UNITED STATES—February 10, 1992, I said goodbye to Los Angeles. “The Strawberry Butterfly,” the screenplay that had grown from the chrysalis of “The Persecuted,” had not sold, but I had faith in it and Everett Lewis’ belief in it. Three years had come full circle. It was surely time for me to move on, and just as surely, when Everett connection with the right producer, I would be reaping the rewards from what had been so painstakingly sowed.
Now: new city, culture, language. I definitely would never write another screenplay. I was sure of that. Nor did I plan to come back to the United States. I went with the purpose of staying.
Events quickly conspired toward that end. The first weeks in Guadalajara I found a room to rent on Avenida Avila Camacho, a casa de asistencia run the widow of a dentist and her teenage daughter. They ran a lunch place in front. The whitewashed adobe room’s ceiling was full of moisture, the paint crackling from the ceiling. With housing, one of the ground floors of Maslov’s self-realization pyramid had been taken care of, now for a job.
I took a lot of buses and had several interviews. After a week or two, a firm specializing in business English was going to hire me to teach English on the other side of the city. Then Oscar Garibay, the son of the first family I stayed with in Guadalajara, urged me to apply at the University’s English school. The campus was not 10 minutes walk from where I was living, beyond the movie theaters, Popeyes Hamburgers, and there was the campus dedicated to Philosophy, Law and Letters. And there a highly lucrative English-language school had offices and shared the campus’ classrooms.
Edna Muñoz, who spoke both perfect Mexican Spanish and American English, practically hired me on the spot. A couple days after my application she called: “You start a new class on Saturday.” Saturday was the next morning. I was in a panic. Edna held my hand through the planning of those first weekly English classes. Without her I wouldn’t have survived.
In that first class, I cut my finger on the sharp edge of a laminated plastic poster. I bled on myself. It seems an entirely appropriate baptism for the teaching activity. The Saturday class was a marathon five-hour class. From the beginning, my goal was to survive the next hour and a half to the next break.
Looking back now, there was a touch of destiny in it all. The luck of being on this campus I could never have calculated in my wildest dreams, the University of Guadalajara.
As I was getting settled in Guadalajara, one night I had a dream. I was in a big gray marble courtroom, a far cry from the humble little departments in L.A. Municipal Court. We were locked inside. The handles on the big tall double doors had been chained shut and padlocked. Outside, around the perimeter of the courthouse Moorehead was pouring gasoline from a tank. He had chained and padlocked the doors to the courtroom. Moorehead set of match to the gasoline. From inside we could see the smoke puff blackly, the flames blazed. Everyone inside was trapped…
Then I woke up… Something had risen up inside me, some sediment had bubbled up from the bottom of a guilty sea to create this dream. Then, a couple months later, there was a TV set in a little store. On the screen clouds of thick black smoke wafted over a street. There are flame-orange flashes from buildings aflame below. Buildings silhouetted.
“It looks like a war,” somebody said.
I realized I was looking at the sky over Western Ave. The city on TV was Los Angeles. The war came home when 12 jurors in Simi Valley let the police off for beating Rodney King.
Grady Miller is a humorist. His latest, “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood” is available on Amazon.