If I Only Knew

Hollywood (the district, not the ‘idea’) has some serious history. When I was a kid my sister and I left Tulsa and joined my older sister and our mother, who had been living there for a couple of years. My mom wanted to be there to simply be insinuated in the glamor, she didn’t want or need to work in the Industry. She was steeped in the history, the Hollywood stuff. And though she would have denied it up and down, I suspect she even embraced the seedy side, and oh yeah, that place was seedy. This was Hollywood, circa 1979.

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Cozy Fragments

It was still muggy out, even this late. Though indoors, I could roughly tell the temps outside by the flushed faces and necks of people coming into the bar. They looked a little frayed, some of them had probably been dancing over at the Pyramid Club a block away; many were NYU students. I could tell the last by the preppie clothes, all the giggling cliquishness and the similar ages. Yup, NYU. They looked happy.

I was sitting with my friends, Larry, Susan and Rob, glancing at them occasionally to check in on the conversation. But I paid more attention to the NYU students, watching with vague envy. Those guys really had it made. They must have had a lot of money to not only go to that school, but especially to live in Manhattan. I mean, wow. I had moved to Brooklyn only about 8 weeks before this night, worked temp jobs and rented a little share right on Atlantic Avenue. I had to take the 4 Train every time I wanted to find a cool place to hang out. But NYU kids had their pick; they could walk over to McSorley’s, then choose from a bunch of bars and restaurants I had never been to. I mean shit, they had it made, at least in my mind. Read more


Myrtle Avenue, Plus Thirty

I was feeling a bit nostalgic the other day, so I did what I usually do when the pang strikes. I looked up Google Street View’s visuals of the modern versions of my nostalgic targets. Sometimes it really helps when I do this; it helps me remember more detail, especially when (as in this case) there have not been too many changes. But please don’t tell that to the people who live around 21st Century Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, they think everything is different, particularly between Clinton and Classon Avenues, the part of the Avenue that borders Pratt Institute. It seems people who’ve lived adjacent to Myrtle and would know have always tended to move along after a while but the news sites and blogs say there is a new Brooklyn. I looked at Google to see how much I could remember. Read more


Glad to be Getting Old – Tom’s Story

When do you get to the point where you say, “Oh shit, I’m getting old!”? I mean, not the facetious attention grabbing commentary that some (like myself) have been guilty of running since the ’90’s. No, I mean the knowing deep down, the kind where maybe you don’t utter the statement so flippantly. I know now it happens during times like when you realize you don’t know what came after “Generation X”; or maybe when you reflect back that those grey hairs of yours now have a history of their own. As if the grey hairs themselves are getting old and looking back. OK I’ve got it, it’s when you start doing relativistic math, like “from the ’30’s to the ’70’s is like from the ’70s to the ’10s” and then kind of shudder at the ability to remember entire eras. Or how about this, when the people you knew start dying.

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Memories of Hollywood: the Novel

I have finally done something I’ve been threatening, er, promising to do for 4 years now of compiling MoH. Right about now. And that is to write a book. It wasn’t the book I thought I’d see come out of here (that will come later in the year). This is a novel based partly on my experiences growing up in Greater Hollywood in the early 1980’s. Only the parts about the time travel and ghosts are taken from my own life, the rest of it is fiction. Hopefully you don’t skim it over and find it all too unbelievable! But please feel free to buy it! That is the point of my writing this now, I suppose.

I could put the link right about HERE (notice it’s not actually clickable) but that would just be crass. Instead I will kindly direct you over to Amazon. Select Books-Kindle and then look me up by my official author nom de plume William Hardesty. Regular and even casual readers of this site will find several (or many) familiar things in the story. But don’t worry, far from being a “don’t buy the cow-get the milk for free” scenario, you will find much more there that is quite unexpected. If you don’t have a Kindle, worry not, for the app is free on all PCs, tablets and devices.

OK you talked me into it:  amzn.to/1QPsyGG


A Cold, Clear Day

I got up to go to take a shower and go to school; this was one of the rare mornings when the air wasn’t on. Our bedroom had a wall mounted air conditioner that, like all ACs I ever saw in the mid-eighties, looked like it had been installed 15 years before, back when there was a dog track in the neighborhood and people were sweating through their polyester bell-bottoms. By now the unit was sagging, threatening to fall out of the window and drop two stories below on the apartment building’s washing machine. Most other nights (and days) it chugged merrily along, slowly dripping its condensation water onto the worn carpet below. That thing was twenty-four seven before there even was such an expression. It had to be in that city.

