When I was 18 or 19 I met Israel.  His reputation had preceded him.  People at work had been talking about him for some time.  “Israel’s in France.”  “Israel will be back soon.”  The general consensus was that he was a great guy.

He was charming and cute and tall and had just gotten back from France.  That meant he was interesting.  That meant he had more to talk about than acting and LA.  At the time I lived and worked in Pasadena.  A good portion of the staff at Q’s – a bar/pool hall/restaurant – was trying to be in the entertainment industry in some way.  It was true, they were actors by day and waitresses, bartenders, and bouncers by night.  We had a soft-core porn actress, a bikini model, a few Groundlings wannabes, a screenwriter, someone who had been in Platoon, and of course “musicians.”

Israel, however, was an aspiring writer of deep, meaningful stuff – books, not movies.  He was well-read.  He knew things.

The night we met he went with me back to my tiny studio apartment.  We fucked.  But before we fucked he licked my armpit.  It was the most unusual and hottest thing anyone had ever done to me up to that point in my life.  I was smitten.

Only Israel was not back from France for long.  Within the week he went to the East Coast.  He had a plan to go there to visit some distant family member and save up money (or possibly get some money from the family member) while spending time writing.  He was then going to go to Prague.  It was the early 1990s; there was still this country called Czechoslovakia.  Communism was in the very recent past there and the city was supposed to be super-cheap and beautiful, both of which made Prague a very attractive destination for artistic types.

Israel wanted to go to Prague to have new experiences about which he could write.  But before he made his way there he invited me.

We had been talking on the phone since he left.  We had been having phone sex.  This was way back in the day before the Internet or the ubiquitous use of cell phones so we had to talk on land line phones, and for money.  Kids, there used to be this thing called long-distance charges, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Israel talked to me about Prague, about how interesting it would be.  At the time I had not ventured out of North America.  I don’t think I had been to Mexico yet.  I had been to British Columbia and Alberta with my family when I was a kid.  I had lived in California my whole life.  I was ready for something different.  I wanted an adventure.

He said I should go to Prague with him.  He said I should move to Prague with him.

I began the transition.  At the time I was making a lot of cash at work.  I was not an official tipped employee so all of my “tips” were tax-free and under-the-table.  I got tips for racking balls – pool balls, get your minds out of the gutter.  I was tipped – well, bribed – for moving people up on the waiting list for the best pool tables.  On Friday and Saturday nights it was not unusual for me to make $100 in cash.  On the way home from work I’d stop at an ATM and deposit my tips so I wasn’t tempted to spend the cash.

I was also still working at B. Dalton Books during the days.  The bookstore job covered my regular expenses, and the bar job’s earnings went toward my move to Prague.  I ordered a heavy coat from J. Crew.  That it was damn cold in Prague was one of my biggest fears.  I contacted a travel agency and set up a payment plan to buy the plane ticket to Prague.  (I didn’t have any credit cards at the time.)  I began selling off my cassettes to my friends.  I gave away other things.  I stored my stuff at my mother’s.  I stayed with my mother for a short time just before I was to leave.

I swear.  True story.

[To be continued ….]