L.A. is set apart from other cities: it is a city of extremes. I was meant to fly on to Seattle to meet with a member of Mr. Charming’s family. Instead I left the airport in Los Angeles with my kids, three bags and a guitar. I was running away. We were leaving. It was the end of things, either I got out, or I died. Either I left or I accepted my fate. I have never been much good at accepting the gradual slide into the ditch, never accepted that I would not be able to save myself and the children. I fought. So there was my grand play for freedom: I was going to meet Billy in LA and head off into the wide blue yonder in his camper. Los Angeles in the spring. The light in LA is always bright, even at night LA shines. It is urban and edgy, Iggy’s The Passenger played on loop in my mind as we hopped into the airport hotel bus, and to the hotel where we were going to meet up, and the rest was history. I could never live in LA, it is too bright, too fast, too lurid for me. Los Angeles is glitz and dirt, either you fly or you crash and burn. Los Angeles is a savage garden of lost Eden. Los Angeles is heaven for the rich, and skid row for those that don’t make the cut. Los Angeles can bless you or curse you, bring you fortune and fame or else throw you onto desolation row, right onto the skids. I suppose I was overly optimistic to hope for success and safety and happiness in my big LA grand play for redemption and restitution!
I couldn’t wait to get out of LA.
Once we had made it up to Washington State, to the small campground behind a motel, with trees and a fire pit, and room to run for the kids, Washington which exists on a wholly different plane to Los Angeles. Seattle is as dark and rainy and grungy and Los Angles is bright. Seattle is the mosh pit. Los Angeles is the circus. That is not to say Seattle is safer, far from it. I am not saying Seattle is as brutal as New York (never ever ever try and score H in Battery Park in 19–. Take it from me. Sickness is the preferable option), nor is it as actively insane as the Tenderloin in my beloved San Francisco, it is not as war zone terrifying as Chicago, but what Seattle has it a certain kind of North West style scuzz.
We stopped in the camper a way away from Seattle, out on the coast, near Aberdeen, the small town that gave the world 90’s grunge. There was another family, living in their trailer, five kids, two adults and a few dogs. The children were around the same age as mine, so of course we started to talk. I found Billy in their trailer smoking wax that was tainted with research chems, drinking whiskey and watching MTV. I was not impressed. This was meant to be my grand play for safety and a life, not hanging out with some wanna be Ozzy O and getting high. I had no idea that what they were smoking was dosed with psychedelic legal research chemicals. They passed me the bong, I took a hit, staggered to the door and somehow made it to my bed where I proceeded to grow wing and fly for three hours straight, the wind in my hair, my body weightless, airborne, soaring. I would have been impressed if that was what I signed up for, as it was I was very very upset indeed. I thought I was getting lightly stoned – one hit stoned, not higher than I had been in years and tripping. I called the kids in, told them not to move, and tried to hold onto reality. Girl waved her hands in front of my face “woooooooooo!” I groaned. “Darling, Mama smoked a little too much weed, could you please just be a good girl and sit down.” I made plans to tear Billy a new asshole when I could walk again. The kids were playing with me, laughing at my predicament. One hit of pot. Just one tiny little hit of pot should not have gone this way!
Billy’s new best friend’s wife walked in, apologizing for the mix up with the weed and the LSD research chemical duplicate. I just wanted everyone to go away. She insisted we all went to the beach, but I just wanted to sit still and try make sure the kids were safe and sound while blue patches appeared in my vision, and sounds made colors drip from doorways. I never ever would have done this stuff in charge of children. I had fought to be there for them. Dosed. Dosed at my advanced age! The bastards. I started to swear loudly at what was done and was told off by the Americans by birth for cursing. They dose me with strong psychedelics against my will…and I am the uncouth offensive one for a bit of bad language. Damn rednecks.
Billy appeared and ushered me into a car. I became very paranoid indeed. I became convinced that his new friends were trying to murder me and abduct the kids. Driving to the beach, with Billy insisting I smoke a little more of our straight weed to try and “right the ship” I started to plan our escape. I couldn’t let them know I knew what they were up to. Of course it is highly unlikely anyone was trying to abduct or murder us, I had just been dosed, taken by surprise and was failing to hold onto reality in any meaningful way. I would later be furious, for the moment I was just stunned. I was not sure about the smoke myself straight plan. I thought it was ambitious, and potentially dangerous. I did not want to be higher. Higher was the absolute last thing on my mind. What I wanted was to be straight, normal, not high at all. I took the joint, not wanting to upset anyone further, or tip them off and took a couple of hits off the joint. Colors intensified, brightened, out of the window the sea sparkled and shimmered in a flash of sea stars and glittery special effects. I started to cry, and resolved never to listen to him again.
Now, I like to consider myself experienced. You know how Jimi asked “have you ever been experienced?” What I have never ever been able to handle was being dosed – someone getting you high on something you did not bargain on. This was no different, this was not my choice, I wasn’t expecting it, and it was not fun. The paranoia started to grow. Forget Syd Barrett, I was going full on Peter Green, and I could not let any of them know, least of all the kids. The worst thing you can do is fight it, so I tried to go along with the ride, to just let it happen whilst holding on to reality as best I could and not lose track of the whereabouts of the kids and Billy. I needed water. I had no water. As we walked along the beach, footsteps left indelible colors in the pale sand. A sealion rolled in the water by the docks, and I was sure he was going to drag me in and drown me. I couldn’t hold on. I pulled Billy to one side, dragged his ear close to me as I could, and told him: “sweetiepie, they are going to kill us,” I hissed. Billy stopped walking, “You don’t understand, they are going to kill us and grab the kids. The sealion is in on it. We have to grab the children and get the heck out of here.” Billy started to laugh uncontrollably, shoulders shaking. It was not funny, and he was not being cool.
After retrieving the children, dragging them back into the camper, and getting back to the campground, my worrying all the way that Billy was too stoned to drive, the LSD research chemical dupe still misfiring in my brain, I still didn’t feel safe. I needed to run to get away from these awful people, this place, this city, this state. I always get the need for going when I don’t feel safe. Me and Morrison, never been so broke we could not leave town.
Billy grabbed both my hands, and told me that we were safe. I didn’t feel safe. He was doing nothing to make me feel safe, with his whiskey and his drugs and his broken promises, and my broken dreams. The kids were watching a cartoon on the camper television – something Billy usually banned. I could feel the drug I hadn’t asked for start to let go, and decided I was too old for some hellish research chemical come down. I told him it was all enough. These people with their guns and their drugs and their chaos, this was not the road that me and the children could do. These people that dosed a relative stranger, these people that he allowed to dose me, and what the heck was he doing that stuff for anyway! The fact was that Billy never cared about being reliable, never cared about being sensible. He only cared about the party, changing the channel in his head, the road, and he didn’t care if he died in a ditch. I came to the conclusion he didn’t much care about the children either. All the hopes and dreams I landed with in LA came crashing around my ears.
I figured that was the way things end when you land in LA – it is either the billion dollar prize or the rotten cabbage and not much in-between. The Los Angeles gamble followed me all the way to Washington state, chased me up the coast line, and played out there on the sand of a less glamourous beach, with murderous sealions and fake acid. Jim was singing LA Woman on the stereo “are you a lucky little woman in the city of lights, or another lost Angel…in the city at night.” I let out a deep sigh. I was always just another lost Angel in the city at night, and it was always going to be that way, I suppose. I started to wonder just how lost I was.