by Dr. Derek Lamar
I woke up alone but would not dwell on the fact that I was lonely. Michael was back living in Laurel Canyon with half of our stuff. And I was in a hurry to get from West Hollywood to Santa Monica. I didn't much like being alone back then. I wanted to be around people. I got in my VW and quickly made my way down Santa Monica Boulevard. Just as I got near the intersection where Trader Vic's was I observed this car move from the far left lane and push its way toward the far right lane. Wham, it broadsides a vehicle and both of them came to a halt. I was shocked and angry that anyone would do such a stupid thing. So I proceeded to move over several lanes to the right so I could offer myself as a witness to the accident.
(Left: Trader Vic's Restaurant at S.W. corner of the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards as seen to the right.)
I went over to the people who had been broadsided and gave them my name, address and phone number. They assured me that it probably would be nothing since it was a rental car. Both the man and his wife were very smartly dressed and, well, after all, we were standing in one of the busiest parts of Beverly Hills at the time. I received a "thank you" note a couple of weeks later from the wife who was Mrs. Joe Williams. I would later find out her name was Jillian Hughes D'Aeth Williams and that her husband was the famous jazz and blues singer.
(Famous jazz and blues singer, Joe Williams, toward the end of his career. Also known to many as Bill Cosby's father-in-law on The Cosby Show. An elegant and grande showman and artist.)
This was what being in the fast lane in Los Angeles was like. It required you get virtually in all lanes at the same time and have total disregard for your own life: a mirror of one's insanity. For me to be indignant and proceed to do just what the idiot in the other car did would haunt me for years.
But there are different ways to run into people. Sometimes you come face to face with yourself. I found this to be true as I got to Santa Monica to do volunteer work at the Fourth Way School. I didn't have much money at the time but I was approved to do "work off." This meant I could offer my talents and skills in exchange for classes. Working in a Fourth Way School is part of the learning process as well: to deal directly with "The Hall of Mirrors" with other students who weren't so quick to let you off the hook like the outside world might. I became friends with a lot of people right off and began learning what it meant to really look at myself.
"The Hall of Mirrors" still confused me, however. I spent many hours discussing what I was learning with fellow student and actress Barbara Gates. I related how one night after performing a new song I had written, Thane (The Teacher) approached me and told me to "write something new." She tried to ease the pain by saying that Thane wasn't really into "newer" music. Then she shared one of her own experiences. She told me about how one night there was a special dinner at Thane's house. There were several people there. After everyone had finished their meal Thane began berating students one after another around the table. He had something critical to say about everyone. One after another he would single them out for things they did or behavior they exhibited which was less than satisfactory. At a certain point Thane finished and everyone relaxed: everyone but Barbara. Suddenly she burst into tears and ran out of the room. When confronted it was revealed that she was hurt that everyone was getting attention from The Teacher but she was being left out. Even though she was let off the hook, she felt her being ignored was a form of rejection. She was crushed.
(Above: Famous archway to the Santa Monica pier. Wonderful place to just go for a walk and breathe in the fresh cool salt air, get a corn dog or some fried clams. Far right: Trader Vic's barrel for no particular reason)
One of the first things I began to learn about was that "there are no accidents." This became an incredible leveler in life. To suddenly begin to look at everything happening around me as having more meaning than I had ever given it credit for. Everything was coincidence, random, and unconnected before that. In conjunction to this was to learn that "you get back what you put out." That might sound common today with trendy phrases like, "what goes around comes around" but it was a new concept back then for the average person. Suddenly I had to begin to "take responsibility" for my life, my actions and my world. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Where would all of my planned distractions go if I was going to be slammed back to reality every time I turned around?
(Left: Tropicana Motel, famous for rock stars and down the street from the Hilldale Cafe. It also used to serve a mean breakfast.)
Every day was different and every day was the same. It was a constant commute from West Hollywood to Santa Monica on my quest to hide from myself what was unfolding within me. Though I was on "unemployment" this was a busy time in my life. It was busy because I made it busy. I wasn't a person who liked to be alone so as soon as I got up I would be finding ways to be around people. Clearly I didn't want to be alone with my thoughts. It was hard to move across four lanes of memories and remain optimistic. I needed to find traffic, a group of people, something to keep me from looking at myself. I tried to keep my focus on the fact that I was going to be a rich and famous rock and roll star someday. It was that or find myself colliding with thoughts of being a loser, a loner, broke, no job, no career, no lovers, no experience in being a real human being. I carried around a lot of baggage that blamed others. It was all about "me" and that kept it simple.
(Left: Richard Chamberlain. ...Right: Burgess Meredith, character actor supreme.)
I decided to walk down to the Hilldale Café and have breakfast. Suddenly I see this older gentleman talking to himself in front of the Merle Oberon Theatre. He looked crazy except for the fact that it was Burgess Meredith. I realized he was rehearsing his lines. Just another distracting moment before my breakfast: liver and onions with scrambled eggs. This neighborhood was no stranger to celebrities. I would often be doing my shopping at the nearby Safeway and see Richard Chamberlain. Everyone would stand in line, courteous and silent, pretending that this person ahead of us was just someone like us, shopping. It wasn't important that he was there with us. It was important that we were there with him. Another mirror to have to figure out just smoke and mirrors. Like the old Buck Owens song: "I was looking back to see if you were looking back to see if I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me."
Around this time I met a fellow named Serge. We became friends. It seems he was "afflicted" with a specific compulsive behavior: he would expose himself to strangers. Everyone in the school knew Serge and most students knew Serge's troubling behavior. It was troubling because he had been arrested for his activity on several occasions. He was working at a service station and I would stop there to get gas and visit with him. One day, after filling up, he said, "You're not going to believe what happened to me the other day!" I said, "What?" He looked to make sure that no other customers could hear. He said: "The other day I was alone sweeping out the garage in the middle of the afternoon. Suddenly I hear this voice behind me and I turn. There's a young woman standing there. I said, 'What? Are you speaking to me?' She asks: 'Do you think I'm pretty?' I say, 'Well, uh yeah I think you're pretty.' And she was. She was real pretty. But then she says: 'I don't. I don't think I'm pretty.' So I say: 'No, no I think you're real pretty.' But she continues and says: 'I don't think I'm pretty. I think I'm ugly.' And get this she says: 'I think I look like silly putty!' At which point she pulls up her blouse and shakes her breasts at me and then runs off!!! Do you believe that?!? Me. Me of all people. She did that to me! What kind of reflection is that?"
(Right: A service station similar to the one Serge worked in. Why the hell not? I think it was an Exxon station though.)
"The Hall of Mirrors" is a sort of looking glass reality and though it doesn't explain what Alice discovered, we can view our "reality" in the reflection to see ourselves. First we see what we believe in. We begin by realizing we are surrounded by insanity until a template or source of Ultimate Reality comes into view and then eventually we begin to see who we really are.
Saga continues: More Hall of Mirrors: Peggy Lee and her pink Lincoln come into view.
© Copyright Derek Lamar 2004
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