WAITING WEEKEND

WAITING WEEKEND

First, a bit of new slang.

Well, it’s new to me anyway. One of Drew’s coworkers in the development department at MTV was interviewing new assistants. One prospective employee came in and declared that she never watched MTV because all of their programs were “cheesy”. (Note: When applying for a job in programming at a TV network, it’s generally not a good idea to denigrate the programming of that network. The girl didn’t get the job, but that’s not the point of this story.) She then stopped herself and carefully rethought her statement. “Well except ‘Pimp My Ride’,” she declared. “That’s my jam!”

Ever since we heard that story, Drew and I have said “That’s my jam!” about 500 times a day. We’ve said it in regard to “Big Brother 5”, we’ve said it in regard to our friend’s newborn baby, we’ve said it in regard to Papa John’s Pizza, and we’ve said it, with warmly reminiscent laughter, in regard to “Pimp My Ride”.

Now, before I can begin the actual story, there’s another thing I need to tell you.

There’s a cookie store in Westwood, the neighborhood of L.A. that surrounds UCLA, that has the best cookies in the world. Admittedly, part of what makes them the best cookies — and this is undoubtedly due to the fact that they’re sold in a college town — is that they’re also the cheapest fresh cookies in the LA area. At Diddy Riese, your menu options include: three cookies for a dollar, two cookies and a carton of milk for a dollar or, my personal favorite, two cookies with a scoop of ice cream in the middle for, yes it’s true, one measly dollar. In case you haven’t figured out yet where this is going, let me make it very clear:

Diddy Riese is my jam!

Now, at the risk of overburdening this story with too much setup, I should just remind you of my frustrating, unfulfilled excursion to Hollywood Hell House last weekend. The short version: we got there, we waited, we got turned away. And the next day, we found out a mid-level celebrity who arrived after us managed to make his way in. Despite this, Drew and I decided to give it another shot this week. L.A., we figured, clears out on holiday weekends. (Picture the first five minutes of “28 Days Later”, where the guy wakes up and finds the streets of London completely deserted. I know it was supposed to be creepy and chilling, but, if you actually live in an overcrowded city like L.A. or London, you dream of moments like this.) Since we stayed in town for Labor Day, it seemed like a good time to do some things that we otherwise might’ve stayed away from due to crowds.

So, we decided to give HHH another shot. We even arrived earlier this time, just in case. And of course, no sooner did we get in line than we were told that the event was oversold and we wouldn’t be getting in. But, since Hollywood Hell House apparently isn’t happy unless they’re making you wait around for a long time, we were told that they had decided to bend the rules of their no-advance-ticket policy just for those of us who were being turned away. If we stayed in line, we would be able to reserve tickets for a future week. There was no way Drew and I would come back and face these crowds again otherwise, so we were grateful for the reservation system and decided to stick around to put our names down.

The problem was that, once again, we overestimated the level of organization involved with this event. There were about 100 people in front of us in line, and when someone reached the front of the line, what happened was this: the ticket seller wrote their name down on a sheet of notebook paper. We figured this process might take about fifteen minutes or so. It ended up taking an hour and a half. Maybe some of the people had names that were really hard to spell, but I think most of the delay was caused by an apparent case of ADD in the ticket taker. Whenever someone new arrived in the parking lot, they’d saunter up to the front of the line, ask the ticket taker what was going on, and he’d proceed to talk to them for at least five minutes.

An hour and a half is a long time to wait to not do something, so Drew and I were pretty annoyed after we gave our names (elapsed time: 10 seconds). And as we waited in line to retrieve our car from the valet (they graciously refunded the $5 we paid to park), it suddenly struck me that I had just paid $40 to have my name written down on a sheet of notebook paper and had nothing to show for it. Why did I continue to trust the organizational abilities of this total c-fuck nightmare hipster hell?

My friend Big Gay David, who we ran into in line, told me that he touched the ticket taker’s ear inappropriately when the guy wrote his name down. “Now you’ll remember me when I come back!” he said. “I’m the guy who touched your ear!” It was as good as a receipt, I figured. I’m just not an ear-toucher. I vowed not to leave without something in writing.

So I went up to the guy who took my name down and explained my skepticism about their reservation policy as politely as possible. “But I wrote your name down,” he explained, pointing to his crumpled, folded-over piece of notebook paper. Before I could respond, I was introduced to a woman who identified herself as one of the producers. She was clearly frazzled by the situation and assured me she was sorry for what I’d been through. She guaranteed that my experience next time would be much smoother. I do want to say that I have a lot of sympathy for the people at HHH, who obviously never anticipated how popular their event would be and who really were trying to make everything right. They could’ve just sent us all away and said, “Tough shit”.

I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I was still suspicious of their reservation system. At that point, another man walked over. “What’s your name? I’ll remember you!” he insisted. Now, it just so happens that, by coincidence, my name is semi-famous. There was a kid’s TV show many years ago featuring a ventriloquist’s dummy with my exact first and last name. This guy was in just the right age range to remember that show, and when I told him my name, he proceeded to sing the show’s theme song. The entire theme song. As soon as he began to sing, I knew I had my insurance policy, my equivalent to David’s ear-touch. But the guy wouldn’t stop singing. “Oh, how funny. You know the song!” More singing. “Perfect. I know you won’t forget me now!” Another verse. It was the most fitting end imaginable to the entire experience: more waiting.

