I believe everyone should have a friend that lives in Los Angeles. I have one. His name is Johnny Starr. We talk on the phone 4-5 times a week. And by “talk” I mean that I listen while he takes me on a simulated audio tour of L.A., navigating his way through boulevards and freeways, fast food drive-thru windows and full-service gas station islands, grocery stores and strip mall Rite Aids. He takes me everywhere he goes. He is my friend; I am his designer Chihuahua in a Louis Vuitton bag.
The phone rings. I see JOHNNY STARR on the iPhone screen and I answer.
DANNY: Johnny, what’s up, man?
JOHNNY: Just checking in, bro. How’s it going?
DANNY: Fucked up, actually. I think I’m--
JOHNNY: Buddy. Hey buddy. I’ve been coming here twice a week since ’07. The other guy has never charged me for the plastic cup. I pay the $2.19 for the Diet Dr. Pepper and I get the cup, for free. I’m not trying to be difficult, bro. I’m just letting ya know. It’s the way it’s always been. Hold on. Yep. There ya go. That’s all I’m sayin. We cool? Cool. So what’s up, man?
DANNY: Are you talking to me?
JOHNNY: Yeah sorry I just had to take care of some shit. Talk to me.
DANNY: Well, that girl I met online? You know, MustangSally78?
DANNY: Dude she fucking--
JOHNNY: Hiya. Yeah. $13.50 regular, por favor. Wait...wait...make it $13.80, pal. Yeah what about her?
DANNY: Okay so she makes the first move. She writes me. I write her. We do the dance, couple days, exchange cell numbers, then she goes to the Poconos for a week with her fam.
DANNY: So she texts me from Poco-land. A selfie. Her in the outdoor hot tub.
DANNY: And under the pic she writes--
JOHNNY: Can I get a Double-Double with fresh tomato and a side of onion rings? But make sure the tomato is fresh, please. Like, one from the container with Cellophane on it. Cellophane. The plastic stuff. Hold on. Here’s three...here’s four...there’s five clams, buddy. Thanks. Sorry dude, so okay you exchange cell numbers and then what?
DANNY: Um, so, cell numbers, Poconos, hot tub selfie.
JOHNNY: Nice, kid!
DANNY: Right? And next to the pic she writes, “I have a thing for bubbles in the snow. Just sayin. Winkie face.”
DANNY: I don’t even know what that means, but...
JOHNNY: It means ‘I want to fart in your hand’. What do you think it means, numbnuts?
DANNY: Well I don’t know, because--
JOHNNY: This is an exit, pal! See how all the cars are going out? See?
JOHNNY: Okay. I’ll do that. You have a lovely day, sir. Well there’s nothing I can do about that, sir. I don’t have superpowers. Go ‘head, man. Sorry.
JOHNNY: Yeah...I just...give me a second...I’m merging onto Pico...okay...okay...all you, bro. Hit me.
DANNY: Where was I?
JOHNNY: Farting in her hand.
DANNY: Um, wait. Oh yeah. So I write her back, and I’m like, “Haha. Looks like you need a rubber duckie right about now.”
JOHNNY: Holy shit.
DANNY: Was that too forward? I thought it was just the right amount of respect and--
JOHNNY: Dude, there is a six-foot-five black guy walking down Pico right now. He has long dreads, he’s wearing leather pants with cross-ties up the seams, a leather vest with no shirt underneath, and he has a fucking electric guitar strapped to his back. He looks like fucking Robin Hood. A black, heavy metal Robin Hood.
JOHNNY: Sorry man, so she’s in the hot tub with the bubbles, and then what?
DANNY: Never mind. The point is I haven’t heard from her in three days. Just like that, practically mid-conversation, she’s gone.
JOHNNY: No way, dude. She smoke-bombed you?
DANNY: I don’t know. Should I write her again?
JOHNNY: Is the ball in her court?
JOHNNY: You can’t, dude. She dropped the bombs. She could be all the way back at the Batcave by now. You’ll never hear from her again. That’s not true; I’ve had bombs dropped on me before and then out of nowhere they reappear, when you least expect it.
At this point I hear his car accelerate, followed by the white noise of wind, air conditioning and freeway traffic.
JOHNNY: (Yelling) When I was dating the girl from That 70s Show she would drop bombs like every other Sunday. I dunno. It was like the cycle of the werewolf or something. You get used to it, I guess. It’s a...game...(Trails off) Are you kidding me? How is that even possible? No way...(Loud again) The point is, I don’t remember the point.
DANNY: Me neither.
Johnny goes on for 25 minutes, continuing with the girl from That 70s Show and ending with the time Paris Hilton propositioned him outside Fred Segal. He makes random allusions to old Atari games, like Combat and Missile Command. He tells me that the Griffith Park Observatory is the best place for a first date; that Shia Lebouf is a wus and a phony; that Gospel Music will be huge in the next 12 months; that he’s considering writing a book of poetry; and that the answers to just about everything in life are encrypted in the placemats of Mel’s Drive In. Before he gets out of his car he asks if I will Western Union $175 to a man named The Animal.
Then he is on foot again, walking into his apartment complex. The white noise is gone.
JOHNNY: Anyway, man, the key is to play it cool and not worry about these things. Life’s too short. Know what I mean?
DANNY: I hear ya. It’s just that I after this chick told me--
JOHNNY: Is she gone? You just said an ambulance was here. Did they take her boyfriend, too? That sucks, but hey, at least I won’t have to hear those fucking bongo drums at 3:00 in the morning anymore, and the hallway won’t stink like dead animals.
Johnny’s right; life's too short.
Daniel Pellegrini is a recovering drug addict with an aggressive form of chronic bowel disease. That means he can't take painkillers after undergoing rectal surgery. He's here to show you just how beautiful life is.
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