Saturday, December 30 2000
Initially I didn't really want to do it, but when Linda called and said we should hang out today, I couldn't think up a suitable excuse to get out of it, so I said sure. John and Chun were off jogging and Napster was playing "Black Sun" by Dead Can Dance.
By the time Linda arrived (with Julian), John and Chun were back from whatever it was they'd been doing platonically. A little amusing banter was exchanged, which gradually dispelled some of my unease. In a tense moment, especially one filled with awkward pauses and fleeting eye contact, John can always be counted on for a few laughs. In this case, he lapsed into impersonations of Frank and Neil of the UK team. Simulated Frank: "What kind of drugs have you got? Oh, well then, have you got any Electonica? Oh, that's too bad. Then have you got Napster? You do? Righto then!" Simulated Neil:"I single-handedly founded the entire UK raver scene. We got to the point where we were so big no one could stop us!"
Julian, Linda and I did lunch at a place called Killer Shrimp. It was a fairly humble-looking establishment on the second floor of a corner strip mall on Washington Blvd. in the northern fringe of Marina Del Rey (not more than a few blocks from Bathtubgirl Central in fact). The Pacific coast was foggy and cool all day today, and though we dined outside on the Killer Shrimp patio, we were kept suitably warm by several strategically-placed radiant heaters. The Killer Shrimp menu is as brief as the In 'n' Out Burger Menu: there are three different preparations of shrimp, all of them served hot and spicy. One takes the form of a soup served with bread, another is served on pasta and the last is served with rice. I had the pasta variety and managed to eat the whole thing well before the others, and still had time left over to build a marginally-functional slide whistle by combining a straw with a solid plastic coffee-stirring wand. I joked that it would be cool to open another shrimp restaurant across the street called "Life Affirming Shrimp" with (ironically enough) twice the butter.
Interestingly, a good fraction of the customers around us were black families. The presence of black families in any abundance has not characterized many of my LA dining experiences, especially on the West Side. But the Venice area is significantly more racially diverse than the Santa Monica/Brentwood/West LA neighborhoods I call home.
I think Linda has some sort of aversion to birds. She almost freaked out when she suspected one of the other diners on the patio was feeding a pigeon.
Wondering what to do next, we headed to Julian's apartment in Park LaBrea, following what appeared to be stereotypical "pimpmobile" all the way from the freeway until it discharged its passenger, who wore really interesting boots and carried a bag of oranges.
Linda and Julian pretty comfortable with the LaBrea apartment because they hang out there all the time, but for me it's kind of bleak and austere, especially without all the furniture belonging to Julian's erstwhile housemate Jay. I went into the bathroom at one point and saw a silk negligé hanging on the bathroom door. When I went in later, it had vanished.
Linda's father had bought her a Sony camcorder for Christmas, so we spent some time unpacking it and putting it through its paces. The zoom capability looks like it will prove useful for spying on all the lives on display in the many apartments visible out the window.
Linda and I walked out to a central square in the middle of the Park LaBrea high-rise complex and bought coffee from the jolly employees staffing the Seattle's Best stand. Unfortunately, the milk they put in the mocha that Linda got for Julian was spoiled. On the way back to the apartment, we were heckled and insulted from on high by Jay, Julian's high-energy over-the-top always-under-your-skin erstwhile housemate. He was all drunk on Marion Berry wine and in the company of two friends he'd brought along: a quiet, enormously overweight semi-goth gentleman and a floozy-ass jailbaitish blond chick with bad skin whom Jay had met online. The purpose of their visit was so that Jay and Linda could exchange presents. Linda gave Jay and me essentially the same thing: a little prismatic glass crystal that one hangs in a window so it can cast little rainbows. Mine is in the shape of a heart and is bluish in color; Linda had bought it in Julian, California. The best of the gifts that Jay gave Linda was a wind-up parking lot angel, something you put on your dashboard to give you good luck as you tool around in search of parking. When you wind it up, it flaps its silver wings and spreads vibes of parking-space-clearing energy.
After Jay and friends cleared out, things started to get boring so we decided to play several rounds of Boggle, the game where letters randomly arrange in a grid pattern and it's your job to come up with as many English words from the arrangement as possible. For whatever reason, and it might just be that I'm not really not all that intelligent, I have never excelled at this game. I'm not particularly fast at parsing letters into words, and that's a skill you need to have kick ass in Boggle. No matter how hard I tried, my performance was always worse than that of either Linda or Julian. By the way, this isn't the first time I've documented my Boggle humiliations. Going back and re-reading an account of some Boggle games from two and half years ago, I realize that I can remember much more humiliation than that account lets on.
When we were done with Boggle, we turned our attention to mind-altering substances, in this case a rare incense mint from Mexico called
Salvia divinorum. It's not a scheduled substance and you can buy it in various hippie incense stores in Hollywood. My housemate John had smoked it before and dismissed it as a total waste of time, but we were still interested in seeing what the buzz was all about.
Not having an operational water bong, we decided to make out own "gravity bong" - one powered by Archimedean principles of displacement. Julian and I, being the men present, did all of the necessary engineering. I managed to get a very good seal around a conventional metal bong pipe stem by heating it in a gas flame and then plunging it through the plastic lid of the bottomless water bottle that was to serve as our smoke chamber. Placed upside-down-funnel-style in a large pot of water, it acted as a sort of smoke-breathing lung.
I was the first to have a smoke, and didn't really expect much to happen. But a few seconds after that big puff I took, I felt decidedly different from the way I had been feeling. My whole body had a certain tension about it not too different from the feeling you get when you have a lot of dirt trapped beneath your fingernails. This had some relationship to the uncomfortable mass of keys on my keyring, which was in my pocket. I took the wad of keys out and laid them on the floor. I was dazed and stupefied, but fully conscious of the feeling and not especially concerned about it. I was, however, slightly paranoid and felt like I was temporarily retarded. I just wanted to sit in a comfortable chair and zone out on my own, but the chair I was sitting in had a broken back and I couldn't comfortably lean backwards.
Having had this experience, I wouldn't say Salvia divinorum is a particularly addictive drug. "I can't really see the high going anywhere. Pot is so much better!" was Julian's analysis. For her part, Linda said that the puff she took made the world around her appear to shimmer with waves. For all of us, the experience was entirely finished a mere fifteen minutes later and nobody had much desire to take another ride. We were more interested in the resin we'd had to scrape from the pipe stem to get the gravity bong working.
Linda and Julian had plans to go see the move Quills about Marquis De Sade, and Linda wanted me to come along too. But I'd had about all I could take of this particular afternoon. The prospect of sitting through a sexually-charged movie with Linda and Julian giving each other little kisses the whole time didn't appeal to me at all; I'm not that species of masochist, and they're oblivious to my revulsion. So I had them take me home instead.
A sterotypical pimpmobile delivers a gentleman and his oranges to an apartment near Park LaBrea.
A panorama of Park LaBrea's high rise apartments from Julian's apartment.
A sunset over Park LaBrea.
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