March 20, 2006

Let's Do Lunch

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2006

The 11 AM sunlight ripped through the blinds and illuminated the entire room with a radioactive glow that burned the eyelids off my face. That was my daily alarm... a high concentration of natural light piercing my retinas. If I was able to conquer the insomnia for a rare night, I never slept in too late because the solar rays prevented me from falling back to sleep. My first glimpses each day were traces of a large palm tree shooting up out of the ground and towering over the garage across the alley. That was the first reminder that I was in Los Angeles. I'd wander outside for a minute and shrug my shoulders at the warm temperatures.

"This is what winter in LA feels like," I’d mutter out loud to the anorexic chick who lived upstairs.

She always smiled when I tried to speak to her. The dark-haired twenty-something with oversized sunglasses sat on a piece of Target-bought lawn furniture and chain smoked while she yapped on the phone to no one in particular. At odd hours, she'd be found sitting outside Nicky's kitchen window. Sometimes sipping tepid coffee, but always chain smoking, she discussed every minor detail of her last audition for a sitcom at Fox or the last blind date she went on with a vegan indie label record exec from Malibu who drove a Ferrari. Decked out in pink flipflops and grey sweat pants, she spent more time on the phone sitting in the piece of shit lawn chair than she spent in her apartment.

My first week in LA went by quick. I'd wake up everyday, I'd be super tired from staying up until sunrise partying. After a shower, I'd get directions from Nicky to the restaurant where I had a lunch meeting scheduled. She'd write detailed directions on slips of paper that used to give writers notes for random scripts in development. I'd always get lost and have to call her for backup, anyway. I'd be able to find the place with no problems. Within a few days, I figured out the local LA streets. Where I'd screw up was when I'd get lost trying to find parking, taking random sidestreets and alleys and finding myself on the other side of Rodeo Drive caught on a street corner with cell phone-clutching hipster parents pushing carriages with $3,000 diamond earrings hanging from the earlobes of 16-month old children and unable to figure out where the fuck I was going. Was it walking towards the hills? Or away from them?

One day I had a lunch with my buddy JC. In the 1990s he managed two popular bands. He had burnt out on the music industry over the past ten years and switched gears. These days, he was involved with poker and several successful ventures. He wanted to discuss some career options for me. I picked La Scala on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills for the meeting. He joked that I knew it was a free meal... because I picked an expensive and high end place. Nicky recommended the Italian restaurant that was located a few blocks from her old office. Several years ago it was one of the places to eat lunch in LA especially in Beverly Hills. These days La Scala is not as cool, but still attracted a steady crowd of new money fakesters who were out to be seen rather than to enjoy a decent meal.

I just started getting used to that whole weird LA thing when people stare at you as soon as you walk in a room, or a bar, or a restaurant. Everyone stop what they are doing whether it's drinking, talking, eating, snorting blow... just to see who walked in.

JC and I were led to our seats by a former reality TV star, who spent four afternoons a week humiliating herself as a hostess in a desperate last minute attempt to catch the eye of a casting director before she subjected herself to doing hard-core gonzo porn movies in the Valley with bi-sexual hairless meatheads who had uncircumcised junks that were the size of paint cans. We all walked towards the back of La Scala while everyone casually peeked up from their Tiramisu to see who we were. Several crescent moon shaped booths along the wall were filled with shit talkin' studio execs wearing last year's fall line of Versace shirts. We were surrounded by a gaggle of trendoids and pharmaceutically bloated ex-actress-model girlfriends of semi-famous directors who carried around eight balls in their $2,500 Marc Jacobs purses. They would glance at us and try to figure out a few things...
1. Who important just walked in?
2. If I don't know them, should I?
3. If they are nobodies, I have to look much cooler than them.
4. I wonder if they have any coke?
We were seated next to a table of four soused women pounding white wine. I called them the third-wives club. Their combined plastic surgery probably cost the equivalent of two fully loaded SUVs. And on the other side of us were two young starlets with IQ points plummeting every time they open their mouths to speak. The blonde with the supple lips was high-end hooker with a sexy back tattoo and the other one looked a lot like Jennifer Love Big Tits, minus the big tits. They rambled on about shopping during the duration of the lunch, in between bitching about having to drive to a party out in the sticks later that night.

