Bill DeMarco Rates the Top 50 Starbucks in LA: This Week: #4
#4: the Starbucks at the corner of San Vicente and La Brea
It’s 153Â°. Lightning flickers like frames of a silent movie. Elevators of thunder ascend cloud apartments.
How I missed this Starbucks baffles me. And I’m not easily baffled. Bamboozled, sure, but I’ve been to every single one around it. This Starbucks is the house on the police map that doesn’t have a thumbtack. The one equidistant from all the chalk silhouettes. The one where the murderer arranges his syringes.
Then I think, of course I missed it. It’s at the freakin’ corner of La Brea and San Vick (San Vicente for you tourists.) If this city’s streets are a game of Chutes and Ladders then you’ve just been dropped down two slides where the birthday cake got burnt and the orange cat gouged your eyes out. Spin another 3 and you’ll be raking leaves in Inglewood. I think it used to be an outpost where the pony express didn’t feel like picking up mail.
I’m working on my latest screenplay, Mexican Cheerleader (“She doesn’t belong”). I’ve written three pages. A picket fence of lightning skirts the city. This heat. My mind woozes. Am I in Miracle Mile east. . .or south Mid-City? I couldn’t even tell you. Shit’s gettin’ twisty. My mind’s is playin’ tricks on me. Then this guy walks in. Wears a cowboy hat and a combat boot, with some crazy stuff in between. Man there are homeless dudes and there are homeless dudes. And this dude is homeless. But he’s also cool. But he’s also homeless. But he’s also cool. Which is it, DeMarco, cool or homeless?
“Hey man, are you cool or are you homeless?”
He twists the toothpick in his mouth like the crown of a pocketwatch.
“I used to be both.”
“I dig. I dig.”
“What do you do?” I ask.
“I’m a sailor.”
The sky brightens, darkens. Some moments pass. I don’t think he is a sailor but I believe him. Dusk seems not to fade to night but idles like a stock car, modulates to fruit hues–pomegranate, pluot, blood orange. The sailor with the toothpick looks out the window.
“Mind if I read that?” he asks without looking.
He points to the shuffled sections of the Los Anjealous Times sitting on the table next to me.
He passes on Calendar. He passes on the Front Page. He passes on California, Business, Health. He settles on Sports.
“Ah shit, Dorsey tied Hollywood, 7-7. God damn. What happened to the offense?”
His toothpick twirls.
“Hey man you know what month it is?” the stranger asks not looking up from his paper.
“Why, it’s August, sir.”
That’s weird. I never talk like that, stilted and subordinate. I’m mysterious to myself sometimes. But it seemed the thing to do.
“August, huh? Time to git.”
Like that he kind of ambles to the door and walks out into the airless half-night. The sky flashes blank. He’s gone.
Then I notice something he left on the stack of papers. It’s a tambourine. I didn’t see that. Is that his? No DeMarco, it belongs to the guy reading the 2006 California Real Estate Exam Guide. I grab the thing and yell down the street.
“Hey man you dropped your tambourine!”
Where the hell did he go? Christ. Now I gotta find this crazy homeless man and give him his tambourine.