This happened in late February, close to a year ago now, but it’s evergreen. My dad and I were in a Starbucks in a shitty part of Lancaster, California (forgive the repetition), waiting on a cousin of his whom he hadn’t seen in decades. In the half hour or so before his cousin arrived, I managed to lay eyes on two of the craziest damn lost souls I’ve ever beheld in a Starbucks. Bear in mind that I live in Starbucks as much as I live anywhere; I don’t file these screeds from my car. Not only do I lives here, I generally votes here. Can I come in?
Stranger had come in before me. Lancaster is a real shithole, a socioeconomic sump for Angelenos who were forced to flee to the north of Eden because there wasn’t enough east. The downtown trains start running at something like four in the morning for sorry bastards who are forced to start the day shift on the night shift (on the night shift), but don’t get your hopes up: with a geography and an architecture like that, Rod Stewart will decline to see you tonight. A daily commute so punishing shouldn’t make sense, but in the Southland, it inevitably does. What doesn’t make sense is a Jew wearing a forty-dollar haircut and a hundred-dollar scarf into the Antelope Valley, covering a coffeehouse table with the finest notebooks between Mammoth Lakes and La Cañada Flintridge, and using the notebooks to prompt a vigorously gesticulating dialogue with himself.
He appeared to be arranging or practicing some kind of theater, or as he would surely put it, Theatre. How the fuck the Antelope Valley had anything to do with this was beyond me. Beyond the hip shit in Los Feliz, too, come to think of it. If anything, I’m less presumptuous than the average American about the correlation between Moleskine, Burberry, and being able to make rent. It’s probably because I end up in situations where I have the best green curry of my life at a Thai joint not two miles from one of the rest areas where I sleep. Just since the weekend I turned down my dad’s offer to buy some Colby for a dinner party because Joe Dirtbag was hosting it but enthusiastically stuffed deposit bottles from my wrecked car into a box he had bought me at the post office and put the box into my second storage unit. That’s a 2:0 storage unit:apartment ratio, up from 1:0. For all I know, Theatre Jew could sleep on Metrolink, shower at 24 Hour Fitness, and eat Chef Boyardee that he buys on clearance at Stater Bros. Dat notebook collection, tho. I’m just about the last person to go around prejudging others as being housed, but Theatre Jew had a pretty strong housed look about him. Keeping one’s shiznits so organized and pristine while living out of a car is no mean feat, so he probably wasn’t living in a travel trailer in someone’s junkyard to save up scarf money.
Rents in Westwood must be awful. Here was a dude who looked like he’d just gotten disoriented and wandered off the set of Mozart in the Jungle, and he was doing his theatrical thang in the most garishly goyish part of the metroplex. The Los Angeles Basin has so many safe spaces for his kind, safe spaces spanning a variety of socioeconomic and ethnic niches, some of them fruitier than others, but all of them adequately fabulous. Was there truly no room for him at the inn? Did the cost of living fly that violently through the roof?
Maybe he was in Lancaster for some repertory theater bullshit or other. Excuse me: some repertory theatre bullshit. Maybe he wasn’t even a Jew. He could have been a Greek. He could have been an Armenian, which would have made him one of the Jews of Fresno and possibly one of the Jews of Glendale but absolutely not one of the Jews of the Wrong Damn North Slope. He could have been a white Jewlatto. He coulda been a contendah. Hell, Brando, he could currently be one to this day, you fat, fat, magnificent bastard. Or he could be a more highbrow and sheltered (mostly in the physical sense, because fucking Lancaster) version of the crazy bum I once saw scribbling down what he construed as math equations on an array of paper napkins he’d laid out on the table at a greasy spoon diner in Mariposa.
What he was not was an Italian. An Armenian, a Greek, or a Jew of whatever purity might talk out his whatever-the-fuck he feels has to be talked out in an open-ended dialog with himself. Or, in Theatre Jew’s case, in a dialogue with himself, featuring The Notebooks. When an Italian is dealing with some ridiculous shit of the heart and the mind and the soul which isn’t quietly answering its own questions, as it would if it respected his sense of self-respect, the Italian keeps talking about it, boldly and heartily, until someone starts listening, at which point he has an audience, so he keeps talking. This is why Woody Allen puts out so many weird-ass arthouse films about behavior so utterly maladaptive that you just know the Jews should start going to trade schools again by the end of the first scene, while Billy Joel convinces you that Brender and Eddie had had it already by the time they even thought about going into the diner business when they’d be up against Spiro and Kristina with nothing but their Irish work ethic, their Irish drink ethic, and their Irish family spanikopita recipe.
Creamed spinach and Munster on the shreds of yesterday’s rye with a hot cross bun is an improvement over the other guy I saw at that Starbucks in Lancaster. Dude was super white, but entirely non-White, in the sort of generically WASP way that would make the Old Families of New England beg the Kennedys to breed enough little micks to colonize every nook and cranny of the seaboard against the remotest possibility of settlement by such lousy white trash. It wasn’t just that he looked like he sauntered everywhere by default on account of too many months on the yard and was wearing a cheap oversized T-shirt and sagging Chino Capri pants. The most striking thing about him was that he had clearly gotten caught out on the streets in a rainstorm not only without any rain gear–no umbrella, no windbreaker, no slicker–but that he didn’t look like he’d know where the fuck to find passable rain gear, if he even had a dim sense that there was such a thing and that other people kept it within their access and used it because they weren’t the sorriest goddamned white trash on the face of the earth. Instead, this fucker was walking around the parking lot, clearly chastised out of his yard saunter by the unexpected elements, with his arms folded under his T-shirt in a semifetal position.
Dude was a walking refutation of white supremacy. Supremacy over what? The wretchedest trash picker in Dhaka? A grown man living in a group home because he’s too retarded to wipe his ass or brush his teeth on his own? #TIMMEH? He had a stunning inability to function at the most basic level in civilization (or something close to it; remember, the trains start running at 0400). He didn’t look homeless, either. The cold homeless are usually carrying excess gear around with them out of necessity, and he was wandering light. Besides, the cold homeless shield themselves better than that against an afternoon of gusty rain. The warm homeless don’t always carry so much crap around, but this dude looked too marginal and dysfunctional to be involved in any sort of car ownership recognized by the DMV. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure he was more stably housed than I was. God knows where he might have been bouncing around on the dirtbag crash pad circuit, but he looked like he had places to lay down his head that had roofs and doors and walls and what-not.
If that pathetic bastard isn’t the least reachable motherfucker in the Antelope Valley, Metrolink had better get the trains running all night long. The rest of us, who sometimes have cars but don’t always, need a way to flee that horseshit. Theatre Jew can ride in the Disquiet Car.
Shine that highball down on us, Sanchez.