Dining in Hollywood: Part 1

“I was watching this show about the one hundred greatest football players of all time, and there was this jazz musician from New Orleans who introduced Barry Sanders. I forget his name. He was saying that watching Barry Sanders play football was like watching art in motion. It didn’t matter which way he was going; he could move in any direction at any time. It was like jazz. I think his last name was Marsalis…”

“Wynton Marsalis? I saw him last year at Disney Hall. We talked after the show. Such a nice guy.”

“That’s right. Wynton Marsalis! His soul!!! His spirit!!! Anyway, I learned more watching that introduction than the rest of my ten years of acting training…”Our honeymoon itinerary brought us to Los Angeles at 5:00AM on a Monday morning. It was our first time in the city, and we drove our rental car down all the roads with names we recognized – Sunset, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Mulholand.

After a few hours, the excitement of seeing a new place gave way to hunger. We turned to Yelp to find a place to eat breakfast. Our proprietary calculus that balanced price, distance, rating, and reviews supplied the answer, a place called Hugo’s in West Hollywood.

The large restaurant was largely empty. Everything was bright and clean with fresh coats of paint and untorn upholstery. I realized that I hadn’t been to anywhere but a dive since I moved to New Orleans. Two middle-aged women in a booth battled aging with slutty clothes and every piece of aesthetic technology in the arsenal. Despite some superficial victories, they were losing.

Our waitress greeted us. “Rocking the purple pants, I like it. You’ve been to Hugo’s before, right?”

We corrected her and bought more time to choose from the extensive breakfast drink offerings. Confused for regulars, imagine that. Well, we did just buy new clothes for the trip at the outlet malls in Gulfport, Mississippi, thankyouverymuch.

Or perhaps the waitress had us right where she wanted…

The menu categorized each of the offerings with elaborate symbology. Items with stars were vegetarian, with circles were vegan, with squares were gluten-free, with “N” contained nuts, and with upside-down triangles were for lesbians. If the shape had a parentheses around it, the kitchen could make the dish vegan, gluten-free, or lesbian.

“What do you think she meant with the pants? You would think no one would notice purple pants here,” Grace said.

I looked around. “I don’t know. Everyone is wearing pretty muted colors.”

The waitress returned to take our drink orders. I ordered their house green tea. Grace ordered the Vedic Latte, steamed soy milk seasoned with turmeric, ginger, clove, and other natural flavors. The menu claimed it would aid digestion.

“Its spicy,” the waitress said. Grace could handle it. She has been eating hot sauce for a year or two now.

I tuned in to the two men at the table next to ours. One man did all the talking.

“…We started the project, and we had, like, the dream team of writers. But the writers bailed. Now its going down the tubes.”

People who work in the entertainment industry! We were surely moments away from being discovered. We had purple pants to draw their attention, like a bird-of-paradise enticing a mate with elaborate color and dance (less the dance).

Grace wanted to talk to me about something. We had just spent two days and two nights together on a train. I told her I wanted to listen to other people’s conversations.

“Cat is really paranoid. He really thinks that everyone is out to get him. He doesn’t trust anyone. He trusts me, though. We’re cool.”

Cat Williams, that’s a name I’ve heard before. That must be the Cat of whom he speaks.

The waitress returned for our breakfast selections. Grace ordered a spinach tamale wrapped in a frittata. I don’t think she had ever ordered a frittata before. It was the first of three fritattas she would eat on the trip. We are still confused about what makes a frittata not an omelet.

I ordered the Energy Bowl, a cereal with pumpkin seeds, quinoa, almonds, shredded coconut, cashews, sunflower seeds, puffed rice, dried cherries, cranberries, cinnamon, and maple syrup. I requested soy milk. No lactose or animal suffering for me this morning, thankyouverymuch.

“There were two venues to choose from in Austin, an old warehouse and the theater that does Austin City Limits. The clients chose the warehouse because it was like $5,000 less, but when we scope it out for shooting, there is no lighting, no sound, no control room. They didn’t even look at the venues. Now, we have to spend an extra day setting up, we’re going to be over budget with all the equipment we have to bring in, the executive on the project is probably going to get canned, and then we’ll be working for another executive, and its not his project. He could pull the plug on the whole thing. Its not his baby.”

Aren’t clients are the worst?

A man and a women sat down behind us. The man did all the talking, and he claimed that he learned more about acting in a thirty second introduction of a football player than in ten years of formal training. There was a reason I didn’t recognize him – he probably wasn’t a very good actor. He should have sought better education after the first five years.

Our food arrived. Spires of tortilla strips shot into the air from egg and green cornmeal. Grains, nuts, and dried fruit sat in a bowl of soy milk. For the rest of the day, I would flaunt my excess vigor in front of my wife.