March 06, 2007

March 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 3

Welcome back to the second annual L.A. issue featuring some of your favorite L.A. writers.


1. Slices by Paul McGuire
I'd spent most of my time partying hard doing blow with C-List actors while avoiding the daylight and roaming the city late at night during one of the most rowdy benders I'd undertaken in the past few years. We were vampires, sleeping during the days and partying every night until sunrise. I would not crash until 6 AM and by the time I'd wake up, everyone on the East Cast was leaving work for the day... More

2. The Next Block by Joe Speaker
The crowd was a stew of unwashed urchins. My kind of people: musicians, writers and hustlers. Feast or famine in this town; the middle class doesn't pass the velvet rope, or lead the newscasts. Sally from Chatsworth is home making fucking meatloaf... More

3. Killing Independent George by Wil Wheaton
We played on for another few levels, the clatter of shuffling chips frequently interrupted by the TD announcing the exit of famous actor after famous actor. I will admit that it felt good to be outlasting them., though I will also admit that it was the most Pyhrric of Pyhrric victories: where it really counts in Hollywood, they all have their names on call sheets, while I have mine on a blog... More

4. Everything You Need to Know About Driving in LA by Change100
In order to become a true L.A. driving warrior, you will sometimes have to be the asshole. This doesn't mean you're a bad person -- it only contributes to your overall savviness. By understanding that this attitude is just an unfortunately necessary part of your own survival, inner peace will come much easier... More

5. 15 Seconds by Dan Keston
With minimal experience and a microscopic budget, I found a way to make a movie about kids and guns that was not only interesting enough to be one of sixteen selections out of five-thousand entries at the most prestigious festival in the world, but also the topic of a story on NPR and the lovechild of the largest gun lobby in Washington... More

6. Three Strikes and You're In by Dr. Tim Lavalli
It was then that I realized I may have made a mistake trying to have a 'break-up' dinner here. Becca's gastronomic creations always put me at ease but ease was not the best place for easily ending a relationship. Besides the vaunted 'do it in public break-up' was a cowardly way out... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to second annual L.A. issue of Truckin'. This special installment features some of your favorite L.A. writers and bloggers shaing L.A. themed stories. Joe Speaker, Dan Keston, Wil Wheaton, Change100 and Dr. Tim Lavalli all contributed to this epic issue along with a piece from yours truly.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along Truckin'. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks to the writers who exposed their souls to the world and wrote for free. I'm lucky that you were willing to take that leap of faith with me. Thanks for inspiring me.

Thanks again to you the readers for wasting your precious time with Truckin'. Until next time.

Salukis,
McG

"Los Angeles happens to be the only city where I'm employable." - Aaron Sorkin

Slices

By Paul McGuire © 2006-2007

When I walked outside my apartment in Henderson, NV, I could see Black Mountain. When I walked down the street from the Joker's house in Boulder, CO, I was greeted by the near by Flat Irons. In Hollyweird, when I stepped out into the alley of Nicky's apartment, I glimpsed at Nakotmi Plaza, the building that the first Die Hard flick was set in. It's actually part of Century City, but that's one of the first things I saw everyday in LA.

My intentions were to re-read my manuscript five times before Labor Day and that never happened. Motivating myself to read was more difficult than expected when I was busy distracting myself with television and movies.

Nicky had left for work and I woke up late after passing out from smoking too much medicinal marijuana. Her roommate, Showcase, had a marijuana card after being cleared by a doctor. He can buy, transport, grow, and smoke weed without going to jail. He has an affliction that requires him to smoke weed once an hour all day. Lucky for him, he lives in a progressive state where they allow their citizens to smoke dope for medical reasons. Showcase was cleared to purchase weed from various legal pot clubs in California. He picked up Hassan and Black Momba the previous night. One made me sleepy. The other kept me medicated for a sustained amount of time. I considered establishing California citizenship so I could get one of those cards and be able to fly with weed. Unreal. Who cares if The Man listened to my cell phone conversations and read my email? They already knew I was a pothead. I might as well go ahead and get medically cleared and become an official pothead of the state.

The highgrade medicinal marijuana caused a major slowdown as I slipped into full California stoner mode and was lulled out of reading/editing mode.

When Nicky was away at work, I'd sit around during the days and write in the steamy apartment. Showcase was an out-of-work actor who paid his bills by working for a dog walking service. He was a dog walker for the uber-rich and had famous clients such as an ex-spouse of a cast member from a popular HBO mafia drama. He also took care of a dog owned by one of the actors from Friends. He would bring a couple of dogs home with him during the afternoons as dogs of the stars roamed freely in the apartment while I tried to re-write the Great American Novel.

