I’m at Crave cafe, sitting on the red sofa, the one that doesn’t face the street, drawing comic characters in my sketch book, when a young man who is sitting at the table in front of me looks over and says- ‘Excuse me, Miss,’
‘Yes?’ I say, surprised by his polite use of ‘Miss’ in reference to me.
‘What’s your name?’ says the young man who is wearing yellow ochre coloured chinos, yellow ochre Caterpillar boots, a red shirt with the sleeves rolled up, suspenders, a pair of white-rimmed, green-lensed sunglasses, a ponytail and a goatee.
I tell the young man my name and he tells me he likes my style of drawing.
‘I really like your style of drawing,’ he tells me, ‘and I wondered what your name is because I might have heard of you,’
‘You wouldn’t have heard of me,’ I tell him, closing my book and putting it on the sofa next to me, ‘I’m not someone,’
‘Oh, really?’ he says, ‘Well, even if you are no one, I still love your drawings,’
I tell him thank you and then I pick up my sketch book and he goes back to the papers he is reading; something that looks like a script, with yellow highlights on some of the words and ‘Franco’ written across the top.
A few moments later one of his papers is licked by the wind and flips across the footpath.
‘Oh, fuck,’ he says, getting up from his chair to chase his paper.
‘Oops,’ I say, and he laughs.
‘I don’t mean ‘Oops’ for the ‘fuck’, I tell him, ‘just oops because your paper flew off,’
He laughs and then waves his paper toward me and tells me again how much he likes my drawings.
Then, as he sits back at his table, he asks me if I have published any books and I tell him about my comic book life story.
‘I wrote a comic book about my life,’ I tell him, ‘self published,’
He tells me he’ll buy it because he likes to ‘support’.
I tell him it’s on Amazon and we talk on a bit until he asks if he can come and sit on the sofa with me.
‘Of course,’ I tell him, ‘come on over,’
Then the young man begins telling me about himself.
He tells me he is name is Jonny, that he’s an actor and that he’s just been to a meeting at CBS.
Then he tells me he has been in a TV series.
And that he has made a film that will be coming out soon; a film in which he has a big part.
‘I’m thinking about moving out here,’ he tells me, ‘to LA. But to be honest, I’m scared,’
‘Um,’ I say, ‘what have you got to be scared of. You’ve made a TV show, you’ve been in a big film. You’ve had a meeting at CBS. Maybe you’re nervous, rather than fully scared,’
Jonny laughs, and then gets serious and cocks his head to the side.
‘Maybe you’re right,’ he says, ‘I’m not used to having people question me. You’ve made me really think,’
Then he tells me the TV series has caused people to be interested in him, but interested for what, he is not too sure.
‘I’m not sure whether they’re interested in me for me or for me because I’m someone,’
I nod my head and tell him he’d better get used to it.
Then Jonny asks me – ‘Do you find people just want to be with you because of who you are?’
‘No, I don’t think so’ I say, frowning thoughtfully at him, thinking that he thinks I am still a someone.
‘I think if you just be an authentic human being, people will want to be with you anyway,’ I suggest to him.
Then, as he leans forward, rubs his goatee and smiles a huge smile, I look straight into his mouth and ponder how very similar this someone’s teeth are to the teeth of all the no ones I know.
It’s Saturday morning, about half past 10, and I’m walking past the bus stop that’s situated a few meters from the corner of Ventura Boulevard, when I say hello to a man to whom I had said hello just the day before.
The man, who is in a semi-lounging position on the black metal bus stop bench, has his gray hair long and slicked back, gray stubble on his face, is wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt, khaki shorts and has a shopping trolley off to his side that contains a small black wheeled suitcase, a large, full black bin liner and the skeleton of a lengthy wooden-handled umbrella.
‘Hello,’ I say, smiling to him as I pass.
‘Oh,’ he says, and holds up his finger as if he would like me to stop.
So I do.
‘We spoke yesterday, right?’ he says, and when I tell him yes, we did, he tells me that though I probably didn’t mean to, I caused him a problem in his thoughts.
So despite what I have done not being made clear to me, having caused unintended mischief, I apologise.
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,’
He shakes his head slowly, holds up his left index finger, waves it side to side, and tells me not to worry.
