“I just dropped Kevin off at the airport, so I can come hang out,” Joe’s voice rang out through my iPhone. “Where are you?”
“I’m at Starbucks on 11th and Grand—come pick me up,” I answered back, wondering how I was going to get my hair cut at Salon Eleven and meet Joe in the same one hour time frame—oh well.
Some background: Joe, like most of my friends, has become rich over the years. And yes he’s good looking too—whatever. So, now that he’s sold his luxury mansion rental business in Sun Valley for zillions he’s decided to come back to LA, specifically Downtown to get serious about business.
Who better to call than Oliver Brown? I’ve lived Downtown for fourteen years—that would be before it was cool and the Lakers were still playing in Minnesota or Inglewood or somewhere. Anyway, when my rich friends decide it’s time to get richer or cooler Downtown they usually call.
How did I come to live Downtown? I left the mansion I could no longer afford in Doheny Estates and moved Downtown. Somehow my failure to make enough money as a writer to live in twenty times more space than I needed has made me an artistic / business visionary. If I could have thought that one up and sold it to NBC I probably wouldn’t have moved.
Starbucks on 11th and Grand is as good a neighborhood hangout as one can ask for. I spend most of the day writing there. And when not writing I chat with my friends who, like me, now all seem to not go to an office. Don’t let this fool you, unlike our Downtown brothers and sisters ten blocks east the only drug we’re hooked on is caffeine, which thankfully I don’t have to pay for very often….I sent Howard Schultz a signed copy of one of my books and his office sent me a Starbucks card with a couple grand on it. And on occasion a suit friend of mine will come through and buy me a round of the black magic.
As I sat and chatted with Kaitlin, so cute and so young that I forgot about my haircut and Joe, I suggested an evening of drinks and my corrupting influence, perhaps at The Standard.
“You’ve never been to the rooftop bar at The Standard,” I asked, trying to sound incredulous.
“No. I’ve heard about it but I haven’t been. I’ve only been here three weeks.”
This is turning into a great day, I thought to myself. My phone rang.
“Oliver, Jessica’s ready for you.”
I looked at my watch, a Piaget that I bought when Hollywood actually paid for talent. “Damn, I’m just next door at Starbucks, I’ll be right there.” It might have been a little on the forward side but I gave Kaitlin a hug and a kiss and walked off.
Joe managed to find me as Jessica snipped and pulled and measured—she’s very precise. I don’t have much hair, but what I do have she makes look better than most can. And Salon Eleven in general is nicer than most and I’m not just saying that because they have parties with free drinks, which makes me feel better that I actually pay to get my hair cut there.
“Did I mention that they throw a good party here?” I said to Joe as he sat next to me. “In fact they’re having one Saturday night. We’ll have to stop by after we stop at Lucky’s get together at Hard 8 Lounge.”
“What ever you want to do, Oliver. I’m just here to see what’s going on.”
“Are you hungry?”
Joe put his hand on his stomach. “I could eat.”
“We’re going to the Nickel for lunch.”
“The Nickel. Trust me you’re going to love this place. If I had the money I would buy it…”
“I’ve heard that it’s really good,” chimed in Jessica putting the finishing touches on my hairdo.
Lunch at the Nickel had convinced Joe to move Downtown, as I was sure that it would, and it made me feel better about dragging him to the Writer’s Guild on Fairfax—about eight miles too far west for my comfort. However, there was no point of going all the way to the WGA and not going across the street to The Grove to have a drink, it was after all around five on a Friday.
“Listen, if Marty will direct, Leo will come on board, but get the book to Leo and tell him I’m working on the script just in case.” I hit end on my iphone.
“Does your manager actually do anything?” asked Joe.
“If she did, would you be buying drinks?”
He laughed. “So why don’t you get a new one?”
“And risk success…” I noticed a couple of eavesdropping girls at the bar. “How are you guys doing today?” I asked.
The thin blonde turned to face me. “We’re in financial services…”
I held up my glass. “Sorry to hear that. But as the great Ronald Reagan once said, ‘markets go up and markets go down’.” She looked at me with some curiosity. Her friend was clearly intrigued. So we kept on talking.
“So many people in this town are full of it. What would happen if I Cha Cha’d you?”
“Is it painful? Because I’m not into that.”
“No, Cha Cha—you send a text message question about anything and they send you an answer.” She Cha Cha’d me. “Wow, it says you’re a really good writer that left Hollywood to explore new artistic endeavors.”
I knocked back drink number three. “I left Hollywood because the system can’t stand me. I moved to Downtown a long time ago because it was cheap and void of people, with lots of dive bars.”
She smiled. “Things don’t really work out for you do they?”
“Only when I don’t want them to,” a reference to the million people who read the blogs, which I don’t get paid to write.
“Do you boys want to have dinner with us?”
She mentioned some place on Melrose that I was sure would be overpriced and I definitely did not have an in at.
