A Writer in Los Angeles

So the plan was to move to New York and hang out in dark coffee houses in Greenwich  Village  with  all  the other beatnik writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and write poetry and stories and become a “New York Writer.” That was the plan when I was 14, dating Becky Finkelstein and writing detective novels on the Royal typewriter my father had just bought me. Okay, plans change. After high school, I went to New York but came back after two weeks. So much for that plan. In college, the plan was to go to Paris and sit in the cafes on the left-bank like Ernest Hemingway and write poems and novels. And — like James Joyce who went to Paris in his early 20s and after a month there got a telegram from his father that read: “Mother dying. Come home” — I got a phone call that said: “Jack, come home, you’re the man in the family now.” In my case, it wasn’t my mother, but my father who’d passed away. So I flew home, Paris to New York, New York to New Orleans as if I were retracing my life’s steps. To distract me from the grief, I read Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment on the plane back. After a summer of grief and self-destructive behavior, I came up with a new plan: go to San Francisco and sit in the cafes in North Beach and rub shoulders with the other hippies, and like Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso, write poems and novels and become a San Francisco writer. So much for that plan. I ended up performing in Second City, got married, and then headed out to Los Angeles to work as an actor while performing at the Comedy Store on Sunset. And while I was at it, the plan was to hang out with the poets and writers, yada yada yada. But where did the poets and writers in Los Angeles hang out? In Venice at Beyond Baroque? In Hermosa Beach at the Either/Or Bookstore? In East Hollywood where Bukowski lived in that court-apartment on De Longpre? Seems like the poets and writers in Los Angeles didn’t hang out anywhere. They stayed in their apartments and wrote. So fifty years later, I sit in my book-crammed study and write. Books on the shelves, books on the floor, books on the tables, books on my desk, books on the chairs, books in the closet, books on top of other books, books everywhere: my constant companions. I’m a writer in Los Angeles. I drive to the bank on Fairfax, I head over to the post office in Farmers Market, and I go to Ralph’s to get a chicken. And I’ve created a place where poets and writers can hang out The Los Angeles Poets & Writers Collective: Classes, seminars, workshops, readings, salons, one-person shows, book publishing, etc — And so here I am: “A Writer in Los Angeles!”