My flight was delayed a couple of hours from LA last night, so Marites and Keith took the opportunity to book us a late table at a place that is very difficult to get into, Rich Table. The meal was spectacular, and reminds me why the Bay Area is so special. There is no place quite like it, and Keith & Marites , like me, are total foodies. I can always count on them to pick some amazing places for us to go. It doesn’t hurt that they are architects that specialize in restaurant design, so they always seem to be in the know about the latest and greatest food choices. Today was a playing-hooky kind of day for Marites and me, we went to a yummy breakfast at Local 123, got pedicures, had a fantastic Burmese lunch at Burma Superstar, and ran a couple of errands like getting my shoes fixed and getting a hipster haircut at a too-cool-for-school (but very friendly, I quite liked it) barbershop in Oakland.
Alas my time in LA is at an end. Later today I will head to San Francisco for a few days to see some dear friends, eat some amazing food, do a little work, and mentally prepare myself for my impending trip to Japan. LA has been really great, most especially for seeing old friends. The city itself holds only marginal allure for me, and I definitely do not miss having to drive all over the place. (I will say that the tacos here have any I have tried in NYC beat hands down, but tacos are not enough of a pull for me to uproot myself from New York.)
This just gets better and better.
Today, some nut job named Gary R. Welsh, who I have never heard of in my life (but who apparently has many axes to grind against members of my family) published an unhinged rant where he drops this juicy aside:
“Bentley’s brother, Stephen Suess of New York, who made his fortune in developing Internet porn sites, donated $2,500 in services for her campaign’s website.”
If only. If I had a fortune, or anything even resembling one, and if I had made it developing porn sites (or any kind of site really) I would be thrilled. Alas, I have no fortune (at least not the monetary kind). And the closest I have ever come to making an internet porn site would have been in a gay dating site I did some programming for more than 10 years ago. I suppose since users of that site (and many other dating sites) were able to upload photos of themselves, for some people that counts as porn. But you would have to really stretch the definition of porn.
This guy’s article is very much akin to me saying that I have heard a rumor that Gary R. Welsh has repeatedly been caught sexually molesting small children, which is certainly at least as true as the allegations that I a) have a fortune of any kind and b) made said fortune developing internet porn sites. I of course have no proof that Gary R. Welsh is a child molester. But then again, I have no proof that he hasn’t been found doing this or other horrible acts. I guess it is just an open question.
I woke up this morning to a flurry of posts on facebook referring to an article about the financing of an Indianapolis School Board campaign, and the contributions its candidates have received. Of particular note and interest (to me anyway), is that I am called out by name in the article under the section detailing the campaign contributions to one Kelly Bentley, who is running to represent District 3 on local school board. The exact line is
“New York based Stephen Suess gave her $2500.”
Ah yes. It makes it sound like an evil out-of-state billionaire reaches his dirty, powerful fingers across the country to control local school boards and ultimately corrupt the youth of this great country. Who knows what nefarious plans this wealthy patron has or what bidding the local school board will have to do to accommodate the influence he has purchased.
Except, I never gave $2500. Kelly is my sister, and I built a campaign website for her. She wanted to pay me, but I said no, she could just consider it my contribution to her campaign. At which point she asked me how much the site would have cost and I pulled a normal sum out of my head for a similar sized project. And I guess they (properly) reported that on their filings as an in-kind contribution to her campaign, at which point the self-styled muckraker who wrote the article started licking her chops, and dusted off her keyboard for this hard-hitting expose of the dirty influence of money in politics.
My point is that outside of context these (and most other) things are meaningless. Someone had a tiny, pre-formed angle that they wanted the “facts” to support, whether or not they had any relevance to the point, which is supposedly about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It sounds really juicy then to mention an out-of-state benefactor, until you realize that no money was given and the candidate is my sister who needed a simple campaign website.
Oh LA. I have been here a little over a week, and for the most part it has been like a normal week in NYC (in that I have been working), but not like a normal week in NYC in that I have been catching up with lots of people I haven’t seen in a while. And in between the working and the catching up, while I am on my way somewhere or waiting for someone or working in some cafe, I have caught snippets of people’s conversations. And these snippets remind me of what it is like to not just be in LA, but to have absorbed and incorporated what it means to be Angeleno (and a part of The Industry). Consider:
(70-something, heavy set, in stained shorts, answering his cell in the supermarket) “Hi Sweetheart! What? Don’t you worry, Daddy is on it. No. No. I swear, really. Has Daddy ever lied to you? You got the audition. Daddy promises.”
(30-something, talking on his cell in convenience store while wandering the aisles in a much too tight suit)”…Babe, those headshots were insane! We gotta do something about your presentation. Those pics were insane, insane! I gotta run, in a meeting.”
(self-styled “alternative” filmmaker, at a coffee shop going on and on about how great he is) “…and we have this autistic kid, totally amazing and inappropriate, we are basing the whole thing on him and how uncomfortable he makes everyone around him, we are totally using him. That kid is a gold mine, we were lucky to find him, he is saving our shit on this project.”
