Health, Vigor and Ebullience

Been working on a noirish novel in which a young actress obsessed with food wakes up inside a menu, bounces from dish to dish, before plunking naked into the soup and swimming merrily toward the spaghetti.

Obviously, she’s running from something. An awful audition? A doomed marriage? A bad car loan? My two main characters: Heather Ebullient and Johnny Trombone.

My theme? We’re all running from something. In L.A., all the people running from something end up living next door to you.

That makes for a rather Quixotic life out here on the Left Coast…a sequined transience…a lot of grimy, one-shoed Cinderellas in spaghetti-stained strapless gowns.

No judgment, sir. You wear whatever makes you happy.

Wonder though, if we found it? Wonder if we’re actually running toward LA’s sun-kissed sense of hope, it’s kismet…and that glorious ocean horizon, which on winter evenings looks smeared with lipstick.

FYI, in addition to food, Heather is drawn to sleepy men with money and to margaritas the size of a human stomach – we’ve all seen those.

Let me ask: With a drink that big, where are you supposed to stuff the nachos and the guac?

That’s part of Heather’s struggle, because she’s obsessed with food. She can’t have any, since she’s an actress and must remain super scrawny, since in Hollywood’s twisted view, the less there is of an actress, the more there is to love.

They were bound to meet. She holds a handsome stranger’s gaze just a second too long. Johnny collects girls like bad credit.

See the themes, the conflicts, the sneaky Audrey Hepburn metaphors?

“Who hurt you?” she often asks.

“Who didn’t?” he answers.

That’s all I got so far, though at some point Johnny Trombone will lead police on a low-speed chase in a stolen Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, which I think is a not-so-sneaky statement about Johnny’s inability to perform. Mostly, theirs is a money issue, as most things in L.A. are.

That’s all I got.

But there’ll be a baby granddaughter with enormous eyes, representing hope (and ebullience?).

And there’ll be a son, Smartacus, representing health and vigor. He shoots baskets all day in the driveway, and when the paper boy comes along flinging the latest headlines, he always targets Smartacus. Thwaaaaaack! Ouch.

After a while, Smartacus figures this out, and when he spots the paper boy’s truck, he makes a run for it. But the paper boy, once a promising left-hander for the Dodgers, zings him again.

So, there’s Smartacus running from something. Reality? Current events? His dad’s bad career choices? See, we’re all running from something.

Or, are we running toward something? That is the question that haunts me. Melville and Fitzgerald made a bundle on this…how we handle our obsessions, which tend to involve danger and/or love and/or waterfront property.

Me, I also love margaritas the size of a human stomach. On Friday, Suzanne and I now start Happy Hour at 4 pm, at the Mexican joint everybody loves. The weekend is fresh and full of promise.

Much to chat about. Books. Tom Brady. Those insane utility bills. Capitalism’s dirty little secret: Once prices go up, they never come down again.

By the way, when Suzanne has a margarita, the size of a human belly, she sometimes orders an extra shot of tequila, which she flips into her drink like a poker chip. Suzanne may look all prim, but she’s hardly proper. And she doesn’t like people telling her what to do, that’s for sure. Trust me, don’t even try.

We’re going on a short road trip soon. It’ll just be my buddy Bittner and Suzanne and me. Oh, it’s nothing like that. Suzanne will split off to see her daughter Claire, lovely as winter wheat, while I hang with Bittner and Ridge, the wine country doc who makes pinot in his spare time, with his sexy sidekick Carol.

Talk about noir!

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper,” noted Yeats.

How patient? We’ll soon see.

This wine trip is becoming something of a rite of spring. Expect endless ardor and angst and screamy good fun.

And expect a long quiet drive home, smeared in lipstick.

For past columns or books or gin glasses, please go to Cheers!

9 thoughts on “Health, Vigor and Ebullience

  1. On this beautiful, cold morning (43 degrees currently here in Huntington Beach), your Yeats quote was perfect. Birds trying to get warm in the sun, seagulls soaring overhead. Your delightful words always help to get the day started on a bright note. Thanks again, and have a blast on the road trip!

  2. Wow! Ridge! Takes me back,1974-ish, when I visited college friends who’d moved to San Jose. What I most remember was winding our way up a steep dirt driveway and finally tasting really good wine. Wow! Wonderful reds that just got better with aging (in the living room of my tiny LA apartment). Yum. Alas, I no longer can tolerate alcohol without feeling terrible so I gave it up. But oh, I do remember Ridge! Thanks for the memory, Chris, and have a great trip.

  3. On your suggestion we tried Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough …
    it is pretty damn good stuff sir. Thanks! -Stokes

  4. Enjoy your wine excursion! My favorite type of noir is pinot. But you make an appealing case for your novel idea too. And can a margarita ever really be TOO big? I like Suzanne’s style.

  5. The day after Valentine’s Day, how often does running surface in consciousness? It makes a trip—an escape, perhaps—seem inevitable. Wine travels well, so that makes it something to run to. So does Suzanne, a woman of such resinously obvious substance she could easily eclipse any memory of “a wine’s sweet kiss”. Maybe that’s what makes one favor red wine over white so soon after Feb. 14. Or it could be that extra shot of vodka, her neutral spirit that would bias anyone toward whatever lingers on the moment’s palate. That would be…lipstick; or something else red recently read, like Yeats. In any event, it sounds like a rouge voyage. Bon appetite!

  6. So are saying LA is kismet (it’s kismet) while you really mean LA possesses hope as well as kismet (its kismet)? It’s the apostrophe’s fault either way. Drat.

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