Lost Friend


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The Fist

Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 26, 2013 - 05:00pm PT
I'm looking for a friend from my sordid past who was instrumental helping me extract my head from so far up my backside I nearly asphyxiated.

In 1986, I inherited the equivalent of $250,000 in today’s money from a paternal grand-aunt, money that was meant to act as a band-aid to heal the open wound that was my childhood.

I was living in England when I learned of her death. My mother (who was in the habit of reading the obituaries in the LA Times) came across her obit by chance and sent me the grim, matter-of-fact clipping from the paper.

My wife and I split after a contentious couple of years. Simone resented me for not being able to bring in an income that would support the lifestyle that being a mid-level escort provided. After getting smashed on Southern Comfort she'd serenade me with Janis Joplin's version of Big Momma Thornton's song “Ball and Chain” at the top of her ample lungs. If that wasn't love nothing was--and we hated each other.

I flew back to the U.S. having overstayed my visa by almost four years.
At Heathrow Airport the customs officer addressed me in a voice cracking with alarm, “You've overstayed your visa quite a long while.”
“I know,” I said. “But I'm leaving now.”
He stamped my passport and I was on my way home.

While waiting for the estate executor to cut the check, I stayed at my father’s house in Granada Hills. It was the first time I'd been welcome under his roof since I spent a few months of my 15th summer there while waiting to return to the group home I'd left a year-and-a-half previously. It was for my protection after my stepfather fractured my arm for not making my bed fast enough.

The household consisted of my dad, stepmother, and two younger half-sisters, Corinne and Jacqueline. Jacqueline was a freshman in high school. While taking driver’s education class she met Heather. They became fast friends and Heather came around the house a lot. Every time we crossed paths she'd be looking at me like a lost puppy. I've always had a thing for younger girls, but she’d just turned sweet 16 and that was too young for this 27-year-old. I did my best to avoid her.

New Year’s eve came around and with nothing better to do I drove down into Hollywood. I was drinking heavily and by the time I hit a second bar I was smashed, lonely and miserable. Without waiting for the countdown to midnight I headed home. I was about the only car heading north on the 101, which was just as well as I was pretty much occupying all four lanes of the freeway. In the opposite direction, the southbound lanes going into Hollywood weren't moving at all.

I expected the house to be quiet as my dad and step-mother would be sleeping, and my sisters and Heather had gone to a party. I opened the front door quietly and ran into Heather. She and Jacqueline found the party dull and had left early. Heather abandoned my sister and latched on to me. Alcohol, erasing my common sense and lowering all inhibition as it does, left me without my better judgment (not to be seen again for years) and we went at it like rabbits. Maybe a rabbit and a sponge soaked in alcohol would be a better description. We were together the next 18 months, and when the occasion called for it Heather didn't hesitate to remind me that I'd fallen asleep on top of her mid-stroke.

Toward the end of our relationship I was living in either Virginia City, Nevada or Yosemite Valley, California, and driving down to LA just about every weekend, renting a room at an adult motel room with closed circuit TV and having speed-fueled obsessive/compulsive sex with my jailbait girlfriend for days at a time. While satisfying physically, Heather grew weary of our emotionally vacant relationship and dumped me.

I’ve never taken break-ups good, and this one was particularly hard. I'd been having the best sex of my life and I knew it would be a long time, if ever, I was going to find a fairly pristine girl again and it turned me into a wreck. I began doing huge amounts of meth and staying awake for up to a month at a time (those who don't think it's possible to stay awake that long, the methamphetamine that was available in the mid-80s, before the necessary chemicals became impossible to acquire, and the speed cooks with the chemistry know-how were given life sentences, was easily up to the task.)

Adolf Hitler was given intravenous injections of methamphetamine 'vitamins' called 'Vitamalt' by his personal physician Dr. Merkel, and he'd been awake for a month when he decided to open a two-front war by invading Russia.
Europe and much of the world owes its freedom to meth.

