This is the first in a series of glimpses back into my past. They'll appear sporadically as I take time to look over my shoulder at the rewards and consequences of a life lived.
REFLECTION ONE - 1972
I was sitting in the back seat of Barry’s old Volkswagen convertible gliding back up Santa Monica Boulevard from an afternoon spent soaking up the nothingness of a Malibu beach. Barry controlled the steering wheel while another friend sat as co-pilot. I lounged in the back exhausted from the beach but exhilarated from what youth had to offer…no responsibilities. Grains of sand still clung to our hair and the sheen of suntan lotion glistened off our exposed skin. I could lean back and just enjoy that sense of immortality that was a gift LA doled out to so many hopeful, foolish kids. It was late afternoon as our little red VW chugged on up Santa Monica Boulevard going several blocks, stopping for a red light and then getting another few blocks before we stopped again as another light made its transition from green to yellow to red. The lights seemed timed against our journey as if we were still tethered to the ocean and it didn’t want to let us go. We were three guys all in our early twenties, bronzed from the sun, tousled haired, laughing with the joy of our clear lack of responsibility. The radio barely worked but you could still hear the Stones through the static against the sounds of Santa Monica Boulevard rolling over the open roof and windows of our beautiful red chariot. Pulling up to the next red light Barry turned to grab an orange that had rolled into the backseat. The curls of Barry’s beach beaten hair fell to the sides of his face as he reached his hand between the seats to retrieve the orange. I caught a huge smile on his handsome face as his eyes had lifted beyond the view of the backseat and were riveted beyond our car and into the next lane. I would later learn that Barry would win the title of Mr. Gay Nude America but right now we were just three guys in a dirty convertible. His gaze made me turn my head to look in the direction of his gaze. Pulling up beside us was a sleek black limo. Its approach was slow as it eased up in honor of the red light. As it glided into a stop next to our car the driver had aligned the limousine slightly ahead of our very tiny bug so that the back of the limo was adjacent to our car. The windows of the limo were smoked glass making a mirror of our images, all of our faces now reflecting our youthful curiosity back at us. As we stared at our reflections the window slowly powered down and a woman’s face leaned into view from behind the glass panel. The soft late afternoon sun hit her face and lit it with a soft shade of pink partially from the reflection off the sides of our red car. The face was painted in the way that vintage stars paint their faces in order to hold on to the image that now only existed on celluloid. There was a very tiny smile that only showed in the corners of her pumped up candy apple red lips. Her eyes were deep and covered with fake lashes that she seemed barely able to hold open. Platinum blonde hair framed her face in a style no longer worn by current starlets. Long waves of golden locks fell along the sides of her face while a knot of blond was twisted on top in an effort to pull the weight of gravity and age away from the surface of her face. Mae West gave a slight wave, there was a barely perceptible pullback of the head and neck that indicated a flirtatiousness she still possessed. A huge hoot erupted from our little car as the light changed and the window rolled back up. Both cars engaged their accelerators, eased up on the brakes and pulled on up the road.
From the perspective of youth in that beat-up red Volkswagen bug life was endless and full of laughter and possibility. Inside the limo was the knowledge that life never gives up. We both rode on with smiles on our faces: ours big and open mouthed, hers small but still visible at the very ends of the corners of her mouth.