Dear Dirty America

DDA

We the People

August 09
11:00 2012
CONOR MATTHEWS
from Ireland to Los Angeles


THE NEWEST AMERICAN (pt II) — We the People
see pt 1 Falling from Heaven

I’m naked in the room again. I don’t feel very well; mentally. It’s only been four days since arriving in L.A., but the combination of the time difference, the heat, the culture shock, and whatever the hell is in the tap water is starting to have an effect on me, along with my paranoia and home sickness. It’s only Saturday and I’m already cracking up. The room makes me drowsy and sleepy early in the afternoon, so much so that the air conditioner resembles something of a gas chamber vent more and more as the days go by. I’ve turned down a chance to see another potential house. I had a bad vibe from it. The guy selling it said he walks about with a nine inch penis hanging out all day long. I don’t get on well with people too similar to myself. I also got chicken-shit scared of another place in a bad area. I am lying on the bed, my arse in the air, fading in and out of watching Adventure Time and trying to hold back tears. I worry too much, but just bear in mind what is happening here. I am a foreigner in a strange and distant land, literally continents apart from the nearest family or friend. I have been here for four days and still haven’t found a place to stay. My reservation at the hotel runs out the coming Thursday. Obviously these things take time, but I don’t have that. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on end watching a television show (hence why I’m fading in and out). This is me depressed. For all my suave and cool mannerisms to boost my confidence, when I break down, I-break-the-fuck-down.
I roll off the bed and my fall is cushioned by the bank of shed blankets I don’t have any use for; I’m sleeping like a hamster, burying myself in a mount of pillows for air circulation and partial insulation. I manage to crawl over to my back pack and pull out some cards my family wrote before I left. They’re filled with best wishes and silly sibling comments. Stuck to one from my older sister is an Irish tea bag, dangling off the page, surprisingly not punctured yet. An Irish tea bag; better than a four leaf clover any day.

 

I can feel a slight smile crack across my face. I need to get the fuck out of this hotel. The only bitter taste in my mouth involves putting clothes on. An idea pops into my head. I roll over to my laptop (by this point of time it’s fair to assume America has crippled my legs), and open up Twitter.
“Hi Randall. Just want to say I’m finally in LA. I’m up for that coffee anytime.”
A few moments and a hundred and forty characters pass back and forth before a time is set. I roll over to my clothes and vaguely remember how to put them on. I then roll up to the door, propping myself up onto my feet. I look at the room and breathe in happy relief. If I’m gonna be here in America, I might as well make some friends.
I have a few cigarettes just by the hotel entrance, being crafty about stomping the buds out with my Converses. The police haven’t been around this area to often so I don’t know what I’m worried about… except for the fact that the police not patrolling an area too often isn’t exactly a good thing. I get a direct message on Twitter telling me to look for a white car parked around the corner. I’m really taking a chance on this one. Randall is some guy I met after he read one of my articles online. Sounds slightly better than saying “I met him on the Internet”; I don’t want to walk into the same cliché fourteen year old girls hear before meeting Craig, the oldest fifteen year old quarter-back high school football player to ever be on a sex offender’s register. I walk around the corner and see him, his eyes peering out of the front screen window. I surprise myself by walking over and opening the car door and slinking in.
“Hi, I’m Randall,” he says with a slightly gay lisp.

 

“Hi, I’m Conor, nice to finally meet you,” I say with a slight Irish drawl.
We head down Sunset Boulevard and make idle chit-chat.
“So how long have you been in LA?”
“I got in on Wednesday, so it’s only been four days.”
“Wow, and how long are you here for?”
“Until October.”
“And what brings you here?”
This carried on for a moment. Randall looks like the kind of guy girls like if he wasn’t gay. He would be a pussy magnet if he was straight. Despite the air conditioning in the car his hair is done up in a stiff, perfectly defined puff and he’s wearing surfing shorts, the kind that really only tall people could wear, which makes sense since he must easily be over six foot something. By the time we pass “In-n-Out Burger” and a few sights he points out, I ask him about jobs.
“Well, a lot of places would take interns and stuff, so you should totally check them up.”
From what I can gather Randall is a graphic designer, but seemingly he does it on the side along with something else. He was explaining he’s been out here in LA seven or ten years and he’s reached that point in his career where he’s transitioning from being a novice to a senior graphic designer.
“People either want new people they can use as interns or as, like, people to grow with the company or they, like, want people with like ten years’ experience to be, like, heads and stuff. I’m sort of in that grey area at this point.”
I notice some people outside by a tree sleeping under it. I wouldn’t realize until later that they were actually homeless themselves. I would have never guessed; they looked so peaceful. We continue driving by and talking with moments of silence in between, both of us trying to think of something to say, when we arrive in West Hollywood. My eye is caught by a massive green neon light shaped into a hemp leaf. I ask what’s the deal with that.