I was given Ritalin by prescription starting in kindergarten, so I was somewhat inured to the psychotic aspects of powerful stimulants, but coupled with the emotional trauma I was visiting on myself and my sense of loss I became suicidal, sticking my loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm into my mouth with the safety off and my finger on the trigger. The only thing that prevented me from killing myself was because I was hallucinating I could win her back. Aside from being a good lay, I was an absolute prick to her, and it's safe to say she was emotionally more mature than I was.

I became a stalker, following Heather to her new boyfriend’s house and sitting outside in my parked car for hours while my imagination ran wild. I didn't threaten her so much as annoy the hell out of her with repeated calls, and when she'd feel sorry for me and let me hang out with her for half an hour, I'd spend the entire time crying hysterically and telling her lies I thought might win her back. I was a trainwreck .

That was the condition I was in on my 29th birthday, friendless and alone, when I drove 20 miles from the room I was renting in Pacific Palisades to Gorky's on Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood. When I was a child it had been the Tic-Toc restaurant and I'd go there with my grandfather, so although the building had been remodeled beyond recognition it nonetheless brought back nice memories. Gorky's served microbeers and food that varied (from decent when it opened to lousy later on) and subsequently it went under.

I sat at a table by the bar so I could smoke. People in LA that go out by themselves are viewed by others as lepers for being apparently friendless. I did my best to appear as though I was waiting for someone. Lost in misery, I fixed my attention on the cigarette I was rolling when the waitress came to get my order. Without looking up I ordered a beer and a double shot of scotch whiskey.

Instead of repeating my order back to me she said, “I smoke those.”
Understand that the cigarette I was rolling was made with high-end Drum tobacco, a smoke only found at specialty tobacco stores and maybe three liquor stores in L.A. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard, never mind the obscure tobacco, a girl who rolled her own cigarettes was something I'd never witnessed. I finished rolling, and looked up to see the source of this unheard of statement.

The girl smiling down at me was gorgeous, petite, 5' 4" and 105lbs, with chestnut brown hair, a glowing olive complexion that towhead girls pay a tanning salon good money to attain but never quite get, and a beautiful face with perfectly arrayed, refined features and full lips. What the hell was she doing talking to me? I was sitting in her section alone, a leper, outcast with not a friend as far as the eye could see.
I was poison.

We chatted briefly. I spoke slowly and deliberately, doing my best to not appear too excited having my first conversation with a girl other than Heather since I could remember, but it was too much. I could feel myself coming unglued, cracks developing in my calmly confident veneer. I told her it was my birthday, clearly a stupid thing to say as I was celebrating with only myself for company. She said she had tables to tend to and returned to her work. I had blown it.

I drank my beer and tried to get up the nerve to ask her for her number. When she came by again I ordered another beer, but abstained from another double shot which I badly wanted so I wouldn't come across like a sloppy, out-of-control lush. Though I was beginning to feel the effects of the alcohol, fear of rejection precluded any attempt to engage her in conversation. I decided to come back another time and ask her for her number, and put my beer away as fast as my gag reflex allowed. I asked her for the bill and she returned with my total.

It was now or never, but as I put a twenty dollar bill on the tray instead of asking her the crucial question all I could manage was an awkward smile, which she thankfully didn't see as she was looking around checking her tables. She looked down, saw the money, grabbed the tray and left without a word or a look. That was that, I sank into the murky depths of self-hatred and loneliness, all hands on board.

In a few minutes she returned with my receipt and change. She counted back my change and handed it to me, then putting the receipt on the table she flipped it over and pushing it toward me said, “We should hang out some time.”
Written on the slip of paper was her name and phone number. Her name was Florence, which translated means I, flower. I'd never met a more aptly named girl, and at that moment there wasn't anything on earth I desired more. I'd hit the jackpot.

Much as I wanted to jump onto my table and shout “Helllll yes!” I maintained my outwardly calm appearance, something which took every drop of control I possessed because inside I was smiling from ear to ear and over the moon with happiness. I don't remember what I said to her after that, but got out of there before I said anything stupid or untoward. This had turned into the best birthday ever.

