Picture Book, When You Were Just a Baby, Those Days When You Were Happy, A Long Time Ago...
On August 14th, 2004, I met Leticia Blake. She was a writer, model, photographer, activist, public health volunteer, code writer, a familiar presence in the L.A. avant-garde scene. She also did porn, under the name Eva Lux.
We clicked in person almost immediately that night, spending hours in conversation, first at a Heidi Calvert art event at Bluespace, then later that evening at a friend's apartment until almost sunrise. A few weeks later, relations with that friend went downhill, and she moved in with me for a spell. She was a good houseguest - we watched lots of movies, went to dinner, had long talks about deep subjects.
She also had an active heroin addiction at the time, which she was working hard to quit. After a few weeks with me, she moved down to Costa Mesa to get clean. And she did it. It was hard, there were lapses and run-ins with the law, but she went through the steps and the discipline and the halfway houses and the mandatory tests and it was working.
A year later, Leticia came into L.A. one weekend in September on a 48 hour pass. She was hanging out at a mutual friend's home, with some people who liked the smoke. Having been well-behaved for months and keeping the big demons at bay, she took a couple hits from the joint.
And then she remembered that coming Monday there was going to be a drug test.
Failing it would have been a violation of her probation, and she would have been facing a mandatory 25 year to life sentence...for the non-violent crime of heroin addiction. I will never be 100% certain whether what followed was merely an "let's go all-in" gut reaction or a glumly rational final solution, but the outcome renders those details moot: Leticia overdosed on heroin, went into a coma, and died on September 20, 2005.
Today would have been her 37th birthday.
Besides a lot of wonderful and bittersweet memories, Leticia left me her Canon PowerShot S230 digital camera. While I had taken photography as part of my college courses years ago, I grew disenchanted with the practice of taking pictures. Maybe I didn't think my photos were good, maybe I began to believe that the act of taking pictures means you're stepping out of a moment and not truly living in it, maybe I just got self-conscious over the fact that I hate to be photographed because I'm 40 lbs overweight with a double chin so to not be a hypocrite I'd leave my friends alone...there are plenty of possible reasons I stopped keeping images.
But this year, something stirred in me, and I picked up Leticia's camera, bought an uploading device, and little by little, started trying to get in the habit of taking a few snaps of things I liked. If I can succumb to a mushy screenwriter's poetry, I treated this as my way of keeping her with me as a surrogate eye - what I'm snapping, she's seeing.
So here are some of the things she saw for me in the last few months...
Lab-fresh uncut 35mm prints of BRIGHTON ROCK and THE THIRD MAN;
DJ Sallycat: mixing artisan, go-go dancer, sometime ROCKY HORROR Trixie, and proprietress of the Hang The DJ blog;
The unusually heavy L.A. rains this past couple months brought waterfowl to my building's pool. Luckily, having studied my Steve Martin, I knew what to say when the ducks showed up.
One day in my parking lot, I was downright dumbfounded - how many fucking grey cars in a row can there be in one complex?
Julia Marchese, hands-on Girl Friday of the New Beverly Cinema, and star of Marion Kerr's GOLDEN EARRINGS, at her birthday/off to England party;
Taylor Locke and Chris Price of Taylor Locke & The Roughs, rocking out at their second show ever, at Cinespace on Hollywood Blvd.
There will be more photos to come.
So thank you, Leticia, both for giving me so much to remember...and the means and motivation to find more to remember...