Inspired by Becky Sarwate’s post : My Friendly Valentine…
“Okay you've pushed me into it another Memory post about being locked up in the same room with four women who'd been stood up on Valentine's Day... I'll post it on Friday Morning before I drive up north to Novato to collect the last of my stuff, from my ex-wife's house. Acckkkkhhhh!! Ackh! Ackh! :-o Sorry, emotional hairball!” – my comment on Becky’s post
I had to look at my professional resume to get a fix on what year this happened and I’m just guessing that it was shortly before midnight on February 14th, 1995 that I locked up the bar at 410 Boyd Street in downtown Los Angeles and we began to drink in earnest. Back when I lived in the loft, it was simply 410 Boyd, a no name place that served as a popular lunch meeting place for local name politicians and business execs. Now it’s a $10 “gourmet” burger joint called The Escondite but back in the day after 2:00pm it morphed into the archetypical “Cheers” hangout for all us disreputable after dark residents and denizens of Downtown LA.
For nearly twenty years between 1991 and 2010 when I moved from the loft in downtown to my cabin in the mountains, 410 Boyd was my primary watering hole where I dropped something over $60,000 maybe even $70,000 on food and drinks. The place was run by a four way partnership: Ulrich the managerial Swiss German whose better half was Tara, a pretty fair chef, Tara’s mother who managed and owned a chunk of the building, and the minority partner named Charlie, a sweet guy who ran their catering operation and filled in part time at the front of the house. After nearly three years of corporate BS I was burned out with my managerial gig in Orange County and one day in late November after I volunteered to get laid off during a company “right-sizing,” I stopped by 410 to celebrate my respite from high tech America.
More than once Ulrich and I traded tales of our experience in the restaurant and bar business and I’d spent so much money in the place that he’d put an engraved brass plate with my name on the bar to permanently reserve my stool. “You really quit,” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!”
“Cool, could we ask a favor?”
“Of course, what can I do for you?”
Ulrich smiled and said, “Charlie’s moving back to Florida and if you could help us manage the bar, I could take over the catering for the holidays and that would buy us some time to find a new manager after the first of the year. I’ll pay you $15.00 an hour cash and with tips you should pull down five or six hundred a week part time.”
“Man I haven’t tended bar or waited tables in fifteen years. Other than a Cosmo, I’m not even sure I can make the latest cocktails,” I replied. Ulrich laughed and said, “Like riding a bicycle, nothing to it. So will you do it?”
“Sure,” I said, “but I’ll do you one better. Instead of paying me cash, set up a comp tab for me and I’ll take my pay in trade. That’ll save you thirty to fifty percent and you don’t have to sweat the tax forms or any of the other BS.”
We shook hands and the next morning I went to work at 410 Boyd. I made pretty good money for very little work and one party during the Christmas holidays left me a $250 tip. By late January Ulrich and Tara couldn’t find anybody they trusted and an old friend of Ulrich’s from Germany was arriving in LA in the first week in March, so on the night of February 14th when Ulrich and Tara took the night off to treat themselves to a romantic evening of dining, dancing and hot monkey sex at the Biltmore and I was left to run the operation.
It was just after 4:00pm when the first two unescorted women came in for happy hour. I knew Seri, who was an excellent painter, and I’d seen the other who worked for the county as a social worker but for the life of me I couldn’t recall her name. They sat in a booth and Seri ordered her usual, a French 75, the classic gin and champagne cocktail created by barman Harry MacElhone in 1915 at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. I had made one for her when she said that she felt like a glass of wine but didn’t know what she wanted to drink. Her friend, who was called Dolores, ordered a margarita. I went heavy on the mix for the French 75 and poured the extra from the shaker into a shot glass with a twist so that Dolores could have a taste. After they finished their drinks, Dolores waved her hand and said “Deux Soixante Quinze et gardez-les à venir”
I laughed and made two more French 75’s. The ladies were just finishing their second round when Melissa, who was a very attractive very well paid mid level marketing exec at Disney in her early thirties, came in, ordered her regular dry Bombay martini up and sat at her reserved stool at the bar. She handed me her parking lot ticket and I stamped it for her, then she said, “You’d better keep this for me, I’ll probably take a taxi home.”
I’d seen her do this once before with Ulrich and so I knew the story. Her live-in boy toy and freshly minted graduate from Cal-Arts named Ray had wandered off so she was pissed and there to drown her sorrows. I didn’t ask and waited for her to open up which didn’t take long. That morning she found a note wishing her a Happy Valentine’s Day and informing her that Ray was off for a week of snow boarding with his buddies in the Sierras. I commiserated, “Well I’d say he’s an idiot, but more likely than not it’s a male pride thing. He doesn’t have the cash to take you out for dinner at a fancy restaurant so he bailed out.”
Melissa pouted and said, “Dumb ass, all he needed to do was buy me a rose and a cheap bottle of wine and fuck me.”
“I know that and you know that,” I said, “but he’s driving a beat up VW Microbus while you’re tooling around in a BMW leased by Uncle Walt. It’s an expectations thing that’s strictly a guy thing.”
A half hour later, I was gently stirring Melissa’s second martini when Sam came in. “Sam”, short for Samar, was a hell on wheels daughter of Palestinian immigrants who cursed and drank like a sailor and ran her own very successful lighting design business out of her loft in downtown. When she got drunk her raspy voice had a tendency to morph into the AFLAC duck. We were occasional drinking buddies and more than once we’d had the inclination and opportunity to try each other on for size in bed; but I had made a promise to myself to never again sleep with a woman who was drunk and that nixed the deal. She was one of the few people in downtown LA who called me up to ask me out to parties and such; and my fondest token of our boisterous relationship was the dozen black silk roses that she presented to me at my 45th birthday party. I still have them hanging upside down on the wall.