Wait a minute, I thought, this isn't how my life works.
As soon as I'd stepped outside I began to over analyze what had just happened, and within minutes was racked with self-doubt. The number is fake and she was just being nice because it was my birthday, she was drunk, she's a slut and doesn't care who she sleeps with. It was a relentless onslaught, and with the limitless different combinations of possibility playing out in my mind, within minutes I had returned to morbid introspection and self-loathing. The whole event may as well have not just taken place, and before long I wasn't certain it had.

I'd wanted to check and see if the number was legit right away, and figured I could do so without detection by going to a pay phone, calling and waiting for the answering machine to pick up, then hanging up as soon as I heard her voice on the recording. The only problem with the plan, was that I'd convinced myself she would know it was me who had called and didn't have the moxie to leave a message, and ultimately I'd resigned myself to sitting out the mandatory two-and-a-half to three day, “I'm interested, but not overly so,” waiting period so as not to come across as desperate, which I absolutely was.

The next couple of days were interminable, minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days, throughout the entire time my brain wouldn't be quiet. My internal dialogue, normally a discussion, took on the characteristic of a shouting match. After a couple of days I couldn't take it any longer. I rationalized that if calling too soon made me seem over eager, it wouldn't matter because the number was fake, so I dialed.

She answered.

Florence invited me over to her apartment. When I got there a guy answered the door. Great, I thought,she has a boyfriend, of course she does, she's so beautiful. “She's in her room,” he said pointing the way by throwing his thumb over his shoulder, before returning to whatever he'd been doing and disappearing. I stepped into the living room and looked around. It was a nice apartment in an older building. Unsure of where to find her I called out: “Hello?”
“In here!”
I followed the sound of her voice. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor of her bedroom, surrounded by photos cut from magazines and pasting them together. “That was Eric, my roommate,” she informed me as I found a spot on the floor and made myself comfortable. She was so pretty she was hard to look at. I didn't see anything that would indicate she had a boyfriend, and she never dropped the My boyfriend said, once, did, thinks bomb.

Other than trying to keep my foot out of my mouth, while keeping my end of the conversation light and hopefully witty, I remember little from that first visit. After 45 minutes I made an excuse to leave before my presence became stale. She saw me to the door and told me that she had fun hanging out and that we should do it again. I thanked her for having me over and said I'd call her soon.

As I drove away I tried to figure out why she didn't have a boyfriend. I realized I'd only scratched the surface and didn't know this girl at all, unless hidden underneath her clothing was skin covered in pustules and carbuncles. Still, she should not only have a boyfriend, but should have been married to a millionaire by her age, which I was guesstimating to be 23. Clearly I was missing something.

We talked on the phone a few times over the next week and then hung out again. I realized if I didn't initiate some sort of physical contact on the second or third visit, the likelihood of it ever happening would become more and more remote until it graduated to being out of the question. Suffice to say fear of rejection caused me to choke when the unspoken, yet obvious time came, and the moment passed never to occur again.

Although she'd spoken of boyfriends in her past, and obviously was fishing to have one in her future, being her boyfriend required shoes my insecurities couldn't fill. Our friendship never advanced to that next level, and gradually eroded into a platonic one. For one thing I wasn't over Heather, and was terrified that after having the best sex of my life, the next time I did would be the worst, and I didn't want Florence to co-author that event.

For a year we hung out like that. I became friends with her roommate, Eric, as well. He was about 6'1", soft-spoken, possessed a physique best described as a little bit doughy, had wavy, almost shoulder-length hair, and he wore eyeliner. He got laid all the time. Early on I think he sensed that I was struggling to take my relationship with Florence to the next level, and one day when talking about her he leaned over to me, and quietly, as though he were divulging the secret to the universe, informed me she was “A ride no man should be denied.” It was a piece of information that only pushed her further out of reach.

