Sunday, February 26, 2006

L.A. Stories: Let's Do Lunch

The 11am sunlight ripped through the blinds and illuminated the entire room with a radioactive glow that burned the eyelids off my face. That was my daily alarm... a high concentration of natural light piercing my retinas. If I was able to conquer the insomnia for a rare night, I never slept in too late because the solar rays prevented me from falling back to sleep. My first glimpses each day were traces of a large palm tree shooting up out of the ground and towering over the garage across the alley. That's the first reminder that I was in Los Angeles. I'd wander outside for a minute and shrug my shoulders at the warm temperatures.

"This is what winter in LA feels like," I muttered out loud to the anorexic chick who lived upstairs.

She always smiled when I tried to speak to her. The dark-haired twenty-something with oversized sunglasses sat on a piece of Target bought lawn furniture and chain smoked while she yapped on the phone to no one in particular. At odd hours, she'd be found sitting outside Change100's kitchen window. Sometimes sipping tepid coffee, but always chain smoking, she discussed every minor detail of her last audition for a sitcom at Fox or the last blind date she went on with a vegan indie label record exec from Malibu who drove a Ferrari. Decked out in pink flipflops and grey sweat pants, she spent more time on the phone sitting in the piece of shit lawn chair than she spent in her apartment.

My first week in LA went by quick. I'd have to be at the Commerce Casino by 3:30 everyday and spent at least 12 hours there for work. When I'd wake up everyday, I'd be super tired from staying up until sunrise partying. After a shower, I'd get directions from Change100 to the restaurant where I had a lunch meeting at. She'd write detailed directions on slips of paper that used to give writer's notes for random scripts in development. I'd always get lost and have to call her for backup anyway. I'd be able to find the place with no problems. Within a few days, I figured out the local LA streets. Where I'd screw up was when I'd get lost trying to find parking, taking random sidestreets and alleys and finding myself on the other side of Rodeo Drive caught on a street corner with cellphone clutching hipster parents pushing carriages with $3,000 diamond earring hanging from the earlobes of 16-month old children and unable to figure out where the fuck I was going. Was it walking towards the hills? Or away from them?

One day I had a lunch with my buddy JC. In the 1990s he managed two highly popular bands. He burnt out on the music industry over the past ten years and switched gears. These days, he was involved with poker and several successful ventures. He wanted to discuss some career options for me. I picked La Scala on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills for the meeting. He joked that I knew it was a free meal... because I picked an expensive and high end place. Change100 recommended the Italian restaurant that was located a few blocks from her old office. Several years ago it was one of the places to eat lunch in LA especially in Beverly Hills. These days La Scala is not as cool, but still attracted a steady crowd of new money fakesters who were out to be seen rather than to enjoy a decent meal.

I just started getting used to that whole weird LA thing when people stare at you as soon as you walk in a room, or a bar, or a restaurant. Everyone stopped what they are doing whether it's drinking, talking, eating, snorting blow... just to see who walked in.

JC and I were led to our seats by a former reality TV star, who spent four afternoons a week humiliating herself as a hostess in a desperate last minute attempt to catch the eye of a casting director before she subjected herself to doing hard-core gonzo porn movies in the Valley with bi-sexual hairless meatheads who had uncircumsized junks that were the size of paint cans. We all walked towards the back of La Scala while everyone casually peeked up from their Tiramisu to see who we were. Several crescent moon shaped booths along the wall were filled with shit talkin' studio execs wearing last year's fall line of Versace shirts. We were surrounded by a gaggle of trendoids and pharmaceutically bloated ex-actress-model girlfriends of semi-famous directors who carried around an eight ball in their $2,500 Marc Jacobs purses. They would glance at us and try to figure out a few things...
1. Who important just walked in?
2. If I don't know them, should I?
3. If they are nobodies, I have to look much cooler than them.
4. I wonder if they have any coke?
We were seated next to a table of four soused women pounding white wine. I called them the third-wives club. Their combined plastic surgery cost about the equivalent of two fully loaded SUVs. And on the other side of us were two young starlets with IQ points plummeting every time they open their mouths to speak. The blonde with the supple lips was high-end hooker hot with a sexy back tattoo and the other one looked a lot like Jennifer Love Big Tits, minus the big tits. They rambled on about shopping during the duration of the lunch, in between bitching about having to drive to a party out in the sticks later that night.

Most bathrooms in chic LA eateries were ultra nice with big stalls. Only in Hollyweird bathrooms will you find more stalls/shitters than urinals. They know their clientele and cater to executive cokeheads and other drugged out miscreants who spent the majority of their lunches shoving Colombia's finest candy up their nostrils, which accounts for the frenzied and meaningless drivels that spilled out of their mouths when they came back to the tables.

Aside from the trendy crowd, the food was better than average and La Scala is known for their Chop Salads. That typical writer-doing-a-lunch experience was just one of the few I had this past week. They were all roughly the same. I might have been one of the few people who actually wanted to talk business at lunch instead of showing off a new pair of Fendi sunglasses.

