Topanga Beach 1983

On the bum at Topanga Beach


I was down and out when I sold a story to California magazine. I knew they would pay me but until they did I had no money. I spent that night in the Greyhound bus station in L.A.

Next morning I called the magazine’s office from a pay phone. They said they’d mail me a check in a few weeks. I was getting mail care of General Delivery, Los Angeles, Calif. 90071.

I didn’t have a car. I had a few bucks in my pocket. I took a bus up the Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Beach. The beach parking lot was packed with rust-belt refugees. It wasn’t a good time in America. There were a couple of laid-off auto workers from Detroit living in their VW van. They let me sleep on the back seat.

We bathed in the Pacific Ocean. We bummed money for food from rich people coming out of George’s Market. Movie stars used to stop there on their way home to Malibu. The guy who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. The fellah who played Oscar in The Odd Couple. I’m not good at remembering names these days. It was a long time ago and I’m old now.

I was still on the bum when the issue of California magazine came out with my story in it. I still hadn’t gotten paid. When I showed the story to the two guys from Detroit they said, You wrote this?! What the fuck are you doing on the beach, man?

They didn’t pay me yet, I told them.

Fuck, man, said Joe. We’re all getting fucked.


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