Kansas Girl, Nerd, Goes to "The Coast"
September 1-4, 2000

I had such a trip to Los Angeles. I mean, I couldn't possibly have been anywhere else.

When I got off the plane, my friend Laura saw me before I saw her, and we spent the entire trek to baggage claim trying to figure out exactly when it was that we saw each other last.

Laura and I met in late 1995 at New World. On my third or fourth day there, she came up to my desk and said, "We should go to lunch." So we did, and became good friends.

She left for law school in northern California in the fall of 1996, and I left for Pennsylvania in the summer of 1997. We knew we had seen each other at a Superbowl party in 1997 while she was back in L.A. on break, but we couldn't remember another time after that. So three and a half years, at least.

My friendship with Laura is puzzling to me at times. We couldn't possibly be more different than if someone had made it up. She is from West Orange, NJ, a total big-city girl. She went to BU for college and worked as an agent New York City before moving to Taos to become a writer, which lasted for eight months before she moved to Los Angeles. She's Jewish, her parents are divorced, I recognized the name of exactly one artist in her CD collection, and I don't think she owns a pair of jeans or tennis shoes.

She also has the kind of L.A. life that most people expect. We bumped into her neighbor across the hall, and I said he seemed nice. She replied that she had a date with him once, but it turns out he has, in her words, "a little bit of a coke problem."


A few months ago, we had this conversation:

Laura: I made a new friend this weekend.
Me: Really? Who?
Laura: Her name is Lainie. She's a friend of Josh and Marilyn's.
Me: What does she do?
Laura: Not much, actually.
Me: Why not?
Laura: She's an heiress.
Me: A what? [To be totally honest, I didn't understand what she said. In my head, I'm thinking, What's an 'airess'? Is that like some fancy kind of airline stewardess?]
Laura: An heiress. Her last name is [think castles and kidnap victims and Citizen Kane].

I mean, we are both lawyers, which is pretty much the only thing we have in common, and that doesn't bother me, but sometimes I wonder just how exactly it is that I, me, this random Midwestern girl who has not an ounce of hip in her bod, can be at all interesting to her.

As we're driving from the airport to her apartment in West Hollywood, I'm surprised at how long it takes me to get my bearings. I lived there for over three years, but I also haven't been there for over three years. Nothing looks particularly different, but it doesn't really look the same, either. It's funny -- when I first moved to Pennsylvania, I can remember watching movies or TV shows shot on location in L.A., and I could almost always recognize where they were, right down to the intersection. While we were driving around, I suddenly realized that I don't do that anymore.

Neither one of us was all that hungry, so we went for a slice of pizza (Mulberry Street, on La Cienega) before heading out to meet some of her coworkers for a drink. We found the bar (The Daily something-or-other, on Santa Monica) and I met three or four lawyers from her office. We talked shop for a while (Laura is a public defender), and even though I was exhausted, I had a good time.

Saturday morning, we went to breakfast (The Urth Caffe, yes, Urth, just in case I forgot where I was, on Melrose.) then set off for the Getty Museum in Brentwood. It had been under construction the entire time I was living there, but it didn't open until six months after I left.

On the way there, we drove by my old apartment building and down San Vicente, into Brentwood's quaint little commercial section. That was the first time it really felt strange to be back. There was my Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf I used to walk to for my Iced Blended fix, the Daily Grill restaurant that has the best cold chicken sandwiches in the world, my drug store, my newsstand, my dry cleaner. The little grocery store at the bottom of my street had closed six days before I left and turned into a Whole Foods Market, but the building was still the same. Total nostalgia-ville.

The museum was beautiful, actually more interesting than the artwork inside it. It's a huge complex of buildings with stunning views in every direction. The grounds, gardens, and architecture alone were worth the trip. We did go inside and look around at a couple of exhibits -- I particularly enjoyed the illuminated manuscripts, and a step-by-step display of how books were created before the printing press -- but the rest of it was sort of the dull side of museumness.

We left the Getty and decided on an early dinner (Doughboys, on 3rd Street... Laura doesn't really keep food in her house) We were going to a club that night to see another one of her coworker's bands, so we stopped at Blockbuster to find something to kill our time.

We rented both The Next Best Thing and The Big Kahuna, and unfortunately, in my opinion, we watched the former. I thought it was just generally bad. I could never figure out exactly what year it was, Madonna overacted or underacted or just didn't act, and I don't know anything about directing at all, but it seemed like a lot of completely random and meaningless camera angles.

