By Friday I have found a place to move. I will move there for a couple months and cool my heels until my friend Gregor moves out from New York in February and we’ll get a place. He’s going to get a dog. The idea of living in a cool house with a person I like and a dog to whom my responsibilities extend only to petting it, talking to it in silly voices, and saying about it, to guests, “look at our sweet-ass dog” is endlessly appealing to me.
I am on my way to a callback. I go to Kinko’s to print out the sides because I’ve failed to keep them from the original audition. Outside, the sun is already kind of setting. The pink of leaves on a tree is the same as the pink of a triceratops skull on a banner hanging from a streetlight advertising a museum.
At the production company where the callback is being held, I wait with fellow auditioners in a lobby by the elevators. Since it’s Friday night, employees are leaving for the weekend, and making leaving for the weekend small-talk.
“What did your mom make?”
“Banana nut bread…and…what she calls horseshoe bread, but I just say it’s stromboli without tomato sauce.”
Later, a receptionist shouts down the hall to a guy who’s just pressed the “down” button: “You’re leaving leaving?”
“Yep,” he says, “Have a nice life.”
It is then that I notice he is holding a tray full of clean-out-your-desk stuff, sweaters and Tupperware.
At home, I pack tentatively. I am excited, not yet feeling overly sentimental. I am happy to see the cardboard boxes I used to ship my stuff out from New York be pressed into service again. I think of them as the Nine Little Gentlemen. I think of them as stout British adventurers, happy to be called back to active duty. In my mind, they all have white moustaches and pipes and pith helmets and tell each other war stories until I call upon them, at which point they spring into action. “Time to move, wot?” “West Hollywood? Ruddy good theater of operations, that!”
It will be a belief I’m sure I’ll find naïve after I’ve lived here a while, but I find In-N-Out on Sunset to be the nerve center of Hollywood, or at least a clean white best-of collection of its residents. I am sitting in the drive-thru while I listen to KCRW, the Santa Monica NPR affiliate and truly the coolest radio station in the modern world. KCRW is playing dance music. Does your NPR affiliate play dance music on a Friday night? It doesn't, does it? Two girls I can best describe as “nightlife casualties” stumble through my headlights and into the back of a cab that is parked, waiting for them. They took a cab to In-N-Out, or made the cab go to In-N-Out on its way somewhere else. It is my deeply held conviction that you should not leap out of a cab and yell “leave the meter running!” unless you are the frazzled lovesick protagonist in the third act of a romantic comedy. If you’re not sure if you’re the frazzled lovesick protagonist in the third act of a romantic comedy, here’s an easy test: are you wearing a rain-soaked tuxedo? If so, you’re a LoPro3rdActRomCom. Now go grab that girl and kiss her by the end of the bridge of this Snow Patrol song.
When you say you haven’t seen something I love, and I react to you saying you haven’t seen it in an astonished way, don’t act all embarrased like “I know! I know! I should have—” I’m absolutely not judging you. I’m excited for you! You have whatever it is ahead of you. Maybe I get the privilege of showing it to you. I would never judge anyone for not having seen anything. In the grand scheme, I have seen hardly any movies. It is a constant source of shame. But if I view it from the outside, from the perspective with which I view what other people have or haven’t seen, maybe it’s just that I have a lot of things ahead of me.
“That’s what I do,” says a woman in her forties who is sitting across from a man in his forties on the patio at Coffee Bean. “I go to after parties when I have the chance.” It seems like they are on some sort of family-arranged date. The woman’s mother was sitting with her, and then the mother left, and then the man arrived five or so minutes later. They’re both smoking furiously and doing the first-date advertisement-of-self. It’s pretty cute, even when they start talking about their shared conviction that Scripture indicates Obama is the Anti-Christ.
Driving to Sherman Oaks, the person ahead of me’s license plate frame says they got their Volvo at Zen Volvo Of Studio City. They also have a peace sign sticker on their bumper. Does their choice of dealership (Zen Volvo) suit their lifestyle (supportive of peace and harmony) better than mine? I got my Jetta at Self-Deprecating Writer-Comedian Import Motors of Glendale.
