From his apartment, Mac could hear sirens racing up Vermont Avenue towards Los Feliz. There was always a lot of noise in Los Angeles, day and night. Remembering all the cop dramas he watched as a kid, he liked to think of it as the defining sound of the city.
Still, it was rather peaceful during the day. But at night anything could happen. Last Thursday a woman was mugged outside the Rite Aid - they took her Chinese food but ignored the ten dollar bill hanging out of her back pocket.
A few days ago Mac took a walk up to the Hollywood foothills, past the valet-attended villas on Hillhurst Avenue to the beginning of Griffith Park. Joan Didion once lived in the neighborhood, in a large house on Franklin Avenue. He wanted to find it to see proof that a writer could afford to live in such a beautiful home. But after standing on a street corner for five minutes and scrolling through a blog post on his phone, he discovered it was a four-mile walk away on the other side of Hollywood.
He had been reading Didion’s 1979 collection, The White Album, and had become particularly fascinated by her description of the Manson murders and how they'd ruptured the freewheeling lifestyle of the 1960s. Several years ago he'd had a brief obsession with the Manson Family, but had never got around to learning more about Charles and his disciples. He’d once gone to a bookshop to buy Helter Skelter, but had come away with a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer instead.
Mac was still paranoid about googling Charles Manson. What if someone from the government was tracking his activity and misunderstood his research? It seemed plausible. His phone was always predicting the things he was searching with alarming accuracy.
His apartment was in a complex built in the 1950s with twelve identical multi-story units, each with a downstairs living area and two upstairs bedrooms. From his living room window he could see mustard-coloured paint peeling off his neighbour’s outside wall. There was a long white cable running from the ground up to the roof, connecting to a satellite dish. In the distance, a single palm tree swayed in the breeze.
The weather in Los Angeles had been unseasonably cold and Mac’s roommate arrived home wearing a trench coat. He looked like William Burroughs, about to board a train east to New York. For the past six weeks his roommate had been tutoring at a community college in West Hollywood and he’d fallen in love with a girl there. A student. Mac had heard her coming and going, but his roommate was determined to keep her identity a secret. Apparently it had to stay that way until the end of the semester.
Mac started thinking about Sharon Tate, and what would happen if his roommate's girlfriend turned out to be related to a Manson family member. He wondered if she’d peeked in one night and seen the portrait of Tate hanging on his bedroom wall, and if that’s why she wanted to remain anonymous.
Downstairs, he heard his roommate pull back the tab on a can of LaCroix. It was the last can from a box of 24 that Mac had bought from the Whole Foods on Santa Monica and Fairfax. He’d been drinking about five a day and had become mildly addicted. He called out, “If you’re drinking that last can, can you buy more? You can get them on Amazon Prime.” He paused and then yelled, “Make sure you get pamplemousse.”
Nick Fulton is a freelance writer and music critic from New Zealand, based in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has featured on Pitchfork, Noisey, i-D, Bandcamp, and in numerous arts and culture publications.