by RIP RENSE
(Feb. 1. 2007)
Call them Less Than
Satisfying Encounters With Humanity, or LTSEWH, just to create a
particularly unpronouncable acronym. All names have been included whenever
possible in order to ensure fullest humiliation, though in some cases the
more hapless have been spared out of compassion, and The Rip Post has spared
LTSEWH # 1: SPACE
My old pal, Scott Paul,
The Man With Two First Names, has a number of axioms. One of them is, “Call
an a----e on his bluff, and he’ll usually back down.” I’ve had many
occasions in which I have put Scott’s notion to the test. Too many.
There I was. . .
Politely checking in with
the guard at the kiosk of Marina City, a lavish, towering bayside complex
for old folks with enough gold to enjoy their “golden years.”
“There is one guest space
right over there,” the guard said in some Bantu accent, pointing to a small
designated parking area. Although it was night, I could see the empty space,
sticking out like a missing tooth. There was no other traffic. Not a
creature was stirring, not even a louse. I cruised the 50 yards or so to the
spot, and was just turning into it when. . .
One of those
neither-car-nor-truck BMW SUV-like-atrocities was excreted from another
dimension, right before my eyes---Pfft-boom!---and zoom-zoomed in
ahead of me. I take back that statement about the louse.
“Where the hell did that
guy come from?” I asked my redoubtable female advisor, Annie.
“I have no idea,” she
I mean, look, you expect
such behavior in brutish places like New York and oh, Santa Monica, but
this was essentially a home for wealthy retirees.
Well, slap me silly
for making assumptions about senior citizens. They are every bit as
vital and nasty as any self-respecting young entertainment lawyer. The 60’s,
after all, are the new 50’s! And the new 50’s, judging by the guy getting
out of the SUV, are the new "tweens."
He was bulky, with
a dye-job---Just for Men, medium ash brown, I would say---dressed
expensive/casual. Open patterned shirt, jacket that he could have bought at
Costco for thirty bucks, but probably paid $250 at Nordstrom. Khakis. I
pulled right behind his car at about a 30-degree angle. He glanced at me
with as much interest as Dick Cheney displays in the New York Times.
“Excuse me,” I said,
rolling down the window. “I was directed by the guard to park in this
No response. He began
“Hey! Hold it! The guard
directed me to park in this space, but you raced over here and cut in front
“It’s guest parking,”
said Dye Job.
Whoah! Knock me
down with a jar of prunes! He had deigned to speak to me. I should have
simply thanked him for acknowledging my existence, and cut my losses. But. .
“Yes, and I’m the guest
who was sent by the guard to park in this spot before you pulled in front of
me like the (very, very vile slang terms suggesting reproductive activity
with male sex organ involved) that you obviously are.”
This caught his
attention. He stopped, faced me, and took a couple of steps in my
direction. I guess this was supposed to be menacing.
“But you’re just going to
ignore the whole thing and walk away like a (slang imagery involving
reproductive and excretory functions) aren't you?”
Dye Job’s eyes narrowed.
I saw his brain working, flipping through the lexicon of macho movie
clichés. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what he came up with:
“Believe me, you don’t
even want to think of starting anything with me.”
Now, some people might
have backed off, wondering if he was a hit-man, Mafioso, or even worse, a
sitcom writer. But again. . .Scott Paul. My eyes narrowed, and my voice
dropped an octave, draining what testosterone reserves I still have. The
difference between me and Dye Job, though, is that I wasn’t acting.
“No,” I said. “you don’t
want to think of starting anything with me, old man.”
(Hell, he had a good ten
years on me, at least!)
Dye Job backed off and
went on his Nordstrom way.
The nice guard appeared
and promptly found us another space. When I walked into Marina City about
three minutes later, I noticed that D.J. had moved his car. He hadn’t left
the premises, either, as I caught a glimpse of him prowling around, apparently
looking for an apartment.
