L.A. Heat, Martin Amis and Rickie Lee Jones

L.A. turned into a frypan this week, which is different from New York’s heat — my old collaborator Heather Woodbury wrote about this in TALE OF 2CITIES — she (or her character Miriam) called it “flattening” – “no melting pot this, but a FRYPAN!”

Where was I? See? I lose my train of thought in this heat. I keep driving back home each day in my unair-conditioned car, creeping along Sunset through the last bits of still-ungentrified Hollywood. I pass Bronson and Rickie Lee Jones fills my head, a song from her last album:

“She’s living down on Bronson
She never blinks her eyes
The family in Wisconsin
Look like they’re hypnotized
I get a strange sensation
When I lay down in my bed
In fact, if you could drop me on the corner
Here instead”

It’s that last line that kills me. If it weren’t so hot, I could go on about all the dimensions it opens up in my head, everything it suggests, whole worlds of meaning and human experiences – except I AM so hot, and so I can’t.

And then as I creep toward Vine, the gentrification takes hold, but the clubs are still waiting for night and people to throw their spare cash at them, as if there really IS such a thing as spare cash anymore. Street people speckle the crowds in the cross-walks. I look for a wheelchair and don’t find one.

But that’s because the wheelchair in my head is still a few miles away from here, and may not even be there anymore. Some weeks back, I stayed up late to finish Martin Amis’ book HOUSE OF MEETINGS, which concerned a few survivors of the Russian gulag, and then I headed out to a 7-11. It was in the Russian section of West Hollywood, and Mercedes and Porsches kept pulling in, spilling out entrepreneurial Russians on a mission. A maybe-old (hard to say) Russian man sat in a wheelchair on the asphalt. He reeked of crazy, and idly pushed his wheelchair along with his feet. He dovetailed in my mind with the character in the book, who never recovered from what was done to him. Not everyone can survive trauma. I’m not even sure that most really do. I went home and wrote a song: WHEELCHAIR IN THE 7-11 PARKING LOT

I hum that song as I creep from Vine to Highland thinking I can almost smell the preparations for club-time. There is this verse:

“And all of this freedom
is all beside the point
when the limbs
in your mind
bend on broken joints”

Traffic opens up suddenly and I gun through the intersection at Highland and, miraculously, on to the open road at La Brea. The breeze feels good, even if it is hot. It lets me turn my mind to the song I’m writing now, inspired this time by the Mary Gaitskill book, VERONICA. But I won’t write here about that until it’s done.

The heat is supposed to break tomorrow.

© Dudley Saunders