Our weekend was spent deep in Malibu.
Never use an elevator in an earthquake even when riding a dog.
I woke to the sound of horses galloping down my apartment hallway at 4:30 this morning. The cadence of what sounded like horses hooves had become very familiar to me.
They were actually the paw-falls of the two giant Borzoi that belong to the older women who lives in apartment 405. When she took the two dogs out to relieve themselves, they cantered towards the elevator with such excitement, that coupled with the sheer size of these Russian beasts, you would not be considered a fool to have had the urge to place a bet.
She did this often, which was both annoying and a relief at the same time. You see I am a huge dog lover. I mean to say that I love dogs, not that I love ‘huge dogs’ and these were indeed huge dogs.
The Borzoi, if you haven’t heard of the breed, are a long-haired Russian hound on the opposite side of the spectrum to the toy-sized breeds recently made popular in Los Angeles. This is where I now reside, sandwiched somewhere between Thai Town and little Armenia but don’t ask me to point out the exact boarders.
The Borzoi is thin and very lanky, with fur that would require a human female to tick the ‘long hair’ box on her match making profile. These two in particular, came up to my waist in height. Their name literally translates to the word fast in English. Which made me ponder the reasoning behind her choosing this particular breed, in our particularly single roomed apartment building.
As I said, I love dogs. I have a dog back home in Australia that I miss dearly, so I have often thought on the idea that I would like to get a dog here in LA. A cute little dog, something to come home to and cuddle up with. An adorable big-eyed pup to make my worries from the day melt away. Maybe a mid-sized Terrier or a Pug, or maybe TWO GIANT, LONG HAIRED, RUSSIAN BORZOI BUILT FOR RACING?
Why would this woman choose to share her tiny apartment with two giant beasts? Her humble flat is the same size as mine and when I say humble I mean ‘an out of work Actor, eating instant noodles, using stolen chopsticks, sitting on a single bed, NOT watching themselves on a TV that is propped on top of a bar fridge,’ kind of humble.
Were they the remnants of a wealthy past? Were these two dogs once gracefully ambling across the manicured grounds of a country estate? If so, what happened? How does one go from aristocratic standings, to barely being able to stand in a studio apartment that’s limited floor space is taken up by two enormous, lounging, show dogs?
Maybe she got them as puppies from our local Armenian pet store thinking they were long-haired Dachshunds. When she asked the owner how big they would get, he assured her ‘they no get bigger’ but what he meant to say was ‘No! They get bigger!’ Simple misunderstanding.
I mean these are hunting dogs. They are supposed to be running through forests and open plains alongside smartly uniformed men on horse back with muskets. Free and noble. They are in the paintings of great artists and written about in Tolstoy Novels.
Considering all this, she must have wondered what every women would have.
How could she ever keep them happy?
This was all a complete mystery to me.
As I thought on it I noticed it was now 5:32 in the morning. I hadn’t been up that early since…well I had never been up that early. When I woke in the dark at such an ungodly hour my mind wandered to worry, as it always did when I couldn’t sleep.
I went through the usual anxieties: loneliness, career non-existence, ill health, no wealth and my ever-growing girth but settled upon my old faithful…
The End of the World.
I have always feared the Apocalypse. It’s no mystery why I do, because I can pinpoint exactly – why, when, and even lay the blame, squarely upon my Mother.
When I was 11 years old, my Mother, being of the guilt-ridden Christian faith, decided she would instill the fear of God in her children as her parents had done with her. Quite successfully I might add, because she was dutifully reading my brother the book of Revelations on his thirteenth birthday. Jews get a Bat Mitzvah with a big party, a lot of food and a happy family gathering to welcome the young Jewish boy or girl into adulthood. My brother and I got to sit on a hard kitchen chair, and be scared to death.
If you haven’t read the last book in the New Testament of the bible (and I do not recommend it) it is basically a lovely, feel-good romp, about how at the end of the world Jesus will read from four scrolls, these summon forth the four beasts that ride on four horses which symbolize Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Hilarity ensues.
Remember, I was not supposed to be listening to any of this, as my chance to be the recipient of this macabre bedtime story was still two years away, but I just couldn’t wait.
On that stormy July afternoon I stealthily listened at the top of the stairs with my sweaty little palms gripping the banister. My eyes widened with horror when my Mother informed my brother, at the close of the back cover, that this was NOT a story. It was what was actually going to happen to us. It could be 1000s of years away or it could be today – we would never know. With a loud clap of thunder I screamed, and ran to hide under my bed for weeks.
Since that day my mind has always reverted back to that fear. At the news of any natural disasters, on New Years Eve, in big storms, and when I couldn’t sleep. My loving Mother’s attempts to scare us away from a life of sin, had instead made ‘run for the hills!’ my natural reaction to the pop of a champagne cork.