I don’t know whether I had breakfast or not, probably not. I do remember this though, it had been pretty cold the previous night, I expected it to stay that way through the morning because South Florida’s usually taciturn weather folk actually had something different to tell us on the previous night’s news. Ann Bishop had gladly given way to the meteorologist for his exciting news of a cold snap in Miami. If I did have breakfast after getting dressed that morning it was a rushed affair. Dalia insisted I eat a good breakfast every day, to not skip it. Like ever. To drive home her point she would ask me rhetorically, “How else are you going to grow into a big man I can show off to my other customers?”  She called my fellow gym-rats ‘customers,’ as if she was selling flowers from some Coral Gables boutique and not coaxing testosterone from weary un-air-conditioned guys like me.  I was 19 years old, still a little thin, but going in the right direction, getting right where Dalia wanted me.

But the whole breakfast thing, man that was tough. I had finally grown out of the Alpha Bits-Lucky Charms rotation of childhood but had yet to find culinary replacements that pleased me. Other than the Rocky Balboa raw egg experiment I had tried a few weeks earlier (gagging and eliciting peals of laughter from my sister Mary) I usually skipped and jammed out of the house, waiting until I got to Miami-Dade North or to the Burger King across 103rd St., right by the school.

Dressed and with my books and Trapper Keeper in hand (I always carried them loose, separately, perhaps cultivating a harried artist vibe), I paused at the closet for a very rare stop. I leafed through a few garments and found my old yellow and brown paneled puffy jacket with the zip-on zip-off sleeves. The sleeves were attached so I had nothing to do but put it on. I knew it was from the early Eighties (purchased at the Montgomery Ward we shopped at in Hollywood California) and it was ugly (I called it the “Piss-Poo”) but who cared. Miamians were and still are known for their patchwork winter preparation. If these items matched, and I mean the whole ensemble of gloves, cap and coat, then it meant you were probably from up north and the subtle implication of this, of course, was that you were not a “real Miamian.” With this jacket, which somehow still fit despite my growth sport from a few years before; I looked the part of a real Miamian and sometimes I even felt it. On the way out I remembered to grab my T-Square.

I was especially glad to not have to wait outside on Pennsylvania and 10th for my friend William to pick me up in his Opel Manta. Just a few weeks before I had given my mom’s boss Sam practically all of my savings (earned from my job at Fedco drugstore) for the rarified pleasure of taking ownership of his battered ’76 Cutlass Salon. It was brown; I noticed it matched my look that day. I still got a thrill striding out to the car and fiddling with my keys in my right hand pocket. It gave me the feeling generally that I was moving on, maybe one day even getting to leave South Florida for who knew what. Many mornings, heading north on I-95, I fantasized about never stopping, just skipping my exit and driving on past West Palm, Cape Kennedy, whatever there was in the north part of Florida, and finally out of the state altogether. It would take a long time and probably a couple of tanks of gas, but the excitement of the uncharted future would make it all worthwhile. But on this particular morning, as I did all other mornings I attended Dade-North, I instead moved over to the right hand lane to take the exit marked NE 103rd St. Miami-Dade Community College. Happy as I was with my first ever car, the days had by then started to blend into the sameness that I could tell afflicted all students, all workers everywhere. Anyone with a regular schedule.

At least this morning I had a little bit of excitement. Right around where MacArthur Causeway merges into the north-bound lanes of 95, I saw Willy’s distinctive Manta motoring along right in front of me. I caught up to him and waved. He smiled his tough guy smile at me and then started gesturing in those little tough guy waves of his. If I knew then that he would become a Miami Beach Police officer several years later I might have realized he was practicing his pull-over command. But he wasn’t waving me over; it was like he wanted something. He leaned over and rolled the passenger window half way down. He finally doffed his shades (all this at 65mph) and stare-looked at my back seat. He wanted something, “Oh wait, he wants the T-Square,” I realized. The one I had only remembered to grab on the way out of the house when Willy called to remind me.