Most bathrooms in chic LA eateries were ultra nice with big stalls. Only in Hollyweird bathrooms will you find more stalls/shitters than urinals. They know their clientele and cater to executive cokeheads and other drugged out miscreants who spent the majority of their lunches shoving Colombia's finest candy up their nostrils, which accounts for the frenzied and meaningless drivel that spills out of their mouths when they come back to the tables.

Aside from the trendy crowd, the food was better than average and La Scala is known for their Chop Salads. That typical writer-doing-a-lunch experience was just one of the few I had this past week. They were all roughly the same. I might have been one of the few people who actually wanted to talk business at lunch instead of showing off a new pair of Fendi sunglasses.

* * * * *

One afternoon last week, Nicky took me to a kick-ass breakfast joint called John O'Groat's. On our ride over, the typical blonde California pothead and I took turns smoking a bowl of medicinal marijuana. She told me should could hook me up with a special card. She knew a doctor that you could bribe for $150 to get a prescription card. There were very few people who smoked as much as I did, and one of those people was Nicky. She was perpetually stoned. Nicky held a semi-important job in Hollyweird and was baked to the tits from the moment she walked into the interview. In show business, people are too self-involved to notice co-workers with definite drug problems. Besides, most people mistook her stoner behavior as ordinary flakiness that most blondes are prone too.

As we circled the block for parking she lowered the volume on her iPod as Beck blasted. She admitted, "OK, now I have to harness my parking chi."

She took a deep breath and centered herself. Focused on finding parking, her eyes darted back and forth anticipating an open spot in the heavily trafficked road during lunch hour. She was locked in and when she found an empty space located in a prime spot only a few stores down from O'Groat's, a lady in a black convertible Mercedes 500s cut her off and stole the spot.

"You fucking twat!" Nicky yelled, clenching her fist.

Nicky drove past the lady in the Mercedes who avoided eye contact. Nicky rolled down the window and bitched her out.

"That was my spot, you fucking whore!" she said as she flipped the lady the middle finger.

Inside of a few minutes Nicky went from a laid back stoner to a maniac on the verge of road rage. That's what retarded LA drivers and intense vehicular congestion can do to sane people.

"Imagine how stressed I'd be if I didn't constantly smoke?" she said trying to justify her heavy daily weed intake.

We needed to smoke another bowl before we went inside. Nicky was still steaming. She was on parking space tilt. We had to wait a few minutes to get a table at John O'Groat's. The place is a legendary LA eatery. Originally it was just located in one store space. As the popularity grew, the owner purchased the adjoining two stores and eventually expanded. Despite the additions, they were always packed with hungry customers.

The daily special was Oreo French Toast, where the chef melted crushed Oreos on top of the bread. I didn't even need to use syrup because it was so juicy. The side order of bacon was just how I liked it because it was crisp enough that it melted in my mouth.

At the table behind us, one scenester with a receding hairline was on a date with an unknown actress.

"You have excellent cheek bones and amazing skin tone," he said in his best attempt to flatter her.

The first five minutes of the conversation were dedicated to him kissing her ass and telling her about how hot she looked. The next ten minutes were dominated by his ego and small penis. He rattled off the highlights on his resume, then dropped names of semi-famous people with whom he claimed to be friends. Nicky shook her head and laughed at the absurdity of the dating scene in LA.

"Everyone's working an angle," she explained. "And everyone is a terrible fuck, too."

That's when she clued me in on the latest trend that was sweeping Hollyweird... stripper-aerobics.

"At Crunch in West Hollywood," she said, "they offer classes. Carmen Elektra was teaching you how to strip. It was aerobics using a stripper's pole. It's the latest hipster rage! Yoga is dead. The only people doing yoga these days are hippies and pregnant women from Sherman Oaks."

I thought she was joking, but she was serious. Only in LA would women multi-task to learn how to strip and loose weight at the same time.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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