So anyway. We went to this club, The Gig, a very hip place on Melrose, where I felt like a complete dork in my jeans and t-shirt. I was afraid they wouldn't let me in because I wasn't wearing anything black and/or leather and/or platform. Of course, it was dark in the club, and nobody was really paying any attention to me, but still.

The band was good, even though I so don't get off on that kind of music. The lead singer had random braided hair and was thrashing about and it made me giggle to think that during the day he had this completely grown-up job defending street criminals.

After they played, we walked back down the street and spent the rest of the night in this bar called The Snake Pit. Honestly, I never went to these places when I lived there. The sassiest place I ever went to was a gay dance club with my friend John when Elise came to visit us, and that was only once. I always went to more mainstream places, usually restaurants with bars in them. (If you ever visit L.A., try the El Coyote on Beverly for crappy Mexican food but the best and cheapest margaritas ever.)

Then we brought one of Laura's drunk coworkers, Ben, home with us, which kind of annoyed me. I had already staked my claim in the living room and I don't like people I've only just met see me sleep. We let him have the couch and moved the air mattress I was sleeping on into Laura's room.

I had met Ben the night before in Santa Monica, and he seemed very nice, but he too appears to have issues relating to both alcohol and girlfriends. We all got up the next morning, showered, and went to breakfast (The Griddle, on Sunset.) Laura and I sat on one side of the booth and Ben sat on the other, facing the window, because if Laura sat on the window side she would be able to see her ex-boyfriend with the heroin problem sitting in another booth.

So we're waiting for our food, when suddenly Ben gets up and walks out of the restaurant, without a word. Not a word. Just walks out. We can see him walk down the street a little in front of the window, but that's it, he's just gone.

Our food comes. We eat. Ben's omelet is sitting in front of where he used to be. We eat some more. Ben doesn't come back and doesn't come back. I go to the door and peer up Sunset in one direction and down the other, but I can't see him anywhere. Laura and I discuss what to do if he doesn't come back. She thinks he probably saw his girlfriend with whom he is sorta kinda broken up, but he didn't say anything when he got up, so we really have no idea.

Just as we're about done, probably fifteen minutes later, he walks back in and sits down. We look at him, questioningly. He looks at us, blankly. "Awkward silence," he says, and digs into his food.

I take my cue from Laura as to what to say. She says nothing, so I say nothing, but in my head I'm thinking that what just happened was the most ridiculous thing ever. I cannot imagine any one of my friends just getting up from the table, leaving the building, coming back fifteen minutes later, and offering not one word of explanation. And even if they did, you can bet your ass that I wouldn't just sit there as though making fifteen minute disappearances from a meal is completely normal. It isn't normal, it's rude, and I don't care what your problem is, you owe your party some kind of explanation, and if you can't bring yourself to do that, then you for damn sure owe them an apology.

Anyway. We take him home, come back to Laura's apartment for a while, and decide to see a matinee of The Replacements and then go to dinner.

I have to say, I had no real desire to see The Replacements, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. We giggled through the entire thing. Orlando Jones (the "Make 7-Up Yours" guy) is extremely funny, and Jon Favreau should get some kind of award for his completely off-the-wall performance. The roommate from Notting Hill is back and just as funny. Keanu Reeves has maybe twelve lines in the whole movie. It's really all about Gene Hackman, and the supporting cast, and I give it a heartwarming thumbs up.

After the movie, we wandered up to Sunset again for dinner at ChinChin's, where Laura confided that she was thinking of starting to write again and I confided that I had done so also. (I didn't confide about the journal, but just writing in general.) We walked down to Book Soup (the best bookstore in Los Angeles) and looked around for a minute or two, but since their restroom was broken and we both had to go (sometimes it's just that simple), we went back to her 'hood to a new age bookstore called The Bodhi Tree. We sat in there until it closed at 11, drinking tea and smelling things and looking at books on how to improve ourselves.

We didn't have any time to do anything this morning, since I had to be at the airport by 11:30, but we did leave a little early and made one last trip to the Coffee Bean on Santa Monica in the heart of West Hollywood. We sat at a table outside, drinking our Cafe Vanillas and watching the cute gay guys walk by and commiserating about how we now are likely to marry not only men who have already been married once but may very easily have kids as well.

Back to the airport, back on a plane, back to the damn KCI satellite parking lot, and back to my apartment, for good now, and I'm happy about that. Much as I would like to be at a certain someone's wedding this weekend, I have hit my travel limit, both in terms of energy level and bank account.

My weekend in Los Angeles. It reminded me of two things: one, that I had a very interesting, educational, enjoyable, and exciting three years there; and two, that I never, ever want to live there again.


<<   ea   >>