guyster tat2

You'd be 45 today and more handsome than ever.

“C’mon. Sit down. I want you to hear something!” He mumbled the last part, but with ceremony, Billy turned the black leather desk chair around so I could face him at his DJ rack.

“What song?” I was already annoyed by the interruption of my online porn surfing, and just thought he'd play some house music that was already our annoying soundtrack.

Our song.”

I crossed my arms. He slipped a cassette into the deck, pressed PLAY, turning to watch me. It was one of those songs I'd have changed the moment it started on the radio, some diva purse music. I started to say some—

“No! Listen.”

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon


I harrumphed and squirmed sitting there.

“Stop it, Terry. God! This is about us.”

I listened. The song was pretty, I guess, but I watched Billy mouth the words and soon he was singing along, his eyes watching me, but by the end of the tune, he was belting it out, hamming it up, a big finish on its way.

“Just when I thought our chance had passed,” he warbled at full volume, “You went and saved the best for la-a-a-a-st.”

He beamed when it was done. Even did a little bow.

“That’s very nice.”

“It’s true, you know. We made it through. You know.” His voice was soft, a little disappointed. He thought I thought it was stupid and he felt embarrassed, or at least that's what his expression told me. And in that moment, I knew what he meant and why the song held such weight for him, and for me.

I walked the few steps over to him, grabbed him tight around his waist pressing our bodies tightly together, and I kissed him lightly.

“I know, baby. You saved the best for last.”




.
not again

Not even a sad elephant can bring the rain

The video was brief and shaky, a cell phone taking it with the unsteady hand of excitement. The elephant was butting its head against a towering palm in the median strip of a busy tànon yài . He––or she, it was hard to tell from the angle of the video––had just stomped the head of his trainer and escaped the circus; years of abuse and isolation let loose on the evening news.
*
Work has been as unsteady as ever, and while the conclusion is in sight, I’m fatigued from auditioning for a job I’ve had for four years. I put out feelers to some key agent friends, people who know what’s going on in the job market, and one set me up for an interview with the masters who bring Americans Wife Swap and The Two Coreys. I suck in an interview and this was no exception. After the president of the company did a hard sale for me on their future, I told him I wasn’t really looking for a new gig and thanked him for his time. Like the needy bumbling asshole I am, though, I hedged and on my way out, I said how much I enjoyed watching the Coreys. Too bad that it hadn’t aired yet.
*
All New Mega-Doppler 7000, our local ABC affiliate’s weather-predictor showed that the next seven days will be 83 with a low of 66, every single day. Each panel on the 7-day forecast showed a yellow sun with a wispy little cloud nudging its lower left. I’ve been looking for that cloud, but it has yet to appear.
*
On the flight back to Los Angeles from Montreal, I scored an aisle bulkhead seat. That would’ve been a primo seat had it not been for the guy to my right sneezing and snotting for five hours, or the Indian woman who decided that crouching next to me, using my armrest, and yammering to her teenaged daughter in a loud, clipped voice was acceptable airplane behavior. I had to tell her to go sit in her own seat, which earned me a dirty look, yet she continued her conversation in a stage whisper. When I involved the flight attendant and the woman was forced to go back to her place, her husband, who was sitting directly behind me, spent the next three hours kicking the back of my chair.
*
The news anchor said that the elephant had been wrangled and returned to the circus. Even for the most noble of animals, sometimes there’s just no escape.
ledbetter tat

I stood where O.J. stood

The moment I mentioned O.J., the owner of the store who was a well-groomed man with snow white hair and a complicated goatee gave me a sidelong glance that went all the way out the door and around the corner. I went to Ross Cutlery, the oldest knife shop in downtown Los Angeles, to get a new set of clippers, the kind professional barbers use before they slap on that cool sting of Clubman aftershave.

“There’s not a day that goes by when somebody doesn’t ask me about O.J.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to be your one today.”

“That’s okay.” He started to tell the story, polished from daily use, and there was no stopping him even if I wanted to. Two weeks before O.J. butchered his wife and an innocent young man, he came into Ross and bought a large knife with a bone handle. “Just like this one,” he said, pointing to a blade on the bottom of the showcase. He told me that the police took it, sealed into an envelope, and it never came out at trial.

“Fuhrman said that it was the Swiss army knife that he got as a gift,” I added from my vast and useless knowledge of the trial. “The police photos showed the empty Swiss army box in the bathroom, but they never found the knife. Fuhrman said he used the fish-scaling blade.”

“And he was right. That knife down there never could’ve been the weapon. They showed me the autopsy photos and I knew it wasn’t my knife. The Swiss knife, now, that could cut through steel.”

I wondered how many people mentioned to him that he was the first potential prosecution witness to sell their story to the National Enquirer, thus making any testimony he might’ve given invalid, and that’s why the knife was never introduced at the trial.

