Friday, February 18, 2011
In The Lift, a Glendale club and disco, I am at the bar, an hour before closing time. I’ve just come over from Bogart’s two hundred to the good after an evening of backgammon with the regulars there. I’ve been keen with strategy and hot with luck against the gamesters and now I want to play to get lucky in love; at least, I’m hoping for the coincidence of my eye and that of a woman being caught curious together. A new friend is what I’d like, a woman with charms to discover. I don’t like these nights without love, and I rule out no one, for who knows where love hides? Except for these last nine months, I’ve had a steady girlfriend, lover, or wife ever since I was thirteen, half of my life. I miss the comforts of companionship and sex and long for someone with whom to conspire. I seek the inspiration a woman is.
Kiva-like geometries bubble together to shape the interior of this nightclub. A circular dance floor is somewhat elevated and circumscribed by a staircase that coils up and around it; this gives people on the steps the ability to watch others dancing from an assortment of perspectives. I like watching from my seat at the bar the whole scene of it: the details great and small, from the flirtations of the dancers in the come-on of their fingers to the ebb tide movement off stage of groups and soloists making the rounds of the various lounge levels. Most everyone is smoking and drinking and dressed for seduction. This is not backgammon, I remind myself.
I scan the club for signs of a woman alone and spy an unattended blonde at a table just off the dance floor. She’s watching the dancing and subtly rocking her upper torso to the bass tones, unaware
I study her from behind. She’s wearing embroidered blue denim, a short-sleeved shirt, a full-length skirt, and cowgirl boots; she demonstrates a quirky sense of rhythm and motion as she grooves.
Because I cannot see her face from my seat at the bar, I move across the club floor to the stairs where I can watch her watching the dancers. I pull out my Ben Franklins to get a focused look, and I like what I see when I get a good look at her face. My heart flurries as I summon the nerve to approach her.
A minute later and for the next half hour we’re on the dance floor, two strangers, doing the monkey and the slop and the fish as if we’d grown up teenagers together. She’s an inch or so taller than me and, if her bare arms are any indication, on the thin side. I see now that the blonde is not real for close to her scalp her hair is chestnut brown. Outside of lipstick, she wears little, if any, make-up. A spattering of freckles laces the swan of her neck and blesses the bridge of her nose. Her eyes are hazel. All this I note while trying to impress her with my dancing, the footstep language of which spells out a growing interest in this woman.
After three extended cuts, I lead her, her hand in mine, away from the dance floor back towards the bar where I’d been sitting; closer to the exit and further from the dancers, I think, as I’m fearful some other guy might ask her to dance. On the way I ask her the question I ask any woman with whom I hope to get involved, “Would you like to get high?” and when she whispers “I’d love to,” I can’t help but think that luck might carry the night and lead me to love.
Next thing you know, we’re out in the parking lot in the front seat of my van, her face close to mine with each spark of my lighter. Her name is Betty and it rhymes nicely with my own. When a seed pops onto her skirt, I casually brush it off her thigh, an act that alerts us both to the bottom line of the evening; she smiles, as if to indicate, enough said, and offers up a plan of sorts.
“Let’s dance a little more. I love dancing when I’m stoned, and then maybe you can make sure I get home safely. I don’t know Denver all that well. I just moved here from Laramie.
Back inside we dance some more - she even leads me through some kind of western swing jitterbug - but mostly, it’s small talk and the pleasure of anticipation. We also drink a carafe of Margarita made with mescal, a specialty of the house.
Since we both have vehicles, Betty suggests that I follow her to her apartment, which is just down the street from The House of Pies on Colorado Boulevard. We’ll park there and then walk to the bakery to satisfy our munchies.
What can I say, but “Lead me to the eatery.”
Outside I climb in my van and wait for Betty to reach her car at the other end of the parking lot. I’m excited and intoxicated with the thought of peach pie and or breakfast with Betty and get a rumbling in my crotch, imagining her long thighs contiguous with mine. I put on my glasses, Afro my curls with my fingers, and key the ignition. With the start of the engine, late night Boulder radio comes on and Dylan is crooning his love for Ramona. As I watch a slightly tipsy Betty sashay her way to her car and get in, I light the roach from earlier and await the flash of her headlights, the signal for me to follow. I know where the restaurant is, but I intend to park near her apartment. The reefer is good and reminds me just how much of an effect this long night of gambling, beer, mescal, marijuana, and dancing with Betty has had on me. My foggy is thinking and my peripheral vision likewise; still I do catch the flash of her high beams, and I put the transmission in reverse, intending to back out and follow, but instead, I meet the unexpected.
I back smack into the side of a vehicle that has parked directly behind me. I can’t believe it! My side view mirror reflects the white ass end of a mid-size sedan. What a stupid turn of events. One moment I’m in heaven anticipating the upcoming hours with Betty and now I’m going to have to get my uninsured ass out of the van and into a late night entanglement that will probably include the police. With chagrin, I become acutely aware that I reek of both marijuana and tequila, and when I step out of my van and walk back to assess the damage, I’m shocked further to discover that my bumper has thoroughly creased the side of a rather new 1975 City of Glendale police cruiser. It is so new, I can still see vestiges of glue that recently affixed an invoice sticker to the driver’s window.
