Things experienced so far in LA – part 7

— The subway station has enormous fake rock formations on the ceiling. It is as though we are in an amusement park ride. I love it. LA subway. Everything in LA has to do SOMEthing with artifice and the movies. The subways are IMMACULATE. Alex exclaimed, “My God, I could EAT off those walls.” We follow Garry’s instructions to the letter. Garry knew what he was doing. We get off at the right stop and climb up the steps. We emerge onto Hollywood Boulevard.

— Oh and I forgot to say: the two of us are STARVING by this point. Like, it wasn’t even funny. We were irritable. We needed food. The golden arches called. The streets were packed with people. There were all the stars in the pavement … but I couldn’t pay attention to them because of my hunger. We sat and ate McDonalds with as much gusto as if we were homeless people being given a free meal. We didn’t even TALK to each other. Well, no – at one point I looked up from my McNuggets and said, “This is literally the best food I have ever had in my life.”

— Then there we were! Randomly! On Hollywood Boulevard! We had planned to come later in the week – sue me, I wanted to see Cary Grant’s handprints. I lived in LA but I happened to be having a nervous breakdown at the time and was in no mood to sightsee. Now I AM in the mood! So there we were. We decided to just walk up and down, and see all the sights. We embraced the moment. We had a couple of hours to kill. We were on the make. We started to walk.

— It was like a CIRCUS on the streets. I glanced across the road and saw Darth Vader chatting with a stormtrooper. I saw Superman standing alone, his faded cape whipping around his bony legs. I saw Spongebob take a sip from a soda.

— We went and looked at all the handprints and footprints. We saw Cary Grant. We saw Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. We saw everybody. We saw Gary Cooper, John Wayne … it was great. It wasn’t too crowded either. We marveled at how TEENY the feet of the women were. Gloria Swanson’s feet are as small as a Geisha girl’s. Rita Hayworth had the feet of a 7 year old girl.

— All of these freak people dress up as famous people and mill around on the sidewalk in front of the Chinese theatre. There’s Shrek and Wonder Woman and Darth Vader, etc. etc. A Charlie Chaplin tottered around – with a teeny black umbrella. Here was one of my favorite moments from this section of our day: I heard a little boy’s voice gasp, “Mom! There’s Charlie Chaplin!” I turned around … and saw this little pipsqueak standing there, shaking Charlie Chaplin’s hand, agog. It almost made me want to cry. Because of the history of it. The history of the movies, and the culture of movies, will never die. All of these PRESENT-DAY movie characters milled about … but this little kid was so excited about Charlie Chaplin. I’m tellin’ ya. I got a little choked up.

— We then saw a line of Scientology slaves giving “free stress tests” across the street. We immediately clutched at one another and decided to go “take a test”. We strolled towards them, all the little drones, sitting with their E-meters – and I watched unknowing people buying Dianetics… I watched them get sucked in … There was one big tall guy walking up and down the line of “volunteers” – and he was obviously in charge – and I watched him “check in” with each volunteer, taking note of how many sales they had made. What a total scam. Man. We were accosted by two smiley friendly guys, “Would you like to take a free stress test?” Alex and I immediately adjusted our personalities and became enthusiastic and credulous. “Stress test? Well, we’re very stressed … so yes!”

— I sat down in one chair and Alex sat down in the other. And there it was. Right in front of me. The e-meter. My guy said to me, “Okay, so just pick up those cylinders …” I picked them up. I glanced over at Alex, and saw her holding onto the e-meter cylinders, and almost lost it. I could not look at her again. The guy said, “So … this is an e-meter … and it registers whenever you’re stressed about anything … so I want you to think about something that really stresses you out right now …” I closed my eyes, and pretended to think of something. I was actually doing deep yoga breathing. I opened my eyes, and saw that the needle hadn’t moved. This concerned my guy. “Is there anything that really stresses you out?” I said, “Well, I started up a business last year and I’ve now gone bankrupt and my investors have lost millions and millions of dollars.” He said, “And this stresses you out?” I wanted to snark, “No, buddy, it makes me feel AWESOME …” – what a stupid question – but I said, throwing him such a load of bullshit I’m surprised he didn’t smell it: “I guess I just feel sad because it’s been my dream to run my own business – It’s been my dream to make mouse pads … I had a great idea … and it just didn’t work out … So now I need to figure out what I want to do next … I don’t know what to do …” My guy hadn’t heard a word I said. Or – he LOOKED like he was listening, but he wasn’t. He said, “Are there any other … situations in your life … that stress you out?” I wonder if because I was LYING my e-meter reading wasn’t stressed enough to please him. He needed more stress in order to hook me in. I said, “Actually, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now … despite my financial difficulties … I just need to re-group and try again. You know?” I tried to bond with him. I tried to see if he would bond with me, if he could at all hear what I was saying. Even though it was a LIE. And it was then that he went for the hard sell. He picked up a copy of Dianetics. He said, “Have you heard of this book?” I thought for a while. “Uhm … no … I don’t think so.” He got very aggressive with me – he opened the book and read John Travolta’s quote on the first page, about how this book changed his life. I could SMELL this guy’s … need to sell to me. I said, “Oh wow – okay, yeah – I have heard of this … I know John Travolta, I really like him.” My guy said to me, and … there was this rage behind it … I wonder if it was because I admitted I hadn’t even heard of it … not sure … He said, “20 million people round the world have bought this book. Don’t you think that means something?” I said, “I think it’s great. Do you … do this?” (meaning Scientology) He said, again with that strange zealous gleam in his eye, “Are you kidding me? My house is full of Hubbard’s books.” Wow. Sad. I said, “So you’ve gotten a lot out of it?” He said, “If you want to know how to not be stressed out, if you want to learn how to get rid of stress – you need to buy this book. Trust me.” “But … how does it work?” He didn’t like that. “Just buy the book. Everything is in that book.” This is where I made my mistake. I should have kept him talking. Instead I said, “You said to me ‘Free Stress Test’ not ‘Buy This Book.’ I am really interested in this e-meter thing but you have got to chill with the hard sell.” Our conversation was pretty much done from there. He had no more use for me, and my sad stress, and my failed business, and my mouse pads … I wasn’t gonna buy. I said, friendly, “Well … thank you! This was really interesting!” I stood up – Alex was still clutching her damn e-meter … so I walked off to the corner to wait for her.

