The Profound Effects of Losing an Arm Wrestling Match

My Lyft driver drops me off in a part of the Arts District that has apparently yet to be reclaimed. The door to the industrial building is unlocked. Inside, the lights flicker over the empty hallways and I don’t feel especially safe. But I’ve got my eyes trained on my phone, giving my driver who got lost twice and spent the whole ride complaining about people who complain about gentrification, five stars.

When I push through the door of #4, my friend who lives in Santa Monica but never seems to be there says, “You didn’t run into those pit bulls did you? I should’ve told you about the pit bulls.” I did not. He seems relieved and pours me a drink.

roof 2.jpgBecause no one can resist a rooftop after a few drinks, we crawl through a window and onto the roof. We peer through sky lights and hope to catch people in their most intimate moments: shadow boxing with the mirror, singing Frank Ocean to their pugs, eating kimchi in front of an open fridge while Ira Glass’s voice emanates from their phone. We peer into twelve living rooms and even a couple retail spaces. A few TVs are on, half-drunk glasses are sprawled across long dining room tables, laptops are open to email accounts, but no one is home. It’s midnight.

I stand at the edge of the building and wonder why I’m not feeling that thing we’re all supposed to feel when standing on the edge – the desire to jump. I think it’s because we’re not up high enough. Only four stories or so. You’d be lucky if you belly flopped and died. I set a bottle of Modelo on the lip of the building. If I was younger or drunker I’d toss it into the middle of the empty street but I don’t have the desire to do that either.

It’s FYF weekend and a steady stream of the artists playing tomorrow are being cycled through the loft’s speakers. We talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast and Joachim Trier’s editor and the Spanish repatriation of Sephardic Jews. There’s a moment where we quietly wish our ancestors had been booted from Spain five hundred years ago so we could spend our summers on Mallorca and not worry about leaving the Schengen Area after ninety days.

This might be the first time I’ve been at a party in a loft downtown where everyone isn’t doing coke. I mean, there’s coke here, but it’s all very discreet. A conversation about its source, an apology about coming up short on a few other pharmaceuticals for tomorrow’s festival, a confirmation of a Venmo payment received. I remember when people used to buy drugs with cash. Still, the party is very grown up. That is until someone mentions arm wrestling.

The last time I laid elbows and locked thumbs would have been the Carmel Middle School cafeteria. But really what we did there was play that game with quarters where we bloodied our knuckles. We did that and sat around waiting to be old enough to drive a car and tell everyone to fuck off.

I learned to drive a car, but I never got around to telling anyone, let alone everyone, to fuck off.

I lock hands with my friend – the one who has his mail sent to Santa Monica – and to be honest, I expect to win. It’s a delusion that I have. I always expect to win. I’m not talking about winning Jeopardy or checkers, I mean two men doing anything physical where only one can win. So I’m surprised when I put everything I have into it and I lose. Twice – left and right arms.

We shoot some more tequila. I talk to a guy who’s dedicated his life to working in the gardens at some monastery in the middle of Koreatown. For a moment, it seems like he might try to recruit me into the brotherhood of dudes who like to meditate and don’t mind carrying stones. I’m making up the part about stones, but the garden is real. Monks love gardens and beer, and I am perfectly fine with gardens and more than willing to drink beer. He doesn’t recruit me.

I show a girl from Dubai a picture of my family. I eat two slices of margherita pizza. I realize my shoulder is killing me, grab another Modelo and another slice of pizza and stumble out into the street.IMG_1723.JPG

Unless you’ve lost an arm wrestling match on the bar of a loft in the 30th year of your life, you don’t know my pain. And this particular pain runs deep. Or at least deep enough to send me to the gym on a Saturday. Like Rocky summiting the stairs in Philadelphia, I arrive ready for the workout of a lifetime: blood, sweat, torn calluses – but alas, I’ve forgotten my headphones – so I just trot down to the sauna instead.

