It might have been the day I spent with my cousin, a Hollywood executive while still in his early thirties. His was one of the top jobs in the motion picture industry--hiring all talent, both acting and writing, for a major studio.
The US Navy had paid college expenses for both of us. However, ten years earlier, he dropped out and eventually found his way to Hollywood. I finished, so when I visited him from the east coast, I was serving as a young naval officer. Married then, he put me up in his home in the Hollywood Hills and drove me to the studio the next day. The guard at the gate fell all over himself arranging to get the studio-owned convertible parked.
My cousin sat me down in the lot's small cafeteria, listening patiently to my thoughts about writing and poetry. The only employee there, a chief cook and bottle-washer, fielded phone calls behind the counter as the phone rang off the hook with people wanting my cousin, but the big man concentrated on me.
Eventually he took me up to his enormous office. Finally, with an apologetic smile, he stretched his tall frame across the fourteen-foot desk and took a call from New York. After a cautious knock on the door, a visitor raised his eyebrows-was this a good time? My cousin climbed down from his desk so the man could polish his shoes.
When the calls became more pressing, he suggested I take his car down to the beach. "Just keep going on Sunset," he said. The studio garage had washed his studio-owned car and gassed it up. I was off.
Having grown up around Chicago, I looked for the inevitable neighborhood shifts, but driving through Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood, and Bel Air I saw only affluence. At one point, searching for the squalor I suspected was blocks away, I got off Sunset Drive. Perhaps I was in Brentwood. Wherever I was, the luxury went on nonstop.
I returned to Sunset and made my way to Pacific Coast Highway, turning north toward Malibu. It's hard to overstate a Midwesterner's excitement at being able to drive alongside the roaring Pacific Ocean. In Malibu I parked over a bluff, put the top down, and started some daydreams that many years later became White Man's Blues.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers