for the damon family. on 9/11.
i sat less than a mile today from where i woke up ten years ago on 9/11/2001. cafe gratitude. the corner of melrose and larchmont. at times a confusing place mixed with all sorts of rumors: “a cult” “the service is less than grateful” “i’m grateful when i leave”. to “most amazing place ever” “best smoothies ever” “best vegan restaurant ever”. i love this joint. i really do. i love the gal with the glitter eye shadow who always ends being my server. i love the i am fortified bowl i ALWAYS get. i love tasting a bite of everyone else’s food. then ordering my usual. i love Cary, the sometimes manager who i found is a really good dancer to their super hilarious staff version of “you say it’s your birthday”. i really like this place.
meeting two of my favorite people on the planet, andrew and lindsey, we try not to hinder our conversation when ellen degeneres and portia derossi plop down at the table next to us. we’re all trying to let them eat in peace but secretly inside we want to turn and say:
we do a pretty good job of keeping it cool. and talk about the recent les miz casting choices for tom hooper’s go at it. run into lindsey’s close actor friend who survived her first “love scene” and someone andrew knows one table over with their adorable children. everyone pontificates if we all ordered what we really wanted. we talk and talk. and then it’s time to go. as i walk out on to larchmont. i think about the damons.
less than a mile away. i’ll never forget that night/morning september 10/11 2001. i had been having nightmares all night long. horrible ones. world ending nightmares. tossing and turning and sweating. i didn’t live in los angeles. i lived in new york. all my stuff had been boxed up from my last apartment and was sitting in my soon to be ex boyfriend’s apartment. i was between jobs. between apartments. between life. and had ended up in los angeles after an elongated migration to san clemente to spend the summer surfing with my family after almost three grueling years on all my children. soap opera boot camp. my agent who i met on the dance floor of the daytime emmy awards in 1999 had convinced me to drive up to los angeles to take some general meetings and go on some auditions. i didn’t know if i even wanted to act anymore. i was burnt out. burnt embers. no glow.
but i did it. i came up to LA. i called up my good friend chris damon who i had also met that same eve of the daytime emmy awards in 1999 and who kind of had become a brother. his parents, a surrogate family… and i drove up and freakin’ went on some auditions. and i got called back. and i got called back. and i stayed another week. then another week. then another. see. that’s the thing about los angeles. you don’t wake up one day and say “i’m going to LA”. you go. you try it out. you test the water. you say you’re going to leave. and then one thing leads to another. 10 years later…
so. i’m staying with the damons. in hancock park. near larchmont. in their guest bedroom. every week changing my flight to accommodate another callback. until finally i said “no more!”. booked my ticket for the morning of september 11, 2001. back to new york city. well. i got another audition. then a call back. and i postponed my flight again… little did i know. indefinitely.
i heard chris’s voice. “oh my god! a plane just crashed into the world trade center tower! oh my god!”. i awoke from my terrible nightmares. i remember seeing the room from a horizontal position. the pale yellow walls. the bay window. flowered roll down curtains. the divets in the cream door with a brass handle that sagged from years of wear. the twin bed that mirrored my twin bed with matching comforter. like a dream i pulled myself up to perpendicular. floated over to the door. like a moving walkway i was in the bright sunlight of chris’s room staring at his televsion. his 6’2’ ish shoulder blocked my view of his television set. i saw smoke. we didn’t understand. it was a mistake. poor pilot. poor passengers. what had happened? how did they lose control? it was a horrible accident. we didn’t understand. and we stood and watched and we listened. and then another plane. there was another plane. i remember the pit in my stomach and thinking oh. this is not an accident. i went back to my room. door open. fell to my knees. prayed. cried out to God. chris and i would stare at each other. we would watch tv. i was getting phone calls. my family called me. i was supposed to be on a plane going back to new york. but i wasn’t. i wasn’t. i was in los angeles.
i’ll never forget the eery streets of larchmont village and hancock park that day. cafe gratitude did not exist then. the structure that encases the little nook of a cafe wasn’t even a glimmer in the contractor’s eye. i’ll never forget the deep sense of wondering was this only the beginning? was it the beginning of the end? was los angeles next? after the other attempted attacks. were we at war? were we all under attack?
and we were. and we are. in some form or fashion. our beings are under attack. life. life is hard. life challenges us daily to be grateful. because we think about death and despair and destruction. and we think about 9/11 and we look at God and we shake our fists. and we lose. and we think what do i have to be grateful for? when there is so much pain and suffering. and then i look at the menu at cafe gratitude and i see their donation bowl, where you can pay it forward with a meal. and i taste quinoa. and i look at my friend’s beautiful faces across from me. and i think about my son. and the life of my father. and i think about moments. i think about the damons. i think about the damons.
i never moved back to new york.
i’m going to new york this fall for a good amount of time. to fulfill a dream. to reconnect with a city. to right a wrong. to be grateful. to show gratitude.
click on picture to donate to the 9/11 memorial fund.