The Studio City Blues
It's challenging being an older single father in a high-technology world. I never feel altogether secure, knowing that greenhorn college recruits can hire into my job on probably two-thirds of what the company pays me. Nearly all of the good-looking women my age are already married; those remaining see my employment insecurity, the demands of my daughters, and my age as a millstone they'd rather not share. I'm one of the loneliest men that I know; out of loneliness I've taken to writing: my computer and my fiction becomes my confidant — an ear that's always open to my problems, conquests, and observations. My computer is my surrogate wife.
Coffee shops are a lifesaver for a lonely writer: they have the correct mix of caffeine and mild sociability. Small groups of people sit, a couple chats, or a young attorney studies with just a distant connection. If I become stuck while writing — searching for how to express my feelings with certain flair — I'll look around the coffee shop and make a restrained mental connection with the gal studying Law. Her thoughts suggest the appropriate word. Sometimes some love-struck teenage girls will sit too close and gape into my thoughts while I'm writing. Geesh, I'll think to myself, get a life — get off of my wavelength. But then I can rotate the love dimmer by just moving to another seat. I can type nonsense on my laptop or just free think and write in my journal. If I have a change of heart and don't feel like writing then I can turn off the laptop and read the Weekly free paper. Sometimes, while the soft jazz plays in the background I'll just stare vacantly out the window. A nice environment with pretty women helps too — thank God for Studio City.
I work in a light-industrial part of town: the buildings are mostly cinder block, the corners are cheap Mexican and oriental food eateries, 7-elevens, a coin laundormat or two, and too much traffic clogs the gritty streets. I can drive five blocks to get onto the freeway, however, and then it's just a fifteen-minute drive to Studio City, a completely different world. The change is as much as hopping on an airplane and ending up in France.
As I get off the freeway, I pass a gigantic park with stately eucalyptus trees. Across the street a bronze statue of Amelia Earhardt faces some nicely groomed apartments and an older brick church. A large Kapok tree greets me with tremendous hot pink flowers. I drive one more block and park in the corner of a post-and-beam redwood building with small upscale stores; a trellis props up the stairway covered with deep-blue morning glories.
I get out of the car and walk past two more blocks of boutiques. This one has three racks of dresses out front with low-cut V-necks, some with tasseled necklines and sleeves, and some with sequins highlighting an abstract and colorful pattern. Peeking inside I see faux Tiffany lamps and luxuriously carved chairs and highboys. Next door they design stained glass: the window has several examples of their work: crystalline roses, rectangular abstracts, and a Celtic scene of rolling hills. I pass an interior design studio back down through a sidewalk garden, vines climbing a tree, colorful pots of flowers, and pointed tufts of silvery grass in a nearly Japanese arrangement.
If I'm feeling down and depressed, the coffee in Studio City always pulls me up and around. I know what it is: of all the sorrows in the world and false attempts to manage perceptions, Studio City knows that it is all style. Indeed, it is invisible outside of its urbanity, absolutely authentic in its insincere flamboyancy, and loaded with beautiful women. Everything is phony and it's okay, because all of life's activities are contrived — filler until we fall in love or die. Studio City is the big red nose on the clown.
Sometimes I end up depressed and far from the calm and beauty of Studio City... I slouch into a local coffee shop instead — it's Valentine's Day now and I'm typing at Higleys in La Crescenta. The place is deserted, but the quiet makes for good writing. It is totally natural for me to be doing absolutely nothing on this Valentine's Day; I accept my lonesomeness as my natural state. Outside, two scruffy folks kiss in their car. It's been so long since I've kissed a woman; passion is just a vague memory. I turn away to oblige them their privacy. Oh look — it's the same Girl Scout leader I've seen here before, but absent her troop. We are the only customers here, maybe because it's dinnertime. The Girl Scout leader calls her husband on her cell phone — answering his question with "there's nobody here." Then she shrugs and passes a mental packet of "sorry" in my direction. Thank you. The Girl Scout leader cut out valentines with her troop last Friday, the espresso barmaid has already seen her boyfriend today, and now I'm sinking abysmally into my loneliness alone.
