Foreword by Stan Lerner: the following novella “Breakfast At Bottega Louie” is a work of fiction meant to give the blog reader, YOU, a unique literary experience. True, I introduced the serialized semi fictional blog “Downtown Oliver Brown” for much the same reason, but Downtown Oliver Brown is satirical, so by definition the writing is what I would call, “literary light,” and because it is a serial, much like a soap opera, it has no end. “Breakfast at Bottega Louie” is a love story that examines the intersection and repair of two broken lives. I am writing it daily and will post it as such—and I promise there will be an ending, although I have not yet punctuated it in my own mind. If you care to comment as to where you would like the story to go—please do so!
BREAKFAST AT BOTTEGA LOUIE
I did not move to Downtown Los Angeles in order to seek adventure nor to help the less privileged, but rather as a small, insignificant dinghy adrift in the sea of life. It’s true that like all writers, although I was a businessman all those years ago, I have had my moments of self-aggrandizement in which I have felt as if I had some special calling in life. I might have even caused a few dozen or so to share in this indulgent maybe even delusional belief. Yet, the reality is fairly simple: I came to live where I have now lived for the last fourteen years because it was inexpensive. Not that it looks inexpensive, rather the converse is in fact the case—I live in the lap of luxury. Indeed it was a once in a lifetime event that imbued such a fortunate circumstance on to me. A golden cage of my own in a thriving part of the city that has on some blocks even surpassed the quality of life that can be found on Ninth Street between Flower and Hope, for this is where I dwell.
One such block to rise in status midst our prosperous neighborhood would be 7th Street. It had some grand old days in the grand old days but had spent forty of the last forty years as a shadow of its former greatness. My own mother, may she rest in piece, reminisced about the trolley cars that had transported her and Aunt Louise to shopping excursions at the stores that once towered above the streets. The original Robinson’s headquarters I’m sure was a favorite stop. And just across the street was Brooks Brothers where my dad had bought suits. I know this latter statement to be absolutely true as I wore a hand-me-down from this very store in my senior picture. I didn’t mind at the time, but now wish I had been wearing a fine suit of my own on this occasion.
With this location, formerly Brooks Brothers, I am inimitably well versed. Because in the days that I sought to build a clothing empire of my own rooted in the value proposition and a familiar sounding name, I toured the premise with the serious intent of turning it into a larger and improved version of my store a block to the north. Why this did not transpire I can no longer recall, but this is easy to forgive as my empire building days left carnage on the streets that would have wowed the Cesar’s—even Caligula, and after praying for much forgiveness some things a man should be allowed to forget.
For three years the site that was once almost part of my rein of business terror seemed to be under perpetual on and off construction. The floors above were with equal sluggishness being transformed into lofts—part of an adaptive reuse boom that was both revitalizing the city and adding substantially to my net worth, which ironically had been increasing daily for years as I benefited from no merit of my own other than the weakness to live the life of what I think of as the faux rich. Interesting that a phantom economy turned my faux rich life into a life of semi substance. No doubt in the future I shall lay claim to visionary status when I inevitably decide that humility no longer suits me. Humility? Yes, in substance if not in form I am a humble man. Particular? Yes. But one can be humble and still have an appreciation for the finer things in life. In fact in Los Angeles you can have all of the fine things in life—as I exemplify with little money at all or a fair amount of money that you owe and mean to, but don’t pay back.
I had been told of a gourmet market to open in this space where my father was once fitted for suits. Dave told me this and since he is gay and in real estate I assumed it to be completely accurate. Because, let’s face it, who can not keep a secret more so than a gay man that tells everyone he is gay. Personally, if I were gay I would tell no one. I mean that would seem to be more fun—especially with respect to the opposite sex. Imagine a black hole of neediness that one could not be sucked into simply by the fact that you appeared to be, but were not part of the same universe. I think that this is the great secret of heterosexual males—all wish to be gay. Not because they are attracted to men, personally I would rather be mauled by a Grizzly Bear, but because like the truth it would set us free—I digress but not really.
The gourmet market, known as Bottega Louie, when the wrappers came off the windows was a market, a café reminiscent of an indoor piazza, and fine dining establishment with an open kitchen. The white marble that lay beneath my Gucci clad feet exuded the class of a substantive foundation necessary to all great social interactions. The often-played classical music synthesized with the morning light to give me life again as I sipped my cappuccino and because I am a greedy man I had been indulging myself at Bottega, the little store in Italliano, for eight consecutive mornings.
“Oh grand,” I thought to myself as I read the LA Times front-page story. Funny how members of the establishment react when you say LA Times. A giggle and role of the eyes that have come to symbolize a death watch of sorts. Yes, the once proud paper of the Chandler Era of Los Angeles is now owned by an overleveraged trailer park billionaire. “Is it safe?” asked Zell. “Is what safe?” “I simply want to know if its safe?” asked Zell coming closer. “Yes, its safe.” Let me interrupt one of the greatest scenes in motion picture history and say…ITS NOT SAFE! Men who have adorned themselves with wealth renting out space in trailer park establishments should not purchase newspapers! And they should not be funded by unfunded pension funds silly boys of Wall Street. Although if I could write a risk management algorithm I’d probably move back East and short the market—more unoriginal than you might think. But that would be another story of a Chinese terrorist plot that destroyed the economy of our country. Ugh!
So the front page made it clear that my disdain for killing unborn babies, my belief that government need not more tax money to waste, and the fact that I served our country with distinction now classified me as a potential right wing threat. I thought about this for a moment—“true,” I concluded. And contemplated throwing a tea party of my own. “No taxation without representation!” meaning: that elected officials should listen and act with respect for the will of the people.
“Excuse me handsome, do you mind if I join you,” said the voice, light and polite with an accent from several nice little towns, but not enough time in any to be weighed down with the reality of their circumstance.
I lowered my paper, my LA Times, perhaps soon to be as relevant as the tenants of the La Brea Tar Pits. Twenty was all she could have been. So pretty, so small, and a polka dot sundress—in April. Her short brown hair was as playful as her smile. Brown well shaped thighs at eye level gave her otherwise breath of dial soap scented fresh-air a sense of sexuality. This girl was a drink to be had…But I had given up drinking in the morning when the last of the old men from Europe I had grown up with had expired. I looked past her at all of the empty tables. Bottega is busy for lunch and dinner, but not breakfast—because it is what they do best. And isn’t it true brothers and sisters that it is the nature of man to want to believe a lie more than the truth. The best should always go unrewarded in this day, which makes it the imperative for contrarians such as myself to indulge in a breakfast at Bottega Louie.
“Of course you can join me, but there are plenty of other tables.”
She sat letting out a sigh of relief. “I didn’t come all the way from Windfield Kansas via Lakeside Montana to the City of Angels to eat by myself.” She poked me in the chest with what I considered to be a very well formed little finger. “You look interesting.”
“I can just give you money to buy something to eat. You don’t have to sit with me,” I suggested rudely.
“Oh,” her eyes teared up. “You think I’m that kind of girl. It’s true I probably can’t afford to eat in a fancy place like this, but I think you need me more than I need you…”
I smiled. “Well, now that we’ve cleared that up—please stay.”