Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chapter 5

A couple of weeks later, I had my second appointment with Faraday in his office. Bruce and Trevor were buzzing around like flies on shit. Sitting across from each other, the huge expanse of his desk separating us, Faraday and I reviewed my preliminary lay-outs, the new finishes and their applications, elevations of all of the walls, and a new lighting plan to make the thinking spot less gothic and more enlightening. Naturally, the fabulous plumbing fixtures would stay.

After studying the proposal for about an eon, Faraday startled me. “I like it,” he said.

I waited for more, but nothing came. Faraday leaned back and motioned for Bruce. “Please see that Ms. Pushkin has full access to the bathroom to finish her design work. Review with her the daily schedules, security procedures, etc. I am leaving the coordination of this up to you and your assistant.” ordered Faraday.

Turning back to me, he pulled out his platinum Waterman pen and inquired, “Do you have your contracts ready, Ms. Pushkin?”

I pulled the documents from my bag. “Yes, right here,” I said as I slid them across the desk. Barely glancing at them, Faraday flipped to the ‘Sign Here’ tabs and penned his name in triplicate. Thoroughness was the one nerdy trait I did share with him.

Faraday motioned for Bruce again and handed him the documents. “Please take care of these.”

I stood and extended my hand to Faraday, thanking him for the opportunity to work with him and to be involved in such a great project. Graciously, he shook my hand and nodded, saying, “No, thank you, Ms. Pushkin. A great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I feel more at peace with the space now that it is in your capable hands. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Bruce will take care of everything for you.” He stood up and left without a glance back.

I took my drawings, finishes, and catalogues off the desk and put them back in my bags. Remembering my contracts, I turned to Bruce. “Should I wait here or in the foyer for my contract and retainer?”

“You may wait here in the office, Ms. Pushkin”, replied Bruce, cordially. “I’ll have Trevor make you a drink if you like.”

“That would be great,” I said, settling myself back down into one of the Empire side chairs. “Hey, you can call me Lois since we’ll be working toget….”

Bruce cut me off. “No, I’m sorry. That won’t happen. That is unacceptable here at the estate.”

“Well…,” I replied, “but I’ve been calling you Bruce.”

“And that’s the way it is,” stated Bruce and left down the hall to take care of the start of my future successful design career. Money, money, money! Finally, a job that paid big bucks. I could rest easy for a month at least. No fretting over next month’s rent and bills at the Wiltern. If Faraday retained me for construction oversight, then I could make some good hourly fees. I wonder who he’ll be using for a general contractor? That would be key for this project. Hopefully, no overweight, smelly, butt crack of an attempt at fine carpentry idiot. I couldn’t bear it. I’d have to charge double.

Anyhoo, the remainder of the design portion of the project was going to be exhausting. Not the design work per se, but the people and the protocol. What was up that Bruce’s ass? “That is unacceptable”. Was I now caught up in a rendition of the ‘Sound of Music’ and would he come in with a whistle to command my attention? Oblivious to my inner dialoging, Trevor shuffled into the office and set about making me a drink. He was about to pour something when he paused and turned to me, “Um, what would you like to drink, Ms. Pushkin?”

“Isn’t that in your notes?” I asked, coyly. He obviously was having a hard time with the formality as well.

Trevor turned back to the bar, patted his coat pockets and then dropped his head back and sighed. Turning back around to me, he sneered. “Very funny. We don’t keep crib notes on the guests or the hired help.”

I raised my eyebrow at him. Hired Help? “Well then, I’ll have an old fashioned.”

He parried my eyebrow with a wispy one of his and returned to the bar to make my drink.
I noticed he didn’t even need to reference a bartender’s bible to make my un-trendy drink.

I sat back in the comfy chair and made a new list, sipping the wonderful burning beverage, allowing the stress from my neck and shoulders to flow down into the plush cushion
cradling my ass. Bruce finally returned with my signed contracts and retainer which I immediately put in my bag as I tended to lose important papers or unknowingly recycle them.
I retained him as I handed him my list that contained the things I needed to start and coordinate the design of the project, i.e.: the assistants’ cell phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses, etc.