Just a couple of months earlier, I had been in Tennessee at the Bonnaroo music festival and watched a dude with possum-made boots snort coke off a buck knife in the middle of the crowd at the Sonic Youth show. A month earlier in Las Vegas, I'd lost $400 because Otis proved me wrong and ate two Keno crayons. But on that humid day in late August, I sat in Nicky's Beverly Hills apartment while gay, nut-biting, toy humping sexually overactive dogs of famous actors hung out on the couch next to me.

One dog was nicknamed Gay Mack because he only liked to hump other male dogs. One was a tiny red Dachshund named Billy. He was a pussy for a dog and could not leave Showcase's side. Billy would also chew and bite his testicles in order to masturbate. He did it for a few minutes while I sat on the couch and stared in amazement and jealousy. The other dog was a pug named Pug. He was the "biggest fuckin' pug" that I have ever seen. Pug liked to hump a squeeze toy that would moan when he mounted it.

There are two types of LA people... day citizens and night zombies. Earlier that Spring when I was in Hollyweird, I'd spent most of my time partying hard doing blow with C-List actors while avoiding the daylight and roaming the city late at night during one of the most rowdy benders I'd undertaken in the past few years. We were vampires, sleeping during the days and partying every night until sunrise. I would not crash until 6 AM and by the time I'd wake up, everyone on the East Cast was leaving work for the day.

By Labor Day, I was desperately trying to be a part of the healthy LA scene. Part of that was eating a disciplined diet of lots of fruit and juices in the morning. We needed to get an early start during the holiday weekend and for a couple days in a row, Nicky and I were up at 9 AM and out of the door by 10 AM, headed to the Zuma Beach in Malibu. Since I was on a strict no-donut diet, I could not eat the donuts at Yum Yum on La Cienega, which we would pass on our way to the freeway. I'd order a croissant and an apple fritter instead. Although a fritter is just like a donut, it's technically not one as I discovered a loophole in my no-donut diet.

The drive up to Zuma on the Pacific Coast Highway was not bad if we left the city around 10 AM. We'd be physically on the beach no later than 11 AM, and in a decent spot, too. Zuma was one of my favorite places to hang out in Southern California. The beaches were very clean with magnificent views. We'd stay for three or four hours while Nicky read Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live and I tackled my manuscript. I had a photocopy of my novel and a pen that I'd stolen from the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The chapters were short (roughly 30 of them) and I pretty much tore my work to shreds.

Before we started going to Zuma everyday, I found it difficult to work on the manuscript. There was something about the ocean or the beach or Zuma itself that inspired me to get my shit together.

* * * * *

I had some freelance work to do and finished up an article that was due at 6 AM two days earlier. Being in Hollyweird made it tough to actually do work with the ominous sun. I walked past a magazine stand on Robertson and Pico and spotted three poker publications for which I have written and got goosebumps. Since I was totally narcissistic and vain, I took a peek at my work.

Nicky and I walked to Nick's Coffee Shop around the corner from her apartment. She had gone the week before when I was in Colorado and some of the waitstaff had asked about me. I guess they didn't miss me as much as my generous tips.

One of the older waitresses called me Sweetie. When I gave her my order, she said she remembered me because she liked her hash browns the same way... with melted American or cheddar cheese. My standard Nick's order was iced tea, French Toast, bacon, and hash browns. I called my buddy Daddy, the ultimate bacon-enthusiast for a Dial-a-Bacon, but he wasn't around and his voicemail picked up. Tasty bacon is like a great blowjob. You'll drive 100 miles just to get it. And Nick's has some of the best bacon in California.

I had a Taylor Hicks story that took place at Nick's. It was a good LA story, too, and I can say that I saw that freak way before he got famous after winning American Idol. Nick's is a greasy spoon diner where you can catch a random celebrity sighting. Several months earlier we walked into Nick's and Taylor Hicks was sitting at the lunch counter eating his grits. When he walked out, a fan stopped him and wished him luck.

"He's totally gay," commented Nicky as he walked past us.

I didn't say anything. I assumed that everyone in Hollyweird was either gay, a drug addict, or the son or daughter of someone famous. Sometimes you're all three.

* * * * *

I needed a pair of jeans and sheepishly mentioned to Nicky about going shopping at some point before I'd leave LA and fly back to New York City. She got very excited, which most chicks do when they hear the word "shopping." She suggested three or four stores in The Grove but I knew that I'd buy something at the first (and only) store I'd walk into. I hate shopping with a passion but my two other pairs of jeans didn't fit anymore after I dropped 20+ pounds. Nicky convinced me that I should open up the wallet to get a few nice items instead of gambling my cash away at the poker tables or in the stock market buying dogshit stocks like Brasil Telecom.

She eyed Lucky Jeans and as soon I took a step inside, a young mousey blonde salesperson nearly attacked me. "Can I help you today?"

I just pointed at Nicky and the chicks discussed my situation. She pointed to a wall of jeans as I just sighed. Nicky picked up five different pairs and I headed to the dressing room. I liked the first pair I tried on and ended up getting that design. In and out in less than 15 minutes. That's how I shop. A different girl at the cash register rang me up and the exotic-looking dark haired waif started hitting on me in front of Nicky, who looked like she was ready to slash her throat.

