LAX, as always, was a zoo. It wasn't even that late and the weirdoes were already out that night. The would mean either it was a long weekend coming up or California was going to fall off into the sea.
I really did not care what the reason was; I was at that point in my life I no longer cared. Work was just that, work. When I started the money, pretty girls, flying all over the world, did I say the money, was like a narcotic. I never looked back.
Before I knew it like years had past, travel was a bore and the women got too old too fast. I found my bank balance growing, along with my waist and the amounts owed on my credit cards each month. For the right price, one could buy whatever companionship you wanted.
I guess looking in that rearview mirror on the way back to the apartment was not the image I wanted to see looking back. Apartment, yep, first a house, then a condo and now an apartment made sense when you were gone someplace else 47 of 52 weeks a year.
La Cienega Blvd in Los Angeles seemed to have everything, the good, bad, ugly and everything else in between. After another long trip I had to decide if I wanted to fight traffic or wait here for food, over-priced, small portions and tasteless food. My thought was that wonderful crap the airline served might have been as good as I was going to get tonight at an eatery there.
For those who have driven in New York City or Chicago, I can only say that LA traffic is worse. It is the only place in the USA that had traffic jams at 3 am and CHPD pulling you over for going too-slow if you were only going 15 mph over the speed limit. Bangkok and Tokyo driving was worse though, why most everyone took those silver bullets to work. Apartments for a westerner in Tokyo, were $100,000 to $200,000 a month in Tokyo proper.
When I first came to LA, I asked the Real Estate people for a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house on a nice flat acre lot near the water. Their answer, after they stopped laughing was that Las Vegas had lots(Pun maybe) of those, but no oceanfront but a lot of flat land.
Malibu and $3,850 a month plus utilities, fees and parking per month got me a small 1 bedroom with a window overlooking a parking lot. 'Such a deal' people were telling me. I pulled into my complex. No garage, I used a rental car when I was here all those 5 weeks a year.
Right now I was rethinking that Las Vegas option, no oceanfront or not. However, there was a real benefit to living here. California girls were unlike anywhere else in the world. I was certain you could find some companions as 'interesting' anywhere in the world, but if you took a 100 at random, most of them here were winners. They probably did not make the best wives though but they were 'interesting' to look at and be with.
The three sitting on their suitcases in front of the building as I found a place to park were like that. I looked at them.
I got out of my 'rent a wreck' took my 23.56 pounds of dirty clothes from the back seat and started to go into the lobby. I thought I had seen at least one of the girls in my building. Like I said, I had not been around much the past few years.
"Hey, I don't recall there is a shuttle to the airport if that is what you are waiting for. It's not that far so I can drive you if you wait a few while I change my clothes?"
One started to cry. The Redhead just looked down and the blonde spoke up. "Yeah, just find a hole and bury us. Life 'sucks'."
"Maybe it's none of my business, no, I know for certain it's not my business but, what's wrong?"
"Your right, said Red, it's none of your business?"
Knowing retreat (a strategic withdrawal) when facing superior forces is the reasonable option, I turned back towards the apartment building entrance and marched double-time away.
I heard, "We got kicked out of our apartment?" I turned back and all three were tearing up some. I took a deep breath. I walked to them, sat down on my suitcase next to them and gave out a deep sigh.
"Well, what are 'we' going to do now guys?" I mumbled.
That got me three looks and a hit on the arm and a huge smile from Red. "Right, what are 'we' going to do?"
"May I suggest something that I have found solves all of life's problems?"
From Blondie, "Go ahead Galahad, 'wer're-a' listening!"
"Well, food, maybe followed by some shopping, then sleep, things always look better in the morning with a new day?
Up until now the downcast brunette had never said a word.
"And just what 'casting couch' do you plan on screwing us on, yours?"
"That's not a bad idea but I just spent the better part of the day getting back here, I'm tired, hungry and don't think I would survive a 'casting call' with even one of you. Look. I'll make you a deal, you cook, all three of you get the bed, I'll take the sofa and we'll see what we can do Monday. If you need a place to stay after then, at worst I'll probably be gone again by next week anyhow, so you'll only have to put up with my snoring a few nights."
"You can look around and see what else is around to rent or whatever. Now, here is some money ($200), get some food for us, here is a set of extra apartment and car keys now once you take your stuff up go shop for dinner, I need to shower while you get all the food ready, I have been gone like three months so we have nada in the fridge."