Then I stood up, extended my hand to him, and told him that I looked forward to working with him and hoped that all would go smoothly with the project. Bruce shook my hand in the way men shake women’s hands that makes my skin crawl and showed me to the front door. Once again, I was in my outdoor room on the porch, staring back at the house. Would I have to go through this escort process throughout the entire project? I felt like I was 6 years old and in a chinaware exhibit. I wondered if they watched me? Pretending to take an interest in the landscaping, I snooped around for hidden cameras. Nothing to the naked eye, but sprinkler heads and outdoor lighting fixtures, although I was sure some of them could be a camera.

I got into my car, drove around the curve and made to exit onto Mulholland Drive. As I straightened out, I glanced into my rear view mirror to see a car pulling up to the gates. A silver Jaguar. Must be Jasmine, I thought. As I rolled my window down to shout ‘hello’, the gates opened and the Jag pulled through. I couldn’t back up as my gates had already closed, so I put my car in park and trotted over to the entry gates. They, too, closed on me, but I could see a woman approaching the front door. I studied her to see if it was Jasmine. Unfortunately, she was wearing a large hat, the kind you see on women at Ascot during race day. Bruce opened the door as I began yelling Jasmine’s name. Bruce, startled, looked up and glared at me all the while firmly herding the woman through the entry. Hmmm. Must not’ve been Jas after all. I waved at Bruce’s angry face and trotted back to my car. Idiot! Him, not me.

I drove back to the office intending to prep work for Monday. I made more lists, in my head of the job priorities and ordering procedures. I spoke into the recorder of my cell phone as these lists came to mind. I swear I don’t have a brain anymore. All of it is either on paper, in the computer, or in the cell phone. More often than not, it’s written on my hand. I remember one time, while still working late nights at Williams, Markel, and Frack Architects, I was at Gelsons grocery store standing in the express line to buy some frozen dinners. A couple was in line in front of me. The man leaned over and asked me if I had bought stamps that day. I looked at him in disbelief and asked how he had known that I had to buy stamps. He pointed down to the top of my hand where I had written ‘Stamps’ and ‘Library’. I laughed and said yes, but I hadn’t been to the library yet. The woman looked at me and grinned an apology for her partner. He said to me, “In this age of computers and gadgets, I find it very charming to see that people still write notes to themselves on their hands the way they did when they were still in grade school.”
That is how much of my brain is not with me as of today. As long as I have it all written down or recorded somewhere readily accessible, I never have to remember anything on my own. As if I could anyway. This is my use of technology. A new way to be lazy. Now I just filled up that space between my ears with TV, useless trivia, and daydreams. I think computers and gadgets gave us more time to be brainless and less responsible for the competent functioning of our brains. No wonder people have ADHD and allergies.

I parked in the garage of the Wiltern, hustled through the breezeway to the lobby, waved hello to Joe, and zoomed up the elevator to my office. I had stopped along the way for a grande
mocha and set that on my desk as I put my bags down. Déjà vu and a vision of a mocha all over Faraday’s project. I’d try to remember to be more careful. I moved the drink from my desk to
the credenza. Then I pulled the contracts out of the Faraday estate’s embellished manilla-sized envelope and a couple of checks came fluttering out. Picking them up from the floor, I saw, to my delight, that Faraday had paid my entire design fee to date, plus my retainer, and 100 percent of my reimbursables as remitted to him at our meeting that morning. Suddenly, I liked him even more. Jasmine was right about Faraday and I was glad.

Getting money from most clients was like pulling teeth. They couldn’t seem to understand why they should pay you any money for something they thought they could do themselves. General contract your first remodel or build your first house and then you’ll see why I get paid to do this. People pay attorneys and CPA’s for their services, no questions asked. Why? Because they are relying on their education, expertise, and experience to do a job for them that they will not or cannot do themselves. Well, people, same goes for designers. Just like doing your taxes or suing your brother-in law, you could do it yourself, but you wouldn’t want to. I wish more people felt the same about designers because I’ve seen a lot of botched “do-it-yourself” jobs and they were dangerous and offensive to the human condition. I am the defender of the world through good design. I think I’ll make that my mission statement. I laughed out loud to myself. The song “Neverending Story” by Llamal popped into my brain.