As I lay in the dark staring at the ceiling fan, my anxious thoughts were interrupted by the two relieved Borzoi (and their possibly deranged master) clomping back up the hallway. Their racket would actually shake the walls, which is either saying a lot about their size, or little about the safety of this old building.
I gently rocked in my bed, when I noticed that the ceiling fan was too. I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was mistaken, but as I sat upright I could tell that this was not just overzealous dogs, this was an earthquake.
I frantically fumbled out of bed as my antique trinkets fell from the shelves and burst into dust on the wooden floors around me. I ripped open the door to the hallway, which I usually left unlocked (my anxiety’s are numerous but nonsensical). I stood in the doorway holding its frame and bracing myself for what was to be the promised ‘big one’ LA has been waiting for.
My unfinished life flashing before me in all of its premature glory. With my pale blue nightgown gripping to my shivering body, I was thinking of my family, my friends, and my dog back home.
Suddenly another dog appeared in front of me.
One of the Borzoi was staring up at me. It was surrounded by a white light, his sophic eyes told me to go with him. I felt an instant peace wash over me, as I knew what I was to do.
I was to ride the Borzoi to safety.
I effortlessly swung my leg over its hairy back and gripped on for dear life as it took off down the stairs. Never use an elevator in an earthquake even when riding a dog.
As the plaster crumbled from the shaking walls of the dark stairwell the majestic hound leaped down the stairs three at a time as we fled out into the light of the streetlamps.
Still on the back of the beast, now safely on the street, I was scared to let go as the earth still shook. I turned to see the other Borzoi was next to us. Its master was perched on its back with true equestrian poise. She turned to me and nodded. The look in her eyes told me that she was not crazy, she was wise. She knew this day would come, and she was well prepared.
The mystery of her choice was solved.
I nodded in return to say that I understood and that I owed her and her two Russian hounds my life. We watched Los Angeles crumble around us. As the orange sunrise became our backdrop, the car alarms crescendo was defining, as I reached out my hand to turn off my alarm.
9:30 AM. The light pierced through the gap in my curtains. It was cloudy and there was a threat of rain. I clambered out of bed, put the kettle on for tea and sat in front of my desk. Going through the events of last night in my hazy state, I got an idea, so I picked up a pen and scribbled on a yellow ‘post it’.
‘Never use an elevator in an earthquake even when riding a dog’
I stuck it to the corner of my laptop then began searching for Therapists in the Hollywood area.
These are the result of my brother and I taking stupid photos when we were bored on holiday at Big Bear Lake this past July. We used to do the same thing with my Dad’s camera when we were little kids. Dad would develop the film to see numerous shots of Jesse and I exactly like this…
A homeless man invited me to get a drink with him on a crisp November afternoon in Los Angeles.
I usually would have said no, or not even have stopped at all, but lately I had been lonelier than usual and being on my own in another country gave me the urge to seek out adventure and start to build an interesting life story for myself. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The man smelt very bad, his hair dread locked with filth, his clothes were so perfectly tattered he looked like an actor killing time between takes. There are many people and places in LA that look too cliché to be real. However this man, whose name was Ben, also had no hands. He had two perfectly rounded stubs where his wrists ended. I felt that made him somewhat more ‘legitimate’.
To be honest, I said yes because when he asked me an image flashed into my mind of him expertly holding his drink with two stubs taking grateful sips. I felt it was an image I needed to see, and one I would never forget.
The closest bar was ‘The Frolic Room’ on Hollywood Blvd, one of my more frequented dives. I know the bouncers and the bartender, and being one of Bukowski’s favorites, I found it appropriate.
As I led Ben inside, the bouncer shot me a concerned look and got off his stool and started towards us, so I gave him a wave to say ‘this hand-less, fragrant gentleman, is my responsibility’. He shook his head and rolled his eyes and sat back down.
As per usual at 1:35 pm on a weekday, to my relief, there was nobody else in the bar. I let Ben choose a stool and sat next to him. Manny the bartender was out the back, so I asked Ben what he would like to drink? I said I was paying and to get what he wanted.
I was hoping he wouldn’t pick the ‘top shelf’ scotch but instead a martini. That would definitely be my drink of choice for optimum contrast.
He mumbled for a whiskey and I almost giggled, it was like hearing a cop ordering a doughnut or an Irishman buying a sack of potatoes.
I walked the length of the short bar and called out to Manny. He greeted me happily and said ‘Ah Kit! Gin and Tonic?’ in his thick Spanish accent. I said ‘yes sir, and a whiskey for my friend’, as I pointed to Ben who luckily was looking outside, as Manny laughed at what he thought was my facetiousness and began making my drink.