It’s the usual crowd: an Asian dude in his sixties, four Armenians guys in the their twenties who may have just walked in off the basketball court and an older Armenian guy who I imagine spends his days in a track suit when he’s not nearly naked in a wooden box full of men. Pretty soon it’s just the two of us – me and the older Armenian guy – and I’m reaching the fourteenth of the fifteen minutes I had planned to be in there, when he says, “Do you like to have fun?”

“Not especially. I mean, I will, but I don’t seek it out the way I used to. I don’t have the energy for it.”

“Funny. I like that, and because I like you, I want to let you in on something.” He reaches into the pocket of his red Ralph Lauren swim trunks and pulls out a business card. It’s black and wet with what I hope is just the condensation in this sauna and not his sweat. He hands me the limp card and winks.

It takes both of my hands to hold it up flat so I can read the words: V.I.P. Companions. There’s a 1-800 number and the promise of discretion for “gentlemen who seek the companionship of beautiful, interesting and quiet women.” I hold onto the card for longer than I mean to because I’m imagining a harem of mute women. Dozens of non-speaking models. How do they find and enlist all these beautiful mute women? I’ve never met a person who didn’t speak – are they notoriously attractive?

“Very discreet.”

“I appreciate it but I’m—” I point to a ring that isn’t on my finger because I left it in my car when I was still under the impression I was going to lift weights today.

“Married men can have fun too.”

“Right, but you may recall my stance on fun – I’m not really seeking it, generally speaking.”

“Lots of nice parties.”

I massage my shoulder, remembering the defeat of last night’s party. I can’t take any more parties. I’m retired from fun. I try to hand the card back again but at this point it should really just be thrown away. The black sheen is now stuck to my fingers. It looks more like leftover squid ink pasta than a business card. I put the crumbling remains in my pocket.

“You deserve to be happy, my friend.” With that, he stands, winks and walks out. I’m on the verge of passing out as I enter the thirtieth minute of my time in the sauna, so I’m only able to give him about a fifteen second head start.

Then we meet up again in the locker room, shower side-by-side because we have to, and he doesn’t say a word to me. But he winks again. I don’t know what’s worse: losing an arm wrestling match, having a card for an escort service in my pocket or being repeatedly winked at, but here I am, taking it all on the chin.

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Alice and I Have Been Reading the Crystals

lunch beers:meditation.jpg

Like a vision in the night, a FaceTime request rattles from the dashboard of my car. I have one of those things Lyft and Uber drivers have though I don’t drive for either. I answer the FaceTime. It’s my volunteer spiritual guru: my mother[1].

She asks where I am, where I’m going. I’m on the 10 West in predictably sluggish traffic. The kind of traffic that seems to collude with your underperforming air conditioner just to stretch out your misery. Or maybe that’s just my air conditioner.

She says, “Just imagine yourself out of the traffic. Pull yourself from it and then it’s like it’s not there.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I say.

“Not any more dangerous than the traffic.”

I think she has a point. But I can’t be sure. I’ve been hearing things like this my whole life. She takes a more serious tone: “I’ve been studying the course on miracles and I realize now, as a lioness, I didn’t honor your growth—”

The worst stretch of the 10 between downtown and Santa Monica is the entire fucking thing. There isn’t a single redeeming quality. But whether I enjoy myself or not, I am told that time continues to pass. And so it does, the time passing, the cars inching along. My volunteer spiritual guru continues to talk. She tells me that she recently noticed her life is running parallel to Alice in Wonderland. I don’t question it. And then I do question it. How? From memory she recalls a scene where the Red King is sleeping:

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee, “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”

Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”

“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”

“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.

“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”

“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!” 

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For some reason I feel more comfortable hearing about the miracles. “So you’ve been reading the crystals? What else do they say?”

“Yes, yes. I’ve been reading the crystals,” she repeats, as if to prove she knows she lost me.

Traffic is moving slowly enough that I’m finally able to get a look at where my volunteer spiritual guide is standing. She’s in the house I grew up in, but there are sheets of plastic over some of the walls – there’s no longer a sink, stove top, oven, or dishwasher.