 

“Oh, yeah, you can like totally buy pot here. In West Hollywood you can just smoke it out in the open. There’s even doctors who set up shop here just to write prescriptions.”
“Really? So what would it be for?”
Randall laughs a little. “Most people just go in and say ‘Oh, I have back problems’ and they just write you a prescription.”
I ponder this for a moment while Randall checks out a cute straight guy. I then ask about how cigarettes are seen, remarking how impressed I am the streets are so clean. I think Randall’s comment at the end of his long explanation is a perfect summery of what he said.
“…plus I think they’re icky.”
We pull up into a car park. The first hour is apparently free. Once out in the air, I can feel the sweat already pouring out of me like a disgusting sluggish sludge. We hurry into the Starbucks. Pride colors and MacBook Pros everywhere.
I order a Grande Caramel Macchiato. Randall gets cappuccino and a little Starbucks bottle of something. Must be like a cream or shake or some shit like that. I cry a little inside as I see the typical stereotype of the wannabe screenwriter in the coffee shop on a Mac. Write in solitude like the rest of us, you dick! We take a seat outside, while the parade of good looking people and over flamboyant topless gay guys walk past, striding through the herd of people like bouncers through a night club. And then the fun begins.We start talking politics and religion. It’s quite clear from the beginning Randall was an atheist. I like atheists, except for the ones that act like religious people, calling anyone who believes in any sort of creed of denomination an idiot or a moron. Randall doesn’t seem like that; he seems bitter, but remarkably intelligent in the way he says it, but with an aura of simple nature that comes across relaxed. Seriously, I bet you get guys all the fucking time (if you’re reading this Randall). He tells me a little about his upbringing, being raised in a very religious family. This is definitely a guy who’s been through a lot, and yet probably doesn’t even realize it himself. If he was born in another time, he would definitely be a radical of some kind, probably a Marxist in some form. We talk about Prop 8. It had recently been brought to the Supreme Court by the Yes campaign who didn’t agree with it being overturned so many times.

