Thursday, July 1, 2010


"Do you know what the most beautiful thing in the world is?" I mentioned, rather casually, to a coworker one night.  It was the middle of the evening, the mid-shift, right before the point when our restaurant switches from dinnertime to full-on party-mode.

She was standing at the monitor next to me, concentrating on an order as I stared dreamily off into space.  She stopped, her concentration broken.  "Huh?"

"The most beautiful thing in the world... I think so, anyway... do you know what it is?"

"What's that?"

"An avocado," I said, twirling my hair, tickled by this apparent epiphany.

I thought I heard her chuckle under her breath, just the faintest whisper of laughter; nothing malicious, of course, just the kind of laugh that is the product of being slightly interested and totally caught off-guard.  "Oh?" She said, "An avocado?"

"Oh yes," I said.  "An avocado.  You know, when you have an avocado, and it's ripe - not too ripe, but just ripe enough, just perfect... and you cut it open, and the black leathery outside gives way to the brilliant green inside, with that rich brown seed in the middle... the contrast, the color - it's life.  It's beautiful."

My coworker smiled.  Did she get it?  Maybe, maybe not; it didn't matter, I was just bored and rambling at that point.  But she agreed.  "It is pretty," she said, and the moment passed, and we both went on our merry ways, with no further mention of it for the rest of the evening.

A few hours later, we were both finished with our shift, and finally sat at the bar to complete the paperwork for the evening.  "What are you doing tonight, when you're done?" She asked.  Nothing, I said, maybe just have a drink and go home.  Was it a Friday?  Perhaps it was only Tuesday, maybe Thursday... it didn't matter, weekends didn't matter; in Los Angeles, you take life as it comes, a day at a time.  No two days are ever the same.  You're either working, or you're playing.  The two of us had been buried in work, we felt.  It was high time for a little bit of play.

We saddled up to the bar, suddenly rejuvenated by our new-found freedom, and though it was past eleven, the night to us was still young and we could let our hair down for a moment.  One Bloody Mary soon turned into three, four... and the next thing I knew, we were speeding down Hollywood Boulevard in a BMW, another friend of ours behind the wheel, headed to his place for more drinks.

Vodka is a fickle friend.  Soon, 4 a.m. was upon us.  We'd had plenty to drink that night; unless you count tomato juice, celery stalks, and green olives as any source of real sustenance, my coworker and I were in some serious need of food.  Let's take a cab, we decided, back to her place, in Los Feliz.  "You can spend the night," she said, and I was glad, because though my car was in a safe place there was no way in hell I was making it back to the Valley that night.

There are usually a few cabs parked there on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, where our friend's loft apartment is.  I had been on an emotional roller coaster that evening, laughing one minute, sobbing the next.  Maybe it was the vodka, maybe I was stressed, maybe it was just some weird hormonal shit.  I'd chalk it up to the second... hell, on top of everything we had going on in our personal lives, we had work, and trying to juggle the two of them and chase that ever-elusive, fleeting dream that we saw every day, but was always just beyond our fingertips; chasing and chasing and somehow feeling like we never got any closer... well, it gets to you after a while.  You don't mean to give in, to break down, but sometimes, you don't have a choice.

Anyway, the cabs were there, and though we were both quite toasted at that point, she was by far the more stable one.  She went from cab to cab, finally finding a driver who would give us the time of day, and I was suddenly elated in seeing the doors open, suddenly joking and laughing again while I wiped the tears from my face and climbed into the warm interior.

Our driver had a thick accent - they all did - but spoke exquisite English, and immediately jumped into the conversation.  My coworker and I had reached the point of drunkenness in which you don't know what you're saying, or why, but somehow, every word or declaration or story you have is totally relevant, and then you see something shiny or a synapse misfires in your brain and you suddenly get distracted and can't remember what that really amazing thing was you were talking about, but you don't really even care because you've found something new.  Our driver was a decent human, bless him, and though he knew he had two very drunk girls in the back of his cab, and the city streets were, for the moment, nearly empty, there was no funny business; he took us where we wanted to go, entertaining us with stories about drunk celebrities he had picked up in his cab once upon a time.  We laughed.  It felt good.

He brought us to a very quiet street in Los Feliz, halfway between my coworker's house and Fred 62, a 24-hour restaurant.  We were starving, so we dug around for cash, tipping the driver generously.  I thanked him for imparting his humor and wisdom upon us, his most most crass and drunken of customers for the evening - well, maybe not the most drunk and/or crass, but it was already almost 5 in the morning...

And then, as we prepared to depart from the taxi, the most extraordinary thing happened:

The driver reached from the front seat and, through that little window in the back, handed me an avocado.

I almost screamed.  I wanted to scream.  I can't even imagine the wide-eyed, dumbfounded look of amazement that probably graced my countenance at that moment.  My eyes darted from the driver, to the fruit, and back to the driver again before I finally took it from his hand, speechless.  My coworker, on the other hand, broke into near hysterics.  "Oh my God!" She exclaimed.  "Oh my... she was just talking about that!  Just a few hours ago, she was just talking about that!" She pointed at the avocado in my hand.

I was stricken with wonder, amazement, maybe even a little spooked.  "Thank you, sir," I said, smiling ever-so-slightly, and we got out of the cab and walked to the restaurant.