“No. We’re going to Plum Tree.”
“Where?” she asked.
“Plum Tree on Broadway, it’s some of the best Chinese food Downtown. Come with us if you want.”
“We can’t. We’re meeting a friend. But we’re going to The Standard later.”
“In Hollywood or Downtown?” I asked, assuming they would be going to Hollywood.
“Downtown,” she said, in a tone that made it clear she understood the difference between the two. That would be that The Standard Downtown is on a completely different level—literally.
“I’ll call you when we’re done with dinner,” I said as Joe and myself parted for the drive back to the shiny city where all the congested freeways meet—I took Olympic.
The girls were waiting in line to pay twenty dollars to get the coveted wristband needed to go to the roof. I walked to the front, motioning for them to follow.
“Why do you look familiar?” the blond guy asked.
“Tee’s friend the writer,” I answered plainly.
He nodded. “That’s right. How’s it going man, does Tee know that you’re coming?”
I shrugged. “No.”
He started putting the bands on the girls and Joe. Tee walked up. We’re about the same age but he stays in shape. “What’s up daddy?”
Tee gave me a half-hug. “Downtown Oliver Brown, good to see you too daddy. You going up?”
“Yeah, the gang here hasn’t been, I promised them a goodtime.”
“Tell the bar to put it on my tab,” Tee whispered in my ear.
I walked through the hotel lobby, which had its own DJ spinning. Joe and the girls looked around wide-eyed at the crazy magenta couches. Up the escalator I went with them in tow and into the service elevator to the rooftop. The service elevator really is the service elevator and is covered with some hip red padding.
The doors opened, thankfully, revealing a view of Downtown that must be seen because words do not do it justice. Joe gave the plant shaped like a unicorn a second look as we walked straight to the dance floor.
“Hi Oliver,” Ingrid my favorite waitress said, stopping to give me a hug.
I really like Ingrid. “Hi love. How you doing?”
“I’m good. What are you writing these days, Oliver?”
“Bad checks,” I answered.
She laughed. “Go sit in my section when you guys are done dancing.”
The dance floor takes up the northeast corner of the rooftop. The DJ was playing a good techno remix of Back in Black and I was thinking that the thin blonde, Michelle, and myself were going to be more than friends. For some reason my mind drifted to Kaitlin whom I had been planning to ask out. Kaitlin has such a great smile. Anyway, they started to play some Snoop Dog, my cue to leave the dance floor—because I hate rap, hip hop, nonsense to drum machine music.
“C’mon I’ll show you guys the infinity pool.” They followed me up a few stairs to the pool area. I pointed out the red, waterbed pods, but Michelle was having nothing of it—we settled in the couch area looking out over the pool and the videos projected on the Pegasus apartments across the street.
“This is such a great building. What was it before they turned it into a hotel?” asked Michelle’s friend April.
“Originally, it was the headquarters for Superior Oil. That’s why the door handles are S shaped. They’re original to the building.” I have no idea why I know these things.
“Where do you live?” asked Michelle.
“Right now I’m staying at a friends place who’s out of town. But usually I just stay in one of the hotels around here, including this one.”
“Where’s your friend’s place?”
“The Skyline, on 9th and Flower—it’s really nice and his place is off the hook. I’m going to miss it.”
“How long have you been staying there?”
“A few months. It has a great gym and a huge pool if you guys are up for a swim—clothing optional?” Michelle nuzzled me with delight.
Four rounds on Tee’s tab later, they pour a strong drink at The Standard, we were on our way. The girls were going to get into a cab and go home, but instead they walked back to my place, well my friend’s place who is not there, for a nightcap.
“Well this is cute,” said Joe, clearly referring the three of us in bed.
I looked up at Joe. “Is it morning?”
“Yes. The sun being out should be your first tip.”
I turned on my side and put my arm out over Michelle whose body felt very good against my own. April put her arm over my side from the back and there we were, one big happy sandwich. “When the girls wake up we’ll go downstairs and have breakfast at Panini…Hey, how do you like Downtown so far?”
Joe smiled. “I can see moving here.”
I watched Joe walk out of the room. I had been planning to date the too young for me Kaitlin, but in a few short hours Michelle had made a serious impression. I dozed for a while. When I woke Michelle was resting her head on my shoulder.
“I have a boyfriend,” she said, instead of the customary, “Good morning.”
“You failed to mention that last night.”
“Yeah, I know. He’s married. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
I noticed April was no longer in bed. “There’s a word for what you’re doing, but who am I to judge.”
“You don’t have a wife or a girlfriend somewhere?”
“No. Call me old fashioned but I try not to sleep with people other than the person I’m actually in a relationship with.”
“Do you hate me?”
I pulled her close to me. “No. I don’t hate you. Besides it’ll make a great blog. My mind drifted back to Kaitlin. And then I felt hungry for an egg white omelet with cheese and avocado.