I didn’t mind loaning it to him because I had no art classes on Tuesday, William had almost all art classes. He was always running late and was apparently doing so now; I rolled down my driver’s side window in time to hear him yell out, “Get closer man, I’m not going to the other side of the lot for this!” He was referring to the giant parking lots that surrounded the campus on three sides. Art was in an offshoot building on one side, my core classes were all on the other. Still looking at him I showed doubt. “C’mon man, drop that fucker over, I need it!” I knew he wanted it right then and I laughed. “Hell why not man!” I said. Hey I was 19, it wasn’t like I was going to get into a car accident or anything. I pulled my car closer to his and we were speeding along as if we were jets preparing for a mid-air refueling. I fumbled with my back-stretched right arm for the tool; “there, got it!” He leaned over to his right again and cranked down his passenger side window the rest of the way down and I slipped the T-Square right in there, almost hitting him. I swerved to the right a bit and then peeled off. It didn’t seem like anybody noticed, if they did they didn’t honk or anything. The sameness I felt was everywhere, it existed even before the distractions of cell phones. Later that day, however, all those people I passed on the way to work would be paying attention.

My first class was English; nerd that I was I always showed up early (another reason I was glad to have my own car, Willy’s habitual tardiness was exasperating). As I sat there an employee of the audio visual department rolled a big TV into the room. It sat about five feet off the floor in one of those ubiquitous metal stands we all saw back then (and years before, come to think of it). I vaguely remembered that something was going on that day but couldn’t remember. Probably noticing my look the lady that wheeled in the TV said, “It’s happening soon, but probably not until the second class.” That didn’t jog my memory but I didn’t really care. I didn’t watch the news much, it was just boring Reagan stuff, blah blah blah, and though I found him interesting in my California years, by now he had gotten kind of boring. In my spare time I either did my homework, listened to my Walkman, or watched something else on TV.

After class was over I headed out to the next one downstairs. The walkways were all outside and I noted it was still really cold. The morning was crystal clear too. As a Floridian I had no idea that the high pressure associated with cold fronts usually pushed all of the clouds out of the sky too. In case I haven’t painted an adequate picture for you yet here we didn’t have a lot of that in South Florida. The next class was Geometry 2, when I sat down I saw there was already a medium sized Panasonic sitting on and identical metal shelving roller. I idly imagined what funny movies they would show in math class and then wondered what all the TVs were about. By this point I almost cared.

I got out of math and decided it was time to get a Cherry Coke, I threaded my way through the main floor of the main admin building and out the other side towards the cafeteria. I saw a line of students doing late winter term registration at the bank-telleresque open windows on the left side. On the right side they had wheeled a TV on a sturdy metal rolling stand and it was turned on. Nobody was watching. I couldn’t tell what was on, I didn’t really look. A few minutes later I sat alone in the cafeteria with my Cherry Coke and a chocolate chip cookie. I wouldn’t tell Dalia about my breakfast today. I was young enough to pretty much get to eat what I wanted and still go into her gym on 7th and Washington and lift like a champ. I thought about William and the T-Square and hoped I would never follow my namesakes into an early grave. They had both died in car accidents. Probably not, I decided. I looked around at my fellow students, they seemed to kind of numbly walk to and fro, then suddenly I realized I had to get to History class.

I threaded my way back the way I came through the Admin building and pulled up short. All the kids in registration line were gone. It looked like everyone in the foyer was now grouped in front on the AV department TV. Maybe now I could find out what the hell was going on. Whatever it was must have started. Just then some guy I didn’t know wheeled around, not quite to me but more in general, and said to everyone in the back, “The Space Shuttle just fucking exploded!”

I looked up to the screen and saw a guy holding a mike standing outside, he had a coat on, I guessed he was at Cape Kennedy. Right before they cut to what would become the famous shot of twin forks of smoke curling out into open sky I remembered that the TVs were all rolled into classes because of a teacher who was on board. She was going to teach a class from orbit. But this was the 25th launch of the Space Shuttle (it felt like possibly the 50th) and I didn’t really care. That’s why I couldn’t remember. To me, to many people in Florida and around the country, the launches were like the morning commute. There was a sameness about them, nobody could even recall a close call with the Shuttles, they just landed their pinpoint bulky asses right on the spot at Vandenberg out in California. Until the reporter said “Challenger” I didn’t even remember which one it was. In time I and many others would wonder if the people at NASA were afflicted with the same ennui, the feeling of ‘sameness.’

As I walk-staggered to my next class I could hear the reporters speculating there would be survivors in the ocean. The thought chilled me with a moment of hope before I thought about the curling smoke and the now-detached rockets going this way and that, and I knew there would be no survivors. Looking back at it later I think we all knew. In the next class we just watched TV, there would be no more classes that day. I was numb and getting number. I got in my car and started to drive home, thinking about the astronauts. So was everybody else, every single car had their headlights on as they slowly wound their way back north on 95. It was still cold and clear outside, a very bright day that made the headlights gesture stand out all the more in starkness. Reagan came on TV later that night and I watched. But I had been watching nonstop news coverage all day anyway. Maybe 500 times I saw “Go throttle up,” then Boom! It was as scary on the last viewing as it was the first. I can’t underscore enough how I and everyone I knew were truly shocked by this. I slept a little bit that night.

