Category Archives: Information Pertinent To Gratification

Car Talk #2

cdtI once had lunch in La Mancha with a man named Victor. We drank wine, ate paella, and two hours later I watched him kill a bull with a sword. I left Spain shortly after that, but not before he gave me the slain bull’s ear. It was bigger than my hand. He wanted to make sure I didn’t forget him.

I’ve never killed a bull, but I have helmed a 1994 Camry that bucked with the same force as those bulls that Canadians on amphetamines ride at rodeos. Unlike those canucks, I don’t own a truck. Or a horse, so I had to get my bucking hooptie fixed.

The time had come to retire my largely incompetent mechanic’s coveralls. Sure I never understood a word of his broken English. And yes, he cost me thousands of dollars and tens of hours in his incompetence. But we had fun. He’d grumble something presumably related to my spark plugs or Soviet Armenia and then he’d take my credit card for a joy ride. I’d leave with a handwritten receipt, the Check Engine light still glowing.

The new shop I moved on to is very corporate. They keep the mechanics in the garage and they have girls working at bistro-style check-in tables. The girls are nice, but instead of asking about my car, or its problems, we go into their life story: their fiance’s job, their gym routine, the pros and cons of fish oil. For a moment, it feels as if I’m stuck on an airplane next to a nice lady who is probably flying to Sacramento or Santa Fe. Before I leave she says, “Well, it’s a good thing you did stop bartending, because you aren’t always going to be pretty.” She takes my key and she promises to call.

I stop by after work to have them swipe my card and retrieve my car. The girls smile and say, “If there are any problems, just drop it off again.”

I do. Every morning. For the next five days. And each day they call me to say they’ve spotted the elusive problem and for a nominal fee they’ll address it. I agree.

Each day I return to work, several hundred dollars poorer than the day before. After a week of hearing about my automotive woes, my co-worker says, “You’re familiar with the definition of insanity, right?”

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The Afternoon Beer Dilemma

Das Boot

I’m triangulated between two bars. A right triangle. Or maybe it’s another kind. Regardless, this coffee shop’s patio is hemorrhaging charm as I watch the sun lift itself higher, watch my work stay exactly where it’s been, watch the clock tick and with each tock make a case for relocating to a proper wateringhole.

It is technically the “afternoon”. It wouldn’t be completely uncivilized to have one, maybe two beers then continue with my day. It might be just the change I need. Beer: The Afternoon Delight. Beer: Better Than An Espresso. Beer: Go from Meh to Delighted!

There are other considerations. It’ll be a late night. After this work, there will be other work. I’ll be in a dark room with a bunch of screens watching take after take after take of actors saying the same fucking lines over and over again, only sometimes it’s slightly better and other times it’s slightly worse. In light of that, maybe a beer is a necessary retreat. A pat on the back. A lollipop after an inoculation.

vaccine

The bars haven’t moved.

The World Cup is going on and although I’m not following it, I could always sidle up next to some Belgians, some Germans, some Grecians; I could paint my face in the bathroom then reemerge a fan. I’m not picky about the country. Not when I know there will be beer and camaraderie.

The other bar will not have the World Cup, but my feet will stick to the floors. It’s like walking in tar, but it gets stickier and stickier as I move closer to the horseshoe where they dole out cheap liquor and beer. It will be dark, very dark and the minutes will slip into hours and the day into night. No one will be cheering. There might be a couple co-workers huddled around sad margaritas celebrating whatever people who sell cell phone plans might celebrate.

The bartender will be somewhere between thirty and forty. A retired hipster, banished to a hipster bar where he must watch the clientele get younger and younger. Where he can read Rilke in the afternoons and wait for his girlfriend to show up with her just-of-age friends. He can hide his book too slowly, hoping to be asked about it, then give them shots of Fireball. Which is what they came for. They do not care about Rilke or how hard it is to retire from hipsterdom.

Future Bartender

I’ve decided to train my eyes on the work ahead. It’s important work about conjoined twins: what it’s like to have your own brain, heart, liver, but have to share a dick. Yes, it’s deep and philosophical, and though the audience for conjoined twin comedy is small, I think I’ve cornered the market. I understand their plight because while organs divide them, I’ve got organs in revolt; micro revolutions happening within my brain, my liver, my heart. The lines have been drawn, declarations have been made. One will take no more afternoon beers, one will take no less. One wants to write deeply important conjoined twin comedy, the other wants to catch up on Louie. One suggests that I train for a marathon, the other thinks a nap is in my best interest.

