We were at some breakfast joint on Hollywood boulevard. Everybody was smoking cigarettes. They all had tattoos, piercings, they all looked the same. It was a Sunday morning and the inside tables were full, so we sat at one of the metal tables on the sidewalk. Cars passed by three feet away. Georgina was some aspiring German actress that my friend Paul wanted me to meet. Paul was from England. She was his friend. She had wanted to make a phone call but her cell phone wasn’t working so I lent her mine. Mine was a cheap plastic toy cell phone I had picked up in Chinatown.
“O.K.,” she said standing up, “I’m going to make this call. I’ve simply GOT to make this call. Stop laughing Paul. And will you please make sure the waiter is here when I get back?”
“I’m not,” Paul said, “ going to do anything of the kind. If you want to give your order to the waiter you’ll have to fucking speak to him yourself.”
“And make sure he wipes the table off, it’s filthy,” she said walking away with my toy phone.
“Pushy little Nazi wench isn’t she?” I said.
“What do you mean man? I think she’s a swell girl. Quite personable once you get to know her.”
“Yeah, I can see how you two would get along.”
“What do you mean by that, man?”
“I mean you’re two peas out of the same pod. The dueling monologues, the one-upmanship, the constant jockeying for position, the…”
“You sound as if you think very highly of me, man.”
“I’m just ribbing you, forget it.”
“You can’t just make a comment like that and then…”
“My fucking call won’t go through,” Georgina said sitting back down. Paul and I started laughing.
“What? What’s so funny?” she said. We kept laughing. She looked down at the toy phone. “This…” she picked it up, “You assholes! I…of course it wouldn’t fucking work,” she slammed it down on the table.
“Don’t fucking break it,” Paul said.
“So Paul,” Georgina said, pointing her smile at him, “why don’t you order the bacon and eggs so I can have your bacon?”
“I’ve no intention whatsoever of sharing my bacon with you. Why don’t you order your own?”
“But I don’t want a whole breakfast.”
“Well order a side order of bacon then,” Paul said.
“I don’t want a side order of bacon, it’s too expensive. You just order the bacon and eggs, and I’ll share the bacon with you.”
“I’m not sharing my bacon, I intensely dislike sharing.”
“Oh come on. I just want two pieces of bacon. That’s all,” her voice had taken on a mock whining pout.
“Then order your own fucking bacon.”
“Don’t you want to share with me?”
“I already told you that I intensely dislike sharing. I’m not sharing my fucking bacon with you.”
“Don’t you love me?”
“I fail to see what my personal feelings for you have to do with your ordering your own breakfast.”
Somebody at one of the other tables had a small dog chained to one of their table legs. It looked to be some sort of a Dachsund-Chihuahua mix. Chihuahua head with a long hot dog body and stumpy legs. A Dachsihuahua. Agitated and yipping while its owners ate their breakfast without paying any attention to it.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I said standing up, “I’ve got to go shake hands with the evil clown.” I went inside to find the bathroom. Somebody was using it so I went back out to the table.
“But I want so much to order the fruit and granola bowl,” Georgina was saying, “and if you order the bacon and eggs then I can have your bacon without having to…oh, the waiter! What took you so long?”
The waiter looked at the other tables. “We’re a little busy, maybe you noticed?”
“I noticed that this table is filthy and…”
“Let him alone,” Paul said, “and order your bloody fruit bowl.”
“Is your coffee fresh?” Georgina demanded.
“We have espressos, cappuccino, lattes…”
“No, no, no. I mean your house coffee. Do you brew it yourself?”
“Well I don’t brew it myself but…”
“You know what I mean. Is it fresh? Fresh in the restaurant fresh?”
“Yes, it’s fresh.”
“Paul? Buy me a cup of coffee.”
“I’m not going to buy you any fucking coffee.”
“Would you like to order?” the waiter asked me. Georgina looked at me.
“You’ll share your bacon with me, won’t you?” she asked.
“Well at least don’t order the house coffee here. I’ve had it before and it’s always been sitting out for at least a week and…”
“Why don’t you help yourself,” I said, “to a nice refreshing glass of shut the fuck up?”
“I’ll take the bacon and eggs please, and coffee,” I looked at Georgina, “house coffee.”
“You’d better ask him to bring you some water,” Georgina said turning back to the waiter. “Is your water filtered or out of the tap?” she asked. “tap water here is poison, poison. And don’t tell me it’s filtered water just to get me to shut up and then bring me tap water.”
“I wouldn’t,” the waiter said.
“Because I’ll know.”
“I’m sure you will.”
