Red All Over

It’s Valentine’s Day and blond, blue-eyed “Jake” just got a flat tire over by the Scientology building on Fountain. Now he’s walking his red Rally bike with a makeshift seat down Sunset toward his apartment in Echo Park.

It’s already been a hectic day for the 30-year-old former skateboard-magazine journalist. He took a drug test for a job he hopes to get, and he got into a fight with his girlfriend, “Tanya.” In fact, the two have been sorta fighting for a couple of days now. Oh wait, maybe it’s been a couple of weeks. Which apparently has something to do with the fact that Jake hasn’t had a job for the past year and a half and is always broke. Also, Jake, who regularly gets high, hasn’t been smoking pot, in preparation for his drug test. And that, he says, has made him “really irritable.”

He’s been breaking out in cold sweats and hasn’t been able to sleep.

“I was supposed to take the test on Wednesday. But, I didn’t fucking sleep last night,” he says, folding his pink sunglasses into his shirt pocket and pushing his wavy mane back from his eyes. “I tossed and turned. So, I called the place this morning and said, ‘I need to come in today and take that test ’cause I get really high anxiety, and I’m getting really freaked out right now.’ ”

The lady on the phone agreed to a 10:30 appointment, and on the way Jake stopped by Tanya’s work to say hi. That’s where the fight happened.

“She said, ‘Well, did you use your special tea to make your pee clean?’ I said, ‘No. ’Cause I didn’t have three hours to prepare.’ And, she said, ‘Way to go, Jake, that’s a waste of 20 bucks.’ I was like, ‘What the fuck? I’m trying to get a job and make things happen, and you’re coming down on me.’ I don’t know, I was pissed.”

Jake says he feels a lot better now. He went over to Tanya’s apartment to use her DSL and send out some e-mails about jobs. He smoked some of her pot and made her a Valentine’s card.

“They have a lot of arts and crafts stuff over there,” he explains of his girlfriend’s place, which she shares with a roommate, two cats and a dog.

She had already given him his Valentine this morning. It was a heart with glitter, folded in half that cheekily read: “Spank.”

Jake’s card for Tanya was a bit more elaborate.

The front had a pair of boobs made out of construction paper and padded with four packages of to-go ketchup containers each. Inside, he used a straw from last night’s takeout dinner wrapped up in a napkin and tape to make it “fleshy.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll use the straw ’cause I need something that will flop out like a boner when you opened the card.’ You know what I’m talking about? It needed to be 3-D, it needed to be consistent.”

He bound the card, which he left on her bathroom counter, with duct tape, and estimates it weighed about a pound.

On the front, he wrote: “Feel Me” — “like the Who song,” he explains.

Inside, he wrote, “Touch Me,” and then, he was singing to himself, “Heal Me,” but instead he wrote: “Heal the Bay!” in reference to the popular Santa Monica Bay environmental group’s slogan and the place Jake says the two “go surfing and stuff.”

“I wrote: ‘Heal the Bay! . . . This holiday was invented by the card companies to pump more money into the economy. I hate Valentine’s Day and think it’s all bullshit. Anyway, I’ll talk to you later. Love, Jake.’ ”

You wrote all that?

“Yeah, yeah.”

As he walks and talks, Jake is trying not to worry about whether or not he passed the drug test. Sure, it would be cool if he did, but he knows there are a lot more jobs out there. He’s not mad about the flat tire either, but his stomach still hurts from the stress, and he thinks this unexpected walk will help. “It’s good for me to get out of my head for a little bit and look around.”

One of the things Jake’s been thinking about as he moseys is that he wishes he were wearing something else. He’s “not stoked on” his matching red shoes and red bicycle and pink T-shirt and sunglasses — he didn’t mean to look like a Valentine. It wasn’t on purpose. He only realized it when he walked by his own reflection in the shop windows.

He also has been thinking that there are a lot of bad drivers in this city, and he resents the whole drug-test concept in general.

“It’s not like I’m gonna be driving or flying a plane,” he says, squinting at a passing bus.

What is the job, anyway?

“It’s like a librarian.”

It’s a librarian?

“It’s something like a librarian.”

Either way, Jake is sure of his gratitude for his Tanya.

“I think she’s just tired of hearing me complaining and not doing anything. Which is completely what I need, a kick in the ass.”

He has a two-month skateboarding tour lined up for April, for which he’ll make some cash, and he is continuing to move forward on his job search. In the meantime, he says he and Tanya will hook up later tonight and watch some DVDs.

Another reason Jake says he’s been “freaking out about getting a job” is that he and his girlfriend have been planning on getting a house together, because living apart adds to the tension, and the commute from Echo Park to Hollywood is a drag. “That’s the whole root of it.”

Do you think she’ll like your card?

“Yeah, I think she’s gonna love it! We have an awesome sex life. We’re totally in love.”



Postscript: Jake failed the drug test and is still looking for a job.


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