It really wasn’t that bad at first. Except for the noise. I swear this is no lie.
My roommate, Steve, was a guy surrounded by horrible women. He was a mechanical genius in his own way. He painted aircrafts for a living, which made him an artist too. A good artist. His cabin on the yacht was next to mine so I had to hear everything. Loud noises, strangers in expensive clothes. You get the picture.
They smelled bad too.
Older strippers and hookers came and went all the time. Not good looking people. Fake boobies wandering past my door at all hours. Knock off designer purses spilled out in the hallway, the contents underfoot. Bottles of pills. Crushed packs of cigarettes. Fifty dollar bills crumpled up by the sink. A forgotten cell phone ringing on and off for hours.
It was like this.
So when I heard the rumbling of a huge motor one morning I thought it was the young hipsters with the cigarette boat two slips down the dock.
I was wrong.
Let me tell you about this guy Steve. Steve liked to play with toys.
He put a huge Detroit engine (a car engine) a Chevy 350---into the hull of an 1980’s era jet ski. The front of the craft would sink down in the water from the enormous weight of the motor. But when he cranked it up, the torque made it rise up somehow. And it was loud like a hot rod.
So I scrambled up out of the belly of the yacht and looked down on this freak---who was in a pair of Speedos---grinning like a fiend---revving the engine of this monster watercraft and screaming out loud about how he does not have a alternator on it and he has to replace the battery every time he takes it out for a run in the channels.
This is when I realized that I was not in Kansas anymore.
On the docks. This is it.
I am watching my roomie freak throttle up a jet ski with a huge eight-cylinder engine in it---that is literally shaking the foundations of the end of the docks that we live on.
Blue plumes of smoke are wafting down the pier---engulfing all the other boats. And this 50 year old guy with long hair and a beard---clad only in black Speedos---is screaming about “The Mixture” being too rich.
This is America. California baby.
Then he guns it and a huge rooster tail of water covers me. The neighbors come out of their dwellings just in time to see me get soaked. Then I have to explain things.
I was expecting the Coast Guard to arrive. I wish they had. But there was no law at that time and place. I was shaking seawater out of my hair and hating life when two gal pals showed up.
“What the hell was that?” they asked.
“Roommate,” was all I could muster.
All spring I was worrying about the summer crowds making my life miserable. But the real horror was right here all along. I had been expecting a hoard of tourists to make me miserable and in reality it was my own associations.
And I was paying rent to live here.
You have to respect a guy who at the age of 50 gets up in the morning wearing only Speedos and cranks up a 350 Chevy that he put in an aged jet ski and goes out looking for girls in Marina Del Rey anytime he wants.
This is what it sounded like…
Steve actually built a helicopter. It was a custom job that he wanted to put in the movies. I remember him telling me this was his special sideline project. He was putting fake missiles on it. A guy who painted aircraft for a living had actually built a helicopter and was putting missiles on it. I asked him why...
“Because these action movie producers like missiles,” he said.
Good God. He is gonna get shot out of the sky.
Can you imagine a longhaired middle-aged freak in a working/functional homemade helicopter taking off from LAX with what look like real missiles hanging off the side?
They will kill him. They will shoot him down. Blast him out of the air. I wanted to see this happen.
Welcome to the docks.
So my female friends walked up on this. All I could do is agree to go out for food.
Casa Escobar was still open in those days. Great food and cheap drinks.
There was a Salsa dance thing going on. Bunch of old people dancing like maniacs. I was still wet from the rooster tail of Steve’s jet ski and hating life.
Picture this. Walking into a nice restaurant soaking wet with two hot gal pals---arm candy---escorting me to a bottle of tequila. They never would have let me sit down in my condition if I didn’t have a couple of really nice women on my arm. But I did. They let me order a drink.
I got half the drink down and started appreciating the vibe. Someone asked me to dance. I remember telling the bartender about what had just happened and he called me a liar. Just then there was a roar outside. My drink was refilled and everybody looked out those huge windows.
It was Steve in his monster watercraft spinning donuts and revving his engine. I swallowed the drink.
I felt hate rise up in my heart. My two friends grabbed me by both of my arms.
Somewhere between the bar and the front door I found the dance floor. Steve went away. So did I. I ended up in Venice.
The moral of this story was that the summer ended up fine. My freak roomie never killed anybody and neither did I. As far as I know, Steve did not get shot out of the sky, and I hope he didn’t get arrested by the Coast Guard.
I ended up spending more time at the Hilton across the street. And I drank at the Four Seasons bar with a bartender named Levi. Bigger boats down there at that end of the docks. $20 drinks and a guy named Al Gore who just did a documentary about the environment.
Life was weird, but it hadn’t killed me yet.