I was forty-four the end of last month. On my birthday I went to a coffee shop in North Hollywood and did some writing; it was quiet, with one other sole patron. I had some salad and an iced coffee and then plunged into typing away my sorrows. Two gorgeous young blondes walked in and sat down, casting glances in my direction. Just a glance. They pulled out a stack of photographs and started cattily gabbing about the men that they knew. I could feel the tug and scan of my soul... I began fantasizing amazing sexual possibilities with them, a hot-tub jacuzzi naked with both of them, a bedroom scene with me laying flat on my back, one woman sitting on my face, one on my lap. Yet I was unwilling to do anything. After all, I am a man of principles, and I must save myself for a future wife. I pass on the flash, shimmer, and thunder that rocks the rest of the world, resigned to just clamber for months in the silent void and darkness. I sit on the far side of a glass wall watching shapes move and relationships happen as life passes me by.
Sometimes I get a sense of desperation — I can't take the loneliness any longer. The boa is constricting slowly around my midsection and it's getting hard to breathe. I'm evasive of the consequences: I need somebody. One by one I lose the criteria that prevent me from becoming involved: so what, she's too tall for me. So what, I'm too old for her. So what, she's a little warped. And then I fall out of desperation. It's wonderful to start with — I love falling in love. Swirling colors, softness and warmth, movies and fine dining, sex and afterglow. Once I'm in love though, all those barriers that I previously dropped begin to rise again one at a time. Geesh, it would sure be nice if she were a little shorter. It would sure be nice if she were more my age. Shoot, I wish she wasn't so whacked out. In short order I'm once again joining the Lonely Hearts Club. I drink a pint of tequila and go for a walk on the beach, alone with the waves and the sunset, torn between tears and anger, sorrow and longing.
Finally I settle into quiet resignation. For me, this is just the way things are meant to be. It's depression from loneliness — from a lack of being touched and shown affection from a woman. Maybe loneliness has some kind of chemical side effect on the brain. It could be possible — I've read about stunted children who lack affection that end up as mental cases. Being touched regularly by somebody else, skin to skin contact, must generate a cascade of chemical signals that makes you normal. Without that physical contact you eventually get depressed. I've been depressed so long that it has become a natural state of being. I am now so well acquainted with all the intricacies and interstices of my continual depression that the emotion of depression itself now leaves me bored.
After a while the boring depression has its own color, flavor, activities, and diversions. Meandering through bowling alleys of seniors. Sitting in an apartment with a lit cigarette and gazing out the window. Red light districts and porno clips in 25-cent booths. Driving just to be on the road, without destination. Cooking. Watching a little TV. Lots and lots of reading... newspapers, books, magazines. Walks along bleak boulevards. Sitting in a park feeding the birds. Listening to classical music on a rainy day with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
If boredom and depression bred from loneliness doesn't have its own word then it should. Blues? Yes, maybe it's the blues. Blues posses a quiet undercurrent... the rumbling of the refrigerator that's always on... after a while becoming as much of the environment as the dust in the air. Once I grasp that I've got the blues, I search my heart and find that I'm sublimely connected to many acquaintances who also have the blues. I'm alone, but I'm not alone. I'm lonely, but I share the trait of loneliness with many people. I'm in a private quiet club of hundreds of millions of lonely bored souls.
When a lonely person and I cross paths we nod. When I'm most by myself and introspective I reach out with my heart and soul and mentally connect with someone else who is lonely. Hello, I'm feeling particularly blue today, how are you feeling? Why yes, we can appreciate that today is an especially interesting day to be blue. We hesitate to go out since it is so difficult to do anything without someone to share our experience. The flowers are out, people in love are walking around enjoying the weather and the nature and each other, and here we sit — alone — with nothing to do.
Studio City is okay though. The houses are all set back a uniform twenty feet from the sidewalk, the front yards preened, the parkway trees tall, mature, and trimmed of deadwood. Boutiques sell candles that smell like lavender or banana cake. Shops paint their interior walls to show scenes of rolling hills in Italy. Coffee shops have small patios with Venetian fountains. Corner stores have small showcase delicatessens with exotic cheeses and smoked salmon. The artwork is subdued and integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood. The phoniness fills the void of my boredom; the people who live there have love to spare and it spills over into the atmosphere, inviting me to imagine life as an extravagant flower, a plastic pink flamingo, or a shimmering sequin dress. Come and be lonely here with the rest of us. Walk the neighborhoods of our charming houses and manicured gardens. Welcome to Studio City.