Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Grill is located just off of Rodeo Drive, expensive and hidden enough to avoid hungry, coupon-clipping tourists wondering where the nearest Longhorn is. I fall into this category, by the way. It’s a cramped, bustling restaurant full of insecure health nuts who take themselves too seriously. Upon entering I hear at least two iPhone related conversations:
“Oh, you have to get one! The gadgets…”
“What about the gadgets?”
“There’s so many of them! Look at what I can do with just my fingers!”
Like babies discovering that thing between their legs grows when touched.
LA, particularly the westside, is full of simple people with money. Imagine every asshole who ever made homecoming court living in one area. Style, but no substance. Vienna sausage with a gourmet label.
Why am I here in the first place?
Joe Blaze. I have no idea what the fuck Joe does. I think he wants to manage or be a motivational speaker or something. He mentions Tony Robbins a lot. Joe is a real nice guy. He says hi to everyone and goes around giving hugs. High-octane, full of energy, always on. He acts like an overly protective mother thinks her child would act if she gave him caffeine before bedtime.
I have a seat on the bench next to three other people Joe roped into lunch: a young, gay optometrist in a polo shirt, a middle-aged Asian man with a tiny body and giant head and parted, reddish hair, and a spiky-haired Asian kid who can’t decide if he’s more academic or Fast and the Furious.
The big-headed, tiny-bodied Asian man takes out a yellow legal pad and looks over at me:
“So do you have any ideas for the Joe Blaze Show?”
“Basically it’s going to be like a real-life Entourage and Joe’s going to be the hero at the end of every show. There are going to be complications and problems and Joe’s going to use his networking powers to save the day.”
I smile and nod. What. The. Fuck.
Joe looks down at us lovingly, all lined up on the bench like sitting ducks. He calls us his children.
I know I shouldn’t have let him talk me into lunch.
He’s been pushing it on me for a while, at Equinox, and one day I finally just didn’t have an excuse. It’s not that I don’t want a free lunch in an expensive restaurant, because I fucking do. I just don’t want to endure a sales pitch. It’s like having lunch with a Marine Recruiter on the eve of your eighteenth birthday. You know what you’re getting yourself into. See, Joe is an idea man. Next-big-things swim around in his head all day long and if he could only bring one of them to fruition he’d be a rich, rich man. But the problem with having too many ideas is you can never focus on one.
A loopy, middle-aged, mammoth-titted woman in a black dress shows up. She wears a giant hat and talks like she’s excited about everything. Like most older women in LA, I’m convinced she’s forced herself to forget the exact year she was born. That way she can be in her twenties forever.
We get cramped together at a small round table near the back of the restaurant. Joe makes a joke about how much space I take up.
“I know! Look at these arms,” the gay optometrist says. And then, without asking, he squeezes one of them and smiles at me with a twinkle in his eye. Fuck. Not again.
There’s bread at the table and I’m starving because I had small breakfast on purpose. Nobody touches the bread, though, and I feel self-conscious. But I slice myself some carbs anyway. My movements are restricted, like I’m in coach on a crowded airplane. I don’t want to brush up against the optometrist and give him the wrong idea. I don’t want to knock over everyone’s iced tea on this not-sturdy table.
A waitress brings toast and broccoli to the table – appetizers, I guess – and asks me what I want to drink.
“Diet coke, please.”
And I’m happy because I haven’t had an ice cold diet coke at a restaurant forever. I miss the cold glass, the condensation on my fingers, the free refills. A moment later the waitress returns with a tiny glass of ice and a miniature, eight ounce bottle of diet coke that looks like it’s manufactured specifically for the midget community.
She pours the diet coke for me and, like that, the bottle is empty. Four dollars, I’m guessing. Maybe five. I hate to have the I’m-not-paying-so-I’ll-get-whatever-the-fuck-I-want mentality, but this is ridiculous. I ordered a diet coke, not a diet diet coke. Not a diet coke on a diet.
I order another.
Joe takes out his own yellow legal pad. He proceeds to draw diagonal arrows on it, coloring in the heads with the black ink from his pen. Lots of arrows.
The loopy woman starts to talk about her soon-to-be burgeoning cookie enterprise.
“I’m going to be like the Mrs. Fields of the health cookie industry. I’m going to be the cookie mother.”
“The cookie diva. Cookie mother sounds fat,” the gay optometrist says.
