The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


riposte2.jpg (10253 bytes)

(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 itself lawsuits.
          LTSEWH # 1: SPACE RACE
          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 said.
          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 space.”
          No response. He began walking away.
          “Hey! Hold it! The guard directed me to park in this space, but you raced over here and cut in front of me."
          “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. . .Scott Paul.
          “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.
          Axiom proven!
          LTSEWH # 2: Lout Conversation
          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 chat.
          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 phone---now!”
          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.
          Fingers crossed.
          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 Button.
          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. . .Buzzzz!
          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 Knock It
          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 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 knock.
          I persuaded my body to move again from the couch. Rather like prying Joe Biden away from a camera.
          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 again.
          I sought sanctuary again in what I had mistakenly thought was the privacy of my living room. Eyelids drooping. . .
          Knock 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 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 Distraction
          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.
          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 increasing?
          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.
          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 pit-bulls are.
          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 apart.
          “Have you been in L.A. long?” ventured the doctor.
           Oh my God, don’t encourage him!
          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 L.A..
          Getting my body stuck full of needles was quite a wonderful relief.
          LTSEWH # 6: Painful Utterance
          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. . .

                                             BACK TO PAGE ONE

© 2007 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.