Monday, July 25, 2005

Los Angeles Jaunt:Part Two

Forgotten in the last post was my great surprise at the plethora of oil derricks dipping and rising in the barren fields on my way into West Hollywood from the airport. It was the first time I'd passed through working oil fields and I was astonished at their location within the vicinity of people's homes.

A saunter along Santa Monica Blvd early Monday morning bespoke a chief difference between the East and West Coast mentalities. Already, the cafes were crowded with people sipping lattes and nibbling upon all sorts of healthy looking (and inviting) rolls and breads. Inspired, I popped into the cafe near my hotel and ordered a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, walnuts and clumpy brown sugar instead of Weetabix (a Brit cereal which we can buy in East coast supermarkets, albeit at an exorbitant prices) toast and marmalade--delicious.

It's without risking cliche to conclude Californians--if not Californians, then certainly "Angelinos"--appear to be extremely health orientated; the overwhelmingly vast majority of women walking the streets had the proportions and fashion tastes of their European counterparts (admittedly WeHo as it is known is highly sophisticated) and the gyms--certainly the ones on Santa Monica Blvd--were vibrantly inviting and open 24 hours and people were actually using them after eleven at night. Another observation, one made after my second day, was that everyone seemed to be writing--not novels or memoirs, but rather the great American film script. It was amusing and very energizing (certainly energizing enough to make me resolve to resume my unfinished third novel on my return to the East coast) to sit at a table outside a cafe and hear a cluster of people talking unabashedly about script writing. Some even held group meetings at tables peppered over the sidewalks where they sipped iced coffees and critiqued one another's work. On one occasion, during lunch in a wonderful Spanish restaurant that served the most delicious seafood salad, a thirtyish something chap was having his work critiqued by someone of importance in the industry; I surmised that the scriptwriter must be a "somebody" by the gist of what he was advising about studio protocol in general, but soon was left in no doubt after the fellow took leave of his neophyte and was but ten yards down the street when said neophyte's boyfriend (who'd been sitting languidly at a nearby table with their sausage dog, Benedict) charged over and the two conversed excitedly about his good fortune to have someone so important spend time discussing his 'thriller-in-progress.'

Monday afternoon, I took a taxi from my hotel to the Adelphia Cable TV Studio where I taped Connie Martinson Talks Books which will air in Los Angeles on August 15th and in other cities, including Manhattan, shortly after that. Admittedly, given Connie's importance in book show circles, I was nervous and anxious not to make any gaffes, though she soon put me at ease. As I was waiting in the green room, I watched a prior author--forget about the glamor of being an author on tour; it's actually a conveyor belt at TV studios and radio stations--on the telly sharing an anecdote about how she was waiting in another NYC Green Room' for a national morning show anchor to interview her and how she was informed at the last minute by the producer that the national morning show anchor and she were wearing the same color of frocks. The incident was amusing and the popping of Xanix was alluded to, though I also could not help wonder why some women of intelligence obsess about another woman wearing the same shade of dress on the telly.

Thereafter, I was scheduled to speed off to do a live radio interview, one that was to be hugely important as the host's listenership was perfect for my novel, but the damned thing got cancelled. Maybe the Supreme Being was conspiring to make me suffer because I had been so unsympathetic to the prior author's Xanex predicament. It turned out the host's problem was familial and serious and I understood the reason for the cancellation of course, but still a part of me--a dark, selfish part hidden deep within my core--rebuked (if not actually cursed) the Supreme Being for a brief time most resoundingly. But in the end generosity and understanding prevailed and I do hope all worked out satisfactorily for the show's host.

It was not until the following morning, while on my way to Inglewood to do an interview on an overwhelmingly religious station with a huge audience --yes indeed, a religious show because one must not turn down the Supreme Being's largesse when it's offered, must one?--that I realized the cab driver, whom I'd used because he seemed friendly and honest, was in fact ripping me off...again most resoundingly. I'd been assured by my publicist that the Inglewood radio station was much closer to my hotel than the Adelphia Cable TV station of the previous day. Yet, I noticed the meter was running terrifyingly fast and, moreover, when the journey ended, the amount was but three dollars short of the previous days fare. I questioned this and the cabby--an Armenian whose family I felt I already knew very well--fell rock silent; but he recovered with some indecipherable utterance and then asked me much more lucidly to be sure to call his cell and have him cart me back to the hotel, no doubt because he figured I was suspicious by now.

Upon inquiry at the reception desk, it turned out my hostess, Ms. Bobby Howe, was having Cadillac and car dealership woes and would arrive an hour late, though I became not in the slightest bit unhinged as I has no immediate commitments. As I waited in the small, wood paneled waiting room I scrutinized a bunch of pamphlets containing information about the multitude of religious shows aired, as well as copious flyers with photos of backlit clouds and leafless trees in relief heralding bible study groups meetings, and one 70s looking one featuring the profile of a platinum-haired young woman and her heavily sideburned hubby.

A silhouette appeared on the glass front door around ten-ish and it seemed to swing open automatically. Five-foot-three, Bobby had coppery hair, was clad in pink, and administered an embrace that not even my mother has ever given me (We Irish are not big huggers, unfortunately). Bobby and I became friends immediately, even more so when she told me about her out-of-wedlock pregnancy years ago and a related fact she was a recovering Catholic. Throughout the course of half-an-hour, Bobby brought out every important aspect of the novel and my background--including Gabriel's conflict about his sexuality--and the result was one of the most sincere, one of the most valuable interviews I've ever had. She finished by having me read an excerpt, a piece about Gabriel's mother that I stumbled over about halfway through, but she would not edit it and assured me this would make our interview all the more sincere, all the more meaningful to her listeners. What she did edit out was a mistake I made out of ignorance when I gave the price of the paperback--apparently that is advertising and not allowed on shows like hers.


Of course, after the taping, I booked another taxi and discovered the fare was twelve dollars less. Full of zeal--I'd shared my story with Bobby and she was adamant I had to take action against the cab driver (she'd actually called him something a tad stronger)--I went to the hotel general manager because the malfeasant's company has a hub there. He was greatly concerned and has promised to investigate, even have this particular cabby banned from operating there if necessary, in addition to investigating the past practices of the company's cabby staff in general. It turns out they've had other complaints. It was one of those rare occasions where it actually helped to say I was also a NYC lawyer (implication being, I'm aggressive) as well as a visiting author.

Feeling appropriately vindicated, I booked another cab that Tuesday evening and was taken to my evening taping at Pacifica Radio for a very fair sum, the route taking me past the famous Hollywood pavement one sees often on the telly, the one littered with pink granite stars, as well as past the famous Chinese and Kodak theaters which have hosted and host the Oscars respectively. During the ride, my driver shared that there's a lot of cheating of customers going on among LA cabbies, from the downright mundane such as taking the longest route to a destination to the furtive use of an electronic device--presumably using infra-red technology--that causes the meter to turn faster as the car moves forward.

One final observation was the general vulgarity of the area around these infamous Hollywood shrines, so crammed were both sides of the Boulevard with camera outlets, fast food restaurants, T-shirt kiosks, loud tourists, etc. But then again, Hollywood life appears synthetic if not actually vulgar in the main, so perhaps it's fitting that the home of its hallowed shrines is but one cacophonous reflecting pool thereof.

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