“Ooh! I like that! Cookie di-va!”
Joe writes “cookie” on his legal pad. He circles it and draws three arrows pointing to it.
An older gay man who looks like Michael York joins us at the table. The woman continues to talk about her cookies.
“And there’s time-released carbs and no trans-fats and almost no calories. In fact, the time-released carbs have barely any calories at all.”
“We’re putting hemp in them. Not marijuana hemp, but hemp hemp. They have these free radicals and stuff that make you feel better. One of my girlfriends broke up with her boyfriend recently and she was sad and crying and I gave her a cookie and within ten minutes she was cranking the stereo and dancing!”
Everyone at the table either says no or gives her these incredulous “noooo” looks like a skeptical audience in an infomercial.
“I swear! We’re taking these to Oprah. We’re going on Oprah with these. We just need some investment money so we can be prepared for all the orders we’re going to get.”
“I want to invest,” the gay optometrist says.
I feel around in my pocket for loose change.
Cookie Diva passes around some cookies, which surprisingly don’t taste like shit. I have two. Everyone exclaims how good they taste. Cookie Diva revels and basks.
“I wish I could say it’s me, but it’s the power of the chocolate.”
The menus come, finally, and I can’t decide if I want the twenty-five dollar steak salad or the seventeen dollar grilled chicken sandwich. Joe asks the spiky-haired Asian kid to tell us about his business ventures.
“Well, you know how there’s Sprint and AT&T and Verizon?”
“Well there’s this other company called ACU and they’re really good and they’ll totally give you this brand new phone for free if you sign up with them. Look.”
He takes out flyers and passes them around. Everyone reads with genuine interest. Either that or they’re really good actors.
Michael York speaks up. He’s here to help with the pitch:
“Video phones are the wave of the future. They’ll do especially well in the Lah-tino community because they’ll be able to see their families back in Mexico or wherever.”
“That’s such a good idea!” Cookie Diva says.
Joe writes “idea” on his pad. Circles it. Arrows it. Shit, you already know.
“I know. It’s even endorsed by Donald Trump,” Spiky-Haired Asian says. And then he shows us a picture of Donald Trump.
Michael York looks at me:
“Are you happy with your phone?”
“Uh… I mean I can talk on it.”
“Let me see it.”
I take out my first or second generation Sprint camera phone and flip it open. I can hear a collective, restrained gasp.
“Oh no no no no. You need something much better than that.”
“But it works.”
“You should sign up with ACU. If you get two people to sign up under you you get $700.”
Hmm, a video phone pyramid scheme endorsed by a picture of Donald Trump. No thanks. Maybe if it was 1994. The whole thing is reminiscent of the Big Ben starter kits from Problem Child 2.
The waitress comes back and I order the steak salad and another diet diet coke. I spend the next fifteen minutes keeping my mouth shut and avoiding eye contact. I don’t want to invite sales pitches or sexual come-ons. I don’t want a video phone or a blowjob.
Through my peripheral, I see the gay optometrist checking me out. His eyes burning a hole through me.
And then Michael York’s eyes. He says this:
“You look a lot like my nephew.”
I nod and smile uncomfortably. The gay optometrist chimes in:
And then he pats my leg. I check Joe’s pad to see if he’s writing down “homosexual gang rape”. Circle. Arrow.
Lunch comes. The salad is delicious. Not twenty-five dollars delicious, but twelve dollar delicious. The conversation takes a weird(er) turn.
“We only have enough oil for ten more years. Then we’re going to collapse and die like Atlantis.”
“Did you know Atlantis had lasers?”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah. They had crystals and shined light through them. Those are lasers.”
“Didn’t they plant a time capsule in the Sphinx?”
“Yes! I was reading something about that!”
“They planted a time capsule in the Yucatan too.”
“It’s a shame they drowned.”
Does it really fucking matter who’s saying what at this point? Another conversation:
“I’ve been going to these breathing classes.”
“Kind of. You learn how to breathe. And, if you breathe a certain way, you can get higher than any drug will get you.”
Really. How do I have to breathe to believe this bullshit? I make the mistake of looking up. The big-headed tiny-bodied Asian man is staring at me. Smiling.
“So would you be interested in helping out with the Joe Blaze show?”
And from there, lunch begins its final descent. Waning conversations, mostly-empty plates. I arrived at 1:05. It’s now 4:00.
