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Dear Colleen

I didn’t leave Hollywood, it left me. It cleaned up. I cleaned up too, just not as much. I had almost forgotten what it was like, then my old friend Colleen turned 50 and sent everyone she knew all the letters she’d received long ago. Thank you, Colleen. Here are some excerpts from my 21 letters to her. I’m 23 when they start.

4/14/74

I’ve got to get out of this town [Spokane, Washington] very soon. It is really starting to get to me.

6/11/74

[Just outside L.A.,] my Volkswagen bus burned a valve (“blew up,” in layman’s terminology). Got a seedy one-room-plus-bath apartment in Hollywood. This is a very exciting place to be when you have money, which means I’ve got to find a job soon, because it is an extremely shitty place to be when you don’t have money. There are rock & roll and perversions galore, but if you don’t have the money to enjoy them, that means you have to spend all your time on the streets and in the food-stamp offices and umemployment lines elbow-to-elbow with L.A.’s six million losers, and a disgustingly lost lot they are, too. There’s a guy who lives two floors below me who “borrowed” 50 cents from me. He is an illegal Cuban refugee who, because he is not a citizen, can’t get a job or welfare or food stamps and has to do what he calls “hustling” for rent and food.

The End of Time is located quite near my place, right between the House of Hermetic Occult Shop and an adult movie theater.

6/10/75

Went to the porno flicks for really the first time last week trying to cure a cold (convoluted reasoning) — mostly quite dull as I suppose I should have expected. The best part was the Coming Attractions (haw haw) where they condense all the essential fucking into five minutes and you don’t have to mess with the tireless extensions, the repetitions or the obviously disposable plot.

I like rock & roll, but on the bus the other night witnessed the actions of some honest-to-gawd Punks on Drugs, age 13-16, hassling this rather bigoted but so what old woman who claimed to work 18 hours a day etc. etc., and wow kidz, it was a really dumb scene. Three generations of dumbness right before my eyes, vying with each other for the crown.

7/27/75

I’m broke and out of work. Put out all my money to rent a house to practice Rocknroll in, which [the house] has past associations with Gram Parsons (dead country singer) and Charlie Manson. Makes a person feel kind of . . . chosen, ya know?

10/5/75

I carefully avoid getting a tan these days; I’ve decided white people look best when they’re as white as possible — increase of pigment seems to drain character and intelligence from their features. And sex appeal too, come to think of it. [This did not apply to nonwhite people. Below is what I called “A Review of Alberto.”]

Alberto is a 31-year-old Mexican who lives down the hall with his wife and three children in an apartment that could comfortably accommodate a solitary scholar and his cat. Having come recently from Mexico, they regard this as palatial. All of them have large eyes, and mouths of grim cheerfulness. The children will all require glasses. Alberto’s own glasses are a source of intellectual disturbance to him.

“Do you think I look Oriental? They tell me I look Oriental. It is the glasses,” he pronounces, looking very much like he is trying to find out if you know there will be an attack on Pearl Harbor tomorrow.

“Yeah, you do.” He goes out and buys himself a pair of Mexican-looking boots. He is short, intelligent and a busboy. His wife is pregnant again. If Alberto ever gets rich, he will surely make the white assholes who wouldn’t give him jobs bleed. He will force them out of business, deny them loans, maybe even pay kids to throw bricks through their store windows, but he will do all this very politely. Alberto takes great pleasure in being polite, and he always stays calm. He would make an ideal businessman; he would look perfect behind a big desk, smiling. He could even take up cigars.

Outside money says he really is Japanese.

10/13/75

[Drunken scrawl:] I AIN’T GONNA COMMIT SUICIDE. (Maybe the 2nd last person you know who ever would.)

11/16/75

The roaches, sensing the onset of winter, are starting to move back inside again.

Forest Lawn was “monumental.” I put a funny hat on an alabaster nude. Funniest concept of “taste” in the world there.

2/2/76

Gilbert and I were arrested the other night on Hollywood Boulevard on suspicion of being artists. Handcuffed, treated abusively, thrown in the back of a prowl car with a transvestite prostitute, and taken To The Station. It was a lot of fun. We were on LSD at the time, the first time I have ever taken it as a matter of fact. It did not change my life, I did not see God, and I felt no desire to jump out of windows. The main effects were produced by tension behind my ears, probably brought on by 12 hours of continually gritting my teeth and laughing. We were released within a few hours, by the way.

I’m going through one of those cycles when I wake up after having drunk a lot again, and feel without a doubt that I love all Mankind. A little rationality then usually comes into the picture, and cynically suggests that my love is predicated on the condition of Mankind’s absence from my room, but that’s being unfair. I know [the love] might come true if I were permitted to exercise it one person at a time, but that would take more lifetimes than I have at my immediate disposal.


A few months after this, I got the first Ramones album and stopped writing letters.


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