I am going to Sherman Oaks, a part of LA I have never visited, to have dinner with beloved peoples from First Showing and /Film. The GPS routes me over the hill on one of those windy canyon roads I find so wonderfully terrifying. I am kind of enjoying my fear. I think I’m barreling recklessly down the hill, I feel like I’m going five miles above what I would consider a reasonable speed, and yet absolutely EVERYONE is passing me. I think it is considered hopelessly déclassé to do anything but James Dean through these narrow, windy roads, and you must feel like unless you almost died on your way back to your palatial Hollywood Hills estate, unless you nearly turned your luxury car into a twisted flesh-melting crucible at the bottom of the canyon, you hardly deserve that estate or that car. I pass a street called “Lookout Mountain,” which is the name of a great Drive-By Truckers song. In the song, the narrator is about to throw himself off Lookout Mountain. Yeesh.
Being a coward gets a bad rap. No one ever talks about one of its obvious advantages, which is that it doesn’t take much to feel like a daredevil.
I park down the block from the restaurant. It is a cool, misty night. Through a chain-link fence I see a school desk is sitting in an asphalt schoolyard underneath an orange street lamp, screaming “album cover.” Dinner, like the two adorable forty-year-old quasi-racists I eavesdropped on earlier this evening, is Italian. Peter from /Film’s flight was delayed so he doesn’t make dinner, but he cabs in in time for us to kibbitz on the corner afterward. He will soon be moving to LA from San Francisco, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Tomorrow, he and Alex from First Showing are being given a VIP tour of Disneyland, including a rare trip through the Disney archives. I am insanely jealous. I think, I should write a blog about film instead of a blog about my personal foibles and minor exploits. As one of the leading me-bloggers, I was recently offered a tour of my own insecurities. I declined, citing a prior engagement.
On Wednesday I meet my dad downtown for breakfast because he’s in town for a conference. On the way, I drive through the Skid Row/Bunker Hill area. It would be depressing, except some of my favorite books are set in the vicinity (John Fante’s Arturo Bandini books) so it’s depressing in a literary way. Guntharp Apartments really wants to communicate, through a series of big old-fashioned signs, that it is called Guntharp Apartments.
After breakfast, I finally make it to the DMV to re-register my car. There is great cognitive dissonance to this DMV. It is nice and clean and spacious, yet according to a lighted digital display hanging over the woman at the front desk, it has the longest current wait time of any local DMV, and parking is beyond a snafu: there are maybe 30 parking spaces, and a line of idling cars feeds into this parking lot, and the parking lot feeds a long line of people inside standing, waiting to receive a number, and that line feeds row upon row of people in chairs waiting for their number to be called, and that feeds, I dunno, the afterlife, I guess. It is nice that a DMV can be clean and modern and well-lit and well-organized, and yet still not conquer its innate DMV-ness.
This board hanging above the woman at the front desk shows the wait time at this DMV along with wait times at other locations, is seemingly meant to inspire the kind of devil’s gambit where you switch from the line you’re in that seems to be moving slowly to a line that seems to be moving faster, only to have that new line freeze up while you watch your old line start to cruise, except this one is on a city-wide scale with traffic that would no doubt eat up any time you would’ve saved, even if your newly chosen office’s line didn’t start crawling the second you arrived there, precisely BECAUSE you arrived there, which it totally would.
In this first line leading to the front desk I commiserate with a young Latino woman and a young Australian film guy with big bushy sideburns. There is a crazy cross-section of people in here, all races and creeds and ages are represented. It’s like “Crash,” except instead of “Crash,” it’s “Talk In Hushed Tones About How Much The DMV Sucks.”
The numbers we receive from the woman at the front desk are preceded by a letter. Mine is B153. Big electronic displays show what letter/number combo is being called at what window. There seem to be A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s. For a minute the B’s have the run of the board! I swell with pride.
A handsome young actor-type who gives me the size-up after standing because his number was called actually stops on his way up to the window and takes a drink from the drinking fountain. This is an act of unthinkable gall: we are all waiting. We all have other better places to be. And you are going to hot-dog it on your way up to the window? Have you so quickly forgotten what it was like to be one of us, the uncalled? Hustle up to your window, asshat. Conduct your business and clear a space. Remember where you came from. Do it for all of us. (He eventually returns to his seat. I guess his number had not been called. Still, his sweater is fashionably distressed and he will have to do a lot to prove to me that he is not an asshat.)