‘You weren’t aware of what you were doing, I’m sure it wasn’t intentional,’
Then he tells me there are cameras attached to the FedEx building across the street.
‘You know there are cameras attached all over the FedEx building, and that way they know everything that’s going on,’
Then he tells me it has something to do with what we are thinking.
I don’t know what to say to this, apart from – ‘Oh, is that right?’
Then, just as a very noisy bus pulls up, he begins to tell me a long story about how his people had bought him a convenience store.
‘I’m Jewish, and my people bought me a convenience store but there were too many people outside, all around the…,’
But I don’t hear the rest of the story because the bus engine is too loud and hundreds of cars are passing, beeping their horns and running red lights.
So I stand there watching the man’s mouth, nodding my head, trying yet failing to hear fully what he is saying.
But I am reluctant to interrupt him to tell him I cannot hear him, so I continue to nod my head as he talks on, until a small man, a man so small as to seem miniature, wheels past us in a wheelchair and I watch as he stops at a rubbish bin, puts his arm in, pulls out bottles and food containers, shakes them, opens them, and then drops them back in the bin.
I watch the man in the wheelchair wheel away down the street, and then I turn my attention back to the homeless man who, now that the bus is gone, I can hear is talking again about the cameras on the FedEx building.
About how they are looking into everything we are doing.
About how they are listening to everything we are saying.
Then a man with a long silver metal stick passes us, and I watch as he too stops at the rubbish bin, leans over and looks in, pokes around, takes out a plastic bottle, puts the bottle in a big black plastic bag he has draped over his left his shoulder, and walks off.
Then I turn back to the man whose words I have disturbed and he tells me this-
‘My name is Richard and I want to thank you for listening to me.’
And as I tell him my name, and that it was my pleasure to listen to him, he turns his head fully away from me.
So even if he has already dismissed me, under a splendid Los Angeles sun, I say goodbye to Richard, and walk off up Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
I’m on Ventura Boulevard, coming out of the Barnes and Noble that was once the Studio City Theatre, when I get talking to a guy who is from England.
He’d been behind me in the line inside the book shop where I’d bought a book called ’10 Things to do When Your Life Falls Apart’, and so, standing there in the street he tells me he has bought, amongst others, a book about the life of Jerry Lee Lewis.
‘He took his 13 year old wife to England,’ he tells me as we start walking along the street together, ’caused them to talk about it in Parliament,’
‘Sounds like a thing the English would do,’ I say.
We laugh and I ask where he’s from.
He says he’s from the London but has lived in LA for 14 years and I tell him I’m from Australia and lived in the UK for 14 years
He’s tall with slightly unkempt grey hair and he’s wearing shorts and a black tee shirt with the name of a place called the Baked Potato on the back of it.
He tells me he plays with a band and he stocks up on books for when he goes on tour.
‘What do you play?’ I ask him.
He tells me he plays drums.
‘Do you play anything?’ he asks me.
I tell him no.
‘I have tried many instruments,’ I say, ‘but I get to a certain level of skill and can’t manage to go any further,’
‘The trick is,’ he says as we stand at the crosswalk waiting for the lights to change, ‘is to play with someone better than you and learn,’
‘Maybe I should play with you then,’ I say and he laughs.
Then he tells me he plays at a place called the Baked Potato in a band called Jack Shit, but wont be back for a few months because he’s going on tour.
‘Go down there,’ he says, ‘tell them Pete sent you,’
Then I ask him who he’s going on tour with.
‘Elvis Costello,’ he tells me.
‘Oh, nice,’ I say and then I tell him ‘Shipbuilding’ is one of my favourite songs and that, during moods of melancholy, I used to play it on repeat,’
‘When we played it in Liverpool I cried,’ he tells me.
Then as the lights change we cross the crosswalk together and I say – ‘Ive forgotten your name,’
‘I’ve forgotten yours, too,’ he says, and then we retell each other our names and shake hands.
And as we walk he tells me the kinds of books he likes to read, and I tell him about one of my favourite books, Stasiland, a book of stories about various people who worked for and against the East German regime.
Then Pete begins to talk about Cuba.
‘There’s a young guy there who’s discovered a cure for lung cancer,’ he tells me.
‘Woah,’ I say, ‘I didn’t know that,’
He tells me a US company has purchased the discovery and then we talk about how the USA manage to get their hands on everything.