It’s all very obvious to me so I say, “I take it this is some sort of subtle feminist statement? You’ve ripped out your kitchen as a rejection of the Patriarchy – as a part of the male construction of what a household should be. You’re rejecting all that and unshackling yourself from the kitchen and thereby the male definition of what it means to be a woman?”

“What? No. I’m remodeling the kitchen.”

“Oh.”

She had to run. Reading the crystals takes some time. I’ve since passed La Brea. I should make it to Santa Monica by midnight.

 

[1] Services by said volunteer spiritual guru were never requested or retained. Yet like a crossing guard in the middle of the afternoon, she shows up in neon waving a baton, stopping and ushering as she sees fit. It’s thankless work.

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For $300 I’ll Let You Crash into My Car

JLG.jpg

I’m sitting on my deck, drinking my fourth cup of coffee and pretending to work. Which feels unnecessary because there’s no one around and I don’t have a job. Yet I’m holding myself accountable, or at least drinking the amount of coffee that should beget progress, when I hear the crunching of metal. Or the crackling of plastic. Either way, what I really hear is, “Hey, where do you think you’re going?!”

But I’m focused on my work. It’s amazing that one’s coffee can get cold when it’s this fucking hot outside, yet mine does. I’m not even wearing a shirt because of the heat and yet my coffee is the same temperature as the water in Morro Bay right now.

“I think that’s my neighbor’s car!” I hear a woman say. See, this is why I can’t get any work done. People are constantly shouting in my neighborhood. Oh great, and now there’s the pounding of footsteps coming up my stairs. Where’s my shirt?

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My dog starts to bark at my neighbor, a woman who looks like Parker Posey, if Parker Posey had decided to not pursue acting and become a Silver Lake mom instead. I find my shirt, I put it on. Now that I’m thirty, being fully clothed feels necessary.

She’s pointing to her phone and talking at a manic pace. “I was watching the guys work on my yard and I saw this truck hit your car and the guy tried to drive off so I chased after him and I was going to take a picture—” she points to a man dressed like a park ranger who isn’t a park ranger but more likely a gardener. “That’s him.” Then calling out to the man who isn’t a park ranger, “This is my neighbor!” She tells me again that he was going to drive away but she wouldn’t let him because she’s “kind of psycho” when it comes to these things.

I follow her down the steps and clumsily shake the hand of the guy who hit my car, which confuses everyone. I think I say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” My neighbor leads me to my car and points at the area that the guy crashed into – it’s my front bumper. It was hit once before by an Asian kid in Santa Monica who reversed into me while he was talking on the phone. His insurance company gave me $800 which I handed over to the Cha Cha Lounge over the course of a few Friday nights. The blemish remained. But this guy had fucked up that same corner a bit more. There was a dent and the headlight was crooked. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed if my neighbor didn’t point it out.

I’m getting ready to begin what I’m sure will be a brief and embarrassing conversation with the guy who hit my car when Parker Posey says, “Great. So do you think you could move your car? Whenever you get a chance, of course. Because I’m getting some work done, so…” She pointed to another massive truck. This one was blocking her driveway.

“No problem.” I’m aware that my car is a major blemish on the street. I’ve often wondered if a few neighbors were going to get together and buy me a new one because I’m undoubtedly bringing down the value of their homes by parking in front of them.

Parker Posey disappears into her mansion and I look long and not very hard at the corner of my car. It’s hot out, which is about the only thing I’m thinking.

The man who is not a park ranger speaks unintelligible English. His teeth have round edges, but his skin has that beautiful deep olive complexion that they only dole out near the equator. He’s maybe sixty years old. I think he’s saying something about a fair price. I ignore this and I ask for his insurance and his license. I plan on taking a picture of each and then just dealing with it later. Such is my policy. Deal with it later.

The important thing now is that I move my car. Parker Posey has reappeared and is smiling intensely, waiting for me to move it. She doesn’t have all day. Her house is worth close to 2 million. Last year, I Kelly Blue Booked my car out of curiosity and it came up as $615. Something tells me that number isn’t going up.

