On Wednesday night I went to see the Australian synthpop band Cut Copy with Nick, who is fast becoming my go-to concert buddy. Nick is a screenwriter who had two films in this year’s Sundance (The Informers, which he collaborated on with Bret Easton Ellis, and Tyson). He has a blunt, animated New York energy and penchant for dark cloth coats. “I look like a serial killer,” he observed, studying himself in a photo I took, his wide grin and floppy hair. I had not thought to compare him to a serial killer. Something about his expressive, flexible features reminds me a bit, now and then, of a Muppet. So if you took a half-Irish, half-Scottish screenwriter from New York, turned him into a Muppet, and cast him as a charismatic anti-hero in some stylish little film noir, you might have an approximation of Nick.
Of the people I consider my friends, Nick is the one who has ventured beyond the hallowed land of the Westside to set up camp in Hollywood or, as I like to call it, way the hell out there. Since I’ve known Nick, he’s moved twice, and each time I’ve had to wind my way up through the haphazard maze known as bird’s eye streets because of their high-pitched views of the city. Inevitably I get lost, backing the car out of some tightly curved cul-de-sac or doing a twenty-point-turn in a narrow stretch of road lined with parked cars and (sometimes) trash bins, hoping I don’t back into a brick wall or ram a gate or trample somebody’s cacti or birds-of-paradise. These are the times I find myself cursing Nick, as if his choice of residence was made just to vex me.
Nick remains oblivious. “Oh, it takes twenty minutes to get here,” he’ll say airily, reminding me of that scene in Clueless where the father tells Alicia Silverstone, “Everywhere in LA takes twenty minutes!”
This is not true.
“This is not true,” I will inform Nick. For we have had this conversation more than once. “It took me almost an hour. First you have to get way the hell out here, and then you have to get up these hills.”
“Yes, but isn’t it an adventure?”
The house is worth the trip: a family-sized Spanish style from the 1940s with wood beam rafters, working fireplaces, a multi-leveled terrace with a sweeping view — bird’s eye view — past the palm trees and tropical plants (“I like the foilage,” I told Nick) to the densely knit lights of the city. You forget that it’s a bachelor pad until you open the fridge and find goat cheese, a half-empty container of macaroni salad, packets of proscuitto, and lots of bare shelf. He offered me a baguette so stale I whacked it against the counter to enjoy the sound it made.
We grabbed a quick but charming dinner at Magnolia and headed to the concert. But nothing was happening at the Henry Fonda Theatre, where Cut Copy was supposed to be playing; a sign on the marquee instructed us to head to Club Nokia instead, a ten minute drive into downtown. Turned out that at the previous night’s Cut Copy show, the Fonda couldn’t handle the crowd. The fire marshal had had his way.
At the stadium-style Nokia — which, as the lead singer dryly pointed out, was in no danger of getting shut down because of Cut Copy — we couldn’t help but note the youth of those around us. It took forever to get a drink because the bartenders were so busy checking IDs. “Is there a rule,” I said to Nick, “that once you hit your thirties you have to stop doing this kind of stuff? Are we just supposed to go to Sting and U2 concerts now?”
“No,” he said in that same, airy, it-only-takes-twenty-minutes tone, “because we’re cool.”
We separated ourselves from the kids, hung out in the balcony, and watched a great show.
Later, driving down through the shadowy hillside, I saw a coyote. He sashayed into somebody’s yard, and I slowed the car to get a better look. He crossed the street, aware of my presence but not caring overmuch, lingering in the middle of the road. His eyes were gleams in the dark. Then he was gone.