Twenty years ago last month I met my wife.
It was just after Christmas and my roommate, Jim had been AWOL all of December.
I was fairly certain he was hanging out with a young lady we had met at the Ye Old Kings Head in Santa Monica one night in November.
Jeanette and I had chatted about Mose Allison and Ron Hubbard over drinks, while Jim prowled the pub. Left out, her friend wanted to leave. She offered me her telephone number. We went out twice, both times concluded with her hugging my toilet bowl.
Anyway, Jim had two gal pals due to arrive from Boston. He had barely said a word about it but I’d been on business all month between Austin and Chicago. When I returned he was still absent. Yet I assured the cute voice on the other end of the telephone that, “if I have to make a sign and stand there like a limo dude, look for your name, Kim, that’ll be me”. Oh, by the way where you staying?” I asked. “I thought your place”, she says.
Jim hadn’t spoken to me since December 3rd, the night he played tongue twister with Jeanette outside El Torito on Santa Monica Boulevard, while I paid our check.
It wouldn’t have been so bad but it had been a really hard day. Though I saw Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger – my childhood hero – ride by in the Hollywood Christmas Parade, a good friend had committed suicide that morning.
One can only take so much. I was mortified a “good guy” had gone badly while petrified by the action of a “bad guy” I had thought was good. All senseless.
As I got in my car to leave the Valley for LAX, Jim showed up. “Where you been?”, I asked. Nothing. Nervous. He spoke gibberish about “women” while we drove.
His late arrival made finding Kim and Lynn easier on a busy Sunday night at the airport. They commented that they had noticed me. Vainly I wondered what they had thought?
I asked them what they wanted to do? They were game for going out to have drinks so I drove them to Hollywood, near where I lived for a decade, off Cahuenga.
I parked down the street on Fountain. We started at the Dark Room or Burgundy Room, one of which was a bigger darker sister bar of the other small dark bar across the street, both without signs. Since the door was in the back, we walked up the alleyway.
I could feel the ladies’ tension with every step. We came upon some men, one on his knees blowing the other behind that hot dog kiosk down from the newsstand on Cahuenga.
As I assured them there’s a gay bar at the other corner, the shrill crackle of a laughing street woman and the metal wheels of her shopping cart rattled off the ally walls. It made Jim and the ladies jump; just another night off Hollywood Boulevard.
Safely inside, crowded we had a couple rounds as my eyes transfixed at the taller, porcelain faced Kim. Her light brown eyes shined, reflecting the glow of those dimples. It seemed she couldn’t stop smiling at me while Lynn was in sensory overload.
I thought we should move on to a more lit bar. I suggested The Dresden on Vermont. Maybe Marty and Elaine were playing. They can do the entertaining and give us a chance to unwind.
The Dresden is an old glam club from the 1950s. Classic tuck-and-roll booths, chandeliers, long curvy countertop bar. Between Boarderners and The Dresden I had wasted years with my goofy friends drinking, killing hours, being stupid.
Marty and Elaine were playing “Staying Alive” and it seemed Kim and I were coming alive. It was magic but I had to make sure and called a friend who lived in Silver Lake “to come down here for a drink… I’ll buy. I want you to meet this girl”.
We didn’t speak of movies or bands, drop names, kiss or hug, we had no contact; that, she was under the same roof sipping coffee once I was done posing as some hipster that night made it all the more real.
Days later we kissed at the Tiki-Ti and the morning after we packed up a rental El Dorado, Jim, Jeanette, and Lynn heading for New Years Eve in San Francisco.
One night a year later at our first home in Providence, we saw this movie by Jon Favrue. It was called “Swingers”. He traced our entire first evening together (without the alleyway oral sex of course). “All the cool bars in Hollywood have to be real hard to find and have no signs”, went a line. We looked at one another in shock.
The jig was already up though. I was just an extra in the phony, over-managed, repetition of a screenplay called life going nowhere as a L.A swinger.
As I always said, it’s seductive. So near to stardom, one can reach out and touch it, yet so far away most can’t pick up the check. At least over the years, I proved I could pick up the check, even if not the girl.
As much as she enjoyed the thrill, this woman knew the end of a good script; what was the furthest from the regular lives of people outside that bubble; what was of real import.
She trusted I knew deep down too but allowed me to decide. 20 years, two children, two houses, thousands of miles away, we swing happily to our own script every day.