He handed it to me and said ‘$6.25′. I replied ‘and the whiskey’? Manny looked at Ben and back at me then smiled and shook his head. He usually enjoyed my various oddities and bizarre choices in drinking buddies but this was not one he enjoyed.
Not at all.
I set Ben’s drink in front of him and sat down with a ‘well, here we are’ sigh. Ben was very quiet, not your typical ranting hobo with apocalyptic predictions, and for this I was relieved.
I wanted very badly to hear his life story. Was he born with no hands? Or was it a result of his drunken negligence? Maybe he was so hungry he stole from a Muslim shopkeeper who cut off his hands for being a thief? Or was it a workplace accident involving a band saw? I opened my mouth to ask him how it had happened when…
He lifted his glass between his two stubs, looking straight into the dimly lit mirror behind the bar he took a large swig of the cheap whiskey.
It was all I had imagined it to be.
It was an image I will never forget.
On the third round I got enough ‘dutch courage’ to ask him what I had been dying to know from the first time I saw him on the bus last December.
I had already ruled out ‘Ben, where are your hands?’ because that would imply that his hand were somewhere else, like floating in a jar on someone’s mantle or rotting by a roadside.
I also decided against pointing and saying ‘What happened?’ as if I had only just noticed that his hands were gone, like I was so focused on his charming personality that I didn’t even notice his overtly obvious disability.
I settled on ‘Ben, were you born like that or did something happen?’
Followed by a prompt, ‘You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to’, although he very much did. I was paying for his drinks and I expected his stories in return. If you pay to see the sideshow you expect to see some freaks.
His reply was not what I had guessed nor was it the kind of entertaining story I thought it would be. It was just tragic and sad.
Ben had lived in Denver most of his life, but was born in LA. He was raised partly by his mother who was a bad addict then by his grandmother. At the age of 11 he was out on his street with some of the kids from the neighborhood. It was fall and the dead leaves had been raked up neatly into piles, or put into large black plastic bags to be collected.
The boys had decided it would be funny to hide under the piles of leaves and jump out when people or cars went by to scare them.
It was a couple of days before Halloween, he recalls.
The boys ran inside to get masks or anything to make their brilliant prank scarier. Ben grabbed the plastic Freddy Krueger mask that he was going to wear for Halloween, and ran to hide under the biggest pile he could see out the front of his next-door neighbors house.
He lay out as flat as he could, so nobody would suspect that he was there, and he waited.
He heard the lookout boy call ‘Car’! Ben’s breath quickened as it whistled in and out of the tiny hole in his sweaty mask.
He heard the car approaching fast and just as he was about to jump up he heard the engine on top of him and felt a enormous pressure on his hands as one wheel, then the other, crushed his bones against the asphalt. Ben screamed and rolled out from under the pile to see his mother getting out of her truck in the driveway.
The boys saw what had happened and ran as fast as they could back to their homes. They were scared of getting in trouble, just like Ben’s mother was. She was very intoxicated and was already being investigated by child-services. Instead of rushing Ben to the hospital, she bandaged him herself. Ben remembers her telling him to be quiet as she wound his gnarled hands in cloth bandages before he passed out from the pain.
After a few weeks home from school and still in the same dirty bandages, Ben’s grandmother came over. She saw his hands and his feverish state, and rushed him straight to the hospital. His wounds were so badly infected that the doctors’ only choice was to amputate his hands just below the wrists.
Ben never saw his mother again after that, and went to live with his Grandmother who moved them back to LA when he was 17. His beloved Grandmother died one year later, and Ben couldn’t cope. He turned to drugs and couldn’t get a job. The house was sold and he was on the streets.
I didn’t know what to say to him. He told the story without much emotion and he kept his gaze on his drink, or in the mirror.
I looked up to find Manny had been listening; he shook his head and pulled a bottle of scotch down from the top shelf. Now I’m not a scotch drinker, and I didn’t think the term ‘top shelf’ was a literal one but even I could tell it was expensive.
He poured a large glass and slid it down the bar. It glided past me and Ben stopped it with his forearm, like a hockey stick.
Some spilled onto his arm so I lifted it up carefully and gently wiped the spirit off with my napkin.
For the first time he looked me in the eyes. I gazed back at him and saw that he was actually quite young, maybe only 25 or so.
I tried to give him a look that said I was sorry for how his life had turned out, and that I would never come close to knowing how he felt, but that he shouldn’t give up hope.
He must have taken it for something else, because in an instant his fleshy stubs were tightly pressed into my cheeks, as he lunged forward open mouthed, for a kiss. I reeled back and fell off my stool. When I looked up from the sticky floor, the bouncer was dragging Ben out of the door.
After a moment I got up and dusted myself off. Manny shook his head and said ‘You better be careful Kit, this isn’t Stralia you know.’
