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post #356
bio: jen

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that week

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What's In LA

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Big Metal Boxes

I had a strange Sunday. I wasn’t sure if it was the shifting hour for daylight savings time or some weird horoscope retrograde thing or some other vibe. Sunday wasn’t strange in a bad way. It was strange in a way that if events were to play out in a movie, it would be directed by Jim Jarmusch.

The day was going really nicely. I had some great eggs Benedict for brunch with the honey bunny; then we shopped for new sheets for him and a new bathroom rug for me. We walked the dog. We drank coffee.

At around 4:30, I drove him to Union Station, so he could catch his train. During the drive downtown, the mist of strangeness descended on me and in true LA fashion, it all started with the traffic or more specifically a Wagoneer driven by a young Val Kilmer look-alike. Young Val insisted on cruising in my blind spot thus making it impossible for me to pass into his lane and get on the freeway. I tried slowing down, but he slowed down too. Finally, I had to be that asshole and zoom in front of him, two other cars, and a city bus to make a hard right turn onto the onramp. The freeway was crowded but moving at a respectable 55 mph.

However, the 110 was all backed up. With minutes ticking away, I decided to exit and take surface streets through downtown.

It’s okay, Honey Bunny, I’ll get you there. I said with my best action girl voice.

If I miss the train, there will be another one in an hour, so no worries. Honey Bunny said trying to not cause me stress but blowing up my adrenaline bubble.

We zig-zagged through downtown LA surface streets and lollygagged behind a hippie dippie Volvo in Little Tokyo. We pulled up in front of Union Station two minutes before his train was due to leave. Honey Bunny kissed me and ran. I later learned that in typical Amtrak fashion, his train was late, so he ended up being right on time.

With two hours to kill before a reading at Redcat, I set off into the blinding setting sun to seek out a coffee shop where I could sit, eat, chill, and maybe even write in a non-Starbucksian environment. I found such a place in Echo Park and there was even a parking spot right out front.

I settled in, ordered a crepe, and got into a conversation with Todd who was working on his laptop one couch over. Todd definitely had a writer look to him with glasses and slightly long hair. As my PC took forever to boot up (thanks to my new trial Nortons software---I just want to type in Word, why is that so difficult all of a sudden? I need recommendations for good anti-viral software for a laptop that’s four years old.), we chatted in a non-assuming way. Todd was working on a story about cheerleaders who kick ass. It turned out that I was working on a story about 30-something urban women who kick ass, so we could relate.

When I finally focused and got to work on my kick ass 30-somethings, I found myself throwing down some good active words like go and run. Yes, I was in a good productive coffee shop. I took a moment to look up from my screen and saw a couple salsa dancing next to the counter. They both wore sunglasses and looked very LA casual beautiful, but they were happy in their salsa dancing. It was Sunday, the sun was going down, and we were all happy in the coffee shop.

Earlier in the day, while walking the dog, Honey Bunny and I had talked with D (aka Irish Boat Builder) on the phone. D had mentioned that there was a salsa dancing night in Ireland, and then in the coffee shop, there was salsa dancing right in front of me. It was a salsa kind of day.

After about an hour of productive urban 30-something ass kicking, I packed up and headed for the reading. I think I should mention that I’m currently reading Vineland by Thomas Pynchon. Even though I’m a big fan of Oedipa Maas, I had never hung out with Zoyd Wheeler before. Don’t tell me how it ends. I’m enjoying the ride way too much. Maybe my Sunday was like a Pynchon novel---only the prose isn’t as good. Still, there’s something in the Cali air. Maybe it’s smog.

The reading invite had said seven, but nothing was really happening when I walked in at five after seven. It was just the Los Angeles literati milling around and drinking wine in clear plastic cups. It was all so hip and cool or as hip and cool as one could be hanging out in the basement of Disney Hall.

There were no chairs in the lobby, so I sat on a sturdy low coffee table covered with pamphlets. I had a very good view of the knees of the literati. I was not sitting alone at the coffee table. Sitting at the other end was Kilroy, a kid from Riverside who had been to the film festival earlier and was hanging out for the free reading in order to avoid the freeway traffic back to Riverside. Kilroy had never been to a reading before and was genuinely curious about what a reading was. He was impressed since the audience seemed unfriendly.

I think it’s because we spend so much time our cars. We don’t know how to deal with crowds. I said pondering out loud.

Yeah. We get into our big metal boxes, our own isolated worlds, and even though we’re all on the road together, we’re all separated. Kilroy said thinking aloud. The kid definitely had some poetic thoughts to him.

Our conversation continued about the aesthetics of freeways and the magnificent California landscape---like me, Kilroy had come out here from New York City. The conversation went much better than the reading which I have mostly forgotten. Does anyone know of a good acting class for prose writers? 

After the reading, there was a buffet of finger food, and on the food line, I lost Kilroy. He was allergic to nuts and had to find out which finger foods had nuts in them. I ate a crappy spring roll and decided to take off. I was starting to feel tired and didn’t feel like schmoozing with the literati.

As I was driving home on Venice, an SUV with two Jersey boys pulled up next to me at a light. I’m not a hundred percent sure if they were Jersey boys, but they looked like Jersey boys to me. The driver honked at me, and I rolled down my window.

Hey, we’re in LA for 3 days, and looking for the hot chicks. We can’t find them. The driver shouted over to me.

I’ve never been asked about the hot chicks before, so I wasn’t sure how to take the question. Did they think I was a hot chick who knew where my sister hot chicks were? Did they think I was not a hot chick and were making a statement about the lack of hot chicks in LA? Was the hot chick a metaphor for their hopes and dreams not yet realized? Or were they just two horny guys looking for hot chicks?

After a few seconds of pondering, I settled on my fourth theory. Noticing me pondering, the driver added:

Sorry, we didn’t mean to be rude.

It’s okay, I answered, I’ve never been asked about the hot chicks before. You should drive west.

That’s the beach.

That’s where the hot chicks are.

Okay. Tic Tac? The driver asked holding up a pack of orange tic tacs.

No thanks, but do you have a toothpick?
I asked. I had some spring roll stuck in my teeth and it was annoying.

No. Sorry. You could use your finger. The driver suggested.

I’ll try that. I said. The light changed, and I drove away in my big metal box.

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