A woman wheels in an old lady in a wheelchair, and it looks like the old lady is crying. After a while I realize there are no tears, she just has one of those faces that is perma-crying.
I have intended to get a lot of reading done during my predicted ninety-minute wait, but I spend almost all my time there on Twitter. It is a special brand of man who can feel guilt for not having gotten enough reading done at the DMV.
At Corner Bakery on Monday afternoon, a man in sunglasses with wild curly hair and an open buttondown denim shirt changes into the bathroom immediately after me and takes the loudest pee in American history. (He looks precisely like he could front an 80’s soft-rock band and the party line on him on a modern-day VH1 commentary show would be, yeah, they don’t let famous people look like that anymore.) Then as he bathes in the sink he tells me, “It’s good to reconstitute oneself.” I can’t help but say, “Indeed.”
I remember my spontaneous DJ buddy’s suggestion at one point at Donald’s party on Saturday night to play “Never There” by Cake. I dwell on what a genius move that would’ve been for a long, long time.
While puttering around on the computer I keep wanting to listen to music but my right ear hurts, and when music plays it winces in sympathy with the shitty Macbook speakers, and I have to turn the music off. Then a couple minutes will go by and I will forget it ever happened and I will go “You know what would sound great right now? Some music” and I’ll toggle over to iTunes and hit “Play” and then my right ear will go “Ow” and I will go “Oh, right,” and carry on computing in silence.
Monday is sort of a deflated failure of a day. I need to go to the DMV to re-register my car so I can carry on with the rest of my life. I do not actually make it to the DMV. But I am over-tired and depressed, so it’s like I went to the DMV anyway. It’s like a DMV of the soul.
On Sunday afternoon, I go to see “The Hurt Locker” at the second-run theater in the mall by our place. I drink a soda so big it is probably disrespectful to drink it during a harrowing movie about a real and on-going war. I shoosh a movie talker, something I never do without a great deal of internal strife.
At 6:30, after the movie, the mall is already shuttering. The mall is completely empty and isn’t, I think, admitting any new shoppers, yet we are allowed to roam freely, because we are exiting. If we, the fifteen or so people from inside the movie theater (including the hated talker) wanted to just take up positions on the mid-mall couches and stay the night, we probably could.
It’s cold outside. I have a little sweater on. I buy an iced coffee. We have a show later, at 11 PM on a Sunday, which always feels vaguely illicit, like we are sneaking in after-hours with no one’s consent.
I’m walking back to my apartment. The moon is high. My neighborhood is quiet. It won’t be my neighborhood for very much longer. I wonder where I’ll live next. I look at powerlines. I think of that R. Crumb documentary where he has a friend drive him around so he can sketch powerlines, and notes how we never notice them yet we see them all the time and they’re so very ugly. I wonder if it suddenly become necessary to have towering ogres on every corner, how long it would take for us to stop noticing them, for their loud grunts and exhalations to fade into the background, become part of what we consider typical street noise.
There are only a couple rich well-dressed girls on Robertson, half-assedly window shopping at closed stores. This whole part of town is taking on the character of a closed mall. I imagine rich girls carrying their depression around like fantastic pets, big winged neon beasts, showing off their pets’ varied mutations, the utterly original shapes of their crazy. I think, snarkily, “LA isn’t so bad if you imagine it as the largest-ever open-air institution for rich, beautiful retarded people.” It’s satisfying to think but I’d feel guilty if I said it out loud. It’s like this: like the way there’s a little bit of black between every frame of film but your mind edits it out to create the illusion of motion, my every thought of how dumb and aggravating this city is is interspersed with a thought of how beautiful and nice it is, and the two blend together to create my life here.
