a million miles away

06/20/2024 1 By BuddyCushman

I played a song earlier which brought into the room with me my old friend Doug Martin, who passed away in 2003. That’s Dr. Doug Martin, him with a Ph.D. from UCLA in Urban Planning or some such thing.

We met in 1977 when my other friend Bob Zimmerman – who passed away in 2010 – brought me along to his job at The Westside Center for Independent Living (WCIL), where he, Bob, was chief fundraiser. Doug had formed from nowhere WCIL and he was its Executive Director. It was just the second Center for Independent Living in California, following the Berkeley CIL, making it just the second in the country. It offered all kinds of supportive services for people with polio, CP, blindness, deafness, Down syndrome, everything falling out of ‘disability’. Doug had polio.

I was newly out to California, the first of numerous times, crashing on Bob’s bedroom floor in a cottage in Venice Beach he shared with four others guys, and I began volunteering at WCIL. I was 28. At some point Doug asked me if maybe I’d consider becoming one of his attendants. I said sure – one of my better decisions in this long life I do my best to carry on for my missing friends – and I traveled with him to places like Oakland and Sacramento and San Francisco and Washington D.C. as he furthered the cause of disability rights. Doug was right there when they signed the ADA.

There are wild stories, one involving me hanging our with Dr. Hunter Thompson, where I was flown out from Massachusetts on the state of California’s nickel to act as Doug’s attendant again, after I’d punked out and journeyed back to the place of my birth. There were many times when my phone would ring, especially when I was living in a funky third-floor apartment in Somerville, and it would be Doug and all he would say was this – “Bud, Plimsouls.” Or, “Bud, Thompson Twins.” Best friends come up with their own languages.

Earlier I spontaneously went on YouTube and played “A Million Miles Away” by the Plimsouls, an act I’d shared with Doug many times in his room in his parents fifth-floor apartment on Wilshire Boulevard in West LA. Which is when Doug joined me here today.