They all looked at me like I had several heads with horns growing out of them.
I held the door open. "Come, Schnell, 'Chop Chop', left, right, left, right march."
Surprisingly my new little troop of soldiers got up and marched inside.
I opened the apartment door to 90 plus days of a smell like something died.
"OKAY, troop, new plan."
I took out my cell, made a call and got a suite at the Beverley Hills Hotel.
Back to the car we go, food, bath, beds and sleep elsewhere and you each get your own bed 'me'lovlies; 'Harr', using my not so impressive pirate voice.
"But we don't have..."
"Take your stuff, whatever else you need for tonight we can buy and what you need but cant find the hotel will get it for you."
"Where are we going?"
"Beverley hills; can one of you drive while I call maintenance and see what died in my place?"
"We don't have much money and that is too..."
"Look, I'm tired, hungry and right now a bed at any price sure beats what I have had to sleep on the past few months, so relax, as Jimmy would say, 'Be Happy' it's on me gang."
The trunk got four bags, Red was driving and I got on my phone.
"Where in Beverly Hills Boss man?"
"Second, Marge. The Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset."
It really wasn't a 'rent a wreck' but the American 2-door looked out of place when we pulled up even though it was a convertible.
"Suite, 237. Francesco and guests. We need some things, so if you can take our bags up we'll shop then get our key cards at the desk. We won't need the car until late tomorrow, I think."
"Yes Sir!" From the Bellman. I slipped him a twenty.
I think Red might have seen it.
I motioned him back. "Could you have some snacks and cold drinks for 4 sent up too? I handed him another twenty.
I really liked this hotel.
I marched my new troop to the shops. "Charge what you need to Suite 237 and have them send it up. I'll check in and get our cards and meet you back here?"
I got that look again. I also got a smile from Red.
Blondie started to say, "How much can we..."
Red tapped her arm and shook her head 'No'.
I think she was catching on. I know this, so far, today was the first time in over 5 years that I could honestly say I felt good about myself and what I was doing.
At the desk, I handed them my credit card. The girl that knew me, Sandi, was on today and asked me how long we were staying. I thought about it and asked if I could let them know Monday how much longer we would need the rooms.
This hotel was not The Mandarin or The Regency but the service was more than decent at least. I mentioned my guests were shopping and would be charging things to 237. Sandi noted it and said she would have everything sent up, there would be no problem. I nodded and went back to meet the girls.
Red was there waiting. I handed her a keycard. She asked me, "Why?"
"Easy, did this solve your problem, at least for awhile?"
She gave me 'The Look', you know the one girls and nodded. She was holding a small bag.
"They just charged this and handed it to me. I don't even know what it cost. She just put it in a bag and handed it to me."
"I sure hope it fits?"
That got me another hit to the arm, this girl could really hit.
Note: Never even hint to a girl that anything might not fit, even in jest.
I looked at the tiny bag and used my imagination as to what might be in it.
The other 'Three Musketeers' came floating in. I handed them each a card. "You find everything you needed?"
"Ha, like if I would like pay, like 100 times more for something here, then I found it, but they are crazier than I am." This from Blondie.
"Definitely not in the same world as Kohl's, no, not even in the same Universe. Thanks but no thanks I'm not paying $500 bucks for something to sleep in!"
I looked at what's her name, the Brunette, and nodded.
"I see somebody found something?"
"To swim in Sheila, I did not think my 'Birthday suit' would go over very well, on second thought though..."
"You can always use the Hot Tub in the room, I won't look, much!"
If looks could kill!
I used my cell. "Sandi, I need a little help here, my guests can't seem to find exactly what they need. Could someone help them shop here or nearby? Yeah, great, I'm beat. Send the things they buy to the room, I'll put their other bags in the main room so have someone come up, get them settled in and show them how to get things they want. I am about ready to crash. Great, I'll tell them, Thanks Hon."
I turned to Red. "Sandi will be over here to take you shopping and then show you around the rooms. It may only be 4:00 pm or so here, but my body thinks it is Midnight or something. Order room service or have Sandi make your dinner reservations. We'll get your problem resolved at Malibu then you can go back to your old place, stay here or use mine once they find what died until you find someplace else."
"Right, you know what they say about picking up 'strays', don't you?"
"Hell, your not 'dogs'. None of you owe me anything. As cute as you all are I still don't expect anything from you. I just can't stand to see beautiful women crying. Everything will be fine, soon. I guarantee it! Ah! Here is Sandi! Hi kid! Make sure they get what they need Sandi, you know how girls are with making up their minds!"
"I'll take care of them Mr. Francesco. There is a message for you."
"Thanks Sandi, I was just on my way to a very important meeting with a real pillow on a real bed. Too many nights sleeping in the Asian countryside I think. Did you know, in Asia, they sleep in a tube and shelf 'thingee'; you think this place needs something like that?"
I got a frown from Sandi that made further discussion of that seem irrelevant.
I went to the room, saw my bag, left all theirs in the main room, took a 7 minute hot shower and crawled into a real bed, with a real pillow and a soft down cover for the first time in three months. I was in heaven. If I had been able to stay in hotels on this trip life would have been more pleasant. Did I tell you how nice The Mandarin was? I was asleep in like 9 seconds.
I woke up way too early and not too sure if I was awake or dreaming. I had made the decision that I was close to being awake when I smelled the coffee. I visualized it in my dream. Deep roasted, dark, steaming coffee with crème, heavy, heavy real crème just leaving swirling things floating on top. MMMMM.
On second thought, maybe I died and this was Paradise or Heaven, my reward. I would have to check and see if there were a bevy of virgins about, to be certain which it might be. Maybe I would be able to find some Danish at least though.
I tried to pull the comforter over my head, 'just a few more minutes or hours', I thought to myself. That damn smell of fresh coffee was too much. I seemed to crawl to the facility for some morning ablutions. I opened one eye, the right one I think, and snuck a peek into the glaring thing on the wall. I only took in a glance but did not like what I saw. I called out some crazy ass plea for assistance in Chinese. Sadly I realized that this was not a hotel in Hong Kong or Bangkok and no one was going to rescue me. (At the Mandarin, each suite has its own live-in 24/7 staff) I stepped into the shower, turned on the tap and started screaming.
I was freezing, doomed now to turn into an icicle soon. Both eyes were open as I set a new land speed record in exiting a shower. I found that I was facing some important decisions. Shower, that warm, wonderful bed or that 'nectar of the gods, coffee'. One more look into the shiny thing on the wall and perhaps I would be able to accomplish all three. I had forgotten about the 'Three Musketeers', I also did not know who was 'a traitor' on my old team, Sandi, maybe; she had told me there was a message, maybe not though, it might be Marge at the apartments.
The three 'S's' done, the nice warm robe wrapped around me, I followed my nose to seek out, no not some 'Grail', rather the wonderful, life-giving cup of coffee I expected was just waiting for me. I opened the door to the living room and saw it. Room service had indeed come to my rescue.
On the coffee table (What else does one put on a coffee table) was my salvation. I saw steam escaping from the pot. I bounded out and pounced on a waiting cup, pouring myself some with a generous libation of crème.
I emptied that cup in three giant gulps. I sat down and repeated that almost mystical series of events with reverence again. This time, with cup number three in hand I leaned back, reflecting that life was indeed good but began searching my surrounds for the Danish.
I was not to be long suffering or denied I hoped when I sensed the rumble, rumble of what could only be my stomach or a service cart, or maybe both. The knock on the door with an almost simultaneous opening gave me further hope food and more coffee were soon to flood the room. I saw it, a cart, a smiling face, I was saved, I could smell food.
They say in every life a little rain must fall. Fate chose that time to rain on any planned parade enough for the next 50 years.
Behind the girl wheeling in the cart; 'SHE' (The Devil Incarnate) stood glaring at me. As in some Faustian imagined nightmare, my entourage also chose that time to make an entrance. Being a man, of sound mind and body that had been three months away, I immediately noticed their dress, or lack of same. I with my keen power of recall, figured that Sandi had made certain they each had matching Baby Dolls to sleep in. No doubt the lack of bottoms was an attempt to economize. Any other time I, I, Aye, Ya, Ya, my dream was shattered, I remembered 'SHE' was there. That cart, and my, three soon to be 'witnesses to mayhem', arrived by the couch about the same time.
'SHE' who can chew up and spit out anyone, even those 'able to leap tall buildings in a single bound' entered the room.
"Well, well, well. Marge said you sounded a bit hurried, I can see why now. I assume, 'Frick, Frack and, I'm sorry the 'Amazon' is whom exactly?
I told myself, 'deep breath' this is all just a dream, it is not happening.
The, "This is good" coming from my right dispelled that hope.