“So if the Supreme Court finds it’s unconstitutional, there could be gay marriage throughout the whole country, not just California.”
“Really? Wow… it’s funny, ‘cause if the Prop 8 people had just left it, it wouldn’t be so bad for them.”
“… What do you mean?”
I’ve always been bad with the way I phrase myself. I explained that since Prop 8 passed but was repealed, it was brought up to a higher court, which again said it was wrong. It had been brought up so far, simply because of the stubborn fucks that now they’ve practically shot themselves in the foot by bringing it to the point where gay marriage could be brought through on a nation-wide level. Because of the Prop 8 supporters, instead of gay marriage being only in California, it could now be the whole United States of America.
“… yeah… oh yeah, I never thought of it that way. Good point.”
It’s nice to contribute to the conversation. During our discussion a man sits down beside Randall, just to rest, he said. We took no notice of him apart from a polite smile and hand gesture to invite him to sit. He faced away, looking out onto the street. I sat quietly nodding my head every now and again as Randall was talking about gay rights. Half way through the man turns over and leans into the conversation and says;
“Then why do gays have to recruit?”
A mix of confusion and surprise filled the air as we both looked at him. He tried to hide it, but you could see the realization that he had just said that to a radical gay Atheist and a bisexual Irish chain smoker and drinker at a pro-gay company’s establishment, in West Hollywood, during Pride weekend; in other words, he was well and truly fucked!
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I’m only kidding.” He laughed nervously.
The bastard had ruined the conversation. The only thing worse than disturbing sleep is disturbing a conversation. He turned around facing the street once again. I knew he was counting in his head until enough time had passed where it wasn’t awkward for him to leave. There’s not enough time in the world for it not to be awkward when he finally left. Bastard. We eventually leave after discussing more politics and religion, stumbling through my terrible American. We’re too late to the car park to get the free exit discount. We stream straight past the rainbows into the rich district; cleaner streets, bigger houses, more synagogues. No connection between the amount of Jews in an area and how nice it is, just thought I’d point out where I saw my first synagogue. In between the discussions Randall would veer his eyesight over at a Jewish twink.
“Ooh! Hello! He’s a cute little Jew boy… so anyway, yeah, like the girls here would be from conservative Jewish families, like, Orthodox Jews, so they would go around dressed from head to toe in black and dull clothing.”
No later was it uttered that we drove past some Jewish girls, probably under twenty. And sure enough, just as he said they were, they were dressed in only a way I would be familiar with from my understanding of an Amish community. There really is no religion for women, is there? Catholics have nuns, Muslims have burqas, and Orthodox Jews have Amish clothes. Even in a country of such boasted “liberation”, there was still this eerie concept that being treated different or unfairly was a sort of debt that was required upon membership, as if a fee or toll to heaven. I wonder does God get a cut or did he just give up sometime after we sort of screwed his son over.The conversation drifted into me talking about something I’m not quite sure is true. During the Second World War, my family (apparently my father side) sheltered a German Jew refugee. They gave him the cover story of being a mute and partially retarded. The only evidence I have to go on this is the fact that my father gave me a ring while telling me the story. It had a crest of a small German village on it. “Hanover”, it read, seemingly a gift from the refugee as a sign of gratitude. Whether or not this story is true is beside the point. I rarely tell it, simply because of the few opportunities and because it doesn’t particularly mean anything to me. But it somewhat touched Randall who responded with a “wow”.

