It was a rainy evening. Not unusual for the season–they speak of blizzards in the east–but perhaps for the city. I was planning on meeting my friends Kev and Chris out in LA, but it was almost called off. Chris thought a little downpour had changed my mind, as it would most Angelinos. It seems like our lives become semi-dysfunctional at the near sight of clouds. I merely shrugged it off–as if I needed rain to be dysfunctional.
At about eight Kev and I were on the 10 heading west. There’s nothing quite as pleasurable as driving on the 10 in the rain. (If you took that sentence literally, then you aren’t from LA.) We were passing by downtown, lit by the numerous stories that touched the sky. There was the familiar orchid glow from Staples; the reigning champs were playing that night. Local bars and restaurants were overrun by the ants of people. Jazz, rock, film, whiskey, dancing. You might not be there yourself, in that city, but to pass through is to be a living conduit. You somehow feel that undeniable buzz, knowing there is always a story to be told in this city, there is always a ticket for a night you won’t forget.
We found Chris outside his apartment on the corner of Kingsley. It was Koreatown, no denying the people and signs, but turn a few corners and we were right where we needed to be in the arm of Hollywood. “There’s this hole-in-the-wall I think you’ll like.” The line plays like a broken record. This time it was a Brazilian joint, a snazzy spot on the corner of Sunset. It sat across the street from the hot pink neon signs that shouted NUDE and LIVE. Interesting spot for a strip club; I suppose that is where some folks go for dessert.
The car was parked about a half mile from the place. Now a couple of tickets enlightened, I made sure to check the signs. Then I asked a law student to interpret them. At the restaurant there was a wait. There’s always a wait if you’re at the right place. We were led to our table by the server; I excused myself to use the restroom. I just brushed by a famous musician and an up-and-coming actress, I think. I’m not sure because I don’t really watch TV or listen to the radio much nowadays. But she had the look and he was wearing shades indoors and they say everybody in Los Angeles wants to be an actor or musician. Unless, of course, you are a writer.
Our meal came hot, steak and plantains, with a heavy side of conversation. Our talk sounded important, as though we were important, but I don’t remember much about it so it probably wasn’t important. But Hollywood has a way of making you feel like a big shot. After dinner, we roamed the streets for the next spot. We came across a habibi cafe that featured a patio with couches and televisions. There was a ceiling but no doors, which was unfortunate since the clouds parted for the stars later in the night. We took our seats but just as quickly left. It was a $25 minimum for hooka; no one had lungs worth that much on this evening. Just as well, for like the young maiden there is always another suitor lying in the wake.
We headed back towards K-town for a cafe. Three grown men sitting on red couches in a Korean cafe, sipping on tea lattes. In most other towns this would be a faux pas. I’m just glad we’re socially acceptable here. We sat on the second floor, disco ball spinning at the top of the ceiling. We continued our grown-men conversations, as though we were important, until we were ready to retire unto the night. A little after midnight, it was time to leave.
While driving, I thought about my love-hate relationship with this city. Then I thought about my sister, and her love affair with New York. Hearing her gush about the city, story after story, made me wonder at times. She sold the east coast so well. Maybe I could use a sunrise, too.
But nights like this remind me. Like hearing an old tune on the radio all the memories suddenly start flooding in. It was faint, this voice, still distant but unmistakable. This is the city of your youth. This is the city of my love. This is the city that made sunsets famous. This is where the light is.
Indeed, it was a good night to be in LA.