The last few days have been filled with working (a bit) and catching up with old friends. In the past few days I have had lunches and dinners and drinks and exhibits and parties and coffees. I had almost forgotten how many great people I knew here, and it has been really nice reconnecting. One of the really interesting things I did yesterday was see the Hollywood Costume exhibit at LACMA. Beyond being a fascinating exploration of the creative process, the design of the exhibit itself was exceptionally innovative and engaging. If you are in LA in the next few months this is definitely worth a visit. After that, I drove to the west side to catch up with Jose and Sally (and then went to Sally’s birthday party at a local restaurant). It was a lot of fun and I ended up staying the night in my old apartment (where Jose still lives), which jogged a lot of memories for me, not least because almost all of my old furniture and decoration is still in place 8 years later. One of the things I really had not missed about LA is the driving. I have said it before, but I think driving turns me into a meaner person than I would otherwise be, and stresses me in ways that riding the subway, walking or hailing a cab does not.
One of the reasons I always pick the window seat on an airplane is that I love looking out. It is often so beautiful to have this vantage point on the world, even if it is only through the small porthole of a plane’s window. The other day I flew from Caracas, Venezuela to Los Angeles, and the views were particularly spectacular. I took a large number of photos from the plane which I present here.
This morning I had to take a bullshit meeting at one of the studios wherein the outcome was known beforehand. I hate wasting time, but it was important to a client of mine, so I agreed to go. I am actually glad I went after all if for nothing else then the beautifully presented case study of a studio executive’s creepy duplicity. It was all fake smiles and tightly wound energy with this woman. She actually reminded me almost exactly of the character Annete Benning played in the movie “American Beauty”. I shook her hand (and everyone else’s who I was being introduced to) at the beginning of the meeting, but at the end when I went to shake her hand again, she said, “No, no, everyone gets a hug.” and she proceeded to hug me goodbye. I think it makes her feel that she is being more emotionally generous or something, but the purpose of this whole meeting was to get us to hand over as much info to them as possible before they give my client the boot, so it was all a little weird. They seem incapable of just telling it like it is. And like I said, I didn’t really even need to be there, I could have (and have) told them what they needed to know in a 5 minute email, but hey, they insisted.
I arrived safely in West Hollywood yesterday, after a flight from Caracas to Houston, a 2 hour layover, a flight to LAX, a trip to the Budget Car Rental counter, and a 30 min drive. I had a lovely reunion and dinner with my friends Dallas and Dimitri (with whom I am staying), and then passed out by around 9:30pm and woke up at 5am this morning. Now I am rather trapped at their place awaiting the UPS guy with my replacement credit card (which had its number stolen in Bogota and used for thousands of dollars in makeup purchases). But that is fine, I have work to do anyway. It is surprisingly warm in LA for this time of year, in the mid 80s today, but I hear it was much worse a few days ago and will be much hotter this weekend. Ah, global warming. Anyway, I am excited to be here and be able to catchup with a bunch of friends over the next couple of weeks. After that I head to SF.
I only spent the past 15 hours or so here, just to make a transfer to head out to LA (via Houston). And after all the horror stories I had been hearing about Caracas, I have to admit to being overly worried about my safety. And while it is true one needs to be careful and there is tight security in a lot of areas, everything was fine. And while I can’t say at all that I have seen anything that a regular tourist would here in Caracas, here are some of my impressions:
– On the flight in, they made this weird announcement about having to spray the cabin with a “non toxic” pesticide. They then proceeded to open all of the overhead compartments and spray everything, making the cabin reek of it for a few minutes.
– The coastline of Venezuela (seen through my plane window) is absolutely spectacular looking.
– Getting through customs and passport control, which I had been warned about, was actually a breeze. Sure they asked me a bunch of questions, but honestly I have had a much harder time getting into the UK.
– Thanks to my friend Daniel and his family, I got picked up at the airport and dropped off at my hotel by this really nice guy named Richard (that is a real name here btw, pronounced Reeshar). He told me how many great things there are to see in Venezuela, and apologized that his country was not in better shape to visit at the moment, with evident sadness.
– Coming back to the airport this morning, I likewise expected mayhem with exit visas and taxes and forms, but it was a breeze, probably made easier by the United reps who seemed to take care of a lot of it for me at their counter. One little oddity was a small price discrepancy on my ticket, for which they wanted me to pay the equivalent of four US dollars in bolivars, but I didn’t have any bolivars, so they let it slide.
– And not really related to Caracas at all, I found out this morning that someone in Bogota (most likely one of the airport stands, but possibly the hotel) lifted my card info and tried to charge thousands of dollars at Sephora (which is odd, it seems like credit card fraud often goes through Sephora for some reason). Chase caught it and sent me a message and I called them this morning to cancel my card. They will send me a new one in LA.