"So whatchya doing later today?" she said.

"Um, I'm going home to get high then I'm gonna write."

Without blinking she said, "Cool. Good to see you're getting your work done."

"I should kick her ass!" Nicky joked as we walked out.

It's one thing if she'd said that before I bought the clothes, but she was flirting post-sale with a guy who had just forked over $100 for a pair of hipster jeans. Nice straight rich guys are hard to come by in Hollyweird. But she doesn't know that although I'm cash rich today, I'll be broke in a year, two max.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

The Next Block

By Joe Speaker © 2007

"Can you take me home?" the Princess asked, sitting up on my threadbare futon mattress and groping for her bra.

"Sure," I said through closed lids and spent lips. "I am a professional." A lame joke owing to my day job as a messenger.

We fumbled around for our clothes, thrown haphazardly on the grimy floor, not speaking in the hazy dark. The streetlight tossed spare light through the cheesecloth curtains as I watched her lithe body picking and pulling. The little rich girl from up the hill slumming here in my shack, happy to lay down with the lead guitarist, but anxious to get back home, if only to flaunt her Bad Side to her friends and entertainment lawyer Daddy.

We pulled out of the yard still in silence. I turned my sputtering Ford Escort south on Topanga Canyon Blvd., the early hour reflected in the dark of the shabby and gated storefronts looking forlorn in their emptiness. Past Sherman Way and its donut vendors and head shops. Past the crumbling mall, two of its three anchors now vacant, and the solitary figures of shuffling homeless. She stared straight ahead, oblivious to the socio-economic ruin in the periphery. Straight ahead, past Ventura Blvd. and up the hill where the street gets narrower and better tended. Leafy and exclusive, fewer cars and no convenience marts. The houses erupt in size and hide behind manicured walls of green. Only four miles from my fading crash pad, I pulled to a
stop.

"That's John Stamos' house," she said, off-handedly, tilting her head at the gated mass of Spanish hacienda. "Good night." And with a quick kiss, she scampered next door to her hearth, sprawling and warm.

Los Angeles is a patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, jammed against each other with little reason. When I'm not hammering power cords in dank nightclubs, I'm guiding my Escort through every nook of this sprawling city, delivering subpoenas to cheating suburban husbands and immigration documents to families of eight living in garages off Pico. The view can change in an instant.

The next morning, I drove to Koreatown, east of Hoover, south of Wilshire, to deliver some business documents to a small import-export business. The only sign of the English language is on the street signs. Garbage litters abandoned doorways where aggressive bums jump out and demand money with closed fists, crazed looks and menace. Dirty-faced kids block the sidewalks in packs, taunting passersby. Mothers hurriedly shoving infants homeward, pulling frantically on the arms of the older siblings who cast admiring glances at the young toughs, sporting puffed chests and spiked hair. The stench of urine pervades the whole area and the blocky tenements blot out the sun. Just north is Hollywood, city of illusions. No less seedy, its imperfections are absorbed by better lighting and the masses of camera-toting tourists, too busy looking down at the stars on the sidewalk to notice the decay, like an aging starlet. But, if you go west from Koreatown, the city's dichotomy reveals itself.

Westwood was my next stop and just a few blocks into the trip down Wilshire, the scenery changes, like leaving an adult movie theater and walking next door into the Disney Concert Hall. Hancock Park appears improbably out of the ruin. At one moment, your eyes notice only blight, exposed wires and fading paint; the next, you're marveling at turn of the century craftsman homes, their expansive porches bordering on all sides. The air loses its sepia taint and greenery whistles in the calm breeze. Harry Warner, the oldest of the Warner Bros., built a house here. It's Old Hollywood, stately and lush. There's Wilshire Country Club, a well-struck three-iron from a collapsing carniceria. Poverty and prosperity separated by mere yards. Rampant crime to Neighborhood Watch. Barred front doors to silent alarms. In the blink of an eye.

The pattern repeats itself throughout the Basin. The working-class concrete city of Alhambra gives way, north of Huntington Blvd., to majestic San Marino, blocks and blocks of sloping lawns, roman columns and servants' quarters. Van Nuys, the barrio of the Valley, withers in the shadow of elevated Encino and Sherman Oaks, the modernist hillside dotted with formidable fortresses of gravity-defying steel and glass. Silverlake, once a bohemian enclave bordering drug- and gang-infested Echo Park, is now the funky and gentrified playground of New Money, conspicuous in their consumption.

