I happened to find myself in Los Angeles this past weekend, it was my luck really, because some detective novel reading rich guy wanted to make me some sort of “offer” and I am nothing if not in the mood of an offer from a detective reading rich guy.
I got a free flight and a few nights in a pricy hotel out of the deal and really, at this point in this never ending winter, any way possible to get out of Pittsburgh is welcome. I flew out on Thursday with the plan to meet Friday morning. The swish-buckling mid-level producer was late and anyone who knows me knows I hate to be put on hold, which I always just hang up on and I hate to wait for anyone.
I was taking my last sip of adequate coffee when a well tanned man I am guessing to be of some sort of Latin ancestry sashayed up to my table and asked if I was me. I was and he sat down with not enough drama to persuade me of his sexuality. “Howdy do,” he said and I was convinced.
I was fine and told him so, looking at my wrist as though I was one of those people, the sort who still wore a watch. “Something wrong with your wrist?” He asked, apparently missing my point completely.
“Nothing being on time could not have healed,” I said, bitterly.
“I see,” he said, like a happy little princess.
He ordered some granola and a latte. I ordered nothing and just waited.
Silence is my last remaining virtue.
After what seemed like two minutes, he asked if I would be willing to discuss selling the rights to a couple of detective novels I have published and are almost always for sale onAmazon.
“I thought that was why you had me fly out here.” I said, with some sort of authority, because that was just my assumption, not based on anything other than hope.
“Well, my client would like to pick them up on the cheap and see if we can clean them up, shop them around and see if we can find a place for them.”
“Client? Clean them up? Place?” I said, slightly incredulous. I felt a need to urinate, which is hardly ever a good sign. “I have to use the little boy’s room, I’ll be right back.”
I walked past the sign with the arrow pointing towards the mens room, all the way to the garage and kept pushing the lock button until my rental car made a beep so I knew where to find it, got in and drove off, in something I would imagine the granola eater in the dining room would refer to as a huff.
I made it back to my fairly nice hotel in hardly any of the famous LA traffic since it was still mid-morning. I put on some shorts and found the pool and did my LA routine of laying on the hot concrete until I began to sweat, then rolled into the water, cooled off, got back out, begin to sweat and repeat.
I had some calls on my cell, but I did not bother to bring it too the pool, water can damage a cellphone beyond repair, so I only knew about them when I had returned to my room. That much even I understand. When I did make it back to the room and checked the messages, there were three from the “producer” I’d left in the dining room. All bitter and mortified that I would walk away from negotiations.
Among friends I often lie about my age, but they seem to get the joke and when my birthday roles around they accept the “fact” that I am again 28, yet once more. These days though I hardly look anything close to 28, in fact, even my granddaughter says things, with a bit of sarcasm, like “28? Times what grandpa?”
So imagine my luck/surprise when I was hardly drinking in the hotel lobby and I noticed the crowds gathering outside the ballroom and saw the nicely lettered sign welcoming back the graduates from the Belmont High School class of 2003. I did the math in my giant empty head and realized, those people are just like me, 28 years old and kind of drunk. I made my way over to the greeting table and say the name Richard Shultz with a black and white picture that looked enough like me that I grabbed it and pinned it to my lapel.
I walked into the ballroom and a large woman in a too tight pink dress walked up to me, glanced at my name tag and shook my hand and said, “welcome Richard, I’m Cindy Burgess, well I am Cindy Burgess now, I was Cindy Evans in high school. I was class president. Welcome back, sorry I don’t remember you. The bar is in the far right corner.”
I dropped Cindy’s hand and began a brisk walk to the bar. About half way there a large fat guy walking directly toward me read my name tag and smiled, said “Dick, that you?”
I shook my head as if I was not Dick, then realized that for the night I would be referred to as Dick, which was some sort of reoccurring nightmare I had been having since puberty.
“Hey,” I said, glancing at Robert’s name tag,”Bob, how you doin’?”
“Dick, it’s me, Robert. Long time.”
“Yeah,” I said, trying to keep moving and not lose time walking towards the bar, “time has a way of moving forward, I guess.”
“Where you goin’?” He asked.
“Yeah, I kind of need a drink, I think Cindy came on to me and I don’t really want to get into that mess again.”
“Again? You ever get some of Cindy?”
Shit, I had no idea what Dick Schultz had been involved in when he was in high school. Hell, I could barely remember what I had been involved in when I was actually in high school. “Yeah,” I said, “ I thought every one had some of that pie.”
“Yeah? I thought she was a Mormon or something.”
“Best kind.” I stepped past Big Bob and walked to the bar without another word. I had no idea what nightmare of insanity I had stepped into, but I was not going to continue without some decent alcohol.
I ordered two martini’s and nodded yes to the bartender when he asked if I wanted those a little strong. I grabbed them both and walked to the distant dark corner, as far from any sort of interaction as possible. I chugged the first drink without any problem, but as I pulled the glass from my lips a remarkably beautiful woman was making her way to me. I smiled and she smiled a knowing, dirty smile.
“You look lonely,” the words sort of stumbled out, as if they had been bopping around her mouth for a few minutes, waiting to escape. “You party?” She asked, trying to focus on my name tag, “Richard.”
I sipped the second martini and read her name tag. “Well, I’m having a drink, Becky. What do you mean when you say party?”
“Yeah, you know,” she said with some sort of evil connotation that I knew meant she was offering something illegal and probably incredibly fun.
“Yeah, I do know. I’m actually in AA,” I said, not realizing I was sipping a martini.
Becky focused and starred at my martini as I took another sip. “Yeah,” she slurred, “how’s that working for you?”
“Want to go out to my car?” She asked.
I had forgot that almost everything in California happens in cars. I nodded and followed. As we walked out, Cindy Burgess-Evans called out, “hey Dick, you can’t take your martini out of the ballroom, they will charge us for any missing glasswear.”
I held Becky’s hand and continued for the exit door of the hotel.
I know we made it to her car. I know I sat in the passengers seat. I remember setting the martini glass on the roof of her beater Mercedes as I opened the door. Then I remember waking up in my hotel room and then it was two days later, still wearing the same clothes I was when I slid into Becky’s passenger seat. Everything else from that night until 53 hours later is mostly a blank. I do remember kissing Becky passionately. I remember kissing Big Bob not so passionately. I also remember trying to mount the Belmont High School mascot on the dance floor, well I don’t remember it, someone was nice enough to use my cellphone and take pictures.
I flew home soon after waking, not a lot of memories and a decent tan. When you visit California, you really can’t ask for much more. “If you go chasing rainbows, you’re bound to end up getting wet.”