I know I didn’t touch that one with a ten-foot sword.

.
Home

A hot dry blue dream slips away

The wicker loveseat that I bought on a whim at Home Depot lends the perfect view of the neighborhood––tucked to the side by the leaded glass that breaks the wind from the north, as if we’d be lucky enough to have a breeze to come along and cut through this endless dry heat. The two guys who grew up in the house next door have their girlfriends over and the smell of lighter fluid is slowly wafting this way, making me hungry or lonely, or both.

There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for nearly three weeks, a giant blue dome encasing the city in cheer and drought. The weatherman said last night that this is the driest year in the hundred and thirty years they’ve kept records of such things with a little over three inches of rain in the past twelve months. The whole city is starting to smell like dried dog pee. Or maybe it’s just my front yard.

Stephen is splayed out on the porch in front of me and Eddie found a place in the shade under the jacaranda, now naked without its pretty purple flutes. I like sitting out here, lately a when I crawl home from what’s been a very stressful few months of work and want to relax. People pass on the sidewalk, some see me, others I can spy unnoticed.

Our home in Venice is off the market, bought by a couple who are getting married at the end of August, or so says their wedding website. She’s a realtor at Sotheby’s and he’s ungoogleable. The house had been empty for so long I got used to it, used to seeing it for sale on MLS for months and months, in play, and when I saw it go into escrow sixty days ago, I could only hope that the deal would fall apart and the house would stay still waiting for my humble bid that would’ve been accepted.

I drove by it today and saw they put up a fence moderne that’s at odds with the quaint little cottage up front. They’re screwing with the exterior, too, adding sheet metal to the shingles to match the back loft. What this happy couple doesn’t seem to appreciate is that the contrast between the original beach house and the towering architectural structure above the garage is what made the property unique.

That and a thousand other things.

When I hear the slightest rustle of leaves, I let my eyes take flight up to my left to see the little wooden anchor that serves to stir the wind chimes into action. It sways a little, threatening to make contact with the metal tubes, teasing me with a possible song, but the wind is never quite enough.

The girls next door just squealed out some laughter, the lighter fluid is starting to smell like cooked beef, and I’m going to just sit here and wait for that breeze to come along and make me some music.


.
bridge

Memorial Day for Mario

I didn’t know Mario, didn’t even know his name. The only thing I knew was that on Memorial Day, I saw a crowd of people standing on the corner of the 7-11 where I stop every morning for my Super Big Gulp. Some had their fingers jammed in the air pointing at something or someone, and then I heard sirens behind me coming up fast. I pulled over just long enough to see a shirtless man lying on the ground, his muscular back covered in a tattooed giant cross of Christ, and as I drew nearer, I saw the sidewalk covered in blood pouring from his head, too much blood. The man wasn’t moving, just the cluster of people who stood and stared, and pointed.

For the past week, there’s been a shoebox sitting right in the middle of the 7-11’s wide glass-top counter that houses twenty kinds of scratcher tickets, but this week the shoebox covers the display. The box is wrapped carefully in paper that suggests mother of pearl with a hand-written plea for help, words of love, and the young man’s name. Mario. Saran Wrap seals the box except for the money slot that cuts into its top. An enlarged photo that’d been taped to the back of the wrapped bank sways every time the front door opens; it’s a snapshot of Mario, handsome and slightly bemused. He couldn’t be more than twenty years old. The box asks for donations to Mario’s family, to help them cover the funeral costs, or as the box reads, “Please help so we can buried our son.”

When I first saw the box, I emptied my wallet of all its cash, all eight dollars of it. I asked the guy who checks me out every day if Mario was the man I saw shot. He nodded without looking at me.

Armed with a twenty the next day, I slipped it in. Yesterday was another twenty, and today being payday, I put in thirty. I’m not bragging; I don’t view my contributions with anything more than the understanding of the horror when something so unexpected happens and the ugly practicality of paying for it.

I look at Mario’s photo every day, and I can’t seem to shake the first time I saw him, lifeless and alone, all alone, except for the strangers that surrounded him.

.
bridge

John Boskovich

Scott said that this guy knew me, that he was a crewmember on Without You, I’m Nothing. Tom’s name didn’t sound familiar, but it’s been eighteen years since I produced that film. Who remembers that far back? Scott wanted me to be his wingman, to blunt a blind date that his friend Deb set up for him with Tom.

As soon as I saw him, though, I recognized Tom’s face––thick dark hair, eyes the color of a cobalt ashtray. Deb was there, too, and we awkwardly shuffled around the table at the Farmers Market in a game of musical chairs until the silent music stopped and we sat. I ended up directly across from Tom, not at all what Scott had planned.