“Well, I’m gonna go catch the four bus.”
“Oh no, I’ll give you a ride,” the gay optometrist says. Great.
The walk to the car is every bit as awkward as you can imagine, and more. One big, extended what-do-I-say-now moment. We enter this fancy, underground parking garage with shops and wait for valet to pull his car around. Twenty dollar flat fee by the way.
Fucking parking in this city.
We get into his Jaguar and I comment on how I’ve been bumming rides from people and have ridden in a whole bunch of nice cars.
“How’s this one?”
He smiles. Pats my leg. We pull out of the underground parking garage into heavy traffic. We need to make left and there’s no left turn signal. It takes about twenty minutes to get back onto Santa Monica Boulevard, which is less than a half mile away.
Gay Optometrist turns on his stereo. Presses play on his CD player. Selena fills the car.
And I’m dreaming of you tonight…
“So, do you have a girlfriend?”
… until tomorrow I’ll be holding you tight…
“Yeah, in Tennessee.”
… and there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be…
… than here in my room, dreaming about you and me.
Richard Marx comes on and we don’t say anything to each other for the rest of the ride. He makes the occasional “traffic is soooo bad” comment, but that’s more for his own comfort.
He drops me off in front of work.
“Well, good luck.”
Translation: Get on your fucking way.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
From the mouth of a guy at the gym. Nice guy. Late thirties, Jewtalian looking. Friendly in an I-think-you’re-cool-and-don’t-necessarily-want-to-blow-you kind of way. Genuine enough, you know?
I give him some lifting tips, eating tips, tell him to holler at me if he has any questions.
“Definitely, man.” Lingering smile, eye contact. Maybe he does want to blow me.
But maybe he’s just nice, right? Not every guy in West Hollywood can be gay. I google him to see if he works in the industry. Maybe I can pass him a script. Maybe he knows somebody. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but this is a six-degrees town. Everyone is connected to everyone. It’s a high school.
And he’s a literary agent at CAA.
No fucking shit. This is what I love about the gym: it’s its own society with its own set of rules, own caste system. The richest most, powerful executive in the world can come into the gym and envy a construction worker. The gym levels the playing field for the common man.
I head out to the floor to help the trainer with closing duties and the agent comes over to me.
“Can you show me what you do?”
Show him some skullcrushers, barbell curls, all that. I ignore the homoeroticism of it all and tell him I’ll write him out an arm routine. But I don’t get to finish it.
So the agent gives me his email. Phone number.
“Drop me a line.”
The next day, I write him out a long, detailed email with a routine and nutrition info. Eat this before you go to bed, eat this when you wake up, etc. In-depth shit.
Receive an email back:
WOW! Thanks for writing so much! I really appreciate it! I’m buying you a drink sometime! LOL!
Wait. LOL? A literary agent uses “LOL”? Not to mention a disturbing amount of exclamation points and staccato sentence structure?
But maybe it’s just an unprofessional email he wrote on the fly. From his Blackberry.
I write back:
Not a problem. We’ll definitely grab some drinks. Looking forward to it.
Get an email back:
Awesome!! Do you have a Myspace?
I can hear a toilet flush in my soul. Same name, same age, but in no way, shape, or form a CAA literary agent. His Myspace confirms it. In the Heroes section of his profile:
The makers of KY Jelly.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
“Okay. That was the Chinese Theater. Up next, tranny hookers.”
The Hills on MTV steals two hours of my day. I consider suicide.
Aurelia is the lead in the Debbie Does Dallas musical that’s playing at the Key Club on Sunset. She works with me at the gym. I fucking love her.
She gives me a call:
“Do you want to go to this party in Malibu tonight?”
“I’d love to.”
“No, no but. Just ‘I’d love to’.”
“Oh. Most people who say ‘I’d love to’ follow it with ‘but’.”
She picks me up and then we pick up Kadriya, one of our other coworkers, from the gym. Kadriya is black and from St. Louis and I almost don’t call shotgun when we’re heading for the car because of the whole Civil Rights thing. But I always call shotgun and I figure Kadriya can pretend she’s being chauffeured around by a couple of white people, so it’s win win.
We take the long way – Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway. We drive through Beverly Hills, which is just so fucking lush with the neatly-trimmed hedges and the pretty trees. I want to get out of the car and take a deep breath. I cycle through the radio hoping “Beverly Hills” by Weezer is playing somewhere, but no luck. Maybe if it were last summer.
