I felt in the mood to write about my life in Hollywood, but upon what subject? I downloaded a pdf of “Pride and Prejudice” and took the first word that was more than five characters long on pages 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50. These should lead me to my subject: received, indolent, enough, followed, conversation.
Having received payment from Dennis Hopper for my work as his dialog coach, and feeling indolent with his check in my pocket, funds enough to carry me through the next month, I followed him out of his house, half-listening to his conversation on his cell.
“I’ll come pick it up,” he said. “I’m totally out.”
He nodded to me and climbed into his BMW. As he pulled out of his driveway, I hopped into my Neon and fired it up. Hopper could be out of a lot of things, but I had a hunch that he was out of something that I was out of too. He could pay for more of what he was out of and now, by God, so could I.
I let him get half a block ahead of me and followed him down Sunset to the Hollywood Freeway. He got on it heading south with me one car back. Traffic wasn’t moving. We inched along, finally past Santa Monica Blvd., then past Melrose. I remained in my lane. Hopper worked the traffic, looking for openings, for the lane that would move next. This was not the Hopper of Easy Rider, free on his bike, wind ruffling his ‘stache. Maneuver as he might, he only picked up four cars on me by the time we reached Alvarado. We were crawling. One passenger per car, windows up. I was listening to War and Peace at the time, on a stack of tapes.
The Neon was running a little rough but at last I could take it in for a tuneup. Traffic gridlocked at the Harbor Freeway. We’d have made better time on foot. By the time the San Bernadino Freeway forked off to the left, the sun was getting low in the west. I was beginning to nod. For a bit then we made some time, up to 5 or 10 miles an hour, but gridlocked again. Hopper had the constitution of an athlete. He was still weaving, cutting in, weaving, cutting out, and was seven, maybe eight car-lengths ahead of me now. A War and Peace tape would finish, I’d flip it, it would finish, I’d swap in the next.
By the time we came to the Golden State Freeway, crossed the 10, and headed down the 5 on the Santa Ana, I was keeping my left hand on the wheel and using the right to hold up my right eyelid. This all happened in first gear, stopping, starting, stopping, starting. Then traffic freed up and we accelerated up to 15 mph, but only for 100 yards or so and then the lanes seized up again. Hopper had made some bad choices and was only two cars ahead of me. The sun set. Smog, now glowing orange.
We exited onto the Long Beach Freeway, the 710, south, but evidently there had been an accident. Traffic remained at a snail’s pace. I got off at South Atlantic and Bandini, between Commerce and Maywood, because I needed coffee and I was afraid Hopper was going to drive all the way down the 710 to the 105. I didn’t think I could make it. Once off the freeway, I got totally hung up at the first intersection because the traffic lights were out.