That's where I found myself that evening, at a too hip for its own britches nightclub, invited by a perky secretary in the office where I pick up my daily deliveries. The crowd was a stew of unwashed urchins. My kind of people: musicians, writers and hustlers. Feast or famine in this town; the middle class doesn't pass the velvet rope, or lead the newscasts. Sally from Chatsworth is home making fucking meatloaf. We dug in our pockets for beer money, sneered arrogantly at everything and pretended we didn't want to live behind those invisible gilded barriers we unexpectedly pass every day.

The secretary met up with a couple of friends, one of them producing jaw-dropping stares from every male in attendance, breaking each facade of ennui with a simple bump of her hip. She was insanely gorgeous, auburn-haired and fresh, with flawless legs on display beneath her short, black dress. She, like the ostentatious neighborhoods that rise on the outskirts of slums, shockingly out of place. But she was hustling her own product, just like the rest of us.

"Close your mouth," my friend chastised. "She doesn't date musicians."

"Why?"

"No money."

Another one trying to move a few blocks over. Mar Vista to Marina del Rey. Lawndale to Manhattan Beach. People want the other thing. The Princess from up the hill corrupting herself, taking ecstasy and jamming that silver spoon into the eyes of her intolerant parents. This girl, striving the opposite direction, trading on superior genetics and demanding to be raised up.

"What's she doing here?" I wondered. “This group could maybe manage a single mortgage between 'em."

"She dances," my friend said. "There's a bikini contest later."

"And she's hoping to be spotted by Richie Rich?"

"No. $150 for first place."

I laughed. Bikini dancing for grocery money. Dreams and skills on divergent paths. "I think she needs a better venue for finding a rich husband," I mocked, sure in my cultivated superiority. I'm not wealthy, but I am ironic.

"Maybe," the secretary said, trumping me. "But she did fuck John Stamos once."

Joe Speaker is a writer from Southern California.

Killing Independent George

By Wil Wheaton © 2007

The World Poker Tour Invitational at the Commerce Casino. If Maxim did a poker issue, it would be this tournament: the room is filled with huge celebrities, beautiful models, and virtually every poker pro you can imagine. The atmosphere is more like a party than any other tourney I've ever played, and it's one of the very few where I feel like I'm able to outplay at least half of the field.

In 2006, I finished 23rd out of just over 300 players to be the last celebrity player standing and earn 10,000 for the City of Hope cancer hospital in Duarte. On my way to the final three tables, I played with Seinfeld's Jason Alexander.

Los Angeles traffic (also known as "the fucking five mother fucking freeway fucking fuck ass fuck!") was its typical mid-week rush hour self, and I arrived a little late. I walked in on an empty red carpet, got my seat assignment, and sat into early position at a table with no recognizable faces.

I peeked at my cards before I was really in my seat: K-Qo.

"Raise," I said, sliding out three chips.

As I settled into my seat, the table folded to the BB, who looked at his cards, and then at me.

"Nice time to pick up a hand," he said.

I shrugged. "Watch me go card dead for the next three hours," I said, "just because the Poker Gods like to mess with me."

He laughed and mucked. I flashed the king as I picked up the blinds.

Then I went card dead for three hours, because the Poker Gods like to mess with me.

I picked up a few pots here and there with continuation bets, but nothing really interesting happened until I was in the BB with Q-7o.

Wait. Q-7o is when it got interesting? Yeah. Just go with me on this.

It was folded to the SB, who completed. I checked and we saw a flop of A-Q-x. I knew he'd only call a bet with an ace, and I wanted to know if my queen was good. I decided that if he called, I was done with the hand. I bet about half the pot, and he called, so I was finished... until a queen hit the turn. Now I knew I was way ahead. I put him on a medium ace, and figured that he probably did the same. The turn went check check, and he checked the river. I bet just under the size of the pot, with an I have a weak ace and I hope to scare you away sort of bet, and he said "Well, I'm going to see if I out-kick you," as he called.

"I have a queen," I said, "and the ace is my kicker." He laughed, and mucked. "Oh man! I didn't see that coming!"

We played on for another few levels, the clatter of shuffling chips frequently interrupted by the TD announcing the exit of famous actor after famous actor. I will admit that it felt good to be outlasting them., though I will also admit that it was the most Pyhrric of Pyhrric victories: where it really counts in Hollywood, they all have their names on call sheets, while I have mine on a blog.

Jason Alexander was moved to my table, which also featured Tom Everett Scott (who finished third in the WPT Invitational the year before) and WPT announcer Mike Sexton. Jason was cool, and funny, and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. About two hands after he sat down, he said to me, "Hey, Wil!" I should point out that we've never met. "I almost didn't recognize you," he said. "Stand By Me is one of my favorite movies of all time, man."