After who knew how long with my nose to the design grindstone, I rose up out of my crouched position and looked out the window. It was dark and not 5 PM dark. I looked at the
clock. It read 10 PM. Crap! I’d been here that long? I sat back in my chair, stretching my arms over my head and my legs under my desk. My lower back cracked in relief. My body ached. No
ergonomically correct furniture here. Well, if this job goes well, I’ll be able to afford some new furniture. I slid my shoes off and scratched my toes with my feet. I limped to the window. God, my butt hurt and the nylon sting on the backs of my thighs wasn’t helping my situation. I raised
the sash of my window and leaned my head out. I surveyed Los Angeles with her worker bee cars and their flash of red, white and amber lights. I stared down at the people below on the sidewalk and watched where they went, back and forth like a tennis match.

I closed my eyes and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Yahoo!” and “Yee haw!” and “Woo hoo!” I opened my eyes and looked down to find people puddling under my window, staring up at me. I waved down at them and ducked back inside. The phone started to ring.

“Pushkin Atelier,” I answered, spinning around in my desk chair.

Joe’s voice came on the line. “Are you all right, Ms. Pushkin? I’ve been getting calls that there is a crazy lady yelling on the roof.”

I laughed. “No, no, I mean, yes, I’m fine. That crazy lady is me, Joe. I’m yelling out of my window.”

“Well, knock it off please,” he implored, “The tenants are getting pissed.” I could hear a basketball game going on in the background. Yeah, right Joe.

“Right –o! Yes, sir!” I shouted and hung up the phone. I finished my mocha, naturally stone cold now, and put my suit jacket on. When I came out of the kitchenette, I found Harshy sitting in my chair.

“Who let you in?” I asked, jokingly.

“Your door man. He said you were going nuts, screaming out your window or some such shit,” she quizzed me, raising one eyebrow.

“Yeah, that was me. I had a long day and I wanted to blow off some steam and feel my blood pumping again,” I explained. “It felt good watching those people watch me. I felt much more important, more than anybody else at that moment.”

“OK, sister, whatever. Let’s blow this corndog stand,” ordered Harshy.

“OK, but no Formosa tonight,” I pleaded. I dreaded seeing Guy there again.

“Fine. Let’s go to La Boheme and melt into some hot toddies.”

“Mmmm, sounds delicious. I’ll call and reserve a table.” After I placed our reservation, I clapped the lights off and we drove off to West Hollywood for our night cap.

It was very late by the time I left Harshy and La Boheme. One night cap had turned into four. Harshy worked for a record label and had drunk way too many people under the table. I had fallen for that only a couple of times. Having peeled myself off of several bar floors, not knowing who I was or who I was with, I had learned to monitor myself. Well, most of the time anyway. I was letting my hair down that night and wanting to celebrate a little. A good, goddamn, decent job that was going to pay the bills. I felt legit. And Harshy was treating. Having an expense report that is primarily booze and bar food was never under suspicion in her line of work. If I didn’t watch it, I could really get into the swing of things with her and lose track of my imbibing. Harshy always had tons of stories about both the people she worked for and the people she worked with. It was a great business for her because it fed her celebrity whore habit. And, thanks to her, I knew intimate details about certain pop singers that I could’ve blissfully lived my whole life not knowing. Now that useless, annoying information pops up in my head at the most inconvenient times. That night I received more of that kind of info. Thankfully I was drinking fast and laughing a lot, causing much air to course through my veins and get me looser and drunker quicker than usual. Then I had to put on the breaks when I caught sight of my bawdy self in the bar back mirror. Whoa! I had too much work to do the next day to call myself in sick.

It was time to jet. I made sure that Harshy got a cab and was well taken care of. She was going to take a personal day after this night. I left my car at the lounge and took a cab to my condo. I slumped into and out of the elevator, braced myself on the walls down the brightly lit hall to my front doors. I fumbled my keys in the lock and let myself in. Kash was sitting on top of the kitchen island, very disappointed in my tardiness and shooting his eyes to his bowls.

