Sweden

Absolut vs Smirnoff

Here’s a new piece for the Resurfaced series. An old friend in L.A. is often wakeful and finds it difficult to fall asleep. The time difference is mostly to my advantage, from a chat perspective, but I worry that the sleep deficit is harmful.

I sleep relatively well nowadays. For several years I’ve used podcasts to help me relax and in due course, fall to sleep. Sometimes, I’ll wake up after a short while, frustrated that the podcast hosts won’t allow me to share my opinion verbally on their show.

One trick that I used to do to fall asleep is map neighborhoods where I’ve lived. The one area I returned to with great frequency was in West Hollywood and the general vicinity where I grew up, hung out, or walked through on my way to or back from somewhere.

I would start along Santa Monica Boulevard going east and then west, visualizing all the buildings, stores, shops, and places I can recall. Then, if that didn’t put me to sleep, I’d map La Cienega Boulevard starting from Sunset and going down what must still be one of L.A.’s steepest hills, then heading south until my personal map starts moving into unfamiliar territory. I haven’t lived in that part of L.A. since 1978, more than forty years ago. So it’s fascinating that I still have such vivid memories of places like The Bowling Alley, John & Pete’s Liquor Store, Alan Hale’s The Lobster Barrel, The Melting Pot, 49 Steps, Rexall’s Drugstore, Norm’s, All America Burger, Pup n’ Tail, Kiddyland, the oil pumps on Beverly, and the row of art galleries and fine dining eateries around Melrose Place.

I remember one time when I was out alone at night (having been locked out of the house by my mother after yet another tumultuous conflict), that I saw what I believed to have been a prostitute on the southwest corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica. She had placed one of her shiny white boots on the edge of the bus stop’s green wooden bench. The woman was extraordinarily tall and wore a wide, black or dark brown hat and a long matching coat that revealed short white hot pants above her legs.

As a prepubescent 12-year old, I was beguiled to say the least. At first, the woman smiled coyly at me, but after realizing I was way too young, her smile shifted quickly to a disappointed, vacant gaze. Maybe she saw in me a version of her younger self and acknowledged that neither of us should be where we were at the time. Certainly not on Santa Monica Boulevard in the middle of the night. I walked home and snuck in through a window along the long side of our house, hoping that by then, my mother had finally fallen asleep. Her sleep was usually induced and fueled by Smirnoff, but I wonder if she had preferred Absolut if it had been available at the time. Probably not.