Walking in L.A.

I took a detour and drove into Hollywood, around the cul de sac, and looked at the building where my studio apartment had been.  It was still there of course, but I wasn’t walking out of it with no car, to a job that paid less than six dollars an hour.  I sat there in the air conditioning of the 2012 Chevy, and looked up at the stairs that ran up past the manager quarters.  The carpet was blue now, not the blood-red it had been back in my mid-twenties.  I was there, in that car, 41, a paid author, under contract for Lolly this time, my stomach full with good food and expensive coffee.  I nodded at the front door and remembered back to walking out the same door, quiet as a ninja, so the landlord wouldn’t hear me and hit me up for past rent.  I remembered the crazy Mexican woman who thought that she was a Native American.  She used to bang on her ceiling with a broomstick at two in the morning when my typewriter was keeping her awake.  She simply called me “boy.”

And I’d walked the streets of Los Angeles as a younger man, blind with passion and hungry for living.  The pimps that nodded good morning and called me brother, the jack rollers and hustlers, the plastic bodies pumped with greed under the heat on the boulevards, all of it was within me, then, the hunger for the word, mad with compulsion, the sun bleeding down upon the homeless, the sweat running down the necks of taxi drivers and vagrants with too many clothes but nowhere to put them.   The bitter market owners with their children hiding around corners watching me browse the shelves; even they knew that I was poor, shaggy-haired and running with the dream, walking the streets while the rooming houses watched me like statues with eyes that moved.  But I had the fire of the word, I had the sentences running down my arms with the sweat while I walked the city and waited for the room to cool down.

−Excerpt from Lolly

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About Jeff Stewart

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