July 01, 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole

When I signed up for today's day-long tour of local theaters with the Theatrical Historical Society of America's annual "Conclave" conference, I had no idea I'd find myself convalescing at home later.

Usually the dangerous adventures are those I go on by myself. But I suppose that's when I'm the most careful.

I have a certain expectation, I guess, that when I've paid for a ticket—especially one that's as much as $175—part of what I get with my money is some sense of security.

You'd think I was paying for safety and guidance, if nothing else.

But it turns out that I may be safest at all when I'm alone. Although I've fallen on the trail more than once, it seems that my biggest injuries—both emotional and physical—have come at the hands of another.

And taking one not-so-little fall today has sent me down the rabbit hole of distrust and misanthropy and fatalism.

But somehow, I managed to dodge any twinge of regret—despite the pain I'm in right now, despite the injuries I've sustained, and despite the tears I've cried.

I've taken quite a few tours of theaters around Southern California, but instead of that making me feel accomplished, it shines a spotlight on the ones I haven't yet been able to get into.

And one of those was the Westlake Theatre, built in 1926.

Some Art Deco touches—like the ticket booth—were added by S. Charles Lee as part of a "modernization" in 1935.

But mostly, the former first-run movie theater (which also staged vaudeville productions) explodes with Churrigueresque details, both inside and out.

It was grossly converted into a swap meet in the 1990s, keeping many of the original details (besides filling in the orchestra rake with a flat poured concrete floor)...

...although not maintaining them very nicely.

The swap meet closed in 2011 and, with the building now designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there's been some hope to revitalize it as a performance space.

Less interested in the vestiges of the retail flea below, I headed up to the balcony to see what ornamentation remained.

Whether it was plaster molds or peeling paint...

...I had my eyes cast upwards.

And that was my mistake.

When I proceeded into the balcony seating area, I could tell that our group had no business being up there.

Seats had been replaced by Santas, which, in the absence of railings, were the sturdiest things to hold onto up there.

It was dark, but I've gotten better about being in the dark. I've been less afraid.

And not only was I not alone—but the others in my group had flashlights that helped me see.

Photo: Public domain

So, when I got to the projection booth, I just walked in. I didn't feel my way with my foot before stepping. I didn't pull out my cell phone for light. I just put one foot in front of the other.

And one foot went straight through a hole in the floor.

I barely knew what had happened to me. I noticed my camera in my right hand hitting the floor before I noticed that I was crotch-deep in a hole, my left leg dangling, and my right ankle, foot, and toes twisted.

"Are you OK?" someone kept asking me. But he was standing outside of the projection booth, and didn't advance closer. I had a sense of more people standing behind me, but no one came over to help. No one pulled me out of the hole.

I might as well have been alone.

The man persisted in asking me if I was OK. Finally, I said, "I'm OK. I'm not good, but I'm OK."

But the truth is, I was only conscious. Nothing was broken. But I wasn't OK.

And I'd just wasted precious time by falling into a hole in the floor. So, what could I do? I got up, brushed myself off (not realizing my face was also covered in dirt or that I was bleeding), and took more photos.

When I realized that the rest of the itinerary for the day had changed from what I'd originally signed up for—with the next three theaters being those I've already been to before—I just wanted to go home.

So, I left, in tears.

Maybe I'd already been thrown off-kilter first thing that morning, because the organizers had given me the wrong meeting time, and the bus had already left without me. After having already paid for all-day parking Downtown, I'd rushed to the Westlake Theatre in my car, and I'd scrambled to find an organizer to give me my badge and a quick orientation.

But I'd arrived late, so I'd marched on to get my photos and see as much as I could before we all got ushered back out all too soon. I wasn't as careful as I should've been. But I didn't really know how careful I needed to be in there.

No one had given me a waiver to sign. No one had told me to wear sneakers. No one said, "Watch out for the hole in the floor."

In the hours that followed, I felt grateful that the hole had been big enough to fit my entire thigh, and that my rear end had been plentiful enough to cushion my fall.

I was relieved that my car was right there, so I could drive myself home instead of being stranded on that bus.

I was even somewhat satisfied to have crossed the Westlake Theatre off my list—though now I have no love for that place, given what happened to me there.

It could've been a lot worse. But it reminded me how easily I can fall down the rabbit hole when something bad happens—both physically and mentally.

I have an autoimmune disease, so, as it is, my body is constantly attacking itself. But when I catch a sniffle or, God forbid, eat something bad like I did last week, it sends me into a disabling flare-up. A tummy ache turns into a migraine. And a stubbed toe can throw out my back.

That's why it was so hard on me when someone rear-ended me three years ago, giving me whiplash and head trauma. I'm still dyslexic from it. I'm not sure that will ever go away.

I guess this is what my parents—particularly my mother—tried to protect me from when I was a child, forbidding me from riding my bike past a certain perimeter or going to the movies or the mall or staying after school for much of anything.

Bad things happen.

Worse things happen.

And I was so easily devastated by the lack of care and concern, the disorganization, and the negligence that I faced today. The THS organizers refunded my money and sent flowers to my apartment this afternoon with a note that apologized for the "inconvenience" I'd encountered.

That's nice, but it wasn't merely inconvenient. It was thoughtless and heartless.

But when it comes down to it, I just can't stay home and hide from the world. The fear of what might happen is just as bad (if not worse) than what actually happens.

It's almost better to get stung than to keep running from the bees.

Related Posts:
Twice Fallen, Twice Shy
A Kick in the Head, Part 4 - Conclusion
It Got Worse
I Am Woman, Hear My Story

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