The other day, I ran into the Vine St. Girl at a cafe in Hollywood. She looked the same as always: dirty clothes, dirty face housing fire-green eyes, hair styled like a cavewoman’s in a 1960s television skit.
It’d been over a week since I’d seen last seen her: in the middle of a sunny afternoon, she was being carried across Vine St. by a man, screaming and flailing both arms. Foam spewed from the 24oz beer can that she was holding. Cars whizzed by the pair in both directions. Her struggling caused the man to veer in front of an oncoming car. The car swerved, then stopped. The woman driving the car rolled down her window, shouted something at her, at the man, then reached back and opened the car’s back door. The Vine St. Girl shook free of the man, threw the beer at him then jumped in and the two woman zoomed away. The man crossed the street in a manner like that of a child lost in a mall. When he reached the sidewalk, he ran hard to a corner then disappeared. So I was relieved to see The Vine St. Girl was OK, after that incident. And though it’s clear to see she’s fallen on hard times, she always seems to have a smile on her face, when not being kidnapped.
We waited in line next to each other at the cafe. After she asked the man behind the counter at the cafe to sell her two cigarettes, she turned her green eyes to mine, then began speaking through me to something far behind me in some language spoken by a higher species from a Cosmos a few Big Bangs back. I noticed similarities in the language, to ours, but the tongue was ultimately, absolutely undecipherable. So I just smiled back at her. She grabbed the two cigarettes and walked by me, out the door, and continued to babble as she stepped out into the Hollywood of the current Cosmos.
Later that night, I needed some beef jerky so I walked over to the all-night Walgreen’s on the corner of Sunset and Western Boulevards. In front of me at the checkout counter were two woman with a grocery cart full of panty-liners. They lifted armfuls of them out out of the cart and onto the counter.
“Can I interest you ladies in any a our specials on da countah?” Asked the old woman working the register, as she waved her hand across a display of assorted chocolates in the manner of a showgirl working a 1960s automobile convention. She wore deep red rouge and lipstick, and a fake mole. The deep creases on her otherwise pale face were as black as dark matter. The wrinkles broke her face up into fragments like shards of glass on a fun house floor. “Come aahn, dudn’t some chocolates sound good tonight? Special two-for-one.” The two women said nothing. The old clerk took a deep breath. “Alright, den. Well, buenos noches to da two a ladies.” The women smiled, shook their heads, walked out the store with the panty-liners.
Down one of the aisles, a vampyrical bone-thin transvestite deadlifted a case of Coca-Cola from a display and waddled up behind me. She twitched as she held the leadened case of sodas, her eyes darting around fast, like a bird’s. I moved up the counter so she could set down the case.
“Excuse me,” said the old woman, “can I interest either of you two fellas in our special two-for-one chocolates?”
“No, that’s ok,” I said.
“No, thank you,” said the transvestite.
“Come aaahn! Dey taste real good.” She leaned in closer to us, spoke lower. “You see, da clerk dat sells de most candies gets a gift cad at de end of da month.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m broke, so I want da cad. So therefore,” she continued, in showroom pose and with a sexy, wispy voice, “can I interest you two gents in some sweet candy?” Then she burst out laughing. “Oh, I tell ya, you gotta keep it fun, you gotta keep it fun, guys. Or else…” she mimics a pointing a gun to her head, shooting herself. “Right? You can’t get too serious…” she points out the doors into the East Hollywood darkness, “…one day you might get eaten up out dere by a cockroach. Or, by some giant baby on a big-wheel who forgotta who ring her bell as she’s coming at ya!”
“I’ll come in tomorrow and get some candy,” I said.
“Awright, you know I’ll be here. I’m always here…” she widened her eyes and continued in a Transylvanian accent, “…on the grrrrraaaaaveyaaaarrrd sheeeefft, mwah, ha, ha, ha…” Then she handed me the jerky, reached over, grabbed the transvestite’s coke. I left.
The night was thick. Dew had brought the streets to a shine. All was quiet except for the distant howls and screams of The Unfortunate. These voices always seem to be coming from another dimension, for every time I’ve looked in the direction of these howls and screams I find nothing. If I see anyone, it’s usually some solitary figure wandering about the boulevards like a monk who’d been silent for centuries or a zombie practicing abstinence. When focusing on such a figure, the howls and screams disappear, completely. Only when I look away and break my connection to those around me do the howls and screams resume. That is, at night. People are shouting all over the place during the Hollywood Day.
