Rent Me Not

The car watched me with suspicion. I watched the car with silver terror. The rental car person watched us both with benevolent disgust. My plan was to be honest: Sir, this is my first rental. Please understand this animal. In a well brought up action movie I would kick the silver door with my high heel sandal, slip in through the narrow path of light and drive focused to the place of exchange goods versus money. In this movie I breathe slow to expose perfect control and become one with the deep disbelief that I’m supposed to catch the key in the air and simply go.

We are at Burbank Airport, practically Hollywood. Cast and crew are busy with other lucrative things, but I am here anyway, and the finger of the rental car person is pointing the answer to the question screamed in my eyes. There? Yes, he shows me the left corner of the parking lot. The silver one. I try to explain my life circumstances. Where I am coming from. Where I am going. How I plan to bridge the gap using their vehicle. Sir, do I have to take the ramp down? He gives away the last trace of benevolence and makes a sign with his hand. Ok. I approach the booth full of positive thinking and reiterate.

Unlock? This key. Gas? Where? I had this potential nightmare where I fumble with mysteries in a gas station in Southern California and Police comes to say good day and how come you cannot find the unlocking device. I don’t know if it helps to say that I was brought up in a communist country until the age of 14 and a half and after I drove only my soulmate Nissan which, by the way, left behind the majority of other brands while we raced through Paso Robles. I knew how the finger works for the gas tank, where is the air conditioning and how to power radio to put in vein life.

Sir, this is my first rental. Can you please help bring the car to the booth? So we can study? I’m looking at the key in my hand and I understand that I will move the car first. I move to the left corner of the parking lot, cross myself and proceed. The car feels big. I fantasize that I am swallowed. I play the right foot gingerly and expect to hear the director gesture Cut to the crew. They say pain is the root of growth. It is. We roll a silver roll to the booth. There I park and refuse to take the stress no more. Sir, you have to help me! This is my first rental. Sharp. Professional. Gas tank? There. AC? There. My hip hop and R&B station? You have to play with the radio lady. Sir, I will. Don’t give me slow lyricism after Lil Wayne hooked me with Started From The Bottom Now We Here. Ah, how we screamed the tune along the Pacific Highway when drove from Santa Barbara to LA.

I don’t know what I did but I found my music. The world came slowly into focus. Lady now move the car away! People who call me lady find a special echo in my heart because someone important used to call me that way. And if we can make it down the ramp to street level we winners. The anatomy of having absolutely no idea where you are and being completely in the hands of a global device is priceless. I rolled with the flow of people who knew exactly what they were doing. Serious people, Hollywood people, deal people. My fancy was taken with the elbow of a magnate controlling an impeccable black shinny BMV and how the arch of his arm told a powerful story. I crave seeing men in shirts. Style is style.

For a brief second I forgot we are not traveling to the same place of business. I took a different exit but the feeling stayed. After putting trust in an intricate pattern of highways I made it into US 101 where I breathed recognition. The car was still too big for me in the sense that it was me and a lot of space but things got nicer and taking Sunset Boulevard I made my way to UCLA. I excused myself to the class that I am late because I rented a car. I rented about 6 cars after, one every week of the journalism class I took at UCLA. Two more things happened: one time I waited 2 hours at the car rental to bring me from somewhere a small car because my idea of small and their idea of small doesn’t seem to match. But I stayed put and I left with a red beauty I didn’t want to return. The other time I simply insisted to open in the morning an orange car which wasn’t mine. Rental car is easy. You go, you pay, you ask when you get the deposit back, take the key and do business. One night I had a cocktail at Estrella Sunset to celebrate things feared and conquered.

The damn trust you build when you run smooth in places where you bumped high is priceless.

 

The Beat

In two split-seconds they gave me two split-lessons I will never forget. It was the minute when it’s both too late and too early. People were making their way out of the club in pairs. She came to me and ordered to take a picture. She got into the pose and gave the sign. People were walking in between us and she grew impatient. Be quick!! She had no qualms about my potential protest. She snatched the phone and expressed disappointment. No good! Take another!! OK, lets live the thrills of speedy life. Snatch, snatch I was quick like fuck. The picture looked good to me based on circumstance. Couldn’t give her Naomi Campbell. But she wanted one. From deep purple sky the thought dawned on me to use her also and I was content with the outcome. She looked again at her phone, pursed lips, stretched back and left. The quickness endured.

