by Tom H. Brooks 3
The way home is to simply smile in spite of it all.
The gospel according to Tom
“I know the pieces fit
`cause I watched them fall away…”
“Only he who loses his way
a thousand times
shall have a homecoming.”
“Only the rudderless
can sail the greater sea.”
“forgive them, my father,
they know not what they do…”
“The future belongs to crowds.”
“Death is a Lonely Business”
“To want to change the condition of affairs seemed futile to me;
nothing would be altered, I was convinced, except by a change of heart,
and who could change the hearts of men?”
“…and I breathe in the air ashes and destruction,
the long, solitary space that surrounds me
I would give this giant sea wind
for your warm breath
heard in long nights with no mixture of oblivion.
How many times would I give up this
chorus of shadows that I possess
and the noise of useless swords
that is heard in my heart,
and the bloody dove
that sits alone on my brow,
calling for vanished things,
substances strangely inseparable and lost…”
It will always be very hard for me to understand how a person could be born, live their entire life,
and die, all in the same place. I am from this vast city of Los Angeles, a fascinating place where
people are arriving in droves everyday, and I can`t wait to leave, to go somewhere else. I am a
nomad. An overwhelming sense of curiosity, adventure, and wanderlust long ago took hold of
my transient soul. I suppose one who was born in a small town, surrounded by a close family
and many dear friends might, perhaps, have a reason to stay put. The other side of this argument
is that they might be itching to leave such a sedentary existence. Or maybe they would be okay
because they never knew anything else. I have always been immersed in the storms of chaos.
Divorces, constant moves, no real security, people that come and go, and my own sporadic
behavior have all contributed to my feeling of rootlessness, of dust on the air, of driftwood on
the sea. There is nothing for me but wandering. There is nothing for me here, and if there is,
I`m afraid it will be taken from me as so many other things have been. So, I rid myself of excess.
I do not cling to material possessions. I love the photos and books that I have put together.
Clothes, CDs, novels; all these things are here and then they`re gone. Only the records of my
life will remain with me. I will always try to keep a steady artistic output. In my mind`s eye,
I see myself, endlessly chasing the summer sun, until the winds of fate finally cast me on some
unknown distant shore where I will try to settle and live happily until my tanned and bloated
corpse washes up on a tropical beach to rot beneath the shade of the green, waving palms….
“Thank you for your wine, California…
thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit…”
The Rolling Stones “Sweet Virginia”
“Even the crookedest journey is the way home.”
goes on without you…”
IS A CLOSED SET
One of my most classic photos in black and white:
The downtown facade of the old Los Angeles Theatre
the Marquee says
“one ring to rule them all
one ring to find them
one ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them…
in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie….”
“…a wild water of prose and poetry, a cataract, a volcano, a torrent, an earthquake–
Nobody has ever written just this way before, nobody may ever write in this style
again. A writer, finally, like a great athlete, a phenomenon, an avatar of literary energy.”
Funny encounter on the streets of Hollywood:
P=Punker skinhead tough-guy (he was trying to vibe me or scare me. Good luck with that.)
P– “What`s in the bag? Give it to me.”
T– Ha! That`s a good one.
P– “Seriously, give it to me!”
T– `I`ve got a six-pack and nothing to do…` You know the second line of the song? (for those of you that don`t,
it`s, `I`ve got a six pack and I DON`T NEED YOU!`)
T– Then you know the answer, Kojak.
He didn`t know what to make of me. So, I just walked away with my beers knowing that if he came near me,
I would use my beverages to bludgeon him into submission.
A MAN & HIS BEER
red line to the blue line to the LBC
Who else has my types of bizarre LA adventures?
Who else wants to get up at 4am to skateboard through the ghetto?
Who else is rolling down Marine Street on a rainy Saturday as a light rain splatters this page?
“Why are hurricanes named after women?
Because when they arrive they`re wet and wild and when they leave,
they take your house and your car.”
“If my baby don`t love me no more,
I know her sister will….”
