a novel excerpt

At the time, I had just moved to a particularly bleak part of the city, not far from that notorious intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. Above us lay the hills––which were pink and gold and stuffed full of money––but down below in the sulfurous haze where the rest of us lived there was nothing but a jumble of decrepit apartment buildings and motels that charged by the hour, along with a thriving homeless encampment wedged between a 24-hour sex arcade and a boarded-up vitamin shop.

Teenage runaways had taken over the abandoned wreck on the corner, a hulking art deco beast where movie moguls used to cook up million-dollar deals back in the silent film era and which had become blighted with angry snarls of graffiti and busted-out windows. Once I saw a young woman, naked except for a red feather boa, threatening to take a swan dive from its roof. She was coaxed down eventually and whisked away in an ambulance, and though I would later glimpse her from time to time, either smoking cloves on a neighborhood bus bench or loitering outside the supermarket where I bagged groceries, still wearing that miserable rope of feathers and zonked half out of her mind, I like to think that in the end she finally slipped the noose and got away from her demons. Of course, it's been years since I last saw her. Along with everyone else I knew in those days, she is gone now.