The second one was so beautiful the mind was conquered. Beautiful. Any picture would have been a star. Tall. Fit. Long hair. Exquisite. She went slowly and gave a contained hug to the guard. The cruel guy who just finished fighting the crowd of us to keep decent distance from where Travis Scott was dancing Huncho Jack to Heavens was instantly melt. He was taken. She stayed a second in the hug until the sugar took hold of the good guard’s vein, then parted with the worshiper and left leaving him full of light. She was an apparition. She left the air full of swag.

Time is short. Life is busy. The walls of obligations press hard on us. But sometimes I’ll write anyway. At the end of the day you can find it here.

Just because

 

 

Radio City at Night

Oh, but you have no way of taking back the lights of Radio City at night, the red and blue lights of Avenue of the Americas, the lingering quality dissolved around us, the shimmer, the pounding, the convoluted vibrancy of trapped between the seconds soul. We sit at those little stone tables and chairs and became full accomplices of the night. From our long traveled silences, the night knew that she can give herself completely to us and still swirl free in uncontained horizons. We are flawless and strange lovers of the dark affair, guilty innocents, whole halves, vicious seekers, unflinching keepers of a maddeningly sought after secret, priests of insight and touch.

It was that young man coming out of that imposing building at a too late and too early hour that had us looking at each other and pierce the soul of the night. We saw him walking at the break of his duty with a switch to the left, around the building, letting me carry the question in your eyes: where is he going, how long before he comes back, is he in the know of making time go slow between coming and going, is he a master of the night? I love this quality of improvisation woven in my time around you and this makes me scared of coming close and this makes me eager to the point of no doubt and no resistance. Let him make the most of his brief respite. Let me go high catching red shimmers of light in the vanishing confession of rain. Make your way to the core of that deep seated innuendo playing in your strong rhythm, the eluding quality, the catchy rhythm, that inescapable contradiction between touch of high fire and achingly present sense of control.

This is why sometimes I hesitate, this is why sometimes I dare shamelessly This is why I am lost when I should be fluid, this is why you have to take the slow journey of lights and rain closer, and take it with your arms, your strength, your fully-bodied desire. This is why I looked at that window, the big wide window of the sleeping restaurant, a table can be made ours, the colors in the bottles can whisper, the drums in the hiding places can reverse the fate of the night.

 

 

Larry Grobel: Appeal of substance

Larry Grobel walks in the room, puts his bag under the podium and takes the audience in. We are here, in this cool bookstore on Sunset Boulevard, on this golden Saturday afternoon, in the absolutely natural and larger than life presence of Lawrence Grobel.

Larry Grobel, THE interviewer. Whatever spellbinding quality he owns, it spreads into the air and take hold of us. Larry is here to read from his most recent book “You, Talking to Me. Lessons I Learned Along the Celebrity Trail”. I’m here to enjoy.

In making of the day, the gods played with intensity. I rolled on wheels for quite some hours, enduring the beauty of the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles with only three stops: two for gas and one to surrender. In between storms, this is the day when abundantly verdant California stretches to horizon and the blue flows over the brim of water and skies.  Feels like the trip you cannot not take, the book you cannot not read, the day you cannot not live.

Larry has an affair with the word of substance. He stands by it in the assault of triviality, he shots for the core. He cuts through. The book of conversations with Al Pacino has the unforgiving beauty of a Northern California shore. His memoir “You Show Me Yours” is so entertaining that I parted with food and sleep for days and hours. “The Art of Interview” is a journalistic feast. I’m thinking what kind of special bargain Larry has with time that he can so pour the mighty word into the passing second.

Here with Larry is his wife, Hiromi. There is distinction in the air, the feeling that you are in the company of the exquisite best. Spirit. I enjoy the paradox carried by the most exceptional people: a sense that you are in the presence of something essential and at the same time that reassuring naturalness. You can talk to them like you can talk to you and me. You don’t want to take too much of their time and you want to steal all their time. Want the vibe to last forever.

I say a few words to him and that this morning I rolled on wheels from San Francisco for this reading. He is surprised. I feel that what I did is so little compared to what I get. Maybe some day I’ll tell him that in a very far away country, in a very far away time, whenever they let me do what I wanted, I spent the minute reading all I could find in a land with not many choices and put together in a notebook articles about magnificent people in a faraway land named Hollywood.

