The Right Kind of Fun – 1

6-11-2009

Woke up, Harit at my side, asleep, on the floor without a mattress. I am aware because 9AM feels like 12PM, and I can’t go back to sleep. We get up, and I do my laundry downstairs. The female guard is talking socially with a friend, and they both give me looks as I pass by.

I go out to buy breakfast while Harit tries to unlock her smart phone. I go to “Noah’s New York Bagels” and buy bagels. A Peppercorn Potato Bagel for me, a Garlic Bagel for her. No hot chocolate this time. It was funny to walk around Westwood in the morning and see life unfold on a weekday.

I come back, Harit is talking to her brother in Thailand (in Thai), and I think she just mentioned how she “would have called sooner” but “went out with friends to the club last night.” Thai is a really unique language to listen to – completely off the grid – it reminds me of the “divine language” from the movie “5th Element”.

We ate and talked about things to do, and then made motions to go out. I was wearing my Cassavettes tour shirt with white khakis, sandals, and Spyware sunglasses. We took the bus to Santa Monica and spent the rest of the afternoon window-shopping and talking. We hadn’t spoken like that in a while.

We met Ryu after lunch. We were in Banana Republic, and I was getting sized-up by a flamboyant European who was helping me find a nice casual jacket to compliment my outfit. Ryu had not changed, except for his hair color perhaps.

Some people change and some don’t. Harit and I discussed that in length; the issue was electric between us. We had not been together, spoken, like this in a while. How much can change in time? Does it mean anything? Are we any more or less different?

After picking out a light-colored blazer from Zara’s male collection, I wore it out of the store and we continued walking down Santa Monica Boulevard. We ended up at the ocean front, the beach, and the pier. We watched a couple walking down the boardwalk towards the setting sun. We stayed there, watching the waves crash on the beach until the sun disappeared over the mountains.

It was 8 or 9pm, and we began to make evening plans. Ryu got picked up by his young hoodlum friends, and Harit and I met up with Epstein for a potluck hosted by his sister in Venice. I had never met his sister before that. She has a charm very similar to Epstein’s.

We watched the Lakers play the Magic, game 4 of the finals. It was very entertaining; the lot of us (12 or more) making sly comments about the players. “Caveman” was the tall, white monster that towered over the Magic players. Thanks to DVR “magic”, we missed a sizeable portion of the 4th quarter, returning to the game with 4.6 seconds left. Magic had the ball, and tied the game. We went to overtime, and the Lakers dominated.

“Are you sad the Celtics lost this season?” Epstein’s sister asked.

“No,” I replied, laughing. My passion for the sport was nonexistent. I still had fun watching, however.

After the game, the three of us said our goodbyes to the group and went to some bars. The first was called “The Other Room”, a nice, modern take on a beer bar. They had an extensive list of imports, along with a bunch of candle-lit lounge areas to sit at. Venice is ripe with a community that values quality social life. While the bar was common ground to so many unique discussions, the most important were held between the three of us. Epstein told us about his current dating escapades, the ups and downs of finding someone special, and the lessons he learned from each girl he met. It was distressing to hear about his well-thought intentions falling to pieces, and it opened up discussions about how to deal with dating and relationships… very interesting.

The scene at The Other Room was starting to grow old, so we got in Epstein’s car and went to Zanzibar. Before arriving, he took a detour, showing us the Venice canals. Maybe it was the evening dim, or the wine and beers, but the moonlit sky looking amazing cast upon the dark waters. I had thoughts of Italy and gondolas, and romantic frivolity with lovers.

“The water’s about a foot deep, but still…” Epstein said as he continued on, giving us a brief tour of the area. We found a place to park and walked to the bar. I was still wearing my Zara Man jacket.

I had no idea what Zanzibar was. I thought it was a buffet, because a song by Tenacious D referenced it in their lyrics, saying “I’ll order it from Zanzibar!” Did I get that wrong? At any rate, this bar was full of unexpected surprises. I did not expect a lavish food cart directly outside, serving up hot plates of greasy sandwiches to drunk people waiting in line. I did not expect to pay a cover to get in. Foremost, I didn’t expect such a great musical experience inside.

We walked into an African drum performance, playing funky cultural music, accompanied by heavy bongos and harmonic chanting. People were dancing and moving to the beat of the drums. People were making out at the bar, and others were smoking dope. The bartenders were mostly female, and they were wearing very skimpy outfits. The band was drawing so much energy; people were dancing like pagans at a ritual.

The band was followed by an afro-funk DJ with music styles comparable to Daedelus, and kept the party going until closing hours later. Being my kind of music, I lost myself in the crowd, drunk, dancing in the red lights, alone. I found Harit and Epstein nearby in similar satellites, It was one of the more entertaining nights of my life. And that was only the beginning of my brief experience in LA.

On the Train – 6

Washington D.C.
2/14/2011

Waking up the next morning, I was not upset that I would spend Valentine’s Day without a lover in my arms. The trip and this journey would be me ethereal companion, and with Epstein’s help, as with everyone else’s help on this trip, I would make the most out of this fleeting moment on the train. Happy Valentine’s Day. My gift – a memorable walk up and down the National Mall, a two hour excursion, full of discussion about our nation and our beliefs. Half the walk was dedicated to the beatnik wisdom of Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and the other half, from the monument to the capital building, was wholly devoted to the connections and differences between Buddhism and Judaism.

“Buddhism elaborates on the concept of compassion. Infinite, everlasting compassion.” Even as I said those words, I coughed or hiccupped at the unbearable truth that I don’t know a damn thing about Buddhism. I only know how to be compassionate. It’s a hard concept to tackle, especially when Epstein knows so much more about Judaism and spirituality overall. All that aside, I know now how fundamentally different the two dogmas are. It opened the floor to a discussion about forgiveness, and Epstein was having a hard time finding the divide between forgiveness and condonation. There is a difference, but more importantly, to forgive is to personally relieve oneself of the stress induced by another’s wrongdoing. Whether or not you condone it is individual of your ability to forgive the negativity influenced on you… Epstein dropped me off at Union Station after that, and my odyssey through unknown frontiers would truly begin.