Bill Burkett
7 min readFeb 23, 2024

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Got on board a westbound seven forty seven

Didn’t think before deciding what to do…

Seems it never rains in southern California

Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before

It never rains in California, but girl don’t they warn ya

It pours, man it pours…

— Hazlewood and Hammond, It Never Rains in Southern California

Available at Amazon Books

Chapter 13: Rain in Southern California

The night after Giselle introduced me to pot, we went to Chinatown for a late dinner. It was raining again. From the moment we left her place, our talk was charged with sexual tension as it had never been. When she attempted to dispel it with some comment about how she was better at being a good friend than a girlfriend, I sucked up all my courage and said I want more. You don’t have to say anything, just know that.

We had a table by a rear window on the second floor, where we could watch the rain sluice down on abandoned Asian architecture usually aswarm with tourists. Almost had the place to ourselves. A solicitous elderly Chinese waiter treated us well. When our eyes weren’t locked, I watched her gaze out the window as we tiptoed carefully around my declaration. Resolutely refused to take back what I said, but did not press. My appetite was fine. For once I felt no constricted fear of a female as I waited for her decision.

Finally she kind of exhaled and said, “What do you want?”

I held out my hand. “For you to take my hand.”

She took my hand. Deep breath. “I think I want to be held.”

We stood. She stepped around the table and into my arms. It was natural as breathing, validating every moment we had been together since I got to LA. I felt a vast enveloping peace steal through me, obviating all past and future. This must be what being in love felt like. The old Chinese waiter grinned a happy benediction and gave a strangely ceremonious little bow, his seal of approval.

We exited the front of the restaurant into a blinding glare of klieg lights and bustling activity, as if the vacant rear promenade was an illusion. Hollywood had come to Chinatown. Cops had closed the street for a movie set: directors in camp chairs under umbrellas, milling crew, big cameras shielded from the weather, lights sizzling when raindrops hit. A guy said we had to wait till “Cut.” A wide window across the street shattered. Fighting actors came tumbling out. Actors uniformed as LAPD dragged cursing, spitting “hookers” out of the make-believe bar and shoved them in a paddy wagon. There was a scream, realistic.

One of the actresses busted her head — ironic since the movie being filmed was Busting — on the door of the paddy wagon. “Cut” had a dual meaning when it was shouted. Right behind first-aid attendants to the rear of the wagon was a film-company representative waving a clipboard and pen.

Giselle sprang to action, elbowing through the cluster of movie people to the bleeding girl. Hand up like a traffic cop to the guy with the clipboard. “Do not sign anything — anything — until you talk to your Screen Actors Guild rep,” she said loudly. “And after you’ve seen your own doctor,” she added.

The movie guy with the clipboard wanted to resent it. But the other actors rallied, agreeing with Giselle. She strode that unlikely stage like the Valkyrie in command. Recognizing her power, film people made nice. The actress was taken away to an emergency room while they replaced the fake window glass for another take. Somebody said the fancy sports car behind the paddy wagon belonged to Elliot Gould, the star, who for a short while in the seventies was almost as hot a property as his ex-wife, Barbra Streisand.

I could care less. Because Giselle walked right back into my arms, as if shaping up the movie people was too ordinary to remark upon. I had the impression gawkers envied me. A real cop working the street barricade gave me a man-to-man grin like, Man, she’s something! I grinned back. I already knew that. So did cop brass at Parker Center, but probably not the way he meant.

Somehow we were back in the car. I drove out one of the deserted boulevards toward the ocean. By mutual consent it just seemed right to return to Hermosa Beach, where we went on what felt like an unacknowledged first date. I have no memory of discussing it. No real memory of what we said on the way — just of the new deep intimacy of every exchange. We had been together one way before I held out my hand. We were together another way now. It was enough. More than enough. I had no thought of past, or future, or anything but her, right here, right now.

We walked on the beach, ended up on the pier holding each other and, finally, kissed. Waves hissed beneath. The rain had diminished to mist. Night fishermen brooded over their rods like hooded monks. At some point I turned her in my arms and kissed her neck while I slipped my hands under her shirt to cup her breasts. I told her about my sarcoidosis. Assured her it was not contagious. Pennsylvania doctors said sarcoidosis was incurable. There was no way to predict when, not if, it would recur.

Heavy steroids drove it into hiding and my last lung X-ray had shown scars clearing up, but it was always in the back of my mind. Not too far back if I told her so soon. As if I wanted to warn her I might be under a death sentence. Given my belief Fate always had it in for me, I half-expected a recurrence in retaliation for this sudden joy. She later said I might as well have told her I had “green blood or something.” It didn’t matter, she already had made up her mind.

It was getting on toward morning when we left for her place. I recall the thickening traffic, Angelenos on their morning commute. My every sense was exhausted, dazed, but sharp-edged with pity for the lemmings around us who could not possibly know the sheer happiness I felt. She later recalled her impatience at making out in her living room, wanting to move to the bedroom. I kept whispering no, slow down, and continued to arouse her. She concluded I was making her wait on purpose. Already she knew me very well. I was making her — and me — wait. It was a work morning. If we went in the bedroom, we weren’t leaving, not for hours. I absolutely would not allow us to rush. And she had to be at work by nine.

When she finally understood I was going, she rummaged around and produced a spare key. When she handed the key to me and said if you get home first, use it, all my quivering senses coalesced into something like reverence. That simple transaction reverberated more powerfully than any formal ceremony or hundred declarations of love.

Walking to my car, an old Vic Damone Hit Parade song of my youth floated through my brain: “the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before…does enchantment pour, out of every door? No, it’s just on the street where you live…”

I have no idea how she got through her day. I had special status as the PR guy reporting directly to DC and used it shamelessly to sack out in my hotel room. Called in to say I was writing stories for the union newspaper I edited under “other duties as assigned.” Slept fitfully.

The clock refused to hurry. A watched pot may never boil, but this watching pot was at high boil. Would she come to her senses? Decide this was a bad idea? It was a bad idea. She knew I was married. Knew I had no plans to change that. I had leveled with her that I made no pretense my wife didn’t understand me or I didn’t love her. I tried to access guilt for what I contemplated. My brain would not oblige. Sealed my Florida life away in a locked compartment.

Every single thought cycled back to Giselle. To the balky clock. Would this damn day never end? Don’t remember if I even ate. Forced myself to last out the afternoon. When I could take it no more, innate paranoia had me park my car several blocks away in case of drop-ins by union people.

Again I walked on air like the Damone song; couldn’t get the melody out of my mind. Let myself into the still apartment almost furtively. Amazed I was actually there. Nervous as hell. My pipe couldn’t calm me. I had no idea how to make coffee in her French press. I was in quite a state.

Her delight to find me waiting made it all worthwhile. Don’t remember if I ever got coffee. We were both overwrought and exhausted, and her bed was actually two singles wedged together at uneven heights, a challenge for two large people. Didn’t matter; it was all just wonderful, clumsy and elegant and crazy. When we rested we slept so tightly together you could not have inserted a playing card between us. I had a lingering fear I would move in my sleep and fall into the crack. I never did.

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.