LTSEWH # 2:
You expect cell phones to
ring. You expect them to ring the way you expect Bush to talk about “freedom
and democracy” in Iraq, the way you expect Rosie O’Donnell to snack, the way
you expect Hillary Clinton to never take a hard position (unlike Bill.)
And you expect them to
ring during concerts and movies and generally every place that you might
wish to focus uninterrupted attention on something.
But you also expect
people to promptly turn them off and/or take their conversations outside.
“Hi! Yeah! Yeah, I’m in
the theater, watching ‘Children of God.’ Well, I don’t know, maybe next
Tuesday. . .”
Now, I don’t recall
exactly what this slovenly lout with his feet up on the back of the empty
chair in front of him shouted, but this is close enough. In the middle of a
movie, he spoke as if he was in his living room, or a desert island with
crappy phone reception. And he gave every indication of planning an extended
Who are these
people? I mean, really. Who are they? Where were they reared, and by
what manner of creature? Did they not have parents? Are they feral? I once knew an adult who was so badly educated that he thought Hawaii was in
Mexico, but was this guy unaware that there are three or four billion other
humans sharing the habitat?
I have long since
concluded that the only way to effectively deal with beasts is with
beastliness. I turned around.
“Bad dog!” I said.
Well, not really.
Although that would have been a great idea. What I came up
with was far less imaginative:
“Get off the goddamn
If you think he smiled,
apologized, hung up, and turned the ringer off, dear reader, then you also
think that the Florida election was won fair-and-square and that Donald
Trump has hair.
Just long enough to
finish his business, and not quite long enough for me to find a half-eaten
feedbag of exploded corn kernels on the floor and fling it at him.
I read a story recently
that new data suggests cell phones do indeed produce tumors in the vicinity
of their contact with the skull.
LTSEWH # 3:
Audience with the Queen
I was in that
circumstance that I find just this side of a colonoscopy, in terms of sheer
joy. The computer had crashed, and I was on the phone trying to get some
help from “Robert” in India or Pago Pago. Or something like that.
It was morning. The cats
had awakened me with olfactory and visual evidence of emissions from both
northerly and southerly orifices. My hangnails hurt. I was trying to publish
the daily newslinks on this site sometime before the next day arrived.
Well, our “doorbell”
isn’t exactly a buzz, or a bell. It’s more of a submarine “dive” alarm. It
shrieks, “Retract your testicles!" It belongs in a Three Stooges movie.
Think: several cats having tails pulled, with fuzz distortion. It sends our
resident felines into closets and under beds, certain that Dick Cheney has
pushed The Button. Or rather, that he has pushed Bush’s finger into The
I stepped out on the
balcony to see which fine local high school scholars had buzzed, and
then walked blithely on. Instead I saw a woman, the absentee owner of a unit
downstairs. She yelled something about how I had a key to her unit. I
explained that I did not, and was on the phone, and went back inside. The
knock on the door came moments later.
It was the woman
again. Youngish, glammed up, dressed for Rodeo Drive. Me, I was dressed
for a rodeo. In which I was the clown.
“You are supposed to have
a key for my unit!" she said again, adding that her former tenant had
informed her of this. I protested that such was not the case, that I was not
a manager, and that I was on the phone, which, seeing as it was stuck to my
ear, should have been evident. Get this:
Rodeo Drive screwed up
her face, much as one might do during a prostate exam, and she. . .waved
me away. I mean it. Waved me away, queen-like. I am finished with
you, uncooperative wretch. Begone, filth! Shrivel up and wither away, thou
excrement of rodent!
I closed the door. Well,
given my pajama bottoms, “Ringo” T-shirt, slippers, and rasta beret, I
couldn’t blame her for her imperious disdain. Back to the computer. . .
Buzzzz! And then.
I often think I live in a
W.C. Fields movie. The poor cats ran for their lives again, and I went back
out to the balcony, phone still on ear.
Yes, it was Rodeo.
The Queen. Shouting. Informing me that she “had” to get inside her
unit, and something about turning in a check for her homeowner’s dues. Sigh.