The next day was Wednesday, the 29th of January, 1986. It was still a little chilly but Florida weather was ready to make a reappearance, I could tell. I left my “Piss-Poo” jacket in the closet. Everybody had their headlights on, even in the bright sunshine; I double checked to make sure mine were on too. I paid a little more attention to my drive; not only on that day but for several days thereafter (though I realized weeks later when I saw the first Challenger license plates I had gone a little back into my ‘sameness’ shell again). I focused on details I hadn’t noticed in a long time. I had no more fantasies for a while, the ones where I’d just drive north until I ran out of fuel. Instead, in those waning days of January I thought about the astronauts somewhere out there in the cold, dark Atlantic.


Class of 85

The time has come for my 30th high school reunion down in Miami Beach.  I won’t be attending, at least not at this cycle; but talk to me again in ten years; who knows?  It’s not that I’m not curious; I am.  A little.  I am more ambivalent than anything.  That feeling matches quite neatly the one I wore around me like a coat through all 3 years of high school at Miami Beach Senior High.

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Um Frum Brooklyn

Every year I try to visit New York City, my old “home.”  I’m there today in fact, preparing to retreat in typical forlorn fashion tomorrow back to my Atlanta “home.”  Quotation marks are there; for what is home for someone who’s moved around as much as I have?

I’ve always maintained such personal issues of self-identity are completely up to the individual, but honestly, I’ve usually tailored my responses to the tastes of the questioner, shifting my responses like a geographic chameleon. In the South, where I currently live, the response to this query is often “Tulsa.”  This is because, in testing out responses in recent years, “Seattle” was greeted by a kind of blank stare while “New York” earned me some weird cocktail mixing mockery and mistrust.

When I lived in Seattle it was easy to answer.  I had just moved from New York.  And though I hadn’t really learned to miss it yet (I sure would soon), I immediately noticed the fascinated responses I garnered, especially when I narrowed it down to “Brooklyn.”  It was like I was a gangster or something, Seattlites wanted to know all about it.  It made me feel important.

If I’m talking about movies I tell people I’m from Hollywood.  I mean, I am from there but I’m also from other places.  I started MOH in part to convince myself I am from Hollywood.  Which I am.  I’m pretty sure.

Occasionally I’m from Miami, which I definitely really am.  I went to high school and junior college there.  I could still tell you not only how to get around but what are the best beaches.

My wife has advised me to pick a city and stick with it, that it would show I was being true to myself. My brother says I have to say “Tulsa” or at least “Oklahoma,” because that’s where our family is from, and where we started out our lives.  He even sees it as a kind of betrayal that I would consider answering anything else.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure myself, but I did always know it was up to me.

Is it as simple as this- is home where you were born or where you most recently moved from?  Well,  I was born in Kansas but was only there six months so that response seems kind of disingenuous. As for the last place lived- what about all the others?

Don’t pin me down, I can’t decide!

I was talking to my sister and law’s mother yesterday, and as a writer she told me her lifelong theme is one of attemping to unify the broken pieces, the elements (both personal and ‘of place’) of home; for to bring them together is to finally give them their meaning, at least to her.

I talk to people all the time who have thought about this idea of “what is home,.” It’s a big topic, because as Americans we are sometimes hopelessly mobile, yet befuddled travelers.  Moving around hither and to, a lot of times not even sure why.

Maybe today I should come up with some criteria that will help me decide.  After all, it’s kind of pathetic to be 48 years old and to still not be sure of where you are from.

How about this….. home is where you agonize over every departure, no matter how short the visit.  I’ve always felt that way about New York, where every time I visit, the buildings are still straight, the subway still works (though in fits and starts), and the hot glazed nuts sold by street vendors still smell as sweet as when I arrived here in 1987.

I see Chinatown, with their $1 keychains and their “Um Frum Brooklyn” shirts. I see the green of Central Park (with its barely detectable patina of city soot).  I always notice the new construction, as well as the season’s fashions worn by straphangers on the 6 train.

