I arrived in LA ...some time a couple of days ago. I made it to my hotel near the aiport after various intense security ministrations around noon and decided to head into town rather than napping. I didn't feel too tired and I thought I'd try and beat jetlag the aggressive way by exposing my body clock directly to full light. Besides, by the time I'd gotten some money, eaten, found the bus route and made the pilgrimage to mid-icty, I feared there wouldn't be too many hours of the day left. I was right.
I was staying in a Super 8 motel in what seemed to be a poor black area, filled mainly with older folks, at least in the early afternoon. I walked up to a large intersection and scouted about for bus signs. I found one with the subheading 'La Brea', and felt pretty pleased with myself for remembering that this was a long arterial road that took you up to Sunset Boulevard or thereabouts. So I planted myself in the bus shelter and watched the passing fair of people passing by on misshapen hybrids and wearing underwear with soiled winter outwear and no in-between.
When the bus came, I didn't have any tokens but they let me on all the same. It was, as usual, filled with blacks and hispanics -- no other white middle-class face apart from mine and a Mexican tourist who vaguely qualified as middle-class and seemed to be in the same predicament as me, falling asleep at various intervals as the bus chugged a good hour into mid-town.
LA felt oddly familiar to me this time round, as it did (to a lesser degree) the first time round. I felt as though we could be charting some grimy, arse-end part of Sydney, like the suburbs around Mascot. But I'd also lost that 'shock of the new' feeling that sharpens your perceptions as a tourist and a would-be travel writer. LA is sprawling and oddly-centreless in a way. Wherever you get out of the bus, you feel as though you're at the back of things, as though you need to walk some place else to find the real city.
I got out on Santa Monica Boulevard. There were three undone things on my to-do list left over from last time -- the Getty Center, the LACMA in more detail and Hollywood Forever. I felt I only remotely had time for one of these -- the latter, so I began walking.
LA is remarkably tacky, which is part of its charm, compared to somewhere more polished like Washington, where I am now. $5 psychics seem to have sprung up everywhere, like mushrooms after rain (would you trust anyone whose advice only cost $5) -- you'll remember the episode in 6FU when Nate bowls into the living room of a $5 psychic after Lisa's death. It's also very gritty, probably thanks to the pollution haze, as much as anything else.
It was a fair walk to Hollywood Forever. I feared not making it before closing -- the last time I'd attempted to visit, all the gates seemed closed at 4-ish, which seemed early for a large metropolitan cemetery. This time, I walked the same route, up from the studios, along the side wall -- only to find all the gates closed, which seemed even more premature at a quarter to 4. I kept on walking round the walls of the cemetery (they're a couple of metres high), thinking there still had to be a main gate open, surely. There was. This must have been where I went wrong last time, not looking for the main entrance.
When I walked in, I felt myself unwinding...there's no place a member of my family feels more comfortable than a cemetery. No really, it was probably the sudden sight of so much lush grass and green trees. I expected something more starchy of Hollywood Forever (it certainly looked more formal in 6FU) but it was strangely parochial, with clusters of Russian family graves with portraits sandblasted onto them leaning intimately together and hispanic graves with garden seats and windmills and flowering shrubs. You had to be careful, though, walking through the tussocky grass -- every other moment, I seemed in danger of twisting my ankle on an obscured nameplate. As everywhere in LA, there were long rows of those spindly palm trees with tilt to one side that gives them an oddly yearning feel, as though they're trying to pull themselves above the traffic and the smog.
I came upon an island with a large mausoleum in the middle of a small lake, and thought immediately of the 'Isle of Innisfree' cemetery lake that Evelyn Waugh sends up in The Loved One -- and wondered whether this be the model, given that The Loved One is a satire of the funeral industry in LA. I walked across the bridge and sat in the mausoleum's shade, hoping to do a bit of texting and see if global roaming was working. I texted the cat-sitter, to find out if there was any news about Leonard.
