Los Angeles: The Vortex

I sit in a coffee shop on Beverly Boulevard where I used to write, back when I used to live with someone and didn’t take my life seriously.  For two hours a day I worked on something I enjoyed, which was never quite enough.  They serve the best eggs here – poached and covered with parmesan cheese and chili flakes, served next to the best roasted potatoes you’ll ever have.

I drink my iced coffee, burnt and strong, listening to two women in their fifties talk about Casey Affleck in a way that makes you think they know who he is, but of course they do not.  Soon, they move onto another entertainment topic: some train wreck of a film called How Do You Know?  It’s like getting the channel stuck on Siskel and fucking Ebert the day after their double lobotomy.


That Legally Blonde girl.  Wither… Reese Witherspoon.  And you know who directed it?  A big comedy TV guy.

What’s it called?

You Think You Can Know…or How Do You Know?


I don’t miss this about Los Angeles.  Intense conversations about the industry (and its often lackluster products) by laypeople are a hazard of living in an industry town.  Everyone here works in film.  Once, at my weekly yoga class I took at my friend’s house in the Hollywood hills – usually held at 10 a.m. on a Monday – I looked around a spacious room with a beautiful room filled with beautiful people doing things Normal People would consider silly.  Model.  Model.  Actress.  Actor-turned-photographer.  Director.  Writer.  Actress. I laughed at myself for living this (very blessed) cliché, but such clichés are an inevitability of living in the city.  I never met anyone who worked in finance or medicine or the non-profit sector.  Those people live in New York or San Francisco.

The pair move quickly and at the hurried pace that accompanies superficial knowledge derived from tabloids and movie previews in TV advertisements.  “Zach Gafahfalakis or whatever his name is…” the older woman in the pink sweatpants muses.  I suck in my coffee through its straw suddenly, hoping it might freeze my brain and hinder its ability make my hearing function.  It does not.

Behind me, a young man writes a screenplay using Final Draft Pro.  Normally, there’s at least four others doing the same.  Los Angeles has this uncanny ability to make your extraordinary dreams seem ordinary.  Everyone is doing what you want to do and your passion inevitably seems misguided and silly.  “I’m a writer,” you’d say and you’d feel like you just told someone you were the janitor at a local elementary school.  “I’m an actress,” you’d say as you served someone their coffee and you’d feel ashamed.

The girls sitting out front drink Diet Cokes and smoke cigarettes, wear baseball caps and too much makeup.  Their sweat suits match and they carry bedazzled cell phones.  It’s January and it’s 76 degrees outside.  This shit is real.

A pickup truck passes, carrying stacks of unseasonably green sheets of sod.  Another passes with the tall prop walls from a set.  Living here, you see the mechanism and the mechanism is as boring and real as anything else.  Brad Pitt is just a man with good bone structure and the house in your favorite sitcom is made of collapsible cardboard.

The older woman in front of me reads an independent movie review from her iPod and I wonder if these women moved here to be actresses and stayed thirty years too long.  “He’s a mental hospital mentor,” she says, and I allow my attention to be diverted by the hangnail on my thumb until she starts on The Fighter.  “To me, the movie is just another version of…The Town.  I’m done with it.  Irish Catholic.  Ben Affleck.  Mark Wahlberg.  Martin Scorsese.  All that.  I don’t know…is there too many, too soon?”  Her pink manicured hand with its sad silver wedding band flicks up and down on its place on the back of a chair in emphasis.

It’s three in the afternoon on a Tuesday and all these women have to do is meet in a coffee shop in their gym clothes to talk about how they think Christian Bale’s performance is “beyond.”  There aren’t enough people in this city actually doing things.  There’s plenty of people wanting them.



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