Jimi Hendrix “Red House”
“Deep down we`re all very shallow people”
The Prince of Swords
Represents the airy part of air. A young man, purely intellectual,
full of ideas and designs, domineering, intensely clever but
unstable of purpose, with an elusive and elastic mind supporting
various and contradictory opinions. He slays as fast as he creates…
Homer Simpson “You only live once.”
Apu (Hindu) “Speak for yourself.”
More priceless quotes from Homer Simpson:
“If you don`t like the way things are going,
just keep complaining till you get your way.”
“Lisa, if you don`t like your job, don`t quit;
just go in everyday and do it really half-ass.”
“This is not my beautiful house
This is not my beautiful wife
How did I get here?”
David Byrne ^^^ Talking Heads
It`s a cold, clear Monday morning in November of 2001. I am gliding along the train tracks
on a surreal journey through LA. The Green Line takes me east along the 105 freeway.
It is one of those rare crisp LA days where the perpetual shroud of smoggy haze has lifted
and you can actually SEE for many miles across the metropolis. Directly north, I can see
the HOLLYWOOD sign, so small when viewed from this distance. The hills rise slowly north
through the vast basin of the city–Baldwin Hills, Hollywood Hills and in the background,
the towering San Gabriel Mountains watch over it all. Two black guys sitting behind me
are talking guns, hos, money and all that good stuff, in general, some crazy funny shit.
For example, his comment on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, a steely-eyed
Afghani with a giant gun, was a goddamned classic. To quote, “Yo, check this muthfucka
out, dog. He got a bazooka and shit, he`s like, `what`s up, nigga?!`” Vintage.
The prevailing language is, as usual, Spanish, peppered here and there with Chinese.
I am the only white guy on this train. Not that I care, it`s just a fact. Now I can see Palos
Verdes Peninsula far to the south, the ghettos to the east and the skyscrapers of downtown
LA are looming directly north. That`s where I`m going. Why? Why not? That is the question.
Later, a tiny adorable Latina girl of maybe 2 years old, is staring at me for at least 5 minutes.
I know I`m funny looking but you don`t have to stare. She has big, glowing brown eyes.
I look back in 2 minutes and she`s STILL staring. If I didn`t know better, I`d swear she
knows that I`m writing about her.
The best graffiti is in Vernon and Watts.
A Latina lady just pulled over on Hoover Street to tell me that Jesus loves me. I thought
it was real nice of her to say this until I realized she probably thought I was just another
lost gringo on a meth bender. There`s a certain element of despair in downtown LA
streets and the barrio that cannot go unnoticed by the watchful eye. However, people
downtown also look like hunters. People in, let`s say Beverly Hills, look like prey.
Later I met a black dude named Michael McCarty who is, get this, a professional
storyteller…he gave me his card. Getting paid for telling stories to kids and young
adults at various community centers…imagine that. I guess this just goes to prove
that sooner or later something comes along for everyone. Either that or you get spit
out the bottom of the porn industry.
“The Man Who Fell to Earth”
“His true significance, however, would not become apparent for some time.”
“….now that we have settled by the water`s edge, and live here in perpetual afternoon.
“They could not have survived without their dream.”
“In his time, philosophy was generally considered to be of no practical significance, to have
been stripped of it purpose. Nevertheless, the values to which a majority subscribe at any
given time determine society`s economic and political structures and social mores.
Metaphysical mutations–that is to say radical, global transformations in the values to which
the majority subscribe–are rare in the history of humanity. The rise of Christianity might be
cited as an example. Once a metaphysical mutation has arisen, it tends to move inexorably
toward its logical conclusion. Heedlessly, it sweeps away economic and political systems,
aesthetic judgements and social hierarchies. No human agency can halt its progress–nothing
except another metaphysical mutation. It is a fallacy that such metaphysical mutations only
gain ground in weakened or declining societies. When Christianity appeared, the Roman
Empire was at the height of its powers; supremely organized, it dominated the known world;
its technical and military prowess had no rival. Nonetheless, it had no chance. When modern
science appeared, Medieval Christianity was a complete, comprehensive system which explained
both man and the universe; it was the basis for the government, the inspiration for knowledge
and art, the arbiter of war as of peace and the power behind the production and distribution of
wealth–none of which was sufficient to prevent its downfall.”
