Sunday, July 28, 2013

Waiting for Harlan at the Barbershop

It has been a few weeks since this happened. Maybe I have a better perspective from a distance. I don’t know. To recap, I had an opportunity to see Harlan Ellison in Los Angeles and I took it. This involved trains, Hollywood Boulevard and buses. And my ability to get lost when I think a place is other than where I think it should be.

After the tour barker incident and waiting 20+ minutes for the right bus I arrived at the 4300 block of Hollywood Boulevard. To say that this block has memories for me is an understatement. The last time I was in this area was the afternoon of the Rodney King verdict. There was a bookstore that I checked out from time to time. It is gone now.

So is the Circuit City and other businesses. There weren’t that many of them. It was the kind of street you walked fast to get to your bus connections.  It was a miracle that I made it home that night.

Now there are upscale boutiques. hipster hamburger joints and spray art on the sidewalk. I don’t see any winos or junkies. I don’t smell anything but air.

It is discombobulating. Not bad, but I occupy two different places at the same time.

This is not how it use to be.  I am adjusting.

There are a few fans lined up between the Sweeny Todd Barber Shop and the Luz de Jesus Gallery. We are older. Hair is grey in patches. Everybody has their phone ready to take a photo. Denim, spandex and tattoos are plentiful.

This is the cover of his new book of long out of print lad stories. Seeing as how I bough his  books at a stripped book store in the past (I had no way of knowing it was un-ethical at the time) this is my way of making amends. Should you be so inclined to read his early gang and men magazine stories of the 1950s and 60s you could visit Kick Books to find out how to obtain a copy.

(In the interest of honesty, I didn't care for the JD line of books so I can't speak to the quality of them. I was not in the demographic at the time of publication and nothing has changed since then.)

The game plan was that Ellison was supposed to get a haircut and then walk over to the gallery. I would have liked to gone into the gallery but it was a small place with too many people inside. There was plenty of action on the sidewalk.

The barber and Harlan come out of the barber shop. Harlan told the crowd don’t stand in the sun too long. Had on a nice lavender shirt, by the way. He looked good.

The barber was a right nice looking beefy guy with a traditional barber jacket that showed his tats very nicely. Poor fellow made a mistake; he asked Harlan how he was doing.

“I’m 79 years old. I feel lousy.” It is a known fact that Mr. Ellison can be terse. Caustic. They turned the corner and no one seemed to notice.

I’m still looking around clicking atmospherically evidence that as we go to hell in a hand basket a good time will be had if you know where to go.

Time marches on and I’m thinking it is mighty hot outside. Still, nothing can induce me to go inside the gallery and I sure wasn’t going into a $10 to $20 hamburger joint. I’m loyal but passing out on the boulevard is not a test I’m willing to take.

I snap up other items of interest and slowly move my body away from the festivities. Then I hear a horn, A old school horn and peep into the car. There he was in the back seat. I had this quizzical look on my face. I looked at him. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and I nodded back.

I understood. I think.

Harlan got out of the car. Two motorcycle people in black leather braced him as folks took photos. Then he entered the barbershop. And people proceeded to take photos of him getting a hair cut.

I’m looking at them. At the Lone Ranger billboard. At the neighborhood that sprung up from the old.

The colors of the buildings and the sky.

I couldn’t ask for anything more. Or so I thought. The driver of the car got out. He was a little tense. His only words were a frantic “I gonna have my beer.”

Back on Hollywood Boulevard proper, I came across another person who was throwing up because he was drinking fortified malt liquor in the 3 p.m. sun and that wasn’t a smart thing to do.

My center had been restored.

I went home.

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