The one seat smacked the felt. "That's where I knew you from!" I should also point out that the one seat was poker pro Allen Kessler. Jason and I mixed it up a few times, and I took a couple of large-ish pots from him. One time, I open-raised from MP with Presto, hoping my tightness would let me end the hand right there, but Jason called and we saw a flop of A-5-x. As Vince Van Patten would say, "there are fireworks going off in Wil's head now, Mike! He has to hope that Jason made a hand with that ace.” I checked, hoping to induce a bluff that would allow me to check-raise for the benefit of the entire table, but Jason checked behind me. Damn! The turn was the ten of clubs, which was a little scary if he was playing K-Q, so I bet about two-thirds of the pot. Jason thought for a minute, and called. The river was a queen, so the board was A-5-x-T-Q. Now I had to wonder if Jason has K-J, and I was fucked. I'd seen him play cards like that before, but I'd also seen him play K-Q and K-T. I also knew that he had to give me credit for a real hand here. I thought for a second, and decided that he couldn't have K-J, because I didn't think he'd call my bet on the turn with a gutshot and king-high.

"Well, Jason, if you've got me, you've got me." I said, as I pushed the rest of my chips in. I think there was about 2800 or 3000 in the pot, and my stack was only about 8000 or so. Jason went into the tank for so long, I knew I was ahead.

"I don't know if I do, Wil," he said. I put him on K-T. He sighed, and mucked his cards. "I think you bluffed me out of that pot," he said. That is exactly what I wanted you and everyone else at this table to think, I thought. A level or so later, Jason limped from EP, and it was folded to me in the SB. I had pocket eights, so I raised. I'd seen him play a lot of big over cards, and I knew that if I could get heads-up with him, I could probably outplay him. It was folded back to Jason, and he called. The flop came out A-5-5 rainbow. Aw, shit. In a nanosecond, something a friend of mine and I talked about a few weeks earlier flashed through my mind: What would I do if this flop hit me? I'd check, of course. So play it that way. If he bets, you know you're beat and you're done. If he checks, you may be able to take it away later in the hand. I checked, and he checked behind me. The turn was another ace, reducing the chances of Jason also holding an ace. I looked up at him, and everything about him said that he hated the board. I can't explain what it was, or how I knew; it was just something that blinked into my mind, so I trusted my instinct. I continued to represent the ace I hoped he thought I had, so I checked. He checked behind again. The river was a complete blank, and I bet out about half the pot, which is exactly what I'd do with an ace there. I figured the only way he was calling was if he had the ace, and I was pretty sure he'd fold any other pair, up to jacks.

"Are you bluffing me again, Wil?" He said.

"Probably," I said. I looked right at the board and imagined stacking his chips.

He sighed. "I don't think you are. Good hand."

He mucked, and I raked in another good-sized pot. I heard his voice in my head: "You're killing Independent George!"

Wil Wheaton is the author of Just A Geek.

Everything You Ever Needed to Know about Driving in Los Angeles

By Change100 © 2007

I have the same strange thought at least once a day while I'm behind the wheel of my 1993 blue-green Saturn. It usually springs forth as I'm tailgating some poor asshole at 15 MPH in the right lane of a busy thoroughfare as he fruitlessly looks for street parking at a peak time of day. Precious minutes of my life are sucked into the ether every single day of my life by these morons' insistence that somehow, today, they will luck into that perfect metered space on Beverly Drive during the industry lunch rush even though experience and simple common sense dictate that like yesterday, like the day before and like tomorrow -- it ain't gonna happen. That's when I start to fantasize about a world where I could push a button on the dashboard and my front windshield would turn into a programmable neon sign that can read my thoughts and express them to the idiot drivers around me in a clear, concise manner. I dream of tailing right behind these fuckers, my windshield ablaze with the message, "YOU'RE NEVER GONNA FIND A SPACE ON THIS BLOCK AND YOU KNOW IT! SO FUCKING DRIVE, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!"

I am a Los Angeles driver. And by conservative mathematical estimates, I have driven over 150,000 miles inside the City of Angels in the last decade and a half. That translates into almost one solid year of my life spent operating a motor vehicle in heavy traffic populated by yuppies, criminals, high school kids, industry douchebags, Hollywood slicksters, and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants without licenses or insurance. I have an average of 1.5 near-death experiences in L.A. traffic every day. At this point, I'm immune to them. A minivan full of preschoolers could shoot out of an alleyway at 40 MPH, it's bimbo-mom driver yapping on her cell phone instead of watching the road and my heart will scarcely quicken as my foot hits the brakes with automatic, instinctive precision. Smoking a lot of pot may also contribute to this almost eerie sense of calm, and is a highly recommended practice especially when venturing out into the concrete jungle at the witching hours of 7-10 AM and 3-7 PM.

If there is one fundamental rule about driving in Los Angeles, it is this. Be the asshole or be the asshole's victim. See an opportunity and take advantage of it, whether it's a lane change, a parking space, or a quickie left-turn. Otherwise, be prepared to waste your life waiting.

