driving on life
Sunday, April 15 2001
Last night after my housemate John and his friend Fernando got back from their San Francisco roadtrip, Fernando suggested another evening of typical Fernando "fun." First they went to see a live dance performance, which was apparently excellent. Then they went to a college "keg party." John didn't want to go, and he fought mightily to get out of it, but Fernando was insistent. And behold, there it was, your typical stupid college keg party. John stayed all of ten minutes. Today when he was talking about it, he said he found it humiliating to be "the 27 year old guy" at the keg party. Back, you see, when John was actually in college, he'd see some 27 year old loser at the party and he'd ask himself, "What the fuck is he doing here?" (Mind you, I've been the 27 year old at the keg party many times myself, even well after I was 27, and I never felt the least bit embarrassed, but I digress.)
John could say enough about what a wonderful time he'd had in San Francisco. He'd been hanging out in gentrified hip North Beach neighborhoods, at fun little bars where people actually sit down and talk to one another instead of gyrating to loud repetitive music. He'd met cool people, yes, even befriended them. Suddenly he could put his finger on what is wrong with Los Angeles. "People actually walk there!" he cried. Interestingly though, as much as he'd enjoyed San Francisco, it made him want to move to a different "real city," that most real of American cities, New York.
The San Francisco experience got John to thinking, "Are there any cool places in LA?" I said that there are a few, like Venice and Silverlake. "I want to be able to go into a bar and just sit down and have a drink; not have to gyrate." So I mentioned that fun karaoke bar I'd been to in Culver City.
Suddenly John hit upon a suggestion, "Let's go to Venice and walk around!" It sounded like fun to me, so we hopped in his VW Golf and off we went. Somewhere around 20th Street on Santa Monica Blvd. in the City of Santa Monica he asked if life began at conception. I said that sounded like a marvelous idea, but really didn't it begin 3 billion years ago? He immediately had second thoughts, but now I was totally set on the idea and I lobbied hard for it. So we went and found pre-born fetal life and continued on.
We ended up on the Venice Beach boardwalk shoulder to shoulder with the teeming masses of humanity out for a bit of exotic pedestrianism. It was the usual Venice Beach boardwalk scene, complete with the leopard skin African with plastic spear, the guy on roller blades who plays heavy metal guitar, the henna tattooists, the guy who has found the key to endless orgasm, and uncountable scads of massage booths. New for me this time was a group of African Americans clothed in ornate sacred cloaks standing beneath large Stars of David, using scripture to help them answer theological questions from argumentative passersby. Judging from the sign on their booth, they were claiming to be members of one of the lost tribes of Isræl.
Another thing new for me on the boardwalk was a group of Falun Gong practitioners slowly moving to their music (as I'd seen them doing in Brooklyn's Prospect Park). They had a petition for us to sign asking for something to be done about the Chinese crackdown against their spiritual movement. To drive home their point, they had some nasty Polaroids of what a member of the Falun Gong looks like after he is beaten senseless by Chinese authorities. The life beginning at conception was rocking the catwalk and we felt empathetic to their plight, so we signed using fake names and zip codes.
After we'd walked the entire length of the commercial part of the Boardwalk, we turned inland and headed towards the center of downtown Venice, the crossroads of Pacific and Windward Avenues. There's a coffee shop on the northeast corner of that intersection, and that's where we each got cups of coffee (while the staff tried to shoo away a loitering hippie who was taking up a valuable seat). The coffee was excellent and made us feel even better than we were already feeling. Coffee and life go well together.
Suddenly John had an idea. We should go back and each get another life to begin at another conception in sort of an pro-life way. I thought that was a pretty decadent thing to want to do, and at first I was reluctant. But we were starting to come down and I've never done two before, so eventually I gave in.
We ended up doing our second round in the rather Mexican part of downtown Silverlake. Truth be known, I was sort of disoriented and couldn't find the cool part of Silverlake, the part with the Kasbah coffee shop. We walked back and forth on a largely deserted Sunset Blvd. and then decided to drive back to Venice.
And what a drive it was! Somehow we found ourselves heading south on the 101 and then the 5 and then the 710, without ever intercepting the 10. The 10 would have been the easiest way back to Venice, but instead we found ourselves gradually returning northwestward via the 405. Somewhere along the way we started experiencing massive amounts of unleashed life all the way from our conceptions. Life was an entirely different mumbo at this conceptual stage of life. Interestingly, though, it turns out that it's not difficult to drive in this state. The act of driving, especially the aggressive way John likes to drive, is very much related to life. But with his artificially-raised life with respect to conception, John was having all the joy of driving without resorting to any of his usual aggro antics. He was driving calmly at the posted speed limit, considerately letting people in and not following anyone closely, savoring every second of it. "I'm never driving while not on e again!" he declared.
