all well and good. I hope the same for all of you, only peace and championships.
Dinner is served. A Coke and a waffle.
This is the final thing: What you realize at a certain point is that there is no trap. The snake eats itself. You might wake up without car or apartment, no stocks no bonds, and nobody seems to care. You look in your pocketbook and she’s empty as a whale’s uterus. That’s exactly right. Drink a cup of coffee and just run along now. Go up to the window and get your ticket all right. I know that’s what I did and look at me now, one of the highest paid extras in all of Hollywood. Full speed ahead with a freshly shaved face and a pocket full of lumber.
Well. Got to go. Coming up next is my scene, I’m throwing a newspaper in the garbage.
Joshua Baldwin is the author of The Wilshire Sun (Turtle Point Press, 2011) and Poems and Fake Book Reviews (DEpress, 2010). More at joshuasbaldwin.com.