7 | The Hipster: California

So after our near psychotic break and almost getting married in Tijuana seeing the sights in San Diego, it was time for us to head north. The Hipster had a friend living in Venice Beach and said friend kindly agreed to let us crash for a couple nights. We decided to drive up the meandering, inefficient, coast because hello convertible + road trip = swoon, Romance.

Somewhere along the way we stopped to get gas and The Hipster spotted a Tower Records or Virgin Records or some other relic brick-and-mortar entity that sold culture in tangible formats. Two CDs (CDs!) had just come out that he needed to get us. His eyes twinkled as he unwrapped the cellophane and Michael Jackson and The Streets quickly became the soundtrack for our trip. With the top down we glimpsed the glittering Pacific and talked about our jobs and our students and how much we wanted to help them, but also how happy we were to be the hell away from them. (Because, ugh, KIDS, amirite.)

We met The Hipster’s friend at Mao’s Kitchen and they caught up on each other’s lives. Watching The Hipster tell a story was its own spectator sport, so I listened happily, basking in that mischievous smile and husky unrestrained laugh. After dinner and a couple beers, The Hipster and I were ready to Go Out. (Haha duh.) The Hipster’s friend wasn’t going to join us. He needed to wait at home for his girlfriend who was returning from a trip. So, two New Yorkers who knew virtually zero things about the City of Angels took very many expensive cab rides to bars far away from Venice, to explore Los Angeles.

On the Sunset Strip we drank bourbon at the Whisky a Go Go and talked about music, about The Doors, because how could we not. At Rainbow Bar we tried to figure out if anyone in the sea of Mötley Crüe leather pants wearing types was in fact anyone from Mötley Crüe. At The Viper Room, in direct contrast with the jaded Hollywood elite drug-overdose vibe of the club’s legacy, we listened to a band, clad in Hawaiian shirts, whose name we didn’t know, but we instantly dubbed The Polynesian Happy Band. Maybe bolstered by the infectious, cloyingly upbeat tropical music, The Hipster leaned in and told me how happy he was that we had taken this trip together. Same, same.

It is perhaps (PERHAPS) possible we staggered back to his friend’s apartment in Venice a little too late and a little too loud. I have a vague sense that there was a skosh of tension, and that maybe The Hipster’s friend’s girlfriend wasn’t so stoked we were there? Honestly I don’t truly remember why, but we ended up getting a hotel room for our second night in LA. During non drinking hours daylight, we drove Mulholland Drive and ate tamales at a farmers’ market in Santa Monica. That night we found a Travelodge or something that seemed innocuous enough. Upon attempting to check-in, we were checked-out by the Indian hotel manager who (rude) asked if we were married. First of all: Noneya. Second of all: Like, omg Mister, lemme tell you about the other night.

A bit subdued and out-partied, we ditched our stuff in the room and headed to The Dresden. A mainstay in Los Feliz, the decor in The Dresden hasn’t changed since the Rat Pack was sipping old fashioneds at the dark wood bar. Marty and Elayne, the long-standing lounge act, were off that night so we sat in the dining room and nestled into the white banquets to eat a civilized meal. I probably ordered a dirty martini (whyyy), but The Hipster ordered a drink called the Blood and Sand. It had Scotch in it (blech) and it sounded manly and gritty, he said. It was hot pink. The waiter had barely put it down on the table before The Hipster was asking me to trade drinks. I categorically refused, he survived, and after our steaks we went back to our den of premarital sin hotel room for an early night in.

Curled up in bed — both secretly happy to be in, alone and without agenda — we flipped channels on the TV. When A Bronx Tale came into view, I put my hand over his, stopping the flick flick flick of the remote. Watching Chazz Palminteri drive in reverse down one way streets and rough up motorcycle gangs, I felt homesick for New York. We hadn’t been away that long, and Calogero’s New York was certainly not my New York, but New Yorkers have a funny relationship with LA. In the dusty, smoggy sprawl of lights and on-ramps and cars, ranches and stucco, we often feel at sea. Its vastness is alarming. I want to go home, I said. Not yet, he whispered, pulling me in closer, our California adventure isn’t over quite yet. And it wasn’t.

In the interest of efficiency, we drove through cow country (sweet jesus that smell) and made our way to San Francisco. Our first stop was the Mission where we met some of my friends at Casanova. As we played pool, they got to know The Hipster and I reveled in my worlds colliding. The Hipster had his crew back in New York, but here we were in the middle of mine. These were/are/will be always and forever My People; the stand in traffic jump on a plane at a moment’s notice no judgement ever kind of friends that make it possible to survive the muck and bullshit of this whole bizzare Adulting freak show LIFE Situation we got happening here. I wish for everyone that they experience this level of friendship at some point in their adult lives. It is like having access to extra oxygen. And, duh, My Friends are devastatingly smart, searingly funny, strong AF and just like the Most Fun Ever. You’d for sure want to hang out with us. And, yes, I was in a sorority, thank you for asking.