It seemed that the Creator of the Universe had special plans for me that
day, and they did not have anything to do with work. I informed Queenie that
I did not have any means, magic or otherwise, to get her inside her unit,
and that I knew nothing about a check.
Then I had a realization.
I was there to serve her. She certainly thought so, and who was I to
argue? So I phoned my personal manager, Annie, and invited Queenie upstairs to speak to her on the phone regarding the check.
And Her Majesty thanked
me. She could not have been nicer.
A queen appreciates
humility and service from her subjects.
LTSEWH # 4: Don't
I felt like my body had
been packed tightly inside of pig intestine, tied off at the ends, and was
just starting to sizzle in the skillet. My stomach was a percussion section.
Really. Hold a mike up to my gut, and no beatbox necessary. I was on the
couch, trying desperately to distract myself with the remains of Regis Philbin, and a Mexican western.
Knock knock knock
What? No Buzzz?
Gate must have been left open again, allowing someone to come to the door
and ask if I wanted to buy cable, or buy candy to help mythical children. I
opened it, and there stood a little bearded fellow in a yarmulke. Soliciting
for Chabad House?
“Sir, I’m sorry to
disturb you,” he said in heavily accented English, “but do you know how we
turn water off in building?”
My cloudy brain managed
to separate him from the Mexican western, and connect him with work being
done on Queenie’s unit downstairs. I explained that the shutoff valve could
be in the vicinity of the water heater in the garage, and I gave him the key
to get in. I explained that I would have helped him out, but I was ill. He
thanked me profusely.
Back to the Mexican
western. Eyelids drooping. . .
Knock knock knock
I persuaded my body to
move again from the couch. Rather like prying Joe Biden away from a
It was Yarmulke Man
once more, returning the key and asking if it was okay to turn the water off. I
said that normally the residents like a little notice before a shutoff, but
that there were probably just a couple home, and perhaps he could knock on
their doors. “It’s okay with me if you turn it off,” I added.
He thanked me profusely
I sought sanctuary again
in what I had mistakenly thought was the privacy of my living room. Eyelids
drooping. . .
Knock knock knock
I considered just leaving
the door open for him and anyone else in the neighborhood who might want
information or a favor. Who was I to expect sympathy for a sick man?
The guy had a cell
phone. All the best people do! He held it out to me, and asked me to speak
to his supervisor. Really. He did! I considered taking the phone and
inviting him to play “fetch,” but he was a pleasant, smiley chap and I was
in no physical, spiritual, or metaphysical shape for conflict. So I spoke to
his supervisor, and explained exactly what I had already explained about the
water shutoff. I didn’t throw up on the phone, although it was close.
Yarmulke thanked me
profusely, of course, then went away, presumably, to pursue his
door-knocking hobby elsewhere.
Eyelids drooping. . .
Knock knock knock
Oh, can you imagine the
joy of it all? Can you imagine my racing heart as I yet again rose from
Regis/caballero/couch limbo to greet the little fellow once more? Cue
Tchaikovsky. Or perhaps Carl Stalling.
This time, he informed me
that while he had received permission from the only other resident home at
the moment for a water shutoff, he was not going to do it because, “We want
to do this the right way!”
Gee, I don’t know,
perhaps he wanted a citation, a plaque, a hearty handclasp. I stood there,
waiting for the punch line. Nothing. So I told him again that maybe he
should just go ahead and shut it off and do whatever work he needed to do.
But no, he repeated, they were going to do things “the right way.”
Good to meet people who
don’t like to inconvenience others.
LTSEWH # 5: Perfect
I was sitting in a
doctor’s office, or rather, one of those “total mind/body health” places,
awaiting acupuncture. My total mind/body needed help. The waiting room was
quiet, empty, restful. Only the gentle burbling of a beautifully appointed
aquarium broke the silence. It was lulling. I closed my eyes. Thought I
might doze for the ten minutes before the needles.
“PERFECT! OH, GREAT.
What, I wonder, do people
think---that sound does not carry well on this planet? That everyone wants
to hear their pronouncements, revelations? Is the coxswain population
He was perhaps 35,
ectomorphic, with the close-shaved black hair. Skull Boy. He wore those
strange plastic clogs that are popular now, new Levis that were deliberately
two sizes large, black T-shirt. He was emerging from having some sort of
“total mind/body” help, and he was totally happy about it.
“YEAH. I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE
HERE. PERFECT, PERFECT.”
What I actually think is
happening is that this city is overrun with out-of-work actors who have
spent years learning to “project,” and either can't break the habit, or have
come to confuse this ability with self-confidence, élan. And if you grimace
or show any sort of disapproval, I’ve noticed, they just get louder.
So the doctor wrote up
Skull Boy's bill while he PERFECTLY carried on. About some book he’d
written, about his website that
allegedly would clear multitudinous psychological cobwebs, about whatever
came into his head. The doctor “mm-hmm’d” politely, in what I decided was a
deliberately quiet voice (hint, hint), and Skull Boy continued exclaiming
how overjoyed he was to have discovered this clinic.
Then he did much to
improve my health, at least temporarily, by leaving.
I was working hard on
purging his PERFECT echo from my nervous system, concentrating on the delicate
glub-glub of the aquarium, when he came back.
With his dog. Well, it
wasn’t really so much a dog as a mobile set of jaws with muscle, as most
“HERE’S A COPY OF MY
BOOK, AND YOU CAN GET MY WEBSITE AT (ADDRESS.) TAKE THE TEST---IT’LL CURE
YOU. OH! THIS IS PERFECT! PERFECT! I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE.”
At this point, I figured
that my mind/body would finish ahead of the game if I left the office with
all my limbs. I closed my eyes and psychically conveyed to doggie that I was
just a piece of furniture, preferably a type that he would not like to tear
“Have you been in L.A.
long?” ventured the doctor.
Oh my God, don’t
“TEN YEARS! BORN IN
FLORIDA, PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE IN NEW YORK, AND NOW CHILDHOOD IN L.A.!”
Look, I don’t want to
make too much out of this, but this guy was really emblematic of so much in
today’s world that is just NOT PERFECT. These people have health and wealth
unimagined by most humans who have ever lived, and what do they do with it?
Cultivate narcissism, boorishness, greed, chicanery, puerile psychology, and
reject all prior hallmarks of civilized tradition---deference, courtesy,
empathy, restraint, edification, etc.
And most of them come to
Getting my body stuck
full of needles was quite a wonderful relief.
LTSEWH # 6: Painful
I was walking. Lustily
inhaling the fresh West Los Angeles bus exhaust, relishing the solitude
unique to pedestrians here. No chance of being elbowed, having my pocket
picked, being disturbed by anything except the periodic carload of fine
young people who enjoy shrieking obscenities at “losers” on the sidewalks.
I crossed the street and
headed up a narrow walkway into a parking lot shortcut. Three well dressed
lunch-hour escapees from local cubicles approached. I courteously shifted
body and bulky canvas bag to one side in order that all could pass
comfortably. I noticed they were having a conversation, these two young
ambitious suits and their female companion.
How nice, I
thought---fraternal colleagues on a richly deserved break, lustily
inhaling the same bus exhaust as me. The woman companion said something, and one
of the suits ahead of her turned around and responded.
At the volume of an
air-raid siren. Directly---and I mean directly---into my left ear. I no
longer remember the words, because my ear only registered pain. I mean
it---physical pain. It actually hurt.
It was as if I was not even there. And of course, to young corporate
slaves in safe ties, pleated slacks, and cookie-cutter Macy’s dresses, an
older guy in cargo pants, white running shoes, and oversized flannel shirt
really shouldn’t register, should he? Especially one who had (gasp)
moved aside for them, thus demonstrating his lesser worth, stature.
Mr. Cheney, go ahead and
push the button.
For more LTSEWH's,
watch this space.
AND. . .COMING SOON, VERY
SOON. . .
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