Well, after that random roadside run-in with Johnny Knoxville (see my last blog entry), you can bet I was ready and gunning! With game stickers in hand, and the tie-straps of my backpack (it's an old olive-green canvas military one) halfway undone, so I could get into it quick.
Even though it's not what I expected when I went to LA, or certainly not what I went there for, serendipitously meeting one mega-celebrity had me vow silently to myself...that the next one wasn't gonna get away so easily. After such a huge 'defeat' I decided very firmly, that if I ran into any more celebrities on that tour, like Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, or even Crispin Glover...then I was gonna make darn sure that I at least got a book into their hand. And hopefully even tell them something about my TV and Movie ideas.
Though of course...I also really didn't think any of that kinda stuff was gonna happen again. Not to goofy old me anyway.
But, if you are a True Fighter like I am, then every defeat you get handed is only an excuse to fight harder, and so that's exactly what I did. I hit those sweet old LA streets the very next day! Right back out there, trying to make my own Luck! And I even put that lucky Devil Pin on my hat (the one I found on the train down from Seattle) to see me safely through the city.
This time I caught the train out to Santa Monica, and planted stickers all around the college. Then I hit the library and handed out some more fliers until the cops started looking my way, and you can say whatever you want about the folks in Los Angeles, but most of them are at least half-friendly. I mean, nobody threw the fliers back at me or anything, but no one really seemed like they cared a whole bunch either, and I even found a few of them cast down onto the ground around the corner, like brightly colored leaves that had just fallen off the Give-a-Damn Tree. So of course I picked them up, because nobody likes a litter bug...and they also have a link to my website, right there on the front.
Next I rented another scooter and cruised down the beach-path through Venice, and on to Marina Del Rey, where boy-oh-boy do they got boats!
My skull and crossbones stickers didn't look out of place at all either. Not there among all the sailboats and mega-yachts. Like any minute now a group of Real Pirates might shamble down the sidewalk and invite me out to lunch or something. Or maybe even rum, but I only drink coffee now.
I stopped off at the library there too, and people seemed very responsive when I told them about my books and handed them a flier. People who live on boats tend to be a literate lot, since cruising often has a bunch of down time to it, and books don't eat up your batteries. So a well stocked library is a fine addition to any good vessel, and especially books about pirates and treasure, or even just a few short sea tales, or traveling to another country.
After Marina Del Rey I headed back to Venice, and my dear readers...I have to tell you...that place is kind of a Heartbreak now. It used to be one of the most magical parts of the Los Angeles metro area, or am I wrong? More than many other places in the City of Angels...Venice will make you feel like any second you might become famous. Like any given moment you and Roller Skate Guitar Guy might end up on the big screen, or that some big producer might spot you loitering by old Muscle Beach and ask you to be in their film. And the Boardwalk...
But now...in late 2018...the whole neighborhood smells like some kinda' thrown-away-dirty-hippie-super-polluted-gutter-punk-Hemp-Fest; with two-block long piles of garbage, and super depressing homeless encampments in almost every alley. Even all along the main sidewalk at the beach, like nobody cares at all anymore, or like The Desolation has just gotten so far out of hand now, that there just is no way to ever catch up again. Like there really never was a way to take care of everyone, and we are all on our own now.
Welcome to Hell.
And don't get me wrong either, I'm not against Marijuana legalization or even Weed itself, but when it's all you can smell all day, and there are kids and families around, but so many crowds of heavily unwashed people (who are obviously the ones smoking it, right out in the open)...well...it just doesn't have the attraction it used to for me. Which is totally fine actually. I've been meaning to quit anyway, and the outside thought that it might lead me (back) to a life on the streets someday...is a clear and easy deterrent.
Nobody wants to be a smelly old street bum. No matter how high or drunk you get all day. But I was just being dramatic above. Ganja by itself will probably never force a person out into a life of blatherskite level homelessness, but it's still a good idea to be careful.
I bought myself a new hat from one of the vendor booths along the main drag. A distressed-looking ball cap with the big brown bear from the California flag riding an even bigger bright green surfboard. Then I went to find myself something decent to eat, away from all the smells and commotion. Which wasn't as hard as I am making it sound really, because Venice, California is still one of the hippest, coolest, and most interestingly flavorful places on the planet, so I ducked into one of the many colorfully decorated breezeways off the main boardwalk and found a cute little one-of-a-kind coffee shop to get a sandwich from. Two fried eggs on good wheat toast, with broccoli sprouts and feta cheese...and yes oh yes I poured a whole bunch of hot-sauce on there too.
