|fucking off in los angeles
|This was 30 years ago. I was married at the
time. The city was Los Angeles. We lived in
Koreatown before it was Koreatown-—when
it was Whitetown—-on Berendo st in a 7
room apt. The rent was $175. That is
It was a refreshing change from the
previous pad, a studio pad on the East side
of New York, bordering Spanish Harlem with
one window that looked directly into the
window of a similar apt across the void of an
airshaft. The rent was the same--$175 per.
That was New York.
We settled in. My wife took a job as a
copywriter for an ad agency and I opted for
non-employment. I was a writer--or wanted
to be. I was a Henry Miller type. Miller spent
the first 40 years of his life talking about all
the books—masterpieces--he was going to
write--and then he actually got down to
writing them. I was still in stage one--the
The writing process involves a period of
gestation. Powerful influences-—from the
parents, the friends, the wives and
girlfriends, etc, also books—other writers-—
gather and find their way into the writing
part of the brain where they percolate for a
time and at some point the process
sufficiently completes itself and the writer is
ready to begin--to speak in his own voice-—
an original voice, distinct from any
It’s an interval of time that varies from
writer to writer. Miller had to wait 40 years.
I had to wait 50—another 18 into the future.
But there I was, in the 7 room apt, trying to
write and meeting with zero results. It was
like pulling teeth—-a bad sign. Writing
should be fun. That is the idea. This was the
opposite of fun. It was tedious, dull,
maddening. It was a pain in the ass.
Three blocks from the house was a tennis
court. I didnt play tennis. But now I had all
this time to kill and a diversion was required
from the misery I was inflicting upon myself
via the writing process and the diversion
I met some people and started to play. I
played tennis. I played and played. I still
wrote every day. I was waiting for
something to happen and now it was
happening--on the tennis court. My wife
would come home from work and ask how
the writing went and I would say: the
writing sucks; but the tennis is coming along.
One night we were sitting around and I said:
we need to find a good bar. Except for sex
my wife practiced moderation in all things
and hanging out in bars endlessly pissing
away time to no purpose was not her idea of
moving forward in life. But I was from
Buffalo where this was the off-duty activity
preferred above all others.
We needed to find a good bar and we found
a good bar—-we found The Coach and
Horses. I met a guy playing tennis, another
wastrel, with too much time on his hands, a
TV producer with no shows to produce. One
day following the tennis he invited me for a
beer and I tagged along behind, over to
Sunset and along Sunset into West
Hollywood, past La Brea, a nondescript
stretch of thrift stores, greek diners. golf
discount outlets, guitar repair, etc and here
was the Coach, squeezed in between a
barber shop and the Louis French drama and
The decor was the English pub Hounds and
Hares look with the distressed oak beam
framing, the Guiness posters, mounted
weaponry, etc and the American version of
darts-—the pool table. There was a juke box
featuring a random mix of rock and rhythm
and blues, bit of country and handful of
Behind the bar was Bob Grant—the owner.
Ill get to Bob.
It was dark, cool, quiet
We had a beer, and another. We had
another. I punched up a few Sinatra tunes
on the jukebox that recalled fond memories
of the old days in Buffalo getting hammered
with my guinea friends from the west side.
A few regulars began to drift in. These were
people I would come to know well. There
was Bob the barber and Mario the
songwriter and Phil the car thief and Steve
the carpet salesman and Alice the postal
clerk, etc. You get the idea.
Henry Miller wrote a book called Tropic of
Cancer, a classic account of a handful of
misfit types who all shared a common view
of life--never to find a job—-leaving them
with vast amounts of time on their hands—
to drink, fuck, talk—a lot of talking, and
they all bore a staggering resemblance to
the people at the Coach and Horses. For a
writer it was a goldmine.
Time passed. I called my wife, working
nearby, to join us. The drinking continued.
At some point Bob Grant whipped up some
steak sandwiches, quite good. We ate,
drank, shot some pool.
We continued to drink. I switched from beer
to the hard stuff--scotch. Now I don’t drink.
But then I did—with a vengeance. Time
passed. It was one o’clock—last call. In Los
Angeles—the entertainment capital of the
world, inhabited by a vast horde of drug
lords, porno stars, necrophiliacs, pimps and
pederasts, pet shop arsonists, fleeing Nazis,
etc, practicing every vice and hideous
perversion of the human spirit on an hourly
basis--the bars close at one o’clock. In
Buffalo the bars close at 4 am—if then.