We drive past Bel-Air and the Fresh Prince theme song plays in my head for about five-and-a-half seconds. We pass UCLA.
And we drive. And drive.
We stop at a gas station in Malibu and as soon as I get out of the car I can smell the salt in the air. It reminds me of being little and going to the beach with my grandparents. Fucking scent, man. Fucking scent.
I buy a Twix for $1.29. No, it’s not King Size. Shit is just that expensive out here.
The party is at a Weekend at Bernie’s type house right on the beach. Not as big, but with the same huge windows that you can see people fucking in from miles away.
You can hear the waves crashing against the shore. Somebody tells us people were fucking on the beach earlier and broke a chair.
The party is like a frat party for grown-ups. Weed, alcohol, the quiet promise of bad sex with strangers. When I was younger, I used to think that grown-ups acted like grown-ups, but in the past few years I’ve learned that life is just one big extension of high school. We don’t grow old, we just get old.
There’s a vaporizer in the living room, a weed-smoking apparatus. It looks like a pencil sharpener. A chubby, wacky dude in his late-thirties who has aspirations of one day walking down stairs on his hands provides the reefer. Until then, I had never smoked out of a vaporizer before. I’m a blunt fan, but what sucks about blunts is I have big lips, bigger than Rosie O’Donnell’s labia, and they hold resin. I’m a messy weed smoker – always wiping my lips, spitting, coughing.
None of that with the vaporizer.
With a vaporizer, you don’t feel what you’re inhaling. You just have to trust that you’re getting high. You have to have faith. Kind of like believing in God, except you don’t have to wait until you’re dead to find out whether or not it works.
So I get high with Kadriya. I like getting high with black people. I feel cool. Especially if a rap song’s playing in the background. It’s like every white moment you’ve ever had, every un-PC or racial slip-up, just fades away. Can’t dance for shit? Throw on some Biggie and smoke weed with a friend of color. You’ll feel like you can pull off a drive-by and kill every motherfucker on the block.
Bonus points if you say “What’s up now?”
A little buzzed, I talk to a girl at the party. She goes to Princeton and wants to be a diplomat.
“Do you want to be on the cover of Diplomat Monthly?”
“There is no Diplomat Monthly.”
“If I had diplomatic immunity I’d start a lot of shit.”
“That’s not good.”
“Maybe kick some old people. Order a cup of water and fill it with soda and not try to hide it.”
“What do you do in your spare time?”
“Go to school.”
“What do you do for leisure? Do you play softball?”
“No.” Genuinely offended.
“Wouldn’t it suck if you had a shitty picture on your diplomat name badge and they wouldn’t let you retake it?”
“I don’t think I’d care.”
“What if your eyes were half-shut like you were part Asian?”
“Umm… they’d probably let me retake it.”
“But what if they didn’t. Wouldn’t it suck if you were being diplomatic with this ambassador from Cameroon and you were about to have a major breakthrough or something and then he noticed your shitty picture and the breakthrough fell through?”
“Uh, I don’t think that would happen.”
“Do you like Biggie or Tupac?”
“Who do you like?”
“Oh, that indie douche.”
I carry the (lack of) conversation like it’s my bastard child. And it goes on. Aimless, pointless, etc. The girl is a victim of too much book learning. To the point where she needs a graphing calculator to figure out if someone’s fucking with her. It’s like reverse stupidity. Like the motherfucking Terminator not understanding tears.
The party thins out pretty quickly because it started at three and we didn’t arrive until after nine. By 11:30, everyone is gone.
Uneventful, but a fun time nonetheless.
We drive back into the city. Kadriya lives downtown, near Koreatown. I observe that Asians are all about some bright lights. Tokyo, Hong Kong, Koreatown. Lit up.
Is it because their eyes are half-shut?
“I don’t think I’d care.”
Saturday, August 4, 2007
But onto what he did leave: pizza boxes and other garbage. The room was starting to stink. I wasn’t sure if it was the trash or if Buzz the Cat planted a shoe-sized rat he caught somewhere in the room.
But there were maggots on the floor. Little white grubs worming their way across the wood. I pick up a bag of garbage and find the source: a hole. And inside this particular bag is some of Alex’s old yogurt, Lactaid, and bread. All rotting.