Driving in Los Angeles is made infinitely easier if one understands that there will always be traffic. Even at 2 AM, there can (and will be) freeway traffic as you are now entering prime high speed chase time and cop cars will frequently be used to slow down the pace of freeway traffic by driving in a serpentine pattern across all lanes when a criminal is being chased perhaps miles ahead. Understanding that traffic will always exist is half the battle toward becoming an effective L.A. driver.

Be prepared to execute the "right-lane swerve-around" at a moment's notice, especially when trapped behind a slow vehicle. For an average commuter, this will happen on an average of over a dozen times per day. Appropriate situations for this maneuver include:
(1) getting stuck behind the Mexicans in pickup trucks who drive 20 MPH below the speed limit on Olympic Blvd.
(2) getting stuck behind old Jewish ladies on their way to the Fairfax Glatt Mart on Sunday mornings.
(3) getting around bottle blondes with cell phones in their ears trying to find street parking on Robertson.
Brake, signal, swerve, and if the spirit moves you, give a little "curse & sneer" just to solidify your contempt.

A few droplets of rain falling out of the sky make Los Angeles drivers infinitely more retarded than they are on dry land. Even a very slight drizzle moistens the roads just enough so that L.A. is temporarily turned into a giant oil slick where pissed-off people in luxury cars crash into each other because they can't handle even the slightest of weather-related delays. Instead of becoming frustrated at the rain and ensuing traffic, use this opportunity to thicken your "ohmygod traffic was hell," excuse for being late into the rock-solid alibi of "ohmygod I'm so sorry I'm late -- nothing was moving in the rain." Relax and accept the rain delay. Turn up your iPod. Smoke a bowl of medicinal marijuana. It doesn't rain much here so why not enjoy it, especially when it comes with a built-in excuse for tardiness.

When driving in L.A.'s tonier neighborhoods (i.e. Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Malibu), understand that those douchebags with small penises that drive Mercedes Benzes tend to feel that by virtue of their ostentatious purchase, they have more of a right to the road than you do. Rude gestures are encouraged toward these asshats, including but not limited to: the finger, the double finger, the mouthed, "Fuck you asshole!" and my personal favorite, the "chase and yell," which involves chasing said douchebag's vehicle to the next red light, pulling alongside of him and tossing a choice sound bite out the window as he pretends not to see you. Don't worry. He does. And he's pretty scared now since you decided to chase him half a mile just to get that off your chest. But that's OK. He deserves to be scared. And has a $70,000 Nazi sled to protect him.

Aggression is the key to successful Los Angeles driving. Be aware of who is in your lane, and what their driving personality is. Is this driver aggressive? Passive? Patient? In a rush? Are they aware of their environment or paying more attention to their buzzing wireless communications device? Is this driver someone who, like me, is eager to get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient way possible or are they lost, struggling, or unfamiliar with their route? It is perfectly acceptable to swerve around and/or cut off these people for no reason other than the fact that they deserve it. Know where you're going or get the fuck off my road.

In order to become a true L.A. driving warrior, you will sometimes have to be the asshole. This doesn't mean you're a bad person-- it only contributes to your overall savviness. By understanding that this attitude is just an unfortunately necessary part of your own survival, inner peace will come much easier.

Look at it as acting if you have to. After all, this is Hollywood.

Change100 is a writer and former D-girl from Los Angeles, CA.

15 Seconds

By Dan Keston © 2007

This year I accomplished one of my life's goals when I got a movie into competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

With minimal experience and a microscopic budget, I found a way to make a movie about kids and guns that was not only interesting enough to be one of sixteen selections out of five-thousand entries at the most prestigious festival in the world, but also the topic of a story on NPR and the lovechild of the largest gun lobby in Washington. And outside of the excruciating experience of watching this disturbing film with my parents (and subsequently my wife's parents) and the less than stellar reviews of film critics, the approval of Midwestern teenagers and the division of Lionsgate that bought it made me feel that this MIGHT just be one of my fifteen seconds of fame.

Or at least it was a MIGHT until, during a party that was kicking into gear at about 2:00AM on the first Saturday, P. Diddy, Mos Def, Pharell, and Damon Dash, while rapping on stage, started simultaneously chanting the name of my movie to the crowd while the crowd screamed it back. That was the moment when the MIGHT became a SURE.

Now a few weeks later, with the Park City dust and my nerves all settled, I can't help but think about all of the things that have happened in my life and, more importantly, how many of my fifteen seconds I may have already used up.

Conversely, I wonder how many I might have left.

I know that I used up a second during the 1984 AYSO soccer city semifinals, that's for sure. As the star center forward on the Meteors and goal scoring L'Enfant terrible of the Pacific Palisades league, I was so good that one of the coaches in the junior league sent his cadre of 8-year olds to watch me play so that they could learn how to score. It was wonderful – not necessarily wonderful to peak athletically at 11 – but wonderful to be honored for my prowess at such as a young age.

