Thursday is the last full day Sheen and I can spend in Los Angeles. By late morning, we had finished our tour of Universal Studios. We spot a small Mexican cafe nearby so we opt for a snack of vegetarian tacos and espresso.
“Sheen, we’ve got just over an hour to find Felix’s workplace so that we can pick him up, so you can just eat slowly and enjoy.”
“How many freeways do we have to drive to get there?”
“Oh, I think just the Hollywood Freeway.”
“Jay, we’ve seen more freeways than anything else. If there’s a freeway museum, I don’t want to see it.”
“I know, but southern California got rid of their light rail system decades ago. The powers that be were convinced to use buses and highways instead.”
“I wonder when they realized their decision would screw things up?”
“I’m thinking they knew all along. But the money must have been mighty appealing. No oversight, that sort of thing.”
“All I know, Jay, is that we’ll be on the road a lot for our trip back home. We’d better not be driving much today.”
“Felix has something special planned for us. He says there’ll be hardly any driving. Whatever that means for folks around here, anyway.”
We walk to the Datsun, get in, then make our way to the Hollywood Freeway. Felix’s directions to his workplace, a small mental health clinic, are flawless. We find the parking lot then climb out of the car. Felix stands near the building. He’s dressed all in white including an apron and kitchen hat. He’s waving and motioning for Sheen and I to approach the building.
Felix takes us on a whirlwind tour of the clinic and introduces us to some of his co workers. All three of us pile into the Datsun. We stop for some cold pre-made sandwiches and soft drinks to eat later for lunch. The Datsun re-enters the Hollywood Freeway for a few miles, then to an off-ramp to Hollywood Boulevard.
“OK Jay, turn here. We’re almost there! I hope you guys like it as much as I do! You both like art and architecture a lot, so I think I found a place just perfect for you. OK, make a left here. Over there is where we’ll park the car.”
“Wow! Felix…Jay…this is better than I expected. What is this place?”
“This is Barnsdall Art Park. I think the best views of the city are right here.”
“Sheen, I told you we were in for a real treat, thanks to Felix! I’ve got to get some photos. I hope I have some left-over film.”
“Guys, we’ll take a tour of the place if you like, but we have to take in Hollyhock House. You’ll love it. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home for oil heiress Alne Barnsdall. It was one of his first residential commissions.”
“Jay, look! That’s part of the Hollywood sign over there! Let’s go see it!”
Not only do we see the world famous Hollywood letters, but there’s a stunning view of the cityscape. I hate to admit it, but the smog enhances the entire vista. The three of us take the tour of Hollyhock House then eat our sandwiches afterwards.
“I hope you boys like what you see.”
“I think I can speak for Jay when I say we’re just overwhelmed with this place!, thanks for taking us here, Felix!”
“Do you want to see anything else, today?”
“Actually, Felix, I was just telling Jay that I’m getting sick and tired of freeways. This park has been a wonderful break from all the driving. I just want to mellow out the rest of the day.”
“Sheen is right. We need to organize and pack our stuff for the trip home. I want to look over the car, to make sure we make it to Nebraska without any mechanical problems. I wouldn’t mind staying here awhile, though.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourselves. Jerry has invited you over to our place for dinner. We both hope you have time. Jerry’s a terrific chef.”
“What do you think, Sheen? Do you have time to pack later?”
“Oh, sure. I think the best idea is for us to accept the invite. We didn’t see much of Jerry, yesterday. I want to check out the domestic side of life here in the city. Let’s go!”
“It’s settled then. Can you come over right away, or do you need to get anything at your motel room?”
“No, we’re fine, Sheen and I can go to our room later tonight to sleep. Let’s take in some more of this beautiful view, I want to snap a few more pictures.”
Jerry has the table set for a salad based meal. Fresh veggies and fruits are presented with cheeses and a loaf of Italian bread. We enjoy an iced herbal tea with dinner. I smile when I see Felix get flustered over Jerry’s continual fussing over details of the meal.
“Ah, domestic bliss. You have a great home and this dinner has been fantastic, Jerry.”
“Jay, can I show you something in the living room?”
“It’s over here on the coffee table. We got this chart from Felix’s doctor this week. See, this shows his T-Cell count has dropped a little bit. This is actually an improvement. He’s had worse dips in the past, but he hasn’t fully regained his previous status. This shows that Felix is ratcheting slightly downward again. Frankly Jay, I’m getting worried again.
“What can anyone do?”
“The doctor thinks Felix needs to quit working. I think there’s a good chance that Medi-Cal will take on more of the financial burden. His friends think Felix should return to Iowa or Nebraska, but he absolutely refuses. Anyhow, I just wanted you to know what’s up. I really don’t want you to worry. Just keep in touch with him after you get home.”
“That will be no problem at all. And I’ll try not to worry too much.”
The evening eventually draws to a close. Sheen and I pack our bags at the motel, then drop off to sleep.
The next day is check-out at the motel office, breakfast for us and gasoline for the vehicle. It’s back to the L.A. freeways for Sheen and Jay one last time.
“Sheen, the San Bernardino exit is about half an hour away. I’ll wake you up if you’re napping. I know you’ll want to look back on the city as we leave.”
“Thanks Jay, I’ll just get a little more rest.”
The passenger seat in the Datsun 310 clicks back into the fully reclined position.” I punch in the car’s cigarette lighter for another Kool.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Willie Nelson, “On The Road Again”.
I wish that you have included more photos of what you saw when you were with Felix.
By the way, did you manage to see a view similar to that shown in the following photo?
This is a view of Barnsdall Art Park on Olive Hill in the East Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California.
I wonder whether you have a kind of photographic memory, for you seem to have a great recall of many conversations during the trip even after 24 years. I really enjoyed reading your three posts, which have vicariously taken me back with you to your week spent with Felix in 1987.
Point one. I was traveling on a tight budget and photographic/slide film was/is very expensive. (Digital photography was not a consumer product then.)
Point two. Much of the L.A. metropolitan area looks very similar to your photo, so yes.
Point three. I have kept diaries for many years. I take notes and file them away for future reference. Details about Felix’s encounter with AIDS and its treatment were in his letters to me. Since the posts are presented in story form, I took artistic license. The dialogues are true to the meanings as best as I could remember, but they are not precise transcripts. They are presented as a form of literature but not history. The story is an episode of my memories. But the events actually did happen.
For some reason, the photo did not show up in my previous comment. Here’s the link: