PART 1 — people-watching at Peet's in Larchmont
Despite the fact that Los Angeles seems just slightly less huge than Trantor (oh, just Google it, fer chrissakes...), every time I slide west to do a Hollywood Shuffle it seems as if I wind up touching base with a few familiar locations or businesses.
LAX is a rather predictable such touchstone, and then there's Enterprise Rental (which I like as they are always cheaper than other majors and always seem to upgrade me for no reason I have ever figured out). The oft-referenced Lucy's El Adobe always winds up in my itinerary whether I mean for it to or not. Starbucks always seems to show up twice a day, no matter what, and I refuse to accept that there are truly that many damned franchises of this place. (My personal theory is there are perhaps three different Starbuck's in the entire universe, and that they are all accessed by storefront wormholes which instantly transport you from wherever you enter too one of these three always overcrowded coffeeslopperies.)
Like any tourist, I often seem to wind up at Third and Fairfax, doing at least an hour or two at The Grove and/or The Farmers Market. It's a convenient place to hang out with/for Hollywood pals, plus they have a Starbucks wormhole, so that's comforting.
Another LA haunt which seems to show up in every set of my travel notes is the Larchmont Village, blas´ shopping district over in Hollywood. Tucked between Paramount Studios and the cool residential area of Hancock Park, Larchmont Village looks like a little slice of Mayberry dropped down into LA. Five or six blocks of quaint little brick stores and stalls facing a treelined boulevard lined with angled nose-in parking.
You see the typical Hollywood bohemian riffraff—those freshly tattooed sorts working their shabby chic ethos so damned hard that you fear they might pull a muscle and require a third weekly reflexology appointment.
You see the Hancock Nannies—stoic Central American looking matrons pushing blonde-eyed blue-haired (whatever) moppets in expensive Swiss-made titanium and carbon fiber strollers, glad to be away from the overpriced home where The Lady of The House likely is working the phones to set-up a pilates class and a breast implant tune-up.
You see the Old Guard—aging septuagenarian and octogenarian characters who usually wear long sleeves and hats for no discernible reason and who usually sport a slightly pissed off look about them, like they really really wished they'd opted to take that bran-fueled bowel movement back at the house before setting off on this daily three-block visionquest to stand and stare aimlessly at travel posters in the Carlson Wagonlit office.
There's also a Peet's Coffee & Tea shop there, which is no huge miracle as there are Peet's lots of places, but in LA sometimes it's somehow comforting to get an overpriced cup of joe from somewhere not under the damned Starbuck's mermaid/goddess/whatever logo. I like this Peet's especially for the fact that there is almost always an open table or bench out front along that aforementioned sycamore-shaded boulevard, helping make this one of the more truly relaxing places to just hang out and get centered before diving back into yet another day of LA Bullshit.
Shocking though it may be to hear, I was never what you might call an "overly studious type" in college. Some folks needed (or understood) to really hit the books hard and study their asses off, and remain ever-organized and alert and aware of all things at all times. I was always one of those slacker-prone types who knew (perhaps too well) that natural intelligence, mass, inertia, and the pity of others would almost always to at least survive whatever the hell "responsibility" was trying to chap my ass at any given moment. ("Huh? We have a seven page comparative lit project due tomorrow? Cool. I'll get right on that as soon as I finish watching 'Riptide'...")
In other words, I've never been one of those to prep muchly before important events and dates and meetings.
Until I decided to sincerely pursue the notion of professional screenwriting. Suddenly, for reasons I do not even try to fathom, I started Getting Serious. When I have meetings or networking opportunities, I always wake way earlier than needed, I shower and shave and eat sensibly and check my attire and show up way early to lurk somewhere nearby where I can sort through carefully compiled notes and intell for the meeting about to happen.
And that's another reason I love this Peet's. Larchmont Village has a nice well-hidden parking garage where I can drop my car for two hours for just a buck or two as I kick back in some very un-LA feeling place which is still no more than 15 minutes away from pretty much anywhere in Hollywood. So I sat there, sipping my damned four dollar latté and going over the demo script we had polished and tweaked the night before, and I re-visited all of the various comments and hints this producer had made around me in previous meetings which had led me to set up this meeting between him and me and a small team of co-producers hoping to get a strange "alternative distribution" project cobbled together for a pitch to a specific major Hollywood mega-player.
And the nannies strolled past, and the hipsters fought to seem blasé, and the oldsters grimaced and seemed confused, and I smiled at being where I was, when I was, doing what I was for the reasons I was.
There are moments—rare but real and wonderful—when the cacophonous absurdity of my own existence suddenly swirls into a symphony of impossible inevitability.
I grab my rental and head for Melrose, where a producer awaits.
(to be continued)
in the belly of the beast B