Anyway, it was a still a one – one tie in the semis with Culver City after overtime, so despite our "2-4-6-8-who-do-we-appreciate" effort it came down to penalty kicks. Squared at four PKs apiece, it came down a single last kicker. Me.

It was surreal. I think Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings” was playing. The only motion was slow. I looked left and shot right. The goalie let out a fractured nooooooo!!!!! but it was too late. The team rushed me. The Meteors had moved on.

But a second was gone.

I also remember being 16-years-old and sitting on a beach in Antigua with a half-naked girl named Tara. I was there for the summer with eleven other American kids, helping the tiny island rebuild itself after Hurricane Hugo. All morning I would build fences and dig ditches (which is odd because I am Jewish), but in the afternoons, we had free reign over the isolated, endless beaches that stretched back and forth across the coast (before massive hotels would take it away).

Tara was half Indian, half hot something else. Who cares, I don't even remember. What I do remember, however, is sitting alone behind a dune with nary a soul anywhere in sight and an entire beach to myself making out with my first love.

That had to be a second, too.

Then there was the day when the advertising agency I was working for asked me to kill the Taco Bell dog (people liked the Chihuahua but the commercials made them think Taco Bell was dog meat, which of course, it is). How f-ing cool is it to be the guy who killed the Taco Bell dog?

I'd say one second cool.

And this year, at some point, my wife is going get pregnant and then have a baby - which I'm sure will be absolutely "magical" - and if I don't appropriate a second for that I'll never hear the end of it.

That's five seconds right there…almost gone. And as I relish my Sundances, score my goals, kiss my loves, kill my icons, and raise my family, I gain memories that make me happy but ultimately sadder because one-by-one I lose my dreams... they become experiences... and will never happen again. At least not in the same way.

I have 15 seconds. The countdown has begun.

Dan Keston is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.

Three Strikes and You're In

By Dr. Tim Lavalli © 2007

Ecuador Place opened in Hermosa Beach in '82 and closed in '83. But for a few brief shining months it was a little hole in the wall of splendor. As Becca eased the steaming plate of Papaya Chicken in front of me I felt the warmth of the tiny restaurant and savored the wonderful tastes I was about to experience. The vegetable and berry stir fry that was placed in front of Melinda looked equally scrumptious. It was then that I realized I may have made a mistake trying to have a 'break-up' dinner here. Becca's gastronomic creations always put me at ease but ease was not the best place for easily ending a relationship. Besides the vaunted 'do it in public break-up' was a cowardly way out. So maybe just enjoy the meal and then...

Dates with Melinda always ended in sex. Dinner and sex; dance concert and sex; walk on the Strand and sex. Melinda liked sex. However, I no longer liked sex with Melinda, hence the need for the break-up. Nice girl, fun date, sex—not so much anymore, too vanilla. So how to wiggle off this hook? As I pondered this terrible dilemma, tortured by the thought of having to make love to a tall, tight dancer... Melinda interrupted.

"I am sorry to have to say this and even sorrier that I am doing it here but I think we need to stop seeing each other."

Now I must have gotten some otherworldly look on my face because she went on with reasons and apologies for several minutes before saying:

"Maybe I should just leave..."

"Hang on," I said.

I got up and grabbed a stryfoam container from where Becca kept them behind the counter and dished her Berry and Vegetable mixture into it.

"You are going to be hungry in an hour and this will fill the void."

OK that was cheap; I knew even with the end in sight, she would really have liked a filled void one more time. She smiled that coy 'come fuck up' smile one last time and turned for the door.

"Have a good life," I muttered to no one in particular.

I finished an extremely satisfying meal and pondered how sometimes life just simply works out perfectly. As I stepped out into the ocean-saturated night, I decided not to walk across the street to Fat Face Fenner's, too many friends there, and I wanted to savor the elegance of what had just happened. But a drink or two were clearly in order.

I walked down Hermosa Avenue pondering the libacious options when a gaggle of young ladies burst out of Bestie's in a swirl of laughter and estrogen. Bestie's, good idea, and there was that new British waitress. What was her name? Ellen, no Helen!

The prowl begins anew.

I strolled up the hill behind the bar and saw her blond, short hair through the windows, she was working the far set of tables, I knew where to take a seat. Once inside I spotted a few of the soccer boyz in that section and they waved me over. I slid into the booth and before the, "Hi. How are you's?" were done Mark slapped down a phlanax of shots.

"These are from Frank. Hey Tim, drink up there's an extra shot."

I looked down at the slight golden liquid and rather than ask, we all just tipped up the bullet and inhaled. Much to my surprise what greeted my tongue was a bath of high quality tequila. I glanced down the bar and seated at the far end was Frank, "El Gordo" to his friends and enemies. I nodded in appreciation that Frank had, as always, pulled the high end mescal from under the bar.