“The Elementary Particles”
Sooner or later this ageless tower will crumble
and you will all be forced to live as I have lived…
outside and alone…
primitive in its purity,
strange and outside of time,
I continue to walk the razors edge
in my own bizarre and unique way…
drugs, music, money, power-
these are all commonly walked
paths to the edge.
I seek a certain uncertainty,
a specific understanding of the opposites
that dwell within everything.
I have done many things, knowingly,
that seem absurd, pointless or even….insane.
Think what you will.
Everything I do has a reason
even if I don`t know what it is,
however obscure, there IS a reason.
Each moment I live is a means to an end
something elusive and mysterious.
All I can do is continue seeking
on MY path….alone…
without any blessings,
from anyone…except myself…
The Hollywood and Vine train station has a unique character. The benches
are made to look like vintage cars and the empty film reels cover the walls
There is something about a subway wind that is …universal–close your eyes
and you can be anywhere–NYC, Paris, Berlin, Chicago–any place they have
a subway. You feel it before you see it. The wait, the anticipation, the hum;
a hissing distant rumble and a light from way down the tunnel rounding the
curve approaching rapidly. A sudden rush of wind as it emerges from the
tube, brisk and fleeting, a horn, a piercing squeal of brakes as it shoots into
the station like a bullet slowing in flight……
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
“…he believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes
before us. It eluded us then, but that`s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster,
stretch out our arms farther, and one fine morning…”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Great Gatsby”
“A man searching for lost Paradise
can seem a fool to those who never
sought the other world.”
like cotton balls
a blue field of sky
like white mountains
toward the horizon
and turn purple
with the setting sun
ripples and waves
on the harbor waters
with no discernible pattern
fill my eyes
lap at the shore
the masts of sailboats
creaking and clanking
in a cool wind
and the trees
with their gentle song
These are the sounds
Seasons of the Heart
I`m gonna skateboard all night over this cold and windy Palos Verdes Peninsula
for no good reason…..this time, I`m really gonna do it. Tomorrow, I will ride back
Full moonrise over Terminal Island in a purple sky.
Indigo blue night sky
in gray and wispy clouds
the shining eye of the moon
In a single moment,
the moon is revealed
like a burning stone
in the darkness
Saw a sea lion in the harbor at night after I woke up from a power nap.
As I sit on the point at Cabrillo Beach at night, I watch waves crash over the seawall
in a symphony of moonlit sea spray. A rumble, a hiss and a big splash. The green
light of Angel`s Gate Lighthouse beckons to me. I just had a flashback about the time
I rented a Jet-Ski when I was 16 and actually rode around LA Harbor next to the oil
tankers and fishing boats in that murky water. What a fucking maniac. Afterwards,
skateboarding home, I was so tired that I had a freak accident. When I was ducking
low to go under a tree, my hand bumped a fallen palm leaf and the sharp thorn at
the end dug in to my finger, I pushed it along the cement until it hit a wall and jammed
all the way through the joint of my finger….AAAAAARRRGH SHIT! Serious fucking
pain. The thorn was actually broken off and stuck in my finger, which I couldn`t
bend. I actually had to go to the doctor to have it removed. That was a bitch
and the last time I went Jet-Skiing in LA Harbor. Now that I think about it, I would
do it again, though….(The jet-skiing, not the thorn through the finger)…
When I walk around the so-called “bad areas” of LA, I just assume and hope that
people will be cool with me being there. If not, well, I guess I`ll just get killed.
Tonight reminds me of walking around Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills as a 16-year-old
punk, lost and drunk from some high school party that I had irrationally left for no reason.