Florence and I hung out at least weekly and we became very comfortable around each other. The first time I ever heard Jane's Addiction was at her apartment when she played the song “Jane Says” for me, which is one of the era's finest songs. It's possible that had I possessed the necessary confidence, decreased my consumption of narcotics, stimulants, intoxicants et al, something might have happened, but the reality is that breaking up with anyone I thought myself to be in love with left me a basket case for years afterward.

Instead of sex occasionally we did some weird, debauched things. We’d get drunk or loaded, or drunk and loaded, and take Polaroids of each other naked. I would imagine the pictures of me less than aesthetic, nightmarish if anything, but the images of Florence were absolutely beautiful. When, about a month later, she said she was having doubts about the existence of pictures of her naked in the possession of someone else, I told her I would turn them over to her to do what she wished with them, and I did, but not before making a color copy enlargement of the nicest one. It was far too beautiful to destroy. Eventually I found another train to crash into and Florence and I saw less of each other.

I met Suzy at a party in the Miracle Mile section of L.A. My friend, Diego, was an unemployed jazz drummer, moonlighting in a wackadoodle rock band called Kristy McCool, led by shrill vocalist and all-around king freak, Thomas Tree. He'd heard about the party and invited me along because he knew I owned a car and he needed a ride.

Diego and I planted ourselves in the empty kitchen. The party was beat, maybe fifteen people total. Nothing going on here at all, I thought. I was about to tell Diego it was time to go when she wandered in, wearing a mini skirt and six-inch stiletto-heeled 'Candy' pumps, a shoe that screams 'My owner wants to be schtupped and now!' Her hair was cut in a Cleopatra Bob, which when encountered is usually a wig, however hers was legit because she was half Manchurian, and Asians have thick arrow straight hair, ideal for the severe geometry of the style.

Initially I wasn't interested as she was much too ripe to be my type, appearing to be in her thirties. Diego tried to get her interest with a tawdry, overused pick-up line and was rejected. Appearing to be a little tipsy, Heineken in hand she started sashaying around the room and shooting occasional glances my way. She could certainly move, and the more she did the younger she appeared to be. When she came close I said to her quietly 'Look at what you're doing to me,' and led her eyes with mine down between my legs.

Whenever a girl got me up without so much as a touch, as far as I was concerned they were doomed, and so it was with Suzy. We exchanged numbers, and Diego made it known he was disgusted by what he'd just witnessed, so disgusted he left the party and walked the six miles back to his apartment in Hollywood.

For Suzy English was her second language, which is to say it was broken on her best day. She was a Vietnam go-go bar fantasy come true, and when she'd call I'd invariably let the answering machine take the call just to hear her say in pidgin English:
Hey Graig, pik up the phoon, weraryoo?

After a few months in the Vietnamese go-go bar I grew weary of Suzy and stopped returning her calls. In the end she and I had nothing in common except sex. Thirty-four years old, to this day, she remains the oldest female I've practiced making babies with.

By now I'd pretty much burned through my inheritance on cars, renting nice apartments, paying “friends” rent so they wouldn't be evicted, and other wasteful things. I was unemployable in my addicted state and didn't know a trade. I reasoned that if I was going to be poor and push my possessions around in a shopping cart or homeless and destitute, I didn't want to do it in L.A. Not long after I stopped seeing Suzy, Diego needed another ride and told me about a garage sale in North Hollywood that only a fool would miss. When we arrived it was pretty much cleaned out, all that remained were two pieces of furniture and the owner, comfortably sitting in one of them.

We introduced ourselves to each other, though for the life of me I can't recall her name, but I think it was Cheryl. Cheryl regaled us with the background to liquidating most of her possessions. It seems she'd been working in a dungeon as a dominatrix, and having grown tired of powerful men who made endless amounts of money and needed to be told what to do while wearing a diaper (as opposed to people in the real world who were always crapping their pants in the presence of such raw masculinity and power), she'd decided her work was destroying her soul, $500 per hour notwithstanding, and she needed a change.
Change came in the form of an offer to work as a set decorator from a Boulder, Colorado theater company and she jumped at the chance. All she would take is what would fit in her car, she said.