The bars, of course, still have not moved. I appreciate this.

Once, I saw the Salton Sea from a mountain and I was told the San Andreas fault line was getting closer. 6 inches a year; an impressive pace. This wasn’t the ayahuasca. These were the facts.

SA

But the bars still have not moved. Despite fault lines, yoga studios, coffee shops, forthcoming luxury condos. Or maybe in spite of them. I’m not clear on the distinction or their reasoning. Maybe I better pop in, have a word with the proprietor, really wrap my head around the plan and the stand that’s been taken. If it happens over a beer, so be it. Someone has to carry the torch.

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St. Tropez’s Biggest Floozie and Absent Nude Scenes

I’ve watched “…And God Created Woman” about fifty times. Each time I watch it, I wait patiently for the moment when Brigitte Bardot will stomp around naked in a rage or a fit of lust or as an attempt to cool off in the Mediterranean.

I wait the whole movie for that scene because it seems inevitable. Especially, when you consider the opening, Brigitte Bardot ass up in the sun, tanning ever so discretely behind her foster parents’ laundry line. With that kind of opening, I have to believe that’s just a taste of what’s to come.

I mean, I don’t watch that movie just to see Christian Marquand act like France’s favorite misogynist. And I only sort of watch it to see an old rich guy like Curd Jurgens struggle to manage his obsession with St. Tropez’s biggest floozie. Sure, I watch it for that, but mainly I watch it because I have to assume, for all the lives Bardot is ruining as she rolls around in the sand with Marquand or when she’s tanning topless on a busted boat in the shipyard, the big pay-off will be gratuitous Bardot nudity. Is that so wrong? Is that so much to ask?

As a matter of fact, every time I wait ninety-odd minutes for said scene(s) I’m letdown. For all that she puts us through, for all the highs and lows—for the bullet Curd Jurgens takes and then doesn’t report because he knows that the police don’t understand matters of love—we never see her completely naked. Isn’t that tragic?

Sure, there are a million ways to see Brigitte Bardot naked, but I’m talking Brigitte Bardot circa 1956, in St. Tropez. The one that curb-kicked hearts and road a bicycle to a book store where she sat about not giving a fuck all day long. The orphan daughter of a merchant marine! She tried her hardest not to turn her husband into a cuckold. She really did. I saw it. It was a valiant effort, too. Lounging about in the Tardieu villa, dancing the cha cha cha alone, not eating apples, not drinking brandy… until of course, she ended up drinking brandy in Bar des Amis with sailors and hookers and later she danced with what appeared to be a band of Domos or possibly Cubanos.

And still, she’s fully clothed or very close to it. She’s running her hands through her hair, which looks awful but that’s fine because she’s running a fever and the salty air has fluffed her hair into a dry blonde head piece. But that’s acceptable, again because the fever, and her all-engulfing love for Christian Marquand are doing this to her. And it’s not fair. She’s tried so hard not to let this happen, but these bongo playing brothers can really dance and that’s the only that makes her forget that she’s got a hard life being married to a boring ship repairman in St. Tropez. What a terrible life!

They’ve just sold their land for four million francs and a thirty percent stake in Jurgens’ ship repair business. He loves her and he’s going to open a casino. She’s richer than she’s ever been! She’s going to get that car she’s always wanted, but she’s also in love with Christian Marquand and he’s an asshole. The worst kind. Jurgens says Marquand lives in the Stone Age when it comes to understanding women, and I think he’s right. But none of that matters because he’s tall and handsome, lean and tan from the hard life of St. Tropez. What a hard life it must be…

And still, she doesn’t give any of us what we want. Not one of us. So I watch it again, hoping this time will be different from the last, which might be silly if you’re immune to the bicycle riding, book selling, chemically imbalanced, irrational Brigitte Bardot who just wants to dance the cha cha cha and lay on the beach. But I’m not immune. And besides, I want to see Jurgens brush off another bullet wound because the police don’t understand matters of love and he does… If nothing, he understands such matters as he bleeds to death in the passenger seat of his convertible while the man who Brigitte loves drives him away.

Little known fact: Neil Young has always felt like Jean-Louis Trintignant’s character in the film so he wrote this song about it. There’s a French version, but the accordion kind of drowns out the lyrics.

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Anti-Phone Calls P.S.A.