Two minutes into the small talk, he said, “You know John died, right?”

First thought: No. What?
Second thought: John was there when Billy and I met for the first time.

“What happened?”

“Overdose.” I heard it. I slumped. “Yeah, he was doing all kinds of shit like crystal for about ten years. His dad found him in his apartment last September.”

I just sat there doing the emotional math. John and I had a complicated relationship, each vying for Sandra’s attention, approval. I didn’t like him. He always won. He was a trust fund baby, spoiled and talented.

His dad found him. His poor dad. Poor John.

I kept staring at the table, lining up the flatware this way and that while I tried not to cry. I didn’t want to look at Tom. Scott must’ve noticed something, asked me what was wrong. Tom took up the slack when I didn’t answer--told Scott and the rest of the table.

John was a visual artist before he met Sandra, his canvases a celebration of narcissism. He’d take sofa-sized sea and landscapes, and stencil his phone number in school-bus yellow across them. One of my favorite pieces was a detailed architect’s rendering of his condo with lines drawn from the couch to his bong and from his couch to his anti-depressants.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Shipwreck, John Boskovich, 1989



Shipwreck detail, John Boskovich, 1989


I wrote a long piece on the rhapsody of ruin that comes with crystal, but it’s really this simple: If you’re doing it, please seek some help, not only for you, but for those who love you. Don’t try to convince me or anyone else that you’re happy doing it. That’s a lie and you know it.

If you know someone who is trapped by it, be patient and do your best to guide them toward help. It’s fucked up tough, I know. But once the claws are in, it’s mighty hard to escape, and your love and compassion will go a long way toward saving your’s friend’s life.

This is a good starting point.

.
dinner

A daddy and a comic out of control, and I just sit there watching.

The first thing out of Jamie Spears’s mouth was, “I’m an alcoholic.” He gave a throaty Bubba chuckle to punctuate it before saying, “I’ve got nothin’ to hide.” I kept waiting for him to mention that he was “recovering,” yet that didn’t happen. He came in to pitch a show with his employer, Phil Maloof, the youngest of the dynasty and by all accounts, the Fredo of the bunch--a spoiled brat slumped in his chair with the look of a child who just got his toy taken from him.

I sat there looking at the red-faced hillbilly whose daughter has become a public nuisance, whose grandchildren have all but been abandoned, and here he is talking about how this petulant little shit of a fuck that he works for likes his fried chicken and wouldn’t that make for a great series.

No. It wouldn’t, Jamie, and please pick your daughter up from rehab, buy her a pretty wig, and act like a fucking parent.

That was the worst pitch in the past few weeks. The best one was Joaquin coming in with his producing partner with a breathtaking series that spotlighted humanity’s bravest and most extraordinary people. At the end of the meeting, he hugged me. I stood stock still afraid to hug back, afraid that I’d never let go, and security would need to be called.
* * * *
When I looked out the front bedroom window, I saw Scott outside of the gate flapping his arms in a movement so rapid that they suggested a desire for flight. I ran downstairs to find out what was wrong.

“I can’t find my fucking keys! How could I fucking drive here and not have the fucking car keys?” He had that look of defeat and exasperation I’d seen from him a thousand times before, and I followed him to his car that had the doors already wide open like wings.

I bent down to reach under the seat, over the dash, behind the passenger seat, in the glove compartment, anyplace that could accidentally hide keys. I stood up and shrugged. He started hollering again, his hands waving around in an angry mime. That’s when I saw them.

‘They’re in your hand.”

He looked at the dangling car key as if it were burning his hand, and the one to the house that I’d given him, too, and his shoulders slumped. He protested that it had to have been some valet parker’s fault, but all I saw was Scott with his keys gripped in his hand.

And that’s what it’s like living with Scott.

He left on Thursday after staying with me for three weeks as he worked out a stand-up set from scratch prepping for a headline gig in New York. We didn’t fight, much, and he’ll move to Los Angeles into my guesthouse next month. My current tenant gave his notice at just the right time to have Scott slide in with his cat, Uday, in tow.

My boys are going to have to change their bad attitude about cats. I think one good swipe should do it.
ledbetter tat

Who let the dogs out?

I really need to learn how to say “Have you seen a black dog?” in Spanish.

For the second time in a month, someone opened my front gate and let my dogs out onto the street. For kicks. I’d taken to padlocking the damned thing at night, but on Monday night, I forgot.

I saw the gate ajar from upstairs while I dressed for work yesterday. I’d only pulled on my boxer briefs and a pair of thin navy dress socks when I ran down the stairs three at a time and raced through the neighborhood screaming “Eddie! Stephen!”

Maybe it was the outfit that attracted so many stares, although once I went back home and gussied up in my suit, I felt even more out of place. Where I live, I think the underwear and socks combo is more common streetwear than a suit.