A second later the apartment moved two feet to the right accompanied by a loud crack that came from deep within the earth. In a short nanosecond Diego and I were down the flight of stairs that led up to her place and out in the street, where the lights were violently rocking back and forth. We looked at each other then looked around for Cheryl who was nowhere to be seen.

Reentering her apartment, we found her sitting in the same spot having not moved an inch. Weren't you afraid? Diego and I blurted out at the same time. She replied by telling us that she'd just been through the huge Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco, and if it was going to be that bad “You wouldn't be able to walk anyway.”

I'd been through one major and several just-shy-of major temblors, but Diego had never experienced one, and went outside to smoke and soothe his shaken soul.

I saw a possible fix to my rapidly approaching state of existence. Cheryl and I got to talking, and within five minutes I'd talked my way into going to Colorado with her, though don't ask me how because I couldn't tell you. Five minutes after that, while driving Diego home I began to have nagging doubts about moving to another state with a former dominatrix I'd known a full 20 minutes. Maybe life on skid row wasn't so bad?

Ten days later Cheryl called and said she was in Boulder, settled in, and really excited for me to join her. Her enthusiasm made me think that there must be something seriously wrong with her. She was good-looking, had made good money, and she wanted to sink her teeth into me, a guy she didn't know at-freaking-all? I got cold feet, ice cold, but the next time she called I feigned enthusiasm while figuring out a way to let her down gently.

I'd recently run into an old friend in a store on Hollywood Boulevard and we started hanging out again. By hanging out I mean getting high. He was the son of Alfred Bloomingdale's mistress, Vicki Morgan, who had been murdered for the sex tapes in her possession. The tapes purportedly showed Reagan's Attorney General Ed Meese getting pegged, blowing a male prostitute, the kind of things powerful men do to unwind. Rumor was Vicki had also given it to then California Governor, soon-to-be Mr. President himself with a strap-on, and so she was silenced with (age at the time,) 10-year old Todd's baseball bat.
And the tapes were never seen again.

Todd had his mother's looks and could get a girl into bed by saying hello to her. Inheriting the equivalent in today's money $2,400,000, he burned through it as fast as I burned through mine. He was itching to go someplace and I invited him along to Boulder, a trip to which he readily agreed.

The next time Cheryl called I told her I had a surprise, and when I said I'd be bringing a friend along I figured out why she didn't have a boyfriend. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hi Cheryl, listen I'm a little apprehensive about moving to a state I've never visited, and where I don't know a single person except yourself who I've known a total of twenty minutes, so ugh... I've got a little surprise for you.”
“You're still coming aren't you.”
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm bringing a friend with me.”
“Oh, don't worry, he's really cool, and...”
"You mother#@%*er! You mother#@%*ing sonofa#@*%&! You Goddamn mother#@%*ing b%#$@&d! No! No! No no no no!”
I hung up on her as the conversation didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Next time I saw Todd I told him Cheryl didn't want me to have any friends so I backed out of the trip.
“Why don't we go to Reno?” he said. “I have friends up there.”
I knew the area, and had lived seemingly everywhere around there but Reno. It was as if it was meant to be. I called Florence and told her I was thinking of moving away, and was taking a trip to Reno to see if I liked it. She said she thought it was a good idea because it might help me to calm down, and wished me luck.

Todd and I went for a week and we had a blast. I found a place where I could be comfortable in my impending impoverished state of existence. I was sold on relocating to Reno.

I gave notice on my Hollywood apartment, began liquidating my extraneous possessions while organizing what remained, and was soon ready to begin shuttling my stuff up to Reno, which in my sport utility truck was going to require five or six trips, each one about 850 miles there and back. The final load would include my antique Chrysler New Yorker St. Regis. It was Chrysler's top of the line model for 1955. Nothing but the best for this kid.

