Monday, August 31, 2009

Long Beach: Returning to Willmore City After 18 Years.

First of all this is one epic-ass blog. Probably the most epicest that I’ve undertaken. Not only is this epic, but it contains so much that I can’t even fit into this here single entry. This isn’t a historical account of Long Beach, but more of my relationship to it as a kid into adulthood before I left to pursue other things. However, there are some historical facts that include the opening titles of Lethal Weapon.

Let’s start out with the controversial stuff. Yes, my mom worked for an abortion clinic. Actually, she worked for quite a few in Orange County as well. But they did a lot more than abort babies. They tried to prevent unwanted pregnancies with several birth control techniques. But as a child, I didn’t really understand it. What I did know was that there were several rubber models of uteri lying around the house. But after she ran the gambit paying for babysitters and day care, I was often left in the waiting room of FPA where I basically watched TV all day while coloring in my coloring books and playing with assorted toys. I didn’t have much to do between 6AM and 6PM, but I just sat and drew pictures. Caught up on all my Scooby-Doo, Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels and Wonder Woman. If you're traveling the Metro Blue Line and reach the Willow station, you will be able to see the back where I spent my days looking out at the train tracks. But this was before the Metro Blue Line was built, so it was just freight train tracks. So, just look up and wave. Maybe you'll see a ghost of a 5 year-old me.

In 1987 a little movie called Lethal Weapon opened up and it opened on a building on Atlantic and Ocean. The same building where Amanda Huntsacker snorted a line and plunged to her death. In that very building about 10 years earlier, a friend, Alam (aka Amir), and I were at a pool party. We musta been like 3 or 4. We were trying to find his apartment so we could pee. Well, we’d forgotten what floor it was on and we just let it rip right there in the elevator. Our logic was that we were already wet from the pool that no one would notice. Of course we got our asses kicked. Yes, it was perfectly legal to beat the shit outta your kid at the time. So, when ever I watch the opening of Lethal Weapon I can’t help, but grin a little thinkin, I totally pissed on every floor of that building.

I think around the age of 7 I was allowed to stay home by myself. We lived in a roach-infested apartment for 9 years on Roswell and 10th. We lived in the back where I had a nice view of the alley. That alley was my window to strange activities. That's where I saw plenty of women undressing in their bedrooms in apartments across the way. And where I saw two grown men beat the shit out of each other in an all-out fisticuffs. One dude got belted in the face with a gas can. Not sure what happened next because the next thing I knew, these dudes were shaking hands and limped off to their prospective first aid kits. I think one dude said, "See you next week." It was almost like that Warner Bros. cartoon where Wyle E. Coyote and that shaggy sheep dog would go at it and then clock out saying, "Good work today."

Much of my time was seeing how I can sneak out the windows to play with all the other kids. My mom locked me in a lot, but I always found a way out. The hard part was getting back into the house by a certain time without her being the wiser or finding out that she now had to put locks on the windows too. In the front yard of the complex was a wide open yard where we'd totally hang. It wasn't fenced in like you see here.

That scrawny-looking tree, which wasn't scrawny in its day, is what we called The Adventure Tree. Each branch indicated a more dangerous level depending on the height. They were often named after popular martial arts movies and icons at the time. The first was the Chuck Norris branch. If you climbed out there you’d hang there for a number of seconds and eventually drop to the ground. Then there were Nine Deaths of the Ninja, Ninja III: Domination, Enter the Dragon, Eye for an Eye, Cliffhanger (no relation to the Stallone flick) and the pussiest of branches… The Gymkata branch.

It’s also this tree where The X-ray Eye Society HQ is. The X-ray Eye kids could look out across the street to where Jac and her demonic brother were moving in. In reality, our friend Robin lived there. She was cool playing with us for a while, then when school started she joined her chick clique and then we were suddenly just the weird kids. I didn’t think we were weird at the time, however, we loved to play in alleys. That’s usually where we found all the cool stuff people threw out and we’d build stuff with.

One of the places we frequented was The Dirt Field on 8th and Termino. It was a place where people in the neighborhood would just drop off their discarded junk. On one side was the mouth of the Dirt Field and on the other end was a frat house which looks like a regular old apartment now.

But one day on our way back from school, we’d come across a shopping cart full (and I mean FULL) of nudie mags. These were not Playboys or Penthouses. These were some bubblegum hardcore nasty mags. Me and my friend, Brian, were trying to figure out how to get these into our houses without our moms finding out. But there was one mag that I was particularly fascinated with which was a female motorcycle cop and a nun having full-on carnal knowledge of each other--with billie clubs and crucifixes. Today, they cleaned that place up and turned it into a historical landmark of some kind. It was only historical for us for many reasons. The Dirt Field as I remember it is how it’s featured in The X-ray Eye Society. Although, it does look prettier now, it just doesn’t have the same character.

I went to John C. Fremont. My best friend went to some other school. But while I was at Fremont, I used to hang out with this kid Egbert where we’d have these fake stunt fights behind the baseball fence. We were fans of The Fall Guy and the Rocky movies and we always practiced stunt fighting. We fooled a few kids here and there, but we weren’t into tricking people. Just practicing our moves. Then one day we were told to break up the fake fights because it was too strange.

