HOLLYWOOD—Perched on a bench amid the furry green turf that rose sharply, Jason opened the zebra-covered journal and proceeded to read the undated entry:
“Fame is not something I would wish on anyone,” Suzanne wrote. Jason blinked back a tear seeing Suzanne's idiosyncrasy, once annoying, now endearing, of writing a small i for I.”People who have not experienced fame, cannot believe what a hell storm it is. They go to a supermarket and lazily leaf through a magazine consecrated to fame, dreaming of it, consuming and envying it. To go to a supermarket, without makeup, my hair disheveled, is a luxury now denied to me. Success has left me without time to pick my nose—and if I did pick my nose, some dam paparazzo would take a picture. Soon I won't be able to throw out my nail clippings, hair strands and floss for fear somebody will mine my DNA. And autographs! This childish obsession with autographs! You have a dream come true and then you stew because it is nothing like what you imagined it was going to be, nothing at all. Nobody imagines sweating tourists from
Omaha with bad breath, trembling like rabbits, asking for your signature. And you know. I envy every one of them because they can walk down a street without being stopped.”
Jason sat on the grass mound, squinting at the sun which had at last broken out from behind the gloom. It poured down between the fluffy clouds in golden shafts. Jason gazed circularly from the green island onto the surrounding lunar landscape: mountains of gray cement dust, mountains of fragmented sidewalks from
Los Angeles, smelly smoldering debris that rose against the platinum sky and poisoned children's lungs.
To the northeast spread out the purple majesty of mountains not made by man. Jason beheld it all, drank it all in: Sun Valley was offstage for the vast metropolis that could not smell its own stink, could not bear to behold its waste, and washed its hands of this eyesore it alone had birthed.
Unseen, the blue fleet of Regal Waste Company garbage trucks whisked in and out of the finest neighborhoods, retrieved their refuse, and brought it here special delivery. And gleaming condos to be built decrepit bungalows were demolished and their remains of twisted plumbing and termite-ridden lumber were dumped here. To the east acres and acres of automotive graveyards housed the crushed husks of their cars, piled like pancakes. Purring forklifts lightly tossed the carcasses of Cadillac’s and old pickups, when they had ceased to serve, at last stripped bare of every useful part like the bones of a Thanksgiving turkey.
To the south, a monumental series of conveyor belts and a superstructure resembling a rocket launch pad pulverized the old sidewalks and cement steps of
Los Angeles, and to the southwest, near where Jason had first kissed Candy, a series of funnels and paddles, pulleys and gigantic mixers, stirred fresh concrete for the growing city. Such ugliness and beauty dwelled together.
His soul expanded and cleansed by this barren monumentality, Jason returned to
School. He was remarkably free of the angst that usually filled him before class. The angst had melted away. Jason himself couldn't explain why.
What was undisputable was that the anguish which in the past twisted his stomach into knots had vanished. Maybe he was the loser garbage brought here by
Hollywood that had no use for him. So what! He had glimpsed grandeur in
Sun Valley's garbage mountains.
After reading Suzanne's thoughts on fame, he felt pricked by remorse for never having opened up to her his own putrid pit of envy. He'd played the game of chicken where the person who fesses up loses when he says, “I envy the hell out of you! Why did all the success happen to YOU?”
And now, Jason realized with a gasp, Suzanne all the time had been asking “Why me?”
Nobody, but NOBODY has it made in
Hollywood, Joey Leonard once told him. Some are itching for their first act, others pine for a second act, the Greats crave for the curtain to descend while still at the top of their game, and yet how few take that final bow with dignity. . .
(to be continued)