How Do You Know Paul?

I went to Paul’s birthday party at the Bodega Wine Bar on Sunset last night. It was one of those kinds of birthday parties I hate: the birthday boy (in this case Paul) sends out an evite to come to his birthday party at a bar.

The place isn’t rented out or anything. The bar doesn’t know they are the location for the party. Drinks are not on Paul’s tab. Essentially the “party” consists of telling everyone to go to some random bar at the same time and buy their own drinks.

In my view, that’s called “hanging out” or “meeting up” not a “party.” I get that not everyone can afford to throw a lavish party, rent out a room, or buy everyone’s drinks, but if that’s the case, I’d rather go to your apartment and play Pictionary. There are a lot of cheap/free parties that are a fun with a little thought. I guess that’s just my big complaint. It just seems lazy.

Anyway, I didn’t know anyone except Paul. Michelle had to work late and so there was that initial panic when I walked in and saw a room full of people I didn’t know. It is weird how you irrationally think people are looking at you. In reality, no one notices the new guy walking in.

I took a deep breath and tried to remember all my best opening lines. I walked up to a guy who was not talking to anyone and I said, “Hey. I’m Fletcher. How do you know Paul?”

Luis said they worked together and that led to 20 minutes of conversation. I was getting bored of this guy so I said, “Excuse me, I’ve got to go say hi to Paul.” And I left. (That’s the best way out of a conversation. Excuse me. Any reason will do. Leave.)

I didn’t go up to Paul and the thought did occur to me that Luis would watch to see if I was lying, but again, no one does this. You leave and they move on. No one follows you to check on your story.

So I tried a group. “Sorry to interrupt, how do you guys know Paul?” It doesn’t make any sense, but no one skipped a beat. They just started answering my question and I was instantly included.

I was really rocking the “How do you know Paul” all night. I talked to easily a dozen strangers. One misstep though. I went up to a cute girl and with a big smile I said, “How do you know Paul?”

She said, “Paul’s my brother, Fletcher. You and I went to junior prom together, asshole.”

Paul’s younger sister Erin had flown out from Pennsylvania to visit him and we had in fact gone to the junior prom together. Oops.

Poker Douche

I played poker Thursday night with Paul and some of his friends. I used to like playing poker growing up. I played 5 draw as a kid, of course, but in college we used to play 7 stud, Omaha, and yes, some Texas Hold ‘Em.

But now the only thing anyone plays is Texas Hold ‘Em and everyone is such a know-it-all expert, it’s no fun to play anymore. But I’m a people person, so when Paul said they needed another played, I said fine.

The game was a Hold ‘Em tournament-style game with a $40 buy-in. (I know, lame.) There were ten players, including two married couples, and one guy who I later named Poker Douche. This guy was about 45, he was single (no surprise), and when he wasn’t hanging out at Commerce Casino, he worked as an IT guy at some company.

Poker Douche’s main goal in life, apparently, is to educate lesser players in the fine art of poker odds and strategy. The lessons are especially strident when you make a “wrong” play and win through “sheer luck.” But Poker Douche also likes to tell you when you should have made a “value bet,” shouldn’t have risked your whole stack “on a coin flip,” or should have made a “feeler bet.”

All of these annoying poker-speak terms are straight out of the many poker shows on TV so it’s not like any of the other players appreciated his comments. It made me wonder if he was trying to piss everyone off so they’d play badly. That seems super-douchey for a $40 game.

I don’t know why but my reaction to these type of people is always the same: I fuel their douchery with innocent-seeming questions to draw them out. For example, I said, “How do you remember all the odds?” That garnered a ten-minute answer about counting outs that any idiot already knows.

I’d also say things that didn’t make sense mathematically, like, “People say aces is the best starting hand, but I like 6, 7 suited. I think it wins more often.” He really went off on that one. And, my favorite, “Sometimes you just have to play a hunch.” I said that when I won a hand from him and he nearly punched me.

Anyway, Poker Douche made it to the final two (I busted in 6th place). But the woman who won it all beat him on a “questionable call” with nothing but a pair of two’s. Poker Douche was bluffing but the woman “should have folded” when he pushed all-in because the pot odds “weren’t in her favor.” But as she scooped the winning pot, I was pleased when she said, “Just playing a hunch.”

Hitting the Books

I went back to the public library. I went there once before with Gunther with good results so when Paul asked what I was up to yesterday, I said, “Let’s go to the library.”

After showing Paul the massive DVD collection (all free!)

we read magazines for an hour. People do the same thing in book stores, but I always felt guilty reading the magazines that you’re supposed to buy. No one else seems to have a problem with this because the magazine rack at B&N seems to have 99% browsers and 1% buyers. But I’m the guy constantly looking over my shoulder for the store manager to call the cops on me because I’ve been wrinkling the pages of Outlaw Biker Magazine. In the library, though, you can read all the magazines you want, all day long. And take as many DVD’s and watch them for free.

Anyway, one thing I love about the Santa Monica library is the screen saver they have on all the computers. It shows old pictures of Santa Monica from the 1930’s or the 1890’s. There will be some kid in a straw hat sitting on a hill eating a watermelon and the caption is “Children eating watermelon in front of Palisades Park, 1910.” And you think, “Wow, this area was the frontier back then.” I especially love the pictures of people at the beach in the 1920’s wearing twenty pounds of clothes, or women going swimming with long dresses on.

I was staring at the screen saver for like ten minutes when a guy interrupted me, “I love those pictures, too.” Turns out, Mitch works at the library. We got to talking and he found a book of old Los Angeles photos for me. I took the book home with me and have really enjoyed looking through it.

It’s cool to find something new you like and didn’t even realize it.

Animal Shelter Girl

I was walking down Montana on Sunday on the way to meet Paul for lunch when I saw the pet adoption people outside the Whole Foods.

I was early anyway, so I stopped and said hello to the dogs. (I’m not much of a cat person so I mostly talked to the dogs.)

I wasn’t even noticing the actual humans running the adoption. I was really just amusing myself by having a conversation with this one mixed breed dog that looked like a shaggy mutt. “What are you in for?” I asked him. (He was in a cage so it kind of made sense.) “Barking and entering?” (I swear I didn’t think anyone heard me say that.)

This went on for a while where I talked to this dog that I named The Artful Dodger. I was getting into the zone where I didn’t even notice anyone else. But then this girl came up behind me and said, “I think he likes you.”

I turned and saw this cute girl who helps out at the animal shelter. “I’m just making conversation.” She pushed me to adopt him but that isn’t a real possibility. I like dogs but I’m at work all day, I explained.

She seemed disappointed. She gave me the hard sell. I told her I just couldn’t. She said if I change my mind to call her. She gave me a card for the shelter. I said goodbye.

I went and had lunch with Paul at R&D Kitchen. I know what you’re thinking. That during lunch I kept thinking about the animal shelter girl. But the truth is, I kept thinking about The Artful Dodger.

Hall Pass

Went to see “Hall Pass” last night with Paul.

The movie mostly sucked. There were a few laughs but the Farrelly Brothers were showing their age. Just seemed like a movie from 15 years ago.

Anyway, the movie didn’t start on time and the audience was getting restless. When it eventually did start 20 minutes late, and after 15 more minutes of previews, the movie turned out to be “No Strings Attached.” People in the crowd started getting up to leave. We checked our ticket stubs and we were definitely in the right theater. Pretty soon people were shouting and eventually they stopped the movie, came out, and explained there was a mistake. They would put the right movie on asap.

But a funny thing happened. After all the shouting to the projectionist, and before “Hall Pass” started, people started talking to each other. It was a cool phenomenon to witness if you’re tuned into these things like I am. Strangers were commenting on the fuck-up with each other.

I have found the hardest part of talking to strangers is finding that shared experience to comment on. If and when I do notice it, it is always a perfect in. It has taught me to be more observant and also a better listener. And it was cool to see it in action all around me.

Coffee Shop Girl

Had coffee with Paul this morning at this place on Main Street in Santa Monica and as usual Paul was running late.

So I ordered my coffee and I noticed the woman had a cool accent. That was my in.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Santa Monica,” she replied.

I laughed. “No, I mean, originally.”

“Florida,” she changed her answer to.

Now you have to understand that this chick was clearly from Europe. Not only was her accent French or Swiss or something, she just looked foreign. I mean it in a good way. She looked different. Two-tone hair like that singer from that band. And a nose stud, like that fashion was still big where she was from.

So I challenged her, “You’re not from Florida. Where did you grow up? France?”

“Fuck you, I’m from Belgium!” She said it with a smile so I guess she wasn’t that offended.

So I said, “Hey, if you don’t want people to insult you by calling you French, don’t tell them you’re from Florida.”

We talked for ten minutes till Paul got there. Apparently, the reason people from Belgium don’t say they’re from Belgium right away (at least in L.A.) is because they always get asked about Jean Claude van Damme and they’re sick of it.

Part-A

We are having a party this Saturday night. Officially, it’s to welcome Scott to the neighborhood but unofficially it’s to invite Michelle.

Plus, I have met a lot of people in the past few months and I thought it would be fun to invite every stranger I’ve met. Well, the ones where I got their name and contact info.

Gunther is a given. I’m going to invite Monica as well because I think she’s cool and I don’t care if Gunther gets pissed off. Who knows, maybe the party will make them realize they should get back together.

I’m going to track down Polly, the girl with the three-legged dog. Plus Mario, I’ll text him. I will leave a note today for Hung (wonder what he looks like).

At work, I need to invite Kyle even though he’s a dick. If I don’t invite him and he finds out about it I’ll get a lot of shit. Neil obviously. Also have to remember to invite Janet, the receptionist. And Daphne. And Maria, the cleaning lady? She’s a bit out of the age range for this party, but it’d be nice to drop an invite anyway.

There’s a few others that might be weird to invite like Hector the newspaper guy and Ramon the dry cleaner but if I see them I’ll mention it.

