Category Archives: Red Cups

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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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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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 Age of Enlightenment: Ah, Adulthood!

Ah, Sausalit

A guy walks into a bar.

Who am I fucking kidding? I walk into a bar. I walk into a German bar on a Thursday night to meet a man who is about to become a father. It’s a celebratory time, but with his pending fatherhood and my pending adulthood, a quiet pint is where we will start and where it will end.

But this is a reunion and we’re short two, which means that this quiet pint(s) is really just a precursor.

Still, everything has changed and even though I used to drink well into Wednesday morning with these guys, the times have changed. One is almost a father, one is almost a professor, one has been growing his hair and talking about moving to Istanbul. We’ve all matured. All that tequila at the Roosevelt, all those Bloody Marys on Cahuenga minutes before last call; they’re all behind us. We have credit cards now that are mostly paid off. We have life partners and lovers turned tantric masseuses who just want what’s best for us. They tell us so in postcards from Montreal.

Yet, despite all of that. Despite uncorking sophisticated beers in a strip mall in Echo Park, despite a lack of identification we still find ourselves in a car, a hired car, trying our best to find something that might raise our blood pressure and give us something to question in the morning. A young Bruce Lee type in a Toyota Yaris takes us to a fire station that moonlights as a bar. We miss it three times. What ivy and a lack of signage do for credibility, just complicate things when you reach a certain level of maturity.

But it’s closed and our driver finesses us through Silver Lake until we’ve found a place that will have us – we the would-be father, the novelist, a man headed for New Orleans in the morning and myself. One of us grabs a microphone and starts singing a song that I should probably know, but I do not. Then there’s a round of whiskey in front of us. Then there’s another. And another. The lights come on, but we’re not done yet.

The world has expanded for me. Everything is greater than it once was. It’s multiplied. Which is to say I’m seeing double. Luckily, I’m not behind the wheel. No, I’m in front of a stage explaining to a woman in a leather bikini that my lapdance days are behind me – I gesture to my friends as evidence of my maturity – our maturity really, but they’re at the bar getting drinks, probably explaining to the girl who’s too war-torn to dance, the cultural significance of Je Suis Charlie. Or maybe they’re just sussing out the bourbon selection. Either way, my hostess, who has been enjoying Los Angeles greatly since relocating here from Victorville six months ago, has moved onto a Korean guy with a ream of singles. I think he goes to my gym, but I can’t say for certain. I haven’t been since the spring.

I slap the backs of my friends, delighting in all the change that has taken place. Look how far we’ve come, I say. Can you believe it? My god how we’ve grown!

There’s only one place to go from here. I’ve been there before. No, not the speakeasy with the Thai matron, a farmer’s market of coke dealers and the watered-down whiskey near Hollywood and Normandie. No, I don’t think the bouncer with the two eyes that are running away from each is in any rush to see me. Plus, I’m a fully realized mature adult. That means that buck stops at gentleman’s club, and not an inch farther.

My god, I’ve grown. Before leaving I do a lap, looking to see if there’s anyone from my youth still working here. Alas, even the grizzled bartender who is too chubby, old and acned to gyrate for singles isn’t from my era. How the times have changed. I whip out my phone. If it’s 3:26 a.m. now, and I have to be at work at 8:15… I ask the bartender for a pen, a napkin and a calculator. Mature I may be, but a mathematician I am not. We order another round of whiskeys. There’s no sense in solving this equation on an empty stomach, and in my old age, I’ve earned this.

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Loud Pints Will Be The Death Of Me

And there you are: the bottoms of your feet splayed at the heavens. A warm shower pours upon you.  Your mouth agape. The water tastes like warm dirt.

Yes, yes, you’re lying on the floor of your bathtub wondering what the fuck you’re doing lying down in the shower. You’re too old to be doing this—suffering like this. Wrong. Dead wrong! If you weren’t dying on the floor of this bathtub you’d be making your morning commute, thinking about how awful it is to be making your morning commute whilst being a year older.

Did I mention that? You’re a year older. You’re a year farther from the moment when someone, presumably a doctor, or maybe a doula if you’re from a place like I’m from, rips you from your mother’s loin and decries, “You sir, are destined to a life of lactose intolerance, hard-boozing, womanizing, and an inexplicable passion for the great Canadian sport of ice hockey. Also, while you’re nineteen, you’ll wake up in a jail in Tijuana. Deny everything. From the top of your lungs scream: Traquilo, guey! No he hecho nada! La culpa? Pues, fue la tequila, claro.”

Later, when you’re in your late twenties, finally moving up in the world and living around employed, tax paying citizens, do not, I repeat, do not let your girlfriend meet anyone from Mad Men. You’ll think to yourself, they wrote him off the show two seasons ago. It’s not like she’s sipping martinis with Jon Hamm. That guy wasn’t even a series regular.

