Mad Max

I spent my morning with Josh Alan Friedman. We’ve walked a similar career path. He’s ten years older than me. What he says about his life today, I figure that’s going to be me in a few years.

In 1986, Josh published his classic Tales of Times Square. I’ve never published a classic.

I just finished watching the movie Mad Max, an Australian classic.

I first saw it in the fall of 1988 at UCLA with Sung, a tall cute Asian girl who knew my roommate. She was a good Christian girl and she was majoring in the sciences. I was really taken by her.

I was an atheist at the time and free to act on my desires.

I asked her out to the Australian film festival playing at UCLA. She said yes.

We both liked Mad Max and then we walked a mile back to our dorm, Rieber Hall.

It was near 11 p.m. There was the scent of star jasmine in the air. It was October. Our conversation flowed easily. So much seemed possible. I figured I’d spent a lifetime on university campuses and I’d marry a great girl like Sung.

Later that night, I got real sick. When Sung visited my room a couple of days later, I said some things that were rather forward and I never had a chance with her again.

All I had was that one glorious evening sharing with her an Australian film, basking in the 1988 coolness of Australia in America, and I thought I could be happy.

In February of that year, I’d gotten a bad flu that had never gone away. I came to UCLA a month before classes started so I could see an endocrinologist in Santa Ana, Dr. Norman Beals.

My parents and I had high hopes he could make me well with his prescription of various vitamin and hormone supplements.

I was filled with testosterone and hope that fall at UCLA. It was my first time enrolled at a university. I believed I was going to be an academia star. I was away from my parents. I had great grades. I had knuckled down to my studies at long last. I had learned calculus. Everything seemed possible.

Sure, the quarter started off badly when I sprained my ankle playing touch football and I had to go around on crutches for a week, missing a lot of classes. Then there was the expensive rehab.

I had dreams that I was going to be well again. That the mysterious virus dragging me down would loosen its hold.

I had a part-time job at the magazine desk of the University Research Library.

I met a lot of girls that way. One in particular fascinated me.

I met her just the once.

I was working behind the magazine desk. She seemed French or something. Her top was loose and I could see inside. She wore a string around her wrist.

She liked my accent. We talked easily. I asked her for her phone number and she gave it to me.

I could totally nail this girl!

I’d never been with anyone like her. She was exotic and olive-skinned and fast.

And if I could only build up my strength, I would call her.

I never did build up my strength that quarter. I ended up quitting my job. I dropped all of my classes but one. I gave up on my doctor. I gave up on calling the exotic chick.

By June 1989, I had to give up UCLA and I would never return to university.

My time in the sun was brief. I had only the intimation of the things I had long dreamed of achieving. I had only a taste and then they were taken away.

So I watch Mad Max tonight and I remember when I dated great girls and felt my whole life was ahead of me. I remember the olive-skinned number at the URL magazine desk and how she’d given me her phone number and intimated she would give me much more. I remember that last gasp of youth when I thought I could throw away my unhappy childhood and make myself over as something wonderful.

I haven’t stayed in touch with anyone from UCLA that year. I spent most of it on my sick bed. People thought I was a quitter and they didn’t take much notice of me.

I wonder what happened to the girl. Did she age gracefully? I’ve dated 40 year old women who look like older versions of her, but I never got any of them when they were at their prime. Or when I was at mine.

Robert emails: “Luke why don’t you try this transition?

Khunrum emails: “Rob, if you’ve ever seen Luke and Rabbi Rabbs (the Laurel and Hardy of Torah) on Luke’s spy cam, you’d know that no further training is needed in the clown department.”

In his book Tell The Truth Until They Bleed, Josh Alan Friedman has a great chapter on dating Ronnie Spector of Be My Baby fame. “For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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