Further down the street I think, Los Angeles, with its verandas and houses set back in the hills and pretty lights glowing beneath walls of leaves, and gardens and gates, pretty much screams “mystery-filled.” It wants to be beguiling, swollen with perfumed intrigue. It begs to be filled with mystery. And I know most people decline to do so, opting instead to fill it with cologne and techno music, but does that mean we all have to decline? Or can there still be mystery for some of us? It does glow, and it is by the sea. Nothing that glows and is by the sea can be obvious all the way through.
On Saturday, I am attempting to buy a sinus-clearing product at CVS. It is one of those products that has something in it you can use to make methamphetamine, or something, so I have to present my driver’s license at the register. Apparently, because it is not a California driver’s license, the woman working the register cannot just swipe it, she has to enter every piece of information on it into the computer by hand. She does not know how to do this, so an older cashier is her wingman. A line of seven or ten other customers has queued up behind me. I feel way abashed. After all the information has been typed in using the popular “hunt-and-peck” typing style, the PIN pad prompts me to electro-sign. There is no stylus to sign the screen with. Out of frustration, I stupidly hit “OKAY” without signing. This causes the entire process to start over. The woman behind the register starts to enter my information again. I tell her to forget it, I won’t buy the medicine. I have to go home and change clothes before going out and I’m already running very behind. I head out into the night, still stuffy, but now at least I’ll have a good answer for anyone at the party tonight who asks me, “Were you a part of any debacles today?”
So the whole nice weather in California thing? That’s real. It’s a few degrees cooler than when I left in September but I have been in a few states as they were turning definitively from late summer to autumn this year, and this is not one of them. You will forgive a place a lot of things if it promises you consistent sunny days and warmth.
Donald is having a birthday party at his new place downtown. I skeez a ride off Dominic because though my car is freshly batteried and technically operational I can’t get it registered until next week. Downtown, ghostly during the day, especially on the weekend, is now teeming with young dressed-up going-out types. I am excited because I will be DJ-ing a portion of the party, DJ-ing in this case taking the form of playing songs off a laptop connected to fancy DJ-ing equipment, wearing big headphones, bobbing my head, and staring intently at the laptop screen while songs play.
The non-DJ-ing part of the party is very fun. We meet “Community” people like Danny and Gillian and Alison and Alison’s boyfriend David, who is in “Primer,” which, if you haven’t seen it…see it. They are, to a man (and woman) total champions. There is a roof deck to stand on. Donald shows David things about actual DJ-ing for a while (scratching and the like) and after a while, it is time for me to hop on the decks, or, in this case, place my laptop on top of the decks and try to look cool. I had been expecting a pretty chilled-out affair so I got all excited about a playlist mostly consisting of early-nineties R&B designed to make you go “Oh THAT song!” but before long the party is full of people no one knows who came from another party in the building and the vibe is distinctly hyper and my more sedate choices are going over like whatever is the opposite of gangbusters. Soon I am being approached every two seconds by girls whose mouths say “Hey, do you have that song…” but whose eyes say, “Listen, you shaggy-haired fuck, play Lady Gaga the fuck NOW or I will strangle you with the cord from those impressive looking headphones you are wearing just for show because you’re only playing songs from a single source and thus they’re useless as a way to listen to the next track.” I made a mistake trying to play cool old songs not everyone might know, and I made a mistake playing them off a laptop. Everyone knows how a laptop works. Everyone comes around the table and sees iTunes and goes “I know how that works. I KNOW you can go download Lady Gaga, you shaggy-haired fuck.” And I mean that in earnest: I like making people dance. I have no problem playing popular songs. I went pretentious when I should’ve whored out immediately. Sometimes it’s fun to be a whore.
A guy who is a guy no one knows comes up behind me. We get to talking. He is a club DJ. He sympathizes with me about the torrent of annoying requests. Once I actually have people dancing, he ever-so-gently suggests songs that might be good to play next. They are almost always things I would’ve played at a party at UCBNY. I get a nice little buzz from this: I think like an ACTUAL DJ! My instincts aren’t totally off! It’s just that I ignored them this evening because I felt like I might want to make interesting sonic juxtapositions and snooze-worthy shit like that.
