This story isn't really mine to tell. It is a story of a city I love and despise. A city with too many highways and cars, overpriced houses, closed shutters and doors, roll-out carpet grass and dandelions out on the front lawn, and nobody home. A city crowded with angels and imaginary friends. Not to mention the unhappy campers living in tents by Ontario... This story is about a city divided by class and race, religion and politics.
When I arrived here in February, I was treated with quite some welcome. The flight I was on included a few foreign Oscar-prominent characters. Limousine drivers and nervous first or second assistants were standing at the gates, holding up signs. Several gazes were on me, when I walked through in a brown-striped business suit and golden strands of curls resting on my shoulders. The very next day I attended the Oscars foreign language panel in the Old Academy theater, sitting in a VIP reserved seat as a guest, squeezed in between two very tall and imitating-looking Oscar statues. The entertainment business has a way to sweep you off your feet, people are incredibly nice and sweet, and everything from the food, the make-over and the conversations is perfect: It scares me.
My folks picked me up at 2 pm. I had a funeral to attend. The houses became smaller, the roads turned into dirt and gravel, we reached the modest areas of Los Angeles. The ceremony was held outside in the rain. Surrounded by estranged cousins and distanced relatives, I read a poem and spoke about a memorable life lived, a life I hardly knew: An incredibly bright woman, who was raised on a farm. My grandmother was a woman, who knew her cards: Not only would she become a Grandmaster in Bridge, but she had a way with words too. She would solve the New York Times crossword puzzles over her first cup of coffee at breakfast.
The next day, as I was waiting for the metro, a man approached me. He was dressed in black from head to toe. His face was concealed with a black mask, only his eye balls were seen, he was carrying a rather large duffel bag with all sort of equipment (a rope, a vacuum cleaner, a metal frame) sticking out. A look on my surprised face, he hastily quipped: "Don't be scared, lady. I'm dressed for work." I nod curtly. LA is filled with bizarre characters, but frankly, I'd like to be back in one piece. Someone apparently called the police, and loud words were exchanged between the invisible man and two officers. Shining hand cuffs settled the discussion. Apparently the line of work of that black-faced man was questionable.
I am meeting a friend for lunch, and I am feeling watched. My friend, a regular face on a number of TV shows, is recognized despite his gruffy, unshaved look. While we are at lunch, my friend gets a call from his agent. It is about a gig. My friend tells his agent: "I can’t. I am busy right now. (pause) No, I am not nuts." Fifteen minutes later, his agent calls again, cutting our lunch short. Hollywood buys souls, every day this city puts its sticky thumb on fresh, beautiful, new faces.
How can I possibly tell a story that puts to justice this rare, mysterious and obvious city? This city of dreams and of nightmares? This city of fame and money, and of broken hearts and minds?
Well, in the end, the story isn’t really mine to tell.
© Colleen Yorke. All rights reserved. 2017.