Conversations with Los Angelenos are always interesting
She started right into what had been on her mind the last few days, how it was affecting her normal party-all-night, sleep-all-day lifestyle, how growing up was, in her words:
Man, life's crimping my style hardcore right now... I think I'm turning into a fucking reclusive hermit... like you, ya know?
On the West Coast, in the all-night diner in West Hollywood from where she was calling, it was only 10:30 on a Friday evening. Traffic on La Cienega Boulevard was somehow too much too bare for the L.A. native. She couldn't make it all the way back down to the Sunset Strip for a night of clubbing after dropping her Girls Night Out dinner companions off at their respective homes.
Instead, some unseen force pulled her into her favorite hang-out, a place she used to dine at regularly when she didn't have much money, couldn't sleep, needed a comforting place to people-watch and read the free alternative weeklies and trade publications they always have in bins in the lobbies of those sorts of places.
Here, in Ohio, it was just after one in the morning when she first texted her usual "RU Bzy?" queue, the one she uses when she's looking to reach out and touch somebody. She uses the same message, all the time. I'd just gotten in from a nice quiet night out, contemplating life over a few beers at the local watering hole here in Oxford.
Bored out of my skull, well, I decided to return her call. Stupid me - I forgot how tired I was, forgot that it was still early on the West Coast, forgot that these sorts of conversations tend to go on for hours.
"I just don't feel like doing shit. Don't feel like dealing with fucking creepy guys or, ugh, the Lakers fans, or snotty bitches."
"Chica, everybody feels like that at times."
"But I feel that way a lot. It's fucking Allen Ginsberg's fault, I think."
"Uh...s'okay. Allen Ginsberg? As in the dead Beat poet?"
"YEAH! THAT FUCKER! You ever read his shit?"
* * * *
A pause, the sound of a woman who frequently makes those Name 10 Hottest Models You'd Bang lists of frat boys and Moose Lodge poker nights smacking her lips around a breakfast sausage link, and, finally, an answer.
Bear with me. She was a bit tipsy, loaded up on Red Bull and coffee.
"You know he wrote this poem about, like, running into Walt Whitman in a grocery store. It was in "Howl," ya know...
"...Dude, so I saw a homeless guy in Santa Monica last week who looked just like that, so asked something like 'Where are you going, Walt Whitman?'...
"You know, from the Ginsberg poem, right? Anyway...the old dude gave me this, like, stuffed frog from his backpack... he said he, like, met Ginsberg once and, like, said Oh Captain, My Captain ...
"...And then he, like, ran away... I mean, that's not normal, right? I mean that's weird, right? I mean, it was a joke, sorta, and..."
I put the conversation on speaker, sat it down on the bed to undress. I forgot, momentarily, that I was actually in the midst of a conversation - I actually removed my contacts, stripped, brushed my teeth, all while she was telling her story.
I know. Very rude.
I apologized profusely and pledged to my late-night electronic cohort a free shot to the ol' nutsack next time we meet in person.
* * * *
"So, okay, lemme get this straight... Allen Ginsberg somehow made you a hermit?"
"No. Walt Whitman. But not like the pictures you see. EXACTLY like in Ginsberg's poem. And that homeless guy."
"...S'oookay. So, you've been reading a lot of Ginsberg, ran into a guy who looked like how Ginsberg described another old dude - like Walt Whitman - in grocery store, and YOUR guy gave you a stuffed frog--"
A burst of excitement, a girlsqueak.
"Man, do you believe in curses and shit? I think that crazy homeless guy put, I dunno, a spell on me or something. Is that, well..."
"Um, yeah. Chica...now that's crazy."
I suddenly felt very sorry for eavesdroppers on her side of the conversation, those poor, helpless bastards in that West Hollywood diner, with only bits and pieces of a conversation involving two American poets and a plush toy.
"YES! Dude, I keep having, like, dreams with, like, Jesus, this crazy hobo in them. I'm reading too much - is that weird? Ohmygod, I'm going crazy, right?"
How does one respond to such questions? Does one even attempt an answer? In the wee hours of the morning, half-asleep?
* * * *
From there, the conversation went from only slightly insane to downright absurd.
Dream symbolism, food interactions, even the existential nature of homelessness, Magical Hobo and Phantom Traveler tall tales, time travel, even hauntings and demonic possession.
Maybe Allen Ginsberg was an alien, a creator of a Whitman clone, a madman? Was Walt Whitman?
Or maybe her amphibian-wielding Santa Monica vagrant really was Whitman caught in some time vortex, appearing to Ginsberg back in that supermarket decades ago and now, to her? Maybe Ginsberg was an evil wizard, had trapped Whitman in a poem through some trippy peyote-filled magic spell?
Was the stuffed frog she still had in her over-sized diva purse really a frog? A metaphor? Alien technology, merely stamped with a beer company logo and Made in China label as a form of camouflage?
Was Space/Time Walt Whitman's alien gift somehow bleeding its Beatnik neutrinos into her MAC lip gloss?
Like I said.
From downright batshit insane to downright fucking absurd in under five fucking minutes.
Amazing the places the human mind wanders sometimes. Places where, thankfully, our very real, tangible world refuses our wild imaginations passage in this existence...
... Or does it?
We ended our long, rambling conversation at just past three a.m., my time, midnight in the City of Angels.
I'd dozed off twice. She'd sucked down enough diner coffee, fried eggs, and hash browns to send her into one of those FUCK.... four hours Cardio Sunday... Los Angeleno things.
I knew it was going to be an interesting conversation.
If for no other reason than the fact that all human beings lose some sense of reason every now and then.
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