When I didn’t have anyone to hang with, I’d often find myself hanging at the library. It was pretty killer actually. Learned a lot about film and art through those books in their cinema section.

I guess when Junior High came around that’s when I became a flip book porn king entrepreneur. I did lots of flip books of giant monster robots that would try and blow each other up. Then one day a kid pulls me aside and says, “Can you do one with a guy fucking a girl in the ass?” He handed me five bucks. Then word got around that I was the flip book smut king. So, I made some cash. And where did we go when I had money? Either the Gold Mine arcade in the Long Beach Plaza, 7-11 or Casa Sanchez.

Yup Casa Sanchez is where we got our grub on. The enchiladas a la carte are still amazing, but now they’re half the size. The bean and cheese burrito is still ridiculously large, but the one I had yesterday wasn’t so great. It really lacked cheese. But who knows? Maybe it was the good chef’s day off.

And of course for entertainment there were two theaters in the 80’s kitty corner from each other. The UA Marketplace and AMC Marina Pacifica. Throughout the 80’s the Marina Pacifica Mall was becoming a graveyard of dead shops. In the late 70’s and early 80’s it thrived like any other mall. But what made this mall special was that it was right on the water amid all the boats.

If you had a canoe you can row from your apartment and into Marina Pacifica. But little by little, more shops kept closing. So, while you were waiting for a movie, there wasn't really a whole lot to do. There was a B. Dalton's book store, but I think they closed that down too. Eventually, B&N, Best Buy and other stores opened up. But it looks more like a typical strip mall now.

The AMC theaters were nice, but they always showed crappy movies. Before Orion Pictures went belly up in the 90s, there was a contract cut way back in the day that Marina Pacifica would get all the Universal and Disney movies, while the UA Marketplace got the Fox and Orion movies—which were all the genre flicks. Including all the trashy movies where people got naked for no reason at all. But unfortunately, the UA Marketplace was roach-ridden. In the late 80’s I turned 16 and started the counterfeiting stage of my life.

When I didn’t have money, I would make fake tickets that the usher totally believed. In the 80’s the R-rating wasn’t taken all that serious regardless of what cinemastorians would like you to believe. But when a movie was controversial like Angel Heart or something, then the box office girls and ushers would pay more attention to our age and wondered where our adult guardians were. In those cases it was just forging a ticket for Like Father, Like Son or something and slipping into another flick.

That’s when we’d start putting tape on the backs of the doors where we’d slip in and grab a seat before the usher came barreling down the aisle. Then of course I got into more complex counterfeiting. Partially, just to see if I could do it. And partially, I wanted to eat pizza instead of toast and salt sandwiches for lunch. But I knew, by the time I’d turned 18 I had to go straight.

One of the great things about Woodrow Wilson High School was this one class called Film Analysis. We’d watch movies and write papers on stuff like Citizen Kane, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark and stuff. This was the easiest class I ever had. Not only did we write about movies, but we actually got to shoot several short films on 8MM. I did a revenge flick called Rapid Rodneys just after the Rodney King beating about Rodney King and his buddy, King Rodney, who went around fucking up the cops that kicked Rodney King’s ass. Man, I made a mess of that school. I had one character, King Rodney I think, reach into Chuck Dearing’s throat, down into his chest and pull out his heart. And Dante Lewis, who played King Rodney, held an apple that we doused in BBQ sauce that we got from Del Taco and he pumped his fist around the apple as if it was still beating. Then later, Dominic Arnold, who played Rodney King, smashed Eddie’s head against the concrete benches while BBQ sauce spread all over the place. And I think later someone was stabbed through the ear with a pencil and we used a shampoo bottle mixed with water and red paint to look like there was a huge bloody rupture spraying out of the dude’s ear. I no longer am in possession of that film. I think Miss Townley owns the film stock. Where ever she is dammit. Where ever she is.

But because of that flick later me, Tommy LaRossa, Chad Hidalgo and Rick Rodriguez shot a movie off campus at Recreation Park (across from the school) which was an action-packed mad slasher movie about a homeless bum who tries to kill a skate punk, but it all just turns into a fable of who’s the real psychotic killer. Because it turns out that Tommy LaRossa was actually the notorious newspaper killer who killed his victims with his daily periodicals. You’d have to see it to believe it. Unfortunately, I lost that film somewhere between South Korea and Los Angeles. If nothing at all, it’s probably still a funny fucking movie. And yes, I still had BBQ sauce left over from Rapid Rodneys. But it’s funny. My mom wondered where all the BBQ packets went. I guess she thought I was eating them. And if you knew/know me, I hate BBQ sauce.

Anyway, I didn’t stay in town much longer. I think I joined the Army around December of 1991 and then left for basic training in 1992. Came back to Los Angeles in 1995, went to college, worked and a few things happened here and there. Of course, there's more to all these Long Beach adventures, but this barely scratches the surface.

Here are just additional pix from around the neighborhood.

Where I saw my first symphony.

The X-ray Eye Society Visual Reference Points for PCH Chase.

In 1987, we moved here. Right across the street from The Dirt Field.

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