It must have struck a nerve with him, because he explained his family’s unfortunate history. His family used to own African slaves in the days of plantations. He spoke very somberly about it, in the same way you would when telling a story of a friend who recently died or a father who wasn’t there for you and that you’ve never met.
“It must be nice knowing your family stood for something.”
I quickly explained, just as somber, that the Irish fought on both sides of the war, under the impression that the victor, whether it would have been the allies or the axis powers, would have granted deliverance from British rule. I don’t think I mentioned this out of a sense of modesty or to make him feel better, even though obviously we both agreed these were things in the distant past, I just felt I needed to remind myself (and Randall) that we must all face the issues that are important, while remembering they do not enhance nor decrease our characters. A man who claims another’s victory is one who will dismiss his own flaws, while a man who takes on another’s guilt imprisons his own morale.
It’s still day light when we arrive onto North Western Avenue. The gleaming houses soon grow smaller and smaller, and browner and browner, until eventually we’re practically driving on a sea of cardboard and black letters. The conversation is definitely coming to a close, as Randall is saying, “We should totally do this again.” We’re not at my hotel yet. I agreed with him. We’re both a lot more polite and stiff, like we’re travelling through time, back to the moment before we met outside. I’m guessing this is normal. It’s not that we couldn’t talk for a while longer, it’s just that we mustn’t. I imagine Randall has probably just taken time from his work, and he must imagine I’m about to explode with excess cum. Only one of us is right. We arrive at the hotel.
The room wasn’t made, despite leaving a sign on the door asking for it to be. We probably were gone for two or three hours, factoring in the driving and the amount of cigarettes I’ve had. This isn’t a problem. It actually quenches my paranoia that the maids have been moving my stuff around. My second theory that there’s a ghost in the room has suddenly become much more plausible. I bring out my laptop and stumble with the American plugs. As soon as it loads and I punch in the internet password (guest27 if you’re ever staying in the Hollywood City Inn), and a message appears. It’s from one of the advertisements I replied to seeking a roommate. I remember this one because it read like someone like me; freaky. I was honest in the email. Not a sob story, just sold myself as a perfect roommate. It seemingly worked.
“Wow! I’m impressed with your email! When can we meet?”
The taxi pulled up to an apartment building somewhere south of Sunset Boulevard; vaguely along the same road Randall and I took the other day. This might be Monday or so, but I can’t be sure. Perhaps I gave myself Sunday off to unwind. The fare rang up just under twenty dollars. I gave him twenty and stupidly gave him quite a good tip. I hope I don’t get the same one next time. I cautiously walk up to the side of the gate and ring a buzzer next to a name I remember from the email.
“Hello, is that John?”
“That depends, is this Conor?”
“Yes it is,” I said quite gleefully, unable not to be seduced by the soothing voice coming from the other end.
“You son of a bitch! Come on in. Second to last door on the right, first one on your right as you walk in.”
The gate opened with a grizzly noise, like a nasally groan. I walked past an assortment of white metal chairs arranged around the nearest pillar to them, with an ashtray as the center piece. The fence-wall combination to my left is also white. Even the air conditioners stumbling in through the windows like lazy fat burglars are white. A long way from the hotel that’s opposite a Spanish speaking church made out of a disused hairdresser’s shop, and playing electric keyboard music to near tribal chanting. I get to the door and knock. The door opens. Through the grated first door, in front of the actual door, I received a, “Conor, hello, how are you?”
The gated door opens and a large hand stretches out to mine, nearly crushing it instantly. John is an actor, over 6 feet tall. Wouldn’t be surprised if he could have reached half way to another foot over that. His face holds a warm smile in such a way that would have you believe his head was a box, similar in shape. His glasses sit neatly on the highest reaches of the bridge of his nose, not moving despite the smile and leaning down to me. His shirt and slacks neatly held together by a thin black leather belt, like a ribbon holding a present by a bow. I’m invited in. Instantly I have entered the weird and wonderful world of John. I love the décor of the place. Modern chic sort of stuff.
“Do you want something to drink?” John calls out from the kitchen. I make my way around the corner.
“Eh, no thanks. Thank you.”
“Oh go on!”
I’m slightly taken back. Imagine the way a child who has the maturity of an uncle would say that. He’s practically excited by the concept of my refusal.
“No, I’m fine, really.”
“I know you want one, I know you do. Go on, you want a beer? Some soda? Water?”
“…  Water please.”
“I knew it”, John says skipping in spot as he opens the fridge. “Why do we do that? Why is our instant instinct to refuse things when offered to us, even though we want it? You wanted water but you didn’t want to be rude,” John said, passing me the bottle. “I remember I was at my aunt’s house and she offered me something to eat and I took it. And then my mom got mad and she said, ‘Don’t you dare take food from her again! She probably thinks I don’t feed you kids! Whenever someone offers you something you say no thank you’,” John mimicked in a high-pitched tone. I couldn’t help but feel I was looking into a bizarre fun house mirror, reflecting shards of my mind.
