Actually, there is no me and Morrison, meaning, of course, me and Jim Morrison.
There is only me admiring Morrison’s enormous talent, which I have done since January 6, 1967 when I saw The Doors at the Fillmore Auditorium, the band’s first appearance away from Los Angeles. The Doors were on a bill with Sopwith Camel and The Young Rascals that night and their performance remains one of the most electrifying I have ever seen. The next morning I went to Town & Country Records in San Mateo and bought their eponymous first album, which had been released that same week and which I promptly set about trying to wear out.
Now the reason I am mentioning this is that earlier today when I discovered that the 40th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death is just a few days away, I remembered the time in the early ’80s I tried to spend a night in his home from 1968-70: Room 32 of the Alta Cienega Motel in West Hollywood.
I knew the Alta Cienega had been his home because it was mentioned in the first Morrison biography, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” that was published in 1980. Shortly after I read that book, I had to travel to Los Angeles to further (i.e. establish) my career. On the drive down from the Bay Area, I decided since my three scheduled meetings were in West Hollywood and since I needed a place to stay for two nights, I’d give the Alta Cienega a shot.
It was dark when I pulled my yellow, ’68 VW Beetle into the parking lot of the seedy motel, which was located on the corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard. The infamous Sunset strip was just up the hill, the infamous Barney’s Beanery was just around the corner and a hopping 7-11 was directly across the street.
When I rang the office bell, a light inside flashed on and a door slid open behind a small, barred window with a wooden ledge. The face of an ancient Asian woman appeared behind the bars. I asked if there were any vacancies and she wordlessly slid a registration form and a pen under the bars and onto the ledge. While filling out the registration card, I asked if there was a chance Room 32 was vacant. She replied, “$24. Cash only.” I pushed the money under the bars and she pushed a room key at me and slammed the door shut.
I don’t remember the number of the room in which I stayed that night, but it was on the second floor, it wasn’t #32 and it needed a major makeover to qualify as toxic.
When I was leaving the next morning, my next-door neighbor, a tall, skinny, shirtless, barefoot, long-haired gentleman was smoking a joint while leaning against the wall next to his room’s open door, out of which Dylan’s voice floated. When I shuffled past him, he gestured with his right hand and asked if I wanted to buy a painting.
Leaning against the wall next to him were three or four unframed canvasses, each of which was painted solid black. I glanced into his room and saw at least a dozen other canvasses painted black. I thanked him, but said I wasn’t in a position to buy art at the moment. Or something.
In the parking lot, I walked past a rusty, hideously dented, blue and white Rambler station wagon that was stuffed with black paintings. I figured it was my former neighbor’s car and that he was a premanent resident at the ol’ Alta Cienega.
When someone passes away, people often say that he or she has gone to a better place.
In Jim Morrison’s case, I firmly believe that is true.