« I Have a Poor AttitudeIn an Ivory Tower »
08.22.2003

A Night in Pasadena

Henry David Thoreau writes in with some timely advice:

This spending of the best part of one's life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up to the garret at once.

But is wise to take advice on living from the dead?

Tune in tomorrow for another installment of anxious hand-wringing.

I spent last night out in Pasadena with my glamorous friend M*, who is a writer and animator pitching children's programs to a variety of Hollywood studios. I get a little dizzy in the presence of so much ambition, but it's fun to hear about meetings with big stars and important people, and the intricate, interlocking circles of power around the big studios. I would not last two seconds in this world, but M* makes it look easy; she's a media industry version of the Crocodile Hunter.

We went out to a sushi bar where fishes paraded around a big central table on a motorized circuit of little wooden boats. Each boat had several platters of sushi on it, and you could take whatever you fancied as it passed in front of you, unless you were a stupid hick. I spent long minutes agonizing over the menu before M* pointed out that comestibles were floating past us for a reason. "You mean you can eat from the BOATS?!" I cried, and the man sitting next to us laughed so hard that he nearly choked on a large piece of squid.

For the next hour I felt like a total hayseed. M* told me all about Very Important Producers she had been in contact with, and her efforts to penetrate the inner circles of various creative departments, doing battle with evil personal assistants and three-headed factota. I plundered the boats in silence, listening to the man next to me wheeze and chortle as he continued to savor my stupid comment from forty minutes earlier. Thank you, I thought, I'm here all week.

I had ordered a large beer (sadly, there was no tanker of Sapporo among the little boats), and as the evening went on, I realized that one could beer-goggle sushi. A large plate of deep-fried tentacles that had looked distinctly scary on its first five passes suddenly started to look mighty damn good. I could almost see the tentacle tips curling towards me, calling me over to sample their tempura goodness.

No sooner had I eaten the tentacles than I found my eye drawn to the Urchin Bile Roll, a greasy bright orange cylinder that had been on the circuit since we sat down, and perhaps for weeks before. Someone had assembled it on a dare - can we really get stupid white man to eat this? It occured to me that this was a dangerous place to get drunk.

All of a sudden, M* mentioned a name I recognized. The biggest of the bigwigs, an unapproachable Goliath of a man, turned out to be the father of my childhood best friend, someone who had been a great help to my mother and myself when we were fresh arrivals in the States twenty years ago. M* had been despairing of ever getting an introduction, and here it turned out that I had spent a couple of Christmases in the man's house.

I had had no clue he and his wife were media moguls - they were just my best friend's parents, and it's hard to think of a more unpretentious family. But now I had the inestimable pleasure of giving M* an in with Mr. Big, and saying "ah, yes, tell him Maciej sends his regards". It was such a surpise to me that I even forgot to eat the Urchin Bile Roll, which probably saved my life.

Perl programmer, weblogger, Hollywood dealmaker... Adored by small animals, friend to the stars!

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