June Gloom June is the cruelest month for me. While the rest of the country is under sunny happy blue skies, LA goes through a month of gray overcast yuck. Even when the sun is out, the sky is still a smoggy white. There's also no humidity. You know how it gets gray and you think, okay it's going to rain and then it does rain---bringing a sense of relief. Well, it doesn't rain. It never rains. It just stays gray. It On top of all that, there's a glare factor---sunglasses on, sunglasses off. My sunglasses broke from all the activity.
I suppose June gloom makes up for the warm and sunny skies we get the rest of the year. I suppose it's okay to have one month of weird gray instead of three months of blizzards. I suppose it's too much to ask for perfect weather all the time. But still. . . at the risk of coming off as a total whiner. . . it's June, it's gray, wahhhhh. Okay, now, I feel better.
To find a cure for my June gloom, I went to Starbucks. I was hoping the ambiance of overpriced espresso and the purple and mustard color scheme would lighten my mood. Besides, I really love those rice crispie marshmallow squares they sell. So I went in and ordered two shots of espresso on ice while Sarah McLachlan played in the background. The Starbucks boy coded my cup with over-caffeinated glee and said "Americano Old School" back to me. Uh-huh.
I settled into the brown over-stuffed chair under the air-conditioning vent and suddenly realized why no one else was sitting there. The new ice age was starting right in that very spot, so I got up and moved to a table with a checkerboard drawn on it. I wonder if anyone actually plays checkers or chess in Starbucks. It feels more like a Trivial Pursuit kind of place.
Sitting alone at the next table was a man sipping an iced frappucino. He was an older gentleman with white hair and thick round glasses. When I say gentleman, he definitely gave off the impression of being an intelligent, gentle sort of person with a lot of wit. He also looked very familiar. Where had I seen him? He wasn't an actor, but I had seen him associated with acting or drama or filmmaking. Ah-ha!
"Excuse me, are you Billy Wilder?" I asked.
"Yes. Yes I am." He responded with his Billy Wilder voice.
"Oh no. Am I dead? Is heaven Starbucks?" I suddenly panicked. I always believed heaven would be a café where all the writers and artists gathered for an eternal chatfest, but I could not believe heaven had been Starbucksized.
"No Jen. You are not dead. You are simply in the Starbucks in your mind." Billy Wilder said.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Heaven was safe. It was only my mind that was a Starbucks franchise. Starbucks, geeze. It could have been worse. It could have been supersized. It could have become a Wal-Mart.
"So are you here to give me guidance in the Starbucks in my mind?" I asked.
"Oh no, I just came in to get out of the June Gloom."
"But Mr. Wilder. . ."
"Call me Billy."
"Okay. . .you've made some of the most intelligent, witty movies. . .do you have any guidance for someone negotiating the jungles of Hollywood? "
"Just trust your instincts. Your mistakes might as well be your own."
Billy Wilder slurped the last of his frappucino while I stared at him with a big time film geek smile on my face. This guy made Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment and Some Like It Hot and Sabrina and Love in the Afternoon and and and Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend. His movies are awesome!
"Would you like another frappucino?" I asked completely star struck.
"I'll take one!" A voice behind me bellowed. It sounded a bit Polish. I turned around.
Oh wow. Sitting on a sofa with his feet up as comfortable as can be was Witold Gombrowicz.
Witold Gombrowicz. Polish novelist and playwright. He lived for many years in Argentina during World War 2 and after. His diary is amazing. His novels include Ferdydurke, Pornografia, and Cosmos and totally kick ass. I didn't know Gombrowicz spoke English. Then again, he is Gombrowicz and in the Starbucks in my mind.
"Hello Witold Gombrowicz, how are you?"
"Quite well, Miss Jen, thank you."
What do you say next when you meet someone you've never met but know a lot about and whose writing totally rocked your world.
"How about them Dodgers?" I said.
"Ahhh, the Dodgers." Said Gombrowicz.
"Could go all the way this year." Wilder chimed in.
My head was spinning. Who was going to show up next? James Joyce? Too obvious. Elvis Presley? Too poppy. Dorothy Parker? Too clever.
"I like that Eric Gagné." Billy Wilder said.
"Oh yes, Game Over." Witold Gombrowicz said.
"He has a lot of pitches he can throw for strikes." Wilder said.
"Yes, he has a lot of tools. And their hitting is good this year too." Gombrowicz said.
Billy Wilder and Witold Gombrowicz were talking about the Dodgers in the Starbucks in my mind, and my iced espresso was watery. Suddenly, I wanted to be stoned, but then I realized it couldn't get much funkier.
I went up to the Starbucks boy behind the counter. He looked like a young Robbie Williams. Maybe he was Robbie Williams. Maybe he was slumming before his next tour.
"Two shots of espresso on ice. No milk. No nothing." I said.
"Oh yeah. Old School Americano. Anything else?" Robbie said.
I turned to ask Wilder and Gombrowicz if they wanted a refill, but they were gone. Poof! They had just disappeared. Great, I was hallucinating, and I didn't get any great advice out of it. There was no great epiphany. Just baseball talk. Or was the baseball the epiphany? Is life just a baseball game?