Near dark last Thursday, I was heading west down Santa Monica Boulevard (Route 66 back in the day) when parked construction equipment in the right lane forced me to stop. Sitting there, waiting for traffic to clear so I could swing into the left lane, I saw a baby-blue GTO convertible, manufactured in some ancient year I’m not manly enough to identify, edging out of the side street just to my right. The driver of the beautiful car, with white trim and its top down, was a rugged, handsome, clean-shaven guy whom I instantly identified as the actor Val Kilmer. He half-waved as he swept out in front of me and turned right into traffic. It was slightly rude to whip out in front of me, some might say a sign of impatience. But I thought, “Well, he’s Val Kilmer and I’m not.” (The city likes to remind you of your place in its hierarchy.)
There was a pretty, blond woman in the passenger seat; not famous. The driver who looked like Val Kilmer appeared animated, very jazzed, as souped-up as his car, while she looked terribly relaxed, her head thrown back, watching the day’s light fade from the sky maybe, her body sunk with apparent contentment into the white seats. They were both wearing white button-down shirts, his a kind of cowboy shirt, I want to say, and hers something dressier, the shirtsleeves rolled up tight, both her hands clutching a water bottle to her chest. (I thought: She’s wearing one of his shirts.) As they straightened out onto the boulevard, she sidled over next to him and rested her head against his right shoulder, and he wrapped his arm around her. By then I was two cars behind them, once again in the right lane, watching as they pulled up to a stoplight just past La Brea. (How can you resist taking mental notes on a rolling advertisement for a life so much sexier — so much blonder — than yours happens to be on this day, or, let’s face it, any other day?)
Waiting for the green light, Kilmer was grinning. Suddenly he turned and took the woman’s face in his hands and kissed her, hard. Then, with both his hands gripping her head tightly, fingers buried in her messy, just-got-out-of-bed hair, he swept an impressively long tongue up her face, from her nose up to her forehead, a move that struck me as both playful and full of intent. This man, I suddenly recalled, just finished playing the porn star John Holmes. Then he laughed, said something I wish I could have heard, and they drove on — happy people. Blue convertible. Movie star. As I continued on, I thought — nothing profound — Well, someone’s having a more interesting day than I am. Nice to know that after 22 years of living here, there’s still such a thing as an L.A. moment.