lock stock and smoking barrels

I have started to think of my writing time as my ‘guesthouse sessions’ due to the rustic Bel Air guesthouse off the inner courtyard of an old-for-Los-Angeles little Mediterranean-style villa that I get to work in these days. Sometimes I come and go without talking to anyone except brief friendly words with the housekeeper or personal assistant busy with their own duties. It’s just me and the bulldogs. Other days, like today, I run into the actual owners of the place, Jason and Jade, who are either coming or going or coming and then going. Jason — whose latest brainchild is the flourishing young company Mahalo — is an often hysterical, larger-than-life personality who drives a bright yellow Corvette in a town of Porsches and BMWs and Ferraris, idolizes Christopher Walken in KING OF NEW YORK and quotes dialogue from that movie like other guys do SCARFACE or THE GODFATHER. He reads the New York Times when it goes online at midnight so that when he wakes up the next morning at 7 am, he won’t be three hours behind.

He popped by the guesthouse in his workout gear while I was attempting to work the espresso machine. I am unable to say I succeeded in this task. Jason gallently stepped in and showed me how to make a latte…except he couldn’t figure it out either. So to recap: two individuals still in (or maybe near) their mental and physical prime with a considerable amount of education and intellect between them (they like to think) found themselves defeated by a damn coffee machine. With a laminated set of instructions propped right there beside it. Jason saved the moment by offering to make me coffee via french press in the main house, a happy alternative.

Which is when I realized I had left a section of manuscript in my car and went to get it — walking out of the courtyard, through the servants’ entrance, out the door, into the driveway. (Another thing I like about this place is the basketball hoop in the driveway. I can practice lay-ups and jump shots for the first time in years. This is one of the reasons I wanted kids: so that one day I could shoot hoops with them. Whether they want to or not.) Got the pages, went back to the door — locked. The buzzer made no sound. I had left my housekey in the guesthouse. Walked around to the front entrance, which is not actually the door to the house but an inner gate opening onto a shaded stone walkway — also locked. Neither buzzer seemed to be working. The main house is set back behind the inner gate and low concrete wall. I yelled. No one seemed to hear. I waited for Jason to note my mysterious absence, deduce what had happened, and come out to fetch me.

When he did, I remarked on the fact that it was mid-day in one of the most obscenely privileged neighborhoods in one of the most expensive cities in the country, there were a number of people in the house, the driveway gate was firmly locked, sealing the property off from its winding narrow sidestreet…and yet still the house itself was clamped like a fist, so that you needed to bring your key just to visit the freaking driveway. I said, “You can tell you’re from Brooklyn.”

“Yeah,” he said cheerfully, “and I have guns tucked away everywhere…so if you ever need one you just have to reach up like this…” I don’t know if it says something about him or me that for a moment there, I thought he was serious. Until he mentioned the hand grenades. As gullible as I tend to be with this guy — mental note: stop being so freaking gullible with this guy — grenades seemed somewhat unlikely.


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