Lee, a middle-aged bartender, living in Hollywood, hails from an unknown East Coast/Southern City (maybe Arlington or Charlotte), capped with disheveled dirty blond hair. He wipes the cherry wood bar down with a towel; a book of Chekhov’s plays sits alongside the bar. He moved to Los Angeles from the New York from the East Coast/Southern City almost three years ago, likes it quite well, enjoys the diversity in people and food. Back home it was the same-same. Now he can have Ethiopian or Korean whenever he wants, food or women. If he tries hard.
Although he lives in a small apartment on the fringes of East Hollywood, leaving his 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom something square foot home in the East Coast/Southern City, he loves modest apartment more. The homecoming of a home he’d hadn’t known. For when he drives on the lonely streets of LA at night, sitting at traffic lights in solitude, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, he resonates with the city’s grid criss-cross foundation of streets and highways and overpasses and off-ramps and on-ramps. The grittiness and the dirtiness. This is where he always was meant to be. As a child in his East Coast/Southern City, he sat in his tree house dreaming of far off places, and now realizes, it was Los Angeles blinking in his eyes and burning in his ears.
Lee never read Chekhov, or any other plays at all, until he left his East Coast/Southern City for New York like everyone else in his town who thought they were the best the East Coast/Southern City had to offer, delusional in their own right, aren’t those people who leave their small cities because they believe they are destined for something Bigger Than Where They Were. New York was something else altogether, it was lonely and compressed all at the same time, walking on the streets with hundreds of people was the Manhattanite equivalent of being on an LA freeway, but Lee didn’t know it at the time. He thought that feeling was independent to New York, and because of that, he could not know how to embrace it and felt repulsed by it. Now he knows better. He’d expected too much too soon. Now when he visits New York he takes his foot off the brake pedal mentality and gamely into a speed walk. He’s adjusted.
But back then, he wasn’t, and hung out with types like him, transplants from small cities who all believed they were destined for something Bigger Than Where They Were and because they finally were living their dreams in New York, although they were broke and hungry and miserable and cold they pretended they were living out every dream they had wanted, and truthfully, they were, because they expected those cold and miserable feelings as growing pains to their awaiting elevated steps. Because this is how it was. Because Kerouac had been broke once. Because dreams were made in big cities and now they were finally here. They were finally initiated into a fraternity that could allow them to say they were New Yorkers, and they would do everything they ever wanted.
May and September were lovely months. The best out of the entire year when you had a little money. When you could go outside and the weather gods permitted you to be able to enjoy the city without feeling wet. When it rained and you felt wet, your soul would feel soggy as well and you’d go home drenched in sad truths and bird nest’s hair. But when it was sunny, you could walk for blocks on end and relish the fact that you were here, talk to other creative, erratic types, pick up a Chekhov book as a wager from playing Scrabble from a scruffy man at Washington Square Park, and hear fresh sexual statements as pick up lines masquerading as social and political change for interracial relationships like, “Let’s start a revolution from our beds.”
Lee was influenced by too much Kerouac and left New York on whim. He was tired of bartending but more tired of the city. He also had a job as a waiter at a restaurant that had a particular habit of reading poetry to patrons before their meal. When he was in a depressed, victimized mood, he read Sylvia Plath. In the rare snarky, tactical mood, he read Ted Hughes. He liked to read Ted Hughes to the college girl crowd, for it was inevitable that one would respond with a whiny complaint: How could you read a man who indirectly murdered Sylvia Plath?
To older society women, he’d quote song lyrics as his original words:
Just a small town girl/ Living in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train/ Going anywhere.
“Lovely, so beautiful… I was once like that”, they’d falsely remember.
The restaurant shut down after a couple of years. The rhyme and meter factor stopped being fresh and became passé and annoying. Then poetry died with Clinton.