I was afraid to look down…

I was afraid to look down...

If rich girls and poor boys didn’t exist — songwriters and novelists would pretty much have to invent them.

Happily — or not — I didn’t have to do any research for this song.

As I wrote not long ago, I was working in a self-serve gas station during the first gas crisis in the mid-70s. It was a great gig, in at least one way: it paid double minimum wage at a time when a lot of folks were plug out of work in the slumping, stagflation-driven post-Vietnam recession.

I thought of it as combat pay… one week three people were shot dead on the block the station was on… two of them while I was on duty. Those killings occurred in a grotesque abandoned apartment house used as a flop by a crew of junkies and hanging by the fingernail types who were motley even by the distressed standards of the era.

It was during that period I ended up falling in love with a rich girl. She was wonderful in so many ways. She was smart as a whip (in her second year of law school at the age of 21 or 22), liked to argue about politics and philosophy and could take it as well as dish it out — an important consideration as far as I was concerned — and she could drink like a man. As we used to say.

It could be odd, getting off work on a hot sweaty day in a part of my town hard-pressed and degraded by the city’s blind-eyed neglect, showering, and driving to the chi-chi enclave of Bel Air (now famous as the one time home of O. J. Simpson and former president Ronald Reagan) to pick her up and drive to some south bay bar where we would proceed to get hammered on cheap beer.

We ended up moving in together after we’d only been going out for a month or so, which may have been the first nail in the coffin of that terminal relationship. Still, one day she brought home a card, in Spanish, from the Guadelupe Wedding Chapel, which, taking advantage of a new state law, was offering “no-wait” marriages to cohabiting couples.

The card became a running joke… but I was never entirely sure it was a joke. “C’mon,” she would say after a few beers, “let’s go up there right now and do it.” I was invariably evasive. I thought she’d back out at the last instant — but I was never sure enough to test my theory.

(And, when she did get married 4 or 5 years later, it was an enormous church wedding at a prestigious Presbyterian church in Beverly Hills, with a reception at an exclusive and rambling hotel in that same town that was lousy with out of town movie stars and visiting dignitaries. I was invited and attended with my then current GF. But that’s for another blog entry. Or maybe it was, already. I’ll get back to you on that.)

When we first moved in together, she had just decided to drop out of law school and took a job in a local bank as a teller. Pretty soon, law school must have started looking pretty good. After 6 or 7 months, she announced she was taking her father up on an offer to return to law school. And, she said, while she wanted to continue the relationship, she was going to move back up to LA to be closer to the school.

By then, the relationship had taken a few hits, provoked in part, by my own insecurity in the face of my girlfriend’s whipsaw ability to snap from scared little girl to steely independence at the drop of a wrong word — or even a dropped cue.

From there it was on again and off again… a roller coaster I ultimately found completely fatiguing and emotionally flummoxing. I was hooked — but hammered, emotionally. Eventually I realized I’d had enough — and was convinced she had, too, though she didn’t know it, I said, “You know what? You don’t need me. You think you do. But you don’t. I love you and I think you love me. We had some dreams, I guess. But they’re over.”

Of course, that was a lie… sometimes I awake with just the wisp of one of them disappearing in the daylight. And for a few moments I remember — I feel those old feelings. For a few moments.

Last time I saw her, she was married, had a couple of beautiful kids, and seemed glowingly happy. Call me nuts — but that’s how I want to remember her.

We all have our dreams.

previous AYoS version

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So, How Does It Look from the Stars?

I’ve been up to your penthouse but
I… I was afraid to look down
I’ve been all around the world
but I’m only at home on my own side of town

I’ve been up all night
trying to find
the right way to come down
I been inside out and I know all about
the emptiness all around

everything happens for reasons
but we never get to find out what they are
from way down here it all looks pretty big
so how does it look from the stars

you laid it all out
and I wanted so much
to just pick up
what you put down

I can taste it right now
but still somehow
I’ve finally found
the power to shine on

everything happens for reasons
but we never get to find out what they are
from way down here it all looks pretty big
so how does it look from the stars

(C) 2001 TK Major


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