The L.A. Lakers were playing the Dallas Mavericks for the Western Conference Championship. The game had been on for nearly an hour. I was sitting at a bar that boasted six flat screen TVs, all in high def. Two were switched off and the others were tuned to Wheel of Fortune and a rerun of Friends. The game was being televised. Nobody cared.
Perhaps it goes without saying that I was in Los Angeles, a place where there are so many other interesting diversions for the spectator to indulge in, sports can seem rather humdrum.
I asked the woman sitting next to me if she would mind if the bartender turned on the game. She didn’t hear me. Her phone started ringing. It was quite loud and had a ring tone that sounded like a Roman triumphal salute. She snatched it up instantly. She obviously had been waiting for a call. She had two cell phones and a Blackberry arranged on the bar beside her.
Her name was Angela. I knew that because I had heard her friend talking with her. Not her friend on the phone but another friend, a slender, fit young woman with long legs and jeweled earrings who had sauntered down to the other end of the bar and was trying to strike up a conversation with a guy in a tailored Italian suit.
Angela was talking on the phone. She wasn’t really sure what they were going to do. She wanted to be invited, however. That much was clear. She said as much as she sat on the barstool beside me, legs primly crossed, idly twisting a strand of her long blonde hair like a bored teenager. She said she wanted to get drunk. She said she didn’t care. She took a sip of her cocktail.
I had spent the afternoon cruising Rodeo Drive with my twenty-two year old assistant, Felipe, the kid who helps me lift heavy boxes out of the back of my van. He was dressed in a sleeveless black tee, nose ring and tatts, sporting a homberg and checkered shoes. I had on my blue velvet jacket and striped button down, sporting dark glasses and pointy Fluevogs.
A gorgeous young woman standing outside Bernard Passman must’ve taken us for a couple of up and coming producers and invited us in for a glass of Chardonnay. She thought we might be interested in looking over some jewelry. We smirked when she told us that the ring she had been showing us only cost $16,000. A few minutes earlier we had been scrounging through the ash tray to find a quarter to feed the meter. We were well pleased. The wine we were drinking had more than offset the cost of the parking. We were way ahead on Rodeo Drive.
But Angela from Los Angeles was vexed. Her parents wanted her to have more children and she’d only had one. Children were fun. They were the best thing ever. She’d been thinking about getting artificially inseminated but was afraid of diseases. It was hard to believe she was having trouble finding guys; she looked like Scarlett Johannson with layered hair that curled around her jaw and a tidy figure that looked great in a blue silk blouse. Her Blackberry chirped and she picked it up and began typing. She finger waved at someone across the room.
All afternoon Felipe and I had wandered around Beverly Hills in our rented car. We’d checked out Barbara Streisand’s house and tried to peer past the gate at Walt Disney’s house. We’d gotten confused and had to turn around in Rod Stewart’s driveway. Felipe had snapped a picture of the royal palms lining Beverly Drive. We slogged our way down Santa Monica Blvd in rush hour traffic, past the Church of Scientology and two giant billboards advertising The Pussycat Dolls. A guy in a convertible Jag at a stoplight could be overheard saying, “Three million upfront and then sixteen million on the backend.”
There was a guy across the bar, not very good looking, but then in L.A. even the unattractive people are good looking. Angela from Los Angeles thought that maybe she knew him from somewhere. Maybe they had met at a party or something. He didn’t seem interested. He left, and then fifteen minutes later he was back again, standing at her elbow. He wanted to know if she had gotten his text. She couldn’t figure out which of her phones it might be on. They chatted. After he’d left, she found the text. She showed it to her friend. “Oh, that’s so sweet,” said her friend.
Angela of Los Angeles seemed unimpressed. “Did you see his watch?”
Felipe and I took Mulholland Drive up along the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains and down through the Hollywood Hills. As we came past Laurel Canyon Blvd. we could see the Hollywood sign. It was growing dark, yet the sign was still unlit. I wondered when the lights would come on. Only later did I realize that the sign is not illuminated at night.
Angela’s friend suggested they go to a club. Angela from Los Angeles said, “The only club I’m going to is Club Mattress.”
“Oh, come on,” said her friend. “We should have some fun tonight. I thought you said you wanted to get drunk.”
Her friend started to object, but Angela raised a slender, perfectly manicured hand and silenced her.
Angela from Los Angeles looked up at the TV and sighed. She drank off the rest of her cocktail. “Next month I’ll be thirty-one,” she said. “How did that happen?”
She said it to no one in particular. She said it with a peculiar sadness in her voice. She sat there watching the basketball game. After awhile she turned to me and said, “Who’s winning?”
It was the first time she had spoken to me all night, although I’d been sitting there all along, privy to all her conversations.
I started to reply but she held up one finger. Her cell phone was ringing.
I wanted to get that number. I wanted to send her a text message. I wanted to give her the answer to both of the questions she had just asked.
The answer to both: Los Angeles.