I named her Tinkerbelle because she had a pink (coral) and white two-tone finish and she was massive, stretching over 18 ft. in length. In good shape body-wise, the 331 Hemi engine ran beautifully. A ballerina if ever I'd driven one, she only suffered from one little problem. Her master cylinder was wearing out, something only noticeable when applying the brakes and increasingly they wouldn't work. I couldn't find the part in Hemming's Auto News so it would have to be retooled, and lacking necessary funds to have the work done Tinkerbelle sat mostly idle. Just as well because I couldn't find an insurance agency that would give me a policy on her. She would have to be strapped down to a trailer and towed over 400 miles.

Saying goodbye to Florence, the girl whose presence in my life made the rain finally stop falling, was something I put off until the final minute because I wasn't in any hurry to live so far away from the best birthday present ever.

When I went to her apartment for the final time she said she had been wrapping my going away present, but that it wasn't quite finished because she was having trouble with its shape. Her statement innocent enough, made me feel like the thoughtless turd I was for arriving with nothing more than my charming self. The idea to leave her with something to thank her for our friendship never crossed my mind.

I remember nothing of what we said or did, except that I thought I could hear an awful slurping sound which I understood to be the sound of me sucking, sucking at friendship, sucking at thoughtfulness, sucking at expressing myself. The slurp rose in pitch, first slowly and quietly, gradually getting faster and louder until it approached unbearable, and just when I thought my eardrums would rupture-- silence.
Whatever it was that had been causing the blockage cleared, my blood resumed flowing and the wind once more chased itself down the street. It was time to call it a night.

I loitered while Florence resolved the gift wrapping dilemma, and after a half-dozen minutes she came walking back into the living room, holding the gift before her in outstretched arms. 'It had to be kept upright, don't put anything on top of it, and I must not open it until I got home,' I was advised. I put it down on the couch, gave her an awkward hug and thanked her for being there for me. I promised I wouldn't open her going away gift until the appropriate time, and that was that.

I got back to my empty apartment and sat on the floor with her present. It was flat on the bottom and about the size of an LP record, the top was irregular and less than a foot in height. F*#k it, just open the thing, I thought, but couldn't bring myself to open it. It was too final, and I felt by opening it I was closing the book on our friendship, and eventually I fell asleep on the floor next to it.

In the morning I unwrapped it. It was a pair Converse Chuck Taylor's that had been fixed to a base, and painted on it the story of how she had hitchhiked all across Europe in this very pair of shoes. Subsequently, the shoes had great sentimental value attached to them and powerful juju, because of the miles traveled and because they kept her safe. The shoes had a dozen miniature plastic figures climbing all over them, and one rappelling down the side of a shoe on a piece of wire. Stuffed into the other shoe was a cassette, and since my stereo was already packed I had to go out to my car to play the tape.

I'm making you s sha-oooooe pie! the cassette began, You're late, you've really got to lay off the drugs, you're doing waaay too much... I had arranged to hang out with her, but coming at the end of a long stretch of wakefulness I had passed out and stood her up. She was absolutely right, I was doing way to much sh#t, dangerously so, and her cassette was a message addressed to my self-destructive nature. She was telling me to stop disrespecting the people in my life and stop disrespecting myself, more importantly she was telling me to take care of myself because she cared.

The Shoe Pie was one of the nicest and most thoughtful gifts I ever received, and I taped the photograph of her I was supposed to destroy, but couldn't bring myself to do so, to its base.

I lost touch with Florence after I moved to Nevada, but I felt like she was never far because of the Shoe Pie. After about a year parts started falling off of it and I would glue them back on. Since I was now poor I moved around a lot and parts would get damaged or lost. I was still partying much too much, and whenever I felt as though I was about to lose control, I would listen to the Shoe Pie cassette Florence made for me, and it helped me to keep both feet on the ground.

