DEALING IN LA
My initial plan was for this move to be permanent. Erika and I envisioned ourselves getting jobs on a movie set. Then, while working on movies, one of us was sure to get discovered and our celebrity after that was pretty much inevitable. We had many exciting discussions on how easily all this would transpire once I got there. “That’s how Johnny Depp was discovered!” we sang. But in reality 10 days into this trip and I was already running out of cash. Going to shows, and food, and souvenirs, my inability to manage money, and Iggy Pop merch, that dream I once dreamt wasn’t coming true. I was down to just $60 and doing absolutely nothing towards getting a job despite the opportunities I was being offered nightly on my walks to Denny’s. It became obvious this trip was not going to be just one way.
I also couldn’t get enough time with Erika, when it’s just us hanging out and thinkin’ up stuff to do. There was always some wild friend demanding attention, or someone bleeding on the doorstep. And Mark needed her attention too. It was more than she could manage, I’m sure.
Then news got to me that Iggy was playing a show next month. The 9th of July at Scream. Tiina’s boyfriend Luey said he was friends with Iggy’s son and would have no problem getting us all on the guest list. Hell, we’d probably even get to go backstage and meet him. I mean, it’s Iggy Pop’s son! All I had to do was just think of a way to survive long enough to make this show. After that I would start planning my return home.
And again, with his streetwise, it was Mark who had a suggestion on what to do. He said it’d be easy for him to turn my $60 into $600, and we all knew what he was talking about. Erika was completely opposed and didn’t want any part of this. There was an argument. But I was confident in Mark’s plan. Our plan! So I told her, “I take full responsibility if something goes wrong. Cross my heart.”
It would be just Mark and me. So I cashed my last 3 traveler’s checks and gave it to Mark. I really wanted to see Iggy Pop.
Cherokee Ave was the street to buy & sell drugs. Right near there was a little coffeeshop. All I had to do was spend the day there drawing with my bag filled with these individually wrapped packets of weed he’d divided up. There were A LOT of these packets. Mark stuffed my bag. So stuffed it was bulging! He laughed telling me, “No one in a million years will suspect you’re sitting in here with this.”
I didn’t spike my hair or punk myself out. I wanted to look like a noob. And for the record, it wasn’t an act. I did no drinking or drugs the whole time there. I didn’t do them anywhere in my life. Not even so much as smokin a joint with Mark. It’s the one thing I promised myself about that trip. No drugs!
I sat against the wall in the back corner across from the restroom. Hardly anyone there. I ordered a club sandwich (that’s all I ever ordered in a place like this) and nursed a Coke while I drew pictures of punk things all day.
I had a whole head-trip goin’ on.
– Livin’ a punk lifestyle. Undercover. In this coffeshop. With my club sandwich.
Mark told me, “Be sure to keep the strap of the bag wrapped around your ankle, and if you go to the bathroom take it with you” because that’s just what you should always do with your bag in the city. Good advice. I’ve been doing it ever since.
So, he would pop in from time to time to use their restroom, then sit down and pretend to talk to me for a minute. He’d put his hand on the table, out of view from anyone else, with his fingers showing me 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.
I was to then go into my bag, put that many packets in a napkin and set it on the table in front of me, while he’d be sipping my goddamn Cokacola every-time!
Then he’d take the weed-napkin with him, and after awhile return with a cash-napkin, and however many more fingers. We did this all afternoon. From 11 in the morning to 7:00 at night. A full 8 hour day, back and forth, with lots of time to detail my drawings in between.
Credit where credit’s due, Mark’s plan worked perfectly. Before long my bag was stuffed with bills instead of weed. $600 worth of dirty, wrinkled, wadded up clumps of cash. The whole plan went without a hitch. Dinner was on me. That’s all the payment he required. He wanted me to hang around too.
This meant I was also going to get to see Iggy after all! So the next day I went out to the Army Surplus on Hollywood Blvd and bought a brand new field jacket! Then I called my folks who bought me a plane ticket so I could come home right after the Iggy Pop concert on the 9th. Just two more weeks in LA.
A few days after that I’m at the apartment and Mark calls. He tells me, “Bob. There’s a bag in the closet. I need you to put it in your jacket and bring it over to me at the 7/11. Don’t look in it. Just put it in your jacket and come to 7/11. Ok?”
The way he said it made it sound so simple. And I couldn’t deny what he just did for me. So I found the bag, didn’t look in it, put it in my coat pocket and walked out the front door. As I headed down the sidewalk these two men in suits were there, saw me and started walking towards me. Me with my leather coat and ripped jeans, and the bag. They came right up to me, showed me their badges and asked if I could let them in that building I’d just exited. I was like, “Yeah, sure.” And I walked them back to our building, unlocked the door with my key and let them in. As I turned to leave I saw them go upstairs, but we lived downstairs. When I got to 7/11 Mark came out all panicked, “Did you see two guys in suits out front of our building?”