Again, he asks for a fair price. “Um, how about $400?” Cars are expensive to fix. I’ve probably put 10 grand into my $615 car in the last three years. He shakes his head and tells me that’s way too much. I suggest the insurance company again but this dude is strongly opposed and I’m not shocked. This is Los Angeles. I’ve almost exclusively been involved in accidents with guys who didn’t have driver’s licenses. I once got rear-ended by a Mexican guy and his daughter and for some reason I ended up giving them two hundred dollars. I try to not tell that story too often because it confuses everyone. But you had to be there, watching this father-daughter duo chipping away at the American Dream in a Toyota pickup that was definitely nicer than my car. I didn’t want to interfere with their perception that anything is possible. Including the person who is not at fault paying out the guy who just rear-ended him.IMG_1195.JPG

But I’m not quite ready to pay this guy. Really, I just want to go into a cool room and drink coffee that is warmer than the air temperature. “$200,” he says, shrugging, which I assume is a symbol of his generosity. I mean, I’m not a professional negotiator, but we both know where it goes from here. He says $200 a couple more times, I say $400 and eventually, one of us (me), drops down to $300 and we agree that’s fair.

He opens his wallet revealing about seventy $100 bills and accidentally plucks out five. He puts two back and hands me $300. I shake his hand, then I drive my car twenty-five feet and park. When I get out, the park ranger is walking up to me, “$300. It’s good.” Then I think he tells me that he’s working nearby, or something about the transmission of his truck. Where he crashed into my car actually looks pretty bad in this light.

But hey, a deal’s a deal. And in America, we don’t welsh on our terrible decisions. We double down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have $300 to burn at the Cha Cha Lounge. Also, I’m looking for a job. Preferably one that doesn’t require a working knowledge of cars or negotiation skills. Thanks in-advance!

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How do you say ‘bowling’ in French?

Reaganomics

On a television the size of a shipping container, I watch as two sisters from South Central swat a ball back and forth with the same intensity and speed as I’m applying to a pitcher of Pacifico at a bowling alley off of Pico Boulevard.

Over the din of clattering pins and urethane balls pounding the hardwood, a girl in rented shoes says, “I still do it here and there. Like weekends and holidays, but mainly as a diuretic.”

“I see,” I say. Though I don’t.

“Which is why I think it’s really fucked up when my sister calls me a cokehead. I mean, HELLO, I wouldn’t be snorting this stuff if I could achieve a regular bowel movement.”

“You’re up.” I point to one of the six hundred big screen TVs. This one happens to have our names and scores. Her name, according to the scoreboard, is Ganges, though not after the river, she tells me. After her cat.

“Who’s your cat named after?”

“No one. That’s just her name.” She scoffs and says, “Who’s your cat named after?”

“I don’t have a cat.”

I’m here for a birthday.

Jeff and Jules

She struts to the mechanism that cost Woody Harrelson his hand before he was famous for True Detective, and picks up an eight-pound, neon green bowling ball. She takes the ball, brings it up to her nose and stares down the alley.

I turn my attention to the pitcher and refill/refuel, depending on how you look at it. I hear the pins bang against each other and then the slick hardwood. She strides back with all the swagger of a person who can both claim to use cocaine for the explicit purpose of shitting and bowl a strike in a romper. She may be one of a kind. It’s girls like her that remind me Los Angeles is a special place.

A special place, and that I probably shouldn’t stay here too long.

In Santa Monica that is. The night is thick with salt air and the wind refuses to blow. And tonight, it seems, not even Milagro over ice can solve the weather.

I pick up my phone and search the advertised D.U.I. checkpoints so I can carefully chart my course home; not unlike a sailor bound for Easter Island. Or maybe it’s nothing like that. I’m just headed to Silver Lake.

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FYF 2015: I AM A GOD ( or the Year of the Kanye)

“I feel like there are only five people here, but they’ve been cloned over and over again.”

