An Excerpt from “Art of Life”: Thanksgiving

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Twenty Years On

An excerpt from the book Art of Life by Jennifer New.

The fall of 1991 served as an antidote to the perpetual overcast of London and the sultry, labyrinthine alleyways of Morocco. Having temporarily given up the mobile shop, Dan returned to Los Angeles to take a few classes through UCLA Extension. It proved to be his best American experience yet. He had lived in L.A. once already and had infinitely more confidence that he’d had in New York three years earlier. Nor was there the large-scale planning of STA to consume his attention.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.01.30 PMEiji, wearing a fake moustache and Coke-bottle glasses, picked him up at the Los Angeles International Airport in early September and was thrilled when Dan, the Master of Disguise, walked past without recognizing him. The two were to spend much time together that fall, exploring the city from Beverly Hills to South Central. One of their first stops was the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica where Dan’s mother and her friend Geoffrey Dudman were staying while in town to raise money for a feature film. Stashed in their room were three bulging, smelly boxes of belts and bracelets; Kathy and Geoffrey had brought the goods from England on the final leg of their illicit trip.

Dan transferred the belts and bangles to several garbage bags and heaved them into the trunk of his old brown Tempo; it was still running thanks to Hayden’s long-term care. Without a place to live, Dan moved around town, spending a week with an old border from the “Eldon Hilton,” a few days with Hayden’s new boyfriend, and another few weeks with someone whose apartment-for-rent ad he answered. None of these proved to be the right arrangement. Each time he moved, he hauled the bags with him, stuffing the belts that he snaked out of the top back inside. In an act that would save him money while testing his patience, he finally rented a room in a UCLA fraternity house.

Part of Dan’s happiness that fall was that he was around so many of his friends. His mother was in and out of town, treating him to dinners and introducing him to movie people, many of them eccentrics who amused Dan. Eiji was going to UCLA; Roko Belic came down from Santa Barbara several times; and both Robert Gobright, STA’s mechanic, and Tex paid him visits.

On September 18, Kathy hosted a group of Dan’s friends at the Shangri-La to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. They were listening to an account of Eiji’s birthday gift – a visit to a strip club the night before – when there was a knock at the door. Amy came dashing into the room, greeting Dan with an enormous hug. Kathy and Geoff had flown her over from London as a surprise; Dan was stunned and thrilled.

To celebrate properly, he called for a late-night safari to Tijuana. “It’s always better to go somewhere than to not go somewhere,” he announced, rallying the somewhat dubious group. In the dingy border town they witnessed a fist fight – much to Eiji’s glee and Roko’s horror, while Tex, who never drank, had the bad luck of being vomited on by a very inebriated stranger. Dan spent much of the night warding off unwanted advances toward Amy by strangers. At dawn, they drove back to the city, satisfied to have at least made an effort to seek adventure.