“Shit, cat, feed yourself!” I cried. I plunked my bags onto the island and put kibble and water into his bowls. Squatting down at his level, I watched him eat. Then, after shrugging my blazer off, I stood up and stretched to my fullest bodily extent. It was then that I noticed a light on out on my patio. It wasn’t a light, it was the TV. Weird. I could’ve sworn I’d turned that off the previous night. I shrugged my jacket back on, opened the slider, and proceeded to the couch. I looked around in the darkness for the remote. Well, that was stupid. I went back to the slider and flipped the patio lights on. Their brightness scared the shit out of the night. I returned to the sofa and scanned for the remote, pulling off pillows, blankets, and tugging at shoes. Ah, there’s the remote. Wait. Shoes? I jerked back to the edge of the couch. Yep, shoes and not mine. I pulled off the rest of the blanket. There lay the stinky, transient guy from the week before, sleeping like a baby on my couch. I nudged his foot and he murmured and snorted. I pulled his leg and called out to him. He drew himself up in a fetal position, pushing his butt deeper into the back cushions.

Defeated, I sighed, went around the couch and sat at the end where his feet had been. My head hurt and I wanted a cigarette badly. Lounging back against the cushions, I lit up a smoke and exhaled into the fake bright sky. I smoked for a while and then decided that I had waited long

“Hey!” I yelled straight up into the night. “Buddy! Wake up!”

His eyes fluttered open, and then his hand came up to shield his eyes from the brightness, “What the fuck? What’s going on?” He looked my way. “Who are you?”

Looking closer at me, he bolted upright, “Oh shit, man! I mean, lady, look I’m sorry about being here. I’m not sleeping on your couch or nothing…”

“Cool your jets, man. Take it down a notch. Chill out,” I said, lolling my head on the cushions towards him. I watched him and waited.

He sat up straighter and picked up the blanket and started to fold it up. “Peace, lady. Uh…Sorry about being here. I thought you were already in bed.” He didn’t make to move off of the couch, just sat there fiddling with the corner of the blanket.

He was young, maybe nineteen or twenty, tall, with curly blonde hair and soft, brown eyes. He nervously smiled at me taking stock of him. Great teeth. And reasonably clean, too. In fact, he really wasn’t as dirty or smelly as I had earlier assumed. His clothes were the same as the other day, but not filthy. His shoes were new – freshly stolen? He followed my gaze and propped his feet upwards on the patio deck to show them off more.

“Yeah, I stole ‘em. Had to. You need good shoes to live on the streets. I don’t steal regular. I try to do odd jobs and stuff. Hard to get steady employment with no address and employers don’t call you back when you give them a shelter number,” he explained.

“What’s your name?” I asked. Didn’t look like he was going anywhere soon and I knew it would be a while before I could get my butt off the couch anytime soon as well. What the hell was I doing drinking with Harshy?


“Brian what?”

“Brian Marcs.”

“Where are you from?” I asked exhaling the last of my cigarette. I managed to lean forward, without falling, to swipe an old pack off of the Philippe Starck coffee table I had scored on eBay. The table maintained itself very well in the outdoor elements. Apparently my cigarettes had, too, although they looked a little warped from the recent moisture system passing through the city. I pulled one out and lit it from a match proffered by my new guest.


“And why are you on my patio?” I asked.

“’Cause it’s private, it has a couch, and a TV,” came his cheeky reply. He put the match out in the ashtray I had made when I was ten. He stared at that for a long time. Maybe he had one just like it?

“Well, that’s an obvious reason to be here now,” I replied. “Why are you in Los Angeles then?”

Brian looked down at his hands, rubbed them on his thighs, and stuck them under his legs. “Long story short, I left Chino to pursue acting and now I’m homeless. The only acting jobs I was offered were porn and I ain’t about that so I got zilch right now.”

I looked him up and down. Actor- poor idiot. “Why don’t you go home?”

“Ain’t nothing for me in Chino neither. I was thinking about it a few weeks ago, but then I found your place. You were pretty predictable before you saw me the other night, so I thought I was doing OK for a while. After you freaked your shit on me, I was being more careful. Blew it
tonight, though,” concluded Brian. He stopped and waited for me to say something. After nothing came, he pulled on his coat and zipped it up. He started to get up.

“Wait, you can stay out here for tonight. We’ll figure out your shit tomorrow,” I suggested. “Do you like ‘Conan’ ?”

He smiled sheepishly. “That was already on. It’s really late, you know.”

Oh. I hadn’t noticed in my drunken state. “Hungry?”

“Starved!” yelled Brian, startling me out of my seat.

“Come on, I’ll make you a salad.”

Brian’s food enthusiasm sank like a lead balloon. “Uh, yeah, great. Thanks.”

I laughed. “Trust me, you’ll love my salad.”

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