But last call at the Coach was an ambiguous
concept. That depended on who was
installed at the bar at the time and the
unpredictable mood of Bob Grant. If bob
was in the mood and everyone looked cool
the front door was locked and drinking
continued. Various drugs were broken out,
including amyl nitrite—poppers. You
supplied your own or Bob would
provide a hit for 50 cents a copy.
Time passed. More drinking, more drugs,
Time passed. Ill make a long story short.
We got home at five am. That was the
Coach and Horses.
We returned a few nights later. It was more
of the same, drinking, listening to rock on
the juke box, shooting pool, sniffing amyls.
There was something about the place--an
addictive quality. You started by going one
or two nights a week, then it was 3 or 4
nights a week, then it was every night a
week including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Here are short profiles of a few regulars I
recall vividly to this day, in no way
diminished by the passing of 25 years:
BOB GRANT. Owner. 45. Bob has owned the
coach 10 years. Before that I don’t know.
He is divorced with two kids, one doing time
for mail fraud, the other 6 or 7. He lives
with his brother in a tiny pad in the hills.
JACK GRANT. Bro to Bob. The human liver.
He was born with a glass in his hand. I have
known people who can drink, including a
guy named Gene Calogero I worked with in
New York I once saw drink 13 martinis, but
Jack Grant puts them all to shame. Also: he
didn’t get drunk. He put away enough sauce
each day to destroy the liver of a water
buffalo but he didn’t get drunk. It was
BOB VOLK. Bob is a barber—at the
barbershop next to the Coach—very
convenient. If Bob spent as much time
cutting hair as he does drinking at the Coach
he’d be sitting pretty. Of all the people I
met in Los Angeles at that period of my life
it is Bob Volk who stands out as the
quintessential LA type that could exist
Los Angeles is unique. It isnt even S. Calif.
It’s equal parts sun, the ocean, the vastness
of the grid and the freeway sprawl-—and
the movies, don’t forget the movies, this is
where they are made, a devious element,
brainless and subversive, and it all combines
to operate on the spirit in a particular way—-
to pervert reality.
I arrived from New York where there are 2
possibilities: you either have a job or are
looking for one. LA is different. You exit the
terminal at the airport—LAX—and stand
there on the curb with your face beaming up
into the sun and 3 thoughts enter your
mind: hookers, surfing, drugs.
And that was Bob Volk—an existential type
who embraced the notion that anything
worth doing is worth doing until you drop
dead doing it. I was with him one night and
he was drunk as I had ever seen another
human being—including Gene Calogero. He
couldn’t see, talk, hear or move. He wouldn’
t go home. He sat at the bar welded to his
I said: Bob: I/ll drive you home
I said bob: I/ll drive you home
One more time.
He said: No
Bob grew up in Venice where he studied
scuba diving and dabbled in auto theft. He
was a machinist and a fence. One thing led
to another--the opening of a whore house in
Mailbu. He had hit the big time. He had a
pad, a string of hookers and a book full of
telephone numbers including—he said—a
certain famous singer whose last name was
He had the whore house going full blast and
was peddling dope on the side and the
money was pouring in and going out just as
fast, or even faster, because he was that
kind of guy—a Bob Volk kind of guy. He got
busted for the dope and became a barber.
MARIO. Songwriter and small time film
producer of the B—or maybe D--variety. A
hustler but not a scumbag. A sweet man. He
was crazy about my wife and wrote a song
ELAINE. Artist—of the conceptual type. Shes
had some shows including a group affair
downtown at the Temporary Contemporary
and she was the star. Not too hard when you
consider some of the other participants: the
guy who inserted his dick into an artificial
tree, the guy who dug a giant hole exposing
a corner of the foundation of the building,
the guy who installed a piece of vomit
sculpture. You get the idea. Elaine took 3
mobile homes, shorties that she wrapped
with used mattresses and baling wire and
hoisted into the air where they dangled,
filling up the atrium, slowly turning.
There are some others I will get to.
One night I arrived, nine o’clock or
therebouts, alone. My wife is home. She
was losing her taste for the place. She was a
social drinker, not a devoted drinker and the
people were not her meat. They were too
desperate and lonely. Also: she had a job.
That morning I entered the bathroom and
there scotch-taped to the mirror was an
advertisement clipped from a fashion
magazine that endeavored to make a point
summed up by the headline, which was:
YOU CANT BE TIRED AND BEAUTIFUL.
I enter and sit next to Bob Volk. He is with
Trudy—his wife. They just got married.
Trudy is hot, a piece of ass, and on the
same wavelength as Bob—the cuckoo
They met at the Coach-—where else? I was
there. It was the usual, post last call,
getting on to 4 am, the air saturated with
the fumes of amyl nitrite and here is Trudy,
the piece of ass, a little worked up and now
Bob proposes the notion of a spin on the
back of his bike up Sunset blvd--with Trudy
naked. She has to be naked because
otherwise what would be the point?
And this they proceed to do. We are out in
back, in the lot behind the Coach and off
come the clothes and onto the bike she
jumps and Bob fires it up, the Harley, what
else, and they peel off down the alley out
into the street—Sunset Blvd at 4AM, but
Sunset goes all night, and they take a quick
spin around the block and come zooming
back, hook a right at the alley and into the
lot behind, raking hard, and he kills the
beast with a squeal of rubber.
It was wild. We went nuts. Naturally,
following a stunt like this, they had to get
Gary wanders in and takes a seat. Gary is a
writer—or wants to be. Why do people want
to be writers? Its hard, its lonely, there is
no money. But there you have it. They
want to write—and write they will-—the
money-—or talent be damned.
Gary has asked me to read some stories
and I refused. Writing is written to be read
by an agent, or editor, not by an
acquaintance who would rather have his
fingernails pulled out one at a time. That is
my view. But I enjoy talking about it—the
writing process itself and also some of the
stalwart American writing studs, Faulkner,
Hemingway, Mailer, Pynchon, etc. Gary is
partial to William Burroughs, who wrote
Naked Lunch, a book I have tried to read six
times and never got beyond page 4 where I
came across the following sentence:
I’m a ghost wanting a body—-after the Long Time
moving through odorless alleys of space where no
life is only the odorless no smell of death.
If this was writing I am a professional water
Time passed. Over to the pool table. I play
with Scott. Scott is a movie star. By that I
mean he plays the lead. He was in a film
called In Cold Blood, based on the Truman
Capote book. There were two killers, the
shy killer and the sociable killer. Scott
played the shy killer and that was his
problem, a common problem, the problem
of forever being identified by the part that
launched your career—-in Scotts case the
shy psychopath. Sometimes he is invited to
play an extrovert psychopath.
At the coach we play nine ball. You pay your
quarter and take your turn. The loser is
bumped and the next one in line pays for
Pool is my game. I grew up in Buffalo you
will recall, where the winters are cold, they
are inhuman, and the summers arent much
better. The humidity is intolerable. You feel
like a sponge under water. The result is a
colossal amount of time spent indoors
seeking relief from the weather—at a bar—
or poolhall. In this way, beginning at age
13, by way of Hippedrome Billiards on
Niagara St, I acquired my formidable pool
I beat Scott and then I beat Steve and then
I beat Elaine. Now Scott gets lucky and
beats me. Gary beats Scott and Elaine beats
So it goes. Pool and drinking, pool and
drinking, pool and drinking. Its pool, pool,
Last call rolls around. Tonight last call
means last call. We/re sitting there with our
nostrils quivering waiting for Bob to break
out the amyl nitrite but its no dice.
Everyone splits. I am standing in front with
Gary, Gary’s brother George, down from
Oakland for a visit, and Lavonne, high
school classmate of George, paying her first
visit to the Coach. She likes it. We stand out
front, watching the traffic roaring up and
Decide what to do. Gary wants to take some
mescaline. I don’t take drugs. I prefer
drink. But—its Los Angeles. You take drugs.
Where to take the dope? My pad is out
because of my wife. Garys pad is a hole.
That leaves Lavonnes in Van Nuys. We
make it to Gary’s for the mescaline which
we take and split for Lavonnes.
At Lavonnes. A nice pad. There is a pool, a
garden and inside a big living room with a
Lavonne breaks out some wine. We sprawl
on the floor sucking wine and smoking a
Lavonne is divorced. She was married 14
years. The husband—ex-husband--works for
Frank Sinatra. That week Time magazine
featured a story about Sinatra, a retirement
story, in which Sinatra made reference to
post-retirement, and his plans for such,
perhaps to include teaching. I am from
Buffalo, a big Sinatra town, and this is what
interests me—Sinatra stories. We kick this
one around—Professor Sinatra--exactly the
kind of issue you choose to speculate upon
when wasted by 5 hours of dope and
drinking. Like what would he teach—-How
to Buy a Car For a Friend 304? A seminar in
punching photographers. Pinky Rings 302.
We continue: Paying a Hospital Bill
Anonymously. Eating Italian Food. Its
endless. We are laffing like hyenas.
