Angeleno writer Rodger Jacobs has cried the beloved country as an LA exile since September 2006, first depositing himself in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, then on an especially arid side of Las Vegas, where he patiently tends to an often uncooperative ailing mother while tattooing a keyboard with blog entries, fiction, poems, and book reviews.
Ten days ago, he returned to LA for the first time since his departure. The chronicle of his visit is an intriguing mix of artistry and sentiment, as Jacobs now experiences LA both as insider and outsider.
Starting with his approach on I-15, LA's Via Appia. Jacobs and his travelling companion, the Missterious Miss L (whom I would later meet on this trip as well) witness an accident, and the accident has a different kind of backdrop than the ones we know from years ago...
Moments earlier, before the driver of the Lincoln Navigator flew all four tires into the sand after clipping the bumper of a vehicle in the number two lane, I had noted a waterpark at the side of the road, a watersports-themed activity park in the middle of the goddamn Mojave Desert. Look, I say to Miss L, there are no cars in the parking lot and the ferris wheel is idle. Whose genius marketing scheme was this?
With the table thus set, and thus braced for LA, Jacobs is ready to do business with the bane of all expat existence---storage. His unit is on Los Feliz Boulevard, walking distance from his favorite bars.
There's an entry about the hookup I also discussed last weekend, at the Tam, with Jacobs, California Faultline's David Markland, novelist John Shannon, the Missterious Miss L, and me. Then there's an entry called Combat Mission, about another trip beyond another gate---how similar are the architecture and "landscaping" of storage units to that of sound stages!---and who hasn't experienced this overdramatized LA version of Torschlußpanik at one time or another?
The roughly 30 file-size boxes in the 10×10 storage locker are primarily filled with books. The first editions and signed editions were the first to make the cut for retrieval. All of the Nathanael West was snagged, as well as critical volumes on his work. Ditto Scott Fitzgerald. Modern Library editions of Kafka, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald. Almost forgot Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up but located it inside a box next to a hardback of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential; the latter most definitely did not make the cut.
My daughter’s baby albums were placed on the retrieval list, of course, but a biography of Malcolm Lowry was not. CDs by Ry Cooder, R.E.M., and Black-Eyed Peas jumped into the outgoing box but two boxes of movies on VHS are going to be left for history to deal with.
The gate began to close. I ran to the gate keypad. The Jeep was rapidly approaching but the margin for escape from the lot was decreasing with every creak of the gate’s closing.It's an LA rite of passage: striving to enter by the narrowing gate.
Finally, his work nearly done, Jacobs turns to his own hotel. From seven stories up, he spots a woman in the hotel's courtyard.
I have now known Rodger Jacobs for about four years---a college degree's worth of time. His body of work crosses classes, crowds, cultures; it's not the Authorized Version, and that's its special place: it's LA, unauthorized and unrepentant. For fiction, he will squeeze a character named Bukowski next to a cartoon figure, perchance Pinocchio or Woody Woodpecker; as a critic, he snarks in a way that gives more rise to laughter than bitterness, even if the first anecdote he turns to is a desperately private one. He does not suffer fools gladly, and these tend to feel sheepish on approach. His blog Carver's Dog is his best yet, and he has put together many. He's had run-ins everywhere, and he is joyously indifferent to your judgment. Among people of our City who know the City yet don't drive around too much, you can have DJ Waldie, I'll take Rodger Jacobs; way more fun over here, and there's something new every day.
It was that sort of courtyard. A California courtyard. A Los Angeles courtyard.
And there was a woman in that courtyard. She wore a solid black dress and clutched a red purse to her bosom with one hand. With the other hand, she gestured frantically in the air as she engaged in animated discussion with a squat white-haired elderly gentleman in a dark sportcoat and slacks. The woman in the black dress with the red purse, it appeared from my limited vantage point, was no one’s idea of youth either.