"Hi you! Girls, this is Angela, Angela De Marco. She owns this hotel. Angela this is, is ... Blondie, Red and Sheila, I think, you name was Sheila, right." Between bites of the Bagel I got a head nod. I also now know who the 'traitor' was. I would buy Sandi flowers as an apology for my thinking she would betray me like that.
"So when were you going to tell me you were back in town?"
"Like as soon as I 'would' have been able to go home last night, but somebody decided to use my apartment which, by the way also had a drip in the bathroom, as a slaughter house. While I'm on a role here, the girls got kicked out of their place. Can Tony or Gino 'straighten' that out for them too?"
"Oh my! No, say it isn't so oh 'Sultan of Malibu', you have a drip? Is it a 'Big' drip you drip. Marge already told me about your 'little' ... ahh, your 'little', heh, heh, problem. Ha, ha, ha."
The bagel chomping ceased next to me. I could sense I was now getting stares, a laugh too perhaps. Sheila was closest, I used two fingers to close her open mouth.
"Girls, I think she is taking about my small apartment. Tony is her husband and owns the complex our apartments are in. Gino is his brother, my brother-in-law too. Angela is my loving sister, my much older sister."
I uncovered a plate of food. "Sit, Sis!"
"Yes 'Oh Master of the hash browns'!"
I ignored her obvious error, on my plate were Eggs, Bacon and O'Brien potatoes with Rye toast, no Hash Browns. She slithered in between Red and me on the other side of the couch from Sheila. We were able to eat in peace, at least some of us were, she kept stealing food off my plate every time I put my plate down and tried to drink my coffee, the fiend.
At this point I should say my sister and I got along as well as most 99% of all other brothers and sisters did. Usually things stopped whenever first blood was drawn. The fact that we cared about each other, loved each other and were each other's best friend had never stopped the fighting between us.
Heaven help anyone else becoming our adversary though, even Gino and Tony knew to give quarter if either of us were the object of their anger. Angela subscribed though, to another ancient rule. She told me that when she was 7. 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too.' That seemed to set the stage for why I was gone so much, maybe.
Tony and Gino had been my old friends, I was now waiting for the day they would try to get even with me for bringing 'The Dragon Lady' into their lives. Tony at least was still under her magic spell, not too certain about Gino though, whenever she got near him he mumbled something, made three quick 'signs of the cross' and held up both forefingers in a sign as if to ward off evil. I think he was just joking, right? 'Spawn of Satan' had to be just an Italian term of endearment.
Another thing I forgot to mention about my sister was how she could 'Charm a Snake', and the Snake Charmer at the same time. Before any meal was finished, she had 'Frick, Frack and the Amazon' hanging on every word she uttered. In itself a mean trick since most things she said were only one or two syllables or a nod of her horned head, maybe that was snakes like the Medusa.
I think next to Bill, Warren and the Walton's she and Tony had more money than god. When anyone asked, Tony's answer as to how he made his fortune was, 'Good Investments'. Based on the look they got from him, usually no one was dumb enough to ask him that kind of question twice.
He and my sister made a good pair, a great pair, if 'family' had a problem or needed something, fine, they both hoped it would be something they could work out for themselves. That was one of the reasons that I usually paid my own way around them It had been noticed too, eventually things started showing up, rooms and bills were marked as 'comp' and very few places made me wait in lines.
I too followed an ancient rule. Expect nothing and be surprised at times. I was reminded about my apartment again. Then what and why something bad was done to my girls. My new troop they now were.
Another thing about brothers and sisters was that words were seldom necessary to communicate. One look, a shoulder shrug, a raised eyebrow or a frown usually brought out some response. I was spending too much time with Tony, maybe.
Angela looked at me, then my girls, then at me again and held out her hand. "Phone."
Like a surgeon she scrolled through my contact file and a ringing was heard.
"Tony, why the Hell did you kick out 'our friends' from their apartment? Oh and the Drip, my brother, says he has a drip and something or somebody died in his. Did Gino get upset with somebody again? ... Yeah, damn straight I'm upset. 'Our friends' are, or were in... (Aside. Which place Hon? Apt 345.) 345 and just were kicked out! I'll tell Bozo. Fix it or... !"
To them, "stay here for now, Tony reminded me of another problem we are having. Good help is hard to find and harder to keep alive. He thought Gino might have gotten a little upset with someone and used your place for a bit. Oh, he suggested you go see a doctor for the 'drip' problem dear brother."
"Very funny, Angela!"