It may not seem like a big deal to you.  If that's the case, you can just stop reading now; sorry for wasting your time.  But I will tell you, that avocado became, in my eyes, a holy relic.  I carried it to the restaurant.  It sat on the table with us while we dined in the dim light, trying in vain to sober up a little.  The clock struck six; we journeyed home, and while passed out on my coworkers couch, I cradled it in my arms.  I carried it all the way back to Hollywood, and it rode with me in the front seat of my car on the way home.

The skeptic would say it means nothing.  Some will reason, "Well, maybe the driver just had them, in his cab, and gave them to people as they came."  Still, the coincidence is huge, regardless.  Even if it seemed significant, more so than it actually was... some may say it was the alcohol talking, that it was less significant than I perceived it to be.  Life, at that point, though still very unpredictable, had reached a stagnant point.  My mood that very night was proof, that feeling of hopelessness, of a longing for what had once existed in my world, what had once been my world.  I took it as a sign from God, I had no choice but to do so.

When I acquired the avocado, it was still very green, not yet to the point when it could be cut open, not yet at a point when it would be delicious.  I let it ripen, and in a week I reached for a spoon and devoured the rich, green flesh until only the seed remained.  Now, the seed sits in my windowsill (in a Crown Royal rocks glass, no less), and each day I watch and wait for it to grow.  When it finally does, I will plant it in the courtyard of my apartment complex, and in ten years, God willing, it will bear fruit to be enjoyed by whomever dwells here.

The Law of Attraction is a big, big deal out here in Los Angeles.  It's a concept that has been around forever, but has been popularized, within the last few years, by "The Secret."  That woman made a lot of damn money off something that people like Napoleon Hill knew about in the 60's, and what who knows how many other people knew about before that.  But hey, she saw a market, saw commodity, and went with it.  And Angelenos ate that crap up like it was going out of style.

And they still do, a few years later.  That's what they relate this story to, whenever I tell them about it.  I can't lie, I do kinda sorta believe in it.  And it is a very popular practice of thinking amongst the acting community.  I suppose it's just a new way of keeping faith, of having the hope that, if you dream it, then one day you'll have all those things you wanted, all the money and the fame and the fancy car and the huge house and giant obnoxious television set, and you won't have to worry about where your next meal is coming from ever again.

Yeah, sure, okay.  It might be that simple.  It could be that simple.  But here are some things I don't really get... if it was that simple, that easy to have the world in the palm of your hand, to have the kind of life most people simply dream of having, then why are we still struggling with getting there?  Why aren't all of us filthy-freakin' rich?

I read that often times, when we tell ourselves we want something, a little switch in our subconscious clicks on and tells us not to really and truly want something because it's selfish and inwardly-focused and how dare you have aspirations and wants and dreams, you should be happy with what you have because there are people starving in third-world countries, by God!  And you want a Mercedes?  Pish-posh!

But this is America!  This is the land of opportunity!  Long ago, Emma Lazarus gave this country some words of wisdom that would soon be emulated by our Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."  And somewhere along the line we looked back at all the places we came from, and saw how crappy they stayed through generations, and how much better we had it here compared to there.  So we guilt-tripped ourselves, and with this proverbial slap in the face we began to raise generations of mediocrity.  We are now the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. We are the poor, the tired, the overworked and underpaid.  We are working jobs we hate, paying our dues, because someone somewhere is sitting poolside in their posh mansion telling us this is the real world and this is the way it works.  Don't bother having dreams, don't bother reaching for the stars.  You must lose your aspirations when you become an adult and have to get your own health insurance (yeah, right).  Your dreams die along with your childhood.

So, is that it?  Is it really just all in our minds?  Are we our own worst enemies?  Or has society, unbeknown to us, been telling us these things and feeding us these lies in order to keep us in check?  Not that each and every one of us having everything we ever wanted would cause any chaos... actually, it might cause quite a bit.   Work hard, sacrifice everything, and then maybe one day you'll rule the world.  But is risking your happiness worth it in the end?

My coworker and I reflect on the avocado incident every now and then, when we're feeling goofy or down about things.  It helps keep our chins up, to look on the sunnier side of things.  We were both laughing so hard, having such fun in the cab.  Maybe it's less about the law of attraction than we really think.  Avocados are, by definition, symbols of fertility and abundance.  Curiously enough, they also have a link to representations of jealousy.  But to us, at that moment, perhaps it was symbolic of everything; of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It was about the roller coaster, the ups and downs and loop-de-loops, and enjoying the ride.  After all, everyone only gets one ticket, one shot.  That's really what it's about, isn't it?  The wonder and the splendor and the adventure that is life; feeling joy and pain and sadness and ecstasy and adrenaline and the blood rushing through your veins as your heart beats a million times a second; about loving and losing and the bittersweet memory of it all.  It's life.  It's delicious.

(* a very, very special thank you to T. G. E., because you get it.)

1 comment:

  1. I have a renewed respect for the avocado now. And you are right, we only get one shot at life... go for it!!!! As for wondering if society is keeping us from greatness, or is it something in our inner selves, it think a little of both. Only you can steer the path of your life. And remember, success is not measured by how big of a house you have, or the type of car you drive, it is measured by how full your heart feels.

    Write more please!