The next morning I took a hike up the big hill behind the Griffith Park Observatory. After I reached the apex of the hill, sweaty and breathing hard, I rested for a moment on a little bench on the trail. Then set my clock for twenty minutes, crossed my legs, rested my left hand on my right hand, focused on a cone hanging on the branch of a pine tree, then began to meditate. Breathe in, breath out, breathe in…Soon, the roar of the endless line of school buses on the road below me began to fade, the giggling junior-high students already on the trail dissolved, and even the bright chirps of birds soon disappeared. After a while, everything was gone. Only the pine cone remained, dangling in Nothingness.
But everything was also still there, and I came to the realization that I was not separate from anything. I’ve felt this kind of thing before -written about it – but every time I sense it, it’s as if I’m coming to the realization for the first time that I am merely part of a giant event. Not even a part, I’m thoroughly stirred into the Big Soup, as are you and everybody and everything in Existence. But it’s not something I can hold onto and use for another day, it’s something I have to come to realize everyday. REALIZATION – Finding The Real. When I fail to Realize The Big Event, I slip into the Artificial Self. By identifying as a seperate being, I attempt seperate from the Big Event. But separation of the Self from The Big Event is impossible. It is delusional to think one can, and when delusional thinking comes in contact with Reality, suffering ensues. Therefore, letting go of the Self leads to, ah this is so simple…Life’s a piece of cake…at that moment, I became aware that people were staring at me when they walked by. Through their eyes, I saw my Self: jogging pants, sweater, hiking boots, sunglasses, sitting cross-legged with my hands together, staring at a pine cone. I quietly laughed out loud. The old clerk was right. My alarm rang. I hiked down the hill back to Hollywood.
When I got back, I saw my neighbor, Edith, outside her bungalow, on the phone. She’d just finished washing her family’s clothes in the driveway, hung them all up to dry on the barbed wire strands that run atop the wall separating our bungalows from the neighboring apartment complex. The smell of detergent lingered. Times were hard for Edith & family and apparently getting harder, because I used to see her at the laundromat. By the doorway to her bungalow was the chair on which she gives her husband, Miguel, a bath. Miguel was paralyzed from the waist down, from falling off a ladder on a job site (see the Jamberoo: Oh The Ramparts We Are). Aside from family bread winner, she’s his caretaker, 24/7. Edith sat on the step, leaning back against the wall, speaking tired Spanish into the phone. When she saw me she leaned forward and waved.
“God bless you.”
“God bless you, too.”
I’m not sure which God she meant, because – though she wears a Christian Cross, I sometimes I see her in the driveway, huddled in the corner, burning sage, or something like sage.
“Yeah, she practices that…what is it…” The Great Warrior told me one time, “…oh, Santeria. She’s really been into it since Miguel got hurt.”
I went inside, cleaned up. When I came back out Edith was gone. The clothes fluttered on the barbed wire in the wind like ghosts killing time in ghost prison.
Down the street, I ran into the old lady that usually offers me a can of corn every time I see her. But this time she stood in front of me on the sidewalk, holding a broom, though she still stared into me like she always does, as if she knew me but didn’t know me. The neighborhood leaf-blowers had finished for the day. One fellow was loading the leaf blowers onto the truck, and another was sweeping up the leaves on the curb along with the empty prescription bottles that find their way on Serrano Ave. He looked up at me, then to the old lady, rolled his eyes, shook his head and continued sweeping. When I turned back to the lady, she’d moved on, sweeping the driveway as she walked, her gaze up and far away.
A little later I saw the Vine St. Girl, crossing the street with an older man. She didn’t move in her usual manic rhythm. More so, she looked very lucid and walked with intent, like someone walking to their car after work, or to a cafe to meet someone. She still wore the ragged clothes, but her hair was a bit more tame than usual. Just like that, she seemed so unknown to me…as if I’d gotten her wrong. And I did. That’s what I get for trying to get her in the first place.
That evening, on my way back to the bungalow, the sun hung just above the palm trees, glazing East Hollywood with tear inducing pinks, blues and yellows. The obese homeless lady that’d recently taken up residence at the corner of Sunset and Western sat Indian-style, smiling at something in the sky. I looked up to see hundreds of seagulls flying above us, squeaking and squawking across the pink-blue-yellow sky. Ah, we are near the Ocean, I thought. It’s so easy to forget the Ocean is so close. I looked back down on East Hollywood and it was beautiful – the suffering and our subconscious aching to let go of it and come together. All of it. And we are so, so close to The Ocean.