hotel bars are cool

1

I love the bars in darkened lobbies of luxury hotels. My friend Sam* — a.k.a. tall blond eco-warrior, a.k.a. Captain Planet, if you read my twittering** — and I have established something of a ritual involving such places (ie: “Do you want to meet in a darkened hotel lobby?”).

The other night we saw Gran Turino, which we both thought was pretty good. Sam became the first of several people to recommend Slumdog Millionaire to me. You get a definite reflection of your own tastes, or what other people consider to be your tastes, by what people keep word-of-mouthing to you. I lost count, for example, of the vast number of individuals who kept ordering me to watch Dexter when the first season premiered. Now it’s Tru Blood, which everybody I know seems to be watching except for me, even though I’m the one who writes vampire-like novels (or as I like to describe them: “Vampire novels without any vampires in them***).

Sometimes I like to gripe about it: “Write something ‘dark’-” — as I make air quotes — “and suddenly people think you’re all angst-y and broody and at one with your inner goth.” Not that they’re wrong, but whatever.

The point being, somehow, that Sam and I met up at the darkened lobby of the Peninsula. Since we have recent divorces in common, the subject can’t help but come up. “That’s the first time you’ve done that,” Sam observed, sipping scotch.

“Done what?”

“Stopped talking about it soon after you started talking about it. You’re in a very different place now.”

2

The first time Sam and I met at the Peninsula was notable for two things:

a) I thought I knew where the freaking place was. And I did, kind of, but somehow didn’t know how to get to it even though I could see the flat beige roof towering over the surrounding buildings. I crossed from Beverly Hills to Century City to Beverly Hills again, trying to find the precise stretch of street to access the entrance. This took me half an hour. I find that LA does this to you: as soon as you assume you know, if vaguely, where you’re going, the city will dump you on your ass and laugh wildly in your face.

b) When I sat down at the little corner table across from Sam, there was a relaxed-looking man at the table next to us. He caught my eye and smiled a couple of times, and laughed out loud at a quip I made to Sam. His party joined him, but the guy and I continued to be aware of each other in a mild and friendly way. Which is when I started wondering, I know him. Where have I met him before? . I didn’t want to ask him outright in case it turned out to be one of those incidents where you’re talking to a famous person without realizing, and the person gets ticked off because you don’t recognize that he’s a member of that fabled species humanus celebritus.

I ordered a plate of chocolate chip cookies. The Peninsula has some of the best choc-chip cookies I’ve ever tasted in my life, and I was eager to share my bounty. I distributed some to the table next to me, and the guy and I exchanged remarks so profound as the following:

“These are the most amazing cookies.”

“These cookies are the best. Yum yum.” (This was him. I’m not really the kind of person to say ‘yum yum’.)

“They are sooooo good. I’ve eaten way too many.”

“Yay for the cookies! For these excellent cookies!”

The women at his table seemed maybe less impressed.

Before they left, we finally introduced ourselves. Oh for crying out loud, I thought, it’s Cuba Gooding Jr..

“Oh for crying out loud,” I said to Sam, after Cuba was out of earshot, “it’s Cuba Gooding Jr.”

“Yes.” Sam, who deals with Leo DiCaprio on a regular basis, and once appeared on a segment of morning television with Brad Pitt, looked at me as if I might be a moron, albeit one he found kind of cute.

“I really like that guy. I mean, I really liked him before, and now that I’ve met him I like him just as much.”

“It’s nice when that happens,” Sam agreed.

* pseudonym

** if you don’t, no worries, I can’t really blame you

*** they do involve a race of men and women descended from fallen angels, who actually (in my books’ mythology) inspired the vampire myths. So you see how they’re completely and radically different.

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