LA FEMME

Last year it was The Strokes t-shirt circa 2003 – this year it was a sea of Kanye West t-shirts. Which, at first glance, appeared to be worn ironically by blue-haired girls with pierced septums flaunting handfuls of side boob. I watched as they dislocated their thumbs to slip on and off wristbands that read: Over 21.

The Kids Are Probably Alright

Flat beers were the name of the game. They were readily available in the beer gardens, craft or otherwise. At first I was upset, but then it occurred to me that complaining about flat beer at a music festival full of kids too young to legally drink is like being perturbed that you share your dial-up internet with a fax machine. The kids aren’t drinking beers.

Still, I was on my tenth when they bumped into me. A girl who sat on a boy’s shoulders rolling so hard that she pulled on his pompadour as if she were barebacking a horse, trying to steer it through the crowd by it’s mane. Only it wasn’t a horse. It was a teenage boy. He asked her to dismount every three minutes or so, his turkey-sausage-fueled legs buckling under her eighty-six pounds of eyeliner and pink ombre hair. She swayed to Kanye as Kanye so expertly rapped over himself, floating in and out of a cloud of smoke, making proclamation after proclamation. Each greater than the last until he plateaued, having reached the greatest height of self-admiration it’s possible for a person with a microphone to hit. And everyone lost their shit. Except for me. I’m not really a fan.

So I watched as the masses passionately chanted self-flattering lyrics that were presumably written as Kanye stared deeply into… the mirror. Nothing says that you are a kind, caring and loving citizen of this earth like shouting with an effected Chicago accent, “I am a god!”Kanye Loves Kanye

So yeah, I’m headed back for day two. I’ll be the guy with the flat beer standing in a crowd of people who claim to be huge D’Angelo fans, from waaay back. But really, I’m not going to see D’Angelo or Mac Demarco or Toro Y Moi. I’m going to casually observe America’s youth testing the limits of how much acid is a reasonable amount to do while the sun is high and the days are long.

*All images were Fat-Jewished.

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I am a Goddamn Spiritual Person

As the sun rises, I wake up with the chirping of birds, the hum of the freeway, the clanking of Guatemalan immigrants sorting through my trash for bottles and cans.

I breathe in pollen, moss, carbon monoxide emissions. I breathe in intention, and I breathe out ten thousand vodkas in plastic cups, weed before it was legal, and any other toxin that doubled as a party favor back when Bush was in office. I breathe out the anxiety that is not worth holding on to and I tell myself, they cannot implicate me in their ugliness.

“They” being anyone who stands between me and the times of year when I’m on a beach with a beer, with no plans of checking my email and no desire to troll instagram to see who is on a beach with a beer instead of in an air conditioned office abutted by freeways and vegan restaurants, massage parlors and gastropubs. Despite being a spiritual person, I spend my life either on or between freeways. Maybe we all do.

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I have replaced Jameson with apple cider vinegar. I shoot it first thing in the morning and I follow it with a water-back. I wince in a way whiskey no longer makes me wince. I can feel the vinegar rotting my molars, my esophagus, but I’m told it’s good for me. Then I stuff myself with massaged kale — as much as I can stomach, and follow that with eggs with yolks as orange as tangerines. Or as orange as oranges. Either way, I eat them.

As a spiritual person, having breathed in my positive intentions and watched my thoughts float past me — not criticizing myself for having them, nor following them to wherever they might go; essentially not giving a fuck about them — and having breathed out the toxins of my youth, those which are deeply embedded in me and those which linger on my epidermis, I have pretty much fulfilled my duty for the day. It’s 7:53 A.M.

A normal person is constantly busy: work, bills, compulsive overeating followed by shame-fueled hours on the elliptical, celebrated with margaritas until the body has slowly slumped into submission. Also known as sleep.

A spiritual person, such as myself, watches his problems wrestle each other into submission like a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Yes, my problems heave and hoe just out of reach until the wind quits or I walk away.

Life is quite relaxing now that I am spiritually satisfied, though it has not pleased everyone. My employer doesn’t seem to understand that “working” doesn’t really fulfill the prophecy that I have imagined for myself, yet I still show up at the office and drink their coffee.