I sat back on the stool and looked at my half empty gin. I curled back my hands and pressed my wrists onto either side of the glass and attempted to lift the drink to my lips as Ben had done. As I gazed into the mirror the glass slipped from my wrists, and fell onto the carpet with an audible thud. Manny looked up from the register and shook his head and laughed. I guess it takes a lifetime of practice.
I paid my bill and walked out into the orange light of a Los Angeles sunset, and thought to myself, If you pay to see the sideshow you expect to see some freaks.
From a very young age we are told to think for ourselves. To think with our hearts and do what feels right. That’s what you’re told if you’re lucky I suppose.
So out you go into the world wide eyed and awkward. Ducking and weaving bumping and falling, racing and stalling and all the while you tell yourself that you’re doing what YOU want to do. You’re painfully diligent and obedient to your cause, your way of life. You know what it’s all about and you dare anyone to tell you differently. You strut around the world with your opinions and thoughts dripping in sickly bravado and filled to the brim with the conviction that they are all your very own, totally original and 100% correct. You brave all the hard times with Sinatra in your ear, completely, absolutely and wrongly convinced that ‘I did it my way.’
Until one fine day you get punched square in the nose.
Usually by a challenge that seemed to come out of nowhere because your little snot nose was raised so high in the air you couldn’t see the ground where you were arrogantly trampling on the rest of society.
This is the day you are forced to analyze everything you have ever thought, done, said, felt or been told.
You sit in your bedroom decorated with the faces of your idols and symbols that mean so much to you. You sit very confused with a perplexed look on your freshly bruised face and begin to pull out all the contents of your head and start separating it all into two piles.
The first pile consists of your own thoughts, opinions, beliefs, tastes, values, morals, ideas etc etc and the second consists of other peoples.
You start with the foundations. The very core of your personality structure. Then you work your way through your whole being, dark crevasses and all until you reach the surface. You sort, sift and examine until you start to feel very, very foolish.
Before you stands the mountainous second pile and next to it a non existent first pile.
Learning that everything that makes you ‘you’ has been entirely collected, gathered, forced onto, outright stolen from or given to you by other people is very humbling, utterly terrifying and hilarious!
No you haven’t been doing it wrong all this time. It is simply a survival tact that every growing human adopts in order to feel safe as a real person in this world. Most people will never be challenged enough or will decide to ignore the challenge and just clank heavily through their life happy living as found art. Those of us lucky enough to be given the gift of challenge or to be surrounded by challenging people will stand tall and empty before their giant pile of what once represented themselves and start again.
This time each item you pick up comes with a new freedom. The freedom to make choices. What do you want to keep? What do you throw away? What was given to you by whom? Who are they? Why and in what capacity did they give it to you? How do these things help or hinder your happiness? What feeds your soul, mind and journey and what starves it?
You clumsily rebuild yourself completely from scratch. You accept the absurdity and ridiculousness of human beings and you go out into the world a new and enlightened you. You strut around the world with your opinions and thoughts dripping in sickly bravado and filled to the brim with the conviction that they are all your very own, totally original and 100% correct this time you REALLY know it all! Until:
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that nobody really knows what’s going on. People do their best to be good most of the time. Whatever ‘good’ is on any given day. There are no clear rights or wrongs only differences. People tend to act and do what feels right for them and where they are in their own lives and sometimes they are acting from a place of fear or ignorance.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t listen to your heart. If your instinct tells you something feels wrong it probably is and when things feel right they usually are. This has taken me a long time to learn and I am only just beginning to scrape the surface of a vast wealth of knowledge.
So I ask you, please don’t be cynical. Try not to judge and compare. Nothing is permanent and what is ‘cool’ today wont be tomorrow and only exists in your mind anyway. Don’t speak in absolutes and try to surrender to the fact that you really have no idea what’s going on. Laugh with the absurdity of life and enjoy every moment. Obedience is for the weak minded, at least I think it is.
So how do I know all this? Somebody told me…
Hello people of the interworld!
I have been asked by many (2) people to start a blog. Apparently that’s what the kids are doing these days. So if my parents or my therapist know anything about what’s ‘cool’ then I’m on the right track!
If you don’t know me which is most likely as I don’t even know myself…What? who’s knocking on the…hello!?
I am an actor named Kit Willesee who sometimes pretends to be a writer who pretends to be a real person.
I plan on using this so-called ‘blog’ for posting entries about my day to day adventures in Los Angeles, miscellaneous musings and things I enjoy that you may too. Also known as ‘When facebook just don’t cut it anymore.’
So as I smash the Dom Perignon over my laptop to christen this new beginning and decent into alcoholism I ask you to join me on this journey and politely ignore my bad spelling and grammar.