by Liam Scheff
10 of 15×15
We all came out after Entourage, in like…2006, 2007. We all grew up watching Swingers on cable. We’d seen the movie 1,000 times. We knew all the lines. We’d become those guys in our home towns – obnoxious to the point of violence, if you took us seriously. But why take us seriously? We just wanted to be actors and hang around all day, fucking good-looking girls who wanted to be fucked and did not want boyfriends.
We thought, if those loser hacks could do it, so could we – we’re about as funny, same bunch of assholes in that movie, and some of them…well, two of them, two and a half maybe, got rich a long time ago, and the rest are probably doing theater in Santa Monica or Hollywood, or maybe Silver Lake. Like, getting commercials once in awhile, or a voice-over job.
That’s the – well, it’s not the gold mine – but it pays the bills. I guess it’s copper. But copper is worth gold, too – or silver. It’s worth something anyway, by the way the freaks rip it out of the houses in the Valley that are too hot to live in without central AC.
The Valley has become a regular shop and drive for the gangster set. The city sure gets a lot of mileage out of recycling its bones. You can’t stay there in summer. The only people left out there are very boujie, very swank millionaires who can run private generators to keep the A/C on. In winter it’s nice, and everybody goes, but not in summer. Only the die-hards and indijs stay.
When it’s hot we hit the beaches, come down on our bikes, with about 5 million other people, sitting like seals in the water. If I were a shark, I know where I’d come to eat. After the beach, we hit Venice, or we skate up on Santa Monica.
“Santa Monica Promenade!” says Manny, one the locals, letting us know he’s about to wax eloquent, talking about 15 years ago like he’s talking about some ancient battlefield in France where he reunited with his long lost girl after a battle.
“Man, we used to have some good times here,” he says, his voice rising, “and then it got so…” dramatic pause… “crowded!” You can hear the voice in his head urging him on, “Oh yeah, Manny? How great was it? What do you mean, crowded?”
Once in awhile we get a newbie in our set and we see if they fall for Manny’s seduction: “The LA that was, homie! The L.A. that was!” And when they do, he regales them:
“It was kind of ‘our place’ for a long time, in the 80s to the early 90s, like 8 years, just us. And the international reefers coming in and staying at the Banana Bungalow, or wherever. And the hotel crowd – the business tourists. But, they’d all clear out after 6 or 7, and we could haunt the thing till 2. That’s when the bars closed, and then we could wander the beach to Venice till…whenever.”
“They outlawed fire pits on Santa Monica beach, but down in Venice we could keep warm, just chill, and nap in the sand.”
Man, it sounds like heaven, goes the voice in Manny’s head. “Oh yeah,” he answers. “You, your best girl – and her best girl!” He pauses for appreciative laughter, like he ever got it on with two chicks at once. And if you ask him to tell you more, he gets serious and quiet and says, “Man, some things you just do not tell.”
He’s a consummate reefer. They’re fun to hang out with, but you don’t want to get infected by it, it’ll take you over. And after awhile, “it” is whatever is handy. Ecstasy, mushrooms. Good time drugs. Nothing that makes you irritable, just… zoned. Too zoned to do anything. Too zoned to work. Too zoned to audition.
But Manny is only with us a quarter of the time, just when we’re on the Westside. We need our local color to keep us cool – safe – I mean.
So, he’s alright.
I don’t know what the Santa Monica Promenade was like in the ’80s or ’90s. I got here when it was wall-to-wall commercial bullshit. Every kind of fashionista crap from every corner of the plastic fantastic. That’s what it was, and what it remained until Tsunami Fuku hit the shores…what…three years ago now?
And much faster than you would have thought, the plastic fantastic peeled off the store fronts and out of the windows and flew to no-tritium zones, nuke-cool climates. Florida, the Carolinas, every place that became ‘the place,’ after this became ‘yesterday.’
But I like the Promenade this way. It’s, I dunno, “real,” I guess. Dangerous, dirty, full of life. Fruit and vegetable vendors, fabric rolls, piles of plates – it’s like, I’m not sure. Pictures of…Hong Kong, maybe. Or Taiwan, or India.
