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Miki took at least three to four hours getting ready for her “dates,” as a high priced Hollywood call girl. Her ritual process began after she woke late morning to early afternoon, taking a half-hour shower. She would come out of the narrow bathroom that barely had room for the stall shower, sink and toilet, having a light blue towel twisted over her wet hair, another pink towel wrapped tightly around her slim, well figured body. While drying off, Miki and every one who visited, was invariably drawn to look out the large, wrap-around, picture window, with an expansive view of Los Angeles. The view went from downtown, to the southern horizon, to the ocean. It was 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. Looking out that window I couldn’t help imagine what would happen to that view if Russia dropped a bomb on Los Angeles. It caused me more than one nightmare. 

When her hair and body were dry, Miki went to her dresser, and carefully picked through her abundant underwear. After making her choice, she semi-modestly turned her back to me, and slowly allowed the towel to fall to the floor, sensually wiggling her thin hips just a bit as she pulled up her tight fitting, skimpy, panties, then with a half-turn back to me, put on a bra to hold her, petite, well formed, breasts. 

This done, she took a short break and lightly dropped herself into a second hand, overstuffed chair, that faced out over the city. She lit a cigarette, but after only a few drags, laid it down in an ash tray she washed and dried earlier, walked to the dresser and came back with her make-up kit and a hand held mirror she’d set against some books in front of her on the coffee table. 

Her next step get ready for her date would take from 45 minutes to an hour, always, with cigarette or joint-breaks, so as not to feel too rushed. To me, this part of the ritual felt long and tedious: the slow and methodical application of make-up.  For Miki, it was creating a daily piece of art. I loved her beautiful, narrow, somewhat pale, freckled face, without the make-up. But she didn’t quite like what she saw in the mirror, and was set upon creating someone she could appreciate more.

She began on her eyes then lips, where each stroke of her eye liner, mascara, shadow then her lip stick, was like applying paint on a canvas.  She had many shades and colors to choose from depending on what she already planned to wear that evening, but still hadn’t taken anything out of the closet. Miki knew her wardrobe well, and was exacting as she coordinated everything she was creating.

After the lips were finely sculpted she precisely applied make-up to cover her freckles. To our friends, the freckles gave her a cute, teenage kind of look, but to Miki they were a curse, a blemish she needed to cover completely. She was perfect in covering them, so, “I won’t look like a teenager, but like a mature ‘working girl,’ so the johns will treat me with more respect.” The “treated with respect” thing was important to the “working girls” I knew. They all felt they needed some added compensation, besides money, for what they were doing. She didn’t talk much about her work, only in passing, or if something really odd was going on with a john. 

There were always two or three phone calls that came in or Miki made to prospective johns, or one of the other “working girls,” or her boyfriend Phil. She accepted the phone calls as part of her business although sometimes she would get annoyed at the interruptions.

What really bothered her was when one of the girls called to tell her there was some mix-up in where or when they were to meet the johns. She hated complications, and would get mildly irritated with her co-workers for screwing up when they didn’t get the arrangements right the first time.

Miki would pick up the phone, cigarette in hand, with the twenty foot cord trailing behind her she would walk around the large living room, the only room of the apartment, besides the bathroom, talking animatedly, questioning what changes were made and why. With that business done, she took a Valium, re-lit a joint, and relaxed.

“The first call was Phil. He’s coming over. I don’t know why he always wants to come here when he knows I’m busy getting ready to go out.”

I didn’t understand Phil.  He was handsome, well built, wealthy.  I had a hard time imagining his love for her, and if he respected her with what she did for a living.  But, she was my friend too, and I didn’t demean or disrespect her for what she was doing. Maybe he felt the same way. Hollywood in the 60s, where so many were trying to accept everything as being “normal,” so no one judged what she or anyone else was doing. It was who she was that everyone loved. And many did, with her apartment on the top of Argyle Ave., off Hollywood Blvd., as a favorite gathering place for a community of friends on the thin margin of society. 

“He wants to bring over take-out food for me that will last a couple of days. He’s going out of town and wanted to make sure I had something to eat. You heard me, I told him I had food, but he insisted anyway. Sometimes I think he doesn’t trust me and just wants to make sure I’m here getting ready for work and not running around with some one. Last week he dropped off some pot just before I was ready to go out.  I love him, but sometimes he can be a pain.

I never knew for sure, but I had the feeling Miki had other lovers besides Phil; even within our circle of friends. It was a time where many were trying to let down inhibitions. Hollywood showed us one way and we were trying to replicate the design. Personally, I liked her as a friend and let it be.

 “I think he’s just concerned about you; that you’ll have food around while he’s gone. Something to smoke. That’s how he is.”

“Yeah, maybe.”  She didn’t say more about that and it wasn’t my business. He probably had other relationships too. 

Her face finished, she began to brush, straggly, bleached blond hair. She hesitated, looking out the window. “Bob, I want to tell you something I’ve been thinking about lately. Don’t think I’m weird, but I’ve been thinking a lot about God, wondering what my connection is with Him.”

“God? Him?  Are you sure,” I questioned jokingly?

“Yeah, God. I don’t know. Him? Oh, Her? I heard people ask if God could be a female. You talk about stuff all the time. I’ll try it. ‘Sheeee’s here with me,’” she said as she put a drawn out Texas emphasis and a smile on the gender change of God. “Hey, I like that, it sounds cool. Who ever said God had to be a man?” 

