|He Lived on Love Street:
Surprise Awaits a Visitor to Jim Morrison's Laurel Canyon Home
by Ms. Mojo
In the late summer of 2001 I went to L.A., ostensibly for a vacation with my two teenage daughters. I was going to see my kid sister who had recently moved to the L.A. area, and to check out colleges for my 17 year old daughter. I also had it in the back of my mind that perhaps I would get around to seeing some Jim Morrison "sites", if I could squeeze the time in, and my sister would be willing to take pity on me in her role as designated chauffeur. Luckily, I have a benevolent sister, and although she didnt quite understand the whole Jim Morrison allure, trying instead to talk me into visiting Hollywood stars cemetery sites, she eventually concluded I really was serious.
I didnt have any officially mapped out plan, other than to see a few sites this visit. My daughter Jessica and I took a tour of UCLA, as she is interested in the Film School program. I imagined Jim going to school at this beautiful campus, and I wondered what the atmosphere was like back in the 1960s, and how it has changed. I bet it was a creative hotbed then, teeming with eager young filmmakers ready to push the envelope, not giving a damn about gross percentages or commercial box office appeal. I also did the requisite Venice Beach trek (Id been many times before), but this time I tracked down the Jim Morrison mural in the alley street behind the main boulevard, finding it a somewhat faded homage to the late great Jim and the impact he had to the area.
Our next stop was to the Laurel Canyon Country Store. Winding down Laurel Canyon Boulevard listening to the Doors (of course!) was such a pleasant change from the frenetic speed of the freeways, signs and crowds. I suspect that back then it was more isolated and had much less traffic. I imagine that must have been appealing to Pam. Here it was nestled in the Hollywood Hills, so close to everything, yet it seemed to have a remote and secluded quality.
We parked and popped into the small store, to take a look around and buy a soda, while reflecting that the store had an unassuming appeal that Jim would have liked. I spotted a couple of pictures of the Doors near the cash register, and a little quote on the counter from Love Street; "There's this store where the creatures meet" - a small recognition of Jim and his connection to the store. Jim and Pam's house on Love Street was directly behind the store. There it stood; a two-story wood home, so unassuming, and looking a bit dated. I didn't have any wild expectations, I just wanted a glance and to soak up any vibes, and being a visual person, I wanted to imagine what had been.
I took a picture of Jessi standing before the front wooden gate, as my 11-year-old nephew Sam chose to investigate the perimeter of the house. It appeared to us that the house was vacant as there were no curtains in the main window, and it looked empty from our viewpoint. I ran back to the car to reload the camera and get one or two last shots. When I came back, Jessi and Sam were missing, and the front gate of Jims house was ajar! I pushed open the gate, feeling like a violator, but instinct pulled me forward. There was a tiny yard and a flight of steps, which I wandered up. What appeared to be the front door was partly open. I proceeded in once I heard the strains of the kids voices. The house was void of furniture, and appeared to be in a state of renovation. The rooms didnt appear to be easily identifiable - was this a living area? There was a bathroom on the ground floor and another flight of stairs. At the top of these stairs the kids were talking with someone, so I quickly walked up, wondering what was going on. A young man, probably in his late twenties had actually let the kids in, asking them, "Can I help you?" Jessi in her absolute naivete said she just wanted to look around. (And dont mind me, I am invading your private property). Amazingly, he invited them to come in and asked Jessi if she knew the history of the property. She said yes, that she knew Jim Morrison had lived here and she had come from out of state to see it.
By this time, I joined the little group and introduced myself. I guess it was then, as I was getting my mental bearings, that I realized just where I was, and this put me in a state of pure amazement and disbelief - knowing I was walking around the very house Jim and Pam had lived in.