Then, what was shaping up to be a super-fine day turned into an even brighter one, because when I stepped back out into the courtyard a long thin and lovely Mocha-skinned lady was sitting at one of the tables underneath a brightly colored canvas umbrella, and she smiled really wide and toothily at me when I looked her way, so I walked right over and sat down next to her. I guess I must have looked like Mr. Confidence about the whole thing too, because she even cleared all her papers and books over to one side of the table, just so I could put my plate, cup, and backpack down. But, if you've ever read anything else I write, then you know darn well I was actually coaching myself through each and every played-out moment, like: “Oh man, you're doing good, Free...don't screw it up. Just keep your cool and do not let her know how fine she really is. Holy crap! Look at those...cheekbones. Ah ha ha ha!!”
(Look, I'm really only asking your opinion here, but do you guys think it means a person is clinically crazy...if they laugh out loud at their own jokes---but only inside their own head...a lot? OK...maybe even all the time. Well? Huh? Does it? Wha'd'ya think? And...what about if it echoes?)
Her name was Nadia and she said she lived over in Inglewood, but liked to come out to the beach to visit her mother in her condo. She reminded me of a dancer as we talked, with quick graceful movements of her long lovely hands, and an evil-sweet toothy smile that could melt the paint right off a gas pump from fifty yards away. Nadia smelled like some kind of bright purple flower too, so I leaned in close as we spoke, just to breathe in as much of her as I could. And she didn't seem to mind at all.
“So what brings you out here to LA? You come down to try some of this Cali bud? Shit'll knock you right out if you ain't careful...”
“No honey, I'm visiting from Colorado, and we have all the Weed you could ever ask for. It's like going to Baskin Robbins or something; 33 flavors in every store. I'm actually out here on a book tour, to promote my new Treasure Hunt Game. I write coffee-table adventure books, and if you solve the puzzles inside...you could be the first to find my Hidden Pirate treasure.”
I took out a copy of the first book, and I even had a couple copies of Three Short See Tails with me too, so I laid them out on the table for her to look through, while I bragged about myself some more. But don't be trying to judge me for it either. You would have pulled all the stops out for this girl too. I mean it y'all...she was fine! And the sizzling hot idea of me scoring even one of her Cappuccino kisses made it seem like the whole rather uphill tour might just pay off after all. Yes!
“So you're a real shipwreck treasure hunter? Wow! Man, my horoscope even said I was gonna meet somebody interesting today, but I didn't know it was gonna be someone like you. This must be our lucky day.”
The way Nadia looked at me right then, with just a bit of flush to her cheeks, and dilated auburn eyes, let me know she really meant what she said, so I took her beautiful brown hand and moved myself even closer, suddenly feeling a whole lot warmer in the cool December air.
“I actually have to get going right now, Babe. I'm out here today doing a bunch street-level promo work for my website, and I want to cover as much ground as possible before dark. Sunset comes kinda early this time of year, though not nearly quite as bad as up in the mountains, but I want to try and hit the gym before dinner too. Do you think maybe we could meet up later? If you're not busy...”
“I actually am busy tonight.” As she picked up my phone and started typing her number into it. “I have my kids this evening, but we could go out tomorrow night if you are still around. I'd love to show you all the local sights.”
She gave me another one of those smolderingly fantastic LA Woman looks, and let it linger even longer just to punctuate her last sentence, so my dumb old heart fell right into it. Pounding so loudly now at the thought of what 'sights' she might have been exactly referring to, that I was totally sure sweet Nadia might even hear it. So I gathered up all my things as calmly as I could and excused myself quickly, before I fumbled and failed, but then made sure to steal a kiss from her velvety fragrant cheek as I walked away. Just in case it was all a dream.
Out on the sand again, I ran into a regular looking middle-aged guy running an expensive looking metal detector back and forth across the golden cinnamon sand. We met over by the graffiti walls, near Old Muscle Beach. I stopped him to talk, and he was very friendly, especially when I told him about what I was out there doing, and that I was a detectorist too.
