Bill DeMarco Rates the Top 50 Starbucks in LA: This Week: #1 (cont’d.)

melusina3.jpg starbucks2.gif

. . .then the ground rumbles. That’s L.A. for you. Then it rumbles again. Shit. Flotillas of pigeons fly off the rooftops. larroquette.jpgEven the attorneys are looking around. More rumbling. The jets in the fountain shut off. There are bad signs and there are bad signs. And I don’t mean bad as in, you’ll show me how to pick up girls if I help you pass the SAT. This feels in the lowest parts of my intestinal system just short of the sphincter, quite bad. There’s a bubbling in the middle of the fountain, seemingly independent of technological explanation. Shit shit. The bubbling spreads to the entire pool. Three shits. Most of the lawyers are rolling their boxes away.

pigeonsInstantaneously, the surface of the water bows outward like a house-sized balloon. Two concentric crowns of spume puncture it from within. Layers of chlorinated water slap me to the ground. White-collar types flee in complete panic mode. A figure takes shape through all the commotion. Something colossal. It rises far above the surrounding buildings, higher than the Ahmanson across the street. I think people are screaming but it’s a notion. My eyes are blurry windshields. There’s something spreading away from the hulking mass. Arms? Oh damn. And tails. Tails? And a canopy of hair. And boobs, what???

It’s Melusina!!! The mermaid on the logo!!! The story goes she started as a river nymph combing her comely locks for the sailors. But that was 800 years ago and that was Germany. This is Los Angeles. Dare I say it, Los Angeles baby. And that winsome sometime wreck-inducing sea-creature has evolved into a rapacious monster! The unpotentiated dweomercraft in the Tarot card must have somehow cross-pollinated with the picture on the cup. . .to give birth to the crowned horror in front of me. After slipping and falling on my ass twice I rise to my feet.

“Melusina!!!” I cry.

I thought there would be more but that’s all I can think of. She turns her gigantic face to me. Water gushes in all directions, birds cackle, the sky turns a gunmetal grey. I’m totally drenched but am nonetheless certain that I pissed in my pants at some point. I really don’t know what to do. Weird deafening sounds emanate from her mouth, like soundchecks from dueling football stadiums. She makes something like a grimace (never liked that word), claps her hands above her head, and with a sound of thunder a torrent of coffee beans blasts me from all sides and hurls me over the whole piazza into a chokeberry bush.

coffee-beans.jpgI’m not going to lie to you it stings. I don’t even have a sense of humor about spitting a pinecone out of my mouth. This is very serious and very strange. . .but purpose wells up inside me. A course of action, simple and ineluctable. Rain has begun pouring. Melusina towers in the center of the courtyard. With a slap of one of her tails she crushes an ATM booth. Infamy. Coffee beans (I’m assuming of crappy quality) litter the streets. The lawyers have fled. Where are the security guards? Park rangers, something? It matters none. I unleashed this. It is to me the task of managing it.

I make my way to the Fairmont, sloppily flop inside. I don’t want to do what I have to do ‘cause it’s a one-way deal and I hate riding the bus. But the coffee lady’s fuckin’ shit up so I gotta take drastic measures. I grip the pine-tree air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, say a prayer, snap it off, and insert it in a pine-tree shaped receptacle beneath the dashboard. I buckle my seatbelt.

e80fordfairmont_small.jpgWhirrings of gear-clusters accompany the relocation of quarter-panels into new configurations. The cabin collapses around me, forms a protective carapace. Load-bearing assemblies contract, elongate, fold shut, radially expand, shift position, interlock, and seal. Those words Jim Two Hawks said to me years ago–“one day your car will transform itself into a suit of robotic battle armor”–while enigmatic at the time seem to make sense now. I peer through a truncated pyramid assembled from windshields and windows. I grip a throttle and actuate my arms, swing my newfound saber/former dented fender. Like I said. . .it’s a one way trick so I better make this count.

I charge back to the courtyard. It’s weird but the control’s kind of instinctive, I’m ten feet off the ground but I’ll get the hang of it. “MELUSINA!!!” I cry again through my PA/carhorn, swinging my saber daringly. Another hand clap. Another jet of coffee beans. I draw my hood/shield and deflect the blow. “HA HA!!!” I exhult. Another blast of beans. I miss this one. I get socked back to Hill Street . Some adjustments are in order. I hop to my jaunty robot feet and consider my next line of attack.

At which point high beams sear my peripheral vision and something smashes into me from the side. My instruments react crazily (sine waves, buttons, radar screens). I flip over one and a half times, which is funny in my new condition because it sounds like one and a half car crashes. But I’m okay. Who did that???!!!

vanagon.jpgVANAGON!!! I knew we’d meet again, just not under such whacko circumstances. Who are you fuckface? I don’t have time for this. Frankly I don’t have time for any of this. Are you part of the deal? Is coffee-nymph cutting you points? The rain sizzles on his headlights and my headlights. Which happen to point out of my robot-suit hip joints, god knows why, cool sure, a little unexpected though, I don’t know who designed–Vanagon peels out! I’m caught flat-footed, here comes pain–

But as the distance evaporates between us, a combination flapping/roaring noise rises behind me. Out of nowhere, a winged man-bull swoops down out of the sky and absolutely crushes the evil family minivan. Like, puts a crater in him, flips him over 9 times and Vanagon explodes. Hell yeah, Man-bull! Hell yeah! I knew I wasn’t crazy! You’re out there, you and your boys, watching, surveilling, protecting. I ain’t crazy. I stand awed with respect, my still unfamiliar instruments lighting up chaotically, rain and malevolent coffee beans splattering my armor. I plant my fender/sword tip first and awkwardly bow. He bows too–two warriors paying homage. I begin to speak through the in-suit PA.

“Hail, Man-Bull–“

But with a flap of his awesome pinions he is gone. Alone. Aloft. To be a Man-Bull. . .

A fragment of sign that says ALL DAY PARKI smashes into the street just missing my leg-wheel armature. I’m reminded of the task at hand. Melusina seems to be growing in strength. And arrogance. And sexiness I have to say, weird but true. I must destroy her. The office buildings and the sky have become the same color. Melusina seems to attack things at random. A couple more minutes of this and there won’t be any elevators to lower level parking. Anywhere. Now is the time to attack! (I know, DeMarco, stop hassling me.) I carefully pick my way back into the courtyard. Hide behind a hedge. Mimic a picnic table. Flatten next to a statue of Moses. Lightning scorches roofs. Cornices crumble. Rain floods the piazza. I concoct a plan: if I hit her hard enough she’ll die. I raise my sword, take two sharp breaths, and charge.

I can feel the gigantic heft of her tail as it envelops me totally, lifts me, and hurls me backward. I sail peacefully a hundred yards before landing with a protracted clatter. A spiderweb shock-crack appears in my passenger window. My sword goes skittering into the night. That was rather easy for her. I’m in bad shape. Downtown Los Angeles is in bad shape. I’m out of ideas. Again.

“Hey, Phil,” says an unearthily familiar voice. . . .

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DON’T MISS THE THRILLING FINAL CONCLUSION OF
“Bill DeMarco Rates the Top 50 Starbucks in LA: This Week: #1″ . . .

PART THREE OF A THREE-PARTED NUMBER ONE OF A SAGA OF FIFTY…

Tune In Thursday, 11/16/2006
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read part one