Letters to Jake

Reference

Dear Jake, my upright friend, my friend with endless ideas for social entrepreneurship, my friend with a wife and therefore a reasonable chance to procreate at the socially expected time, my friend all around, my friend from when we were teenagers and ignorant to everything we know now, like, the depths of our flaws, meaning, the depths of our wisdom, my friend of youth, my friend of now, my friend down the street from me in LA, my friend who embodies every social ideal I’ve ever heard of but can’t quite make my own, my friend forever, my friend, Jake,

Thanks for inviting me over for dinner tomorrow. Especially because you told me a woman might be there. I’m glad that JR’s going to be there, and I’m glad that the two of you are going to be playing music, but I would like it even more if a woman were there. Especially that friend of yours Sarah who you’ve told me about. I saw on Twitter that her album came out. I listened to some of the songs on her website. They’re definitely indie-folk, in case she wants to know what genre I think she fits in.

In case she’s asking what kind of man might be there, aside of course from you and JR, you can tell her that I’m doing fairly well. Like the other night I went out to La Poubelle. Sometimes I get home so late from work that I have to force myself to go out for a drink. Like, I’d rather just sit at home and stare at my computer, but I know that if I do that, I’ll go to bed feeling uneasy. So I have to force myself to put on a shirt and go to Franklin Village.

Usually I like to go to Birds, because there, the manager has grilled it into the bartenders that, when you give them your credit card, you give them permission to use your first name. Hence all the bartenders there calling me “Thomas,” and I’ll tell you, their strategy’s working. Not only do I like feeling known, but I also like the full sound of my name. Thomas. It’s just a lot more regal and fitting than Tom.

In any case, I forced myself to go out to Birds, but there weren’t any seats there. I saw this guy that La Lucy knows (remember her from my old blog, Life Advice?). I nodded at him but we didn’t approach one another. He was an artistic photographer down in Mexico City but now he’s a paparazzo up here. He always tries to get La Lucy to make a reality show about him, but Lucy says he isn’t compelling. I tried to tell her I thought he was pretty compelling, but I guess my “ass isn’t on the line,” so I’m more free to discern.

Anyway there weren’t any seats and I don’t like to be standing when I drink alone. It’s too much exposure. So I circled around and looked to see if I’d find the one girl I know who hangs out there. This one girl Cissy. But I didn’t see her so I went to La Poubelle.

And I’m not sure if you know the difference between Birds and La Poubelle. I know you drove all the way over there one time over the summer when I’d locked myself out and you brought me my spare set of keys. That was La Poubelle. But I met you on the sidewalk and you didn’t come in. So let me tell you the difference. I think you’d benefit from this. Also, this one guy John Teschner’s going to read this too, and he’s never been to LA, let alone East Hollywood, and let alone Franklin Village, so I better fill him in too.

(John—That LA to East Hollywood to Franklin Village thing was a play on how boundaries work here, because they’re vague. Nobody ever knows where they are, even though there are signs everywhere. Within five hundred yards of my apartment, for example, are four different signs for four different neighborhoods —Los Feliz, Franklin Village, Little Armenia, and Thai Town. But all of it’s really East Hollywood. Maybe it’s not five hundred yards. Maybe half a mile. In any case.)

Anyway. At Birds they know my full name and they have Bud Light and you can get a half chicken with a couple of sides for not much money. Also, they have fried pickles which I think is some kind of homage to Milledgeville, which here I use as a stand-in for the entire American South, but more importantly, is the small town in rural Georgia where I, and many of my fellow Tropsters, ate fried pickles frequently, and also drank beer, and did other things too, some of which might someday become part of a novel.

But at La Poubelle you can get a burger or scallops for eighteen dollars, and they have Amstel Light. I had never eaten there before that night, but like I said, I’d forced myself to go out and drink beer so that I wouldn’t go to bed with that internet-borne sense of unease in my belly. So I sat down and got an Amstel Light and the burger, and I would’ve muttered condemnation at the exorbitant prices, except that a woman with mascara who didn’t take off her coat sat down beside me.

I thought it was a bit unfair that she didn’t take off her coat because she was so cloaked that I couldn’t really see what she looked like, especially given the darkness of her makeup. Anyway, when the waiter came he took both our orders at the same time. When we ordered our drinks, I thought this was mere convenience. But, when he came by and we both ordered food at the same time too, I took it as an invitation.

We began to talk and I said something about a book I was reading, something by Dennis Cooper, who’s from LA but whom I hadn’t heard of until recently, which is improbable, because as you know, I’ve heard of enough writers to intimidate your wife, who’s an actual journalist. Anyway I began to talk with the woman and she complained that she never read anymore. I prepared to indulge in a conversation in which I’d misrepresent myself, but then she reminisced about all the fairly thick books she’d read in the past. (I should note here that she was old.)

But on account of the false start of non-reading before the thick books comment, I was robbed of my normal balance for condescension, and in my uncertainty, I managed to stay mum and listen. Which I think was what in the end helped me out, because she was quite frank, at the end of things, when we were shaking hands on the sidewalk, outside the awning; she said that if I were to become interested in a woman my own age, she would gladly endorse me.

Which I suppose is fairly convenient, though I’m not sure how to make use of this. I guess if you could just somehow let Sarah know that I’m absolutely acceptable in the most basic ways, maybe that’d somehow set the table for me, so that I could just show up, and say hi, and not really worry about it. Sometimes it works that way. Like the person’s heard something, or has something on her mind, or has some idea that you have no power over, so all you have to do is take up space. In the long run I’m not all the way sure that’s what I’m after, but I suppose that for tomorrow’s party, such an arrangement might make things easier.

Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.