CLUELESS IN LONG BEACH
by Dell Franklin
The sexual revolution was going full bore in America, free love rampaging everywhere as pipsqueaks with pipe-stem arms and droopy mustaches stuck their wieners in pretty suburban girls with hair under their arms. I couldn’t get laid and my only comfort was that my roomie, Marshak, a best friend since high school who was going for his master’s in microbiology at Long Beach State after a three-year Army hitch in Patton’s old outfit in Germany, couldn’t either. I, too, had completed my three-year Army hitch and worked for my dad in Compton, driving my ’54 Chevy wagon to that hellhole five mornings a week, stocking, waiting on trade, writing orders, making deliveries. We lived upstairs in a shabby two-storey apartment complex on the corner of Magnolia and Pacific Coast Highway, our window facing the highway and a no-frills wooden shack of a beer bar directly below called The Hull—an establishment of rarified debauchery.
Marshak, a Polack from Pittsburg, felt we wouldn’t get laid until we partook in LSD or weed sharing, both of which we were against, being rare liberals from day one who despised hippies and their movement as protesting dilettantes certain to someday drive luxury cars and live behind the same white picket fences their parents built as they reveled in the luxurious trappings of the American Dream they now scorned.
Marshack and I were both robust ex-athletes with good bodies and couldn’t be considered ugly, though we were starting to wonder, and planned a strategy of both of us hitting on one or two women with the possibility one of us would prove so loathsome and odious the other seemed acceptable and even palatable enough to secure a sincere phone number or a date and possibly get laid on the spot. But the fact was, as a team, we fed off each other’s negativity and ineptitude and so depressed or angered the wenches that they fled like a plague and left us stewing in the Hull, where the primarily older, scabrous clientele consisted of women who told the old fogies they were nothing but worthless drunken child two-timing wastrels and motherfuckers, while the fogies called these harridans whores, bitches, ball-busting witches and worthless cocksuckers.
It went back and forth, Marshak and I discussing Hemingway and Steinbeck and Kerouac or the LA Rams when we weren’t nodding to this crowd, the lot of whom envied our bachelorhood and counseled us on the treachery of womankind, as if we needed it. At this time I was stripped of all romantic inclinations and cared only in getting laid. I’d been out of the Army since February of ’67 and was still on a drought and fighting the urge to head south to Mexico for a hooker, a bottomlessly dismal proposition. A typical weekend evening involved either Marshak or me strolling around at two in the morning, one of us up and waiting with beer in hand, relieved he was not alone in another humiliating rejection.
“Where’d you go?”
“Down on Ocean? You?”
“Hit some clubs and bars clear over in Lakewood. I’m ranging farther and farther. I was thinking of Newport Beach. The O.C. has some prime stuff.”
“Yeh, but yah risk a drunk driving if you stray that far.”
“Well, there’s no use dealing with ‘em if you’re not loaded.”
There came a point, around Christmas, when I felt the desperate loneliness of a neglected woman of less than mediocre appearance might take mercy on me, but my downfall began with a gal around 35 in a club with a band and a female singer belting out a jazzy score. Marshak watched me approach her as she sat alone at a table a few rows down. I was just drunk enough to be brave and perhaps entertaining. I hovered over her, a lanky woman with short hair and sharp features that were not quite offensive. She peered up at me, her fingers around a martini glass. She wore baggy slacks and a sleeveless sweater and large dangling earrings.
“Can I buy you a drink?” I ventured.
“Can I sit down?”
She appraised me up and down in my too machine dried chinos, ancient polo shirt and Army low-quarters. I suppose I needed a haircut. She sighed. “All right.” She wasn’t exactly excited as she lit up a menthol cigarette. I sat down.
She shook my clammy hand like a man. “I’m Florence.”
“I have an aunt named Florence. We call her Fluddy.”
“Oh how nice.” She seemed to smirk.
“Her kids are my cousins, perfect little gentlemen going into dad’s business, married, hatching beasties.”
“And you don’t approve?”
