248. Now That the Smoke’s Gone and the Air is Clear

Ryan Jesena, Flickr Creative Commons

Ryan Jesena, Flickr Creative Commons

I loved my friend Carolyn’s apartment. Her neighborhood was quiet and tidy, as was her place.

My life at the Su Casa apartments was needles in the stairwells and cardboard boxes for furniture. A four mile drive to Carolyn’s place and life was manicured lawns and matching dishes. She drove a brand new Honda — smooth, quiet, and reliable. I got around town on my motorcycle or on foot.

We had in common two things: the film business and a sense of humor. That was enough. I counted her among my few true friends in Los Angeles. Visiting Carolyn’s apartment for a couple of hours felt like a vacation from life in the harsh heart of Hollywood. I wanted her quiet, secure life when I grew up.

We sat on Carolyn’s futon, watching movies and laughing at the singles ads in the back of the LA Weekly, or we’d drink wine and gossip about the people we knew in the business. One night we even fucked, though I’m not sure either one of us knew why. Maybe it was the wine, or perhaps the movie wasn’t any good. Maybe we were both lonely or curious. Maybe we were just horny.

At the end of the night we’d say goodbye at the door if Carolyn wasn’t asleep on the futon, and I’d walk down the stairs and into the quiet, manicured night alone. A four mile motorcycle ride back into the belly of the beast, and I was back to police helicopters and drunken rockers on their way to the Strip.

It was a simple routine of no interest, repeated dozens of times: say goodnight, walk to the bike, unlock my helmet, and take off. There was no reason to believe that night was any different, no reason to give the white sedan a second look look even if it did slow before me while I squatted to unlock my motorcycle helmet. The back window lowered, and I stood to hear the passenger’s question. A gun barrel emerged from the dark interior, followed by three shots — bang bang bang — and then the gun barrel disappeared, the window rose, and the white sedan calmly rolled away.

I heard Carolyn’s kitchen window open and looked up to see her emerge like a nosy sitcom neighbor. “Was that — ”


“Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

“Do you want to come back up?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Okay. See ya.”

“See ya.” I put on my helmet and started my bike. Somewhere around Wilshire Boulevard I began to wonder whether I’d been shot but was just in shock. I patted myself down with my clutch hand, but nothing felt damp or painful.

Instead of going home I headed up to Bob’s Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard. I hadn’t hung out at the Frolic since leaving Music Plus. Black Sabbath was still on the jukebox, but none of my old record store friends were there. Most had probably given up on Los Angeles after a couple of years of shitty apartments, record store wages, and broken dreams. A big dude in a cowboy hat held court at the end of the bar. He laughed a lot and threw back tequila shots.

“Hey, man, are you from the South or do you just have the look?” I asked him.

“I just have the look. Is that a problem?”

“No problem. I’m from the South. Just good to see somebody from back home is all.”

“Fuck off,” he said.

I found a seat, drank my beer, and waited to die.

Categories: Memoir

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2 replies »

  1. Jeeeee-sus!

    I had it close,( but not as scary, no shooting) one time.

    A car pulled up beside mine on the corner of Franklin and Bronson, running on the sub-woofer beat of the bass, the car was painted flat black primer, windows all black tinted – the passenger window rolled down halfway and the gun barrel came out. I slammed down on the accelerator and made a screeching right turn without even looking to see if another car was in the intersection.

    I don’t remember much after that, but for years I had a recurring dream of walking along the street and hearing the “thump-thump-thump” of the bass, turning to look, and seeing that flat black car.

    I start running, cutting through backyards, jumping fences, but it doesn’t matter, every street I land on there it is, thumping its way towards me like a huge black shark. I would wake up sweating, heart pounding, unable to go back to sleep.

    I think that was one of the scariest moments of my life, and I have been in plenty of sketchy situations. Maybe the sheer unexpectedness and “in-my-face” element of surprise is what caused it to stick so hard in my memory bank. Even now, when I hear a loud sub-woofer, that memory pops up fresh as yesterday.

    I cannot believe you were actually shot at – dear god, that city. Such a random, sprawling sad mess of a place.


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