Phone calls are nice. Everyone likes to get them. Especially now since phone calls are going the way of the letter, the way of carbohydrates, the way of Whitney…

But you can’t always text. You can’t always email. Some things must be dealt with directly and in real-time.

For example, say your grandmother died last week at the age of eighty-two while waiting for her favorite Thai restaurant to deliver her lunch. Naturally, I would learn of this tragedy through a social media update.

Grandma passed waiting for a larb salad 😦 (sent from my Iphone)

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the thread “So sorry that grandma died hungry…” Nor would it be acceptable for me to send out a heartfelt text like, “Ugh! Sucks about your grandmother! Happy hour soon?”

No, that would have to be a phone call. We would need to converse. We would go on to talk about how she was old and death is normal and at least she ordered-in lunch. I mean, keeling over pad thai in public would’ve been super awkward. Or worse, say she had made a little lunch for herself, she might’ve rotted for days before the neighbors smelled her. Yes, it was convenient that the delivery guy was sick of being stood up and called the cops, determined to get the $14.50 grandma owed. Yes, I bet he felt bad after-the-fact.

Doctors are reliant on phones. It’s a matter of consideration. The following is not considerate.

Dear Lance Armstrong,

We regret to inform you that you have testicular cancer.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kas Omani

No, that doesn’t work. You let a man grope your possibly cancerous balls and at the very least you deserve a phone call. Am I right? It’s an intimate act, the jostling of testicles. No, you weren’t dating but a little courtesy, please. If not lunch… a phone call will suffice.

The tough thing about phone calls is you have to answer them. And really, who answers the phone these days? We’re all in the middle of something. And that ringing, it’s so foreign. It feels as if your pocket is being violated. One beep/buzz for a text/email, but three, maybe even more—that’ s just an invasion of one’s personal space.

How would you like it if I banged on your front door and demanded an immediate response to a question? Once upon a time that might have been a reasonable request, but these days we like to dictate how and when we respond. It could be seconds or it could be hours later. Proceed as you see fit.

So the call comes and you don’t answer the call because it just doesn’t feel right. It’s all a bit odd. Off to voicemail it goes. Voicemail. It’s sort of like a fax machine. Some people still use them. I bet William Shatner has a fax machine in his office. I’m sure Morgan Freeman has a fax machine. They seem like guys that who like having a hard copy. Email + Printer = Just fax it over, bub!

But voicemail isn’t tactile. Voicemail rarely moves us forward. Usually it’s a lateral move, “Call me back.” At best, someone says everything you need to know but when you see how long message is, you delete on principle. Who has 2:30 to listen to someone else ramble?

Worst case, you do call back. “Hi. I just missed a call from you.”

And then someone who you don’t recognize pauses. She’s not used to getting phone calls either. She repeats your name. Way off. You repeat your name. She gets closer. You do this dance until you’re dealing with roughly the same amount of syllables. Sean Puffy Combs vs John Duffy Moans.

She moves on, which means you’re on hold. Maybe there’s music. If there is you’re lucky. You can think to yourself how shitty the hold music is or you can blast across your social media one of those tired status updates that reads: Dear (Insert Corporation Here), If you’re gonna keep me on hold for twenty minutes, at least have decency to play something besides Seal’s “Kissed by a rose.”

If you don’t have music the panic sets in. Yes, this is a phone call. It’s grave enough that it could not be emailed or texted. This means someone died. Or it means you’re going to die. Or you’re pregnant. Or you have lung cancer. Or a jury of your peers is going to decide whether you intentionally laundered that money. Or you have gangrene and the only option is to take a hacksaw to your femur.

… And still you wait. Hold, hold on.

You could hang up. Maybe they wouldn’t call back. Of course they’ll call back. It’s their duty. They owe it to you or you owe it to them. Friends don’t call friends. Lawyers call clients. Doctors call patients. Landlords call tenants. Strippers call lawyers. Lawyers call-in favors. Goons slash stripper’s tires. Stripper calls AAA. AAA calls a tow truck company. The guy in the tow truck accidentally runs over the stripper. Witness calls the police. Police call tow truck guy. Tow truck guy calls lawyer. Prosecutor calls disfigured stripper to the stand.

I’d expand, but the music has stopped.

Any minute now I’ll be speaking to someone about something that someone preferred not to write in an age when everyone would prefer to do anything but write.

I practice saying to myself, “For godsakes, man! Cut to the chase!” But I know I won’t say that.

