By night, the highways are open and free, and I zoom at 80 miles an hour over the 10 from Santa Monica to downtown, a 20 minute ride at those speeds. By day the highways and streets are full, all stoplights are red, a constant message from Los Angeles to you that you are not in control, that this city happens to you if a car is your choice to get around. But not at midnight, when I zoom from West to East, crossing all the streets that connect this highway to the hot spots and icons; La Cienaga, Washington, La Brea, Highland, all going north to the places where our collective cultural memories of highlights and despair are formed. Every time I cross them I think of what I have done there, which is often too much of nothing. But I am not going to the spots North, I am going East, to the cool towers of downtown, the skyscrapers always lit at night, looking down on their forgotten neglected reviving surroundings, looking down on my building with The Loft. And as I slide closer to that place in my Scion, the searchlights of the new developments beckoning into the sky, I start thinking in slogans. "New York is where people go when they have something to prove. Los Angeles is where people go who have something to be proven to them; they were given a coupon by their parents, or their town, or their drama teacher, or their friends, or their delusions, that they are the prettiest, the most talented, the most mesmerizing, and they intend to redeem it." I chastise myself for thinking in platitudes.
Pico Place is a small cul-de-sac in Santa Monica, the city West of LA that is on the beach. Pico Place is lined with wooden cottages built by a drunk builder, inhabited by amazing people, all of them so Santa Monica relaxed, getting together some nights to sing and laugh around a firepit, all of them complaining when they are alone with me, that everyone else drinks or tokes too much. There's epilady
, which is how I arrived there, and met all these people who seem like they should just take walks on the beach in their sweat pants and have jobs filing semi-important data, but who turn out to be high-powered video game designers and fashion stylists and Burning Man-aficionados and members of fraternal societies that throw social events. One Sunday I was sitting in a patio while epilady
was sketching her homework and chestertodd
was making art and Helen was going through an astrology book to find her anti-sign as an exercise in her development as a life-coach now that she is leaving fashion styling, laughing as she told me how they had settled on "Frumpy" as epilady
's anti-nickname, the one for the woman whose lipstick, camisole, and flip-flops match when she takes out the trash at 9 AM complaining about her hang-over. We were looking for "emo-kid" or "demure" or something like that for Helen, while I was working through what to charge for consulting. Helen grabs her room-mate Todd; he turns out to be a Consultant CIO who can help. I never knew. Oddly enough, even amidst all that, Pico Place is one of the few spots in LA County where I do not get the message I am inadequate, something LA loves to tell its inhabitants: life is a velvet rope you are just still on the wrong side of, always.
Night falls and I am getting ready to go home, but there's this party being thrown, a party where the hosts hope the guests will show up extravagantly dressed, a dismal hope in LA where a sweatsuit can count as couture if it has the right label on it. I'd love to go but am not dressed for anything but sitting in a patio for an afternoon, but everybody else on Pico Place just assumes I am going, certain clothes for me are here -- I seem to be the only one who even has a question about it. Of course they are, Helen pulls out a Lucha Libre wrestling mask and a gold top hat made out of some kind of foam and a Chinese black jacket with embroidery and yellow silk trim. I am going, and I have to go, because I have to take care of epilady
tells me, even though chestertodd
is more qualified to beat anyone up than I am. It's just that in my height and get-up I just look the part better, and that is half the battle as a guard. And epilady
of course attracts people to come to her instead of us having to mingle, as she crowns our festive group by wearing a powder-pink long fuzzy skirt with a train, fuschia platform shoes, a wig of terrycloth dreadlocks in pink and white, a pink knit shrug, and a candy-pink corset, not a bustier motherfuckers, but a real corset that makes her breasts heave with every breath and makes her 39" hips, symmetrical to the chest, look unreal against the 22" inch waist. I stand next to her when she poses for photographs, holding her coat, visible in a mask and taller than ever in a hat, in the garden of this party place somewhere in a warehouse district where some men dressed up by wearing a suit, some women wore an evening dress, and everyone took their outfit too seriously. A former Chippendale 15 years ago, now singer and event producer, talks to her as he is intrigued, and I can't flirt or cruise in a mask, I can just be. I realize I am gesturing bigger than usual as we talk to the former assistant of Ms Bette Davis who now works for an astronaut who has walked on the moon. I steel myself to handle standing out so, even as we all get compliments in our group, but then realize I do not have to because none of these people can identify me ever,
and I can thus fully not give a crap. No, it is not logical. We do some revelry, I escort epilady
and friends when they go to the ladies' room, making sure to make way, and after some more hanging and talking we all pile up in cars and go to Pico Place and then I glide home again. Another Santa Monica night ending.
