The Datsun 310 brakes to exit the Ventura Freeway on the ramp just before the Hollywood Freeway exit. The car crosses a major expressway then to a subdevelopment of large apartment blocks. The buildings appear to have been built in the late 1960s. If the Soviet Union would have built housing in the town of North Hollywood, they would probably look like these units. If not for a few palm trees, the apartment complex is stark, harsh concrete and stucco.
Sheen and I stand on the concrete slab. Felix said he lives in apartment 143, it’s close to the swimming pool. Sheen sees it first.
“Jay, there it is!”
“You go ahead and ring the bell Sheen.”
It’s actually an out of tune buzzer. The door opens right away.
“Jay! You’re right on time! Come on inside out of the heat. Oh, hello, you must be Jay’s friend.”
“It’s wonderful to see you Felix, I do want to introduce you to my traveling partner, Sheen Brozec. Sheen, this is Felix Wells my old partner in crime from way back when.”
“Guys, there’s the sofa, have a seat while I finish getting a few things packed into my beach bag. I’m so excited to play tour guide for my new buddy Sheen.”
“You see Sheen, I told you he’d be flirting with you right away.”
“He’s not flirting with me!”
“I’m not? Sheen, just you wait and see what California hospitality is all about.”
“Felix, we didn’t bring a beach bag, do we need to have one too?”
“No Jay, I have a change of skivvies and some meds and my mineral water. I already took my AZT, so I don’t need to drag that along. I want to eat something, so this pill brings back my appetite. Us boy scouts need to be prepared! Alright. I’m ready to go.”
“Felix, you’ll need to point the way now and then, I’m not familiar with this part of the city.”
All three of us pack into the Datsun and Felix points the way to the beach. On the way, we take a short detour through Beverly Hills. Felix sweeps his hand in the direction of various movie and television stars’ mansions. Many homes are secluded from view, so we can only see fences and gates in some areas.
We arrive at Santa Monica, find a parking spot near downtown, then Felix leads us towards Santa Monica Pier.
“Well boys, here we are, safe and sound all ready to cruise the beach. What do you think Sheen?”
“All I can say is this is so luxurious and quaint. Everything looks so expensive.”
“Sheen, it is expensive. Jay knows all about my good taste. I’d like to live here in Santa Monica, someday. Come on, let’s check out that shady spot near the Pier. We’ve got to get some sodas to help us survive the beach trek. My treat!”
Felix has a Sprite, Sheen and I a Coke. We stroll towards the surf in silence. We find a cluster of large boulders, climb the largest ones and sit. I dangle my feet into the bobbing water. My eyeglasses slowly get coated with sea spray.
“Felix, do you have anything to clean my glasses in your bag?”
“Yeah, I sure do, I knew you’d forget about the salty mist on the beach. Here, keep it.”
“You’re welcome. … I’m really happy you guys made it out to see me today. I’m having one of my better days.”
“We were hoping you’d be up to a visit, weren’t we Sheen?”
“Jay, the doctor thinks I should quit my job and do something less strenuous. My boss will probably fire me anyway. I’ve had tons of sick days off of work as it is. I just can’t be quitting right now. It costs a lot to live here. But the best doctors and clinics are located here in L.A. I just have to stay.”
“Are you strapped for cash?”
“Nah, not right now, but if I have to quit, I don’t know what I’ll do. My roommate Jerry pays more than his share of the rent and he’s a great help with everything else, too. Jerry’s a real life saver. He can’t support me though.”
“Do they have anything you can fall back on?”
“No Sheen. Well, there’s a volunteer group who can bring groceries and drive people to clinics and stuff. They’re my last ditch hope if I ever get to that point.”
“Felix, you know you’re welcome to come back home with me. Your old friends would just love to pamper you and love you up.”
“I know. You ask me all the time. I just couldn’t stand to live in the midwest again. I’d just be a burden on everyone and I’d hate to be away from here. You guys, I love living here. Even if I can only get to the ocean once a month, I’m glad. They don’t have a beach in Nebraska.”
“Oh yes they do. It’s in Norfolk at Skyview Lake.”
“Ha, ha, ha! You got me there. It’s not the ocean, though. Can we just drop it and enjoy each other’s company for now?”
The rest of the afternoon is nearly perfect. Sheen and Felix bonded when they find out about some mutual friends and that the two are very distantly related. The weather cooperates by maintaining a cooler than usual Southern California August day. Well, nearly perfect, except that I’m getting a mean sunburn. It turns out that not only does the ocean mist mess with glasses, it defeats my sunscreen lotion, too.
We top off the day with a light dinner, dutch treat, near the Pier in downtown Santa Monica. We take Felix home then drive to our motel in San Fernando.
The next day we stop back to see Felix in North Hollywood. He wants to see us and give us some sightseeing tips.
“Felix, I sure wish you could come with us. Yesterday was so much fun. Just like the kind that you and I used to have.”
“I wish I could, too. I called in to work again for sick leave. I’m just not up to anything today. I need to just stay here in my chair. Just a second. Hey Jerry! Get out here and meet my Cornhusker friends!”
“Jay was just saying that he hoped we could meet your friend.”
“Jerry, please meet my old roomie Jay, he’s with his pal Sheen.”
“Jay, Sheen, glad to know ya. Felix, I’m late so gotta run now. If you need me, be sure and call right away, OK?”
“OK. Keep your eyes on the road.”
“Oh, I will. Nice meeting you guys! bye!”
“Felix, I feel better about you staying. I have a real good feeling about Jerry. I guess I have to accept your decisions.”
“I’m glad you think so, Jay. Oh, I wrote down a few places you just have to visit. Here’s where the natives go and how we get there.”
Sheen and I reluctantly leave without Felix. The list comes in handy, there isn’t a bum recommendation anywhere on it. We just pretend that he’s with us. I guess he is, in a way of speaking.
The Blue Jay of Happiness never did find “Blue Jay Way” anywhere in L.A. He guesses that The Beatles just used poetic license while composing the song.