12 July 2006

LA: some thoughts on "meetings"

In LA, "meeting" seems to be a very different verb than back home. At home, meeting in the social sense refers to an informal casual impromptu short-term thing. It might take 90 minutes total to set up, drive to, meet, shake hands, drive home and be fully and finally done with the “meeting” proper.

But in LA “meeting” becomes half a day's effort. First you play phone tag and swap voicemails announcing the intent to discuss a meeting. Then you finally connect and begin the preliminary negotiations of the where and when, which is a high order algebraic calculation involving the respective locations of the parties involved, their schedule of OTHER meetings, plus what you are having for dinner and with whom.

The preliminary negotiation phase usually ends when the cell phone signal breaks up as one or both parties drives into the hills and canyons, or hangs up and later CLAIMS to have driven into the hills. There then follows a second round of swapped voice mails, and then both parties manage to reconnect to finalize the logistics--- where, when, etc. At that stage both parties get into their cars and sit in traffic surrounded by shiny BMWs and Mercedes and Lexii and the occasional Bugatti coupe, most always driven by people who look vaguely like either Don Henley or Heather Locklear, and who almost always have a cell phone mashed to their ear. You spend an hour floating slowly down a concrete river of steel and fiberglass until you get to the rendezvous point, at which stage you then start to circle in ever-expanding rings in search of anything resembling as parking spot.

Important Rule About LA: no business establishment seems to want more than one or two patrons actually patronizing that business. Every business I visited in this trip had, at most, three parking spots visible, and usually these were clearly and ominously marked “20 MINUTES ONLY”. Cops and private parking enforcers roam the streets, marking tickets and calling tow truck drivers. Every fifth block which you drive down will have a parking lot with space for 15 cars, and there will be 20 cars in that lot--- everyone parks so as to block in other people, and you merely announce a description of your car as you enter the business, and when someone else needs to leave and you’re car is blocking them, everyone smiles and you go move your car so as to let the trapped person back onto the slow moving concrete river still drifting past at just below pedestrian speed.

During the 15 minutes required to actually find a parking space and get back to wherever the meeting itself was supposed to take place, you again swap a round of voicemails, and then manage to meet at the meeting place for the actual meeting as both of you are talking to one another on the phone to alert the other about the unexpected delays and difficulties of the meeting.

Now the meeting takes place. Smiles, airkisses, and everyone sits on a street side table both to see and to be seen. Sitting outside is never a problem in LA as the weather seems slightly less erratic than does the weather in my hotel room. Somewhere there surely is a thermostat where they set the entire LA/West Hollywood are to “sunny and mid 70s” every day. If ever the temperature wavers by more than 8 degrees, or if ever the sun is even partially obscured for more than 7 consecutive minutes, a repair crew fixes the faulty thermostat ad all is immediately set well once again.

During the meeting you will notice a few surprising things:

1) Everyone seems like they are on an off day, where they are just kicking back and decompressing from the rigors of doing actual productive work. In Houston, you see these same sorts and this same vibe, but it’s mingled with other vibes, most commonly the “Jesus H Christ on a cracker, son—we gotta get this goddamned deal done today before it all goes to hell on us and the Mexicans vote in someone new who won’t play ball” or “that sonofabitch blew the deadline and now we gotta find another supplier before the rigs get iced in and we lose 8 months off our production schedule.” In LA, by contrast, there is this odd hazy vagueness to all business calls, as if whatever project is on the table is both a) open ended on the back, and b) tentative at best on the front.

2) everyone in Hollywood is short, attractive (or at least sure that they are), and not really going anywhere in particular. All the men seem to be around 5’9”, either bald, balding, or shaven (but still often with a ponytail), tanned and either oddly fit or surprisingly non-fit. Everyone seems either to be slightly over-worked or under-worked in terms of muscularity. Steroidal hunks, chunky dweebs, and heroin chic emaciated freaks comprise 80% of the males you might ever encounter. Everyone else?

Screenwriter geeks.
all-seeing B


Webs said...

"Everyone in Hollywood is short, attractive (or at least sure that they are), and not really going anywhere in particular. All the men seem to be around 5’9”"

5'9" is short???

aggiebrett said...

For an adult male, yes.
colossus B

Chesher Cat said...

You coulda borrowed my parking fairy.