And the smell. Oh God. Like two mammoth dykes eating each other’s assholes out in an elementary school cafeteria.
I dispose of everything.
The thing with maggots is they turn into flies. So my last two days in the room are hell – nothing but heat and bug bites. Somewhere in this universe, there’s a sick fuck who jerks off to such things. I can see the porno now: Sweat and Mosquitoes.
I move out.
There’s a law to moving out. Not a law law, but a scientific law. Newton, etc. Let’s call it the Shit-You-Have Law. The Shit-You-Have Law states that what ever shit you THINK you have, you ACTUALLY have double of. This is why, when moving out, you often think or say “Goddamn, this is a lot of shit.” Or some variation of that. It’s science.
Nate, my new roommate, picks me up and helps me load my shit into his car. He’s a nice, normal guy from Pennsylvania. Likes pussy and sports. Works as a grip on productions.
We stop at Ralph’s on La Brea so he can recycle his beer cans and water bottles for laundry money. Easy, right?
There’s a recycling station out back and every person with an annual income under $40,000 who drinks soda is waiting in line with garbage bags. Worse than Cracker Barrel on a Sunday after church.
What sucks is there’s no bulk method of disposal. You have to feed each can or bottle into the machine. One at a time. When the machine clogs up (every other can), you have to wait for an attendant to come over and unclog it. I always thought working in a toll booth would be the shittiest regular job to have, but this might be worse.
An old leather-skinned man with a drum-belly and a hat advertising septic services gets mad when the machine won’t cooperate with him.
“Ain’t s’posed to do that with cans! Ain’t s’posed to!”
He shouts at a Hispanic attendant and makes her come over and do his recycling for him. He gives me one of those “can you believe it?” looks and lights the last cigarette from his soft pack. He drops the empty pack on the ground.
Littering at a recycling booth. That’s like listening to rap on the way to a Klan rally.
We get back to the crib and I move my shit in. Some pictures:
This place is definitely a step up from Maurice’s yoga dojo. Well ventilated, carpeted, screens on the windows. I can sleep at night without fear of being sacrificed. There is no hommus, no raw butter, no walking in on Maurice trimming his pubes – which did happen by the way. No, they weren’t braided.
I feel almost normal again.
I pass an old woman slumped in a wheelchair in the shade by the McDonalds on Sunset and Vine. Homeless. There’s a yellow-stained paper towel stuck to her ankle, flies all over it. She’s asleep or dead. Normally you can go by the smell, but not with homeless people. They smell worse alive than most people do dead, which is fucked up considering how many car washes this city has – at least one on every block.
This is why I think cities should have a weekly hobo bath-giving day. Call it the Homeless Hosedown. At designated car washes all across the city, homeless people can show up, get soaped up, and hosed down. Donated towels will be provided.
I’m dead serious. In fact, why isn’t something like this in place already? Are we afraid such a thing will dehumanize the homeless? Make them seem like pets? Because I tell you, there’s nothing fucking human about digging in the garbage can, unless you’re at the movie theaters and looking for a refillable bucket of popcorn or a giant plastic cup. But cheese sandwiches? No way.
I win a screenwriting contest. The Tennessee Screenwriting Competition, which most likely won’t do shit for me. But the $500 prize money will help. Not sure how many entries there were this year. At least a couple hundred. This is all bittersweet though, because two of the three scripts I submitted to the Nicholl, the big career-breaking competition, have already been bounced. Think I caught a bad reader, which happens. If you’re familiar with screenwriting competitions, you know that a script that wins one contest may bow out in the first round of another. There’s no consistency.
I’ve been working six or seven days a week, lifting, and writing my latest screenplay, so this is why the updates have been few and far between. Right now this blog is what I call “break writing” – the writing that happens when you get burnt out working on the important stuff.
Yes, I write to take a break from writing. Somebody, on another blog, said if you can’t understand this then you’re probably not a writer.
But writing and getting paid to write are two different things, aren’t they? So pardon me while I get back to what may someday earn me a little cheddar.
Or not. Either way, it’s the hope that counts.
And I’m sorry for not writing more about the city, but I just don’t have the time to indulge my wanderlust at the moment. So talk all the shit you want about how this blog sucks now or whatever. It's probably like having sex with the same person for an extended period of time -- exciting at first, less interesting with each subsequent thrust.
But it happens.