Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hollywood Boulevard

What a funny day, the other day, with Bethany.  We decided that we were due for an afternoon together over here in Hollywood.  Pop into a few stores, go to L'Oteria happy hour, just chill for the afternoon together.  Oh, whoops!  We forgot it was Saturday.  What a mess!

I'm pretty used to Hollywood by now.  Eight years will definitely toughen your skin. There's always bound to be some sort of mayhem or other, but, I can safely deduce, there's more on weekends.  I realized that day that no matter how long I've been here, there is nothing that can quite prepare you for a foray into Hollywood being Hollywood, blazing and baring itself in all of its scuzzy glory.

First, we were walking down the block toward Hollywood Boulevard and I saw that the streets were blocked off by a bunch of cops and it was really loud and there was a huge mass off people in the distance walking down the street and I saw flags in the air or something (a marching band?) and I said to Bethany, "No way, it's a parade!"  Which I was pretty excited about.  I figured this was our lucky day.  What are the chances we'd just stumble on a parade at random?  

None, apparently.

Yeah.  It wasn't a parade at all.  It was a really loud march with signage and megaphones protesting against the abuse of women.  Which is all well and good, but, no parade.  

So, we pushed our way through the crowd and noise, crazy stuttered needing pulse of Hollywood, just trying to get into the safe enclave of a store.  When we finally made it through the doors and I was about to jump up and down in relief that we'd arrived in the holy land of peace I calmed down for a second and took stock of where we stood and it was not peaceful, it was amongst a mob of shoppers and clothes sprawling everywhere, not even in the places they were supposed to be at all, just flung like a bachelor's laundry all around us, and the music was so loud we could hardly hear each other. 

Which was funny too, actually, because from the outset of our journey we had been trying to catch up and we had all of these great things to share with each other and thoughts and deep insights as usual and what we've been up to since the last time we hung out and we were just laughing at every turn because I'd try to talk, "So I was thinking…", and she'd just be like, "What?", and then she'd make an attempt, "You know, it makes sense that…", and I'd be like, "What?", and then I'd try again, "I finally figured out…", "What?", and then we'd just laugh and laugh but, still, by the time we had made one lap of the store and gotten nowhere whatsoever with our conversation or anything at all, we were both clearly over it and a bit frazzled and I just looked at her and said, "L'Oteria, now!"

So, she didn't hear me, but she read my mouth. 

We clutched each other for comfort and bolted from that store and began the obstacle course that was Hollywood that day.  We were both teetering between laughing and overwhelmed and annoyed and amused and ready to pull out our best self defense moves.  Then, a few blocks later, someone was acting/was super crazy in the middle of the street, and about a million cop cars and cops were surrounding him and a huge crowd was assembled and Bethany nodded toward the crazy guy and said to me, "You wanna go say hi to your friend?"  That was a good one, because she knows me.  I flee just as fast as my little legs can carry me from any sort of confrontation, or crazy, or cop.  So I gave her the look, but, still, we laughed some more because that was pretty funny to come up with that when we could hardly even think and finally, I mean, by the skin of our teeth, I swear, we made it to L'Oteria.

Blessed sanctuary.  By now that is such a regular spot for me that I am finally recognized there and it's a very comforting place.  I take the same seats, always, so that we can watch the person making the tortillas and griddle cheese.  And also, they recently started offering a happy hour, so we can just relax and it's not busy and, well, appetizers and drinks are half price, so it's kind of the ideal time to go.  And we got our moment to share stories after all, by the grill, under that extremely massive piƱata, figuring out the details of our lives, like we always do.  The only thing it seems we kind of have any control over.

Then, on the way back home, oh man, you should've seen us!  It was like we were walking with bayonets and machetes fighting off everything that came our way.  The guy sitting on a carpet trying to sell us flowers made from palm fronds, the guys asking us to take tours every few yards, bands and bums and peddlers.  Just a barrage of pandemonium for blocks.

The last and final onslaught before we were out of the mob was a guy on a podium with a loudspeaker saying, "…so, embrace God and God will embrace you...(silence…silence)…soooooo…(silence)…" and we just started laughing again and I was like, "Nice oration skills." 

When I came back home, though, I felt so happy.  In a way, to the core of me.  I walked into my apartment and instantly decompressed when the breeze came through the windows and all of that craziness fell away and I felt blessed to have L'Oteria and Bethany and to have made my way into the heart of somewhere so weird in my life at all and to really have seen so much and learned so much and figured out how to take it on with composure and to love it still, just for being what it is.  Even if I don't understand much any of it.

Then again, I'm not really trying to figure it out but just trying to live it as it is.  There's something in that for me that I actually do understand.  Like traveling, but through the whole world, through the whole of whatever life is.  Taking it all as it comes and trying to flex with it and remain upright and curious and somehow to really enjoy it in whatever ways I can that make sense to me.  Usually laughing.

And also, when I came home, the whole apartment smelled of jasmine because there's a huge jasmine tree across the street and every year it blossoms bright white and pastel pink and fills every inch of the air on these few blocks with the most fragrant beautiful scent. So I just stood in my apartment and breathed in the jasmine room and the cool air coming in off the hill and the birds chirping spring and thought of this battle that is life.

Here's what we do. We're on this planet and we invent things, we create things, we feel things, we respond, we try, we rebel, we have protests, we find ways to get through it.  And express ourselves.  However that may be.  All of that commotion out there on that street is just people trying to get through this life in this world that doesn't make much sense and, honestly, is really difficult.  It's a battle for everyone.  

Which is what makes me feel so lucky when I pull up a stool in my same spot at the counter of one of my favorite restaurants with one of my best friends after fighting off the world's angst like champions, blessed to find respite in a Mexican restaurant and talking and old friendship and laughing, and then come back to the little home I've created to find that the air is filled with the sweet scent of jasmine.