By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Photo by Greg Bojorquez
EVERYTHING SEEMED TO BE GOING SO WELL. The Last Waltzwas playing at that glistening new movie theater in Hollywood. A record store you could spend hours rolling around in had recently sprung up down the street on Sunset, and the mall on Hollywood and Highland, the one I sneered at daily as its steel beams blocked traffic and cranes littered the horizon, had brought new joy to my life by carrying all the scents and colors and cleaners I used to have to go to New York to get. And on one of those rare coastal scrub evenings that feel like Midwestern summer's, Peter and I, having indulged in all these shiny new things Hollywood had to offer, were on our way to Christi Minarovich's candlelight yoga class at the Center for Yoga on Larchmont, the unexpectedly romantic site of our first meeting, to which we often return to exchange meaningful looks in mountain pose and hold hands under our blankets in savasana. (No doubt anyone paying too close attention would be embarrassed for us; thankfully, the room is quite dark.)
Christi has recently had a baby, which she will sometimes remind her students of while guiding them into a particularly painful twist: "It's awesome," she'll say. "If you've had a baby, you can do anything!" (We used to see Anne Heche at her class a lot, but then she, evidently, had a baby, too.) More to the point, being a new mom means Christi teaches only every other Sunday, so her class has become an event, a pilgrimage, a workout with Persian crossover music and incense around which you plan other Sunday events, like afternoon movies and late-night dinners. But as we strode down Larchmont toward the Center in our sandals and shorts, basking in our shared sense of perfect order and the alignment of all relevant things, we were horrified to find the street, just above Beverly, blocked off with yellow tape: Police Line. Do Not Cross.
"What's going on?" I shrieked.
"Maybe we can get through the other way," Peter assured me. We rushed around the block, down Gower to First, and headed up Larchmont from the south. But it only got worse. As we turned the corner, a blue Cherokee labeled "Bomb Squad" sped up the boulevard, which was by now empty of traffic. A man came out of his house and asked whether we knew what was up. "It must be a bomb scare," I told him, describing the Jeep. "Oh, we have those a lot around here," he said, and went back inside.
By now, it was clear that yoga was off. A willowy woman in flowing Hard Tail sweatpants and a sticky mat tucked under her arm stopped to explain that the Center was closed, that they'd evacuated Paul Cabanis' restoratives class earlier and everyone had gone home. "The police found something that looks like dynamite stacked up around one of the lampposts in front of Koo Koo Roo," she told us, smiling. "They're clearing the area while they dismantle it. I hope the Center gives credit to those of us with monthly passes!" Other mat bearers streamed in all directions down the street, which Peter observed felt like a movie set. Some people stretched out on the street and dropped into a desperate downward-facing dog position. (I restrained the urge to stand on my head.) Other people were laughing, petting each other's dogs, sitting on the sidewalk in front of La Luna drinking bubbly water and slurping bowls of minestrone as if the day were suddenly a holiday. The two registrars who work Sunday night at the Center walked toward us and explained they'd closed up shop. "We're going for a glass of wine!" said one, triumphantly.
We slumped onto the bench in front of Blockbuster and tried to invent an alternate plan. The gym was out: On Sunday night, all the gyms we know in Los Angeles, even the 24-Hour Fitness Center, lock up as if by fiat. It was too late to rush to another yoga class, and too dark to hike. We resigned ourselves to sloth. We headed to the Mayfair Market on Franklin for grilled Thai tofu and sesame noodles, only to find all was not exactly well on Bronson and Franklin, either. The manager, a small woman with big eyes and long black hair, was standing outside slapping her hands to her eyes and face while at the same time pulling the supermarket's doors shut. Clouds of small winged insects covered the lights and blocked the entrance, and inside, people clutching their numbers at the food counter were waving their hands, blinking and shaking their heads to fend off the swarms. "They're all over Hollywood," we heard a man say. "It's like that Hitchcock movie, only with bugs."
Was this the infamous new pest, the red gum lerp psyllid that sucks the sap from eucalyptus trees? Gnats shaken out of some recently felled tree? Some fly that somehow ingested the same poison that wacked out Hitchcock's birds, the same Domoic toxin now oozing from the unusual algae blooms off the coast of Catalina, beaching record numbers of dolphins and sea lions, who wash up on shore crazed and with eyes crossed? No, we determined as they fell from the sky and landed, in a writhing, dying carpet of tiny brown bodies and gossamer wings, these were ants. Flying ants, of the sort that chased fans out of a Detroit Tigers game in August of 2000. The kind you went out and captured as a kid if you wanted a self-sustaining ant farm (the flying ones, say entomologists, reproduce). To a fisherman, they portend a banner year. To a certain sect of born-again Christians, however, the ants mean doom: The newspaper The Trumpet, which collects evidence of impending Rapture, includes a 1998 Reuters News Service item about flying fire ants in its lists: "These stinging, flying ants build mounds up to three feet tall and have infested over 300 million acres of land in the United States," says the article, "causing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to impose a quarantine on 11 states of our nation." We are Armageddon-bound, say The Trumpet's editors. I can't say with conviction they're wrong.
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