* * * * *

One afternoon last week, my friend Nicky took me to a kick ass breakfast joint called John O'Groat's. On our ride over, the typical blonde California pothead took turns with me smoking a bowl of medicinal marijuana. She told me should could hook me up with a special card. She knew a doctor that you could bribe for $150 to get a prescription card. There were very few people who smoked as much as I did, and one of those people was Nicky. She was perpetually stoned. Nicky held a semi-important job in Hollyweird and was baked to the tits from the moment she walked into the interview. In show business, people are too self-involved to notice co-workers with definitive drug problems. Besides, most people mistook her stoner behavior as ordinary flakiness that most blondes were prone too.

As we circled the block for parking she lowered the volume on her iPod as Beck blasted. She admitted, "OK, now I have to harness my parking chi."

She took a deep breath and centered herself. Focused on finding parking, her eyes darted back and forth anticipating an open spot in the heavily trafficked road during lunch hour. She was locked in and when she found an empty space located in a prime spot only a few stores down from O'Groat's, a lady in a black convertible Mercedes 500s cut her off and stole the spot.

"You fucking twat!" Nicky she yelled clenching her fist.

Nicky drove past the lady in the Mercedes who avoided eye contact. Nicky rolled down the window and bitched her out.

"That was my spot, you fucking whore!" she said as she flipped the lady the middle finger.

Inside of a few minutes Nicky went from a laid back stoner to a maniac on the verge of road rage. That's what retarded LA drivers and intense vehicular congestion can do to sane people.

"Imagine how stressed I'd be if I didn't constantly smoke?" she said trying to justify her heavy daily weed intake.

We needed to smoke another bowl before we went inside. Nicky was still steaming. She was on parking space tilt. We had to wait a few minutes to get a table at John O'Groat's. The place was an legendary LA eatery. Originally it was just located in one store space. As the popularity grew, the owner purchased the adjoining two stores and eventually expanded. Despite the additions, they were always packed with hungry customers.

The daily special was Oreo French Toast, where the chef melted crushed Oreos on top of the bread. I didn't even need to use syrup because it was so juicy. The side order of bacon was just how I liked it because it was crisp enough that it melted in my mouth.

At the table behind us, one scenester with a receeding hairline was on a date with an unknown actress.

"You have excellent cheek bones and amazing skin tone," he said in his best attempt to flatter her.

The first five minutes of the conversation were dedicated to him kissing her ass and telling her about how hot she looked. The next ten minutes were dominated by his ego and small penis. He rattled off the highlights on his resume, then dropped names of semi-famous people who he claimed to be his friends. Nicky shook her head and laughed at the absurdity of the dating scene in LA.

"Everyone's working an angle," she explained. "And everyone is a terrible fuck too."

That's when she clued me in on the latest trend that was sweeping Hollyweird... stripper-aerobics.

"At Crunch in West Hollywood," she said, "they offer classes. Carmen Elektra was teaching you how to strip. It was aerobics using a stripper's pole. It's the latest hipster rage! Yoga is dead. The only people doing yoga these days are hippies and pregnant women from Sherman Oaks."

I thought she was joking, but she was serious. Only in LA would women multi-task to learn how to strip and loose weight at the same time.

* * * * *

"Oh shit!" Change100 screamed as she dug through her mailbox sorting out the junk mail from the bills, "Showcase got a check from SAG!"

Her roommate Showcase was getting a residual check from the Screen Actors Guild for work he did in one of those awful sequels that Hollyweird churned out every few months. Whenever they got a SAG check, they'd buy a new batch of drugs. Depending on the size of the check it was either weed or coke. Sometimes both.

Showcase came back early on Saturday morning from a week long cruise to Mexico with his very Jewish mother. He sent me an email halfway on his cruise and said that he smoked up with the only black kid on the boat.

"Showcase was smoking weed with rappers," Change100 said as she laughed in wonderment.

By the end of the cruise, Showcase found every pothead on the ship, including a 44 year old mother of three from Wisconsin. Eating the ice cream buffet on the high seas is a treat when you are stoned to the gourd.

He was appalled that I turned down a work assignment to cover a poker tournament on a cruise ship headed to the Bahamas. Some people like cruises. I'm not a crusie guy. I like the freedom of not being stuck on a floating city with several thousand strangers. Weed or no weed, I'm not down with cruises. Perhaps if some friends of mine went along, it could be fun. But having to do work on a cruise would suck. Lucky for me that the Poker Prof took the assignment. If anyone needs a vacation... it's him.

* * * * *

I'm always gambling it seems and not always for money. I gamble for information too. I won a bet with Change100. We played a heads up poker match where no money was involved. She supposedly was a former child actor and on a somewhat popular TV show... but wouldn't tell me which one. If I won the match... she'd have to tell me the name of the series and the year she shot the infamous episode. If she won... then I'd have to reveal some juicy nuggets regarding my previous sexual history. She wanted to know how many blondes I slept with in my life.

In a very short contest, I came from behind to win. It was an ugly suckout too. I never should have won. Dejected after the loss, Change100 knew she had to come clean with me. She eventually told me the name of the show as her face grew beet red with embarassment. I told her that I wouldn't blog the exact info, but let's just say she appeared in a series on ABC in the early 1990s which starred a young actress with the initials CD.

Everyone's a writer or actor, pothead or cokehead, hipster or trendoid in this town. It's the warm sunny weather that keeps people milling around the jam packed streets of Los Angeles. Oh and the kick ass weed too... it's gonna be hard saying good-bye to that.

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