Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I can pretty much live wherever I want in Los Angeles. Each neighborhood has its own unique vibe and personality and it didn't take me long to figure out where I wanted to live when I first moved here. The cold cleanliness and whiteness of the West Side has never appealed to me.  Beverly Hills is the silliest and most obscene place on earth. I lived in The Valley and the infernal heat just wasn’t for me. And I’m way too old for the noise and craziness of Hollywood. I live in Silverlake, an artsy, hip area that’s pretty gentrified, but not entirely.  I love it here because it’s diverse;  hilarious hipsters share space with immigrants and minorities (if there is such a thing in Los Angeles).  I can turn one corner and get a perfect cup of expensive coffee made by a fanatic barista and then turn another and buy cheap produce at a Mexican grocery store.

Tonight it occurred to me that I would like to make a film on the street I run on.  Technically it’s two streets; Virgil turns into Hillhurst as soon as you pass the Vista movie theater on Sunset Junction, but to me it’s just a straight run up and down the hill.  When I leave my house, if I run to the right, I immediately pass a born again Christian sect I loathe and then street gradually becomes cleaner and cleaner.  When I get to Los Feliz the streets become lined with trees, boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and beautiful people.  On my way down back towards my house, once I pass Santa Monica Boulevard, it gets dirtier and dirtier with each block. Suddenly, the people are browner and I feel I'm in Mexico.

I ran past a lady cooking meat for tacos on a grill right on the sidewalk.  This sight always cracks me up. In Mexico, we have taquerias and, much to my dismay, I have yet still to see a taqueria in LA. It baffles me that (I think) there is no such thing in a city filled with Mexicans. They do have the taco trucks, but it's not the same thing.  Anyway, the lady making and selling tacos at this make-shift taqueria looked exactly like someone I knew when I was a kid.

My snootiness reached its highest level when I turned 15.  On my 16th Christmas, my mother invited one of our maids, the one I disliked the most because, as I thought then, she was dumpy and dumb, to share in the family’s Christmas Eve celebration. I was livid my mom was making me spend Christmas with a maid and I drowned my anger on fine Napa Chardonnay. My parents allowed me to have a drink on special occasions with the family. They thought it was cute to see me sloshed. And it cracked them up. On that night, I was able to drink more than two glasses of wine without the grown-ups noticing.

Her name was Gela, short for Angela. I glared at her across the living room and she tried not to make eye-contact with me. She sat quietly, her small hands grasping a glass of red wine, observing gift after gift being opened by its respective brat. I focused my eyes and made my way over to her. I sat down next to her and she slid over to the edge, trying to widen the distance between us. She must have thought my behavior was pretty weird, since us kids subjected her to daily humiliation.  Every afternoon, she'd come down to the family room to find us all spread out on the sectional watching HBO.  As soon as we saw her, we'd stretch and stretch until there was no room for her to sit.  She'd just stand there looking at us. Then my grandma would notice and yell at us to move and let her sit with us. I always wondered why she put herself through that every day.  After all, there was a television in her room. She could have watched her telenovelas upstairs.  Instead, she opted to watch programs in a language she did not understand surrounded by spoiled brats with smelly feet. Maybe it was the naked people of HBO. The "acostados" (people in bed having sex) as my grandma called them, which we weren't supposed to be watching anyway.

Miraculously, the next morning I only had a headache. I went down to the kitchen and the family was already eating Christmas Day tamales and menudo. My mom raised her mimosa and greeted me with “Hi sweetheart!” There was something strange about the way she said it. I looked around and everyone seemed to be in on the joke, including Gela. Later that day, my sister asked me “Don’t you remember what you did last night?” I told her of course I did. “Are you sure?” She giggled, loving every minute of my agony. I finally gave in. “What did I do?”

According to several accounts, I hugged and apologized to Gela. We embraced and cried together in front of the whole family. I thought I would never live that one down, but I did. I went back to my evil ways immediately and pretended it never happened. The poor woman fell for it. She had been had by a drunk 16-year old snob.

I don't know why my parents let me get away with such reprehensible and inhuman behavior. They weren't that way so I didn't learn to behave like that from them.  To this day, I am ashamed of it and I remind myself every day that I am not better than anyone else, just luckier.  But, to be honest, there remain some traces of the haughty bitch I used to be.  After all, a born snob can never truly be suppressed.  My mother swore that the first thing I did when I came out of her vagina was turn up my nose at the doctor and the nurses.  I have been doing so ever since and it is particularly ironic that I got kicked in the face by a horse, breaking my weapon of choice and leaving it forever crooked. I do try to have empathy but sometimes it's hard. Especially at the Laundromat. But that's another story. Let's just say that being down to earth has always been a personal challenge.

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