Peter Case

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Chapter 11


We crossed over into Mexico at Tijuana, in the afternoon a day or so later. I don’t know what we thought we were doing in the meantime. None of it made much sense.

I’d met Shawn on the Santa Barbara boardwalk. She was about my age, a nice hippie girl, pretty, and very friendly. We met by arrangement later that night, down on the beach again, and after some talk, flirtation, and fooling around, Eric drove us to a nearby park, gave me a blanket, dropped us off, and split. Shawn and I spread the blanket back amongst the trees in the pitch dark and talked. She was telling me about the boy she had just broken up with, and how she was going to go to London now, and meet her friend, and travel across Europe. Amid the chatter of crickets, and beneath a million friendly stars, I listened, bragged a little, and chain-smoked a few cigarettes. After a while, we started to kiss, and were working ourselves into some sort of a hot corner, when all of a sudden there was a loud noise in the bushes, and something big and white was coming our way. Shawn grabbed her blouse back up, smoothed her skirt down, and shrunk back in fear. I stood my ground, then looking closer through the dark, and, tipped off by familiar giggles and mumblings, saw that our midnight intruder was Eric.

“Put your clothes on,” I told him.

I was kinda pissed off, but that was that. He was lonely, didn’t like being the odd man out. Shawn immediately said she had to go home, so we gave her a ride, said goodbye, dropped her off out front of her parents’ house and got back on Highway 101 South.

We pulled the car off onto the gravel at a roadside rest area near Ventura, and slept a few hours in our seats, just passed out, we were so exhausted. I woke up in the bright sunlight, all hot and sweaty and disoriented, punched Eric awake, and we pushed on for LA.

From what I’d heard up in San Francisco, I had every reason to be afraid of L.A..  Eric had given me the run down: When you go out with “friends” in Los Angeles, the people in the front seat of the car will hold conversations about the ones in the back seat, putting them down, just quiet enough so they can’t be overheard. Everyone there is on the make. It’s Cut Throat City, with rich people, movie stars, crazy little actresses, power freaks and vampires of the special, tan So Cal variety, and everybody else, working arcane scams, climbing over each other in their abject mad desire for a place at the top. From the way it sounded, I didn’t think I’d dig it. I

could never be happy living in a place like that.

Somehow we found our way up to “The Strip,” Sunset Boulevard. I kept looking around for Lloyd Bridges. I half expected him, at any moment, to come running down the street in full scuba gear, like on the 60’s TV show Seahunt.

There were only two places I wanted to see: I had Eric go by 77 Sunset Strip, home of “Kookie,” hepcat hero of my lonesome childhood TV nights. We drove by Phil Spector’s offices and had a good look, but no one was around, and then that was it.

At Tower Records we pulled over and parked. I watched as a phony—looking Beverly Hills type guy with coifed hair, in a stupid brown leather shortcut jacket and wrap-around shades, parked his Mercedes and hopped out. He reached in his pocket for change at the parking meter, and when he pulled out his hand, a whole wad of silver coins jangled out and spilled in the gutter. He stoked the meter and split, not even bothering to pick up the dropped coins.

I went over and gathered the money. Almost 75 cents. That kinda said it all for me.

We drove through Beverly Hills, but I didn’t see anything, just big mansions surrounded by palms and hedges, one after the other, nothing to it. Back in West Hollywood, I strummed a few songs in front of a Cala Foods, out in bright empty sunshine, trying to impress the morning shoppers in their fuzzy slippers and silk pants. It was slow going; no one wanted to hear their favorite song, but I finally made a few bucks, one quarter at a time, and we headed out to the beach.

The Venice Boardwalk was foggy, ghostlike. There wasn’t much of anybody around. Eric got into a rap with a couple of clowns passing by. Of course, they weren’t really clowns, though that wouldn’t have been all that surprising there—the area looked like an empty amusement park—but they were just ordinary, bored Southern California hoods. I don’t know why, but there was a lot of hostility between them and Eric, especially when he challenged them to a car race through town for pink slips. They said, “Yeah, sure, you got it.” That was fine with me, but I was a little nervous in the car on our way over to the agreed meeting spot. For some reason, Eric didn’t seem worried at all. Guess he thought sure we could take ‘em, maybe ‘cause he was such a good driver from being in the cab so much. He said he was a professional. Anyhow, when they didn’t show up for the race, we were both disappointed. “Fuck it, man,” I said. “Let’s get the hell out of this place. It’s giving me the creeps!” So we split LA toot sweet.


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