41 oz. to Freedom
Today I am 41. No longer 40, but now "in my 40s," I am old enough to remember that 41 was Tom Seaver's jersey number. This morning I sneaked a celebratory donut, while Rita Coolidge's "All's Forgotten Now" played over the donut store's stereo. That song has always reminded me of waiting for the bus to come to take us to school in seventh grade. That, of course, was 29 years ago.
The woman who sits next to me at work arrived today with a horrible sunburn. She was born the year I graduated from high school, 1983. 41. Whatever.
Last night we returned from our trip to Santa Monica. Three steps into the house I was met by a projectile Jawa, who launched himself into my arms before I had a chance to put down my luggage. At that point, 41 was not so bad.
Los Angeles freaks me out. Still. It's a strange feeling, made up of equal parts revulsion, anxiety and envy. Nothing is as it seems. The quaint mom and pop coffee shop on the beach sells $5 scones. My waiter is really a composer. The young mother pushing a stroller down the sidewalk is wearing $300 sunglasses and $10,000 breasts.
But this is all the cliche you've heard before. The part about Los Angeles that freaks me out the most is that no matter what cool and hip place you're at, there's someplace nearby that's cooler and hipper. Likewise, no matter how cool and hip you may feel, there is definitely someone within shouting distance who is cooler and hipper.
"This town will chew you up and spit you out." Sage words from Jason, the 37-year-old recovering alcoholic who chatted me up, unsolicited, at a coffee shop Saturday morning. I was undercover, disguised as a local (I did this by replacing my usual running shoes with flip flops and leaving the top two buttons on my shirt undone), quietly reading the LA Times, when Jason sat down at the next table, lit a cigarette and began talking.
"I've lost twelve pounds in the past three weeks," he said. "I lost my license. Got a DUI (pronounced dee-wee). Now I have to ride my bike everywhere." He smiled and ran his hand through his hair. "It's good, though. I'm glad it happened. I was out of control."
Jason had owned "a few businesses" with an un-trustworthy partner. But really, it was his own fault when the partner fled town, leaving a mountain of debt in Jason's name. The pressure was too much. After a year of sobriety, Jason figured, "I'm sober, but my life is falling apart." He went back to alcohol and drugs.
But now things are good. Though he did not buy the house he should have bought a few years ago for $360,000 (it is now worth "over $900,000), and though the girlfriend who insisted he not buy it is now gone, sobriety and a fresh start appeak to Jason. He certainly seemed jaunty. When I left, he gave me a stiff salute and a thumbs up.
We certainly had a good time with the Fuscos and the Rock Stars. So much so that we're planning some kind of Mexican villa getaway next Spring Break. Something about cooks and chauffers and 8 bedrooms. I was too full to pay close attention. We ate alot.
Celebrity sighting -- here is how you can tell the celebrities from the wannabes: the celebrities are the ones who look like slobs. On Sunday morning, Sandra Bullock and I took a long walk on the beach from Santa Monica to Venice. At one point we spotted caustic actor Dennis Leary coming out of the chic Shutters hotel complex. Leary, taller and more angular in real life than on the screen, sported aged Adidas sweat pants and an old t-shirt. He passed by us and continued walking out to the beach, where he spent fifteen minutes laying out a precise frisbee golf course.
LA lives up to the cliches: We did plenty of walking, and passed plenty of people speaking loudly into cell phones. I eavesdropped as best I could. Most were talking about movies. "That was the biggest flop I ever saw," said an older guy as he charged down the beach. "I think they liked me. I got a callback," said a young black guy drinking coffee at the Coffee Bean on Main Street.
Those who were not walking and talking were driving glamorous European cars. If Cow Hollow on a Sunday afternoon is an Audi owners club convention, Santa Monica at any time is seventy-five Mercedes SUVs and Porsche Carrera 4s fighting to see who can get into the parking garage before the glowing sign outside tells them that there are 0 spaces available.
And the women, if not gorgeous, were certainly getting the most out of whatever gifts they had. No one could accuse them of not living up to their beauty potential. Eyes hidden behind enormous sunglasses, theirs is not the sweats-and-a-GAP-baseball-cap kind of casual chic.
These are the people from elite East Coast colleges who came West because that's where our best and brightest now go. It was a street hockey game I saw in Venice that reminded me of this. Young East Coast guys, I thought, hockey lovers. They graduated from Cornell then came out here to be agents, producers, studio executives. Anxious from a week of taking non-stop grief from some higher-up and depressed over the Lakers' Game 7 loss the night before, they met for their weekly hockey game to work out some aggression.
I can't say I hate LA. I'm freaked out by it, but also intrigued. And driving back to the airport, it looked enough like Orange County to get sentimental and not be ready to leave. I'm not sure I could ever live there. My San Francisco snobbery was working overtime this weekend. But I can see the appeal.
Oh, wait, I'm 41 and it's 2:30 in the afternoon. It's probably time for my nap. Right after my prostate exam.