After I told him what happened he sighed with relief and laughed, “I thought they looked like cops! That’s why I called you. To get this out of Erika’s apartment!”
Get this. The package I had in my jacket was weed.
A chill went up my spine when I realized how close this all came to disaster. And the cops I let in our building? No idea what happened with them either.
When Erika found out about all of this, Mark was out. That was the last I saw of him ever again.
Erika, Tiina and I went on my birthday to see Roger Rabbit at the Cinerama Dome. I wrote a whole page in my diary about it being so much better than Beetlejuice and how much fun I had hanging out with them. Went to Ed Debevic’s for burgers and shakes and Tiina introduced me to The Sugarcubes “Birthday” declaring it my song that I have to listen to every 6/24. God, I loved Tiina too. Hanging with them both was the highlight of the trip.
Any time I had with Erika I was content. The only thing I really wanted was more, but it seemed impossible to hold on to her.
I never got to that show. Luey could never track down Iggy’s son (if he knew him at all), and tickets sold out quick. He told us he’d left a message on the guy’s machine to put us all on the guest list. We even drove to Scream that night to see if our names were there, or if there was any other way of getting in. Didn’t work.
Best part though was afterwards we found out Mark got in to see that show. He just talked his way in there somehow.
The next day Erika, Tiina & Steve drove me to the airport.
Diary entry July 11, Monday 5:22AM 1988 – Tonight I leave LA. Good riddance! I’ll miss a lot of people, Erika of course, and Tiina and more, but then there are some who I won’t miss at all. I’ll be happy to get back. No one will be home and I’ll have some privacy at least. 🙂 I might move in with my brother after I get back and I get settled. I missed Iggy, but I’m telling everyone I saw him. It will save a lot of headaches. A lot has happened and I’ll never forget it. What an experience! And I made it through alive!
I told everybody I went to that show. I’ve maintained that lie until just now. I apologize. At the time it felt like such a failure on my part. I’ve gotten to see him since, so don’t feel bad for me. Sorry I lied.
When I was reading my diary for this I was stunned to figure out I’d been there for under a month. June 13 – July 11. It felt like months! I’d told so many people I was there for a couple months. And the more I told it, the longer I thought it must have been. Just over 3 weeks. Unbelievable.
This trip formed me. Patterns I’ve had my whole life were beginning then. Like running from one city to a bigger city. Patterns in my love life for sure. And going to coffee shops to draw, and to write, and to do other stuff. My love for that started there. Hell, I wrote this whole goddamn story in a coffee shop.
Immediately upon returning my folks put me on a more responsible path. I was in an art school classroom the following Monday. I’d already missed a week and had to play catchup. And I swear to you all, I have never sold drugs since. That scared me enough to start another pattern I never broke. So I guess that’s the lesson I actually learned from all this. There’s your moral.
Don’t sell drugs.
Mark and Erika got married, had a baby boy, but Mark couldn’t stay out of jail. He started really going downhill after she filed for divorce in ’94. Last she heard he’s in prison, set to be released in 2032. Probably drugs, but Erika’s not sure and it’s really just too sad for her to think about.
Tiina, Steve and everyone else I met there just completely disappeared off my radar after that.
I met up with Erika and her son during my 30th High School class reunion. Erika and I hadn’t seen each other in decades. We talked about everything. All that led up to Hollywood, and why her life fell into such chaos back then. This was also the first time I ever told her about the crush I had on her.
She explained, “I was lost. Every day seemed both exciting and dangerous. I was running away from a broken family where I felt unloved, “riding the ragged edge of disaster” in a dream-like state. I was safe with Mark, in those moments.
He was charismatic, carefree, fearless and a great storyteller. He made even the most mundane moment an adventure. Though cheerful and friendly by nature, he was stone serious when trouble started.
Bob was a calm oasis in the storm that was my life. A thread of the familiar from my childhood to adolescence. Creative, innocent, curious, and he was always there with a solid core of unwavering kindness. Together we were weird and silly, no pressure to be something other than ourselves.”
Their son Ralphy turned out to be a great kid. He’s gotten the best parts of both Erika & Mark. And during that reunion, after listening to her and me go over this whole adventure of ours over brunch, he was shocked to learn this was the first time we’d ever discussed any of it. 30 years later. Then he asked if it’d be okay if he called me Uncle Bob.
Bands I lied and said I saw in Hollywood ’88 but actually didn’t:
• Iggy Pop
• Ramones (never saw)
• Exploited (never saw)
• Revolting Cocks (never saw)
Bands I really did see in Hollywood ’88:
• The Vandals (rocked)
• 45 Grave (rocked)