Monday, December 17, 2012

Laurel Canyon

The Canyon Store is alive this morning with a happy buzz. At a low round table near the entrance sits a group of ladies of the canyon, laughing and graceful in full length skirts and long hair bound with scarves from someplace far away; there is a light gloom in the canyon but if you look at the tops of the hills there is a glow and it is getting warmer. The morning sun is creeping into the shady depths of Laurel Canyon. The coffee is good and strong and as my son Beauregard growls into his cell phone at late arriving crew I look around, tourist-like, and drink it all in. I have been here before. He puts away his phone and comes over to where I am sitting.

“These guys don't get out of bed until I wake them up.”

“Didn't you say that they are musicians?”


“Well, there ya go.” There is another burst of gentle laughter over at the big table. To my ear it sounds a little forced. There can't be that much to laugh about at seven-thirty in the morning, but who knows? This is Los Angeles and I remember feeling the same way thirty years ago. This is a much-storied location, here in the Canyon. Gypsies and wizards and singers and writers and devils and angels have occupied the steep twisting streets all around this little market, and before that the Tongva people were here. It is an old place and you can feel its ancientness and maybe the laughter is a little forced from some sense of the spirits that surround this spot. Probably, though, the lady picking up the tab just told a joke

“So, Beau, what's the plan for today?” I ask it with a light tone but I am not happy. I am vaguely hung over from the effects of a different kind of spirits that I had been steadily imbibing for five days before my flight. There are some things that I cannot do sober and flying to LA is one of them.

“ I don't know, Dad, what do you want to do?” Since this plan began to hatch just after Thanksgiving there have been many changes, mostly based on economic/atmospheric conditions. It had driven me half-mad, and by the time I got on the plane I had given up on itinerary and sanity in equal proportions.

“Son, I'm here because you wanted me here. I can see that the drive to Big Sur might not be a good idea, since you obviously haven't got that deck done and got your check. So why don't you just take care of business and I'll just hang out.”

“No No No, Pops it's all good. Here come the guys. Let's get them up to the job and then you and I can go for a drive.” A couple of California carpenter-musicians come up to the table. Late twenties, I would think, and mirror images of all the guys I had worked with all those years ago. Introductions are made and hands are shaken and we pile into the fancy automobile Beauregard has rented. It has a video screen to show you what you are about to run into as you drive in reverse.

We get to the house where the deck is located. Going around to the back of the house I am struck with the stunning view across the steep canyon walls. There is a mist blowing through the hills and as the sun gets closer the effect is dramatic and quite oriental. This place exudes magic from its every crevice.

The old deck exudes something, too. It ain't magic. New lumber rests alongside old rotting timbers that are more termite habitat than wood. Old fasteners have rusted away until only luck and magic are holding this relic to its vertiginous location. I turn and look at Beau, who is busy getting out tools and talking about the day's work with his two helpers. This whole thing should have been replaced. But I don't say anything. Not in front of the crew. I look at it some more but it makes me unhappy to do so so I go sit in a corner and wait to see what happens next. I wish the sun would hurry up. I have had a chill all morning that no amount of coffee could conquer and I think some of the feeling of cold and trouble is coming from deep inside my soul, rather than from these concrete canyons or this mystical place. Looking at what is going on behind this house is doing nothing to improve my mood.

“Okay, guys, me and my Father are going to run some errands and we will be back in a couple hours. You know what to do.” Their enthusiasm is not at a high level. Not much is going to get done today. And there is a lot to do. There is a lot of work to do but Beau and I go back around the front of the house and get into the rented automobile.

“Where too, Dad?”

“Son, you need to be here with your foot up these guys asses. And why aren't you replacing the whole damn thing instead of patching it back?”

“Because she said the other two contractors told her the same thing and she told me that whoever would just patch it would get the job. And I needed the job.”

'Yeah. I've been down that road before.” I think about it. The boy is in over his head and spread thin. I knew that before I got on the plane. I had figured that if he were still too busy to take a road trip to the redwoods (the original plan) then I could just goof around Hollywood, ride the train, whatever. But he is after something and a day of driving together around town might get us closer to finding that thing that he is after.

“Well, Beau, I used to get a kick out of driving on Sunset from Laurel to Malibu and then back over the hills on Topanga.”

“Okay! That's it! I do that all the time! Like Father like Son, huh Dad?”

“No arguing with genetics, son.” He puts the car into drive and we wind down the crazily twisting canyon roads back past the Canyon Store.  The table full of ladies is still there, waiting for the sun.   But not us.  We are in motion now.  We are going someplace.  We head on down the hill onto Sunset and we take a right hand turn. We turn right and there is the sun. The sun is up and doing it's job and we cruise down Sunset Boulevard towards the Pacific Ocean.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park on location:  Back to LA!


  1. TJ,

    Yer a good guy Tim Joe. No way around it.

    If you're still out there be careful. If not, count your lucky stars.

    Steve Z

    1. I've been home a week, Steve. You may want to reserve your praise untilk the end of the story. Three to go, I think. I'm still writing them.


  2. TJ,

    You are a masterful story teller. Through your narrative, I am placed inside the situation and feel for those involved.

    I'm hoping for a happy ending here.


    1. I'm hoping for a happy ending, too, Dan. It ends Friday, I think. tj

  3. Hey TJ
    Sorry to be AWOL. Work has been crazy. boy has been living in Philly trying to find himself. Moments vary between happiness, anger, danger, love, failure, and life. In days past I tried to raise him right. These days I am happy to simply have honest conversations. I pray that your trip has included several moments of good conversation. That may be enough to have made the trip.
    Yer Pal

  4. Oh, there was lots of conversation, Karl. Lots of conversation.