“Yeah, I actually live up there in Ventura, but we come down here on the weekends and do really well sometimes. One weekend me and my partners found six-thousand dollars worth of jewelry. Not too bad for only the cost of a tank of gas! But I sure would like to get down there to Florida some day though. I bet I could really clean up.”
I asked him (I think his name was Jonah) if it was OK for me to put a picture of him on my blog, and he said it was no problem at all, so here you go sir, and Good Luck:
Next I stopped by the book-store in Venice, to try and consign my work, but the buyer wasn't in so I made my way over to the Santa Monica Pier, sticking my skull-and-crossbones Treasure Hunt stickers everywhere I went in between. On the backs of signs, on light-posts, dumpsters, newspaper stands, and especially onto any pieces of graffiti I really liked. Though of course one has to wonder at the possible efficacy of a sticker-marketing campaign...in a place so very sticker-polluted as Venice. Like everybody who has access to a printer and a pack of label-paper tried to leave their mark at one time or another, but at least I'm not the only one.
Santa Monica was totally crowded that day too, since it was a Saturday. Just imagine a half-crushed case of sardines thrown down into a trash compactor, then getting squashed by some gigantic falling boulder. I mean it. We could barely move! And then a box of canned peas and carrots showed up on the very next train. So it was packed!
I put up with it long enough to fight my way out to the end of the pier. And I was lucky enough to spot a long silver sea-lion playing around in the foam while waiting around for a fish. The ocean was green and cool-looking, with long strands of red-blue Kelp undulating around the barnacle crusted pilings, and the sounds of carnival rides and screaming children hung in the air like diurnal sonic fireflies. If there even is such a thing.
And it sure is funny how the dank and briny smell of the sea goes so perfectly well with the savory floating scent of hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy. Sorta like mermaids and pirates holding hands. They're not even of the same World really at all, but still somehow just seem naturally made for one another.
The sun was getting low in the sky by that time, so I walked into the shopping district on the bluff, to go get some weight-lifting in before dark. I'm not a beef-head or anything either, in case you were wondering, or a gym-nut, health-freak, or even all that into the whole thing really, but I started going to the gym last winter (in Colorado) to keep from falling asleep when the sun went down (at 4pm), and fell totally in love with what a half-hour-a-day on the weights does for my overall energy levels. Plus I have a few deep nagging joint-injuries, from being a construction worker most of my life, and whatever beneficial chemical it is that weight-lifting releases into my body...does absolute wonders for all that stuff too. So yes, I highly recommend it, and especially after you work at a physically demanding job all day. Because then you get the real benefit.
Going to the gym, or running, biking, surfing, or even playing sports after you bust your hump outside all day...is like putting the icing...on a steak. Plus, higher-end public gyms generally have really nice showers and saunas in them too, so I walked out of there feeling like a Movie Star or something. Ready to take on the World...again!
The cool evening air felt amazing on my clean and freshly-worked body, while the wafting smells of food and cigars decorated the Santa Monica streets, and I was breathing it all in deeply. I stopped at a food vendor across the street in the park on the high bluff (forgot the name), then leaned on the cement balcony and watched the lights out on the pier as I devoured three more very heavenly tacos.
I walked toward the train feeling very satisfied, and was just about to call up Nadia to make the whole day complete, when I looked to my left and noticed a couple walking leisurely beside me, which seemed out of place in the Saturday evening bustle. The man turned towards me a bit so I could see his face better, and I couldn't believe it! It was Norwood Fisher; the bass player and founding member of Fishbone!!
“Excuse me sir, is your name Norwood?”
“Yeah, that's me.” He replied with a wry little smile. His date was a cute and tiny surfer chick, with shiny blue eyes and a bob-style haircut. She seemed especially amused that her date was getting recognized, so they stopped right there in the middle of the sidewalk, just to talk to me.
I immediately pulled up my shirt-sleeve, to show him my Fishbone fore-arm-tattoo, and told him “My name is Truly Owen Free, and I've been a Fishbone Soldier (it's what they call their fans) for a really long time now. We've actually met before. A couple times, and in different towns around the country...but I'm sure you meet a lot of people....”
“Well alright! That's very cool man! What you up to this evening?”
“Oh I'm just out walking the city and promoting these books I've been trying to write.” As I reached for my trusty backpack. “Would you mind if I gave you one? I think you'll like it.”