Now that we have essentially arrived back at my old UCB playlist (plus “Make Some Noise For Detroit,” which, as my new DJ pal said it would, goes over HUGE) I am having a legitimate good time. People are dancing! People I don’t know and don’t have to do me any favors! I am feeling very high-and-mighty. Dominic comes by to ask if I want to go home and I tell him that’s fine, he can leave without me. Dan has offered to come back later and pick me up if I like, and I will take him up on that, though at this moment I am thinking I may NEVER have to call Dan! To the beat of my masterful selections THIS PARTY WILL RAGE FOREVER!
Not two minutes after Dominic leaves, my hubris proves unfounded and the dancefloor mellows out. The party sputters and then experiences heat-death. I kick it with Ellena for a little while. She was in a sketch class I taught at UCB in New York, and I get a bang out of thinking of someone as “an old student of mine.” The drinking and yelling and playing loud music directly into my ears hasn’t done my persistent ear/throat malady any favors. When Dan kindly comes to pick me up, I croak out a tale of a wannabe DJ who aspired to Art and settled for commerce, experienced wild success and thought it would last forever when it would, in fact, last for like two more songs.
On Friday, Dominic and I have an audition at the same place so I hitch a ride with him since my car is still dead. Afterwards, we are about to cross the street when a girl standing right behind us talking to her friend starts singing “Part Of Your World” from “Little Mermaid.” She is singing to illustrate some point as part of their conversation, but she sings entirely too many bars. Once she is done singing at last, she tells her male friend that once, signing like that downtown, drunk, on a mostly abandoned street at 2 AM, she attracted her ex-boyfriend from two blocks away. “Who IS that?” she says the ex-boyfriend wondered. It is unclear if she means this is how they met, or just a time they ran into each other after they had already broken up. This entire story is meant to be an example of how crazy and free-spirited this girl is, but the only thing remotely crazy is that she thought she could sing that loudly that unexpectedly that close to two strangers’ backs and expect it not to trigger our fight-or-flight instinct.
If this website could be said to have a mission, it would be the eradication of loud public singing by people who are practiced, trained singers, meant as an exhibition of the unpredictability or lack of inhibition of the singer. Doing something you are good at randomly on the street while you’re drunk is not a bold risk. It is not necessarily a bad thing to do all the time. Maybe you’re really good and it’s nice to hear you sing. But if, once you stop singing, you turn to anyone and say “Sometimes I just like, DO that, y’know? That’s just like, the kind of person I am,” you’re in the wrong. It does not mark you as a brave or interesting person. So if that is what you’re going for, you’re missing the mark, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to sleep with you. However, make you seem lame and self-absorbed, so if that’s what you were going for, you’ve been nailing it, and carry on.
Back at home, Dominic gives my car a jump and I drive it to a mechanic who will charge my battery. At the garage while waiting for my battery to charge, a Peter Lorre-esque mechanic and I discuss “Blueprint 3.” I tell him I stupidly bought the edited version at Wal-Mart. He asks me if I have “the New York song” on my phone. I tell him I don’t. He ask me if I have any Jay-Z songs on my phone. I play him “Jockin’ Jay-Z” which is not on the album. He says it reminds him of Run-DMC. I don’t disagree.
Once my battery is charged, I will go by the DMV and renew my registration. I settle into the driver’s seat of my charging car and look for the nearest DMV on my iPhone. In the process, I discover that all DMVs in California are closed on Fridays in October. I will be facing the weekend with a car that ain’t street legal. Another mechanic tells me my battery should be charged, and I should try the ignition. I do. The car makes a gross noise and doesn’t start. We go back and forth like this a few times before we determine my battery is dead. I ask them how much a new battery will cost, pretty much as a formality, because unless the answer is “literally a kajillion dollars” I will have to pay it. I need to drive this car away because I need to drive it home and park it so it can sit there until Monday when I can go and do something else that will make it actually legally drivable. Cars are a pain, dude.
The mechanics install a new battery and I go into the tiny office to pay. There’s a black-and-white picture of the cast of the original Dukes Of Hazzard stuck to some corkboard, and a syllabus for a chemistry class in the wall-mounted mailbox. A section called “Some suggestions for doing well in Chemistry” recommends working ahead and reading sections early because you never want to encounter a topic for the first time in lecture.