Thanksgiving, the next week, was pretty much just like that. Go to Pico Place, hang with people, and end up at tables in the back yard having food and talking to people I have known for ages and people I have never met. We all just amalgamate there, and eat turkey and lobster, and then pie and ice cream. They sent me for ice cream, so their freezer ended up full. chestertodd
pulls the box of lobsters out of the fridge, 18 of them upright in cardboard cubicles. They get tapped with a spoon to see which ones still are moving and thus are still alive and good to eat. It reminds me of images of a slave ship with a full cargo from Africa, and I go in the back room to play Katamari. That night I zoom home again, and it is cold and damp in LA, almost foggy. "But because all the best come here to LA, there is always someone better, stronger, thinner, faster, more talented, better voice, and thus this city doesn't care that you came. It is not waiting for you at all." Again with the slogans.
I am spending Tuesday evenings chez e_ticketfidgetcub
's, where a group of media bears come together for food and reality TV. Very Gay Reality TV; Project Runway, and America's Next Top Model. We eat, we snark, we try to get through the shows without everyone talking too much. I love it, these guys are nice, and they have so much going on in their lives. One just came back from a comedy/singing tour he helped make happen, one gets up at 6 in the morning to write, just write, and I find out later he has two Ph.Ds, recently we started a major-network show on the TiVo so one of them could point out how he was an extra in the background, one of them, oh, he just decided he needed to direct this movie he wrote, so he got it financed and made it and is now shoving it through the festival circuit and will get it on DVD soon, two of them have books out and are writers for mainstream websites, and it just goes on and on. The amount of blood, sweat, and tears that has been lived through by the people getting together in that living room every week dwarfs anything that set of stupidly self-invested girls being rejected by Tyra are going through and likely ever will. You can send a tape and wait passively to be picked, or you go out and make your own chances, and simply just not to take it personally when you fall flat on your face. Take a temp job, save the money up, go do it again, and find your friends to keep you grounded in the meantime. Just make it work, but not for someone else, make it work for you.
It's pretty darn interesting to be around that. It really makes me wonder just how much I want the next job to be safe in a cubicle going over designs for ideas that will never be made by people who could not care less what the results actually look like, and how much I want actual responsibility, actually pulling my weight again, actually flying around and listening and making things happen. Every time I visualize my perfect job I am living in 3 major cities for long stints in the year, pulling work from various groups together into coherent strategies for products that make life better and are a joy to use. They cure cancer or feed the poor or something else relevant. And I get to fly business class. First, maybe, even. To my 3 tiny apartments, and my friends everywhere. While I save the world. Gotta make it happen.
Because I guess the thing is that I want to be in LA and leave it. It hasn't been two years yet and I already have a small collection of truly wonderful friends here. Antidotes against the inadequacy LA makes me feel, which LA is good at if you let it. Stuck in traffic, stuck around party worlds you'll never be part of, stuck between houses you will never get to touch, stuck between gods and godesses who will only acknowledge you if they have something to promote, it becomes too easy to forget to take responsibility for how it impacts you -- "makes me feel" my firm hairy ass -- and instead slip into joining the hordes of people trying to have cuter shoes and thinner waists to just not fail too badly on the other side of the rope, instead of developing you, letting everyone be them, and making your own chances. Which doesn't mean I don't want more cute shoes. But, so, the US is going to be a difficult place financially in the next 6 years. The nexus of where my current expertise lies, enabling the mobile pizza-coupon-delivery industry, is in Europe. I don't want to be here. I want to be here.
I paint over another smudge on a wall, hang another gleamingly beautiful kitchen cabinet door. Am I staging for sale or prettyfying to live? Staging or pretty, staging or pretty. My final Disney check came in with all of my holiday time in money, it will easily last me to the New Year. I grab my sabre saw to cut a hole in a cabinet for a vent and hope for better weather to go to the beach again. In Santa Monica. It will take me an hour to get there by day. 20 minutes to come back at night.