I shrugged as the cocktail waitress took my order—VO rocks—and hers—a martini—and said, “I’m on a different path.”
“And what path is that?”
I told her of my plan to thumb around the country and work at odd jobs after an Army hitch, told her I wanted to ‘walk around the world eating an orange.’ When she asked me what I did, I told her, and asked her what she did, and she told me she was an executive secretary. I asked her what the difference was between a regular secretary and an executive secretary and she leered at me like a lizard and said, “I’m in charge of everybody and everything.”
Somehow, when the drinks came and I paid, I told her of my desire to write. She wanted to know if I’d been in Vietnam. When I told her no, she said, “You’re trying SO hard to be interesting, so you can impress me, so you can get in my pants. You want to be different, but you’re trying too hard on that front, too. I want to be out front in informing you, you have absolutely nothing to offer me in any way—not as good company, not as a future companion, and least of all as somebody I’d fuck. You are so wrapped up in your pathetic little ego, and you’re really not going to be any good for any woman until you come to terms with that. So please go away, little boy, and thank you for the drink.”
I felt like belting her, but that was not in my arsenal. I was too shattered and stricken to rejoinder and skulked back to sit beside Marshak, who seemed to be gloating.
“How’d it go, lover-boy?”
“That rotten hard-hearted bitch stripped me bare, Marshak. She went for my balls.”
“Looks like she got ‘em.”
We decided to stay out of what were considered “pick-up mills” and “hot clubs” and frequent a slew of low-life dives around the corner on notorious Anaheim Street, the armpit of Long Beach. We trekked over there together, so as not to get pummeled by territorial bar thugs; and in hope of scrounging up shop-worn women so sleazy and neglected and blindly alcoholic they might fuck one of us while in the throes of a blackout stage.
We tried talking to these women. Marshak even lit their cigarettes with his Zippo. But they were attached to and preferred their middle-aged counter-parts, who, in tandem with the termagents, tongue-lashed us with bitter scorn, accused us of being nothings and lower than the lowest form of life, and threatened us while teetering in place. We gave up after a month of hitting at least 15 bars—and scaring up nary a nibble.
On Christmas Eve we struck out in the friendliest lounge in Lakewood, garnering only free drinks from an older couple who felt sorry for us. On New Year’s Eve it was worse, and as we drunkenly weaved along PCH toward the Hull around midnight, a svelte Japanese lady in a skin-tight dress and a buxom blond grabbed us and pulled us into a hot sweaty well-lit room of about fifty people listening to and hooting and wailing as a big blond German man around 40 ranted and raved on a stage. The throng immediately embraced us as potential converts, as it took us only a matter of seconds to realize he was a Jehovah’s Witness and these women took one peep at us and felt we needed Jesus more than we needed a piece of ass, and that the best way to get us to buy into Jesus was luring us in with the promise of a piece of ass.
They soon abandoned us and as we started to leave, the big German turned on us, called us “fish-eyed sinners and weaklings who would never find happiness OR a woman until we found Jesus!” The fucker was huge and turned red-faced and came unglued as he continued to berate us, waving his arms, nearly coming off the stage, and we scurried a few blocks to the Hull, where we found solace in our beers and the company of fellow losers who understood our abysmal plight and were happy to have us among them.
One Friday night I came home at 2 and Marshak was not there. I cracked open a beer and waited, and waited. Goddamn, the motherfucker finally got laid and one-upped me, the prick! I went to bed feeling I was the last man in America to get laid. How much more of this could I take? In the morning, as I nursed my coffee and the LA Times, Marshak shambled in. He tried not to gloat, but he was pretty smug.
“Well…?” I said anxiously as he took his sweet time getting coffee and lighting up a non-filtered Pall Mall.
