(Please forgive the image issues in this post. The HTC EVO phone I had on the trip makes everything--everything--impossible. This was the best I could do, let's just leave it at that.)
You know last time I flew some where it was kind of an ordeal.
But not this time. I Mele Kalikimake'd myself into a state of aviation bliss. By that I mean that I played the Bing Crosby song on repeat for almost the duration of the flight, easing myself into a Paradise State of Mind. I also ordered a glass of wine on the plane.
Best five bucks I've ever spent in my life.
I arrived at LAX and spent the next four hours there. I didn't mind, honestly. I had a new smart phone that hadn't yet proven itself to be an epic and grotesque technological failure. Southwest had lost my bag, my girlfriend's flight arrived an hour late. Whatever. I had things to tweet. If the tweeting didn't get done, who knows what might occur?
Long story short: we rode a shuttle bus to pick up a car, and while we were on the bus my girlfriend showed me Facebook's "check-in" feature. But why would I want to check-in where I actually was? That's boring, and it's not like LAX is giving you free drinks for it. So we checked in at Nudes, Nudes!! and later, at the Grilled Cheese invitational. I don't know. It seemed the thing to do. We drove the rental car twice around the LAX terminal before finding Southwest and my bag.
We drove to downtown Los Angeles.
It was lit up like El Dorado. The high rises and searchlights glittering in the night. Lights on palm trees, lights on Christmas trees.
I was in love.
There were homeless people sleeping in tents on the streets.
There were parking lots advertising cheaper rates for film crews.
There were stretch limos and doormen wearing long jackets and hats.
There were posters at the hotel displaying the movies filmed there.
We stayed at the Westin Bonaventure. Like "good adventure", I guess. All I know is that it decidedly was not named the "Westin Bonavart"--like, Bone of Art--as I told everyone ahead of time.
The lobby was a zen paradise. The beds were a dream, heavy white comforters, everything clean as a whistle. The views were stunning. The guts of the hotel were bare concrete and full of sad little "Japanese Steakhouses" and "Korean BBQ". The guts felt like someone had set up ethnic fast food in a parking garage and abandoned it.
We ordered mimosas in bed. We watched L.A working twenty stories below us, people draped in hats and scarves and thick coats for the 55 degree weather.
We ventured out late for lunch. It was L.A, it seemed the thing to do. People strutted past us in only the finest business wear, perfectly cut jackets and pressed, tailored pants. The homeless circled among them in strange harmony. It looked like a movie set. It felt like a movie set. The streets were clean. Everything was black and bare and glinting in the sun.
Our waitress was getting in to fashion design.
Two fish tacos were fourteen dollars. The burgers were sixteen. We drank Bloody Marys. We ordered off the "600 calories or less" menu.
A set bus drove by our window. Town cars in front of it. Lights and cameras mounted to the outside, facing in. Police cars behind.
"There went Nathan Fillion", I said.
Mark my words.
Hotel. Change clothes. Cocktail hour. Change again.
The doorman hails a cab. Asks us if we want to share with two gentlemen.
My Blood Sister A flirts smoothly the entire six minute trip to the Staples Center.
The gentlemen pick up the tab.
In through the VIP entrance (Thanks Blood Sister A).
How to fit this all in?
We sit at the bar, where we're told Jay-Z and Kanye won't be going on for at least two more hours. We open a tab. Eventually the crowd begins to surge behind us, elbowing for room at the bar, for the bartender's attention. My Blood Sister A chats everyone up. A girl in a fuzzy red vest who looks like a model turns out to actually be one. She was there to shoot the video for "You Know Who In Paris" that afternoon. She lets me snap her picture. We meet a man--"Are you gay?" says my Blood Sister. "Are you Latino?" Wrong on both counts.
He's Greek,I say.
He is. Persian-Greek. Scoffs when asked if he too is a model. He is an entrepreneur. We meet an aspiring web designer, see fashion disasters, stress out the barkeep.
I love L.A.
Everyone here has a dream.
I feel like I fit in. No need to apologize for trying to be something.
Everyone here is trying to be.
In Colorado, they are aspiring to have lovely homes and happy families and good recipes. So often, I feel foolish. Aspiring to be other.
I don't feel foolish in the City of Dreams.
The bar tab is outrageous. We can only laugh.
Jay-Z and Kanye take the stage. It is a spiritual experience. I believe there are many facets of the divine. I believe that a performer can become a vessel. Challenge a divine energy, make an entire venue--the massive Staples Center--thrum and pulse with it. With an energy that goes beyond the day-to-day range of human experience. This is why some rock stars burn out, overdose, fall to pieces. Die. They don't know what they're channeling. They think it's them. This is what I'm talking about when I say that a Tori Amos concert was the most spiritual experience of my life.
Tori knows what she's channeling.
So, it appears, do Jay-Z and Kanye.
They do the encore ten times. The audience is sweating, exhausted. The energy shifts, becomes bacchanal. Orgiastic without the sex. It is an out of body experience.
I love the City of Dreams.
After the show, I am completely wrung out. Empty. I collapse in bed.
The next day there is only time for coffee and curried chicken salad at Cafe Primo, which is bustling and full of sleek business people on lunch hour. A young woman--blonde, exquisite dress suit, beautiful--whom I fully expect to be a complete bitch, offers to share her table with us. She hates L.A, she says. She says, nobody talks to you.
But all we've done is talk to people, everywhere we go.
Even the girl running the counter casually chats me up.
She's saving up for film school.
The taciturn brown-skinned barista makes art in my coffee.
The dreams are hanging heavily in the air.
I can feel them. If I had a butterfly net, one swoop would capture hundreds. Thousands.
The city is alive with wish.
In Denver, people ask me what I do, and I stammer. The baristas at Starbucks want to know if I'm studying or working, and I, nervous and uncomfortable, quietly confess I am writing a book.
In L.A, I feel I could say it.
I'm trying to be a writer.
I'm trying to get into writing.
Like everyone in this cafe, I have a manuscript.
Like the doorman at my hotel, I have a screenplay.
Like everyone in this city, I have a dream.