Over the course of four years, I worked at a joint in Los Angeles on The Sunset Strip. The joint was situated on the corner of a pretty high-profile area, with billboards of upcoming shows and the famous people in them plastered across. Alongside, one could see the lush greenery of Chateau Marmont going upwards, with it’s drive-way visible and it’s bar within walking distance.
The joint didn’t require a schedule, so I’d pop in every once in a while. I didn’t quite look like I belonged there, so I’d occasionally get stopped by security. When not stopped by security, I’d occasionally have staff stare at me with great intensity, as if I’d resembled someone they’d once seen but could not believe they were seeing again right before their very eyes. I don’t particularly like being treated like a freak show, so good times, good times, which these were. Anyhow…
One time, after a year-long break, with some extra age added to my face by time, drinking and the stress of life of being a not-rich-motherfucker, as well as some plastic surgery which either made me look better or worse (I still don’t know), I came back and wanted to work again but security escorted me into the management’s office, where my ID was checked all the while the security popped in and out in between my conversation with management to say the “Cops are downstairs. The man downstairs is a cop.” There was no one there. I looked around me. Where is the cop? Where is the cop? I looked at the cameras all over the office. There were but a few people sprinkled outside and in, all employees or ‘part of the family,’ the group of people who were friends with the owners or their family. The place was always desolate until midnight and filled up only after 2am after the bars let out, and the rich cheap motherfuckers would stumble in to keep the party that is their life going. One of the owners, an older man whose gentle, perceptive demeanor could easily be mistaken for senility, remembered me despite all the passing and going of the employees over the time of my sabbatical away from LA in SF. He ushered away the man in a panic blabbering nonsense about some police.
“Do you want some alcohol?” “How you’ve been?” “How’s the money you been making?” Everything good? And off I went, to work.
One needs to work with what one has. But when the situation is dire, there is not much one can do. If the customer base consists of entitled rich fucks with no acknowledgement, no respect for those serving them, what is there to do but acquiesce with indignant indifference? So was the period in my life where, like an anathema, I served as a walking charity to the rich. I did well enough, just not good enough, always wanting for more; hence, my move away from the city full of Henry Weinsteins that I found Los Angeles to be, onto New York, where everyone seemed have their hand out. I could join in the party, without looking like a weirdo. Or worse yet, a bitch.
“Do you know who I am? Do you know who I am?” some fool yelled at me, when I dismissed his pressing me to follow him to some event in Malibu as a free companion in hopes of some bread crumbs to peck at as reward. Is that what they call a ‘sugar baby’ nowadays?
The 91 year old role model for all the sugar daddies that ever were: I met his bff. I stopped by Rite Aid to pick up some lady supplies on the way to his multi-million dollar mansion in Holmby Hills because I didn’t want to bleed all over his fancy carpet and furniture. I’m just nice like that.
Check that field trip off my bucket list. I must say it made me guilty to be there-the imprint at the forefront of my mind of the row of homeless people in tents sleeping across my bedbug and roach-infested apartment complex, as I looked on, helpless at what I could do nothing about. I felt like every surface in his home would crumble underneath my touch. Was the poverty imprinted on my fingertips like a contagion?
Do you know who I am? Do you watch television? Do you have a car? Will you need a ride? He looks me up and down. Do you have…the proper attire? His words stung inside me like a razor burn. I never learned the name of that fool. He gave me a throw-away phone number I could not trace to an address or a name, and so he remained a nobody in my mind.
Months later, I’ve sold my car. I’ve shipped all my attire, proper and not. I’m working at another joint, late into the night, early into the morning, as my life passes by me without my hardly noticing. My new gig’s in a fancy part of town, in NY, this time. “Do you know who I am?” I’m stooping over some drunk rich idiot. I’m yelling, angry. “Why don’t you know who I am?” I’m wearing a short tight dress and some six inch platinum heels, fake eyelashes, hair extensions long enough to earn me a prized spot on some corner along A Blvd. (That’s the look my male bosses want; Bless their hearts). I’m yelling. I’m angry. I wake up. I’m laughing at myself. How ridiculous is the question. Who the fuck cares? Oh, the reverence and the joy of anonymity. There is really no difference between the rich and the poor, see. We are both equally capable of insulting each other.
When I’d lived in yet another city (not NYC, SF) full of money and trickle down economics in full effect, I’d come home late at night/early morning, sometimes after 12-14 hour shifts, with a purse full of money, thousands sometimes. There was always a man sleeping on the ground right outside the apartment where I rented a room. Upon hearing the key in the lock, he’d start chuckling. I’d look down at him, he looking up at me, laughing and laughing. I felt bad that I had a set of keys and a purse full of money. And yet, he was the one laughing and laughing. He didn’t ask me who I was. He didn’t seem to care. Most of the time, he only got up to go take a piss on the curb off the sidewalk before returning to his sleeping bag. I hoped he was as happy as he seemed.
I went in. I go in. I’m still here. Just a different place. Not LA. Different Coast. It’s older bitch of a sister with chiseled features and a black leather jacket. I’m not like the man on the ground. I’m a woman walking upright on it. Still a walking charity to the rich, still an anathema, only a little more expensive. And I don’t feel guilty. I’m not made to feel guilty. I am, maybe, a little invincible, even despite the chilling cold or the humid heat of my new city.