There are cops, but they’ll only give you a hard time if you expect them to do anything about anything. They’ll arrest you for murder, I guess, but anything else, you’d better just split up and walk away.
I never have any trouble there. I’m not looking for it – you can if you want to, or you can enjoy the music – always about 6 or 8 live local indij bands banging on tubs and wooden instruments, sometimes with a flute or horn, or a set of horns. It’s a rusty, dusty, funky thing, and you can dance all night, sometimes all the way down to the pier, blocks away.
You can get laid standing up. Honestly. I’ve seen it happen. I won’t say who, but it might have been…well. She was very hot, is all I’m going to say… pulled me into the alley and like…10 of the best minutes of my life later, weak-kneed, I was taking a swig of whatever was floating around and dancing the rest of the night away.
It used to be a tourist spot – and sometimes it still is, for the ‘disaster tourists.’
Disaster tourism is huge right now. It’s like, the last of the money in the country wants to see what the decline looks like up close. so they come down and party. They pay for the privilege. But you can’t play in this sand without getting bitten by the fleas. That’s just – everybody knows it.
The locals, we don’t get shaken down so much, but we don’t carry anything. If you have a purse with you, or a backpack, or God help you – a fucking briefcase – you’re going to be robbed.
In daytime, they’ll rob you by getting you to pay for their tricks. At night, they’ll just take it out of your hands and tell you the best thing you can do is to go home, because the police aren’t going to care. Which is mostly true.
And that makes it sound like terror, but it’s not only that. It can be fun. I mean, like I said, you can dance, there’s the only live food around, I don’t know how they did it, but it’s a good place for fruit and raw stuff.
If you have a talent, or something resembling one, the Promenade is up for grabs. Used to be a few street hustlers doing robot poses, painting themselves silver and gold, doing their moves for a dollar you dropped into their tin-foil boxes; but now it’s hustlers trying to get change out of other hustlers.
It’s best to avoid that, the cops pen them all into the central block, for some reason. There must have been a vote – the liberal politicos saying, “Well, we can’t evict them, that would be undemocratic. So, we’ll shove them down the street from the theater and let the tourists choose to walk around – if they’re wise.”
They even advertise it: “The most nerve-wracking block in the country!” To try get people to come and see the knife catchers, flaming hoops, sword swallowers, contortionists – a lot of fire tricks. It’s crazy. But you can’t sue, the city set that up with the State – “Central Block Regs” – it’s the performance block, and by entering you “consent to participating at your own will and recognizance,” (their words), “and hold the city, state and performers indemnified against and non-liable for any damages acquired while participating in or viewing an act.”
One woman caught a knife in her stomach – or, I guess, her side. Her big fat, roly-poly stomach. She looked down, still with a stupid grin on her face, and the knife that she thought wasn’t real and was just popping out of the board behind her proved her wrong and was jutting out of her gut, like a foot away from her center mass, just this endless roll of fat. She looked down, and, I swear to God, she pulled on it, and her stomach roll kind of came with it a bit, then let go like elastic, and she looked at the knife, and looked at the knife thrower like she was really thinking hard about what was happening, and just passed out.
She was fine, it turns out, because her stomach fat was so thick it absorbed the entire 5 inch blade. But the knife thrower had to move his act to downtown near Hollywood and Vine, where no tourists come and it’s only the locals looking for fun. I heard he was working as part of a stage show in Silver Lake. He was pretty good, honestly – I don’t know why he hit the woman – just on her side. Maybe his arm wasn’t used to dealing with such a fat stomach.
Disaster tourist, that one. Daughter of a rich guy in North Carolina. She probably went home and never went anywhere else again.
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* Indij – Indigenous
* Boujie – Bourgeoise, Bourgeoisie
* Reefer – Pot-smoker, but also surfer.
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These are Stories 5 and 10 in 15×15. Stories written and edited in one to two hours with no major revisions.