The Lunch Counter
Los Angeles, CA
"You're late today."
That's what the waiter told me at the coffee shop when I walked in just before noon. I'm usually there in the early morning hours. Before 7am, a time when most people in the neighborhood are not even out of their beds.
"Late night," I said.
I was up later than usual the night before. A little wired. Unable to sleep. I spent the dead hours of the night staring insomnia in the face and digging around YouTube. I ended up watching an entire episode of Dinner for Five. Usual host Jon Favreau was not there for some reason and Kevin Smith took his spot. The rest of the dinner table included Stan Lee, JJ Abrams, Mark Hamill, and Jason Lee. They all told fascinating stories about the entertainment industry and I really wish that show still existed.
I kinda stumbled into the coffee shop, something acceptable at daybreak when the place was empty, but not-so-much so at lunch rush. I sidestepped a sprinting busboy and a trio of customers exiting. I took a seat at one of three empty stools at the counter. I had a breakfast book, something that a friend had written, and I usually get a full chapter in before the food comes. That day it would be a lunch book.
I glanced at the open grill behind the counter. Mostly lunch foods. The cook in the Dodgers hat who usually manned the egg station was on duty at the deep fryer. I went with the lunch flow and ordered a cheeseburger.
"Throw some bacon on there," I said at the last second.
I opened up the book and heard the chatter behind me. Three booths. Three different conversations. Two guys were in the first one. Three hipsters (two girls and a flaming guy) sat behind me. And in the corner were three huge guys, two of which were black.
I actually recognized one of the guys in the back booth. He worked as a security guard at the medicinal marijuana dispensary on the same block. Two new "weed stores" had opened up in the last month and it looked like they had some big ass mother fuckers standing guard at the front door. No shenanigans there.
The hipsters behind me? Full of nostalgia and talking about what their grandmothers made them for snacks as little kids.
"Did your nanna cut the crusts off?"
None of them were from L.A. and two of them were from Missouri, at least they found out that their grandmothers lived less than 50 miles away from each other. I drowned out that chatter. Well, I didn't really control that because of the voluminous dudes in the first booth. They weren't pretty boys, wore t-shirts with ironic sayings, and hadn't shaved in weeks. Writers. Like everyone else in L.A. they weren't from California. By the ton of their sports-themed conversation, it didn't take too long before I figured out one was originally from Chicago and the other was from New England. All I wanted to do was read a pulp and I had to try extra harder to block them out.
Of course, their conversation immediately changed when the MAW (model/actress/whatever) sat down in the empty stool two to my right. She sat right in front of the writers, who stopped their conversation for the first time since I had arrived. They ogled for a few seconds as she floated on by before they immediately segued into industry talk. Their scripts. Who they met with. By the looks of them, they were out of work, or probably like me and humping online media jobs. Didn't matter. They were trying to show off to the MAW. But, she was oblivious.
I had seen her at the coffee shop before, but always earlier in the day. She was an early riser and ate there in before/after a morning workout. I had to contain myself from laughter one morning when I rolled in there crocked and faded to the tits as she tried to negotiate a meal that consisted of a single blueberry pancake.
Her hair was purplish with hints of auburn, a much different shade than I remembered, but her distinct tattoo on her left shoulder blade gave her away. Some sort of green circle with Mayan markings. Kinda spooky.
I read my lunch book and nibbled on fries. Crinkle cuts dusted with a special cajun seasoning. MAW ordered an orange juice and some sort of egg white omelete with spinach and peppers. She flipped through Variety until her phone rang and she answered. That's when I tuned her out too. Magical Mystery Tour was playing on the oldies station and I let me mind get fixated on the Beatles.