The laughter subsides. The mescaline kicks
in. the room is quiet. Lavonne retreats to
the couch with a blanket. George joins her.
Gary stretches out on the floor.
How to describe a mescaline high. I can do
it in 4 words: give me amyl nitrite.
Mescaline is for low energy types. I am a
high energy type. But so be it. I have taken
the mescaline and I must wait for the drug
to leisurely work its way through my
I rise and wander about, investigating the
house. I am interested in how people live—
the books they read, the music they listen
to, the food they eat, the clothes they wear,
the furniture, the this, that and the other.
Its the writer in me. I would have made a
I inspect the record collection—every
Sinatra record known to man along with
some other crooner types of that period—
Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme,
etc. There is some jazz—Miles, Coltrane and
so forth and some blues, including Otis
Spann. I like Otis Spann. I remove the
record from the jacket and onto the
Dey got all dat bread
Justa send peeples up in space
Dey got all dat bread
Justa send peeples up in space
But f’you an me baby
We aint goin anyplace
I like this. Wasted by the mescaline the
lyrics seem infinitely profound.
Well you tol me when I met you that
That your life was awful tame
Then I took you to a nightclub
And the whole band knew your name
Not bad. I had a girlfriend like that in New
I wander the house. Here are some books—
Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Herman
Wouk—the best seller types. Well—why
not? Writers write to be read—and by the
widest possible readership. Any writer who
claims otherwise is either lying or highly
Here is a book—Post Office-by Charles
Bukowski. Ive heard of this man—from
Gary. He lives in LA. I open the book:
One night she came home and let me have it.
She said, “Hank, I cant stand it”.
"Cant stand what, baby?”
“This. The situation. Me working and you laying
“What about when I worked and you laid around?”
“That’s different. You’re a man.”
“Oh, I didnt know that. I thought you bitches were
always screaming about equal rights.”
“I know whats going on with you and the whore in
“Mary Lou? She’s straight as an arrow”
“She’ll screw anything with a cock.”
“Now, come on, baby. Youre just a little upset.
I reached for her. She pushed me away.
“I’m not sleeping with you tonight—or any other
I considered this oneThere were advantages and
disadvantagesthe advantages prevailed I said fine.
keep your pussy. its not that great
Not bad. Funny. Theres a gift.
I wander the house—into the kitchen.
Lavonne has a nice kitchen—in spite of the
mess it presents at this moment. There are
dirty dishes, in and outside the sink open
cans of food and other unrefrigerated items,
of garbage bleeding oil, racing form, box of
tampax, cassette recorder, curlers, etc, etc.
A dirty kitchen bothers me. My mother was
a scrupulous housekeeper—and I have a bit
of that as well. DH Lawrence liked to scrub
floors. I wash the dishes and file in the
dishrack. I wash the pots and pans and dry
and put away. I empty the garbage and
install a fresh liner, return all food to the
pantry and fridge. I clean the sink deck. I
mop the floor, collect the racing form,
tampax, curlers and so forth and organize at
one end of the sink deck.
That’s that. I feel better
I inspect the yard. Here is the pool, also in
need of some tidying up--a mask of dust,
leaves and other tree debris, scraps of
paper, dead bugs and so forth.
I sit on the grass, listening to the roar of
traffic from the freeway. The house is 50
yards from the freeway.
Time passes. A little light beginning to creep
in over the hill. Traffic picking up on the
freeway—the working stiffs rushing off to
the job. One of these days that will be me—-
rushing off to the job. But not yet. This is my
Return to the house. Gary, George and
Lavonne are conscious. We lay around,
sprawled on the floor, speaking of this and
that. Have you ever listened to four people,
stoned on mescaline, engage each other in
conversation? It is the mindless psychotic
drivel of an autistic child.
Time passes. Now we have a brilliant idea:
We go to Arts Deli on Ventura Blvd. The
waitress is a sharp-looking blonde the age of
a young grandmother. My mother was a
waitress. She worked a place called Biffs in
Oakland, the worlds busiest coffee shop.
She worked a split shift, six days a week,
and in this way, via tips--nickel tips, quarter
tips, five dollar tips--she helped put two
grandchildren through college.
We order. I have a monte carlo with fries,
Lavonne has the triple decker sardine, egg
salad and pepper beef combo, George has
the swiss steak, Gary has a double chili dog.
We eat, we finish eating, we leave, we give
the waitress a fat tip.