Another random memory…
I used to work at B. Dalton Bookseller at Del Amo Mall when I was 16. It was my second
job and this guy Sean, who looked just like Kiefer Sutherland in “Lost Boys”, was a real
character. He used to wear a trench coat when he was leaving work and turned me on
to how easy it was to steal books. He used to talk about the “Corporate Juggernaut.”
He was probably about 23. He printed “Major Tom” for my name tag. We used to smoke
joints outside. What does this have to do with tonight? Nothing. But these rides always
stimulate random memories.
When I die, I`ll know that I walked and skateboarded as far as I could…
at the end of
a single bare
across the cold
from the feeble
of a lone
Well, I made it as far as Portuguese Bend before I got picked up and searched by the Sheriff.
He actually gave me a ride to Pacific Coast Highway and Hawthorne, his concern obviously
to escort certain transient, undesirables and/or midnight skateboarding weirdos politely out
of the $$$ and luxury of Palos Verdes Estates. Next time, I`ll try this during the day.
In any case, now I ride along PCH to Redondo and back to the bike path towards Venice.
Yes, the thrill ride continues….
Transcription of the Conversation between the Sheriff (S) and Tom (T):
He pulls up to me, lights flashing:
S “Son, you mind telling me just where the hell you`re going?”
T “Yes sir, I`m headed to Redondo Beach.”
S “What for?”
S “You know, you can watch that from here.”
T “Yeah, but I have to start heading towards home eventually.”
S “Where`s that?”
T “I live in the slums of Beverly Hills on Shenandoah.”
S “uh….okay, and you`re skateboarding home?”
T “Yes, I am.”
S “Haven`t you ever heard of the bus?”
T “I am aware of the bus but that is the lazy way home. No adventure in it.”
S “Are you aware that it`s past midnight?”
T “Yes, officer.”
S “Why didn`t you do this during the day?”
T “I wanted to see what it was like at night.”
S “What do you think?”
T “It`s beautiful, but a little cold.”
S “You got anything illegal in your bag?”
T “That`s a negative.”
S “Well, I`m gonna have to check it anyway.”
(he looks through and finds nothing but a book and a towel and a beanie,
luckily, I had hidden my herb in my sock)
“Looks alright. Don`t you like to sleep like the rest of us?”
T “Oh don`t worry about me, I slept really late this morning and had
a power nap this afternoon. I`ll make it.”
S “So you plan on riding through the night?”
T “If it`s okay with you, of course.”
S “That`s kind of crazy, don`t you think?”
T “Perhaps, but it`s fun. Good exercise too.”
S “Exercise eh?”
T “Some people run long distances, I skateboard long distances.
Occasionally, I do it in the middle of the night.”
S “Alright then, jump in…I`ll give you a ride down to PCH.”
T “Okay, thanks….”
The red taillights of the car fade into the black night
FADE TO BLACK
Rode all night along the coast…Hermosa, Manhattan, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Venice…
Dawn at Ballona Creek
still glassy waters
cobalt blue sky
setting in a
What a ridiculous journey! So enlightening, so liberating!
I am sitting in the warm morning sun on a lifeguard tower
in Venice Beach. I`ve had breakfast and coffee and I`m
refreshed and feeling the urge for a power nap in a sunbeam.
I covered about 25 miles on this maniacal nocturnal journey
and I will never forget this night.
So I drove JB to the airport and came back myself in the silver Audi Quattro.
It is a fine looking machine and it simply amazes me the way these
gold-digging whores stare at me in when I`m in this car. I cannot
tell you how many lustful looks and flirty come-hither and pick me
up smiles I got while driving home. We all know it would be a whole
different story if I was walking or waiting at a bus stop. Stinkbags.
I`m sitting on this filthy fucking bus that goes up and down Highland and there is a drunken and
wasted Chollo with an LA hat sitting in the back of the bus. He is snoozing and stumbling and
mumbling and moaning and he sways all unsteady. With every jerk of the bus from this manic
driver, he stumbles or falls forward and back. Now he`s staring at me with beady little brown
and bloodshot eyes and I`m wondering if I should get out my knife. If he tries any funny stuff,
I think, I`ll carve him a second asshole in his forehead. He walks forward 12 steps and then falls
back 6 and I catch him and save him from cracking his head open on the seat. Ok, no need
for the knife. This poor bastard is harmless and can`t tell which way is up. Just another
beautiful day in the City of Angels.