So instead, I’ll wait—take my resting heart rate, think about my blood sugar, recount any activity that could send me up river.

Carry on.

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The Year of the Stray Dog!

My nose is buried in a glass of Carménère. I breathe in the wine, my surroundings. I’m on a street that is likely named El 25 de Mayo or El 9 de Julio. I’m about to say something about either hints of cherry or crushed pepper when a dog walks by me. It’s the eighty-seventh perro callejero that I’ve seen since I landed. So naturally, I ask:

-Is it the year of the dog?

Across the table from me is Santini Martin. He wears a white Carlos Gardel hat like a tourist and reads La Nación like a local. He sips a café cortado between grunts.

-Hmm?

-You know, the Chinese calendar.

-China? This is Chile.

-Right, but…

-How’s the wine?

-Pepper, thyme, not off-settling tannic. Black berries.

-You read or smelled all that?

-Don’t offend me. Top me off.

Jet lag was setting in. My vision was going soft and the dogs were multiply like…

-I think they over soaked the skins. Too tannic for my taste.

-Speaking of oversoaked skins, you should consider sunscreen.

-Consider it considered. Now, what do you know about these dogs?

-They were all once puppies.

-Everyone loves puppies.

-And then they grew up.

-Became a motley crew.

-Now they roam the streets looking for a hot meal, some shade, a glass of vino tinto and a bath.

-Someone should take them in.

-No one could ever love these mutts.

-You’re a cold hearted man.

-I’m a realist.

-Where I come from they love ugly dogs. They eat health conscious meals, exercise regularly and spend their Sunday nights snuggled up watching HBO.

-A dog’s life.

-I think I’ll post flyers in Los Angeles advertising these mutts. Adopting feral dogs is very in. Very progressive. Like human rights used to be.

-That topic has gone a bit soft.

-Haven’t we all.

I swill and swig the last of my Carménère.

-Passion fruit?

-Stick to the dogs, kid.

And so I did.

EXCHANGING PLEASANTRIES CANINE FOUNDATION est. 2012

Name: Pablo Neruda   Breed: Chilean Malamute   Age: 11   About: Trained duck hunter, adept chef, prone to fleas, likes fast women with loose morals. Loves to dance.

Name: Augusto Pinochet Ugarte   Breed: Breton Doberman Pinscher   Age: Deceased   About: Loves to laugh, talk fascism, violate human rights, line dance and impose curfews.

Name: Jeronimo   Breed: Cat/Chihuahua   Age: 32   About: Vegan, political junkie, hates her dad, loves Tom Brady and Newt Gingrich. Looking forward to becoming a born-again Christian. Her favorite holiday is Easter.

Name: Bernardo O’Higgins   Breed: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel   Age: 64    About: The life of an illegitimate son can be a tough one. Poor health and lack of training hasn’t helped either, but I’ve got high hopes for this guy. He’s got a great attitude and doesn’t shed.

Name: Gabby Mistral    Breed: Poet/Boss   Age: 5.5   About: Haunted by betrayal, sorrow, death, and the perpetual stain that Hot Cheetos leaves on one’s fingers. What she lacks in outright happiness she makes up for with a loud wardrobe.

If you’re interested in adopting any of these perros callejeros/children please follow the instructions below:

  1. Western Union $15,500 USD to P.O. Box 1826 Hollywood, CA 90028 c/o Exchanging Pleasantries.
  2. Fly to Chile.
  3. Roam Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, and Santiago until you find the dog of your dreams.
  4. Cab to the airport.
  5. Bribe customs.
  6. Fly back to wherever you live.
  7. Bribe customs again.
  8. Bathe, spay and/or neuter your pet.
  9. Send a thank you note to the above address.

If you have any questions, please direct them to this guy…

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Fast Times In Thai Town

No matter what I say. No matter how convinced and indoctrinated I seem. Do not believe me. Do not press on. You will be disappointed. Because after all, Thai Angel is not all it’s cracked up to be…

What is it lately? Why do all these Asians operating shady afterhours spots think I’m a cop? When did I all of a sudden start to look like a cop? What does a cop even look like in LA? I’ll tell you—Filipino. And a chick. That’s what a cop looks like in LA. Want to know what I look like? I know a guy named Domingo, he told me I look like the Brawny Man. Does the Brawny Man look like a cop? I don’t think so.

But the fact remains; I can’t get a drink after two am to save my life. Maybe it’s for the best. I disagree.