One day, after I'd had the pie about four years one of the shoes fell off. I was engaged to be married again, and so when I couldn't get the shoe reattached I made the difficult decision to part with my Shoe Pie. It had too much sentimental value to just toss into the garbage, and so the next time I traveled out into the empty desert I buried it. I never did show the picture of her to anyone, though I felt everyone should have seen it.

In '92 I got into a fight with a Nazi skinhead that had a knife I never saw nor felt, but suffice to say I lost the fight and ended up in the emergency room at the hospital where I received eighty stitches. When I'd recovered sufficiently I left Reno, first going to Oakland for almost a year, after which I returned to Los Angeles.

I was living with my adoptive mother who had a house in West Hollywood one block from the Beverly Center. I wasn't working, or doing much of anything except walking around a lot. I'd walk down Melrose Avenue and sit on the stoop in front of Double Rainbow Ice Cream and people watch. It was about the only entertainment around that didn't cost anything.

If I got there before noon the street was still fairly quiet, and occasionally a guy wearing hot pink leg warmers over his jeans would join me. I got the feeling that he dressed that way to shock people, and he came across like he might be weird, but it was an affectation, a put-on act that didn't wash with me. I've never had time for people that presented themselves as something other than what they were.

One day as soon as the guy got up and left a girl came running out of the ice cream store and asked me “What was he like?”
“Who, that dude?” I replied.
She said breathlessly “Don't you know who that is?”
I told her I couldn't say I did, and why would I know or care who he was, he was just another kook and Hollywood has more than its share.
“That's Pauly Shore,” she gushed. The girl was insulted I didn't note every nuance of his appearance and mannerisms, or even remember what we talked about.

In all my years in Hollywood he was one of only two celebrities (if that's the right word,) I ever saw. The other one was Flip Wilson, who I saw at the Holiday Inn on Highland Avenue where the Kodak Center now stands. He was putting a suitcase into the trunk of his car.

One morning I wandered along Melrose Avenue, head down staring at the ground, my eyes following cracks in the sidewalk. There was no pedestrian traffic yet as most of the shops were still getting ready to open for the day. Suddenly in my peripheral vision I saw someone exit American Rag (a store that sold $300 second-hand denim pants) and make a beeline for me, and after a few steps they'd stopped in front of me blocking further progress. With my head down all I could see was a pair of girl's shoes. At least I wasn't about to get in a fight, I was pretty sure of that, but otherwise I had no idea why I'd been stopped in the middle of an empty sidewalk. " I've been wondering about you,” a voice said.

I looked up without raising my head, and didn't see anyone I knew as far as I was able to discern. I stood up straight to give my obstructing party a clear view of me to ensure their familiarity wasn't misplaced, because even after having a good look I had absolutely no idea who this person was.

“I got into climbing...” Whoa, this person knows me obviously, I thought. I stared hard at her for what felt like an eternity but was possibly a few seconds.
“I knocked off the partying,” she added. At that moment the dawn of realization as all the pieces fell into place.

It was Florence.

“I was at a climbers campground in Utah, and one night around our camp fire people were telling stories about a guy they were calling 'The Fist,' and I realized they had to be talking about you.”

I was glad to hear she'd gotten away from the stupid sh#t in exchange for something healthy and fulfilling, and I was surprised she'd heard climbers talking about me so many years after I'd given up serious climbing, and in Utah no less, a state I'd never stepped foot in. We only talked for a few minutes because she was at work when she saw me walking by, and she had to return to it. I don't remember if we exchanged numbers or not, if we did I wouldn't have phoned her because it sounded as though her life was on track, whereas mine was anything but.

That meeting on the sidewalk would have been almost twenty years ago, before I'd rediscovered my gift for art and gotten my life in order. I'd really appreciate it if someone knew a way I could get in touch with her. I'm not trying to take her out on a date which would ideally lead to betrothal and reproducing. I just want to let her know that everything turned out okay for me and that I'm alive and well.