Helen breezed by, you remember Helen, and we ordered a round of drinks accompanied by several suggestive and amateurish boy comments, which she dismissed with the cold shower that only a seasoned waitress or stripper can administer. The was some talk about soccer, the coming dart tournament and Helen's tits and propensity for short, sharp, anonymous sex (not exactly the boyz words). I believed everything they said about the darts and the soccer.

When Helen arrived back with the drinks, mine was, not as ordered, a tall very icey light golden concoction.

"Frank, sent this over, he said you would appreciate the blend."

I took a long pull on a very cold mix of the same high end tequila but with what? Fruit? No, roses! After a second taste, I walked to the far end of the bar and thanked Frank properly and got the blend. Lots of crushed ice, a double shot of the smoothiest tequila on hand and a dash of essence of rose, which Frank swore any establishment with excellent tequila would have stashed behind the bar.

He reminded me that last time we had seen each other was in a bar in Ensenada. I reminded him that I was one of the guys who got him back to his hotel room and he reminded me that it was his fifth straight night in that bar and that I had only arrived that afternoon. Point taken, El Gordo could indeed drink with the whales.

As I wandered back to the boyz, I stopped by the pay phone near the kitchen. I wanted to confirm tomorrow's appointment; noon I thought I remembered, one or two would be better, I felt there was more yet to be experienced tonight. I had no change and was pulling out a dollar bill when Helen came out the swinging kitchen door.

"Helen..."

"What, you want to drool on me too..." she snapped.

"I was wondering if you had change," I held out the dollar.

As she fished the coins out of her apron, she quietly offered: "Sorry some nights the ‘what are you doing after work' lines are just..."

In my best therapist voice, I offered: "I know what you mean. Well actually I don't, no one ever leers at me. But to be honest, I find you just as attractive and desirable as all the men here do, I would just never insult you by tossing out some drunken stale line while you were working."

The smile took several seconds to form before she said: "Now that is a truly great line. How about dinner at the Ecuadorian place next week?"

Nothing like a woman with taste, except perhaps a woman who tastes good.

Back at the table, Mark was now well on his way to comatose and somehow it was last call. Must have been a time warp or perhaps the second bottle of mescal that Frank had opened. But someone was going to need to drag Mark the four blocks to his apartment and nomination process started and ended with me. It took about half a block for me to decide that Mark's sofa would be an excellent spot to rest for a few hours, this was before he walked full stride into a parking meter but after I had realized that the drive back to Palos Verdes was clearly counter-indicated by both my slowed mental state and the creeping numbness in several vital body parts.

I manage to leverage Mark up the outside staircase to his apartment and he staggered into the bathroom. I settled on the sofa and pawed through the pile of magazines, mostly sports and gambling rag sheets but I found a fairly intact Psychology Today, wondered about its place in Mark's apartment and remembered Kathleen. What was the story there? She was tall, strikingly beautiful, firm, rounded and mounded to near perfection, had a great job, traveled often and yet still lived with Mark. What was her fatal flaw? I assumed she was off traveling as was usually the case; Kathleen was only around for major events and holidays and Mark generally had a two drink limit in her presence.

As I skimmed through an article on phermones and chocolate, Mark mumbled from the bathroom to the bedroom, something like, "Gud Nite," or perhaps, "What is the essential meaning of life and existence?" I missed the exact words.

Moments later I heard the muffled words of a woman's voice. So Kathleen was not on the road. Mark's mumbled, muffled reply followed. After a brief silence, another exchange; followed by a shorter pause and repeated, only a bit more brittle. I could hear none of the words but the tone and speed of Kathleen's conversation did not suggest: "Hi Honey, you're home."

Sharp words, mumbled reply, more sharp words. What did leak through the walls were only two clear words: "Drinking" and "Fuck."

Just when I was considering a quiet exit from the adjoining battlefield, there came the clear sound of a slap that resonated through the night. Moments later another and then a series of body blows were obvious. Shit! But what else was there to do. I walk over to the bedroom door and push it open a foot just in time to see a full force swat come crashing down on Mark's head. He was curled on the bed with his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped around his head. Kathleen towered over him, standing with legs wide spread on the bed, wearing only brown cowboy boots and a sheen of perspiration. She nearly glanced in my direction before announcing:

"You come home piss drunk and can't get that limp piece of meat of use to anyone; you pitiful drunken eunuch!"

I eased the door shut and avoided laughing out loud until I reached the sofa. I could still have made my escape but for the moment I wanted to savor the image of Kathleen in those boots and all that was above. This must be where those fantasy artists got their images of breast-plated Norse warrior goddesses battling dragons. Who knew the dragons drank? I must have slipped off in my ponderings of Kathleen's splendor when I realized I was not alone. I opened my eyes to see her at the end of the sofa, still in the boots and still shining with that sheen of sensuality.

I can still hear her words, all these years later:

"You had better hope you drank less than he did..."

Dr. Tim Lavalli is a shrink from Las Vegas, NV.