Alcoholic Drifters, Imaginary Magazines, and Anime Boobs.
Many of my first weeks here were unemployed weeks spent in front of the computer applying to every single job that looked promising on Craigslist. Craigslist here is a strange mix of absolute flakes who don’t really know what they want and don’t return your emails, serious people who are seriously posting jobs who don’t return your emails and then the occasional lunatic who WILL answer your emails. This is a story about the latter.
The posting was in Creative Gigs and was for a photographer position at a new magazine in Venice covering the “Venice Experience.” I applied, sent off my book and got a reply a week later asking me to come in for an interview. When you sit around in the dark all day applying for jobs on the internet, it really boosts your morale to get a call back and especially an actual interview. The email they sent was very complimentary of my work. Plus, Venice is close and I liked the idea of working with a magazine again. Let’s just say I was feeling pretty positive about the whole thing.
A few days later I head down to Venice, park 4 blocks away and walk down to the beach front property where the office was. Except it wasn’t an office. It was a hostel/halfway house/weekly rental arrangement with shared bathrooms that reeked of weed and sweat. A normal person would have left. Just walked out onto the boardwalk and gotten a taco. Called a great big “fuck it” and headed back home. NOT ME! I figure these folks are from out of town, renting an office on a higher floor, just looking for an appropriate place. Weeks of unemployment had made me delusion-ally optimistic. Someone on the front porch nursing a tallboy ushers me in and says “Are you here for Jerry?” She walks me down a dark carpeted hallway that has rooms on either side. Boys stumble out in towels to use the shared bathroom. Different music is playing from each door. A tiny, cute Asian woman and a tall older man step out of the last door and we all shake hands. To my horror, the tall gentleman, (who we will refer to as “Slim” henceforth) uses his left hand to remove a nasty, grey and obviously used Kleenex from his right hand in order to shake with me. “Let’s all meet on the roof,” says Slim, and I follow behind them, staring at my afflicted right hand in terror.
The roof! A Penthouse? Nay! Some lawn chairs on a non-regulation balcony! I climb the stairs and Jerry, the man with the plan, is leaned over the edge surveying all that is gross and weird with Venice. I take a seat and Jerry turns around and I feel what I can only describe as dread. Jerry is wearing Crocs and white socks. Sweatpants meet up with a white t-shirt underneath a leather jacket. On top of this sartorial atrocity is a full-length, black terry-cloth bathrobe. And this guy wants to be my boss. Far be it from me to judge a book by its cover, but my feeling was overwhelmingly that this was a book about alcoholism and a lot of wacky plans dreamed up at 3am in the morning with other alcoholics. Jerry shakes my hand and I notice he’s holding a long cotton swab, the kind that you see in the doctors office that they stick down your throat or whatnot. One end is just splinters. The other end is cotton.
I want to leave, but I feel like I’ve committed. Slim sits down next to me and takes out a Kinkos-made spiral bound book that is titled “The Hillbilly Marijuana Farmer.” The Asian Woman, we’ll call her Rebecca, sits next to him. Jerry paces and begins his speech about how amazing Venice is. How they’ve decided to use thick, glossy paper for the magazine. How they are making a mockup to shop around to advertisers and how they want to really get into the spirituality and essence of Venice. Rebecca shows me some fashion images on her computer that she wants in the magazine and I am realizing that she is the glue in this trio. She has a laptop. Her clothes fit. She’s not actively bleeding. Jerry has walked to the edge of the balcony and I see him take the pointy, splintered end of the swab and begin to vigorously clean the spaces between his teeth. Actually, not vigorously…violently, he is digging in between his gums, shamelessly, looking at me, looking at Venice, stopping to add in some bathrobe-editor wisdom. Rebecca asks if I am good at Photoshop. Yes, I am. She pulls out a wrinkled and much-handled sketch of an anime girl (big eyes, huge boobs, looks 12) wearing a bikini that is too small, with the known planets pencilled in the background. “Can you add a universe behind her?” she asks. Suddenly I am doubting my Photoshop ability. Jerry takes a seat to my right and begins an all out attack on his gum line and I am convinced that I most certainly have all the Hepatitises.
Jerry’s baby is the paper. He can’t stop talking about the paper. He’s got a book of paper samples that he can’t stop fingering. Rebecca asks about my experience and Jerry leans over, close to me (oh, God, so close to me) and says while rubbing the sample, “Dontcha just love the way this feels?” It goes like this for 10 more minutes. Fingering. Gum-puncturing. Non-Sequitur paper lust. I cannot for the life of me understand why this seemingly normal Rebecca is hanging out with these two absolute lunatics. This never comes out. I can only imagine it involves some really awful sex and I can’t get the idea out of my head. I’m picturing it while Slim is going on about crystals and shit. It’s lurid. Even by my standards. They ask to see my portfolio but I cannot allow them to touch it. It will never be clean again. Everyone at the wicker table has leprosy and cancer and mange, and I’ll have to burn the outfit I’m wearing as soon as I get home. I tell them that if they’ve seen my website, they’ve seen my work and I change the subject. I realize that I’m going to have to shake everyone’s hand as we wrap up and I cannot abide. I gather my things with my right hand, say my goodbyes, wave with my left and scoot down the stairs, putting an awkward hand-shaking distance between us with every step. I do not have to touch them. I had won this small battle against the Herpes Monsters.
Venice is rad. I don’t mean to rail on Venice. Its very laid back, people are friendly, there’s good food everywhere, and there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Its also a place where you can be absolutely bat-shit crazy, hook up with other people who are bat-shit crazy, live in a hostel, and manifest your dream of owning a magazine, all the while, in your bathrobe.