(At this point, I believe I had moved up into the Hollywood Hills with my good friend J.B.)
“Religion is the opiate of the masses.”
“When you look into the abyss,
the abyss also looks into you.”
“You load 16 tons and whaddya get?
Another day older and deeper in debt…”
A true life story…
So, I was pissing in a bush when a glorious, brightly-colored hummingbird flew down from
the heavens and hovered by the stream, obviously mistaking it for a waterfall in the mist.
Where is the Discovery Channel when you need them?
Walking on a winter day….the smell of Christmas trees gives me a nostalgic feeling for
once upon a time when I gave a shit about Christmas and surrounds me with memories
of innocence lost and wisdom gained…
On the 156 bus AGAIN, heading north. I just spotted that same beanie-wearing melon head
that had told me not to take a picture of him before a couple months previously. Now, I am
seriously speculating that he is a Metro undercover cop. He always has that mean, wary,
watchdog look on his hammy face.
To wake up in a house on a hill
surrounded by treetops
The sun beams through the windows
angling distorted shadows
across the tan rug
The turbulent winds
transform the trees
into a maelstrom
of waving branches
whipping in the gusts
A symphony of leaves and light
against the backdrop
of an endless blue sky
that goes on forever
or so it seems
The hissing breeze
the whistling wind
echoes through the chambers
of my empty heart
howls through the caverns
and corridors of my troubled mind
and becomes a mournful tune
to blow away lost causes
and broken things
leaving me with nothing
and my own strange and fleeting
that are light as a feather
and tend to fly off
with each new gust of wind
I stare across
the olive brown hills
through the dancing trees
It is 8am
The HOLLYWOOD sign sits alone
on that brown mountain
gloating with lost dreams
and empty promises
I walked down from the mountain
for a closer look at the valley
On the way
the wind whirled in furious circles
like demons…or angels
As I stroll along
I am ceaselessly amazed
by this parade
this endless procession of
and the often witless occupants
desperately clutching cell phones
to their hopelessly misshapen heads
or maybe nothing…
will soon be lost
on a strong breath
5 UNEASY PIECES
“The cars hiss by my window
like the waves down on the beach”
“All in all
brick in the wall…”
“We are raised to honor all the wrong heroes,
the wrong explorers and discoverers, thieves
planting flags, murderers carrying crosses.
Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams…”
A trail of motorcycles thousands long passes by on Sunset Blvd, the overwhelming
sound of Harley Davidsons fills the air with a deafening roar. They were followed by
fire engines from around the nation including NYC and everyone was waving flags.
I can`t even begin to describe the magnitude of this spectacle….unbelievable.
PRACTICE SAFE SEX
GO FUCK YOURSELF
Last night, Mike Chickey woke me up to smoke weed where I was passed out;
on the kitchen floor at the house in the hills. I must have fallen over stone cold
and dropped. I don`t remember a thing except for that babe from Chile.
I`ve got to go…
gotta leave you all behind
and fade away…
nothing really matters…to me….”
My mind is like a vast burning warehouse
and I`m running around inside
trying to find a way out…
I burn my own bridges
dig my own graves
A little old Korean lady walking down 8th Street just picked a children`s
soccer ball out of the gutter and kicked it to me. Of course, I returned
So, I`m standing at 6:20am in MacArthur Park on the lake. The junkies and scumbags are just now having
their own personal re-enactment of “Dawn of the Dead.” The lights and towers of downtown Los Angeles
loom majestically in the east, backlit by an incredible lavender-blue morning sky. The expanse is endless
and a thin silver crescent of a moon watches over it all in ghostly silence. An eerie quiet, a deathly stillness,
the hiss of traffic and then suddenly, I`m surrounded by ZOMBIES!! No, actually it`s ducks and geese
and some other strange water birds that I couldn`t name. Quacks filled the air and the sun began to edge
over the horizon and bathe us all in her golden light.