Talkative Friend and Very Tan Friend moved to The City after we all graduated from Berkeley and were our base of operations for the SF leg of the trip. So after Casanova, The Hipster and I parked Jezebel in a garage and installed ourselves in TF and VTF’s living room. Prone to being um, completely rambunctious a bit playful, when I’ve been drinking, I remember seeing him walk toward me down the long hallway and tackling him. Me straddling him on the floor of the hallway, clad in our standard-issue Lower East Side uniforms of ripped denim and faded black, both hysterical laughing, Talkative Friend took one look at us and declared us the most New York looking couple she’d ever seen. A higher compliment could not have been given. Into the unfailing airy mellowness that is Northern California we had brought the raspy whiff of bourbon, smoke and havoc.

On a whim, The Hipster had decided that he wanted a mohawk. So, at the Walgreen’s on the corner we bought clippers — and also saw Scott Speedman buying deodorant (omggg hi Ben Covington, hi). We set The Hipster up in the kitchen, and he handed me the clippers, but as soon as I got close to his scalp, I balked, fearing I was way too tipsy I’d disfigure that beautiful head of his. So, Take Charge Friend, nonchalantly whisked the clippers out of my hands and gave The Hipster his faux-hawk. TCF is quite possibly the least mohawkiest person I know, for sure the West Village to our East Village, so that she effortlessly ratcheted up The Hipster’s punk rock quotient in the middle of what may as well have been a sorority house, was just absolutely perfect. Him, newly shorn and me, in my second home, we spent the next couple of days doing what any self-proclaimed beatniks would do: strolling through Haight-Ashbury, wandering around Berkeley and hoping for a Ferlinghetti sighting at City Lights.

For New Year’s Eve we had all bought tickets to a club (ahahaha A CLUB!) called DNA Lounge. TF and VTF had psychotically graciously offered to host the whole messy lot of us for getting ready/drinks before and a find a spot wherever there is space sleepover after. So, basically, college again. Everyone was assigned a key buddy, the person they had to stick with for the evening no matter what because let’s be honest, who knew where everyone would have scattered to by 12:01. I had the disastrous brilliant idea to provide tequila for the pre-party. My only taker was Legs For Days Friend who humored my claim that shots would be omg so fun. (Narrator: They were not so fun.)

Upon arriving at The Club, Legs For Days Friend promptly vomited. Like a lot. It was awful. We had to tell the staff that someone (SOMEONE) had been ill in the ladies room. (Okkk soo mayyybe the tequila hadn’t been the best of ideas.) Your typical New Year’s Eve bacchanal ensued. We lost people, gained people, drank things, danced things. The Hipster’s suit jacket came off, collared shirt unbuttoned to expose the CBGB shirt underneath. A sweaty mess, my makeup melted off. Then, as midnight struck it was as if the generic gray club had faded away and the veil to an enchanted wonderland had been lifted. Club kids en masse appeared as if from nowhere. All of a sudden Marie Antoinette was on a platform above me and a butterfly was gyrating next to me. Spinning drunk, I was instantly overwhelmed. The Hipster, transported right back to his chaotic steeped in lurid excess didn’t want to ever relive them Limelight days, told me it was time to leave. Few things ever unnerved The Hipster, so when I saw the look on his face, I knew that it was, in fact, time to go.

Exiting the club into a new day and a new year, we discovered that it was absolutely heaving can’t see across the street raining. We also discovered we had no idea where we were. (Perhaps we should have been key buddies with people who were actually familiar with San Francisco? Maybe? Ugh, anyway.) Back in the olden days with no smartphone and no Uber, what were two drunk New Yorkers to do? Get on the first bus driving by? Sure, that sounds like a good idea. After the bus driver kindly informed us we were traveling in precisely the wrong direction, we disembarked and somehow found a guy in a car looking to make some money who thankfully didn’t kill us black gypsy cab that probably cost The Hipster a grand to take us like a mile. Miraculously, we all found our way back to the apartment in varying states of dress and undress and distress.

On New Year’s Day we had a disheveled brunch with my friends and then it was time for us head to the airport. Our California adventure was, in fact, over.

But, wait! Not before we got into at least one stupid couple on a vacation fight!

Hungover and gloomy about vacation being over, we shuffled to the parking garage to pick up Jezebel. When the attendant asked for the ticket, The Hipster looked at me expectantly. Yes? Can I help you? asked my answering look. The ticket? he asked. I, VERY confidently, told him I had no such ticket and since he had been driving he def had it. He, VERY confidently told me that he remembered handing it to me. The parking attendant watched as we both swore on all things holy that neither of us believed in that the other ABSOLUTELY had the ticket and hurry up find it because we are going to miss our plane. He watched as we verbally eviscerated each other tore our suitcases apart. He watched as we turned to him in defeat, pleading in our eyes, and told him that the ticket was gone and could he pleaaasssseeee do us a solid and let us have the car. After The Hipster paid him off raking us over the coals a bit, the attendant relented.

By the time we got through security we were speaking again, bemoaning the tragedy of impending work and winter. Never wanting to face reality, we landed and promptly took a cab to Schiller’s, suitcases in tow. (Never say die! Keep the party going!) Over New York Sours and cuban sandwiches we rehashed our favorite nuggets from the trip. The adventure was over, but it felt good to be home, back on the Lower East Side up to our same old bullshit and wondering what the winter had in store for us.

A week later I found the parking garage ticket in the back pocket of the jeans I had allegedly been wearing when we parked the car.

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