Larry is reading. His stories fill the room and we are taken. This book brings together the gist of encounters with well-known people, spectacular characters who made an impression on the game of the world. In every story lives a seed to learn from. This afternoon on Sunset, we travel with the all-revelatory tendencies of comedian Rodney Dangerfield, with don’t do an interview with Charles Manson or I won’t talk to you forever friendly request of Dolly Parton, with let’s part with you while the car is rolling impulse of coach Bob Knight, with when Lauren Bacall offers a drink better not ask for a champagne-less mimosa , to name just a few. Then Larry reads the story of meeting his wife, Hiromi Oda, this lady here with us, creator of three dimensional woven sculptures,  the woman who says “I feel I must also be created as I create”. She stands near me, or I stand near her, and this afternoon will live forever.

The book is rich. The hour is short. The feeling is timeless. When a lady who works for the bookstore moves some things and comes to say there are only a few meager minutes left, I want to protest.

This wandering ray of light is resting on the floor.

By now I know that we all are basically in the same business in life. It is the business of dealing with time, ranging from merely not bending under its weight to thoroughly rising above and fully enjoy. Our weapon is rhythm, our weapon is word, our weapon is touch, our weapon is power. True stories come alive in the eye of beholder.

Same day, walking in the warm February light becoming dusk on Sunset, I let my thought wander in that place where we all meet, people of laugh and people of sorrow, same people, to do the most human thing of all: exchange stories. In the speed over depth age, talking to Larry or reading his lines means tuning into an atmosphere of substance. He’s the maker of something unforgettable. The people in front of his questions are not subjects to be sold for a dime, they are characters resplendent with life.

You can open “You, Talking to Me” in the late afternoon and when the stroke of midnight will find you still turning page, take the bargain with time and give a little bit of your soul for a day with an extra-hour.

And if the trick is in the question, how can a person just WALK into a room, put his bag under the reading podium and make an impression for life?

 

 

 

Jezebelle @ Estrella Sunset

A certain longing hits the lips as we are rushing to Los Angeles. Past Santa Barbara, into Ventura County, all the beauty endured since starting from San Francisco at the root of the too early hour seeks revenge. We go on wheels but feels like flying.

Baby, this is no ordinary thirst!

This trip is unexpected, born from an appetite for essence. This trip is an affair of word and light. I can swear it is a response to a beat, a bird, a craving, a special way of taming time, a fluidity insinuated in the journey of sun, a quality present at the beginning of it all, strong and ambiguous, chameleonic, irresistible.

Los Angeles! Rhythm of devil, taste of angels. Let me revel in a good drink soon. A good cocktail is a good seducer. I know the symptoms of the aforementioned when I happen upon one.

***

Saturday afternoon on Sunset Boulevard. Tender afternoon, warm, sexy. All went well, marvelous book reading at Book Soup on Sunset. I found the hotel, well, not immediately, met my most awesome friend Dona, tamed my teenage daughter fury at being taken to Hollywood with no proper advance notification, some things are sudden baby, life happens fast sometimes.

We get into Estrella because it is appealing. We stay because they make you wanna stay. Love the name: Jezebelle. I want her! She arrives, distinguished green, sexy and beautiful, and barely has a heartbeat to show grace, then simply disappears. They all look at the empty glass with benevolent understanding. “This must have had a hole in it”,  instantly summarizes the case our waiter and wordless takes order for the second one.

Vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, basil. Maybe it’s in the vodka, maybe it’s in the juices, maybe it’s in the leaf, maybe it’s in the quality flirtation of them all. Maybe it’s in the core of the cozy affair. Maybe it’s in the every mile traveled, maybe it’s in every word spoken, maybe it’s in the appealing play of darkness and light. What I confess is this: it’s there.

Second follows first and has a slightly longer life. I remember uttering words and sipping. “You are thirsty”, notices Dona, and I unabashedly nod approval. We enjoy conversation, food, atmosphere, the improbability of me rushing for just one night to L.A., and, somehow, the open road of life and all.

The third Jezebelle is to slowwwly enjoy. Time becomes the warm accomplice of night, a lovely creature, a seasoned seducer himself, a touch of poetry, a soulful witness of rhythm and delight. If the aim of every seducer is to touch senses and tame time, then Jezebelle knowingly rises to the promise , with an indelible twist for granting more.

Amalia Nita