I WALK WHERE OTHERS
FEAR TO TREAD……….
MacArthur Park 6:45am
I`m looking at a statue that I`ll bet none of you has ever seen. It is from 1935 and it is Prometheus,
giving us the gift of fire. He sits, forlorn and alone, another monument to a forgotten past amongst
the urban wastelands. It`s kind of ironic that he`s been honored for giving us fire in a city that loves
Continued walking and skateboarding from Park View Avenue to 5th Avenue downtown via Wilshire and 6th
Street from dawn to about 12 noon…exploring every seedy street and back alley and dive bar for future reference.
“Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.
I wish it need not have happened in my time.
So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have
to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
“The Fellowship of the Ring”
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? No? Then do not be eager to deal out
death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
Crisp winter morning, LA Pershing Square, surrounded by loonies and norms alike, can`t really tell `em apart.
I, not caring, listen to the music coming from the speakers surrounding me with Bing Crosby`s “White Christmas.”
The winds blow and the sun fights its way through the shadows of the buildings and the ice skaters glide through
the wavering light on ice crystals. It`s very strange to be lying on your back in Pershing Square directly in the
center of the park, right at the center of the city, surrounded by tall buildings–monuments, structures, a ring,
a Stonehenge, a temple unto greed and dreams, triumph and failure, elation and desolation.
With my big jacket and black sunglasses, I walked by the Brinks armored truck guys coming out of the bank
with $TACK$ of cash on a big dolly cart. I had a vivid and distinct sense that the men inside the truck
had their guns trained on me.
At 4pm, I find myself in the Bradbury Building at Broadway and 3rd. They just don`t make `em like this
anymore. Empty, ghostly, spectacular architecture. I stare up at the skylight and the woodwork and
the magnificent iron rails lacing every balcony. I see no one, but the old wood and iron elevator is
coming down slowly on its coppery cables and wheels, so I exit swiftly….only the ghosts of yesteryear
were watching me….
Police chaos at the corner of Broadway and 6th; police tape, cops everywhere, ambulances, motorcycle pigs,
flashing lights, pigs on horses, Latino crowds gathering in groups and chattering excitedly in Spanish,
while I stand in the middle of it all scribbling in this stupid little book. The funniest thing is I still have NO idea
what is going on here….maybe no one does…
Oh, now I know, someone is down in the middle of the street…hit by a car? Shot? The cruel irony here is the
demented looking man in the wheelchair behind me is holding a ghetto blaster and it is blaring out a Queen
song, “Another one bites the dust…and another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust!”
I imagine that I was probably the only English speaking observer to notice this cinematic moment in the chaos.
The next song I heard was “Feliz Navidad.” It just gets better and better. Then some crazy-ass, hard looking
esse, all tatted up, came stumbling up the street from the direction of Skid Row. He smelled like tequila from
10 feet away and he was counting a big stack of cash. I don`t know what he was thinking holding all that money
in plain view in this den of thieves but, of course, he walks right up to me. I am a freak magnet. He points
at the thick glass counter of the open storefront behind me and slurs with squinty eyes,” How much is that
switchblade knife, Holmes?” I tell him it`s 30 bucks and he buys it. From the guy, not me. I`m outta here.
Someone`s getting shanked.
This day had definitely been a great warm-up for my upcoming epic trip deep into the heart of Mexico.
Walking through the belly of the beast…the central police station and the FBI building. I can feel
the cameras and eyes on me. I have a nice sack of herb on me and of course, I`ve been drinking.
I glide through unscathed and walk into Little Tokyo where the first thing I see is a gorgeous Japanese
babe with a big smile for me. To my left, a police helicopter rises up into the purple-pink, blue-brown
smogset like some strange noisy insect. Freeways gridlocked, me with my skateboard, yes, the
City at dusk. Night creeps in.