Set adrift fatherless sons, I recognize them with immediate intimacy. It doesn’t matter at what age because I have been through most of the stages as I pass through my middle age. Now closer to the end, it is with resignation rather rage at the circumstance.
My salvation – that which tempered me was that one man had stepped forward, albeit unprepared, he provided security, some routine, the discipline to fight through the fear, as did he as a teen stepping into a world war of other fatherless men’s making.
You could find Alan routinely on my couch weeknights. Generally quiet. At times amused. He took in every word, interacting only with regular visitors of equal age and status.
He was a decade my senior. California born, his straight stringy light brown hair still collar length since the Sixities. His face and body belayed a unambitious, unathletic, satisfactorily lazy laid back pay-check to pay-check existence.
He must of been a handsome teen as he graduated Van Nuys High in the Summer of 69. Physically he resembled a cross of Peter Fonda and Troy Donahue with a John Wayne voice but life was catching up quickly on Al.
Surviving his younger years without a father, never knowing who his father was, he, like me was a latchkey kid. His mother, Dolores had to rise for work every day before dawn to wait tables at Dupars on Ventura Boulevard.
Dolores had taught him how to rise every agonizing morning for a menial job and introduced Marlboro reds to pass time. Later, suffering from emphysema and on oxygen, her example brought him to reduce a three pack a day habit to one as he watched her bring a lit cigarette to her oxygen, savagely burning her face.
Alan was an intriguing combination of integrity and sloth. He could be trusted with money and secrets. He didn’t ask questions but was oblivious to his appearance and body language. So much so, employment became a revolving door of odd driving and delivery jobs in The Basin.
Lost in a generation and setting of dashing, gracefully aging middle-class suburban commuters, he felt strangely entitled but abandoned by his position in Tinseltown. Often racist, generally angry, his poverty was not of his doing in his mind.
Gentlemanly yet perverted, his contradictions were exposed only in private. His sadness at being alone apparent, his hatred at being white and looked over a constant dialogue.
To his credit, as the years on my couch went by, he once said, “I wish I would’ve had a father who taught me some skill, something of value for my life.”
I recognized this statement because my loving father, sparing me the orphanage and an uncertain life could only teach me “don’t lay down near a [Sherman] tank for a firing position” and “don’t break your back for 40 years working” like me.
Perhaps, Alan knew the latter advice of my father, he sat smoking every bit of free weed he possibly could on my couch, enjoying the socialization he never found in his little Reseda studio petri dish of a dungeon.
As I migrated permanently east, I often wondered how he was doing. I recognized the fatherless son and cared about his welfare. My suspicion is that he has passed away, since I’m compelled to bring him alive to you.