A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

the view from The Grove's parking garage

the view from The Grove's parking garage

Part VIII: A missed deadline, a fall from grace and a brush with celebrity at The Grove

After the musical highs of the Echo Park Rising Festival and my cross-town Eastside L.A. Round-up live and in person, it was inevitable that the reality of my current situation would rear its methed-out head. There was the bleary haze of extreme fatigue, mixed with circular stories of hustlers and crackheads and being locked out, strung out and disoriented. This was not my personal experience. I was feeling freer to be my crazy self than ever before, but it seemed like my duty somehow and the least I could do to talk my addled friend through his misery and try to come up with some course of action. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: it was a fool’s errand.

There was a half-remembered soundtrack running through my head as we drove around the eastside doing errands. I realize now that the music I was hearing was the endless loop of old Boston college radio shows that would be played through the night, every night, sending me on unwanted time travel back to a forsaken land I thought I had left. At the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, I hoped he would be able to cleanse himself of the city’s sins and sinners, but back in Echo Park, as I struggled to complete a copy writing assignment due that evening, I found that was not the case. What followed was a bizarre series of events that included a visit from a city services woman to assess his mental condition (it’s a good thing she didn’t assess mine, which was poor), a star performance by a man hanging tenuously onto his sanity like a bull moose dangling from a thread over a precipice and a fateful call from one of his horror story’s leading ladies in need of a place to crash that night. The long and short of it: I was out. In retrospect, probably not a moment too soon.

Copy writing deadline neatly missed, I secured new accommodations and set off for what at that particular moment in time felt like a familial obligation in the guise of dinner at Wood Ranch at The Grove. There were several aspects of this dinner that were strange and amusing. For one, I was a devout vegetarian at a place that serves pulled pork sliders and brisket. But this was my estranged and famous comedian cousin Fred Stoller in his natural habitat (I know this from watching TMZ and reading The Huffington Post), and as ever the sociologist studying the curious habits and quirks of the human race, I found it fascinating. For those not familiar, The Grove is an upscale outdoor mall that’s best known for its glitzy corporate stores, trolley cars, farmer’s market and proximity to swanky Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. It’s also overwhelmingly white, being in the 84.7% caucasian Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles. In other words, a far cry from my beloved multiracial and gritty eastside. While we ate, he interviewed me like a harried executive about my folks, my job, my trip, my life. I responded like an insecure job applicant. He ate his burger as if it was an annoying chore to complete, periodically checking his iPhone. He explained that he was waiting to hear back about a book signing tour of Jewish bookstores to hype his new biography.

My Cousin Freddy

My Cousin Freddy

We took a brief walk around The Grove (to show his “country cousin” the big city sights), stopping in at the Barnes & Noble to examine the prime shelf placement of his new book. When we were back out outside, he hastily excused himself, saying he had just gotten an idea for the angle of this article he was writing and needed to go home and jot it down before he forgot (it must be “How to be a Complete Dick to a Blood Relative”). We parted with an awkward “oh… uh well, yeah sure, ok” “ok, see ya.” And that was it. See Fred. Check. So anyway, visit his website, see his IMDb page, order his book, buy his movie, like him on facebook, yadda yadda.

Coming up next: A healing brunch at Millie’s, a few favorite eastside establishments, vigorous vinyasa, a Borts Minorts farewell party at Echo Country Outpost and a 2am traffic jam to Costa Mesa.

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