They were an ultracool, funky set of chairs. They were outsider art. Kinda reminded me of Dr. Seuss. I was kid-at-the-candy-store gung-ho to buy them, but I knew they wouldn’t fit in my puny-fied pod of a car. And I had an 1,800-mile trip from Seattle ahead of me.
I’m doing the post-divorce thang. Just bought a large, gorgeous house and have furnished it with a $100 junkyard fridge and an old futon mattress that has my unmistakable indentation right down the middle: I endearingly refer to it as “Scoliosis Canyon.” Among other things — many other things — I need chairs. I politely asked the sales lady if the store could ship them to me.
“That really depends on how far away,” she said, then turned on a big neat-o smile. “Where do you live?”
“Los Angeles.” I casually replied.
Her smile turned into a sneer of disgust by the time “Los Ang” left my mouth and hit air.
“I’ve been there once,” she replied scornfully. “I didn’t like it.” Her smile had now tightened into a cat’s butthole. “Do you like it there?” She sneered at me as if there could be only one correct answer.
“I love it.”
By the shitty eyeball she stuck on me, I could tell I had flunked miserably. I thought she was going to make me stand in the corner.
I could have told her how I was born and raised on Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island, in Washington state. But that wouldn’t have helped me. I was sporting old jeans, a T-shirt and a 5-year-old pair of Chuck Taylor tenny runners. I’m dang certain, though, that what she saw in me was more along the lines of a polyester’d, tassle-shoe’d, coke-spoon-’round-the-neck, slicked-down-Scientologist porn-film talent scout. I didn’t even ponder getting into the whole “The traffic in Seattle has sure gotten bad since I moved away. It’s worse than L.A.” rap. She probably would have loudly and unjustifiably blamed all Angelenos for all of her town’s (and the world’s) miseries, and then tied my dick into a square knot and stuffed it into my ear. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the chairs.
I’m now back home and am in the process of finding cheap chairs and turning them into my own personal folk-art projects. I’m oh-so-glad I saw those chairs in Seattle that day.
Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter
Sunset & Vinyl: Record collectors Alon and Dennis spent $318 and $338, respectively, at last week’s long-anticipated opening of Amoeba Music in Hollywood. (Alon plans to return later to drop another $400.)
Mistaken Identity: J.Lo in the House?
In 1999, Cameron Silver, owner of the Melrose boutique Decades and habitué of the international fashion set, bought the Schindler-designed Elliot House directly across the street from me. With cranes and crews and what must have been a money pit of cash, Silver and boyfriend Jeff Snyder restored the somewhat dilapidated three-story structure to better-than-original splendor, garnering historic-monument status from the city of Los Angeles, and the fawning fascination of curious tourists, who creep up our dead-end block in Los Feliz to stare with pie-eyed reverence at the aviary of glass that is the Elliot House living room.
The house has also attracted some unwanted attention.
“Last month, somebody buzzes the gate at 12:30 on a Saturday night,” says Snyder. “I answer it through the intercom, and this perfectly coherent man says, ‘Hi, is Jennifer there?’ I tell him he has the wrong house, look out the window, see a figure going down the steps, and don’t think anything of it. The next morning, Cameron goes down to get the paper, and comes back saying, ‘There’s a man asleep in the carport.’”
Snyder went to speak with him. “I’m not afraid of people who are imbalanced; I’ll talk to them, see if I can help. I realize it’s the guy from the night before, and he looks all right — he’s around 50, his clothes are perfectly clean, but as soon as he sees me he starts having a mental breakdown, rocking and yelling, ‘MOM! DAD! JENNIFERRR!’”
Realizing the guy was beyond his reach, Snyder called the police. “They said for me to call an ambulance, because the guy can’t even get up and walk at this point. I thought it was so weird, because he sounded so normal on the intercom the night before, and the next morning, he’s completely incapacitated and psychotic.” The paramedics took the man away, inadvertently leaving behind a prescription bottle they’d taken from his pocket.
“It had the guy’s name on it, and I saw that the prescription was for Seroquel.” Snyder looked up Seroquel on the Internet, and found out it’s an antipsychotic given to schizophrenics. “I tossed the bottle in my glove compartment and forgot about it.”
Until last week, when the guy rang the buzzer.
“It was 3:30 in the morning, and when I saw it was him, I called the cops,” says Snyder. “They found him standing on the steps and asked what he was doing. ‘I’m here to see Jennifer Lopez,’ he said. I said to Cameron, ‘My god, he thinks Jennifer Lopez lives here.’ He was being really cooperative at this point, and the cops said there was nothing they could really do unless we wanted to press charges, which we didn’t. So I decided to talk to the guy. I’m standing there in my robe, with my hair all over the place, and I tell him, ‘Jennifer Lopez doesn’t live here, I don’t know her, you’ve got the wrong house, and you can’t come back.’ And the guy says, ‘I’m sorry, I understand, and I’d like to offer a written apology.’ I told him that wasn’t necessary, and the cops gave him a ride out of the neighborhood. Still, I had a feeling we hadn’t seen the last of him.”
The next morning, the guy was back, loitering on a bus bench on the corner. â
“He knows our cars and was obviously waiting for us to leave,” says Snyder. “So I drove around the block, and when I came back, he was just sitting across from the house, staring up at it. He saw me and hid behind a gardener’s truck, which was when I decided I had to find this guy’s doctor or whoever was responsible for him.”
