It is really difficult to make the jump here in the story. The images would pass by so quickly; from Kingswood Village Marina where Matt and I lived when Chris Wallace came up to me at the Venice Circle and how that changed my life forever. Finding out Suzanne Rodkin had died and Matt finding me drunk on our balcony looking at the street eighty feet below. There also was moving in with Geoff on Canton Drive and how seeing Gloria the first time at Michael's Artist Supplies in Hollywood and the fulfillment of a twenty five year old vision. The Northridge Earthquake. The explosion of TWA flight 800. The murders of Tupak and Biggie. The Holy Spirit's cloud inside the house the night Geoff and I got so angry with one another I thought one of us would kill the other. My Dad becoming ill and scaring him back to life. My Mom's illness and death. Going to MA meetings and white-knuckling through the early part of my sobriety. Going back to temple again and being encouraged to run for the board of directors and then becoming active at SFTPA...and so much more.
After I had been on the board of directors for a few years Howard Fine's father passed away. Howard was very supportive of my joining the board and even from the beginning encouraging me to take a leadership position, to be an officer. Grooming me to take his place as president? Perhaps. I know my Mom said I would do that one day but I always thought, so many years ago, I would have done that while she was still alive. As I think about all of that know I am reminded of so many expressions about how people find religion, faith, their destiny when they need to find them.
Howard's father died in a freak accident. He was waiting to pick up Howard's mother from her regular dialysis appointment when, for reasons no one seems to know for sure, he fell in their home and his head struck the radiator. He was knocked out and bled to death. Everyone was having a difficult time coming to grips with it. Because I had created a strong bond with Howard on the board I could not avoid the shiva at Howard's home. I had no difficulty making it at that time and I both wanted to be there for him and felt I had to be there. Since I had never been to his home I had to find out where it was. When I heard the address on Kings Rd. I remember thinking, for just an instant, “I don't know if I can go through with this.”
Howard's condo and Irina's were on the same floor. I didn't want to walk past her front door. I looked around for another elevator, or maybe I could take the stairs from another floor but the security system prevented that. I had to take the elevator and walk past her door before I turned the corner to the right to go to Howard's home. Run? Walk slowly? Stumble into her door on the way there? I wasn't sure what to do. I walked past and looked in through her window from the walkway. The blinds were drawn down but not closed. I could see the portrait Dominic had painted of her. Everything there was as I remembered it from a few years before. I thought about another painting he painted years before. It depicted the Pan Pacific theater ablaze. This art deco building is one of the defining landmarks of the neighborhood. If you saw the movie "Xanadu" then you remember the exterior of the place near the end of the movie. There was a lot of talk about whether the Pan Pacific should be rebuilt after the fire. Los Angelinos probably have less attachment to the city's history than people in any other major city in the world. It seems in the Angelino state of mind there is no difference between real buildings and movie sets. Overall, they have very little regard for the city's history or culture, what little of it there is. I was glad the facade was eventually maintained. Dominic's painting was incredibly lifelike; you could almost feel the heat from the flames licking the art-deco spires. I had told Irina years ago that I wanted to buy it and she smirked back at me, “He's not going to sell it.”
There were some people at the shiva you might know because Howard has been a acting coach for a long time but name dropping really isn't my style. We all felt very sorry for him and did our best to be supportive at this tragic point in his life. A lot of us understood Howard's mom was going to need a lot of assistance now and this turn would have an enormous impact on everyone in their family. I stayed as long as I could. My head was spinning so forcefully as I walked past Irina's front door on the way out and I was close to knocking but thought better of it. I was too depressed and showing up unexpected can be very dramatic but often times it will backfire and I decided approaching her again should be done differently.
After a few days passed, I wrote her a letter. It wasn't very long or involved but I mentioned that I had walked past and was thinking of her. I hoped she would call and we could meet for lunch or something like that. In a few short years I had gained and lost and gained so much perhaps after all that growth there was something I could share with her. Who am I kidding? I just wanted to see her again. That was all I really wanted.
About a week later I got a letter back. It was addressed from her but when I opened it I could tell it was not her hand-writing. Her mom wrote back to me. She and Irina's dad were living there because that was their way of being close to her since she had died in a car accident about a year before. I remember reading the letter and comprehending it and being confused at the same time. Especially the part about car accident. The way she wrote it, the word car, had the most unsteady penmanship. It actually looked more like “cars accident.” For a few moments I sat numbly on the floor. And then the trembling waves took over my body and I balled like a baby. My head dropped to the coffee table Stuart Rogers gave me after I was forced to move out of Geoff's place and I caught my forehead with my fists. I cried and cried and cried for a half hour solid. The tears dropped out of my eyes onto the table into large pools, and I wiped them away when the moisture spread too far. After that, I staggered into the bedroom, got into my futon, gathered all my pillows and covers together and wailed for hours until I woke up the next day.