“Quite honestly,” I replied with a smile, “I
could use a good cry.”
It was a
flippant answer (not without some honesty) to the usual “How’re
ya doing?” My friend Dee punched me with a laugh and said, “I
hear ya bro.”
then fell into the soft candor of an old and underused friendship.
We ended with promises to connect but knew those were mutually
hollow words. Simply, I had bumped into an old friend at Trader
Which is why I was surprised when Dee called that very same evening.
“Ya gotta trust me on this,” he said. He was serious and excited, “You
said something today… There’s this chick I knew at USC.
Double major: Pre-Med and Fine Art. She has been doing an art piece,
for a year and a half now. It’s a service. To humanity. It’s
another world. ….”
I tried to interject “What? Who? When? Why?” but he was talking
too fast and couldn’t hear me.
“Just trust me on this. If she calls you, do it. I recommend you do it.
She’s got all this cabal and secrecy shit and nasty rules
but go with it. It’s good. It works. I did it only once.
invitation. I left her a message with your number and your email.
I think---I know she’ll call you. If she does, just do
it. Follow whatever. I did it and she was awesome. Just promise
me one thing.” Dee was
trying to catch his breath, “I want to be invited again.
I really could use it right now but she has a weird sense---she
knows when people
need it and when they don’t. And when they think they don’t.
She knows when people need help and when they don’t.”
I get nervous when there are too many unnamed and unknown pronouns in
Dude, just do it, if you get the call.” And that was as specific
as he got. “Call me afterward,” he said, “I’ll
have just one question.”
The next day I
thought about ‘it’ more
than several times. Odd questions kept popping up at unrelated
moments. It presented an interesting mystery.
The next night,
the cell rang and I knew who it had to be. A girls’ voice,
a woman answered my ‘Hello’ with “I’d like to
speak to Gordy Grundy.” It was a voice with many melodies
that instantly conveyed trust and calm and security; I was
said her name was Caprice and asked that I grab a pen and paper.
I quickly obeyed.
The speech she gave was obviously one she has repeated often,
yet she performed it patiently. She ran through the rules and
happening’, ‘a personalized experience in psychological and
emotional retroaction.’ No sex, no rock and roll but she did say
a psychotropic may or may not be a part of the experience. For forty
dollars cash, you just can’t say no. She gave me a time,
a date and a location.
Eight days later,
on a wet Tuesday night, my cab pulled
up in front of the Eldorado Theatre on Broadway near
Eighth in old town, downtown Los Angeles. I was freshly showered
clean clothes as
the e-mailed instruction had dictated; nor did I wear
any cologne or anti-perspirant.
The Eldorado was a Twenties movie palace that has been
dark for several decades and it is rather intimidating.
with a miner’s pot of gold, hangs like a giant
grey hammer, ready to smash all those that dare to
trespass. But there was
a rectangle of
faint light around what had to be a lobby door.
I gave the cabdriver a twenty and told him to be here
in four and a quarter hours; I would be back before five.
The foyer was designed to look like the entrance to an
Art Deco cave. A door lit open, invited me inside and
closed quickly behind.
I’d never been inside the Eldorado but I’ve heard stories
and seen pictures. It’s a California Gold Rush
fantasy; miner grit had been given a whitewash by the
scenic art department
Pictures. But this was no time to satisfy architectural
A tall, wide and roadblock heavy-set guy was playing
bouncer. I didn’t
know what to say, since I didn’t know what to
The bouncer gave a reassuring smile and rubbed his thumb
and forefinger together.
I handed him two twenties, exact change that I had placed
in my back pocket.
He peeled a nametag off a sheet and slapped it on my
chest. I was ‘No.
One of the big doors to the theatre opened and a woman
motioned that I enter. She walked as sharply as she was
dressed. She never looked back
to see that I was following her; she just knew.
We marched down a wide aisle, through the orchestra seating,
to the stage. It was a big auditorium. The towering walls
were styled with rushing
rivers of sparkling California gold. Several construction
workers and a plasterer were repairing the filigree along
the proscenium. Their hammers
echoed loudly and hard across the expanse of the Hollywood
I thought our walk was more for show because we seemed
to be doubling back, albeit behind the scenes along the
side, toward the lobby. She
led me to a door and opened it, grandly gesturing that
Immediately, a woman, brightly auburn blonde, young
for her late twenties, held my arm and whispered.
quiet. A wide
window looked to the movie screen. I could see the
loud workmen on the stage but I didn’t hear
She spoke to me quietly. I recognized her voice instantly
as the hostess, the artist Caprice.
She repeated some rules and reassurances, but I was checking
out the room cloaked in red. The walls were Western saloon
style wallpaper, flocked
with gold laurel leaves. Mohair couches, loveseats, burgundy
deep, were placed apart for privacies; I counted seven
people lying about. The light
was low and colorful; lamps were covered with silk fabrics.
I thought of an opium den. Curtains and fancy rugs, hanging
baffles, created temporary
Caprice used my elbow to push me to a dark corner of
the room. She was sizing me up, making a judgment
of height and weight. She sat me down
on an overstuffed throne. Another set of hands
placed a china teacup in my palm. The contents steamed my face
with a sour floral perfume.
