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.

Random Act of Kindness

Okay, this isn’t really talking to strangers, but I was walking in the parking garage and a crazy idea struck me.

I got a piece of paper out of my car and wrote the following note:

“Hi, I saw you getting out of your car and just wanted to say how hot I think you are.”

I didn’t sign it and I tried to write it in gender-neutral handwriting. Then I picked a car at random and placed the note under the windshield wipers.

I figured no matter who gets the note, there’s no reason not to believe it. Guys and girls can both be “hot.” Even if it’s an old lady, maybe she’ll think it was an old guy who left the note.

Anyway, that’s it. If you’re the one who received my note, please let me know if you were happy to get it.

Parking Lot Lady

I went to the drug store tonight and there was a lady crying in the parking lot.

I could hear some guy yelling at her from across the lot. Then he drove off without her.

I stopped and asked if she was okay. She was in her thirties and she was extremely embarrassed. Apparently, she and her husband are going through a divorce. I offered to drive her to a friend’s house or something but she said no, she’d be okay.

But when I came back with my Sudafed, she was still there. I guess she was trying to reach a friend to pick her up. I offered again to take her to her friend’s house and she finally agreed. I guess it’s a little weird to get a ride from a stranger but I think I look pretty harmless and besides, didn’t people use to hitchhike all the time in the 70’s?

On the ride back to Beverly Hills, she told me her husband has rage issues and that their three kids are the ones who are suffering the most. I mostly just listened. I dropped her off at her friend’s house and told her that if he got violent, call 911 right away.

On the way back to Brentwood, I felt terrible for this poor woman. But I also felt something else that was kind of weird. I felt good about myself. Not because I was a good Samaritan by taking her home, but because I know I’d never fuck up my marriage like that.

Don’t Talk to Girls at the Gym

It’s not like I was hitting on Miss Elliptical.

I was just making small talk. The TV was on CNN and she didn’t have any headphones on, so I said, “Nothing like a G-20 Summit to motivate you at the gym!”

She gave me a prissy look and said, “I don’t think they play the news to motivate us. You have to bring your own motivation.”

What does she work for, Nike? I said, “I must have missed that sign on the door. I saw the one that said ‘Be prepared to show your membership ID’ but the one that said, ‘Be prepared to bring your own motivation’ must have been at the sign repair shop.”

She said, “Wow, that was a really long and complicated comeback.”

She had me. All I could think of was “So’s your face,” but I didn’t say it. Instead I just said, “Looks like you’re busy here so I’ll just leave you alone. Go South Korea!” And I walked away.

At the free weights it was all guys. I bet they would have appreciated my comments about the G-20 Summit.

Moral of the story: Girls at the gym are apparently members of the “Don’t Talk To Me, I’m Working” Union of Waitresses, Exercisers & Airplane Book Readers, Local 545.

Flurry of Strangers

  • Newspaper guy said hi to me this morning. I asked him why the L.A. Times combined the real estate section with the business section. He said he didn’t know.
  • Talked to another waitress yesterday. She wasn’t as hostile as all the others. She said she was an actress but she was thinking of moving back to Minnesota. I told her it was probably a good idea.
  • I left a note for the mailman. I never see him because I’m at work, so I wrote him (or her) a note to introduce myself. No idea if he’ll write back.
  • I met the check-out girl with a nose ring at Whole Foods. She thinks people who eat meat are assholes but she tries not to say anything all day long.

P.S. Scott is moving in tomorrow.

Slew from Seattle

I’m in Seattle on a deal and I talked to a bunch of people so far.

1. Guy my age at the airport gate waiting for our flight:

“Going away or coming home?” He was coming home to Seattle after visiting his long-distance girlfriend in L.A. We talked about how they fight over who should move and get a new job.

2. Fat lady sitting next to me on the plane (in business class): “Read any good books lately?” She said, “Yeah, I’m trying to read one right now.” Yikes.