I awkwardly stood in the kitchen nodding and politely agreeing with John as he continued on his strange little whirl-wind train of thought, standing over me like a younger child standing on his tippy-toes, studying a younger baby’s fragile nature. I quickly gained the impression he was fond on me. At first he would put a hand on my shoulder here and there. Then it became two hands on either shoulder, gripping me, like a massage you weren’t fully enjoying. By the time the water was done I was fully immersed in a hug. John’s stature and enthusiasm didn’t make it easy for me to get my arms around him while he was gripping me tightly. I’m guessing John doesn’t have many friends my height.
Eventually John remarked that we should “take a look at your new room.” It was rather nice, definitely livable. The kind of room that you would be mistaken about already having someone live in it. John explained to me this was his former roommate’s room; an Englishman who returned home due to his girlfriend and acting career. Fitting that perhaps an Englishman needs to leave before an Irishman can do anything. I sit in a little swivel chair by the desk. John kicks his feet up and onto a table that just so happened to be in the room, surrounded by two more chairs. Somewhere along the line we discuss philosophy and religion; the Margret Thatcher quote comes to mind about America. Myself and John seem to have an interesting discussion about metaphysics and such. I don’t think he was a deist like myself, nor an atheist. Too liberal to be religious. I’d hate to say it, but he may have been an agnostic. I don’t say that with any banes, I just think agnostics are the lucky fucks.
“So, hey, can I ask you a question?” John says comfortably, slightly mimicking my gestures in the swivel chair as I gently swing left to ring.
“Sure.”
“What sexuality are you?”
“Oh, I’m, eh, I’m bisexual.”
And like an interrogator or a hostage negotiator, he had my trust with the truth. He explained he was just curious due to the fact he saw my Facebook and wondered about a comment my sister or friend left. I didn’t think about the Facebook thing too much; a lot of places have demanded to see my Facebook account, including the person who made sure I understood he walks around with a nine inch penis. As much as I would hate to admit it, Mark Zuckerberg had his finger on the pulse of America even in his Harvard days. John went on to explain he was of that age where sexuality is blurred and becomes a non-issue. I understood what he meant, even if I considered it to be Pansexual. I didn’t feel threatened or anything, but I fucking hate tall people in general. You ever been five foot something and try moving around a bar? But now I’m going off topic. John went on to talk about his acting career a little more, followed by something to do with his throat cold as well. As we left the room to have some dinner (at John’s insistence), he put his hands on my shoulder in a way that can only be described as “Pal-ly” or “Buddy-ly”. I really can’t stress how affectionate he was.
“See, you’re getting a little more comfortable with being touched.”
“Can I go out for a cigarette?”
John was inside cooking something in the microwave he pulled out from the freezer. I’m still not familiar enough with the concept of American food. It’s a horse of a different color to me. I inhaled the cigarettes, complaining to myself that they didn’t have as much nicotine as European cigarettes. I’m like a heroin addict with these things. Continually seeking that high that will never come. I suppose that’s the second lesson I’ve learnt here in America; there is a high to seek. Whether the escape of persecution the pilgrims sought, the desire to cultivate the land of this great country, or the quest to get a woman to get down on her red raw knees in front of your lap.
John soon joins me outside in the white landing strip. Two white guys outside in the whitest part of LA. John’s actually rather attractive in a way, but I still didn’t like the height issue. We discuss the difference between cigarettes (while his hand is on my knee (I don’t move it off either)). He explained American cigarettes never go out. Myself and my lighter would kindly disagree with that remark. A ping signals the meal is prepared. I finish my second or third cigarette before I join John back inside. We had the juiciest burgers possible from a microwave, along with beans, chips and dip. I was quite nice actually. During the meal I apologized to John for coming across a little reserved and hesitant and assured him I’m normally more relaxed than this.
John sputters out through his chicken burger (mine was beef): “Conor! I don’t think you’re being reserved. I think you’re one of the most beautiful, most original, most honest souls I have ever met.”
I thank him. Somewhere along the line the conversation turned to transsexuals, and my interest in them.
“Oh! In that case I definitely have someone you have to meet.”
John was forty-something, and yet he makes it quite clear that he regularly had parties and hung out with younger gays, transsexuals, and exotic individuals. My interest was piqued. I wouldn’t mind a few drinks with some transsexuals. The time soon rolled around to six in the evening, the sun still blazing outside, with a slight golden glow as it bounced across the tree tops and around the street corners. I wasn’t growing bored, just a speech John gave me about working hard on finding a place and a job rattled me a little.
“You need to get out there and get down and dirty. You have to contact as many people as possible.”
I don’t recall what else he said. The roofies he put in my drink began to affect my memory. I quickly called a taxi using his office phone. Sometime in between him talking about a short film he was acting in and the taxi arriving he gave me one last big tight hug by the door and kissed me on the side of the neck.
“I love you,” he said tenderly, a hint of pure affection in his voice.
“… I love you too…” I replied, with a hint of what might be called “don’t-rape-me-please” in my voice.TO BE CONTINUED…

Conor Matthews, who is a regular contributor to DDA, can be reached at: matthewsconor@hotmail.com, and at Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/conorelmo.

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