We/re standing outside Arts. It’s a typical
valley day. You mix equal parts of sun and
smog with no wind or clouds. We take a
walk, along Ventura Blvd. There is
something about this—-walking in Los
Angeles, stoned or otherwise, morning,
noon or night-—that seems ill-advised--a
We return to Lavonnes. We drink beer for
an hour and I decide to split—back to LA.
Gary comes with.
George stays with Lavonne.
Its back to the Coach where Gary has left
The Coach is empty. Jack Grant is behind
the bar, down at one end drinking beer with
an old dude.
Gary splits. I have a beer, call my wife to
tell her I am alive and will pick her up from
I have the afternoon to kill, make it over to
Book Soup, on the strip, to read for a bit—-
tennis magazines. I wander over to fiction.
Im losing my taste for fiction. I used to read
4 novels a week. Now I pick up one of these
books, highly touted in a Times Book
Review piece, and come across a description
of a guy standing in a classroom sharpening
a pencil while looking out the window at
snow falling onto cars in a parking lot—-a
riveting moment that requires half a page of
cholesterol-riddled prose to describe-—and I
close the book.
Pick up my wife who asks how I feel-—good.
“Youre not tired?”
We go for a drink—-to Musso/Franks in
Hollywood—-still going strong after 70
years—-the grandaddy of the watering holes
for writer/drunks from the studio. If you
cant be a writer yourself you can at least
find a good writers bar to drink at. It was at
Mussos that a famous lunch occurred,
between William Faulkner and Sam
Goldwyn, there to discuss a new film,
assigned for the writing chores to Faulkner,
and they are eating and F says: “I have a
favor to ask. I want to write this one at the
house--not the studio”.
Goldwyn thinks this over and says: “Fine”.
So they finish lunch and Faulkner gets into
his car and drives to Mississippi.
Mussos is famous for its martinis. Will
Rogers said he never met a man he didn’t
like. I never drank a martini I didn’t like. In
Buffalo they are called White Bullets. I
have one, then another. I have another.
We eat. A little wine with dinner. We finish
eating, decide what to do. I am not tired. It’
s the booze. It masks the fatigue—and other
things as well—-common sense.
On to Dontes, a jazz club in North
Hollywood. We visit this place on a regular
basis. There is no cover, cheap drinks and I
know a musician, Don Menza, playing
I know Don from Buffalo. We went to high
school. What Don was doing at Tech high--
vocational type institution where you
studied things like foundry, sheet metal
fabrication, mechanical drawing and so
forth—is a good question. Don was a
musician, beginning at age 5, on piano and
tenor sax. At 8 he was writing charts. He
was on the road at 15.
Tonight he has Blue Mitchell along, trumpet
player and ex-member of the Jazz
Messengers, the Art Blakey band. They
work over a few tunes, including Equinox,
the Coltrane piece, that always reminds me
of New York, drinking and chasing women,
including my wife, a virgin, and when we
finished, 4 minutes later, she said: is that it?
So it goes, a few more tunes and Menza
calls out a tune, Red Clay, the Freddie
Hubbard tune, that I sometimes request.
The set ends, the musicians leave the stage,
into the kitchen and back out the kitchen
into the yard for some fresh air, check out
the stars and pass around the dope. I was
there one night with Menza. The coke was
being passed around like party dip. Later we
wound up at the drummers girlfriends pad
listening to Clifford Brown records.
The second set begins, a few more tunes,
including—Donna Lee—-Charlie Parker
piece—-written for a woman, heiress to a
wholesale food chain, also an amateur
hooker who was a regular at Birdland in
those days. Bird banged her a few times and
she would lay bread on him to get high, etc,
More music, more drinking, and I am
starting to fade. Also—my wifes job. We
split, back over the hill into town. I have a
habit, when drinking, of drving fast. But not
with this car, a 65 flesh colored Datsun with
diseased pistons that can do 50 mph. I
smash the accelerator to the floor. The car
slowly begins to pick up speed. We’re doing
50 and that’s it.
“MOTHERFUCKING FOUR CYLINDER NO
COMPRESSION SIX VOLT JAP
We exit the freeway onto Vermont. There is
a small hill between Beverly and Third.
Going down it I get the car up to 60.
We make it to the apt. Im feeling better due
to the drive. There is a bottle of bourbon on
the table. I take a pop. My wife is looking
at me. Now what? I kiss my wife. I take out
my dick. She sucks my dick. We do it on the
She sucks my dick, I eat her pussy, we fuck,
I pass out.
|The Coach and Horses