By this time we are walking along a side street and he says he’s going a different way to me now and we shake hands again.
‘Good luck in LA,’ he says to me.
And I tell him- ‘Good luck on tour,’
And then we wave and smile to each other and, because I’m feeling cheery from our interaction, instead of going home, I go to the Coffee Bean, order a decaf latte, sit at a table in the sun, and open up the cover of ’10 Things to do When Your Life Falls Apart’.
I’m at the Santa Fe train depot, San Diego, waiting in the bicycle line with my bicycle, to board the train to Los Angeles, when an older man, wearing a baseball cap, a pale blue shirt, shorts and trainers and holding on to a fancy looking dark blue bicycle says- ‘So, you’re with us.
‘Technically, I suppose yes,’ I say to him, and we both laugh.
‘I bet we’ll be last on to the train with our bikes,’ he says.
I tell him I don’t know, and then because we’re standing there and there’s a silence, and we have a common topic, we start talking about where we’ve been and where we are going with our bicycles.
‘We cycled from San Luis Obispo, the man tells me.
‘How far away is that?’ I ask him, knowing that it’s far, but not how far.
‘About 450 miles,’ he tells me.
But his cycling companion corrects him.
‘475 miles,’ says the cycling companion, whose bicycle is one of those low rider style, like a reclining beach chair with a wheel at each end.
‘Jesus,’ I say, ‘that’s a long way. Are you too tired to cycle back?’
‘My butt hurts,’ says the guy in the baseball cap, and with his left hand he reaches around to his bum and pretends to rub it.
‘I bet it does,’ I tell him, ‘and I look at his seat which looks like it would be as vicious as a plastic picnic knife on the backside and testicles.
‘Believe it or not,’ he says after I suggest he get a gel seat, ‘this is the most comfortable bike seat in the world. It’s a Brooks England,’
I tell him I don’t know what that means, but I’ll Google it, and the man goes on to tell me it’s the third seat he’s had and he’s worn all the others out and this seat takes 6 months to break in.
Then the 2 men start looking over my bicycle, and the cycling companion, who is very tall and has gray hair and round wire-rimmed glasses and is wearing a pale blue cycling jacket, and jeans, tells me my chain needs some oil.
‘A bit of oil to go with those cobwebs on your gears,’ he says, pointing to the back wheel.
We all laugh at this and I explain that my bicycle has been in storage for 4 months.
Then, diverting the conversation away from the shameful state of my bicycle, I say to the man in the baseball cap-
‘You look like a hard core cyclist and that bicycle looks really lightweight,’
He tells me yes and that all they have carried on this 475 mile trip is in their panniers-a change of clothes for eating dinner in and not much else.
‘And sore bum cream?’ I say.
He laughs and says yes.
‘Have you been cycling a long time?’ I ask him.
He tells me yes, he has, since he was very young.
‘I’m 75 now,’ he tells me.
And my mouth falls open and I frown.
‘Are you serious?’ I say, ‘you’re 75? You look about…I dunno, 54,’
Then he laughs and touches me on the shoulder and says he’s going to tell his wife.
‘I’ve been married 51 years,’ he says, ‘and I’m going home to tell her I look too young for her and that she doesn’t cut the mustard anymore,’
I laugh at this and then the conductor walks over to us.
‘Off you go with your bicycles.’ he says to us.
And so, despite the 75 year old cyclist with the sore bum predicting we’d be last, we, with our bicycles, are first to board the train to Los Angeles.
‘Hey,’ says Bruce, who has wooden Buddha beads around his neck and is wearing a pale blue Hawaiian style shirt, jeans and brown leather flip-flops, ‘it’s good do see you,’
‘Hey,’ I say back, ‘oh, it’s very good to see you, too,’
And then, because Bruce looks so happy, I tell him how happy he looks.
‘Bruce,’ I say, ‘you look so happy, you look happier than last week,’
‘I am happy,’ he tells me, ‘I’ve had a good week,’
Then, because last week when we had sat together for refreshments after the service, drinking green tea and eating rice and a Japanese salad, and Bruce had told me how much he works, I ask him some questions about his job.
‘How’s the job going?’ I say, ‘do you own the company?’
Bruce laughs and says no, he does not own the company, but he has worked there for 23 years and that he loves his job, which involves designing some kind of metal work.