“I was sitting in that moldy diner, down the highway, near Norm’s, around two thirty, just eating a damn donut, and this black hooker is at the other end, in a booth, staring at me. She’s fine. I watched her walk in, and she had an ass to die for, and pretty, but hard. She kept staring at me, and she smiled. Well, I didn’t have any money, so I just sat there, and she comes over, stands there, and she says, ‘White boy, you look like the loneliest, horniest honky motherfucker in America.’ Well, I told her I was. She said she’d fuck my brains out, all night, for twenty bucks. I told her I only had five, which was the truth. And she said, okay, you can pay me later, and she said she was sick of doing Johns and wanted to have a really great fuck with a guy who needed it and didn’t seem like a degenerate criminal or pervert. She said she looked at me and knew I was educated and intelligent and civilized. And she took me to her room, and it was a pretty nice room down the road, and man, she fucked me all goddamn night! She was clean and beautiful and the best fuck I’ve ever had. She sucked my dick and I ate her pussy and got off four times! Can you believe it? An angel of mercy. I’m changed, man, re-charged. As of this minute, I’m a new man!”
Now I HAD to get laid! That night I ranged far and wide, driving my croaking old wagon, sizing up bars, going in, sizing up the wenches, knowing immediately there was no chance, especially in busy bars in a trendy area—Belmont Shores—where the hippies mingled with the affluent. I knew now the odds of any of these places serving up a woman for me were about one percent. I finally ended up in a shabby bowling alley in Torrance. It had a small bar with a crowd similar to the Hull’s. A woman who was frowzy, around 45, with headband, and coal-black hair and a pocked complexion, was excoriating a white dude with a bulbous red nose. She could chew ass. She seemed as embattled and sad and bitter as any human I’d come in contact with yet. She finally drove off the red nose and I plunked down beside her. She reeked of alcohol. She sneered at me.
“Yah hate us Navahos, don’tcha, white trash loser, huh?”
“No,” I quickly said, and lit her cigarette with a bar match. “One of my best friends in the Army was an Indian named Dan Big Horse.”
“Big Horse, huh? He a Navaho?”
“Nah, he was Osage, from Oklahoma. We went on leave to Amsterdam together.” I didn’t tell her Big Horse, a dear friend, wanted to fight me or anybody after three beers, and was the toughest, most skilled fighter I’d ever known.
“Fuck Amsterdam!” the woman sneered.
I bought her a beer; we clinked bottles. She gazed at me, unfocused. “You wanna fuck me?” she said.
I nodded. “Yes I do.”
“Then let’s go, Mister Big Horse. We’ll see how big you are.”
She had a room in the seediest motel along PCH. We stripped. She had a decent body, except for her alcohol bloated stomach. She lay on her back and allowed me to paw and grovel. She began to thrash a bit as I rooted upon her, just drunk enough to not blow my wad too quickly, a preparation I always implemented when I went to hookers in the Army, so I’d last longer, always pissing them off and keeping them from making more money on other GIs. She began to berate me as she thrashed, calling me a stupid fucking asshole Osage piece of shit, urging me to finish, yelling at me to finish, but I kept right on ramming and pumping for all my life, until she literally bucked three times, scratched my back, screamed, and passed out.
I shot my stuff into a snoring mass of flesh, tried to get up and go to the shower, but passed out and woke up around dawn to the sounds of the lady puking in the john. With a head swollen like a melon dropped from a roof, I dressed; my body and clothes steeped in her sweat, booze and cheap perfume, and drove home in my heap. I was reading the Sunday paper and drinking coffee when Marshak, smudged with sleep, entered the kitchenette.
“Well…?” he said, sitting down, lighting up, pouring coffee.
“I got laid, Marshak.”
“How was it?”
“Who was she?”
“Navaho woman—former tribal beauty queen, an angel of mercy.”
“Where’d you meet her?”
“A bowling alley in Torrance.”
“A bowling alley? Jesus Christ, what a desperate bastard.”
It was nearing April. I decided to leave my stop-gap job with dad and get the hell out of this miserable existence and spread my wings and head north, to Lake Tahoe, and secure a job in a casino behind the bar, where I’d have the inside track in picking up beautiful cocktail waitresses and female employees, whom I’d heard were the cream of the crop. §
Dell Franklin is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where getting laid happens almost every day.