And it’s not restricted to Los Angeles. For example, in September I found myself in Boston. Yes, you read that correctly. Found myself. Not in the Existential sense—no, I literally woke up on a plane that had just landed in Boston. It was 7:30 a.m. and a Friday.

So there I was in Boston. A day passed. I saw some things. I saw the American Revolution. I saw Sam Adams. I ate a lobster roll. Then, all of a sudden it was two a.m. Like any god-fearing, unslakeable fool, I was looking for some cold tea. That’s what they call it out there in New England. A drink after two, is cold tea. Fine by me. I’m not picky. There was a group of us. There we were, in the North End, or the South End, or maybe it was Southie, or possibly Northie… actually probably not Northie. Northie, after all, is Maine. Wherever we were, we were looking for Asians because Asians serve the good stuff. They serve that cold tea.

Try as we might. Try as we did. Try as we were told we should. We got shut down. Everyone thought I was a cop. The 5-O. Johnny Law. The Fuzz. I was accused of all sorts of terrible things. Entrapment. Bribery. Trespassing. Public Indecency. Tax-Evasion. The list goes and goes. How they knew all this? I do not know. But that’s Boston for you.

Fast forward to last night. The clock strikes two somewhere near Bunker Hill. I’m speaking Spanish to a girl who’s as tall as Lamar Odom. Literally, the tallest chilango that ever lived. Tecate all around. Tecate didn’t look good on her. No sir. Know who Tecate looks good on? Super models. Why? It’s an awful beer and it takes a super model to make it look appetizing. But like I said, I’m not picky…

I make a proposal. Yes, I do. I want to say, I know better. It’s possible I might, but thus far I’ve never proved it. I propose we go to Thai Angel. Charming little place in Thai Town. Shit attitudes, angry staff, awful glass noodle salad, over-priced booze in a Styrofoam cup. It’s just up the street. I promise, it’ll be fantastic.

We get to Thai Angel. I saunter over to the bar and the conversation went like this:

-Booze, por favor.

-I don’t speak Spanish. This a Thai Restaurant.

-Right.

-You want see menu?

-Let’s cut the crap, you don’t have a kitchen. You’ve got a microwave. I’d have to be twice as drunk as I am now to eat anything from here. I would know. I’ve done it before.

Then she stares me down. We’ve met before. Usually, she asks my name, tells me I’m cute then charges me for one or two more drinks than I’ve ordered. We have a rapport. We have history.

-Two whiskeys, two vodkas. Ice. Comprende?

-No.

-Yes.

She goes on to accuse me of being a cop. She tugs my beard just to make sure it isn’t a costume. She says she recognizes me, but not in a good way.

Finally, we establish I’m not a cop. My cohort wants to know what the fuck is going on. After all, I promised a good time. Hookers, cocaine, midget ballerinas, HBO, the works. So far, I’ve come up with zilch. She looks at my ID. She says, now I know where you live, in case you’re lying.

I say, OK. But truthfully, I’m a little weirded out. The address on my ID is in fact a P.O. Box 365 miles from Thai Town.

She tells me, there’s a new place. Tonight’s the first night. We’ll be the first guests.

-Eighty dollar.

-No.

-No?

-How about forty?

We strike up a deal. All of a sudden there’s a train of SUVs leaving Thai Angel, following a woman who thinks I’m a cop to an undisclosed location.

We get there and there’s an old man at the door. I know this old man. We go way back. I shake his hands. Great to see you, I say.

-Eighty dollar.

-Talk to Esmeralda. We’re paying forty.

We walk in. We shouldn’t have walked in. I wouldn’t walk in again without a Ruger. Queasy fluorescent lights. An asbestos ceiling. The owner’s next of kin. One table. They say a DJ is coming later. Great. They plop down four Miller Lites. The only thing I hate more than Miller Lite is Miller High Life.

We sit for three minutes. We drink our beers. We pay. We leave. Some party, right?

The next time the clock strikes two and you and me are side by side, remember what I’ve just told you. I might promise that we’ll be sipping martinis with Melanie Laurent in a sprawling estate on Point Dume, but in all actuality, we will end up in Thai Town. We will drink warm beer. We will be scorned. I will apologize for the French colonization of Vietnam. No one will understand.

And then, my friend, we will leave. Our livers better for the failure. Our minds worse for the effort. Thai immigrants wealthier for our indulgence.

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