I see the City crawling with yellow refector clad workers, fixing cobblestones around NYU or changing lamp lights in the passageways of Grand Central.  They’re everywhere, always doing something different but always working the urban hive.  When I see this I always have the feeling they are making my city better; I am gratefully aware that the structure of NYC would collapse without their diligent efforts.

I appreciate, yet today I am sad, because soon I will have to go.  The energy that the City infused in me almost 30 years ago flicks back on again as soon as I arrive for a visit yet is so hard to flick off after I leave.  My energy has to dumb itself down again when I leave, hence the melancholy.  That energy is really the feeling of home, where (though I may not live there anymore) in some ways I always belong.

I may still vacillate about my origins, for I love to tell stories.  But I think now I know now where I’m really from, where my home is.  It’s directly proportional to how much I DON’T want to leave.  I guess everybody knows that, if not, they should.

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Ominous Signs

For many college students, summer is the time to hunker down and get a job, save some money for books and clothes and a new school year.  For me it was a time to leave New York (where I was going to school) for a while and head back to Miami (where I used to live); to maybe get a job, to maybe save some money.  Maybe.

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Humans of the Burke-Gilman

Google Maps Street View is the anti-Stanton.  It’s aim seems to be to achieve the exact opposite of Brandon Stanton’s book “Humans of New York.”  Using what might be called “facial derecognition software” all human faces are blurred out, sometimes to funny effect, but sometimes it’s a little chilling.  You’ll never find a better illustration of this than on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle.

Around 70th Street

Around 70th Street; note dog face not blurred out.

Instead of having a camera mounted on top of the car, this one was mounted on a pole at the back of the photographer’s bicycle while he rode along  from one end, the Sammamish River Trail in Kenmore, all the way to Ballard, where he stopped at the Missing Link (a section of un-Trail that Trail activists have been looking to fill in-to connect to another segment just north).

Here you can tell the camera is behind him, leaning forward yields this bizarre view.

Here you can tell the camera is behind him, leaning forward yields this bizarre view.

You look at these pics and have to wonder, who are these people?  What are they doing now?  Do they even realize they’ve become blurred out non-persons on the Burke-Gilman?

Human's X and Y turn to greet the camera near Kenmore.

Human’s X and Y turn to greet the camera near Kenmore.

In “Humans of New York,” individuals are zoomed in on, stopped temporarily, and asked if they’d like to offer something personal about their life experience, how they’re feeling etc.  When you zoom in on the humans of the Burke-Gilman all you get are things like this, a human walking near the University of Washington:

Disturbing; the closer you get, the further you are from knowing anything about them.

Disturbing; the closer you get, the further you are from knowing anything about them.

Sometimes when you get to an intersection, the date on the picture will zoom a few years ahead and you can see what has changed.  This view, like all of those from the Trail route run, dates from July ’09.

The only thing that has really changed here, almost exactly 5 years later,  is that the price of parking has gone up.

This shot is 5 years later, 2015

This shot is 5 years later, July 2015

Sometimes you see someone who simply looks as if they’ve been standing there the whole time, waiting for passers-by.  The anonymity of Trail-goers on any other day is a given; people pass by too fast to say hello to; except in the mornings, when everybody seems to be in a better mood.  Here, anonymity is made a certainty.

This one, captured near 105th St is a little creepy, especially the closer you get.

This one, captured near 105th St is a little creepy, especially the closer you get.

The ah-ha moment with Stanton’s book comes when you realize that even with all these various stories of pain or happiness; stories that can make them seem so different; people everywhere are pretty much the same.  It’s comforting yet also kind of exciting, even addictive.  Google Maps; however has rendered these resting workers (on the Trail around Lake City) inert, with no story to tell.

Here’s a strange shot of the Google photographer changing his shirt (or something) while riding along:

Then this view from Fremont from ’09:

And another in ’14, where the median has been taken away but the red car on the right seems oddly like the same one from 5 years earlier.  This view was made available by “stepping to the right” with the mouse.

Here is one of many generic bicyclists who can be found along the Trail:

Somehow, along the way in Fremont, people were warned of the approach of the Google Bike; perhaps the greeting was so nice the powers that be decided not to neuter any of their identities:

It's almost unsettling seeing actual faces after this virtual trip along the Burke-Gilman

It’s almost unsettling seeing actual faces after this virtual trip along the Burke-Gilman

It seems odd that Google Maps would even be interested in visually cataloging this trail; the appeal, I suppose, is more for those like me, those who want to make virtual journeys or trips down memory lane.  But the more you look, the more you can’t help but wonder who those faceless people are.