Back at home, I spend most of the afternoon calling around trying to get a doctor’s appointment. I’m on new insurance and calling around trying to get an appointment with a primary-care physician that is covered by my plan, you would swear I was calling around in a post-apocalyptic wasteland asking mutants if they have gasoline. Finally, I find a doctor that will see me in the next couple of days. I am thrilled, then I am disgusted by how thrilled I am. There is a feeling of “fuck, I must be getting old, huh?” that comes when something happens to you and you get a level of excited you then realize it used to take something ACTUALLY cool happening to you for you to experience. But you take your victories when you can get them on a day you spend in a garage and on hold.
There’s always a place in my head. When I’m reading something or working on some mildly repetitive task, in my mind, a space appears. A place I’ve been and spent a lot of time in. And it probably isn’t related to the task at hand. In high school, I was the Theater Company’s program editor, and late nights formatting people’s bios and listening to music, a hallway or two from school would just take up residence in my brain, and kind of float there. It isn’t something I’m thinking ABOUT, because I’m mostly thinking about the task at hand, it’s just, like, the wallpaper other thoughts take place in front of. On Friday night, reading an online review of the new Julian Casablancas song, it’s the corner of Fifth Ave. and Washington Square. This one comes to me a lot when I’m reading about music. Brainologists: write great texts about me. I’m way anomalous.
That night, digging through my bag from the trip to look for toiletries, I keep finding stuff people gave us. Like, a pig mask from Sebastian in Columbia, or a stuffed cat from Kyle and Leanne who kept having us on their radio show. There are the two little reels of film that are prints of our trailer on 35mm. Lots of DVDs and CDs, things people have made, like Warren’s band The Bootheel’s EP. Some sunglasses from the Gainesville kids, and “I Used The Toilet” stickers from Colin and his friends in Iowa, and tons more stuff. I take it all out and take pictures of it and get all happy and misty. I came home to a dirty room. I had aspirations of cleaning before we left for a month but it didn’t happen, and it bums me out, because we’re all moving soon and I probably won’t clean, probably I’ll just pack. But placed among my clutter, in special spots of honor, all this stuff people gave us redeems my mess, stands out from the stuff that’s just annoyingly me. It’s souvenirs of an incredible month, the collected froth of young creative people all over the country making things just because it’s fun, and crazy dollar-store junk that becomes special when someone gave it to you out of friendship. It was all un-unique Made In China products and blank CDs and DVDs at one point, but it all got picked up by people who matter to me now and inscribed with the passion of kids who really truly give a shit, and now all these things are talismans of awesome.
I do not really sleep on Wednesday night because my flight is so early on Thursday morning and I am paranoid about missing it and I still have to return my rental car. I leave with what I presume to be plenty of time to get to the airport but then I space out and forget to tell the rental car shuttle guy to let me off at the right terminal, so I have to hump my bag a long way to the right terminal, and by the time I get there, it’s too late to check in and have my bag get on the plane. I curse myself for abandoning my traditional only-bring-a-backpack no-checked-baggage strategy, even though I was packing for an entire month and absolutely had to bring something larger than a backpack if I didn’t want to take on the country in three t-shirts, which I kind of ended up doing anyway.
I’m put on stand-by and I pretty painlessly get on a flight an hour or so later than my original one. I read “The Walking Dead” pre-flight and on the plane, I sleep the fitful, unrewarding sleep of the airborne and exhausted.
Back in California, my car is double-fucked. Its registration expired September 20th. I would have been able to handle this remotely via the DMV’s website, but they don’t let you renew your registration online unless they sent you a piece of paper with a code on it via the actual mail. There is no way to request this piece of paper be sent to you, it just has to happen. It did not happen to me. I was supposed to get back in town on the 20th so I figured I’d just deal with it that day, but we ended up staying on the road for an additional week and change. I figured I’d go to the DMV and fix it the day I got back. The day I get back, my car won’t start because I drained the battery by leaving my GPS unit plugged in and charging while I was somewhere else for a month. I am properly tired so I figure I will just deal with all this car-unfuckery tomorrow. When I get home, I will nap. On the way home, I get an e-mail: I have an audition that afternoon.