The previous Thursday, I'd taken Leonard back to the vet for his post-surgery check-up. He'd seemed to be improving after the surgery, sleeping on a kitchen chair during the day, in front of the heater in the evenings, getting up to eat and use the tray. I'd even found him waiting inside the back door with Lulu when I came home a couple of times. But he was still very frail and lethargic.
The news at the vet's wasn't good. The histology [sic?] report had shown that the lump they'd removed was cancerous: he'd also had an enlarged spleen which could be cancerous, tho the vet didn't feel she could remove it, given his other ailments and anaemia. She said the outlook for ailmentary cancer was 4-8 weeks. She commented on how full and glossy his tail still was (unlike his body) and how he 'still had that pretty face.'
We talked about what the best thing for him would be while I was away. She felt that he would be better off at home, since he was still eating, etc, but that I should leave instructions to the cat-sitter to bring him into the vet's to stay if there was an overall decline. I gave her the permission to put him down if she thought it was the right moment to do so.
Lenny seemed exhausted by his trip to the vet's, thrown around in his cage by motion of the car. He only weighed 2.5 kg -- a sliver of a cat. I thought of what he'd been like when I brought him to Alice -- I'd put in the same cage -- an old-fashioned, open-topped one I'd bought on Sydney Rd years ago -- because he was the bravest cat and the one most likely to cope with being so exposed. I could see him in his cage as he went up the conveyor belt onto the plane; there were two Indonesian nuns at the airport window beside me, pointing and laughing through the glass.
The last couple of days before I left, Lenny spent most of his time lying in his furry ring-thing in front of the heater. He was a lot more frail; he enjoyed being picked up, but only for a while before he became too tired. Each morning when I came down, I expected to find him dead. On the last morning, there was some music from Arnhem Land being played on the radio. I was reminded of the 'death dance' in Ten Canoes; I thought it would be the perfect moment for him to pass on, but he didn't. I left him with a heavy heart, doubting that he would still be around when I came back and feeling quite guilty about leaving him with a cat-sitter.
I rang the cat-sitter on Monday morning in Sydney, hoping to get an update before I left. She told me that 'the little one' had disappeared; she'd looked everywhere for him but couldn't find him. She'd thought that he'd gone out or that I'd made arrangements for someone to take him away. I hadn't and I doubted that he'd have the energy to scale the back fence (no more proud 'king of the walk' stuff). I thought he'd found a cubby hole for himself and died somewhere in the house.
I rang the vet and asked her if she could go round some time and have a look for him. I said, 'He's probably under the futon upstairs in the front room' (a favourite hiding place for him and Otty when I turned the vaccuum on).
She'd said she'd email me but I hadn't any emails from her when I checked my mail in LA public library, so I decided to text the cat-sitter. 'I found the cat under the bed and the vet took her [sic] body with love for her,' the cat-sitter texted back.
So poor old Lenny had his final death dance, dragging himself upstairs to die under the futon, maybe a day after I'd left. I worried that he'd felt deserted once I'd gone or conversely, that he felt able to die without my presence to kick him along, but my mother said a sick animal was hardly able to make such deliberations. I also worried that he'd felt supplanted by Lulu and that her arrival had brought on his illnesses, though my blog shows he had been wasting for at least eighteen months.
But in some ways, it was good that he faded away so quickly, rather than lingering on or having to be put down. And it was a load off my mind, being away and leaving him with a cat-sitter, though I would have preferred to be there. When I told my massage therapist that I was worried he might die while the cat-sitter was there, she said, 'It all happens for a reason. Who knows what issues the cat-sitter might need to address?' I guess this is the New Age spin on 'God works in mysterious ways'.
So goodbye to the Lenster. That fine cat. He was definitely one out of the box. I guess people might have been surprised to know that the woman wandering sobbing amongst the graves in Hollywood Forever was crying over a dead cat -- but then again, maybe not, given it was LA.