Sam already had a buzz on and sat down next to Melissa at the bar. She was drinking tequila neat and Dos Equis Amber, and so now there were four. I waited for Sam to bring up the subject and after tossing back her first shot of tequila, she said, “Son of a bitch!”
I asked, “So what’s his story?”
“Out of town for an infrared survey at Kitt Peak,” she snarked. I wasn’t making excuses for the guy but I felt compelled to offer up this in conciliation, “Astronomers have to grab what ever observation time they can get.”
Sam had met her Cal Tech astronomer at a Pasadena City College Extension Course on planetary formation in the solar system. Tamim was a full blown PhD professor of astronomy at Cal Tech and he was teaching the course at PCC as part of Cal Tech’s community service programs. Sam actually came to me for advice as to how to go about wooing him and I told her to learn as much as she could about his work and not be afraid to ask stupid questions. She did just that and they hit it off, but tonight was their first opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day and he was up on a mountain in Arizona.
Sam and Melissa were commiserating and buying each other drinks when Seri and Dolores bought them a couple of French 75’s and the four of them ended up over in the booth. By 9:30pm the last stray couple finished their dinner and at ten o’clock the kitchen was scheduled to close. The four neglected women had quite the buzz on and considering the circumstances they were in a lively mood. I gave the dishwasher $20 and sent him over to the 24 hour flower mart to buy four long stem roses. Then I ordered a platter of every appetizer on the menu for the ladies. The Mexican lead cook, who was subbing for Tara, pulled out all the stops and put together a off the chain presentation on a huge silver plated platter complete with Salmon roe and caviar. I opened up a bottle of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and together we served the abandoned women of Valentine’s Day. The dishwasher returned with the roses and there were actual tears.
After the last couple departed we locked the door and waited for the kitchen crew to clean up while I counted money and did the bookwork for the safe drop. Valentine’s Day wasn’t a horrible night but we’d had better crowds and made much more money. I walked out and picked up the keys from the parking lot attendant then I let the crew out, turned out the exterior lights and returned to the ladies. We polished off the wine and appetizer plate, then I served up some more French 75’s and ran the tray, wine glasses and flatware through the dishwasher. By 11:15 we got down to a serious discussion of the nature of men and women relative to Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. After a couple of beers and a double shot of single malt scotch, I admitted that most males, particularly young males, lived in fear of screwing things up with women and so when they inevitably screwed things up, they reacted defensively and did what they could with acquired emotional Jujutsu to turn their bad feelings onto the female.
We exchanged stories of heartbreak and I shared my tale of how I fell in love with a seventeen year old gypsy girl from Montreal who left me to return to her mother and how that loss eventually drove me mad. The focus kept floating back around to the men who’d abandoned these women on Valentine’s Day. I posited that the behaviors of the archetypical male were not always malicious as much as simply ignorant and when we compounded our offenses, our actions came not so much from spite as incompetent improvised defense born out of fear. To deflect what I expected would be their outrage and disdain; I took the opportunity to formally apologize for the entire male gender.
In response Sam blurted out, “What the hell is it that men really want other than a beer and a blowjob?”
We bounced that one around for the better part of thirty minutes and as hard as I tried to avoid it, the question came back me and Sam called me out on some of my old BS, “What about your cosmic fetus theory?”
Sam and I had spent more than one night drinking beer or wine and pondering the warp and woof of the fabric of human nature and that was when I revealed that under the influence of LSD, I’d experienced bit of an epiphany with the symbolism of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The final transformation of the astronaut Bowman into the fetal being gazing down upon the Earth tweaked my brain and later, when I read about Carl Jung’s hypothetical “collective unconscious,” it occurred to me that there was one singularly unconscious experience common to all human beings.
The ladies all laughed and wanted to hear about my cosmic fetus, so I acquiesced: “When we take a look at what human beings want and need Abraham Maslow says there’s a whole spectrum of individual priorities, male and female, while the Buddha says we’re ultimately doomed to disappointment; but we may all have at least one common desire. Now I claim no conscious recollection but in my imagination there was once a time when I floated around in my Mama’s belly surrounded by warm red light, free from the weight of gravity and without anxiety or needs. Forty-six years later I’m a fat old man with arthritis and I can imagine the day when I give up the ghost. The difference is that even though I had no way to process the thought of mortality when I was floating around in Mama’s belly, I somehow knew I wasn’t alone. When the time comes and I kick the bucket, there’s nobody who’s coming with me. I’ll be going through that life experience all on my own. So the cosmic fetus theory is that whether we’re conscious of it or not, we spend most of our lives looking for that nice warm place with the soft red light, free from the weight of gravity with no anxiety or needs…
“…The closest most of us come is our grandmother’s arms and that brief iteration of sex when we orgasm and time is suspended. I think that short of finding our way back into the womb; that Maslow’s bottom line of what we want and need is to be satisfied, content and free from need and to somehow know that we’re not alone.”
When the clock struck 2:00am, I had to shut down the party and offered to call cabs for one and all; but Sam invited everybody over to her loft which was only a few blocks away. Rather than risk any DUI’s we all piled into Sari’s van and I drove the ladies over to Sam’s; then I walked back over to 410 Boyd and drove Melissa’s expensive BMW over to my loft where there was gated parking. I’d get up early and drop by Sam’s so Melissa could drive home, shower and change and still make it to work at Disney by 10:00am.
Walking back to the Boyd Street parking lot through the empty streets of downtown LA, I thought I’d done my best by these women; but to tell the truth, I was relieved that Valentine’s Day was over and done with.
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2014 JKM (an apparently ineffectual boilerplate joke?)