The young man, who was the new owner, generously gave us a tour of this historic residence, describing bits of history and anecdotes he was aware of. He had recently closed on the property and although he was a Jim fan, he didnt buy the property for that reason, but because he liked the design and the space. He commented that had we come any other time, the house would have been crawling with construction people and totally inaccessible. Jessi whispered to me that Jim must be looking out for us. The young man pointed out a tiny closet in the bedroom and said that he had been told that Jim often stationed himself in that embryonic closet space to write poetry or songs (No huge rock star walk-in closets here). From this bedroom was a very small balcony that looked out onto the street and the country store. The kitchen was very small, having a very earthy quality with lots of wood - in the mode of the sixties, and I was surprised it didnt seem t o have been updated.
The workmen usually bring in a heavy duty workbench for wood cutting and other restoration work.
There was a large bell on the ceiling of the top floor, that you could actually see from the street through the large picture window; it had a ceremonial quality and I am not sure if it was there when Jim lived there. The bell was in an area that seemed to be a dining room (As ther was no furniture, I couldnt tell, only imagine). This "dining area" had a set of glass doors that led out of the house onto a lovely deck overlooking the side street - I could just imagine the lively conversations with friends and all manner of imbibing that went on here. There was yet another smaller deck atop that one that seemed carved out of the side of the hill.
Downstairs, our guide pointed out a hidden shower stall in the bathroom, now covered up with a vanity. The vanity was constructed in such a way that you could literally pull the entire unit out and see the shower stall behind it, sealed off but still reverently preserved. The shower tiles still had writings on them that said among other things "I love Jim." The bathroom was wood as well, and the sink faucet was a golden goose or duck with handles elaborately done in gold. The original staircase was no longer use, now sealed off and behind a locked door downstairs. The house embodied an intimate feel that was not at all pretentious or overdone.
I took a picture of the handsome young owner and he took a picture of us. I profusely thanked him, still not believing my incredible good luck. He received a phone call, and not wanting to overstay my uninvited visit, I gave him a quick hug and walked downstairs, trying to soak it all in. All of us were gasping in disbelief over what had just happened. Nothing could top this!
While we were sitting in the car, spilling our story out to my sister and my younger daughter, who had been waiting all the while in the car, the new owner walked by on his way to the Laurel Canyon Country Store. My sister yelled out that he had made us very happy indeed. He said he was glad to do it and wished us a great stay in L.A.
We headed out, and in our euphoric mood, made a quick stop to take photographs of the Alta Cienega Motel and the Palms bar. We all decided to get in a bit of shopping and lunch on Melrose Place and couldnt stop talking about our adventure. We bought a few items and headed to Antonios, a great Mexican restaurant on Melrose. I decided to take a few pictures of us as we ate Carne Asada and sipped margaritas. I rifled through my purse for the camera and it wasnt there. I almost broke out in a cold sweat. I dumped everything out on the table ... still no camera. We back-tracked to the car, but the camera was not in the vehicle. I retraced every step of where we had been in each and every shop and ... nothing!! I remember when we had originally parked on a side residential street, that I had thought I heard "something" drop. I had quickly looked around and had seen nothing. My euphoria quickly turned into a most profound depression and frustration. I wanted to cry, and I knew my daughter was really upset with me too.
I went to bed early that night, just thinking about what all this meant. I think of myself as someone who is not rooted in materialism, and not one to place too much value on "stuff". I tried to let it go, after all, they were just photographs. I kept thinking about it, and analyzing it, and re-thinking it. I wondered if Jim was (as Jessi had remarked earlier) really "looking out for us"? Maybe this odd turn of events was for a reason. We had stumbled upon a gift, and it was meant to be just that - a gift, not a tourists photo opportunity. I did still manage to salvage a few photos that my nephew took with his camera and the couple I had before I changed my film, so not all was lost. I even put an ad in the L.A. Times as a last ditch effort to try and see if someone located my camera, but no one answered the ad. But I cant regret those lost photos, as they are only frozen images that would not capture for one moment the invaluable, cherished and lasting memories we had in that brief moment in time inside the House on Love Street.
From Wilderness/Volume 1:
I received an Aztec wall of vision
& dissolved my room in sweet derision
Closed my eyes, prepared to go
A gentle wind inform'd me so
And bathed my skin in ether glow
Now is blessed The rest remembered
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