We all want things; love, happiness, legs without varicose veins, right now I want a slice of pizza but it's far too late for that because nothing is open anymore. Maybe I think the pizza will take my mind off this girl I've been watching. We'll call her The Actress, because with such a thinly veiled agenda, what else could she be?
The Actress came into the bar moments after I did and immediately set about wolfishly trying to catch her prey, even though this is the last place on earth she should be hunting. Her vacuous hunger reminds me for some reason of a little boy I saw on the street the other day looking for scraps, a handout, anything to sate. He was jogging alongside his mother who was pushing a shopping cart loaded with worn-thin blankets, cans for depositing into a five-cent recycling bin, and what looked like a pile of broken down machines.
For a split second when I saw them, I was reminded of shopping with my mother in a consignment store when we lost everything and moved into a small “condo” in a cul-de-sac in a fucked up town in Florida. At night, my mother and her friends spoke in hushed tones about what they were going to do now – all of them going through the same thing, as if a sexist Tsunami had struck and taken the men, leaving behind the women and children to fend for themselves. I remember the feeling of pride these women maintained, cutting coupons and stitching together material for shirts, and I remember when they'd let it all go at night and the howls of sorrow watered the community while us children slept.
But back to The Actress because she's the one who brought all this on with her raging need. She is spinning around the room with an energy to beat the band, and whereas this is usually annoying, The Actress is so desperate that it's making me depressed. It's making me fall into that dangerous space of thinking about the thousands of actresses and for that matter, writers, crammed into this city hoping for their break. And suddenly I think I must have missed the train.
Yeah, well maybe it went by too fast. Maybe I wasn't ready to go. Not yet. And then I start to do that thing where I justify a lifetime of screwing around, because, I mean, had I not screwed around, what kind of stories would I have to tell?
If I hadn't spent a summer on Toby's motorcycle driving to Stinson Beach and losing my clothes to the rising tide, then driving back over the Bay Bridge in nothing but boots, underwear and a bikini top, wouldn't that be a shame? If Shiloh hadn't found a drug dealer's roll of hundreds on the barroom floor which we promptly divided between alcohol and cocaine (as seemed befitting) and then later got thrown out of a karaoke bar when she stole a performer's neck brace, I'd be missing out. If six months of Tuesdays didn't mean eating “mushrooms” and playing paddle tennis then posting Missing signs of our friends all over town while they were sleeping, if I hadn't spent untold years falling in love with madmen, married men, men with accents, men who were far too old, men who were far too young, too sweet, too mean, too hard, too soft…
Truth be told, I could have done with a little less. The saying, “I wouldn't change a thing” is only for Movies-of-the-Week and fairytales. As sunny and carefree as Los Angeles bills itself, this place is fueled by hard work and late nights – not partying, but working.
So you can't really blame The Actress because she's just doing her job. She's acting happy, demonstrating her chops in the only arena left to her. In terms of bragadacio, painters can't go around dashing paint hither and yon, calling attention to their craft. Hairdressers aren't bandying about with their shears snipping at people's dry ends and musicians don't walk the streets like later day Dylan's, strumming and singing war-anthems. And if they do, well, nobody pays attention anymore.
The Actress in her tight dress. With her loud voice. And the instant-best-friend-ness that is the first sign of desperation wants it bad.
As she tosses her hair back a la Ava Gardner whose moves she has memorized, (at least she knows the classics) the bat-dark eyes of the room light up and I understand. I want success too. And sometimes, you have to howl like a wolf to get it.
*special thanks to Zarah Mahler