3. Cute girl checking me in at the hotel: “So what’s fun to do in Seattle now that Kurt Cobain is dead?” She directed me to the concierge.

4. To the concierge: “Do people really ask you to send prostitutes to their room?” He looks around for a second, then says, “What are you looking for?” I tried to explain that it was just theoretical but he made it seem so easy, so I ordered a high-priced call girl.

Just kidding.

Three-Legged Dog Girl

I met a girl today in my apartment complex who was walking her dog. The dog was a French Bulldog (so she told me) and he only had three legs. I’ve seen her walking this dog a few times before and I’ve never stopped to say hello, but today the dog came up to me and starting humping my leg, so I felt like the time was right to break the ice.

I said, “Wow, this really brings back the memories.”

She pulled him off of me and laughed. “You have a dog?”

I said, “No, but I did some hard time a few years back.”

She looked at me kind of shocked.

“Just kidding. I’m Fletcher. I live in 1305.”

We talked for a while about her dog (François). He didn’t lose his leg in Nam, he was born that way. The girl’s name was Polly. She was not super hot by any means but I told her I’d see her around. And that if François wants to hump me again, he’d better buy me dinner first.

My Friend Timmy: The Real Story

I got a lot of emails questioning why the lady was so mad that I talked to her kid if all I did was ask where his mom was.

Well, the truth is, I kind of edited what happened a little bit because I was embarrassed about what really happened. But what the hell. The blog is semi-anonymous. Here’s what I really said:

“What’s your name?”

“Timothy.”

“Where’s your mommy or daddy?”

No response. Then, for some reason, I thought it would be fun to try to have a real conversation with a six-year-old…

“Where do you live?” He gives me his exact address. “Wow, do you tell strangers the alarm code, too?” No response. “Well, it’s a nice neighborhood. Do you go to school?” Yes, he’s going into first grade next week. “What’s your favorite color?” Red. “Do you like dogs or cats?” He likes rabbits. “What’s your favorite ice cream?” Cherry Garcia (figures, we’re in Brentwood). “What do you like to do for fun?” Play knights and dragons. “Do you have a girlfriend?” No. “Do you like gladiator movies?”

The last question was clearly me just amusing myself, but that’s when his mom showed up and I’m pretty sure she overheard it. Again, like I said, it never even occurred to me that I would seem threatening to some kid’s mom, but I guess I am a 28-year-old creepy guy asking her kid about ice cream and girlfriends and gladiators. So in retrospect I’m lucky she didn’t call the cops.

I just don’t interact with children that much. Or ever. I forgot what the boundaries are. So better off just to make a bright-line rule: no talking to fucking kids!

My Friend Timmy

At whole foods buying some dinner last night and a little kid maybe six comes up and stands next to me.

No parent in sight, just standing there looking at me. I say, “Hi, what’s your name?” He says, “Timothy.” I say, “Where’s your mommy or daddy?”

And all of the sudden, his mom comes rushing over and grabs Timmy away from me. She looks at me like I’m a registered sex offender. Like I was luring him into a van with promises of ice cream and puppies.

It’s weird, I still think of myself as someone who could theoretically be abused by some pervert, not as the pervert himself. Totally freaked me out to be looked at like that.

So, new rule for the Project: no talking to underage children.

Compliments, part 3

1. To the guy at the ticket booth in the garage: “Hey, great song. Who’s that you’re listening to?” Turns out it was Shakira. Don’t get me wrong, I know who Shakira is, but I have to honestly say I’ve never heard a single thing she’s done.

Her music is just not on my pre-sets. But it was all right, I guess. Anyway, he looked at me like I was dumb for not knowing.

2. To the (heavy) woman picking out apples at Whole Foods: “Hey, I love your earrings.” Her response was basically, “Are you talking to me?” but after the initial shock of a stranger talking to her, she smiled and said, “Thanks.” I wish I could convey how blown away she was by this simple little thing.