Of course, Scott is inviting people, too, otherwise this party might be pretty pathetic. Maybe his director friend will bring a new girl for me to date after I break up with Marny and before I marry Michelle.

Speaking of Marny and Michelle, assuming Michelle comes, I wonder if Marny will sense that something is up. On the other hand, Michelle will probably bring her boyfriend Kal-El, so maybe I won’t even have a chance to talk to her.

Anyone else out there in L.A. who feels like dropping by a little shindig in Brentwood, drop me an email.

Gay Guy

Paul and I went to the new mall in Santa Monica on Sunday. I don’t know what the big deal about a new mall is but there were about three million people there.

I mean, it’s nice, but it’s not like Justin Bieber was performing.

Anyway, a guy asked for directions to the CPK and I tried to explain it to him but it was pretty loud in there, so I said I’d just show him. Being a people person, I struck up a conversation. He was from Minnesota, in town for Labor Day weekend, visiting with his boyfriend. Boyfriend? Hello! I was suddenly super interested in being his friend.

Now I am friendly with lots of gay people but I don’t really have any gay friends. I felt like such a loser for being so excited about meeting him, but I swear bagging a gay friend seemed like nailing a supermodel.

I know. It’s 2010. Who cares? But let’s be real. I do. Maybe I am buying into the stereotype that he would have good taste or something. That him accepting me as a friend means I passed some sort of big coolness test. Like I’ve been admitted into an elite club. This whole thing was pretty embarrassing to admit to myself but I was totally into being this guy’s friend.

Paul looked at me like I was crazy but he knows the Project and he must be used to me doing weird shit by now. When we got to CPK, I invited myself to have lunch with them. The four of us hung out, had pizza, exchanged info, and went our separate ways. Michael (the gay guy) said that people in L.A. were the nicest people he’s ever met. I said, “Yeah, we’re all really friendly here.”

Another Waitress

Sleeping with Marny made me forget all about my lunch with Paul on Saturday. He’s been following my exploits on the blog and I think he’s come around to thinking this is pretty cool.

I was feeling emboldened by my break in chastity and wanted to show off how well I talk to strangers now. So I starting talking to the waitress. It went something like this:

“Hey, you’re new. I haven’t seen you here before.”

She said she started a few weeks ago so I asked where she worked before that. In less than two minutes I found out she was a fit model. I’d never heard of this, but apparently it means she’s a perfect size 4 for a particular brand of jeans so they use her to make more size 4 patterns. You could say she’s the Platonic size 4.

She went off to put in our order and I looked at Paul feeling smug. He had just watched the whole time and was pretty impressed by the whole conversation.

When she came back, I asked some more questions, but this time she only gave me one or two-word answers. Not sure why I suddenly lost my rapport with her, I tried again when she brought out our food.

She looked at me kind of annoyed and said, “Look, no offense, but I don’t date customers and I’m super busy today so…”

I turned red, she took off, and Paul laughed at me. Was it my hubris that had gotten the better of me? Or did I break the rule about seeming too creepy? Or is it just waitresses who are buzz kills?

I Need a Girlfriend

It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here watching the fucking “Transporter” on Spike. I checked in with Paul, he’s going to some party and didn’t exactly say, “Hey, come along.” I sometimes hang out with my friend Neil at work but it’s usually just with a bunch of work people.

I know a few more people obviously but it’s not like I am entertaining offers here.

What’s wrong with me? I am an interesting guy. I’ve been told by girls that I’m good looking. I’m not fat or bald or weird. I make good money. I live in a decent apartment in a cool neighborhood. So why am I sitting home alone 9 out of 10 weekends?

I feel like this whole Project is a good idea in theory but in practice, it’s feeling more like a so-what. Yay, I talked to the dude at the mall. Ooh, gee, how is my life going to change if I talk about the weather to the old lady in the Pinkberry.

It was so much easier when I was in school. In high school, duh, the girls are just throwing themselves at you. And in college, there’s classes, activities, parties… I mean, the whole place is set up for meeting people. But no one tells you when you get out, you’re on your own.

Looking back on it, I feel kind of dumb for wanting to graduate so badly to go out and be independent. You know what? Being independent sucks.

I met Amanda through Paul’s sister. Maybe I should ask him if she’ll set me up. I don’t know. I just don’t want to be some loser on awkward dates I met on Match.com.

I need to get over the fear of talking to hot girls. Who knew the Blue Eyes incident would have such lasting trauma. I mean, it’s not like I am going to pick up girls in bars, but I think I should be able to talk to cute girls without being creepy. I’ve got some degree of game, don’t I? It’s not like I want a girlfriend who likes the guy from a dumb movie who has some sort of line that’s so cool it’s not even considered a line. Whatever, I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. I just need to stop being a complete fucking pussy and talk to some girls who might turn into something more significant.

It’s not like I’m just saying this because I’m horny. I mean, yes, I could use some lovin’, and I know this is going to sound sappy, but I really just want someone to hang out with. Some companionship. I guess I’m just lonely.