“I think it was the priests,” I said with a chuckle. It was in their favor. But you know, many people in our world see a female God others don’t see man or woman but the Creator, the energy behind creation. Who knows?  I believe something is going on beyond our realm of understanding and I put that on a Creator of the Universe. CU. Hey, I Like that. See you. The She/He, Creator of the Universe is probably saying that to us with a smile.” 

 She looked at me with a sweet smile of understanding.  “You know, Bob, we need to talk about this more. It helps me get away from some of what I’m doing. To be honest, sometimes I have good sex, even enjoy the dude, and I get paid for it, go to fancy restaurants, shows, travel but naturally a lot of what I’m doing really bothers me, you might imagine, but where can I make this money and have my own time.”  

It was hard for anyone to stand and not look out that big window, especially when we had philosophical conversations. She turned back to me, “I used to not believe, but something happened when we all took acid a few months ago. I had one of those spiritual experiences you said can happen. Something inside my head won’t leave. For some reason, it’s like now I know there’s more of a purpose in being here, you know, in this life, but I’m stuck in this work and don’t know what else to do. You know what I mean?” 

“Yeah, I think so. What do you want to do?”

“It’s odd, but I like to help people and being nice to them, and in some ways my kind of work does that, but I’m not fooling myself, I’m a hooker, and I’m not sure if it will get me in heaven.”

I never heard her refer to herself as that—it was always “working girl.” It crossed my mind a few times about the kinds of regrets Miki may have and others had being in the selling-their-body-for-sex business. It’s been around ever since man realized he wasn’t getting enough from romantic means, or up-tight men who couldn’t find romance, or the rich and popular who just wanted more or someone exotic and some women provided this service.

 “Miki, I don’t think God cares what you’re doing.  It’s how you feel about Him, oops I forget too, it’s what were used to: Her, Her, Gods a Her. It’s the love we have in our heart for Him or Her, and mainly, how we treat others.”

She stood deep in thought, again looking out the picture window. “Do you ever wonder what would happen to all that out there if the Russians dropped the bomb?”

My exact thought. How does it happen? I wondered if our other friends had similar thoughts when they stood by the window. The drama was being played out on TV and radio, the front page headlines telling us the range of the missiles Cuba possessed, and what cities could be targeted. Florida was easy pickens, L.A. was trickier, because of distance. We had the window as a reminder, just in case. It crossed my mind what I would do if we were told that a big one was on the way, assuming there would be a warning. I thought about the Miki’s wrap around window, being there with friends watching the last second of that existence, wondering whether it would be a forever-lasting image taken to the next plane or sphere of existence after this experience.

Our community of friends appreciated this apartment, a home for “a woman of the night,” although she never worked out her apartment, in another context, it was the spawning ground for many philosophical talks. Everyone paid attention: Which one, of the two Mr. Ks.—the world superpower leaders—was going to blink. It was during this time that I had dreams of boxcars filled with semi-dead Polish Jews. I had the sensation of being there, on my way to an execution. In another dream I was in a jungle someplace running fast, through the trees and brush, my tribe being pursued by white people shooting automatic weapons at us. 

 “Lately Miki” I told her, “every time I come here and look out that window I have that same thought. It must be on a lot of people’s minds. It scares me: the threats Kennedy and Khrushchev are making to each other.” 

She turned around looking at me with a concerned look on her face, trying to understand. And then thoughtfully, “I don’t think God would let that happen.  He made a wonderful world for us and I don't think He would want it destroyed.” 

“You’re probably right, but everything is so.....” I hesitated unsure of what I wanted to say. “I don’t know, I guess things feel unpredictable, like anything could happen.”

“Unpredictable. I know what you mean. I feel that a lot. Like going out with Sally tonight. I thought everything was all set, then she calls and tells me we’re meeting the johns at a different restaurant and there may be four johns and not two.  She wanted to know if she should call two more girls or if we should do them. It’s hard to plan anything when people are always changing their minds. You know what I mean?”

I looked at Miki, surprised at the twists in our conversation.  She still held her hair brush—intermittently brushing, thoughtfully standing, sexy as any woman could be, in her panties and bra. Her expertly applied make-up that covered her natural beauty, as she looked out over the most populous area in the world, with millions of people going about their day to day business, her mind though, stretched to look for meaning, as it toggled between God, nuclear holocaust, and soon going out to trade her body for money. 

I wasn’t sure if there was any incongruity. We all made adjustments as we accepted inconsistencies in life, as well as in the world and in our minds. Thinking one way about life, but having our life go in another direction. I knew that most people weren’t in control of their personal environment as much as they wanted. This being one of the existential topics of discussion that came through her apartment. 

Miki was trying to make sense of our young lives in a fast city, in a threatened world. She was one of three or four call girls I knew, who were part of a small, self-employed, women’s collective, who weren’t going to make it in Hollywood. They all had boyfriends I vaguely knew since they’d show up at that Argyle apartment on the hill. Most of the time I felt I was on the periphery of the group. Now, decades later I wonder if others felt the same, or maybe it was the nature of living in such a unique place on the planet, where movies came from, to fill lives with dreams. I used to think I was the only one out of place in Hollywood, but now, thirty years later, I suppose there were many others. For those moments in time, it was the place we needed to be. Fortunately, something in my life clicked—ten years in Hollywood was enough. Miki, stayed on.

Recently I was saddened after I talked with an old friend who told me Miki died in her early 50s, homeless; a bag lady.

 

 

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Comment by Michael Levin on January 26, 2011 at 12:59pm
These observations of people and collectives take you into their world, Sh'mal. I enjoy each one and look forward to the next as soon as I finish reading!

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