At that point, it was almost 9:00, and we had nothing to show for our evening. So we decided to take our chances at a normally overcrowded movie theater in hopes the holiday weekend would finally smile upon us. We were definitely smiled upon, but mostly because the theater has been another casualty of The Grove, L.A.’s newest shrine to crowds and consumerism. The movie was “Mean Creek”, but don’t be fooled by the title. “Creek” is an understatement. The body of water in question is much more of a river, which is pretty important to the plot. I don’t want to give anything away, but if the story had been about a creek, they would’ve had no movie. “Mean”, on the other hand, is kind of an overstatement. The kids in the movie are, for the most part, pretty nice. But “Nice River” doesn’t have the same ring to it, so I understand.

The movie was pretty good, but more importantly, it wasn’t crowded. Since we hadn’t eaten all night, we decided to push our luck and head for another normally-crowded L.A. locale — this little cookie shop in Westwood, maybe you’ve heard of it. We got there at around 11:45, and there was only a short line. Victory! I had a cookie sandwich that was definitely my jam.

It would’ve been the ideal ending to our evening, but there was a whole lotta night left. That’s because when we went back to my car, it wouldn’t start. Car problems are definitely not my jam. The issue isn’t so much the hassle as the fact that car problems make me feel stupid. I know absolutely nothing about cars or car repair. I like to think I’m smart about a lot of things, but if you pull my elephant’s trunk, it ain’t lightin’ up.

What made this even worse is that we now had to wait for the tow truck driver at midnight on a Saturday in Westwood. I mean, it’s not a bad neighborhood, but if you give me a choice between getting stranded around a bunch of crack dealers in the hood or a bunch of punks sucking down hookah pipes at the Habibi Café, I’d have to think it over for a second. Thankfully, the tow truck came in record time. And that led to this inevitable conversation:

Tow Truck Driver: So what seems to be the problem?

I shrug.

Drew: His car won’t start.

TTD: Has your battery warning light been coming on?

Me: Uh… maybe.

TTD: How old is the battery?

Me: It’s a new car.

TTD: How new?

Me: Four and a half years.

TTD: Yup. Batteries last about four years.

Me: They do?!

I think there was something about alternators in there, too, but I can’t remember where that part went, so I left it out. He hooked something up to my car that got the battery started again, then I tipped him ten dollars and he drove off. And as soon as he was gone, pffffft… the battery died again. We didn’t have his number, so this was going to mean calling AAA again and waiting for him to come back, when he’d inevitably be more annoyed and less patient.

But that’s not what happened. That’s because I learned Drew is not who I thought he was. He is actually the secret identity of a superhero who can run down the streets of Westwood fueled on nothing but cookies and outrun tow trucks. The driver turned out to be one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met — and maybe I’m slightly skewed because he rescued me and didn’t make me feel dumb in the process. I had him tow me to the dealership and, to thank him, I offered him a cookie. “No thanks,” he said. “I just drank three beers.”

Once we’d dropped off my car, Drew and I called a cab to take us home. The cab driver wasn’t nearly as nice as the tow truck driver, and he turned off Santa Monica Boulevard and started heading down a chump route that would take us a lot longer and inevitably drive up the price of the ride. He didn’t know who he was messing with.

“I need to stop for gas,” he explained. “The cab takes natural gas, and there are only a few places to get it.” We ended up making a five minute stopover, and I turned into Angry Jerry.

“Do you want to stop that meter, pal?” I shouted out the window, jabbing my finger at him. Okay, maybe I didn’t say “pal”, and it was more of a subtle pointing motion. There was no way I was going to pay for his detour, even if the cab company was trying to be fuel smart. (His fillup cost about $10, less than half of what I pay to fill up my four-year-old dead car. As this falls under the category of “cars”, I won’t claim to understand natural gas, but if it’s so cheap, why isn’t everyone using this stuff?) He stopped the meter.

I know this is going to come across as anticlimactic, but that that point, I was begging for an anticlimax. And as it turned out, after the natural gas thing, we pretty much just went home. I had considered crafting this entry as an elaborate “Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle” reference, but the problem with “Jerry and Drew Go to Diddy Riese” is that all of our shenanigans happened after we reached our destination. Our delays and detours never bothered me that much, because I’d already had my cookies, so I was happy. Also, “Harold and Kumar” sucked. And nobody saw it. I still don’t understand the point of having a title that serves as its own spoiler. If the tension of your entire movie is “Will Harold and Kumar ever make it to White Castle?”, why ruin the ending with the title? Can you imagine if “The Sixth Sense” was called “The Dude’s Really Dead”? Or if “The Crying Game” was called “She’s Got a Penis”?

Jerry and Drew went to Diddy Riese. And then some other stuff happened. That’s the story. Now my ride is in need of pimping, and I’m still in need of some mechanical knowledge. Like it or not, auto repair… that’s my new jam.

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