I handed him a sticker too, then pulled out a copy of How I Became a Real Pirate, and he took that graciously too, but I have to go ahead and tell on myself again, when I say that I was making another mistake right there. And it was because of that stupid Starstruck thing again.
Norwood Fisher is one of the most down-to-Earth Rock Stars you could ever want to meet, but for some stupid reason I was getting nervous while I talked to him. I guess part of it is I feel weird for treating someone special, but I was also interrupting his date. It was all inside me though. I was the only one having a problem. If I had been paying better attention I would have realized he was ready to have a real conversation, and was genuinely interested in what I had to say, but of course I assumed otherwise, and I really can't tell you why.
But I did manage to spit out, “Yeah, I'm on a multi-city promo tour for my two new books. I'm riding the trains around the country and trying to generate some sales. Grass roots style! Street level.”
“Well that's the way we do it!”, as he turned the book over a couple times, to check out the cover. The copy I gave him was the older out-of-print version too (see my Amazon account); with the black cover and only the skull and crossbones on the front, and the somewhat-sinister sub-title that only comes with the full-length novel. And I don't know if it was the very piratical cover that spooked him, or if he was picking up on my nervous vibe, but when Norwood looked up again...he gave me a cock-eyed taken-aback guard-dog look, like he wasn't too sure about me now. Like he had noticed something new about me, which he hadn't seen before, so maybe now he better put his guard up.
And of course that just made me even more nervous, so I said “Thank you Norwood. Hope you enjoy it, and there's links to my site inside. You guys have a good night.”, then walked away quickly, before I made it worse. I walked backwards through the crowd, away from the train (?!), so I could cross the street and not seem like I was following them. But then when I started walking up the opposite side, I looked over...and they were walking parallel to me across the busy street. Norwood just happened to look my way at the same time too, and we even met eyes...so now it looked even more awkward! Like I was stalking them, and trying not to look like it!
Celebrities are so weird.
Of course I called my friend Terrence back in Tarpon City, just as soon as I was on the train. He's the only other person I know who is as big of a Fishbone fan as I am, so I just had to let him in on the story.
“Are you serious? And you met him in LA?! Oh man, you are out there living life, my brother Truly! I wish I could be out there with you. And you say you even gave him one of your books? That is amazing. I bet he's gonna like it.”
“Yeah Terrence, I can barely believe it just happened, and I was there. I totally screwed it up though. He was being really cool, and I think he even wanted to keep talking, but then I made him nervous or something. And I totally gave him the wrong book too. I gave him a copy of the pirate one, but should have totally given him Three Short See Tails. It even has Fishbone glyphs in it, from my tattoo, but I got all nervous again. I'm such a Starstruck little kook!”
“Ahhh, don't be so hard on yourself buddy. At least you're out there trying, and it sounds like luck is on your side, if you ask me. Maybe you'll run into him again, or even somebody else. So you should just keep right on doing what you're doing. But hey listen I gotta run. I'm at work right now, and somebody might have a heart attack if I don't pay attention to these monitors, so let me get back to you later. Good to hear from you, bro. Keep on truckin'!”
But you know I still beat myself up, all the back to my vacation rental, which was really just a bunk in a tiny bedroom...with four other people in it. Not even a hostel really. Just some guys house he was paying off by running an Air-BnB mill. Pretty good trick really, and you would probably meet all kinds of people. Hmmm...
I got back to the room about eight, and was feeling so low I decided to call it an early one. I put my bag in a locker and was just about to hang my hat up when I noticed the shiny red Devil Pin winking at me in the lamplight.
“Oh! That's probably what freaked him out! Norwood saw the black sinister book cover, and the devil pin...and thought I was The Devil himself or something. Especially with my weird old name, and especially here in LA. 'Cuz I'm sure The Devil has a house around here somewhere. Probably a few...”
Fishbone has some pretty strong ties to the Gospel community, and are known to be mostly good and spiritual people too, so maybe Norwood thought I was some kinda evil weirdo trying to get at him. Or at least that's the best I could figure. And that really sucked. What another major fail! Just trying to do something good, but I ended up freaking out someone I wanted to get closer to. Dammit!
I vowed right then and there...to go to the very next Fishbone show and explain myself.
But if you are an adventurer too, then maybe you should check out my armchair treasure hunt. Bet you can't crack the code.
Copyright 2020 Truly Owen Free. All rights reserved.