Saturday. 10:32 pm
Driving weekend nights. Making good money. 5 Star Rating. No one’s thrown up in my car. Good stuff.
Weekend nights in L.A. are like radio stations :
7:00pm-9:00pm is all “KIIS FM" thumpa-thumpa-thumpa, everybody “sup-broh’ing” and "high-fiving” for the kick ass night ahead.
9:00-1:30 it's "KOST 103.5", adult-contemporary until the bars close at 2:00 am when like a light switch, it becomes a drunken, sloppy "POWER 106” of weebles and wardrobe malfunctions.
Right now It’s 10:32 and we’re KOST’ing in Weho.
"You have a ride!"
Michael. Fig & Olive. 8490 Melrose Place.
Every restaurant name in this town has to be "Conjunction Junction?". "This & This,” “That & That,” "This, This & That." As I pull up however, I smell delicious olive oil and rosemary, so f*ck you, restaurant marketing people. Michael and Girlfriend in their matching Fred Segal and Oliver Peoples, are all carb'ed up and waiting for me outside. They hop in and apologize right away.
"This is gonna be a short one, Jon. 8500 Burton Way."
"It's all good, Mike." A 3-4 minute ride is fine during KOST time.
"It’s our Saturday night routine of dinner out and “Game of Thrones." We're on season five, no spoilers!"
You know 8500. That sleek, new apartment building with the rounded fiberglass that looks like the Titanic barreling towards a Beverly Center “iceberg." The Concierge opens the door. They thank me and run to the Trader Joe's in the building before they close, for chocolate covered almonds.
Driving by as it was under construction, I always wondered who’d want to live in the retail clusterf*ck of Beverly Grove and Mike and Girlfriend are the ones! Their the perfect “Sheeples" in the promo billboards, sipping small batch bourbon and bubble-less champagne on their wraparound, sea glass balcony.
From their 360 views, they can easily survey the 7 kingdoms of Westeros to the left, Essos to the right, The Summer Sea below and to the North, over The Valley Wall, Van Nuys-os, with the White Trash Walkers in The Land of Endless Summer.
Now, I want chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe's.
Because I’m a Sheeple.
Sin quejas. This is the perfect level of human engagement for me right now. Vicarious. Driving people to and from places, each of us subconsciously pretending to be out together to honor the intimacy of sharing my car. Often in the middle of some hilarious exchange or poignant moment, hitting your destination and breaking the illusion. For that split second, after the conscientious car door slam, there's disappointment. Sometimes I'll feel it, sometimes it's in your eyes as you get out, the recognition that we won't get to finish that thought. Then, *poof* I'm over the breakup and excited for the next person on my people playlist. I don’t get to actually eat the Truffle Risotto at Fig and Olive but then again, that sh*t is $26, which is ridiculous for pasta.
More specifically, I don't NEED to eat at Fig and Olive, Tar and Roses, Miro/Paley/Wolf or any other bistro with found wood interior that sounds more like an Asian clothing store, right now. I need to make money, get out of my head and figure out what my next step is. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the contact high. Like, when I'm starving and roll by McDonald's, my willpower teetering, when a sumptuous inhale of french fry aroma fills me up. Most of our interactions, verbal or silent, are a nourishing "bite" of connection. 8-10 bites and I'm full. I've gotta keep an eye on the pretending though, or I'll forget what stuff I haven't done.
I’ve never actually been to Fig & Olive. but apparently I'm developing some detailed opinions about it:
“You had the Tuscan Artichoke, right?”
“Absolutely. Of cou-u-u-u-rse we did,” they say.
“Each time I'm there, I tell myself ‘Jon, you're ordering something different this time and then...Artichoke.”
We laugh, knowingly. For them at least.
"You have a ride!"
Hannah. 9229 Sunset Blvd.
It's that nightclub I think, on the western edge of The Strip, where Sunset curves southwest into Beverly Hills. I can't remember the name. An old school place that was just renovated, so Millenials think it's retro old school, but actually is old school. I make the left onto Sunset and head west. The Strip always feels like "Hotel California" album cover. I see chest hair, afros, bell bottoms and -- Bootsy Bellows! That's the name. Pulling up.
