Dr. Susan Block's birthday
Saturday, June 10 2000
At around noon, Kim, Paul and I went on a drive over the Santa Monica Mountains into the bland ho-humness of Encino.
While waiting for Kim out on the steps of an apartment building, I told Paul about the preposterous premise of the movie Encino Man, in which a stone-age man is found frozen in the San Fernando Valley soil by a group of digging teenagers. I couldn't recall exactly the process that had led to the freezing, since in Encino it's hot a lot more than it's cold, but that didn't matter. It was hook to a conversational absurdity to which Paul returned repeatedly throughout the rest of the day.
On the way back to Santa Monica, I suggested we come back on the 101 through North Hollywood, mainly because I'm interested in how the San Fernando Valley hooks into the northeast sector of Los Angeles. Whenever I live in a new place, I find myself trying to form a theory of how the political divisions relate to the geography, climate and terrain.
In preparation for what I anticipated would be a long and crazy night, I took at least one nap today. Paul cooked us a dinner of angel hair pasta, and (owing perhaps to his considerable cooking experience) it didn't clump into unpleasant dreadlocks. These days, Kim and I even have a wine cabinet with a variety of bottles to choose from. It's an indication of my increasing lack of punkrockitude that I always have more alcohol on hand than my friends and I can drink in a single night. To achieve this state requires one of more of the following:
- Not many friends (that's sort of punk rock, but anyone who is punk rock and has alcohol should also have lots of friends)
- Friends who don't drink much alcohol (definitely not very punk rock)
- Lots of alcohol on hand (meaning money up front and thinking ahead - not very punk rock)
- Not much personal desire to drink alcohol (not very punk rock)
The entertainment for tonight was a birthday party at the new offices of Dr. Susan Block. Due to limited space and police harrassment, she recently moved her studio from Hope Street across from the Morrison Hotel in downtown LA to an undisclosed location on Flower Street, also in downtown LA. The location wasn't entirely undisclosed in as much as friends of the studio (people such as Kim) are routinely encouraged to appear.
On the way to a rendezvous with Anthea at her place in West Hollywood, we had to make a detour into the mountains near Studio City. It was out of the way, but sometimes you have to go out of the way on the way to a wacky night on the town.
We three, now joined by Anthea, took a cab from West Hollywood down the wide, stately glitzy glitz of Wilshire into the heart of Los Angeles. Kim had invited Cash to come, and there he was out in front of Susan Block's new studio all hopped-up to party, dressed as he was in his wacky head-to-toe shiny vinyl outfit. Susan Block's show was kind of low-energy tonight, and it wasn't really what Cash was looking for, so he didn't stay very long.
While Dr. Susan Block fielded a phone call from a woman wondering what she needed to know to go down on another woman, I went into the colorful bathroom near the bar to take a massive stink.
When I emerged, I found my companions hanging out at the makeshift bar. I say makeshift because though it looked commanding enough, Paul pointed out that it sagged noticeably whenever you leaned on it. It's hard to get drunk at a bar that seems likely to fall over, but Paul was trying, despite the other drugs in his system. In our state, Kim and I were nothing but thirsty for water. So Kim ordered up a round of bottled waters. The bartender expected drink tickets for our waters, but Kim (who felt she should at least be able to drink water for free at a place that benefited so much from her last appearance) claimed she had no idea where her drink ticket had gone.
Meanwhile, Anthea was having a miserable time. Things just weren't exciting enough for her, and the people were creeping her out. Unlike Kim and I, Anthea wasn't the least bit entertained by the massive tutu wearing & topless dominatrix carrying a fist-sized inflatable dildo. "Is it disinfected?" I asked in cautious wonder when the dominatrix invited me to pet her inflatable friend. Later, when the big topless dominatrix described the things she could do with her fist up a man's ass as "tantra," Anthea privately sneered, "that's not tantra!"
Before long, Anthea had called her own cab and departed. Say what you want to about the lifelessness of the party, Kim saw Anthea's departure as a squandering of opportunity. All sorts of producers and respected photographers hang out at the Block studio, and it's a great place to make connections and find a leg-up in the go-go LA entertainment scene. But Anthea is just a little too snooty for all that. She later dismissed the scene as being comprised of the sort of men she used to see back when she only charged $200 for tantra sessions.
I'm actually a very pro-social person. It should come as no surprise that my day job consists of building tools to help people interact with one another. Tonight I found myself working hard to keep Paul and Anthea in the conversation. They kept falling silent and not participating for their own respective reasons. I've already gone over Anthea's issues, so let me turn to the subject of Paul. As usual, he spent much of his time staring off into space. It wasn't a bad thing and he wasn't having a bad time, but I felt the need to keep drawing him back to the conversation. Sometimes I'd ask him where his mind would go when he was staring off into space. "Do you just fly around the room?" He could relate to that, but of course, that wasn't the whole story. When I mentioned an interesting story I'd read about "mirror neurons" and autism, he suddenly became defensive. Evidently other people have seen signs of autism in his behavior before.
Autism is the exact opposite of empathy, and, given my state, I was unusually chock full of empathy. Everyone seemed essentially good, benevolent, even sexually worthy. This was true even of the older men at the bar chatting up my girlfriend. Normally I just sit back and let conversations between Kim and other men happen, but tonight, I kept intruding on their conversations. I suppose I was as subversive as ever, but my sardonic barbs were slightly more ambiguous.
By the standards of Dr. Susan Block, the night wrapped up fairly early. There was no wild and crazy orgy, just a dimming of the lights, a little casual smoking of joints, and then Dr. Block led those still present on a tour of the cavernous premises. There were all sorts of rooms: conventional 80s-style bedrooms, a vaguely baroque parlour, a tiny little overlit library, and room full of computers. "This is the command center from which I bombard you with all that bulk email," she proudly declared in front of an old but solid Pentium. There was a cute yellow mongrel dog back behind a little wooden gate, and he was happy to meet everyone until Paul tried to pet him. That's when he started barking.
(This was in stark contrast to Sophie's reaction; when she first saw Paul the other day she repeatedly leapt for joy. Paul, Kim and Sophie lived together for well over a year and Paul was Sophie's principle walker back in those days. Paul is a smoker, and he would usually take Sophie on a walk with every cigarette he smoked.)
The last order of business came when Kim offered to be an intern at the Dr. Susan Block Studios. She also told everyone about the domain name she'd just bought, Bathtubgirl.com, and this got everyone very excited about possible internet video broadcasting possibilities.
We got a ride back to West Hollywood with a plump little balding guy of about 50 who kept cautioning us not to "turn 50." He mostly talked in a nice way to Kim about his various problems, and for some reason she was digging him, perhaps because, unlike the bartender, he wasn't feeling her up with inane sexual innuendos. Besides, he was providing us a valuable service. His car was a dark & sporty four seater, the sort of vehicle indicative of a lonely, depressing mid-life crisis.
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