Snyder called the pharmacy listed on the Seroquel bottle and was put in touch with L.A. Metropolitan Medical Center. “I get a woman on the phone named LaTonya and tell her who I’m calling about. She says, ‘Do you know Gary?’ I said, ‘Well, he’s been coming to my house because he thinks Jennifer Lopez . . .’ ‘WE FOUND GARY!’ she starts yelling to her co-workers, and then she tells me, ‘He’s schizophrenic and delusional, and he thinks Jennifer Lopez is his wife,’ and that I’m to call the cops and tell them he’s a 51-50, which means he’s a mental patient who’s left their care; he’d apparently escaped from his halfway house. So I look out the window, but he’s not there. I flag down a cop car on Franklin, and then see him, right around the corner. I tell the cops he’s a 51-50, and he thinks Jennifer Lopez is his wife. Then Gary starts telling them I’ve kidnapped Jennifer Lopez, and that I’m holding her captive in the house and torturing her on a daily basis. I mean, I think she’s really beautiful, but before this I’d never given much thought to J.Lo, except to wonder why she started calling herself J.Lo. Anyway, the cops are looking at us like we’re both nuts, so I get LaTonya on the phone and ask her to please explain to the cops what’s going on.”
The cops finally got the message, got Gary in the car, and took him away.
“When I got back to the house, I called LaTonya,” says Snyder. “I told her what Gary had told the police — that I had Jennifer Lopez captive and was abusing her, and she says, ‘That puts you in danger.’ I said, I know it does, because he believes I am hurting his wife, and the delusion will probably escalate to where he wants to rescue or protect her. She gets my name and number, and tells me if he ever escapes again, I’ll be notified. Then she asks, ‘Is there something about your house that would lead him to believe Jennifer Lopez lives there? Is it a plush house?’”
Sporting Life: The Loneliest Football Fan
Here are some of the rude shocks I encountered when I moved to Los Angeles from Buffalo more than a decade ago. I was not, apparently, hot shit in the land of starlets and large-breasted blondes. My dollar did not go nearly as far at the local market, gas station or boutique. I could find no decent pepperoni, no all-night Greek diner, no bar that wasn’t trendy or outlandishly expensive. And, most dismaying, I could find no one — I mean no one — to watch football with.
Not long before my move, I was sitting in the end zone under a pelting spit of half-frozen rain — think dirt-flavored Slurpee — watching the Buffalo Bills win their first AFC divisional championship. No crappy sleet storm would keep me or my friends away. We were impervious — fortified in part by the 2-liter bottle filled with spiced rum and root beer. When the clock ran out, the crowd rose as one with a deafening roar. My friend Casino, seemingly popped into the air by that mass uplifting, ended up in the crook of the goal post, shouting and waving his arm like a rodeo rider as it was being pulled to the ground. It was glorious. Glorious to be there with my friends and fellow citizens, and glorious to know that just as we had endured the unfulfilled promises of the Erie Canal and the steel mills, the jokes about our winters and our polluted Great Lake, we had shown the world what we’d known all along — that we were scrappy sons of bitches who stuck together and prevailed.
Now here I was in a town where no one even wanted to sit in front of a TV and watch a game. If I merely mentioned the possibility, an embarrassed silence would follow. There was even a team here in those first years (two if you count the one in Anaheim). But the Raiders felt like a loaner, and no amount of black-and-silver warm-up suits could hide the fact that they were never wholly assumed into the L.A. consciousness, into its marrow. When they left and returned to their real home — and to watch any Oakland home game is to see that they belong there — a small cry was raised, and then they were forgotten. (Don’t say it isn’t so. You never cared, did you?) College ball doesn’t cut it for me, either — it’s boring, frankly, and excitement over the UCLA-USC rivalry, the closest thing to football fandom this town has, is paltry, an event for jocks and their jock friends and families, and then a smiling footnote on the evening news. The Bills, on the other hand, are an integral element of Buffalo’s very essence; how the team does affects how the city feels, what it does with its Sundays, how the week’s talk radio will pan out. Devotion to them transcends race, age, social grouping — my gang was a bunch of music geeks, but we could talk the talk, and did so happily.
For a while, I tried to scrounge up football buddies, but it always ended feebly, with a morose morning bar crowd, or a halfhearted Super Bowl party of guests who liked the chili but not the game. Eventually, I came to realize that L.A. simply doesn’t need football. Sunny, wealthy, famously glamorous, it doesn’t care because it doesn’t have to. Buffalo needs football because, in the city’s collective unconscious, Buffalonians recognize that the game is a powerful metaphor for life in a city beset by economic and climatic adversity. It involves a slow, methodical striving to gain ground in the face of potentially crushing opposition, a drive that’s subject to frequent setbacks, fumbles and regroupings. When the team is doing well, we triumph. When they suck (and oh, how they suck this season), there is still the comfort of being in it together, as we are in all things Buffalo. I need football to keep me close to home, to remind me of where I come from while I live in a place that’s so vastly different. So I watch the games in my sunny L.A. apartment, mostly by myself, but sometimes with my husband, who grew tired of being a football widower and decided to join me on the couch. And I cheer.