Well bud, were you ever a scotch-swilling guest star in a tailored suit sitting on a mid-century modern couch talking about advertising in a scripted drama featuring Christina Hendricks’s chest? The answer is no. So if you want to keep her, don’t let her say hello.

Back on the bathroom floor, you either have or don’t have a girlfriend waiting in bed. This all depends on how the Mad Men thing plays out. But before all this, you were somewhere: think long. Think hard. Check your bank accounts. All of them.

You were at Perch. You remember. A light drizzle. Tuna tartare and bourbon. What an awful pairing. But you like them both so much that you can’t help yourself. And there she is—clearly before you met the guy from Mad Men who you’re just now remembering that you invited to your birthday party on Saturday—anyway she’s there and that’s what matters. Also there are a lot of Asians. This is because we’re downtown.

But then you left, headed to a wine bar, ordered about a dozen glasses of Rioja, vina de cabra, prosciutto, and warm dates from a girl with thick eyebrows and narrow hips. You left and headed to the place next door, through one door then another. A Cedd Moses affair. You could be in one of a dozen places, but it’s not. You’re in this one and you’re talking to the bartender. You’re overestimating his ability to articulate the difference between Buffalo Trace and Bulleit. He recommends something with rum, honey and a sprig…

Then there’s the English girl, Rose, and her Korean “friend,” whatever his name was. They put their email addresses in your phone. You cheers over absinthe and invite them to spend a quiet Saturday with you and close friends. They demure, citing the fact that she’s a call-girl and he goes back to Korea tomorrow. “The offer stands,” you say.

And you get out of there. Your legs to take you back Silver Lake. There were two or three other destinations on your itinerary, but there’s a cab out front and that’s fate.  You’re fated to flee.

Back in your gentrified enclave, you’re surrounded by people that look like they live in Silver Lake. Many of them do. You’re one of them.

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You lock eyes with your archenemy, who is anyone who has ever starred on Mad Men. Lucky for you, there’s only one Mad Men cast member in the building. You saddle up next to him, say some unmemorable things, buy him a shot — which is about the last thing you need — and then, then when the night’s winding down and you should be home in bed, in the fetal position eating pizza and sulking about your forthcoming hangover, you propose a toast. “To Emmy Award winning, misogynistic mellow dramas that promote the racism of yesteryear and alcoholism which still plagues the First World!” Then you cheers you girlfriend’s pint, which would be fine if she wasn’t smiling ear-to-ear about the fact that you’re hanging out with a guy who was written off of Mad Men two years ago. You cheers a bit too hard and you snap her tooth in half.

A clean break.

But seriously, fuck…

Now, your girlfriend looks like a toothless Canuck. Tears are running down her face. The Mad Men guy is totally freaked out and you’re standing on a barstool shouting at the top of your lungs, “Everything’s okay. It’s my birthday!”

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The Pursuit of Brunch

I once left for Paris, but ended up in the desert talking to a man dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow who wanted to sell me a knife.

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I bought the knife and moved to Hollywood to make my fame and fortune and flip weekends with weeks so I could eat brunch more frequently and work less. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy a black three or five series BMW, but I got to the dealership and that’s all they sold. This was before the Prius. I’m showing my age.

After Hollywood, but before San Francisco I relocated to Mexico City. Kidnapping was all the rage. This was shortly after that Denzel Washington film where the black guy gets killed for the little white girl who likes to swim. In Mexico City, there was nothing to kidnap. My taxi, which was airport certified, took me to a part of Mexico City that looked like every financial district in the world. Some people were skinny. Others were fat. They all wore ill-fitting suits and sweat when they walked, but it was summer so I reserved judgment—about the sweat.

With nothing to kidnap in all of Mexico, I went back to the airport where I ate totopos. Totopos are chips. I also drank a beer. Then I got on a flight to San Francisco. On the flight I drank many more beers. All of them were Heineken, which is from Holland and notably popular among African American men.

Once in Holland, before San Francisco and Mexico City, I bought a bike for ten euros at three in the morning somewhere in between the red light district and the Van Gogh museum. The Van Gogh Museum is not worth visiting. I rode the bike to my hotel, left it outside and it was gone when I woke up. This came as a surprise although it shouldn’t have.

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I landed in San Francisco, worse for a few Heinekens—Heinekens that I didn’t enjoy but drank anyway in protest of red wine and liquor. As you may have heard, San Francisco has many hills. To avoid them take a cab. I took a cab to Nob Hill. There was nothing in Nob Hill so I left.

