7:30 PM WST and my parents haven’t called yet to wish me a happy 28th birthday. I play a voicemail. My mom sings me happy birthday. And I cry out every ounce of beaten down in life sadness, my always ate alone in Junior High at Burger King clogged heart could bear. Apparently, my new diet of double cheese Turkey Burgers from Astro Burgers didn’t do much to unclog the heavy heartedness of ineffectual loser-dom in my heart. Knowing at 28, I was an unemployed wannabe standup comedian in the Valley, porn capital of the world next to Warner Brother Studios, otherwise known as the land of dirty, money shot powered dreams.
My wife now and mother of my 3 kids hates me bringing up my lost year in Sherman Oaks. Where the crystal meth was still working its way out of my system. The unemployment checks were coming to an end. And at 28, I still didn’t have a best friend to call to emote to, ask for advice or pick me up when times were blue. Which depressed me more than having little to no money then. I was so broke, my Hebrew was under Judicial Review at 28 years old. Back then, I couldn’t even stare at an extra Actress with a SAG card on Melrose without being fined for insufficient funds. Ok, so I had some decent material my 1st year of stand-up during my “lost year” in Sherman Oaks. But I almost never made it to Sherman Oaks alive at all.
I lived in Hermosa Beach, for 9 months prior. It was my favorite beach in Southern California by far. The sand is pebble free and the waves for body surfing were consistently the best. My apartment was on Monteray Ave, overlooking the Pier and Brian Wilson’s favorite, money making muse, the misty, always majestic, mighty Pacific. Screw you Mark Twain it’s my story time now. Female hardbody volleyball players abounded. Specs of sand scattered within my shower always put me at Summer loving having a blast ease.
I stared to run by the water after working as an IT recruiter in Manhattan Beach nearby. I was no longer in a suffocating, sexless relationship with my ex. The only rich Irish girl of private Catholic school upbringing in Westwood, John Wooden country. Who couldn’t hold her liquor. But her father had a keg of Sierra Nevada Pale on tap always. So I wasn’t complaining. It’s the pale that never gets stale. Recycling lines from my advertising portfolio and 1st year of stand up has to materialize for me eventually. I even had buds to hang out with down for happy hour at the Poop Deck before I hit on everything that moved. Had my recruiter bud Jay take some inspired trips to Tijuana with me. Growing up during Regan, before Magic had made HIV disappear. I had enough good sense so I thought not to bang any hookers there. Was called a faggot for it which was nice. Walked out of a brothel when they were all lined up also. I couldn’t have been a more indecisive Jew unless I had the munchies at the Bellagio buffet in Vegas for my last meal on earth but was only allotted 1 plate to fill.
I was paying rent on my own. Had to ask mom and dad for deposit, 1st month rent. It was my only way out my relationship with my ex. In retrospect, I should’ve kicked her out of our apartment in West Hollywood. Which I was living in prior. It was ten times cheaper and walking distance to the Improv on Melrose and the Comedy Store on Sunset. So much for thinking that move through.
Across the street from where I lived in Hermosa was a wine shop that sold beer. The owner there was young like me who used to live in NYC, so he was pretty cool in my book, so I thought. We start hanging out late night at this wine shop. He lures me with free wine samples and bottles of beer when I don’t have a bottle to piss in literally. Pretty soon, this leads to us doing bumps of what I thought were cocaine which were actually bumps of Crystal Meth. It looked the same, dripped at the back of my throat the same and snorted up my nostril the same. The only discernable difference after my 1st tiny snort, lasting what seemed like all summer. Was me kissing this delicious blond gal at a dark, scarlet red hued lounge bar by the Strand moments later. Feeling like a coked out Tony the Tiger. Thinking, this is shit is great. It wasn’t.
The crash was in fact the opposite of great. Especially 24 hours later, when I found myself peeing on myself. Walking outside my apartment. Feeling my eyes roll toward the back of head. Never feeling more empty or devoid of hope in such a depressed, bleaked out state in my life. Staring at the Pacific Ocean from my 2nd story walk up apartment in Hermosa Beach, not seeing pure beauty or universal connectivity or boundless potential inside me. Not seeing me prancing on the sand with my ex girlfriend Summer Lam to summer loving having a blast after drinking Pyramid Peach Apricot beers on the beach or making Veal Marsala from Bristol Farms after watching a Sopranos together in our apartment, based on a recipe from the Sopranos cook book no less.