Paying rent is, of course, futile since the pursuit and accumulation of money is unsatisfactory. My landlord served up an eviction notice. I wrote back, “You cannot implicate me in your ugliness. When you’re ready to leave the dark side of chasing paper and paying your mortgage I’ll teach you the ways of breathing in intention and breathing out fucks-given.” So far no word, but I am an optimist, insofar as it’s possible for me to exert energy on anything that may not serve me.

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The Complete History of My Front Tooth (Right Incisor)

Terry

1985-1994: A tooth breaks through my gum line. Then said tooth falls out and is replaced by another tooth, which is larger and according to my peers “buck.” I am both haunted and proud my large, offensive tooth.

December 12, 1995: I’m at hockey rink on a former military base. More specifically, I’m standing between the posts of a goal that’s adjacent to the actual rink near the referees’ locker room. Because I’m incredibly stupid, I’m not wearing a face mask. To punctuate my stupidity, I’m not wearing a helmet either. Yet I glide side-to-side warding off the attempts of my brother and his friend who are younger, and by my own estimation, unworthy opponents.

I’m not sure if the score is being kept, but I do know I’m caught hugging the wrong post when a shot gets rifled from probably seven feet away from me. In an attempt to maintain my shutout, I do my best Terry Sawchuk and dive headfirst toward the puck. The next thing I remember is my mouth is bleeding and I do the least Terry Sawchuk thing it’s possible to do – I shriek at the top of my lungs then run around the rink looking for what I didn’t know then, but do know now to be a half gallon of morphine.

When they finally calm me down, everyone wants to know what happened to the part of my tooth that my braces didn’t save. I dig around in the crease for a bit looking for it. The old guys say if I find it, I should drop it in a glass of milk, but we’re at a hockey rink so there’s no milk and I’m fairly certain I swallowed my tooth anyway. This is the first and last time I ever play goalie.

The next day I go to school with my war story. I play up the blood and also change the setting from a net next to the rink to the rink itself. In the revised version I’m playing up a level and it’s the save that breaks my tooth, which wins the game for us. We’re league champions. If I cried they were tears of joy because we were champions, my frieeend.

Spring 1999: Somehow I’m still wearing braces. And to no one’s surprise, I find myself talking shit about a kid who has a full mustache and is rumored to drive himself to school. We’re in seventh grade. Or at least I am. I’m not sure he’s technically enrolled. Whatever shit I may have been talking makes it’s way to the mustachioed man-student and I’m informed that he’s going to kick my ass after school. I get specific instructions to head to where they sell pizza at lunch, but not as far as the bus pick-up lines.

At 3:01, I show up certain that some school official is going to intervene and shut this thing down. Instead there’s a circle of guys in JNCO jeans crowded around. I have spiked bleached hair and I’m wearing a Girl skateboard shirt. My mustachioed counterpart tells me that I must be a girl because only a girl would wear a shirt that says “Girl” on it. I tell him he’s a fucking idiot, and has he “ever even heard of Eric Kost—” He throws a punch that I am able to mostly block with my forearm. But I’m certain that he’s shattered my ulna and as I reach for it, he sends another punch to my metallic blue braced-face. This time he connects.

He starts to charge me, but I dodge him momentarily. “Pussy,” he says. I run my tongue across the bottom of my mouth. “Fuck.” I spit into my hand, but my tooth is nowhere in sight. I bare my busted grill to the crowd and say, “I gotta go.” And maybe because they see I’m missing most of my front tooth, the crowd lets me pick up my Jansport and walk away.

A couple days later I make sure everyone knows that I barely felt either punch. Personally, I considered it a draw and I would’ve demanded a rematch, but by then my mustachioed foe had left middle school to join the army.

2001-2004: I’m sure I broke my front tooth once, maybe twice, but I honestly can’t remember how or where.

