And then there was Los Angeles. Traditionally, I hate Los Angeles. I was raised to notice that the City of Angels has a bit of an issue when it comes to smog, crowds, traffic and a certain preponderance of assholes. L.A. is home to gang violence and pretentious boobs. Nothing good, save The Dodgers and Gwen Stefani, can come of such a hell hole of a town and in all the years of my youth, L.A. was to be avoided like the plague.
Fast forward twenty years and I’m riding in a Honda Element to Century City so that my friend, The Author, can make his latest pitch to the bigwigs; he and a partner have a concept for a television series. He’s got an appointment with the chain of command and I’ve been invited as a means of distraction on the drive from Santa Barbara. I’m more than happy to oblige. We cruise the 101 Southbound as he reveals the gist of his series, me trying to piece together all myriad factors, feeling rather the idiot.
When we get to the location where The Author is to meet his partner, they convene and promptly abandon me in a mall food court. Back in Springfield, Mo., I would find this to be a rather enjoyable experience – a couple of Buffalo wings later and I would spend the balance of time passing judgment on shoppers. But here, the options from the food court all came on actual china, with real silverware (not plastic, not sporks) and people treated the whole scene as though it were an official meal. I’m used to listening to kids screaming about their corn dogs’ deficiencies, not watching people dressed in nice clothes sipping on overpriced ramen noodles. There is a gaggle of moms at a cluster of tables near me, and I pass the time listening to them declare the discovery of websites as though they were engaged in recreational atom splitting ~ “YES!! Diapers.com……I JUST found it the other day, and dahlings, I don’t know HOW I made without them to this point”. I choked on a noodle.
Before I got the opportunity to eavesdrop on the real housewives of Hollywood, though, I was struck by an overwhelming sentiment. I am a nasty, fat pud of an individual. While I may feel in relatively decent shape in good ol’ Missouri, within three minutes you feel like a Biggest Loser contestant in Los Angeles. And, truly, it sucks. The only way to combat said feelings of massive crappiness is to drink copious amounts of cocktails; if there’s a better booster of self-image, I’ve yet to discover it.
Maybe one hundred hours pass (or, more likely, two), and I’m out of my mind with people watching. What is The Author doing? How is his pitch going? Why did he insist on me waiting in a food court? I’m starting to put the pieces together when he shows up outside a book store and demands that we “drive around” until we get to a friends house. This statement has all the loose parameters of a poorly executed drive-by shooting. We end up at a friends’ house, a very nice guy who is in “the business”, and I am instantly enthralled. How does one get into “the business”? Is there a rite of passage akin to getting jumped into a gang? Yes, well, it turns out there is, and it involves the sale of your soul and dignity. I immediately want to sign up for this treatment.
The night rolls on and finds us in a bar called “The Red Rock” on the Sunset Strip, where we are joined by more people who work in the entertainment industry. I come to several brilliant conclusions, but unfortunately shots are being purchased in my name, with the caveat “here’s to the rube from the nether regions of The Ozarks”. I confidently accept these accolades and partake to the point that I’m rendered incapable of detail revelation. Suffice it to say that I sweepingly make several declarations that are met with rounds of drunken acknowledgment, followed up by their stories of illicit drug use and women of ill repute. I’m in awe.
Hours later, there are no illegal mind altering substances being snorted off of prostitutes’ thighs, and I loudly demand a refund. I am now a resident of the “Show-Me-State” and I demand proof. This leads to more accusations of moral turpitude, culminating in a manly declaration of love while overpriced drinks are being sloshed about the table. Hours later, I think on the conversation I engaged in, making sure that the behavior doesn’t mandate an apology letter – despite reprehensible behavior, one must not neglect the niceties.
A day later I find myself on I-5, heading to Bakersfield to pay a visit to my grandparents, mindful of the bi-polar actions of raging in Los Angeles one day and practicing your best manners in the central valley the next. I wish I could tell my grandparents of the crazy behavior in L.A., but most likely they would take that information and use it to catagorize me as the grandson “with issues”. I cannot have that. I maintain my best behavior, and as I’m sitting there peacefully devouring a patty melt from a roadside greasy spoon, I look over at my sweet and aging grandparents and feel a fulfilling sense of belonging. Apparently, they don’t seem to mind the company of a rube from the Ozarks.