Ode to S.F.

Danse Macabre with the faggots in San Francisco. A twisted night of boozing and grabbing asses as they did coke and clawed to a greater understanding and purpose. The streets were narrow and full of people, a terrorizing notion at this point, yet we prevailed. There was no reason for these nights other than youth and a small sum of collected money and the driving, fiery urge to get fucked up and let the world know who you are.

So we played this game. We drank on the Muni and hassled the locals and ate late at Sparkey’s and my head pounded in abject misery for the following forty-eight hours. Yet I would never take a moment of it back. I have long held that a man (or woman) is only true when all filters are removed and they can properly express themselves. Many, (myself included) find a tremendous amount of shame in these times of personal base revelation. Yet the necessity is there if you want to feel ALIVE.

Those nights landed me in dubious company, stabbing a tire, running, and into the ocean more times than I can count. A stop-action fragmented blur of faces and places and sounds. There was a feeling of infinity then. Of limitless possibility that you either embraced or surrendered to in sniveling, kowtowed fear. Most of us end up with this fear as we get old; all of us have to fight it at some point.

Bela Lugosi is dead. Susan Sarandon feigning a dyke act with some frog woman while baboons screech like cats and age and die to dusty bones. The music and the feel of it. The blood-pulse of the City by the Bay, pre irony.

We drank and hassled and fought and fucked and trashed and spent and slept in the streets and the sand. We came hard as outsiders (we’re all outsiders in the city) and we stamped in human soul our mark in the pastiche that makes up the place. The gratuitous obscenity of it. The laughable ruse. All worth the drive and the time.

The Interview

It was time to play a game that I wasn’t particularly fond of but was told by reliable sources that I should be. It was earlier than I’d gotten up in a while. Out of current routine, I put on a suit and combed my recently cut hair.

I was exploring options this morning. Moving upward in hopes of the chance to get the chance to hopefully work my way into middle class comfort in twenty years’ time. A brand new day.

The air is different in the morning when you haven’t been out in a while. The colors crisper and the pace manic and irritable. The car started without issue and I eased it into the thick flow of traffic working its way southwest, the cradle of employment on this side of the hill.

A pleasant surprise manifested itself in a relatively painless commute followed by an equally painless parking experience. My destination was a standard courtyard-centric commercial brick job. People moved about like worker ants, each with a singular task in hand. I navigated through them and found suite number whatever-the-hell, and after a deep breath went in.

Looking around in the lobby I was only one of several in their late twenties and I was the only one wearing a suit. My transition from picture frame salesman to something more fulfilling hadn’t been going as smoothly as I’d hoped so here I found myself at ten a.m. on a Wednesday morning waiting to be interviewed.

I should have known something wasn’t right in that lobby. I represented a different facet of society that what was going on here. I was somehow a symbol of what was wrong in the world to these people and I felt it in  their stares. I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t have worn a suit.

After what seemed an eternity of staring at my resume and hearing the scratching of pencils on clipboards from all the other applicants that came streaming in a hundred at a time, my name was called.

As I stood up the pointed stares got worse. Who was this guy? Is he here to AUDIT the operation? To SHUT IT DOWN and RUIN our chances of WORK? Is that what’s going on? They hated me and I understood. I hated me too at that moment.

I walked into what looked like a back room at some underfunded elementary school. Short-pile orange carpet worn down to the linoleum. Wood-grained cheap siding on the walls. A “hang in there” poster and various other examples of desperation and misery.

The dumpy Mexican teenage girl that led me in stopped behind the flimsy desk and bade me have a seat.  Then she sat down. Evidently she was going to be conducting the interview.

She produced some silly looking reading glasses and looked down at my resume.

“How old are you Mr. –”

“Twenty nine. I’m not sure you can ask me that.”

I probably should have just walked out at that moment, but I had already committed hours of my life in that lobby and I needed to see this through.

“Of course, it’s for informational purposes only. So, what do you know about marketing?”

“I know that anything I don’t know I can learn.”

“Huh. You studied political science –”

“And literature”

“– what’s that?”

“Literature? Oh, well, they’re both nothing really. I guess I should have thought about that when I was seventeen, but here we are. ”

“Skills?”

“I’ve pulled weeds, worked as a sales associate, gas station attendant, line cook, waiter, janitor, apprentice mechanic, groundskeeper, book keeper, file clerk, receptionist; I’ve worked light construction. I can pour concrete and wire a lamp. I’ve taught myself some computer programming, and I can type. I tried to launch several small businesses and failed, from night clubs to t-shirts.  I speak Spanish and am learning Italian. I know who Christopher Marlowe was.”

“So no marketing?”

“No.”

“I see. Well, what we do here is take on highly trainable individuals and GIVE THEM THE TOOLS TO SUCCEED in the highly competitive world of marketing. Let me ask you, do you game?”

“My buddy wanted to name his kid ‘Wolf the Quarrelsome,’ but his wife nixed it.”

“Is that a World of Warcraft character?”

“Don’t think so…”

“Look, mister –”

“Rhymes with ‘wiener.’”

“– Why did you come here? I mean, what brought you to our company?”

