Journey To The City Of Angels

Life for me has always been a series of random and seemingly chaotic events, that eventually seem to even out and create some version of stability. Whether this is caused by my own selfish impulsiveness, or some intense “higher calling” to create still remains to be seen – however, several things are clear. The first being, that I was able to successfully murder that bastard I was 10 years ago. You know who I’m talking about. That motherfucker we all used to be who was shittier than the version of us we currently are. Are you tracking still?

The second undeniable fact is that I somehow have managed to travel and see things I never thought I would (things that were unseen mostly when I was high out of my mind in Philadelphia slowly fading away), meet people and experience art in a way that was previously unfathomable. Some amount of it has been luck, and some of it has been absolute fucking insanity- Que the lights, enter Allen.

I always considered myself somewhat of a success, having survived the opioid crisis, countless fights and arrests, Occupy Wall Street, moving cross country sight unseen, and the hundreds of other stupid situations I put myself into. Allen’s chaos and energy were different from the get-go – he was the real-life personification of Hunter S Thompson, the gonzo insane son of a bitch that I always pictured myself as but in real life, true to its form – a product of both environment and consequence.

side of the road with allen in Arizona? – or California

From ketamine fueled excursions involving abandoned cars, firearms, LSD (all for another time perhaps) and the ever real search for truth in art – I was lucky enough to be present for the birth of many amazing ideas – all of which came to a head in June of 2018 with the “Show Me The Goods” set of photographs (extreme close-ups of genitalia that I was a model for).

I had traveled to Los Angeles before for shoots, always a victim of where I was sent – never fully able to explore and enjoy the city. As a result, I had 0 ideas how to get around, much less the difference between West Hollywood and Little Armenia. This all changed during the first trip we all took. Nicole and I stayed in Hollywood (blocks from the star walk) and Allen stayed in what I came to know as the Melrose District (and ironically where I would end up living by 3 months later). I couldn’t even tell you where the show was actually located – but I can tell you it was a success and it laid the framework for our pilgrimage.

The months after the show that I spent in Phoenix I felt this insatiable burning inside of my soul – this desire to flee, to seek some sort of sanity in another location. It was that pushing force towards vagrancy that I’ve always had lurking in the back of my mind. Nicole and I went through hundreds of plans before finally deciding the answer was simple. We just needed to get the fuck out of Phoenix. These schemes were accelerated when seemingly out of nowhere Allen left his wife and absconded to West Hollywood. This had become real now.

It was undeniable the malaise I felt, and the urge to seek that energy or that vibe or whatever you call it – satisfying that insatiable urge to create. This was fucking real. This was very fucking real. Over three or so weeks that feeling built and built until boil-over. We had no apartment, no prospects for one, no idea where in the city to look, and barely any money to make it happen. It was perfect fucking timing. We threw all of our belongings, our cat, and dog into a U Haul and drove. Gonzo as hell, pure American dream.

____

Los Angeles is this big screaming bitch of a city – a nymphomaniac whore charging everyone top dollar left and right for the ability just to exist. The city routinely chews up and spits out its citizens, who are often bright-eyed naive nubiles seeking fame fortune or both. We had booked an Air BNB for a few nights in an attempt to cover ground on foot looking for an apartment. However due to shit credit, and a 42-pound dog (all love, I swear) finding a place seemed like a nearly impossible task.

The plan seemed simple enough though – we had collected the U-haul on time, and though somewhat poignant goodbyes had taken longer than my practical side would have liked we were undeniably on our way. While we drove down the 10, into the ever-moving sunset I fancied myself a young Jack Kerouac. I flashed back to the last time I had done this – that is packed up my belongings and left. That nervous push of what could only be described as ‘yet to be experienced’, the completely unknown. We would drive straight to a 24/7 storage unit, unload our life’s possessions and make for an Air BNB after returning the U-haul. Sure driving 6, 7 hours in a truck filled with a dog, cat, wife, and fully grown man is slightly nightmarish, and sure moving an entire apartment (plus some) of belongings into a storage unit on God knows what floor of the building, at dusk- sounded nightmarish. But this was Los Angeles – this was the place where all come to seek the American Dream – it was entirely worth it(?).

Maybe it was the second time we stopped to eat and I took too long, or maybe it was the third or forth stress smoke break – driving with a suspended license through a red state is known to have that effect on a man. I could just imagine what the conversation would be like if I were to see our boys in blue in my side mirror pulling up beside be, urging me to pull over and stop the vehicle. As he would approach the U-haul to see a woman, cat, husky, a lifes worth of hard drives, cameras and a frenetically energetic man in the front seat he barks “Good day, may I see your license?” I mean Christ, I would have to show it to him – then it would be off to the slammer with – do not pass go, don’t collect $200 – leaving a terrified young lady alone with all we own, no money, a dog and cat. It wouldn’t go well – hell it would be a predictable and fitting end to a pipe dream and a life that never was. I digress. Whatever the reason, we pulled into a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles safe, albeit stressed.

allens apartment in weho, first week

The parking lot was littered with garbage, homeless people, and not a single car manufactured after the year 1987. Given the surroundings, the general unfamiliarity with literally anything nearby, and the contents of our vehicle, my anxiety instantly piqued as I frantically searched for the information concerning my reservation. With the information proverbially in hand, I approached the door to find it locked. FUCK. I hurriedly walked back to the car and called U-haul. After a laborious conversation, it became clear that though the information on their site stated otherwise the location had recently started observing move in hours- for which we were 3 minutes late.