‘I love my job,’ he says, ‘I love going to work, I love the work I do,’
I tell him that’s great.
‘Yeh,’ he says, ‘so many people complain about their jobs. I want to ask them, “Hey, if you were hiring someone to do your job, would you hire someone like you? Someone who moans and complains all the time?”‘
I start laughing and so does Bruce.
Then he tells me he loves the company he works for.
‘I’m good at my job,’ he says, ‘and I like helping my company prosper, because they have been very good to me and I have prospered,’
I tell Bruce that this is a great way to look at life and work, and then we get on to the subject of chanting.
‘I like how chanting feels,’ I tell Bruce, ‘like literally how it feels in your body,’
Bruce says he does too.
‘It’s like someone hit’s you with a big tuning fork,’ I say to Bruce while I pretend to hold a big tuning fork and hit him on the shoulder.
‘It’s exactly right,’ he says.
Then he asks me if I have a TV.
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘is your show on today?’
Bruce’s company is going to be featured on ‘How It’s Made’ and I want to watch it.
‘No,’ Bruce says, ‘but there’s a show called CBS Sunday Morning and it has really great things on it. Like, this morning there was a segment on blind baseball players who use a sort of sonic ball that makes sounds,’
‘I don’t generally watch TV,’ I tell him, ‘American TV frightens me and makes me anxious,’
‘Try this show,’ he says and smiles, ‘it will make you feel good. It’s full of…goodness, really,’
I tell Bruce that I’ll try to watch next Sunday and then he asks me how my trip to Los Angeles had been and I tell him that I had done some tattooing, and spent the evening in a strip club and I tell him about the train trip that goes partly along the ocean, and that at 7am the sun was coming up on one side of the train, over the bare hills, and that on the other side I could see, through the fog, the surfers out on the Pacific ocean, waiting for their waves.
‘Ah,’ says Bruce, ‘you know that’s the only other time I get some kind of peace in my head,’
And then he holds up his hand and starts waving it in front of his forehead.
‘It’s always going on up here,’ he says, ‘but not when surfing and not when chanting,’
And then we laugh.
And then we talk about the content of the service.
And then we talk about the priest.
And then we talk about new years eve celebration at the temple.
And then, because I am going out for lunch, I tell Bruce I have to get going.
But then we stand there in the Buddhist temple car park for a bit longer, me holding my bicycle, my helmet on my head, and Bruce swinging his car keys and smiling until even though I really want hug him, I just shake his hand and tell him that I liked his ideas on prosperity and that I hope I would see him next week.
‘I hope I see you next week,’ I say to Bruce.
‘Yeh,’ says Bruce as I get on my bicycle and get ready to cycle off, ‘I hope I see you next week, too.'
‘It frikkin’ sucks,’ he says, in a southern accent of some sort, ‘it was wasting my breath,’
The he goes quiet.
Then a moment later he starts saying how ‘fucked’ something feels.
‘Yeh, man,’ he says, ‘it just feels so fucked,’
Then he goes quiet again.
Then he starts talking about something organic.
‘Yeh, so I pick it up,’ he says, ‘and the guy goes, like, yeh, it’s organic. But I’m looking on the back of it and I can’t see it so I’m like, what the fuck ever,’
Then he goes quiet again.
Then he starts talking about being pissed off about things.
‘I’m pissed off,’ he says, ‘things have gotten kind of screwed up. All the notes were, ..were…were…’
Then he goes quiet again for a few moments.
Then he starts talking again.
‘Anyway..,’ he says.
And then he goes quiet again.
The he starts speaking again.
‘Yeh, it’s not,..’ he says.
Then there’s quiet.
Then he starts again.
‘There are three levels of presentation,’ he says, ‘and it’s like…that’s…that’s…’
And then he stops talking.
The he starts talking.
‘It’s not open,’ it’s like…it’s, um…’
Then there’s another silence.
Then he starts talking about someone called Randy.
‘Randy, he’s like, Randy’s almost, like…he’s, uh…’
Then there’s silence for a few moments.
Then he laughs very loudly and says, ‘I’m watching the waves break,’
Then he shouts ‘huh?’
And then he laughs again and shouts- ‘No, I’m watching the waves break. I’m on a train and I’m watching the waves break.’