“And could you please wipe off this table, it’s disgusting.”
She interrogated the waiter at some length about the freshness of the fruit in the fruit bowl and what type of granola was in it. She and Paul finished ordering and the waiter walked off chuckling despite Georgina’s third degree. The waiter just thought she was funny. He had even told her good-naturedly to fuck off and they had both laughed. Maybe they were friends. The whole routine was outside my experience. In L.A. everyone was always performing, but beneath the constant bickering and one-upmanship there seemed to be a sense of amusement, as opposed to San Francisco where all communication was nothing but pure hatred undisguised, and they wanted you to drop dead on general principle.
“You forgot to tell him to bring you water,” Georgina said to me.
“You know,” I said, “ it’s bad form to brow beat the hired help. They have a habit of getting resentful and huking phlegm globbers in the granola.”
I’m going to the bathroom,” she said standing up. As soon as she was gone Paul leaned over.
“You didn’t really mean that about her and me being alike man? I don’t think we’re a bit alike.”
“You’re not alike, O.K.? Truly. I didn’t mean it. I’ll probably end up smoking a haunted turd in purgatory now. Honest, I was kidding.”
“You really think that we’re alike?”
“I can’t believe that you thought we were the least bit similar. We’re entirely different. She isn’t a bit like me, man.”
“Forget it, alright?”
“But you said it man. You must have meant something by it. You…”
“So, Frank,” Georgina said, sitting back down, “where are you from?”
“But Paul said you were moving back to San Francisco.”
“I was living in San Francisco. Then I was living in New Orleans.”
“And why did you leave?”
“My girlfriend landed a job working for a mobster. Then she dumped my worthless ass and started dating a married cop. It seemed like a good time to leave town.”
“I don’t know. Call me sentimental. Call me paranoid. Call the cops corrupt. Call the Louisiana Penal Code the jokebook of the week. Use your imagination, it won’t bother me any.”
Georgina looked at Paul, “Where does all this phony hard-boiled dialogue come from?” she asked him, nodding her head in my direction.
“He always fucking talks like that. Did you enjoy your granola?”
“Do you think you’re brainwashed?” I asked her.
“Brainwashed? No. What do you mean? I don’t think that I’m brainwashed. That reminds me of a film. Paul? Have you seen ‘The Osteopaths of God’? Oh my God, TREMENDOUS! Antonio had a walk on part. You know Antonio? From my theatre workshop? I love him but he was simply dreadful in the role. Of course we’ve had our scenes together. We’ve had our scenes you know but…and me and Nathan had a scene and…”
She and Paul got into a long involved discussion about actors and movies. The most of which was verbal Parcheesi. A competition to see who could name more obscure actors and films than the other. The little mutant dog tied to the next table was still yapping. There was a furniture showroom across the street but I didn’t want to look at it.
“You’re taking five?” Georgina asked me suddenly.
“You’re driving back on Five? Highway Five?”
“I think that must be the most boring drive in the world. I mean, there’s just nothing there,” she said. “it always reminds me of driving out through East Berlin. After the city there’s just kilometers and kilometers of East German nothing.”
“Why drive into East Germany?” I asked.
“Oh, no good reason really. We’d go as teenagers to buy cheap vodka. That sort of thing.”
“I’ve been there,” Paul said. “Desolate, completely. The most fucking depressing fucking place outside of fucking England.”
“You’ve got a very unusual color of eyes,” I told Georgina. “I don’t know what you call that color, hazel?”
“Gold,” she said.
I left L.A.. I headed back up into the darkness. The rest stops were full of people with Downs’ Syndrome. Whole families, mongoloid parents with many mongoloid children. I didn’t know it was inherited. The transmission fell out of my Chrysler in Lerdo. I didn’t have any money so I sold the car for scrap. They paid me $40. The bus ticket for San Francisco was $38. On the way back the bus driver got lost outside of San Jose and started asking the passengers for directions. Nobody knew where they were. Some of the people who didn’t know where they were insisted that they DID know where they were, and got into arguments about it with other people on the bus who didn’t know where they were either, but felt like arguing about it. The bus driver got a lot of bad directions. I ended up in downtown Oakland after midnight with an old beat-up suitcase and a black plastic garbage bag full of dirty clothes. I started walking.
Downtown was well lit and empty of everything except ghosts. I walked down to Lake Merritt. The water was absolutely black and the ring of lights around the lake was beautiful. I didn’t care that the lake was full of garbage and parts of dead bodies. The lights were on in Children’s Fairyland. I put my bags down and looked at the water.