Spanish dentist

March 23, 2007: I’m allegedly studying, but mostly drinking, on the Mediterranean side of Spain when I snap my tooth while eating a goddamn bocadillo in the afternoon. I walk to my college counselor’s office and she tells me that it’s siesta so I won’t be able to see a dentist until later. She feeds me three glasses of red wine and I fall asleep in her office.

When I wake up it’s dark and I assume she’s Cosby’ed me and now wants me to hit the road. Instead she says her husband is outside and he’s going to take me to a dentist. It’s 9:00 p.m.

I take a ride with a strange Spanish man then enter an elevator that opens to a small suite. A man in street clothes flips on the lights, invites me in and tells me to take a seat in the corner room while he changes. I flip on the lights in the next room to reveal the sort of dentist office you might see in a low budget movie that only had the money for a massage chair and a couple mirrors. My dentist enters, still in his street clothes, but now wearing one of those masks. He tells me that he used to live in Connecticut and “should we switch to speaking English?” I agree and he goes on to speak a language that’s completely incomprehensible to me. When he pauses I tell him he’s very good; in particular his accent. He says in Spanish that while he’s impressed with how white my teeth are, he couldn’t match the color. He went a few shades darker and suggests that I get it fixed when I return to America. As I’m leaving, he tells me I owe him 30 euros. Sure my tooth is a little brown, but my good that’s a fucking deal. I leave happy, but also make a note to limit my medical care in Spain to the cosmetic.

October 2008: I’m in the park of the Greystone Mansion just up the street from my office, which will soon go out of business. I’m working for an agent who insists that I read on my lunch break, but instead forcing me to read scripts, he piles up James Salter, Hemingway, and Nabokov. I’m in the middle of thinking I need a drink, since these guys seem to always be drinking, when I reach for my sandwich made on a beautiful baguette from La Brea Bakery. I take one bite and instantly feel my tooth crumble off. On my way back to the office I think I have to make up a story about how I broke it – mugging? Changing a tire? (Is it obvious I’ve never changed a tire?) Elbow to the face in the elevator? Instead I keep my mouth closed and decide to go home sick. No questions asked.

2009- July 6, 2015: I have a good run. A really good run. I wear a facemask while playing beer league hockey. I eat pizza with a goddamn fork and knife. Things are good. It’s a time of peace. I go to the dentist for normal things like cavities and cleanings. They tell me all of my previous dentists were horrible and I need to get everything redone. Everything accept the front tooth. Instead they just try to sell me Invisalign over and over again. I decline, and they agree that I will be fine without it.

July 7, 2015: I get out of work early and pump iron with the Armenians that frequent my gym. I feel a sense of camaraderie among them, which lasts until I’m piled into the sauna, surrounded by tattoos that are the Armenian Genocide equivalent of “Never Forget.”

Aix-baguettes

Riding high, I find myself in a market, face-to-face with a wall of baguettes. I grab one. I think of being in Paris and how everyone seems to start in on the end of their baguette as soon as they stroll home from their corner patisserie. I eye the baguette, grab it and step outside. The sun is shining, there’s a nice breeze, I practically skip to my piece of shit car. And I can’t help myself, the baguette has tempted me for too long. I give in to its allure in a parking lot in Silver Lake.

One bite. The first bite. That’s it. When you’ve broken your front tooth as many times as I have, well, you know the feeling. It’s not like a hockey puck, or a punch. There’s a distinct collapse, like a foot smashing a sand castle.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

July 8, 2015: Now I’m in a high rise in Hollywood where the dentist tells me she’s surprised it lasted as long as it did. She remembers me from 2009. She asks why I stopped seeing her 2012. I assure her that it was nothing personal, just her outrages prices nearly bankrupted me. She tells me the woes of owning a small practice and then offers to set me up with a veneer instead of slapping on another bonding. It’s true that I’m out of network and it’ll cost me $1,600 out of pocket, but I need to think about my future.

“What if I give up baguettes?” I ask.

“That might work too.”

“Fuck it. I’ll go with the veneer. Do you guys take maxed out credit cards?”

“Sure! We’ll put you on a plan!”

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