Give me your trendy, give me your poor. Give me your ugly, and don’t forget the whores. -Los Angeles
I was on the last open stretch of road, somewhere after Blythe, when the weight of my adventure set in. I had just traveled over 2500 miles, searching for an undisclosed location of the American Dream. It was an allusive disgusting creature; one that was bred for self indulgence, depravity and decadence. My goal was Los Angeles, specifically West Hollywood, the home of broken dreams. I couldn’t imagine a better place to start.
My car hurtled down the highway, weaving in between trucks and tumbleweeds. I had to make up for lost time from the last rest stop. After eight hours of driving I needed the largest can of Red Bull made; one that was on par with a bump and a slap on the ass. Wings my man, fly, fly, fly!
I pulled over at the stop and began my battle with the vending machine. “Take my $5 you son of a bitch!” I yelled, hoping it could understand me. It was man versus machine, and I was losing. Maybe it knew my sleep deprived state couldn’t be fixed with just one can. Insert a $10 you cheap prick! A man standing across from me took a long drag of a cigarette and tossed it aside. He approached me with a nervous twitch and a desperate look on his face; just the kind of friendly person I needed right now.
“You uhm, need help there mister?” he asked with a facial twitch. The man had a certain trust worthy all American look about him. Snow white slicked back hair, denim shirt with black suspenders, and matching jeans.
“This god damned machine hates me, yes,” I replied.
He snatched the bill from my hand and stretched it on the corner of the vending machine, ensuring the edges were perfectly flat.
“It’s bout’ the the wrinkles and knowin’ yer way around money,” he said while concentrating intently on the bill. A second later he popped it in the machine and I was ready to rage on once again. “Where ya headin’ off to?” he asked.
“Los Angeles, man. Looking for the American Dream, or what’s left of it,” I replied while taking a large sip of my Red Bull.
The weary man leaned towards me and stared. His bloodshot eyes had the familiar, ‘I’ve seen shit’, look to them.
“So long as it isn’t Vegas, boy,” he countered. “I went years ago, it took me alive. Sunk it’s teeth in and wouldn’t let go,” he added.
“I’ll keep that in mind when I’m ready to look,” I said with a smile heading back to the car.
Las Vegas is a place where sex, drugs, and alcohol were serve as a convenience. If I couldn’t find the American Dream on my own, then I’d trace the vein from there. Besides, that trip was best made with friends and a healthy appetite for destruction; Clutch and JB immediately came to mind.
A few hours later I arrived at my hotel located two blocks from the Chinese Theater in the heart of Hollywood. My brain convulsed with thoughts of running, skipping, and jumping, while my body told me I should lay down. This was one of the worst combinations to be in Hollywood with. Sights, sounds, glamor, and excitement were around every corner. I threw my bag on the bed and made my way back downstairs. I’d do what I did best; find a dive and grab a nightcap.
I wasn’t fully prepared for the madness before me. My first thought was clear; I was too sober for this. Hollywood Boulevard was what happened when the most eccentric money driven society on the planet put together a circus. Not elephants, trapeze or fantastical pyrotechnic displays, though I’m sure you could find all of that if you wanted to. Instead, I was greeted by the loudest and strangest grifters this country had to offer. Each act performed separately five feet from one another; the combination of 40+ of them at once transformed to street into a cluster f*ck of lunacy.
The worst were those that were immune to the madness, simply because they lived it too long. They had slowly become part of the show. Some started as humble adventurers, others entrepreneurs, looking to hit it big. Some even dreamed of grandeur, that perhaps they would be found and become the next star. Instead they became several terrible versions of Captain Jack Sparrow standing around with three fully grown men with beer bellies in spandex Spiderman suits. Master Chief wore a painted foam costume as he/she/it waved to the crowd while four half naked women handed out fliers. Next to them a man beat on an upside down plastic bucket while five or six people in white masks danced out of sync to a boombox blaring staticky noise. All the while dozens of Asians gathered around snapping photos of anything that moved.
I pushed my way through the madness listening to whispers of bars I should visit. Sinister Bar, The Rainbow Bar and Grill, Whiskey a Go Go. I settled my brain and caught a cab to a quiet martini bar called ‘The 3 Clubs’. The outside was low key, no sign, just three ‘clubs’ on the wall, just like you’d find on a playing card. It was far enough from the chaos, but still in the heart of West Hollywood. Maybe I could find some answers, or at least quiet my nerves.
The inside was as close to perfection as I could imagine. The only lights were on the bar, and an occasional candle. The room was nearly pitch black, though I could make out faint outlines of patrons in red leather booths in the back. I plopped down on an open stool and smiled at the bartender.
“I’m 2500 miles from home, trying to find the dream. I need a Pabst and a shot of Jack,” I said with a smile. She grinned and placed a can and a shot in front of me.
A man next to me leaned forward into the light.
“What kinda dreams we talking about?” he suddenly asked. He placed his credit card on the table and motioned to the girl. She poured him a glass of Jack Daniel’s on the rocks.
“On me,” he said raising his glass.
On closer inspection I realized he was wearing large tan cargo pants and a dirty t-shirt. Everyone in the bar, including myself, was fairly well dressed.
“Thanks, man,” I replied slamming back my shot.
“California is full of dreams. Drugs, drinkin’, porn stars. That kind of thing,” he said. “Where ya from?”
“Philadelphia, I own a website that reviews events and bars,” I said with a smirk.
“Oh I see. An entrepreneur. I own a small Marijuana farm out here pushing about 100k a year. I’m just small time compared to most these guys. If you’re looking into staying out here, offer stands,” he said.
I stared at him for a solid minute. The grifters had no end and the madness extended to all corners. It was impossible to escape. I thought of the trucker who warned me of Vegas earlier in the day. Hollywood wasn’t any different. I’d need to keep searching. Texas or New Orleans maybe.
But for now…
Welcome to Hollywood, yet another vein to the American Dream.