I found Eddie right away. His tail shot up and he was all smiles while I wagged my finger at him. I picked him up, cradled him home, all the way cooing “Bad doggie,” in his over-sized pointy ear.

Then I went on the hunt for Stephen. He’s not the brightest guy in the world, a four-legged Jeff Gillooly. After over a year, it’s still a new experience for him when he arrives at our gate.

First I ran around the sidewalks then drove hollering out his name from the open windows while Eddie kept good watch from the back. This went on for three hours. I made some new friends with the neighbors along the way, even if we didn't speak the same language.

I gave up, drove to my office, my lip on the verge of quivering. About an hour later, one of my neighbors called to say she had Stephen in her front yard. Her name was Maria, a stout woman with a kind smile and a limited grasp of English.

I dashed back home, saw him roped around her fencepost, and I scrambled out of the car. I thought I pressed the Up switch to unlock the back, but as soon as I slammed the door, I realized I locked the car while it was running, the keys safely in the ignition.

I called AAA and waited.

I asked Maria what she liked. Flowers? Candy?

“No, no, no. I like seeing the look on your face when you see him.” She gestured to Stephen. I wanted to hug her, which seemed wholly inappropriate with her teenaged son standing nearby.

I’ll get her some flowers this weekend. Thank you, Maria, for putting Stephen’s gangly legs and stupid smile safely in my sights.
smile

Lasting images

The entire video only has about thirty-eight minutes of footage of Billy, most of it taken during our trip to see the Rose Parade floats the day after New Years.

The scenes here at the end of the tape are remarkable only in how completely ordinary they are––me pestering Billy while he reads the paper, the two of us fawning over Bob who's recovering from a pulled tooth, Billy on the couch with Bob, the two of them hugging on the top landing of the back house, Mickey telling Billy about a mouse under our sink, and the final shot of Billy saying, "See you soon."

All of this video here was taken during our last week; the last scene was shot on the day before .


guyster

Five minutes five years ago

It was fifteen past nine in the morning on Martin Luther King Day when I trudged up the stairs to the back house, slightly pissed off and wondering.

Goddammit he locked the door again! I pounded my fist against the door. Nothing. Shit! But something somewhere started to attack my mind. Why else would I grab that discarded rickety wooden ladder that was propped up against the side wall, and set it against the balcony to climb up to the French doors on the other side of the back house?

The ladder was shaky on the uneven ground. I made it up there, barely, and saw him lying on the couch naked, uncovered. It was too chilly out for that.

How could he’ve fallen asleep like that? Wait. Oh, God, no!

I shoved the doors open with my shoulder pushing the couch away just enough for me to crawl through and I tumbled on top of him.

The screams started and didn’t stop. I shook him. He was so cold and as wooden as that ladder. I screamed his name over and over and over, and I hugged him. His name over and over and over until I made my way to the phone.

I dialed 911, ran back to Billy, the cord pulling the phone onto the floor with me. A woman answered.

“Billy’s dead,” I think I said. I’m not sure. I couldn’t get words out. I couldn’t breathe. I remember her telling me to calm down. I couldn’t. Billy. I know I told her that he was my lover in response to something she asked. I remember thinking that it must’ve sounded ridiculous to her.

”Lover.”

A man was suddenly yelling at me on the phone, telling me to listen to him, ”Listen!”, that I should try CPR.

“It’s too late!” My voice was ragged, terrified, knowing.

I gave them the address. I know I did that. I hung up. Ran back to Billy. Held him. He moved in a single motion. Frozen. “Oh, God, no. Billy. Billy. Billy.”

I ran to the door. Unlocked it. Wild-eyed. Screaming all the way down the stairs. Opened the front door of the main house then ran back to Billy. It can’t be. No! Billy!

Our dog Bob followed me upstairs and jumped onto his daddy’s legs. They didn’t accommodate him like they always did. Bob was on top of them.

I looked around, found Billy’s pants lying on the floor, threw them over his privates. Oh, no. They can’t see that. On the coffee table was a porn video cover. The TV screen was on, but blank.

It couldn’t’ have been more a few minutes before the EMT barged in, saw me wrapped around him, pulled me off, and started yelling, ”Get the fucking dog out of here!”

I hustled Bob downstairs. Our neighbor Stephanie had made her way over. She was crying. She took Bob into the living room. I ran back upstairs, saw them hovered around Billy. I guess I was still screaming nonsense. They yelled at me to leave. I did.

That was the last time I saw Billy like that. I’d see him eight days later dressed in his favorite white corduroy shirt covered with tiny navy blue stars and his latest favorite pair of jeans. I know he was wearing his favorite Docs cause I picked those out, too.

And that was the first and last time I've ever called 911.