I rented a U-Haul in the Mission. The Mission is home to many coffee shops and many connoisseurs of coffee. In the Mission, people only talk about coffee and micro-brewed beer and how there used to be a lot of Mexicans in the Mission. I can only assume all the Mexicans moved out of the Mission because they didn’t want to talk about coffee. I rented the U-Haul and I bought a coffee. It was 4.5 ounces and cost $7.23, but it was worth every penny because the barista was dressed like an extra from “Boardwalk Empire.”

In the U-Haul, I pumped up the a/c and drove south on the I-5. On the I-5, it’s almost impossible to know where you are because it all looks the same. I stopped for gas. I went into a market and looked at mini-powdered donuts, which always seem to be available in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve never seen anyone buy one. Donut-less, I left the middle of nowhere because my tank was full.

On the freeway, I kept my eye on my phone because there was nothing to look at on the road. I watched YouTube videos about an Asian casting director in NYC. Some were funny. Life on the road is hard and boring. Don’t believe anything Jack Kerouac said. There are no drugs on the road, or at least none that are as readily available as powdered donuts. And there are no poetry readings. Unless you count Drake. I listened to a lot of Drake. He spends a great deal of time talking about modesty or false modesty. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that he’s Canadian. Canadians wear practical clothing and love “outdoor” things. I would live in Canada, but I don’t like buying my clothes at R.E.I.

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I drove through various counties and past a lake. Eventually, I had to stop. Now, I’m back in Hollywood. The plan, as it always was and always will be, is to flop my weeks with my weekends. In order to do this, I must invent an app or TV show or a TV show loosely based on an app. If it gets syndicated then I’ll be set. Syndication for a TV show is kind of like a savings account or a CD only instead of making $11 a year in interest on something already own, you make about $750,000. Which isn’t that much when you consider how expensive it’s going to be to eat brunch five days a week now that I’m famous.

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It Takes A Village

The idea of raising a child with my neighbors has crossed my mind. Going off of what Oprah said—that bit about a village raising a child— I recently assessed my neighbors, my village.

There are between six and seven of us that would comprise this village. The floater is named Ted or Theodore. I’m not sure if he actually lives in the building or if he just hangs out on my porch and asks for beer. Ted, who may or may not live in apartment 201, is friends with a man who does whose name I do not know. I’m not even sure if they’re friends, but they’re both black and Ted spends his days sitting in front of apartment 201 so I assume he knows the person who lives there.

I’ve never been inside apartment 201, but in the time I’ve lived above it I’ve come to hate all of its residents. First there was a harem of Romanians, aged sixteen to sixty. They were loud and they moved to Temple City. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were in jail or dead. I never knew any of there names. We were neighbors for about a year. After the Romanians headed east a Korean-American girl from the Bay Area moved in.

She worked at Petco and had a Pomeranian. I’ve never considered myself a violent man, but I often thought of throwing that little dog off of a building to get it to shut the fuck up. The Korean-American girl with the terrible dog was gay, in a very closeted way. She had a black girlfriend from Richmond, which is the most dangerous city in California. Her black girlfriend liked to sit on the porch and sing Dave Matthews songs. She once asked if I was a musician, and when I told her I wasn’t, she scoffed and went back to singing about rain or whiskey or South Africa. Or maybe all three.

Then apartment 201 was dormant, which was great because I have hardwood floors and love to tap dance. I never practice my tap dancing when I’ve got a downstairs neighbor; I’m far too courtesy.

After the dormancy, came the man who lives there now. He burns incense and watches Law & Order all day. He’s either a veteran or disabled or just has a really nice hustle, which allows him to drink beer and smoke blunts all day. He doesn’t own a car. I’ve never seen him go farther than the porch. He has a lot of guests, like Ted, who I think might be his friend or roommate. His guests must go to the grocery store for him. They must buy his beer and his weed. They must do his laundry. I once peeked into 201 and amidst the plumes of incense I saw a McDonalds trash can and an arcade era Pac Man. This nameless man would probably have to take on the bulk of the babysitting for our village since he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t leave his apartment.

Next to 201 is apartment 202, which has a rotating list of tenants. At the helm is John. John is from Florida. He used to be a teacher, but he cashed in his pension at fifty and moved to Hollywood to pursue the dream of becoming wildly rich and famous. That was about nine years ago. He’s currently working on a novel, which he wants to adapt into a play. He’s also writing an album.

John spends his days at the library on Ivar where he has become friends with the local transient population. One local bum is named Nancy. Nancy is his girlfriend. Sometimes she comes over to “watch movies” with John. Nancy spends her days hobbling around mind-bendingly drunk. I once saw her pee on my lawn the way a dog would. A female dog. She just squatted and peed while I was checking my mail. She wanted to know what I was looking at and I told her, I’m watching you pee on my lawn. It was difficult to ignore. I apologized for watching her pee on my lawn in the middle of the day.

