I’m driving around and the music on my stereo is making me feel important. I’m in my own life’s movie right now. I can feel the bass acting like sonar bouncing off the wet, black asphalt and rustling the palm fronds high overhead. Sometimes I think this whole city is just a mirror. It’s showing me how I feel. I think I feel good.
Saw a Dodger hit for the cycle, the first time either my father or I have seen someone do it. That is some 80+ years of attending baseball games across both leagues and four divisions and neither of us saw it until yesterday. Baseball can make you feel small sometimes. So can this city. Luckily, I am feeding off of it. It’s helping me.
Earlier today I was running my normal 6 mile loop from Beverly Hills to Century City and around again when I looked in a Starbucks on Doheny and Olympic and saw no less than five people writing screenplays. For the next mile I thought about this. I felt an almost nicotine-level craving to run in and declare at the top of my lungs that the Great American Novel will not be written in the presence of two high-school “baristas” water-boarding coffee beans and them burning them into black sludge. I do truly believe that anyone can be a great writer if they want to be. I am certainly not saying I am. I just pretty sure the biggest part of the process is getting out there and living and observing and walking that fine line between reporting and regressing into a wild, drunken child. The truth is in the skyline.
All that being said, really Starbucks screenwriters? Is that where you draw your life inspiration? Is this sea of business people, unemployed actors and high school kids pre-driver’s licenses really the best place to write? It would seem that inspiration might come elsewhere. I don’t know, I should be happy for them. It’s good they are writing. I need to be open and chill. That’s the mantra. The kill or be killed mentality of my youth must be sedated. Thank god I was running at the time.
I have a nasty shin splint forming. My father told me to not run on it for a while, but of course here I am ripping off miles with some sort of vanity-driven masochistic engine running. I am bolting up the hill in Century City looking at the Death Star and the towers. Somewhere around the corner there are fake-breasted women serving drinks at the appropriately named “Pink Taco”. I went there once and although I enjoyed the company and the occaision, I didn’t think it was possible to dislike a place with such a surplus of tequila and breast tissue, but kudos to Pink Taco. They found a way.
Eventually I run by sprinkles and feel more contempt. I am not thinking small scale enough in life. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what path in life would work best, instead I should have just rented a building, paint it brown, hang a very little pink neon sign that says Sprinkles on the front, and serve bougie cupcakes. This town loves to think they are first on the bandwagon. I am thinking of hanging some flyers in front of Sprinkles that tell the rich heritage of the Red Velvet Cake, how it used to be made with beet juice and it was invented in the south long, long ago. Now that it is done with red food coloring, essentially this is a chocolate buttermilk cake with cream cheese frosting. The only thing is, I am pretty sure the L.A. bourgeoisie and up wouldn’t get that same self-pleasing smug smirk from telling their friends “I just love chocolate cake with red food colouring in it.” Doesn’t have quite the same douchy ring to it.
I must be angry. Hours later I am on Hollywood Blvd. checking out what speak-easies and hipster spots are peaking on a Monday night. I have just enough Macallan lining my stomach to feel relaxed. Sad state of affairs when four hours in the sun and an hour of hard core running doesn’t slow you down enough. Luckily, there is the music and the scotch and the promise of everything we’re all cooking right now.
I meet up with the singer in my band late in the courtyard of one of our favorite spots in East Hollywood. I feel empowered over here. I always miss this part of town when I’ve slacked off on coming around. Lately, I’ve been rediscovering downtown. Silverlake, Los Feliz, Echo Park and East Hollywood, I owe you guys a few Islays.
A brief foul up with the manager. The patio is half full. I find myself hazy-eyed and sitting down to enjoy my Macallan at a table. The manager looms over to me. He looks like a Scottish prize fighter who has stopped training and shrunken down to human size. I think I can take him. I don’t know why I always assess that information when I begin conversation with a stranger. I guess it’s good if things are to come to blows.
The manager tells me tables are reserved for people to dine. I am told I can sit on the bench next to it. I don’t feel like sitting so close to my friend. It would feel awkward to have conversation in that manner. It’d be like going to a restaurant with you friend and both of you sitting on the same side of the booth. “We’ll have the iced tea. Two straws. Thanks.”
I have a Cabaiguan Miami and a full book of matches, it’s even got the v-cut ready. I enjoy the timeless delight of a good smoke in a patio with string lights and starving artists. I tell the manager we’ll order some food. Chips and vinegar, why not. I am about to light up when I am told cigars are not permitted. This is all a travesty. It is a house of lives. I have seen way worse here. This man must be new, or in some way, this is the economy. They have press ganged me into french fries, which I don’t even want, but eat anyway. I take to conversation and Macallan.
We cover a lot of bases. In so many ways we are older than we used to be, but I am, despite the negativity I’ve spouted off so far, optomistic. The world, my life, everything in between; there’s momentum there. It is yet to be determined if said momentum is building to help us climb the mountain or if in this fool’s paradise it is just sending us over the edge of some celestial cliff where we will hurtle downwards to our deaths. I am not sure it matters. If I have learned anything so far, and it is questionable, it is that the momentum is always better than where it takes you.
It’s like when you fall in love or are so excited you cannot sleep. These are the true joys. Well, these as Scotch after it’s twelve to eighteen year journey to my entrails.
They are filming a movie in Century City and I realize how numb I’ve become to that sort of thing. I have friends from out of state that might freak out at seeing a line of white vans and trucks loading lights and tending to the talent. Me, I lost interest when I saw the marionette strings. I just want to go see the movie now. I want to be a spectator. I never want to lose the sense of wonderment of being in a dark room letting white movie light wash over me. That’s the hot ticket, kid. That’s where you want to be.
I stop the car somewhere on the edge of Beverly Hills and climb out to sit on the roof of my car and look up. There aren’t stars tonight. I guess the smog won the nightly battle with the clean air. Two days ago I was running through Sabino Canyon and climbing down onto a river bed, picking out how much purple there really is in the desert. It was wonderful. The reality is, this is my city. This is my town. I’m not waiting in a line at a bar to see who is inside. I am not telling people things about myself that are not true. I am doing something else with my time.
I am chewing on the asphalt of Grand Street. I am terrorizing rooftops and peeking into hotel rooms. I am reading every billboard and trying to understand this place the best that I can. This is my city, this is my year. I hope it is for all of you as well.
Take this in the best way possible, but it if you want to do me a favor, go out and get lost one night. Take a drive from the ocean to downtown on Wilshire and pay attention. There is something going on.
There is something going on and you will want to see it before the Big One happens and we lose most of it to memory.