Friday, May 22, 2009

The Magic of Radio

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1974, the first place I rented was a tiny studio unit in a court fourplex behind an engine parts shop. It was up in the Valley’s north end, almost into Sunland. The rent was $65 a month, and my neighbors were a hooker and a Hell’s Angel.


The Angel was a nice guy, actually. His name was Jim. He used to tell stories of huge convocations of Angels; so large, yea, that the very earth did tremble and the noonday sky blacken from the rumbling of their hogs, and the smoke that did issue from their tailpipes. These stories usually ended with the vengeance of the entire biker nation befalling some hapless simpleton, said vengeance being dispensed in the form of steel-toed boots -- many, many of them -- kicking the poor bastard into an unrecognizable pool of protoplasm.

Jim would tell stories like these with the same mild tone and genial smile that he used when saying that he was going to the Safeway across the street, and did I want him to pick up anything?

I came, gradually and somewhat reluctantly, to the conclusion that trips to the Safeway and unrecognizable pools of protoplasm were all pretty much the same to Jim. When I realized this, I felt sad -- not to mention somewhat in fear for my life. But he always stayed a solid 8 to 10 on the affability meter around me.

The same could not be said of the hooker. She was a bit on the meretricious side -- kids would flee, screaming, from her door on Halloween -- and she had a mouth on her that can only be described as having once been owned by a stevedore who’d just lost a winning lottery ticket. And was inflicted with Tourette’s. However, she did put her heart and soul into her work. (I hasten to assure Constant Reader that this knowledge was gained solely because she tended to leave the windows open, especially in the summer. She left the curtains open too. The first -- and last -- time I went outside during one of her marathon sessions, I lost many sanity points.)

As soul-blasting as that was, what really pissed me off was when, not having a phone of her own, she gave my phone number (I was in the book, for Chrissakes, get your minds out of the gutter, people) to her current boyfriend -- a swab, in every sense of the word. One night, around three am, I was awakened by the phone. I stumbled over to answer it, and was instructed in no uncertain terms to request that the lady betake herself immediately to my phone, so they could discourse.

Except he didn’t put it in quite those words.

So I said, “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” Except I didn’t put it in quite those words, either.

I slammed the phone down and went back to bed. About a half-hour later I was awakened by a knock on my door. A loud knock. Several of them, in fact. Sailor Boy was drunk, pounding on my door and screaming about how he intended me grievous bodily harm.

I was, not to put too fine a point on it, terrified. There was only one door to my pathetic little domicile, and Barnacle Bill was on the other side. Not for long, though, the way the door was starting to shake.

And now we come to the reason why I’ve put you through all this. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Magic Of Radio:

There’s a momentary lull in the pounding, and I hear Jim’s door open. I hear his feet going crunch-crunch-crunch through the gravel. They stop near my door. By now Popeye’s resumed his pounding.

Then I hear Jim say, “Hey.”

The pounding stops. There’s a pause, more pregnant than an 11-month elephant. Then I hear what sounds, more than anything else, like a cinderblock dropped onto a slab of raw meat. A second later there’s another impact -- that, no doubt, of my nemesis hitting the ground.

I open the door. Jim’s standing there, rubbing the knuckles of his right hand. He gives me a smile, looks over my shoulder and snorts in disgust.

I turn around, and see the strumpet pulling the extremely unconscious sailor, by his ankles, across the courtyard and into her place.

I look back at Jim. He shakes his head and says: “Love, I guess.” Then he walks back to his place.

I moved out the next day.


orclgrl said...

That gave me a perfect picture of the sound effects guy standing by his table - hand stepping a wooden block through clay cat litter (clean of course).


Over 20 years I've known you and on a few occasions had the honor and delight of collaborating with you. And still I wish I had a prose style half as good as yours.

Ya did it again.


Belle said...

I had a situation similar to this when I lived in Germany. Seriously.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, what Marty said -- now and then, you manage a good story -- this is one.