After work he dresses in a grey suit with a periwinkle shirt and a black tie. He gels his hair. He takes a cab to meet his friends at a new speakeasy; it's entry: by reservation only.
Lou’s superior from his internship at Gersh made the call; their reservation being held under the name "Vincenzo Espinosa."
They approach the doorman, say the magic words and are granted access. They walk up a derelict stairwell outlined with burning prayer candles leading them to a room resembling a shabby hotel lobby. In the lobby is a woman dressed as a provocative bell-hop. She greets the boys and sets the guidelines:
“No flash photography of the in-house band or the burlesque dancers, and the only exit is located on the ground floor, that is, once you go down you don’t come back up, got it?”
She opens a double door closet; in it are maroon velvet curtains. She pulls the curtains aside to reveal a dark passageway.
“Gentlemen, welcome to El Baile.”
They walk through the darkness onto a metal grate walkway; the sounds of live music reverberate off the floor and through the walls. The music crescendos as more light reveals itself. The walkway leads to a spiral staircase overlooking a sea of elegantly dressed patrons sipping crafted cocktails and salsa dancing as an Afro-Cuban jazz band jams on a private balcony.
“Ay dios mio!” The boys cheer.
They descend and approach the bar. Lou chats with a girl who’s waiting for her date to arrive.
“Yeah, but it's not like he’s here right now, sweetheart,” he coaxes.
“No thanks, Kid.”
“…Ouch,” he says, looking back at a laughing Logan and Bernie. “Fuck it, I’m buying the first round.”
“Hey, what a guy, “ says Bernie, slapping Lou’s shoulder.
Logan leans against the bar and scans the room. He takes note of a beautiful blonde just out of earshot wearing a red cocktail dress and sipping wine while swaying her hips to the music.
Woman in red, he thinks.
Suddenly she makes eye contact. Logan stares but he hesitates, looking away and burying his face behind Bernie’s shoulder.
See, Logan may be a “Porn star,” and he may now define himself by his superior ability to fuck, but when he’s outside the parameter of porn, Logan lacks a certain air of confidence. With no set to approach, no dangling paycheck, and no director telling him it’s okay to be a pervert, that he is allowed to objectify another person, that it’s time to act, Logan feels at a loss, unsure of himself, inferior.
No matter; he forgets about it and lets the moment pass. Onward and upward.
The boys finish their drinks and Logan buys the next round. They wander around the bar; in the back there’s a dimly lit cigar lounge shrouded in thick clouds of Cuban tobacco smoke. They step inside and take a collective savoring whiff.
“You guys thinking what I’m thinking?” Says Lou.
“Stogies!” Says Logan.
“I’m on it,” Says Bernie, already approaching the bar.
Two minutes later they’re sitting on fashionably ripped leather chairs, legs crossed with stogies and drinks in hand.
“To the night!” They cheer, clinking glasses and gnawing cigar heads.
Logan’s eyes widen as his woman in red returns. With a couple friends she saunters into the backroom, and Lou, being of pure brawn, immediately perks up and gets their attention.
“Thank you, God,” Logan says to himself.
Introductions are made all around and group conversation follows. Logan and the woman casually gravitate toward each other.
Shaking her hand he says, “Hey, my name’s Logan.”
“My name is Eira.”
“Oh…I don’t think I’ve ever heard that name before.”
“It’s Welsh. I’m from Sylvania.”
“No shit? Funny enough, I am from Pennsylvania. How interesting!”
“So, what brought you to Los Angeles?
“Oh, I’m visiting a friend in the states.”
“You said you’re moving into your own place?”
“No, I’m visiting. You know, tourist!”
“Oh, cool. Sorry, it’s pretty loud in here. So, Sylvania, that’s where Dracula is from right?”
“I don’t think I know who that is.”
“No. Um, I’m going to talk to my friend for a minute.”
“Oh, okay, cool. ”
She turns her attention away and Logan retreats to Bernie.
“Hey, how did that go, stud?”
“I’m fucking blowing it. She said she’s from Sylvania and I made some stupid joke about how coincidental it is that I’m from Pennsylvania.”
“Awe, come on, man. That’s like telling Dorothy you're not in Kansas anymore.”
“Yeah, no shit, she walked away.”
Defeated, Logan resorts to a desperate act.
“I got an idea,” he says to Bernie.
“Good luck, tiger.”
Logan approaches Eira from behind and taps her on the shoulder. He leans in to her ear, hijacking her attention away from her friend.
“Hey, how about I get you a drink?
“…Sure,” she says. "A glass of red wine, please.”
“A glass of red wine. Easy. Be right back. “
His first mistake is leaving Eira alone as he goes to the bar. The minute he steps away another man swoops in, a taller man who Logan realizes to be better dressed, better looking, and probably in better financial standing than he.
“Son of a bitch,” Logan mutters.
Caught up with the inconvenient arrival of the new hunk, Logan blindly orders “Sauvignon” from the bartender with a certain sense of assurance in his voice. Then he realizes his mistake. In horror Logan watches the bartender pour a glass of white wine, and feeling too embarrassed to admit it, he just pays for the drink, and sulks back to Eira and her new date.
Logan sheepishly hands her the glass and apologizes that it’s white, fabricating a story to make the bartender appear like the idiot. Eira smiles and nods, returning to the taller, more attractive bastard.
Logan retreats to Bernie.
“Wanna get out of here?” Logan asks.
“What’re you thinking?”
“Get some food?”
“Let’s do it.”
Logan grabs Lou, and together the three of them exit the club and reenter the city streets, back into the wild. Soon they gorge on al pastor and carnitas and wander around the block.
They notice a side street apartment complex with an accessible fire escape perfectly composed up the center of the building, something not too often seen in Los Angeles.
“Man, I never thought I’d miss having a fire-escape.” Logan says.
“Yeah, there’s something really cinematic about it.” Says Lou, framing the shot with his hands.
“Well…What do you say, boys?” Says Bernie.
Logan and Lou look at each other. Maybe it’s the alcohol, the tobacco high, or just the thrill of spontaneity that makes them primed for adventure, but without contemplation they declare, “Fuck it,” and start climbing.
Their ascent is rewarded with a panoramic view of the Hollywood high-rises, the downtown skyline, the Griffith Observatory looming from the top of distant cliffs, and the blue hum of the Church of Scientology.
“Damn. Can’t beat roof access.” Says Bernie.
“This is peaceful.” Says Logan.
“Yeah, LA ain’t so bad sometimes.” Says Lou.
“Take it in, boys.” Says Bernie. “Take it in.”
They stand and revel, looking from outside into the chaos of bright lights, plastic faces, and false advertising, and for a moment, life is calm, just a cool breeze on a private rooftop in Hollywood.