“Well, I guess food and bills. Expanding my skill set. You know, it’s tough times out there.”

“Oh, I know it, I’m still paying student loans. Studied MARKETING at Cal State Dominguez Hills.”

“That’s fantastic.”

She looked at me for a moment, and  the stupid dance was over. She pulled her big ass out of the chair and extended her hand. I shook it. It was small and boney and damp.

“Thank you for coming in. We’ll keep your resume on file and will be sure to contact you if we feel that you might be a good fit in one of our branches. As a quickly growing multinational marketing company, new opportunities come up almost every day.”

“That’s very kind, thank you.”

“Leticia will validate you.”

“I’ll bet she will.”

I took my briefcase and my suit and my haircut and I walked over to Leticia at the receptionist desk and she validated me and I was on my way.

Driving home I was happy that it was still early and traffic wouldn’t be that bad heading west at this time. I found Pico and knew I was just a few turns and about half an hour away from getting out of this monkey suit and seeing what was playing on TCM.

The Good Stink in BH

There are few places more wretched and soulless in the world than Beverly Hills, Ca. Mecca for all the money-flushed bottom feedersofevery stripe and creed, Beverly Hills has always attracted the worst of the worst. So much so that even most Hollywood types refuse tolive there on a permanent basis for fear that what little soul they have might be sucked out into the void of the ever rotating milieu of upscale store fronts. These stores are concentrated around the infamous Rodeo Drive, where suckers go to spend and dreams go to die.

But like most cesspools, if you look hard enough there is a tiny glimmer of hope. In this case that is the Beverly Hills Cheese Store. For those that don’t like cheese, I would recommend to stop reading immediately and do whatever it is you do besides read and eat cheese. This store is quite simply the finest establishment for cheese mongering I have found in Los Angeles. I’m sure the usual slew of hipster assholes will point out that they know of some locally sourced, civic-minded cheese dispensary in Silver Lake that I’m supposed to give a shit about. Sufficed to say, I don’t. Cheese can be bought anywhere, but the BH Cheese Store is different.

For starters, it smells like a cheese store should: a neglected roller skating rink. The pungent smell that in any other context is utterly revolting, is ambrosia to one’s nostrils and in short order, one’s palate. This store, for its tiny footprint and almost assuredly outrageous monthly rent has stocked all of the finest of everything that doesn’t contain alcohol. Tetilla from Galicia? You got it. Saint-Nectaire from Auvergne? Got that too. How old do you like your gouda? Perfect. If you are in the market for capers, jam, mustards, bread (soft or crusty) or any other indulgent, imported, over priced goody that few people you know will truly appreciate you’ve come to the right venue.

So why am I in the back pocket of this place? Quite simply, because it is the only glimpse of humanity I found in an otherwise bereft village of the damned. People come to Los Angeles to visit for whatever reason, and I’d like to think that not many make a return trip. The hot spots are not for the faint of heart. From stroller injuries and heatstroke at Universal Studios, to syphilitic pickpockets on Hollywood boulevard, the land where dreams come true is anything but. But every once in a while, if you look close enough, you find a gem like BHCS.

I never expected a chance to sample the wares. I was dead wrong. I got a taste of fucking everything in the place. Or would have had I asked. Not only is everything delicious, but they let you make sure before you buy it. The service is impeccable, almost like they rely on people to buy things in order to stay in business. To find that on Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills is akin to something as implausible and stupid as you might find on an Old Spice commercial, say involving a polar bear and lightning.

Recently I found myself in this stinky oasis with the cackling group of hens I call my family. All opinionated and fond of cheese, I thought this experience would turn into the equivalent of getting people to agree on a pizza. I was blissfully mistaken. Once in that pungent heaven, the excitement of the prospect of all the lactic goodness coupled by the gentle guidance of the cheese monger put my tour guide duties in the capable hands of the cheese.

The ladies and I sniffed, nibbled and did all matter of masculine activities as we narrowed our selection down to eight cheeses from around the world. That’s right, before fist fighting and talking about tits with my friends, I was going to eat cheeses with my mother, grandmother and two aunts. This sort of behavior is the “pink shirt” proving how comfortable I am with my masculinity.

After everything was said and done the bill came to a reasonable $90, which I had thought I was erroneously paring down by suggesting we pick up bread elsewhere. The joke was on me, because they threw in the bread – two baguettes – for free. That’s the kind of place this is.  At the risk of beating a dead horse, in the land where taking a piss costs a few bucks American, getting bread for free is simply incredible.

I paid and went we went on our way, assuring the monger that I always bring family and friends here when they come to town. While true, I feel he could have cared less, and that made me care even more.  I’m sure I will have spent more than I care to think about at this establishment before it gets turned into a Wetzel’s Pretzels, but I sincerely hope that it outlasts my time here.

Sure there are other cheese stores, but who cares? There are other of everything everywhere. If you live anywhere near BH and family or friends come to visit , they will invariably want to visit Rodeo Drive and take pictures and do whatever it is they feel is important. If you make the trek, head over to Beverly Drive and do the BHCS a  solid. If you don’t like cheese, well then you’ve just wasted a few minutes of your day.