The nap is blown, and it was going to be not such a big deal to not have a car for an afternoon because I had nowhere to go, but now I have somewhere to go, and lines to look at. Dominic is nice enough to drop me off near the audition. Afterwards, I wait for him to pick me up outside of the studio lot, and I think of how the only thing worse having a car in Los Angeles is not having a car in Los Angeles. I cross the street and stand in the shadow of a building. I check my phone so I will seem less like a guy who is standing on a street corner and more like a guy who is standing on a street corner checking his phone. The reason you want to get in a vehicle and drive away right after an audition or a meeting is because if you don’t, if you stand around, you hear the whispers of the spirits of a million striving people who have stood outside after a thing and waited for something else. It’s hot and everyone is moving faster than you.
Larissa’s at work during the day Wednesday and most of me wants to stay asleep and most of me wins for most of the day. Then I internally scream HOW OFTEN ARE YOU IN CHICAGO, GODDAMNIT, and I force myself to be up and showered and dressed and I’m out of the house just as mid-afternoon is becoming late afternoon. As the sun starts to set I go from just barely dressed warmly enough to underdressed. It’s getting cold and it ain’t doing my runny nose any favors, but I manage to walk towards Wicker Park, as per Larissa’s directions, and once there, I amble, looking at pretty Brooklyn-ain’t-got-nothing-on-these brownstones. I stop into a used bookstore, Myopic Books. I think I see two people meeting for a blind date. I buy Larissa a copy of “The Commitments” by Roddy Doyle, because if you let me stay at your house I will probably buy you a used copy of a book I’m pretty sure you’ll like. Outside, I put my hood up, because it’s cold enough to justify it. I like a worn heather-grey hoodie. I think my fashion ideal is “female co-ed babysitter in 80’s horror movie.”
I iPhone-map-search “Comic Book Store” and go everywhere the red pins fall. Larissa had mentioned Quimby’s and that’s where I end up first. The mark of a truly cool store is a song you are mad at yourself for never having heard, that’s how up your alley it is, is playing as you browse through shelf after shelf of awesome-looking stuff you’ve never heard of that you are certain is the tip of this iceberg of neat things you have never, and sadly, may never, listened to or read or watched. (The song, in this case, according to the miraculous iPhone app Shazam, is “Get Up Off Our Knees” by the Housemartins.) It is one of those wonderful afternoons/evenings where you want to say to every tattooed clerk: “Let me give you some money. Put all the culture I’ve never seen or heard about but should’ve in this bag. Thank you. Aren’t we lucky to be surrounded by this stuff?”
I hit Brainstorm as well. The clerk there is kind enough to explain to me why it’s always really easy to find Vol. 2 of a comic in trade paperback but Vol. 1 seems to be perpetually out of stock. (Vol. 1 is typically at a lower price point than the rest so people are inclined to take a chance on it, whereas by Vol. 2, you’re probably committed.) I walk back to the house with bags full of comics, which is the best way to walk anywhere.
That night we eat dinner at an old ice cream parlor. The menu and decor seem like they have not changed since 1950, and the prices seem like they barely have. It’s supremely great, as any meal should be when that meal is just a prelude to dessert, and dessert is gargantuan and accompanied by a gravy-boat full of hot fudge. At a table next to us, a bunch of hipster high schoolers eat sundaes. They think they are SOOOO cool. And I don’t even mean that as an insult. They are clearly having one of those evenings you would have as a teenager when you would step outside yourself and think: Man, we are SO teenagers right now!!! We hear one of the girls hip the other kids to outsider artist/noted kook Henry Darger. They are arming themselves for a world they think will require them to be way cooler than it actually will.
I think the check comes to like fourteen dollars. You get a little ticket and you pay at the register, of course. On our way in, an old guy who was part of an old-person double-date that were paying their tab at the register turned to me and said, “They’re out of hot fudge!” He saw my face fall and his friends scolded him for his cruel practical joke. There are some things you just don’t say, even in jest.
Though somewhat abbreviated, it’s a lovely day. All day I’m around surrounded by stuff that is best described as lovely.