Clinging so Tenuously to Durant DriveJuly 25th, 2009 at 11:31
Though I had thankfully lost my virginity before I came to Los Angeles (so any issues with breaking through that ice would not add to all my other challenges), this girlfriend, that I met as a co-worker at Lone Star Pictures, gave me a heady run in the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Though she eventually dumped me, I do owe her a debt of giving me a wild ride (to get that fantasy out of my system), maybe seeing more in me at the time than I saw in myself, buffing up my self-esteem, and thickening my skin for travails to follow.
She was seven years older than me (had an ex-husband even!), and the name she used was completely fabricated, which I guess fit her and the entertainment business she worked in. I gave her several nicknames myself, most notably “Anna Banana” and “Anna Rexia Nervosa”, both of which brought a crack of a smile to her mouth, a sparkle in her eye, and a laugh with her sexy, gravelly voice. She introduced me to so many things (most of which I never did again after we broke up) including binging and purging, sex in some exotic venues, Quaaludes (pharmaceutical and “bootleg”), Cocaine, fad diets, fasting and more. Ending that chapter, there were a host of self-destructive habits that I could now avoid, thinking “been there… done that”.
It is interesting, looking back, how I have negotiated the voyage of my life with a number of mentors, mostly all women, and as mentors generally go, older than me. One of three significant romantic relationships in my life (all interestingly with women about seven years older than me), I put “Anna Rexia” squarely in the class of mentor, rather than peer, which was one of several significant reasons our relationship was doomed. But I guess we both knew that at some level and we both grew from our shared experience and went on with our lives, having grown from that experience.
And it may seem weird to some that I would even classify her as a mentor. I was wide-eyed and naïve in my way, and she “took me for a ride”. And a lot of what she introduced me to were things I would never do again. But she was highly intelligent and a wise old soul in her own way, even though at the point that I met her she was living life more for the thrill of it, it seemed, than for anything else. I lost touch with her after we broke up, but I would predict that she is doing well and his found a compelling life journey for herself as well.
Mentors I guess can come in all shapes and sizes (Yoda comes to mind). Those of us who have them sprinkled through our lives are mostly blessed I think. There is no substitute at times for that older wiser person that can open a few doors, who can show you some things that you otherwise might not see, and can see you in a light that maybe you are not yet able to see yourself.
During our year together, “Ann” and I rented a cute little apartment on Durant Drive in Beverly Hills, just east of Century City and Beverly Hills High School. It was there that, my Red Chevette and I launched our brief and unsuccessful business as a freelance location scout and film production assistant. When I worked I made a whopping $100 a day (a big bump up from $3 an hour as the Lone Star Picture’s “gofer”), though I only managed to average a few days work a month. Again, the mark of a good adventure, I did end up with some memorable stories to tell my kids, other family and friends. I also had the side benefit of getting to drive all over the greater Los Angeles area, and by becoming familiar with its sacred car-town boulevards, becoming maybe a bit more comfortable being in this too-big city.
One of the most important developmental experiences that this unorthodox mentor introduced me to was a community of gay men, starting with her ex-husband Robert. We hung out a few times at the house on the side of Nichol’s Canyon in the Hollywood Hills where Robert lived with his male partner. I even recall one time where the four of us indulged in nude sunbathing together, an interesting dynamic with one bi-curious woman (Ann), one bisexual guy (Robert), one totally gay guy (his current lover) and one straight guy (me). The banter and jokes about one another’s “plumbing” and libido, at first intimidating for shy me, but since they were so friendly and unthreatening about it, were profoundly liberating. Robert also shared with me tales of his life as a gay man in the trendy scene of West Hollywood and taught me how to politely refuse a pass from another man.
We attended several memorable parties that featured an assortment of gay and straight men. At one or two of the events, I was the only straight guy there and I learned to be totally comfortable with that, equipped with Robert’s etiquette wisdom when I occasionally got hit on. At others there was a mix of gay and straight guys, side by side, begging some provocative comparisons. In my anecdotal experience, the gay guys generally were more emotionally honest, less guarded, and as a result seemed to have a lot more fun. Though my libido was definitely tuned to female types, I admired these seemingly more liberated souls, their lampoon of machismo, and tried to emulate some of the best of what I saw going forward in my own public behavior.
When Ann finally started grooving on a new young guy, and gently pushed me out (I spent a transitional week or two on her couch while she and her new love shared the bedroom), I found lodging next door, renting a room from our neighbor, another older divorced woman. But working too few days for groceries, gasoline, car payments and rent, things came to a head. I actually had a new girlfriend at that point (who I had met volunteering for the ERA campaign, but more on that in another piece) and I reached a point where I had to surrender my rented room, due to inability to pay the rent, and was sleeping in my new girlfriend’s bedroom in her parents’ house, having to decide whether to put my few remaining dollars to groceries or gasoline. I could maybe make it through the day without food, but my car wouldn’t go anywhere without.
I’m not much of a poet, but I wrote a verse during that time where I tried to capture the feeling of that period. It pains me that I lost the only copy, but I’ll try to reconstruct at least some of it…
I cling so tenuously to Durant Drive
As the world turns upside down
My fingernails dig into the asphalt
Between the pebbles in the pavement
Softened by the hot sun
And I hang there
With my too worn tires
And my too few dollars
For gasoline and groceries
Trying not to let go
And fall upward
Into the blue sky ocean
Living with little more than my red Chevette and the generosity of a recently met girlfriend and her family, I knew I needed more of a meaningful and rooted life if I was going to stay in this crazy place much longer.
See the next chapter in “Once More in the Company of Women”.