L.A. Story

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I didn’t want Rob to come to L.A.

I told him not to come because it’s really expensive. I told him it would be difficult to find a job. I told him that it’s almost impossible to get around here without a car. I told him he couldn’t live with us in Venice because Maura works from home and we don’t have a spare room.

What I didn’t tell him at the time, and often didn’t tell him­, was the truth. When I look back at me and Rob, I sometimes feel that I was almost as big a liar as he was, but it was a different type of lying. My lying was generally an omission of the truth. I was always scared that if I told him what I really thought about what he was doing or not doing, what he was thinking or not thinking, I’d alienate him and he’d cut me out of his life. I was scared that he’d be alone and that I’d be without him. I was scared that he would be lost.

This time the truth was that I didn’t want him living here because of the drama that inevitably came along for the ride, and the high anxiety and debilitating worry that would descend on me like a plague of locusts.

So, of course, Rob was on his way to L.A. the next day. And Rob being Rob, he decided to travel across the country by train. The first act of the drama began a few days later right after the train pulled out of Chicago. I got a frantic phone call from him saying that he needed to Venmo $750 to some dude he found on Craigslist who was going to hook him up with a share in an apartment downtown. He said he didn’t have a credit card and there was someone else interested in the place and he had to act fast. He swore he’d pay me back as soon as he arrived. The whole thing sounded ridiculously sketchy, like many things Rob said and did, and I don’t remember all the details of this particular escapade other than the upshot: I “lent” him the money.

It was really happening. Rob was going to be living in L.A.

The apartment deal—spoiler alert­—turned out to be too good to be true. I’m not sure if it was a scam exactly, but apparently the management got wind of a bunch of illegal sublets and posted an eviction notice on their door. Rob had been in town for less than three weeks.

Some very bad things had already happened to Rob in the very short time since he had arrived—I’m going to gloss over the specifics because I don’t feel comfortable talking about it—and now, long story short, Rob had to move out of the apartment by the end of the week. He said he might be able to find something with one of the other guys who was also being tossed, but that didn’t pan out. And after one night on the street, he called me early on a Saturday morning in June (I remember the day because we had tickets to see Ryan Adams that night) and said he had nowhere to live.

And me being me and Maura being the most loving and understanding person in the world, and after I cried to Caryn that I couldn’t let him “bottom out” and live on the street, particularly because of the most recent very bad thing that had occurred, we decided that Rob would come live with us.

I drove downtown to pick him up and found him waiting outside the building wearing a pair of Chrome Heart sunglasses that I had given him, the same style that David Duchovny wore in “Californication.” Rob had a few large boxes that were falling apart, overflowing with crumpled-up suits and clothes, and a backpack almost as big as he was jammed with more clothes and all kinds of shit including his high school yearbook, old concert ticket stubs, a few beer glasses with our last name on it and a collection of Bic Lighters (more on that in a future post).

On the ride home I told him that if he was going to live with us for a while there were two conditions: 1) He can’t drink. And 2) He had to go to AA. He was less than thrilled, particularly about the idea of attending daily meetings. I saw his face turn into “the other Rob” where the dark side lived. He did this weird thing with his jaw where it looked like he was readying himself to take a punch, and his eyes would get wide and angry before the rage spewed out.

“I’m not going to fucking AA, Dad! You can stop the fucking car right here and I’ll get out now,” he said while we were driving in the middle lane on the 405. “You can just leave me on the side of the fucking highway!”

“I can’t fucking stop here, Rob! And remember? You called me! I came to pick you up! These are the fucking rules!” I yelled back at him, banging the steering wheel with my fist. We were both silent for the next 20 minutes.

“I’ll go,” he finally said in his softest voice while staring out the window.

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