HOLLYWOOD is like Pittsburgh, houses on hills, cracked concrete, bars, and very few people walking the sidewalks. But instead of broad-leaf trees, rain, and brick houses, there are palm trees, adobe houses, and blue skies.
The first day in Hollywood I had to act in a film called Shoplifting from American Apparel. I didn’t have a big part. I had to basically walk around Hollywood Boulevard and say random things. It was a small crew of six people and only three cameras. I had never had any desire to act before, but someone asked me to be in the film, and it sounded exciting, so I said, “Yes.” Acting is strange because everyone is looking at you, cameras are looking at you, the director is studying everything you are doing. It is really gratifying to one’s attention needs. I don’t think I had ever had so much attention laid on me in my life. Actually before I went to Hollywood, I lost 15 pounds and put all kinds of moisturizers on my face to make it look beautiful for the camera.
After the shooting was over, I went to a party with some members of the crew. The party was put on by a cable television actor that also likes literature. He owns a small press that puts out two books a year and was throwing a party for those two books.
I kept thinking to myself all the way to the party in the car, “This is a Hollywood party, a Hollywood party!” I walked into the house and was going to the kitchen and a young woman was standing in my way, I tapped on her shoulder and a woman I knew I had relations with in New York was standing there. Felt very excited to see her, she was pregnant and now married to another writer who just had his book made into a feature film. They were both living in Hollywood. She was preparing to have the baby in a few weeks and he was writing scripts with another guy I knew from New York for television. And she was actually the star of my last novel, but with the name changed.
Soon after that I was standing there talking to someone and I looked at this young beautiful female, I kept staring at her, thinking, “I know her somewhere, I feel like I’ve seen her a 100 times.” I was having deep cognitive problems at seeing this person and realized she was the star of one of my favorite shows on the Sci-Fi channel. It seriously did not occur to me that people from television were going to be there, but then it occurred to me that the person that put on the party was a famous television person, but I had never watched the show, so it didn’t matter to me. I asked the woman if she was the person I was thinking she was, and she said yes. She was really nice, actually very awkward and nervous. But I was so confused I couldn’t speak properly Later in the party after I had a few more drinks in me and ate some weed brownies, we were able to talk politely about sex noises.
At one point in the party I got into an argument about how weird literature that really speaks about the society we live in was losing the opportunity to get published because Borders closed, which mathematically speaking, just reduces the amount of books that can be sold. It was really only question of math. But a young beautiful woman starting saying she had read some high quality books lately. Realizing many of the people were from television there, I decided to notify everyone that I enjoyed shows like LOST and Jericho, and that those shows had a lot of philosophy contained in them. The next night I found out that the woman I was arguing with was a famous cable television actress and is going to be in a major feature length film next year.
The next night I went out to eat with a friend I knew from high school: she was the only person from my town who had made it in LA. She picked me up and we went to a German Restaurant near her house in Silverlake. Where I live in Youngstown, Ohio, a place like that would never exist. We have Chinese, Italian and one Indian restaurant, that’s it. We ordered Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, while an older man played 60s songs on a keyboard and sang. She told me that her job was to take pictures of food and put it on food blogs. That she went to LA with a few dollars in her pocket, lived on her sister’s couch for 9 months and slowly over the years made a life for herself. She told me was dating somebody that worked for Jersey Shore and he was in Italy working on the show. We went back to her apartment and talked about our Ohio parents and how close-minded they are and smoked weed. California weed is very good, I was really high.
Took a taxi back to the place I was staying, a Russian man was driving the taxi. I asked where he was from in Russia, he told me Moscow. I told him I took a politics class on Russia. He asked me what I thought about Russia, I told him after Yeltsin left they started using their natural gas and oil money and things were getting better, but I didn’t like that Medvedev fired the Moscow Mayor. He got mad and asked me what nationality my professor was, I replied, “Polish.” He responded with, “Dumb Polish bastard.” Then he told me nothing was better than Russia and Russia was “flying.”
The next day there was a shooting for a scene at the apartment I was staying, but I didn’t want to be in the way, so I decided to take a walk to a used bookstore somebody emailed me about. It was four miles away and four miles back. I wanted to see Hollywood, I wanted to see Sunset, the land of Bukowski and Motely Crew and famous actors. There was nobody but Mexicans on the street, I think I saw two white guys, four blacks and several Asians in the three hour walk. I had to speak bad Spanish three times to find things and communicate with people. It occurred to me that LA was South Africa, the Mexicans lived their lives doing all the manual labor and the whites, Jews and Asians did the fun labor like work in television and movies.
That night I went out to eat with two writers I had previously hung out with in New York, one was the guy married to the pregnant woman from the party. We went to a little Mexican restaurant where I ate Plantains and pinto and beans, I had never had that meal before and was ordering it every time I could. The guys talked about how they were developing television show scripts and the massive amount of bureaucracy one had to go through to get a script made into a television show. They told me that had been working for two years to get their scripts made into shows, I asked them why they were doing it, what was driving them, they responded the payoff was, perhaps in the millions if they succeeded.
They dropped me off at the apartment I was staying where I hung out with an Internet fashionista and a few actors that were in the movie. We ate weed brownies and talked about language and the meaning of palm trees.
I felt like I wanted to live in LA, and started asking everyone that lived there, if they could help me find a job the last day. But as I sat in the airport I felt it was easy to get caught up in the fabulousness of everything. The fame, the money, the power. It was all so beautiful and validating. The social networking, the being interested in what others had to say, everyone wanting everyone to do good, the palm trees, the hills, the adobe houses, the Mexicans doing all the work while you became famous, it was all amazing, blinding.
I got on the plane and knew it was over, what I loved about LA wasn’t the fame, but the access to the plantains and pinto beans.