— Alex talked to her Scientology slave for TWENTY MORE MINUTES. She is truly a pro at this. She knows what she’s doing. She told the guy that her mother committed suicide, her father committed suicide as well – because he was a Siamese twin – and after being separated from his twin (only recently) – he couldn’t take it and he killed himself too. Alex told the guy she was married to an African American who was in jail and she was pregnant with his love child. It was a long conversation. I would glance over and see the two of them in absolute HYSTERICS. The woman is a genius. I know what I need to do the next time I sit down with “one of them”. I need to keep them talking, and I need to be more confused. My learning curve is steep. I won’t make the same mistakes again.

— I just want to reiterate: Alex and I sat side by side, in folding chairs, on Hollywood Boulevard, attached to e-meters.

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10 Responses to Things experienced so far in LA – part 7

  1. Patrick says:

    I love that you are in LA and having such insane adventures. We sort of take it all for granted, all the weirdness, and it is only when someone who doesn’t live it every day comments on it that we realize just how bizarre and beautiful this place is.

  2. Alex Nunez says:

    “Are you kidding me? My house is full of Hubbard’s books.”

    Whenever I think I am having a lousy day, or like my sh*t generally isn’t together, I’m gonna think of that guy making that statement.

    And it will be like the feel-good hit of the century.

  3. Cullen says:

    “Are you kidding me? My house is full of Hubbard’s books.”

    Doesn’t that sound like something you would call an exterminator for?

    “Um, hello, yeah, I’ve got a bad case of Hubbard’s in my house. Oh, you’re going to have to gas the whole place, huh? Might have to quarantine the entire block … ?”

  4. JFH says:

    It’s been my dream to make mouse pads …

    Ya know, V-8 (with tabasco added to it) does NOT feel good when it comes out your nose.

  5. Emily says:

    Hahahahaha. We talked about doing this when you came to LA. I don’t think I could pull it off without cracking up, especially in the presence of two actresses who would probably be a lot more capable of controlling themselves under the circumstances.

    Me – “oh yeah, sure I’m interested in reading…bwahahahahahahaa. Excuse me. I need a moment to myself.”

  6. Tainted Bill says:

    Christie told me that they were doing e-meter stress tests in Penn Station on Saturday night. Maybe they have a big recruitment push going on.

  7. Nightfly says:

    I would have blown it instantly, Sheila, so don’t feel bad.

    Dude: “Have you read this book?”
    Me: “No. Have you seen that South Park episode?”

  8. Susanna says:

    I found this from Lisa and This Life.

    Your story proves the truth about comedy. The funniest stuff is the real stuff. As we like to say, “You can’t make this shit up.”

    Be safe… try Fatburger. Better than In n’ Out.

  9. Dave J says:

    Fantastic stuff, Sheila: as others have said already, it all makes miss L.A. tremendously. I second Susanna’s vote for Fatburger over In n’ Out. They’re all over, of course, but I have particularly fond memories of the one on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

    And, oh, yes, the subway. I say this in a completely loving way towards them, but most Angelenos will tell you “it doesn’t go anywhere.” When that’s followed by asking them if they’ve ever used it, they’ll say no. And no one else they know has used it, because, um, you know, no one uses it, because “everyone knows” that “it doesn’t go anywhere.” How EVERYONE knows that, even though NO ONE has ever used it, is perfectly sensible crazy L.A. logic that one can’t help but love. Well, I mean, obviously something other than the freeway could never go anywhere worth going to.

    I grew up riding the T, and I took the subway all the time in L.A. For the places that it does go to, it’s vastly more convenient than the delightful hell of L.A. traffic. No, of course it doesn’t go EVERYWHERE by a long shot–given that LA County is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined–but that’s not to say it doesn’t go ANYWHERE. While it isn’t as extensive a network, the basics of the stations and the trains themselves very much remind me of the DC Metro. However, what L.A. did with the stations, in Hollywood in particular, is obviously way more interesting and fun than DC’s boring concrete uniformity.

  10. popskull says:

    I haven’t commented in a while, but I am moved to do so today, Red.

    Umm, Darth Vader doesn’t “chat” with Stormtroopers. He was obviously giving him commands. Other than that, excellent reportage.

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