Back on the Venice Beach boardwalk, the sun had set and the crowds had dispersed. On my recommendation, we went to The Waterfront Café (the place where I always rendezvous with the Community Team). We started out seated at a table out in front and then, when we decided it was too cold, we moved inside. We had two Erdingers each, though we were still enjoying inflated life. This made everything seem okay, from unreciprocated flirting with the not especially attractive girls there to the bitchy pushiness of our waitress. John pointed out that The Waterfront Café is sort of a sportsbar, something I hadn't really noticed hanging out in front with the largely athletically agnostic erstwhile Community Team. But sure enough, the place was had hockey sticks on the wall and teevee monitors showing hockey games. One fan amongst the bar patrons had even brought his own hockey stick. Dork. "I hate hockey," John sighed.
Next we went to the Circle Bar, a place I'd once visited with people from the UK Team. It's hip, the music is good, and the bar is a big circular structure around the bartender so you don't have to stare at yourself all night through the drinks in a mirror. The woman across the circle from me was probably about 45 years old and not especially cute but I actively flirted with her just because it seemed like the polite thing to do and I was still coasting on life. The beverage of choice tonight was Jameson Whiskey, which I picked because it happens to be Gretchen's favorite. There was a DJ spinning with a live guitarist accompaniment, and after we'd had a drink we went to dance. Somehow, not far into my second whiskey, I slipped into blackout and I have no memory of what happened from there. The account of what I did from then on I can only relate from legend. I was a person who was not remembering things, and that beast which I was for that hour or so, though animated and seemingly capable of human reason, is cutoff forever from the world of consciousness. Evidently I was dancing kind of rambunctiously and the DJ warned us to chill out. When we didn't chill out he had us kicked out. After that there was a scene where I was pissing and walking at the same time down an alley and some drunk Mexicans saw us and started laughing.
I don't know how he did it, but John managed to get us home without incident. Perhaps (and I don't know, I was in blackout) he'd become sober. At that point the alcohol concentration in my blood fell below a certain critical level and I fell out of my blackout like Satan from Heaven. I remember (in the form of little snapshots and freeze frames) trying to get John to come with me to Q's up on Wilshire. Q's is a conventional schteveish place, not a tenth as cool as the Circle Bar, but I was full of energy and still wanted to do stuff. John refused to join me, so I went off on my own.
I don't much remember what happened at Q's; I wasn't drinking anything. I remember being upstairs on the balcony interacting with some people who were no doubt disturbed by how fucked up I was. Eventually this plump guy with a sensitive pony tail told me I had to leave. I was like yeah, whatever, and then I tried to sneak back in, and he immediately grabbed me and kicked me out again. So I went off towards home and ended up walking around the building back to the front of Q's again. There I stood, chatting over the railing with some random people smoking in the front porch area, hoping to sneak in again. I guess I was making his life miserable by this point, because the plump pony tail guy told me he'd call the cops if I didn't leave. So I was like, yeah whatever, sure pony tail guy, peace and love, I'll be on my way. And I set out decisively for home. At this point a cop car showed up on Wilshire and that exasperated pony tail guy pointed at me in a big condemnatory gesture. This was all the justification they needed for swooping in on me. There I was, on foot, completely at the mercy of the LAPD.
The cops got out of the squad car and checked my Virginia State driver's license (which still claims that I'm a resident of 129 Observatory Avenue, Charlottevsille, Virginia) and asked how I'd be getting home. When I said I was walking they said they'd drive me instead. "No thanks, I can make it," I assured them. "Well let me put it to you this way," one of them said, "you can either have us drive you home or you can spend the night in jail." That wasn't much of a choice, so I said, "Okay, let's do the you taking me home thing then." "Only on one condition," the LAPD man said, "you have to be in handcuffs." So I rode home in the back of an LAPD car in handcuffs. No big deal. This sure beats the last time I got drunk, went into blackout and ended up in police custody (almost exactly five years ago to this day).
Members of a lost tribe of Isræl on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
More of that lost tribe.
The lost tribe's audience dissolves into the vast Venice Beach throng.
Scary looking chick in the Venice coffee shop.
Random people old and young on Main Street.
It looks like I was busted by those chicks.
A century tree high on a bank above Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake.
Life floods my synapses somewhere down the 710.
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