I’m trying to remember the name of the lawyer I used to obtain my Colorado divorce and hoping he’s familiar with the nuances of DUI, when I come to the dangerous realization that there’s no one around. No policeman and no witness to the accident. Furthermore, I realize the cruiser’s engine is running. I consider my options: I can, one: leave with Betty in her car and deal with the consequences in the morning; two: wait around, and odds are, be arrested; or three: move the cruiser, free my van and beat it before the policeman returns. Just then Betty pulls up behind the cruiser and I join her. We both shake our heads, appreciative of the serious complications of my fender bender. I suggest she head for The House of Pies and that I’ll join her shortly at the restaurant, as I’ve decided on my third option.
Betty gives me some Wriggles, wishes me luck, and backs up her Pinto to head west on Virginia. I walk around the squad car, all the while wondering how long the officer might be inside. A minute more is all I need. I calculate that I need to move the cruiser forward about two car lengths in order to be able to back the Tradesman out successfully and skedaddle. I’m just about to do it, that is, climb in and drive it forward, my hand is actually on the door handle, when I see the side door of the club open and give egress to a young policeman. I step back from the car and await my fate. All this has happened so unexpectedly and so quickly, this reversal of fortune, that I’ve not even had the opportunity to deal with my stash that lies on the floor of the van. I pump up the flavor of the gum with some vigorous chewing and smile at the young officer approaching. It’s just as he’s rounding the back of the car and becoming aware of what has happened when I see the sign directly above the cruiser on the club’s wall: FIRE LANE/NO PARKING ANY TIME. I’d wager that a rule such as this applies to the police.
“License and registration, please,” is what he says, in a half growl, half groan.
I extract my wallet, dig out my license and hand it to him. “My registration’s in the glove box,” I tell him. “I’ll get it.” I don’t mention the sign, but somehow lead him with the language of my eyes an body to notice it. That the complicating impact of the sign is not lost on him is what the gambler in me detects, given the alarm and hesitancy of his voice when he tells me, “Mr. Forrest, I’m gonna call my sergeant while you get your registration.”
He’s unable to open the door of the patrol car as the impact of my van’s high bumper has dented the power lock shut. He has to cross around to the passenger side to gain access to his radio.
I move to the side door of the van, open it and climb in. Again I am awash in the odor of herb. I grab my silver stash case and slip it under the threadbare oriental rug remnant that covers the floor of the van - not the best of hiding places, but better there than on my person - and retrieve my owner’s card from the glove compartment. I slip another stick of gum into my mouth and return to the scene at the back of the van.
Officer Dutton is finishing his radio call and steps out and around the car to confront me.
I begin apologetic and end with an ace: “Officer, I’m sorry, I just didn’t see that you’d parked your car behind me. I didn’t see you in my rearview. All I saw when I checked was that sign.”
“Mr. Forrest, my sergeant will be here in a few minutes. I’d like to wait for him to get here before I start any paperwork on this. You can wait here or in your van.”
So back into the van I go. I take the opportunity to open both the passenger and driver’s window in the hope that cross ventilation might clear the air. I open the side door of my van as well and sit in the opening awaiting the arrival of Dutton’s superior. The wait is not too long, and soon there are three policemen pow-wowing in the parking lot between my van and the damaged goods that is the cruiser. I stand, close the van’s side door, and walk to the far side of the cruiser to lean against the wall under the well-lit sign, looking sorry and smart. At this point I figure the best I can hope for is seven or eight hundred to repair the damage, if I’m not arrested for driving under the influence. If my stash is thrown into the equation, I could be looking at additional fines and charges. I search my memory again, and I do come up with the name of the only lawyer I know, Tommy Larkin.
The conference of gendarmes ends and the heftiest of the three approaches me.
“Mr. Forrest, I’m Sergeant Leftco. The officer whose car you hit, Officer Dutton, is a rookie; this is literally his first shift. Ed,” he says with all the man-to-man intimacy that he can muster, “I have a question for you. Is there any damage to your vehicle?”
The gambler in me gets his drift and I assure him, “No, none at all.”
“Well, if there’s no damage to your vehicle, why don’t you just get on with your evening. I see no reason to report this unfortunate incident and thereby ruin a young man’s career. We’ll take care of this. Thank you, Ed. I’m sorry if we’ve inconvenienced you in any way.”
Needless to say, as soon as they move that cruiser, I’m out of there in a heartbeat, and off to The House of Pies in search of Betty. Unfortunately, I wind up eating peach pie alone as Betty’s a no-show. Maybe she got here earlier and got cold feet waiting, as I guess a good half-hour has passed since Betty split the scene at The Lift. The Margarita may have taken a toll on her as well. I leave the restaurant and drive around the neighborhood looking for her Pinto but don’t find it. Perhaps she lives in one of the nearby apartments that offers underground parking. No matter, I do the final drive to Pearl Street with the knowledge affirmed that luck is luck, no matter if it’s in love, with dice, or in the face of the law. Luck lives and I’ll take it anyway, anywhere, any time I can get it.