I AM ONLY MAKING FUN of the people walking past me because I feel somehow ashamed of my not knowing just what the fuck is going on.
Like Seattle, everyone is wearing various themes on black, as if they walked off the set of some depressing dirge of a music video. But the skinny jeans are skinnier and chin clefts are cleftier.
Just 1,338 miles north I could stroll with the ease of a man at peace with his coolness. I could walk into most any bar, club, or cafe in Seattle in my jeans, t-shirt, and North Face coat, but here I feel like a toothless hillbilly wearing a whiskey barrel.
As I try to count the stars1 I get hungry, and instead of doing the right thing and trying one of the cool local joints that line the sidewalks, I duck into the comforting salami and cheese stench of Subway2 and make too-friendly idle chatter with the Sandwich Artist.
Now that my mouth is furiously masticating, I can sit and think and watch. My first night in L.A. and I feel like I climbed out of my bedroom window to sneak into a party uninvited.
The cars are shinier here, like seriously shiny. Bridget said that the cars would be shinier but I thought she was trying to illustrate some larger metaphor about the staggering glamor and obvious wealth of the place, but no — the cars are just shinier.
People are skinnier and better looking. Their clothes look expensive. The guys either look normal, drunk, mean, or preened, but they all have a certain just-so put-togetherness, even the staggering inebriated.
It is cold. I just drove for 20 hours from the salty, frost-breath, rain-soaked streets of Seattle, and I want some goddamn sunshine. I want to toss off the sheets at 4am because it is too fucking hot.
Sitting there stuffing my face, I resolve to run in the L.A. marathon3 and buy a surf board (coming into a new city is a bit like facing a New Year, resolutions for a better life, more yoga and less flatulence crowd your mind). I can see myself uber-chiseled and splashed with sea spray, jogging out of frame of cameras that are not there.
I suspected that when I arrived in my new home in L.A. I would instantaneously become that much cooler. Like passing through a portal of cool, my hair would be thicker, my clothing conspicuously Italian, and my smile carefree yet woefully disarming. This has not happened.
It hits me that there could be celebrities anywhere, in the club across the street, licking ice cream or taking a dump, and this distresses me. I am not ready to be seen by Benicio Del Toro or Jack Black4. I need a shower, there is ketchup on the seam of my jeans. If Kate Beckinsale or David Beckham stood too close, they would smell onions on my breath. Why the fuck did I just eat onions?
Window reflections show me as needing a haircut and, upon closer inspection, a tissue. Don’t pick your nose, not now. I double my stride and duck into a valet parking lot to exhume the waggling booger from my right nostril.
This is the exact opposite of arriving in a developing world metropolis — say, Bangkok or Saigon — where nose picking is an art form. I have been in Hollywood for 2 hours and need a therapist.
People in Seattle are forever telling you what a rotten, murderous place L.A. is, so I peek behind me every so often to let would-be killers and rival gang members know I will not be taken easily from behind.
Who am I kidding? The killer-gangster types can spot a scrubby Seattle transplant from a mile away and seek richer, better-dressed victims. The only thing I have to steal is my empty wallet, cell phone, and a stick of cinnamon gum. I decide that if I am accosted by thieves I will take the WWJD route, and with a look of infinite forgiveness offer up my coat, shoes, and pants.
To my chagrin it is blindingly obvious that L.A. has actually made me less cool. Much, much less cool. I want to grab the too-handsome dude with the pompadour next to me and shout in his face, “I was acceptably cool in Seattle! You have to believe me!!”
Instead I turn back towards our new apartment, trip over the curb, and scuttle back to my hidey-hole, hopefully to emerge in the morning just slightly cooler.
(Authors note: It is now the next morning and I am no more and no less cool than I was the previous evening. I don’t know what to make of this, but I feel the relief of a man who knows he has hit cool rock bottom and things can’t get any less cool. I am still not ready to face Jack Black.)
2 I choose the 6-inch spicy Italian (which out of context sounds naughty), but am easily cajoled to spend an extra buck to double my portion, a damn fine deal. Because it is late and I don’t want more caffeine, I choose Dr.Pepper to wash it down. I could have also been responding to the sickeningly obvious Dr. Pepper product placement in the movie REAL STEEL, which I watched the previous week.
3 Upon further Googling I discover that a marathon is 26.2 miles and, sitting with a stomach full of chipotle mayo and pepperjack, I face serious doubts about my ability to run, jog, or even briskly walk such a distance.
The oldest man to complete a marathon was Dimitrion Yordanidis, aged 98, in Athens in 1976. He finished in 7 hours 33 minutes. The oldest man to complete a marathon is Fauja Singh, aged 100, in Toronto in 2011. This gives me great hope for my odds but it is also a little intimidating. What if an old codger from the Triassic period can do it and I can’t?
4 Although I suspect Jack and Benicio could possibly appreciate my unshaven face and frank lack of coolness, the more I think about running into Jack Black the faster I want to run home. Of course this makes no sense, but he is a hero of sorts to me and the thought of being appraised by him on my first night in L.A., before I have enough time to stop tripping over my Converse All Stars, is terrifying.