Caprice didn’t look happy. She snatched the
teacup from my hand. A moment later she returned
it with another
much more acrid and wooded.
‘Drink,’ she invited me.
Long before I crossed through the lobby doors, I had resigned
myself to the experience. Whatever this was, I chose
to trust it… Caprice
was reassuring. She inspired confidence. My friend
Dee offered a fairly sensible recommendation. But none
of that normalized
back one of the curtains that separate seating areas and led me to
a flat couch. She used
her index finger
me upon it.
I sank into velvet and foam. Her heat began to
burn in my ear and Caprice whispered, “Relax. Best to keep your eyes closed. Swing with it…” then
her warmth began to cool and she was gone.
As I was settling in, you could hear a new inductee
enter the room, whisper, drink some tea and find
a couch. The
show time would begin soon, I felt
Your mind starts
racing and thinking at odd conjectures. Ambient groove tunes gained
in volume and I wanted
to snicker. Where’s
the sound of the gently breaking surf and the
country field at midnight?
But then a live drummer started to pop and pomb
deep notes and my thoughts scattered.
Occasionally, a strong light would flash beyond
the Mars-red darkness of my eyelid.
Smells began to flare, and then evaporate quickly.
Something floral. Then a sweetly comforting soup.
A fatherly cologne
and a maternal perfume.
Stale beer. The stang smell of a shoreline. Pop
pops of reflection and sentiment. Pain and guilt.
The disc jockey began to throw in sounds that formed
conjectures; the hiss of a pop-top can, the crunching
fold of a supermarket paper bag,
the closing of a car door. Sounds that detonated
little flares of experience and emotion that had
once been long
My temperature was changing and so was the
When I first lay down, I was flushed but grew
comfortable when the
to chill and grow colder. My forehead served
as the thermometer of the rapidly changing
The little explosions of light began to occur more
steadily and rhythmically until it was strobing
quite fast. The
drummers, now two, kept to the
At some point, you succumb to all of it. Thoughts
begin to slow and eventually recede.
Your breathing steadies and softens.
Conditions balance themselves…
I must have fallen asleep.
Because I woke up flushed and edged, until I remembered
where I was, safe. And then I sank deeper into
the bed-couch, into a comfortable status
I only became aware
of the others very slowly. I must have been subconsciously listening
the first quiet sob,
it didn’t alarm me. It was so soft
and natural, such a quiet expression. It
was having a
The second crier, another female, became a muted
echo through the maze of hanging curtains and Persian
A third, a male over to the left, began to hiccup
a tear. Someone to the right and another nearby
fell into the
chain-reaction, a permission
You could sense activity around you, as if Caprice
and helpers were moving about and monitoring the
the journeymen and the travelers...
Off a ways, a cry grew angry and startlingly raw,
until a wind of attention soothed the pain into
I was sinking into a state of Deep Blue, falling
deeper into luxury, when I realized that I had
joined the chorus.
Hot tears suddenly slipped
from my eyes and I knew I was crying. Freely. Unabashedly.
It’s something that I hadn’t done in a very long time. I
didn’t think I could do it, or that
it would happen.
Boiling hot tears, spewing, convulsing, cascading
and purging. I was surprised at how hot they really
And then I must have slept.
A hand on my shoulder brought me awake.
Someone nearby was standing, leaving.
I stretched and it felt good.
Caprice smiled in my face, glad at the relief she
must have found in mine. She helped me stand, led
me out the
door, across the lobby and
to the street. With a jaunty salute, Caprice disappeared
back into the Deco cave.
My cabbie saw me, folded up his newspaper and started
An hour later I was at home, sleeping
soundly and profoundly. I didn’t
wake for another sixteen hours, something
I had never done before or since. When
and lighter. I still
The next day, Dee
called at noon. “Where was it? Where did you
meet?” he asked.
I reminded him of our vows of secrecy and confidentiality.
He reminded me of the ‘one question’ promise. But I had a
fast million more, “So, she puts on these cathartic raves? A sensory
induced psychological purge? A emotional douche for all of humanity…”
“All that,” Dee said, “And we’ll never know much more.
She’s a hard nut to crack.””
said she was a double medical and fine
art major, right?”
“But ended up in quantum physics,” he answered, “So you have
to tell me where did you meet, where
was the session? Mine was in the back of a medical marijuana clinic in East LA.
was at a hotel ballroom. Another, a
boat. A boardroom...”
I answered, “A theatre. The old
Eldorado on Broadway. We had it in
a room off the
lobby, a soundproo---“
“The Crying Room,” he interrupted, “It was the Crying
Room. Old theatres had a separate, soundproof
room where you could watch the
movie if your baby was crying.”
Neither of us had anything to say. The totality
of the concept and the redemption of the experience
us into silence. Caprice was a sharp
cookie and a very interesting artist. What would
happen collectively? How would our sociology change
had one good cry?
“Dee,” I said, “We shall have to speak of this someday.” And
then I placed down the phone, a better
man than I was before.