A bunch of Weebles in cocktail dresses, wobble impatiently in line, while a few strays look up from glowing cell phones to see if I'm their ride. I text Hannah to see who the lucky winner is. A tall blonde pops her head up earnestly and moves towards the car with three other girls in tow. 3 blondes, one brunette, all 20's. Hannah, super polite, gets in the front, the other three stumble-squeeze into the backseat, giggling.
“Where we goin’ guys?”
“I’m sorry, I'll put the address in now" Hannah leans over and types in my phone. She smells good.
"It's my birthday" Ashley, blonde on the right, drunk mumbles, then curls up against the window. Blonde on the left, just giggles.
"Hey, put on the radio!" Brunette orders from the middle.
"What station?" I ask.
“Power one-oh-six!” Brunette says. Uh oh.
"Ashley's had a big day that started this morning and hasn't stopped. We're ready to get back to the dorms." She says, sheepishly.
Nicki Minaj - "Truffle Butter." 4 pairs of white hands raise the roof and scream "like a motherf*cker!"
Here we go.
We zip down the 10 to the 110 towards USC Sorority Housing - Downey Way. Hannah and I talk over the music. She's Pacific Palisades, effortlessly spa-scrubbed and untainted by the world, but different. She's interested in city planning. She's excited about the Metro Extension line. She's woke.
"You're not what I expected." I say.
"This isn't my usual night out. I don't have a usual night out. I'm usually studying." she says, brushing her hand against mine for the third time. She straightens her skirt as I navigate the Vermont exit merge to the 110 and I realize the backseat is really quiet. In that instant, my eyes hit the rear view mirror where I see Ashley dry heaving.
"Oh God, no Ashley don't!" says, Brunette.
"Open the window, Ashley! Open the window!" Says Brunette. I zip the windows down fast, for air.
"Pull o-o-over" Ashley says leaning out her window. Hannah turns back.
"We're on the Freeway Ash---"
"Bleagh-Bleeeeaaaaagggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". Ashley effortlessly vomits out the window at 70mph.
Giggly Blonde is triggered on cue --
Brunette in the middle line of fire, in barf stereo, closes her eyes and screams!
Hannah looks at me in horror. I pull off the next exit and into the nearest gas station on Vermont. They all get out, screaming. I'm very matter of fact. Most of the damage is sprayed over the outside the car. Most. The Mini Mart's locked. I bang on the plexiglass until the attendant slides all available napkins through the payment slot, but that's all we have. I don't freak out. I am calm and methodical. My brain shuts off and I go straight into the "vomit clean-up" mode that parents or pet owners know. I opened the rest of my water bottles, splashed them all over and watched the girls wipe off the car, slightly in awe. Not the good awe, the dumbfounded awe. Middle Brunette was happy to be out of the car. Hannah jumped in selflessly, but the other two reacted as if their vomit came from someone else's mouths.
"Oh my god, this is so disgusting! Can't we just pay you? I have a card"
"That's not going to clean the car."
10 water bottles later, they're all awake now, in shock and tears as I drive 3 minutes down the road to their dorm. They scatter and Hannah apologizes several more times while giving me $50 which is all the cash everyone has. She's a good egg.
I pull into the nearest 7-Eleven, buy paper towels and a bottle of Fantastic (irony) and proceed to "Silkwood" my car. When someone yaks in your car, especially if they've rolled the window down, the worst part is getting everything out of the f*cking window slot. You have to roll the window up and down, wiping off a nugget each time until it rolls up clean. 15 minutes later, things look good. The Armenian cabbies and the 7-Eleven guys applauded.
It's 12:30 and another 90 minutes before money time, but I'm done. F*ck nights.
As I head east on Wilshire towards home, two thoughts dance in my head. First one, is Susan's surprise 33rd Birthday party. She was so unhappy with everything by then, she pounded margaritas and threw up along the side of my car as we drove home. At the car wash on Fletcher the next morning, hosing the window slots, I couldn't stop wondering how I contributed to such a level of unhappiness, that it couldn't be escaped for one night of friends surprising you with love. That's a sh*tty memory.
Second thought was, how much barf, particularly the little nuggets, sorta look like artichoke risotto.
Okay, that's wrong. That's just wrong...