When I was eighteen until I turned nineteen I lived in Los Angeles.
I loved it. All the traffic was nothing. I knew about that. But I dreamed on making movies. I did not want to act any more. I wanted to act but I hated makeup and hot costumes. The one fact in my life was day in and day out I wanted to live poetry. I threw away a silver dime because I felt a penny was more honest.
I went to the university because they were famous for their theater and film school. But even then all I wanted to do was write and feel poetry on the streets. Hundreds and hundreds of times, sometimes five or six times and week, once, or twice, or even three times a day, I walked up and down that path from the dorms to the main campus, down the hill and up the hill, across the valley of Pauley Pavilion, I followed Bruin walk from Dykstra to class and back again for lunch, and back again for dinner, and in the evening if I had a night class – and I had some, my Asian-American Minority Studies Class, for example, or maybe I was going to see a movie or play or lecture or library – or just walking around smoking and dreaming on the shadows of my mind, yes.
One night Jesse and I saw Edgar G. Robinson at the art gallery over there behind Bunche hall tower. He smiled at us. I used to climb that tall building, Bunche Hall, to the roof over the fence beyond the elevators and observation deck. Over the fence and up the ladder onto the top of the cooling towers where I would sit and dream upon the view. See that hill over there above Bel Air? That’s where I’ll build my mansion house, one day dream after another.
Or look west toward Santa Monica, or south toward Palos Verdes and the sea and Catalina. Or turn east and pierce my vision past Wilshire toward the distant diamon towers of downtown.
I so loved L.A.
Hundreds of times I walked up and down that path between my little dorm room and campus class. I studied psychology, humanities, anthropology, art, ancient theater, acting, geography, english, and something else too. A total freshman hodge-podge. One upper class woman, who had been my orientation coach during my first month on campus, told me to take up upper division classes, don’t spend all my time on simple stuff and general ed. She was right. I enjoyed that class. But most things I blew off with B’s or C’s or D’s and in the end they threw me out. I can’t even say you can’t fire me I quit. I was dismissed.
But years later they let me come back to university (in San Diego) and I did a little better then. But I was so much older then, thirty three and thirty five and it was not in Los Angeles, no, so no, everything was different when I finally settled down and studied, no. It was not the same.
There was only one year when I was eighteen and living in Los Angeles. No other. Ever.
Tell you one thing, you could not make movies for as cheap as you can now, no no no no no. All these computers and digital editting make it so easy it used to be you had to use a real camera and expose real film to real light and the develop it and then actually cut and paste the very pieces of film themselves, not just manipulate a virtual copy of something floating on the electrons of time and space, oh no.
But that did not stop me from climbing over the fence at Fox Century City lot and just breaking in a couple times to see how movies were really made on the studio no it did not stop me from accepting an invitation to see Medium Cool screened at the Paramount lot, or from going over most Friday evenings to watch the film students screen their rushes of the week just for free no, it did not stop me from wanting to make movies I never stopped wanting that but poetry is so much stronger, oh yes it is, so very very very much strong and stronger yes.
Later that week Jesse and I went back and climbed up a skyscraper under construction in Century City and gazed out across the city while we smoked and wondered what the hell would become of us when we grew up. If we grew up. If we ever could. Grow up.
Yes. We did.
Or we would drive with someone who had a car over to what the hell street was it, is it, where the Pinks Hot Dogs are sold? Yes. Or even further, to the corner of Beverly and Ramparts, where Tommy’s Burgers are sold, yes. Yes. Oh yes. Yes.
Yes. Yes so then after all that I would come home to our little room in the dormitory tower and write poems about the empty freeways at three a.m., when the steam cleaners crawled through the night, blasting their clouds of vapor onto concrete truth.