It’s dark. I know there’s no parking, but I don’t want to pay for Uber or a taxi. I must go to the party because I am honored to be invited and because UCLA makes my heart race (it was the repository of my grandest dreams in my early 20s).
So I park on Westwood Blvd near Coffee Bean and begin a mile trek north. It’s 6:45 p.m. and there’s a light rain. I’m not worried. I have an umbrella.
Fifteen minutes into my walk, the rain comes down in buckets. I’m soaked through. My sweater is soaked. My jeans are soaked. My shoes and socks are soaked.
I try to guess at the best directions to the party, branching off from the instructions on Google Maps, but as I climb the hill and the street I seek doesn’t appear, I start asking asians for help. They’re very nice. They say it’s up there.
When it doesn’t appear, I pull out my Blackberry and open the Maps app and locate my destination 300 yards away.
I finally arrive 15 minutes after the starting time. I figure I’ll be the first guest. I know it will operate on Jewish time, people won’t start showing up until at least an hour late, but I was raised a WASP, and I’d rather be tied to a cross and have nails pounded through my hands than to be late.
I knock on the door and there’s no answer. I knock again and there’s no answer. I keep knocking and there’s never an answer. There’s just noise upstairs.
A bloke who looks like a rabbi goes past. He barely glances at me, probably notes I was not born Jewish, and then goes his own way, leaving me shivering.
I knock on the next door but there’s no answer.
I’m mad. I pull out my phone and review the Facebook invitation. I’m at the right address. I post on the event’s page and I message the bloke who invited me.
I get nothing back.
I’m cold and wet and standing in the dark. It makes me mad that everyone else knows where the party is at but me. I’m mad that I came at all. I knew it was going to rain. I would have been better off staying home and staying warm.
Throughout my life, I’ve felt out of the loop. I know I lack awareness and commonsense, that everyone has gotten the program but not me, and I want to bolt and funnel my fury from the safety of my keyboard. **** ’em all!
I’m proud of myself for not bolting. A younger Luke in this situation would have left after ten minutes.
Fifteen minutes go by and a frum Jew walks up the steps and our eyes meet and I say the name of the party. “It’s upstairs,” he says and I follow him into the light (where I quickly delete my clueless FB inquiry on the event page).
How does everyone else know that the party is not at the address listed but in the social hall at the top of the building? Where do people pick up this stuff?
That’s why reporting attracts me, particularly if I can master a beat, because then I am the guy in the know.
Grrrr, there’s nothing wrong with me that a good scoop can’t cure.
The next day, I tell my story to my therapist and he says, “I want you to rewrite this story as a comedy, but without demeaning yourself.”
I tell my therapist: “So what these two girls did at the party was so stupid, they squealed with delight when they saw each other and they ran to each other and had a big hug.”
Therapist: “Did you wish that you could be squealing and hugging?”
Luke, abashed: “Yeah.”
“I want to change topic. Can we talk about my friend who really needs therapy? He’s locked in a hell of his own making. He needs a therapist to slice him open.”
Therapist: “Let me slice you open. What were you avoiding earlier?”
Luke: “It was awkward and yucky. I want to get away from it. I guess the more I participate and interact with people, the happier I am.”
Therapist: “That’s the content. What’s the emotion behind the content?”
Luke: “I felt important, connected. I had a place in the family. So much of my life, I haven’t felt that.”
Therapist: “Do you have a sense of self?”
Luke, after a long pause: “What does that mean?”
* All of my therapists tell me that when I let my cynical guard down, I am easier to get close to.
* Most of the time I was living in Northern California (1977 to 1993), I was yearning to move to Southern California, where I thought my life would really begin. Walking down Gayley Avenue in Westwood last night filled me with emotion because when I was young, I invested so many hopes and dreams into the glorious life I’d create at UCLA. And then when I got there at age 22, I’d regularly walk past this weird foreboding building I’d mispronounce – Chabad. Now Chabad feels like home. I can go home again.