I believe Florence would be in her early forties today. She has brown hair and eyes, and as I said earlier she was petite at around 5'3" and 100-110lbs. That's all the information I have on her.
Oh yeah, she really got into climbing back in the early 90s.

Any relevant and/or otherwise beta, scandalous hearsay, idle gossip, relevant details, phone or fax numbers, email addresses, photographs and whatnot, can be posted here, but it might be better to shoot me an email: gregallenpainter@yahoo.com


Big Wall climber
So Cal
Sep 26, 2013 - 05:12pm PT
What a great story Greg! Your writing is very good, I was hooked after the 2nd paragraph. I hope you find Florence.

Remember the old days at Stony Point? I have memories of you cruising at Stony wearing blue RR boots & a leather jacket. Back in the days when Kamps, Laeger & Vaino Kodas ruled the boulders.

The Granite State.
Sep 26, 2013 - 05:39pm PT
Can't help you with finding Florence, but that was some great writing.

Social climber
So Cal
Sep 26, 2013 - 07:37pm PT
That was one engaging piece of script!


Trad climber
Millbrae, CA
Sep 26, 2013 - 07:56pm PT
Wow, that was a great story. It really captured the mood of those times.
I hope you find your friend...
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Sep 26, 2013 - 08:06pm PT
Great stories - thanks for sharing. I don't know Flo, unfortunately.

Sep 26, 2013 - 08:43pm PT

if that's a true tale i hope to gods that don't exist that you find your friend and she gets to read what you've written.

if it's embellished, kudos on writing and style worthy of such epic imaginings.

either way this is some of the most engrossing oc i've seen cross this drunken online campfire in quite some time.


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Sep 26, 2013 - 09:07pm PT
Thanks The Fist for a wild ride.
(That sounds kinda weird, maybe I should rephrase that)
Great story, thanks for sharing.

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Sep 26, 2013 - 09:28pm PT
Good luck finding Florence. She sounds really special.

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Sep 26, 2013 - 09:32pm PT
That kind of writing shouldn't be summarized. I too started out reading it, and couldn't stop. Good argument for the off topic thread . .

Thanks for the read.

Mountain climber
honeoye falls,ny.greeneck alleghenys
Sep 26, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
Had a "sordid past" myself,and smoked drum.

Great read .Thanks The Fist.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 26, 2013 - 09:55pm PT
Poignant, eriudite, and odd. Love it!

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 26, 2013 - 10:00pm PT
I certainly hope you find Flo, but whatever you do - keep writing. That was the most engaging piece of writing I have ever read. Seriosly, I had no idea where it was going, but I oouldn't stop reading.

Gym climber
Sep 26, 2013 - 11:03pm PT
Had a "sordid past" myself,and smoked drum.
You don't say, so did I, so did lots of people I knew (smoked Drum, no sordid past).
A very interesting read, but I suspect it may be in the James Frey school of journalistic integrity. Drum was a mainstream product in those days, widely available and sort of the "Bud" of roll-your-own tobacco.
A trivial detail? Perhaps. But combined with the fact that the novella has the ostensible purpose of actually finding someone, but is written ridiculously if that was its true objective, I don't know, I'm suspicious about this one. I think the author has some genuine writing talent, but I'm over the blurring of fact and fiction.

Sep 26, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
Very well done writing is always recognized to be drawn in like the moth to the flame ......
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Sep 26, 2013 - 11:28pm PT
Is The Fist largo ?

Social climber
Sierra Eastside
Sep 26, 2013 - 11:59pm PT
Hi Gregg,

Remember those days before you left Tahoe? I have some good memories climbing with you. I'm glad you survived and are doing well. I made it myself somehow!

I enjoyed reading your stories!


Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 27, 2013 - 09:56am PT
Nah, PSP Largo doesn't write like that

Trad climber
San Diego
Sep 27, 2013 - 10:31am PT
Gripping. Hope you find her.

Sep 27, 2013 - 10:45am PT
started reading, found I could stop and did. Sorry...just didn't care about the subject matter.
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