No, all I felt was imminent death coming to claim me if God didn’t throw me a lifeline of any kind. As I walked out of my apartment in a Crystal Meth mind, spirit meltdown stupor, no longer doing wine sales on commission only after I got fired from my IT recruiter job for not billing enough and looking for other jobs on the job. Forward thinking has never been my forte.
Already, using what money I had left on my new apartment deposit in Sherman Oaks in the Valley. From my stocks and 401K, nice to meet you Capital Gains. I had no security blanket left. But thank God my old recruiter bud Jay called me out of the blue to see if I wanted to be roommates. I consider it divine intervention. Because if Jay didn’t call me I would’ve stayed in southern California long enough to try writing another Curb spec again but on my own this time without my ex, Erica’s assistance. I wrote it in 3 days flat. I was clean now. Was attending bartending school in North Hollywood. Spent a fortune on a psychic in West Hollywood to clear my Chakras. Apparently, my Chakras were more clogged than my freshman college one hitter.
In Sherman Oaks, I was trying to write standalone jokes and get laughs from doing stand-up. Till this day, I don’t know what demon drove me to do it. Outside of my roommate Jay, Cedric, another old recruiter bud and Shakes, an IT security analyst who I placed with Raytheon in El Segundo, California, I had no Mikey pep talks from T in Swingers to rely on.
So I’m staring down the cold, unforgiving, gaze of the Pacific Ocean from the balcony of my apartment with pee drenched pants. Having no accomplishment of distinction under my belt yet. Which I can truly claim as my own. Billing almost 100K as an IT Recruiter in Westwood prior doesn’t really count because my Recruiting Manger would spoon feed me lines to negotiate fee and close candidates on salary with. I can’t get over the vacant chill inside me starring out daybreak over Hermosa Beach with scattered, greyish overcast for a change. Thinking, my younger brother who went to boarding school for his cocaine troubles. He’s the one with hard drug issues, not me.
I worked my ass off from 22-28 years old cold calling my brains out as an IT recruiter in Westwood, Century City and now Manhattan Beach. From 7-7 I was at work. And I’d work on TV spec scripts with my ex at night when we lived in West Hollywood together for Curb, Malcolm, even did a Six Feet Under, got really strong encouragement from lit agents and professional readers to.
But since getting fired from my IT Recruiter job and making no money from wine sales and no longer having my ex-girlfriend help anchor me to bang out spec scripts after cold calling off all index cards pre-LinkedIn, I was truly lost at sea. Now, I was no longer a mere Shmuck in a headset. Or even an aspiring TV scribe on the rise, just a spoiled, degenerate, mush brained, borderline friendless, borderline disowned 1st born with a useless Communication degree about to drop dead at 28 years old, 1 year after Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. But my magic 27 didn’t consist of banging out Bobby McGee on Pearl or shredding the Filmore East’s amps to pieces with Machine Gun on Band of Gypsies either. Shit, I wasn’t even a bloated Jim Morrison, who still squeezed out the majestic Indian Summer before my impending, not important enough to be tragic, dying of my light.
I make it across the street to Ming Dynasty’s wine shop. Which he needs to open so I can get some Alka Seltzer and water. Then, when I thought my dark thoughts couldn’t get any trying to sleep off Acid to Beethoven freshman year in college scarier worse. Ming Dynasty cryptically states in the most chillingly, been around a lot of overdoes man, says. Don’t OD in front of my store. I end up shaking it off at his parents place. And all I have to keep me going is forced sunny images of my summer in love with Katie in the Cape, holding hands, walking to town, no images of my pothead friends from high school, no images of dad bonding with me, nothing.
The worst part is me having to move out of my apartment in Hermosa to Sherman Oaks the day after I saw my non-glorious life fade out in front me. My move from Hermosa Hell to the valley is the move that almost killed me, literally. I was so winded, the next day, I had to take 20 minute naps on the coach from merely, carrying boxed books down a single flight of stairs. I had no medical insurance. How I made it to Sherman Oaks without dying from Dark angel’s crystal meth attack on what spark of divinity remained in my sad shrouded soul and borderline brain dead head is purely a direct result of God’s grace, nothing more, nothing less. God must have known ahead of time, what great kids I’d bang out once I got my act together.
Again, I didn’t even know I was doing Crystal Meth. I only learned it was Crystal Meth months later, when Ming Dynasty rang. I said dude, I don’t know what was in that coke but I thought I was doing die in my own arms that night. Ming Dynasty replies. It wasn’t coke, it was Crystal Meth. I thought you knew the difference. But powdered coke looks like powdered Meth. So much for passing the Pepsi fucking challenge.