No. of Recommendations: 3

Afternoon light on the sidewalk, the humid, Santa Monica kind that feels sticky but resort-like, palm fronds dropping from every tree (one almost hit me in the head), locating the bar by braille, and then? What? Cheeze and Ina in the darkest corner of the darkest bar in LA? O Lord. That is no good news for Cheeze. Ina, accomplished toper, is having a mere practice round, and is the type of woman who slips mickeys into fizzing drinks--I've fished a few suspicious capsules out of my own drinks with her in the past couple of weeks. Cheeze, still on C-H-O compound training wheels, I recognized to be in grave danger of being drunk under the table, perhaps even going catatonic, in the mere opening minutes of the opening round. I situated Irisand next to Ina and thought it prudent if we both watched both of them like hawks. We checked Cheeze's diet Coke to be sure there was nothing in it but carbonated syrup. (I am not good at watching, however, and I of course had hit both 28 and Atlas even before entering the car with my designated driver, thereupon becoming one of the first Fools ever to require a DD before drinks with autre Fools, and making my vigilance more difficult).

Venus of Woodstock arrived (by cab of course: Brooklyn and upper west side roots), sans Adonis, cum upstate suntan and deliciously-framing eggshell white summer dress. I distributed some cocktail napkins--I can't say why, I just had them on me, and noone else did, not even the waitress--and the establishment brought us chillingly effective vodka concoctions, weapons-grade varietals with quixotic and existential additives. Apple, or, say, chocolate. We drank. Progressively expensive rounds arrived like progressively expensive relatives. I sat directly opposite Venus but only got one chance to look up her dress, and fumbled. Venus and I go back, it turns out, to Mama Joys, Ta-Kome, V&T's, the Hungarian Pastry Shop...the goofy schools of Manhattan. I think I remember her on the 116th Street platform with a bagel a copy of Rolling Stone, heading downtown every morning, circa 1975. I was headed to the Port Authority Terminal myself most mornings, but never had enough cash to get beyond Totowa.

Suddenly a man popped into the booth claiming to be Bob4Midi. Actually I recognized him from old downbeat mags I had from the 70's--it was in truth Robert Moog. Subsequent conversation about the direction of his composing and electronic music in general all but confirmed this. His familiar path--violin, rebellion, synthesizer, rebellion, songwriting, rebellion, rebellion, rebellion--I knew all too well. By my account, he was the fourth person seated at the table to start off life in music and con arco. As per my policy, I disclosed nothing about myself, only that I lacked the personality to be an accountant. As I was making my usual shy non-disclosure, dawnc from OC arrived, then Selim, Irisand's sysop. Selim is tall, dark, handsome, and for all that I asked him to join another party at another table. Dawnc is--

Well, judge for yourself. Ina spotted Oliver Stone in the bar, a somewhat well-known self-aggrandizing Hollywood pamphleteer in these parts. Oliver in turn spotted dawnc. Oliver, noting some heads turn, sent a playful little note over to dawnc asking if she would stand in for Uma Thurman in parts of his next movie, now only a concept. I've heard this type of talk in Hollywood bars before. It was a good thing the note came to me; I found it insulting to dawnc, much sexier then Uma, though there is resemblance. I turned it over and wrote a little piece in response--"How can we believe anything you say since you gave us that idiot screenplay to Scarface?" and signed it, Uma In Your Dreams, Buddy. It was our Hollywood moment for the evening, and this time, I was glad to be done with it. . There's a reason I don't go to the west side too much. I like it much better when we chat up bad actor/bartenders at 28.

I let Cheeze out of my scope for a few minutes, and what does he do? He goes to the waitress, points to my drink, and says, "I'll have what he's having." Irisand leaps in, but too late. Soon he is swigging a double stoli cristal martine of his own. The jump from diet Coke to this drink is about the same jump as from oolong tea to mescaline. Next thing any of us knew, Cheeze was telling the waitress that all that was fair in dark and light met in the aspect of her eyes. I borrowed Venus's cellular to call Aruba to post to LurkerMom on FiWI to ask someone of authority how to cope with a drunken Cheeze. Venus looked a little loopy herself, however. At the mention of Aruba she flashed her best thanks-for-the-tennis-trophy smile. I can't remember if she beamed, "You're calling Tony? Tony looks so much like Omar Sharif," or "In that French maid outfit, Tony looks so much like Syd Charisse." So I also took advantage and while I had her cellular phoned Lynn in Korea. By then Cheeze was hitting on Oliver's date. One of them may never eat lunch in this town again.

Isaidthat similarly alternately attracted and deflected unwanted attention. Perhaps the most well-named Fool at the table, or even in Fooldom, brassy, sassy Isaidthat took yours truly to task on many items I do not recall but instantly needed to disclaim. We were well into the sixth round at this, the third bar by then. I ended up saying, "Ididn'tsaythat," a lot, and I learned how she might have came by her screen name through my denials of everything. Isaidthat: accusor...makes sense. She and dawnc just shrugged off all my protests, dismissing them as symptoms of a predisposition they think they have identified in me towards exaggeration. I missed JJ, ordinarily a much more than an adequate Angeleno defense attorney, by now probably into his third sapphire martine while cleaning his Glock in the comfort of his own home.

Oh, yes, and we spoke investment too, boy did we: upstarts called MSFT, CSCO were touted as good buys, but noone had too much data on them. And then KAW and I took our little private moment away from everyone, a walk on the palisades, made festively furtive by the heavy sea air of a light summer night. FinanceRob never set foot in the bar, but he was tailing us as we held hands in the moonlight and exchanged St. Cristopher medals.

When we came back, there was a large pile of unmarked bills at my place-setting, fives and tens largely, but coupled with ATM twenties. As the bill was well into three crooked figures, I went to the bar to have someone count it out. I felt like I was at a blackjack table I couldn't afford, as the manager would say, "ninety, ninety-five, THREE-hundred, five, ten, fifteen…"

On the street, on the sidewalk, people were bidding Venus (and her husband, a nefarious and infraloquatious type) farewell. The night was now magnificent and crystalline, the way it gets after you clean your windshield. I heard a street chorus singing:

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song
And a Celebration

By now Cheeze was on air guitar. I gave the chorus a buck apiece, which was all I had left. Irisand whisked me to Jones, bar four, and bought me a nitecap. We laughed and patted ourselves on the back, the young gal and I, both native to this state, to have left one TMF named Cheeze dancing in the street near the Santa Monica palisades and another TMF named Venus strongly feeling and tasting and inhaling and breathing and drinking California.

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