I stood in what in my gut felt like a sketchy part of downtown Los Angeles with all of my belongings in a U-haul that had no lock, with a suspended drivers license, and my family. After several ill-fated plans were hatched it became clear that the only logical thing to do would be to buy a lock and unload our things the next day. But how far was the place we were staying? Would the U-haul survive the night? After a 20 minute drive and 30 minutes of searching for parking answers became clear.

After getting out of the car, checking into our Air BNB (a private room in a shared residence in this extremely 420 friendly house in Mid City) we did what any logical adult humans would do – we walked with our dog to the closest dispensary. She was allowed inside and doted on by every budtender. After smoking until my lungs felt like exploding, and ordering tacos from a nearby food stand (mixed feelings on ordering UberEats from a food stand) we passed out, exhausted after a stressful and eventful day.

The next morning was cool and had a breeze. Something indescribable felt different to me, though the stress of finding a place felt more real than ever. I had booked 4 days at this Air BNB – that should be enough time to find a place right? I mean, if it isn’t I won’t have enough money to do anything – I’ll be on skid row. It’s going to be hard to be a photographer while I live in a fucking tent with a wife, husky and cat. Four days went fucking fast. Finding a location to live was fucking hard. Depression started kicking in. I needed to book another Air BNB, and now make money to make up for the deficit. I looked at extending our stay in the room we were in but it was booked. Air BNB’s were booked faster than any other city I had been to. I had found a new place – but how long to book for? What was a realistic amount of time, and furthermore could I get money refunded to me if I was approved for an apartment? I booked a location in West Hollywood headed into a Lyft and headed uptown.

Nicole and Me, at our final air bnb

We searched endlessly for an apartment but pretty much every conversation went like this – “Hi, I’m calling about the apartment I saw online – yeah I have awful credit. Mhmm, Yes I also have a pet. No, she’s over 30lbs – she’s a husky but she’s incredibly sweet and calm. What do I do? Oh, I’m an artist. Hello? …Hello?”. Bullshit. Then, slowly, I began to lose hope. That feeling of justice, that little voice in the back of my head that says “It’s all going to be ok” stopped talking to me. Maybe it was the increasing cost of Air BNBs, maybe it was putting a U-Haul through an exit parallel to a garage – where it didn’t fit – causing property and vehicle damage as I scraped (loud as FUCK) my way out and tore through Koreatown heart racing, maniacally screaming about the fear of getting arrested, beating the steering wheel into submission with my fists- but whatever the reason I started to sink, and sink fast.

We had been to 4 Air BNB’s. From a private room to three apartments we had been from DTLA, to Hollywood, to West Hollywood, to North Hollywood- Jesus Christ – you get the point – we were all over the damn place. We Ubered everywhere, with a dog, cat, and as much shit as we could fit on ourselves. Quickly, our money was gone and I realized that we were basically homeless. Alone in a city where I knew maybe 6 people, all of whom spread out over a 40 mile radius. Fuck me, am I right?

Life is sometimes a vicious cycle. I mean, granted I chose to come here – I had my reasons – some practical some not. But all of that aside, it’s remarkable how absolutely difficult it is to move to a new city. With no direct income, 2 mouths to feed and house, expenses added up quickly. This is quickly compounded by application fees to apartments, the cost of Ubering to every part of a city you don’t know just to be rejected time and time again. What was the truth in what I was doing? Was I selfishly seeking some intangible thing, or was I actually pushing my career forward? Would my wife resent me for this?

The tide changed on a day that I can never forget. September 19th 2018, we finally were approved at an apartment in Hollywood. The building was built in the early 20’s to house Paramount’s out of state movie stars – it had hardwood floors and a good amount of space too. Joyously we moved everything from a storage unit downtown to our new spot (another story within itself). Slowly but surely things came together and the anxiety-provoking past subsided (as a new anxiety that frequently accompanies my workflow again, set in).

So, what’s the takeaway? What amount of truth if any have I pulled from this life of vagrancy, of city hopping, of just picking up and leaving? Have I found any amount of happiness or is there something that I am always ruthlessly pursuing just ahead at the next glimpse of city lights? Most of these remains to be seen. For a cynic, I seem to absolutely romanticize a wide array of things in my life from the city, to the arts, to the food I eat. Life is an incredible journey that you can either chose to be a passerby in or an active participant. After spending so many years complacent in idling – I can no longer ignore that vagabond nature and will always savagely pursue whatever is hiding, just around that corner.

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