She pulled up her sweatpants and hobbled down to Pla-Boy liquor for another fifth of vodka. John knows how to pick them. Or maybe Nancy does. Either way, they’re the oldest and only couple in the village so they’d be the grandparent figures to the baby. If no one else was around—which is impossible because 201 never leaves—Grandma Nancy and Grandpa John would watch the baby. They’d probably spoil the baby with things the rest of us “village parents” disapproved of like bananas dipped in mayonnaise, and moscato.

Above 202, and across the hall from me is the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson. The lady with the painted face is a very sweet old lady who sometimes wears a Carlos Gardel hat. She does not have a job, but she manages the recycling for everyone on the block. She’s not afraid to jump into a dumpster for a few of Nancy’s bottles of vodka. She’s also not afraid to tell other recycling hunters to beat it. She’s very territorial.

The lady with the painted face has a long face with meticulously drawn eyebrows. Her eyes are enormous and brown like a horse’s. Her hair is has a slight wave to it and because she’s black, I think this means that she either wears a wig or she has “that good hair” which I’ve heard so much about from black comedians and rappers. Yes, the lady with the painted face has that good hair. She also has a son or a grandson.

The lady with the painted face looks to be about one hundred so I can’t imagine anyone knocked her up recently. Besides the kid’s only about three and we’ve been neighbors for four years. At no point was she ever pregnant, but one day there was a child. Of course, there were men. Men who wore wife beaters and stared me down as I unlocked and locked my door. But these men never stuck around or introduced themselves. This was fine by me. I’d hate to include one of them in our village raising group only to find out they can’t really commit to child-rearing due to previous obligations.

I think the painted lady will be the crazy aunt. I mean, she is crazy. She’s into voodoo and has tarot cards tattooed on her forearm. She also occasionally dresses up as a geisha or in a power suit. She doesn’t have a job and she is reliable… I think. Her son or grandson will be the brother to the baby. It’s a big commitment, but he has no say in the matter because he’s three or so and he couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of printing.

I reside across the hall from the lady with the painted face. I will teach the child many things, but I will not be around often because it’s important that the most important person in any baby’s life is less of a person and more of a caricature of one. That way, the baby will not know how deeply flawed I am and will instead strive to be impossibly perfect. Every couple weeks I will swing by to take the kid skydiving or teach it how to order bull testicles in Japanese. The child will think I’m perfect.

However, I will make one mistake during my time living and raising the baby in our village. I will seek the hand of a Filipina mail-order bride name Bouri. Bouri will hate the child because my love for it will be strong and predate the credit card transaction which brought Bouri to America. Bouri will be a very jealous woman.

One day, while I’m out planting avocado trees in Alta Dena, Bouri will steal the baby from right under John and Nancy’s boozy noses. The man who lives in 201 will see all of this happen, but he’s sort of like Rapunzel, trapped in his first floor apartment with no way out. He’ll yell to Ted for help, but Ted won’t help because there’s no beer in the deal. The lady with the painted face and her son or grandson will watch from the window as this happens.

The lady with the painted face will pull from her drawer a stolen lock of Bouri’s hair, her passport, a pillowcase and nail polish remover. The son or grandson will boil onions with mangos from Manilla and cough syrup.

Bouri will run with the baby to Studio City. She will end up across the street from Universal… so maybe she’s technically in Universal City not Studio City… there’s no way to know. But there is a bridge and it looks down on the L.A. river. Fifty feet below water will slowly trickle in an eastward motion. Just a couple of inches boxed in by graffiti and concrete. Bouri will raise the baby above her head.

And suddenly, out in the avocado fields I’ll have this weird sensation that something’s wrong. “The baby!” I’ll say. Everyone around me will look at me like I’m crazy, but I’ll take off running. I’ll run like Zola Budd or some other famous Kenyan runner. Barefoot, fast, without passion.

The lady with the painted face will fill the pillow with Bouri’s hair and passport. Her son or grandson will spoon the onion, mango, couch syrup concoction into the pillowcase.

On the bridge, Bouri will be struck by a small shower of acid rain. It will sting then burn, finally melting her skin.

The lady with the painted face will ask her son or grandson for more, Bouri will be drenched with the voodoo elixir.

The baby will fall to the ground, wrapped in whatever Moses was wrapped in when they sent his ass down the Nile. Bouri will melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West. This is will eliminate my need to have to pay her alimony. This will eliminate the need for the man in 201 to come forward as a witness for the prosecution in the People Vs. Bouri St. Germaine. Next to the puddle formerly known as Bouri is where I will find my son or daughter, which I will raise to be the next John Roberts or Richard Brautigan or Michael Phelps. We, as parents, don’t really have much say in this matter, do we?

In thirty years, John and Nancy, Ted and the guy who lives in 201, the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson and myself will go on talk shows telling harmless anecdotes about the time a village in Hollywood raised a child. Another All-American success story.

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