I go hiking with Bernie and Lou at Malibu Creek State Park, the three of us sufficiently stoned after hotboxing Bernie’s Civic coupe.
The trail begins like any other in Los Angeles with clearly defined dirt paths, soaring views of the city, sprawling canyons, and in this case, the shimmering Pacific. But all that is just a prelude, something to get the blood pumping. The real hike begins two miles in at the top of a dam marked by a chain link fence and signs warning, “Danger,” and “No Access.” Sure, it might look like a dead end, but nobody’s patrolling and there’s a wide, human shaped hole cut into the fence as if to say, go ahead, we dare you to enter.
We make it to the trailhead at the top of the Dam. Bernie drops his water bottle for the third time and this time it falls down the ladder shaft. A strong wind comes and blows Lou’s hat right off, knocking it too down the shaft. Needless to say we were off to a rocky start. Then a woman approaches us, panicked about the legitimacy of this "trail" and the safety of her son who had run off ahead of her and into one of the many tunnels created by the giant boulders.
Tough break, Lady.
We take off, descending the ladder, the cliffside enveloping us until only a sliver of blue sky remains. A murky creek guides our way, and we hop rock to rock, scaling and scrambling for thirty minutes before taking a break to eat some fruit, take a few photos, and pass another joint. Suddenly, we’re flanked by half a dozen lost and confused high school kids who heard about this trail through the rumor mill and decided on a whim to give it a whirl. Seems it was harder than they expected. They end up tagging behind us and we lead them the remainder of the way to the final hurdle: the gorge, where you’re left with two options, either jump in and swim to shore, or boulder the perimeter.
There, the three of us tested and experienced hikers quickly climb our way across the natural pumice wall surrounding the water, surely impressing the teens with our skill and grace. We make it back onto land, and there waiting impatiently is a group of modern L.A. tropes dressed in overpriced athleisure wear and designer sunglasses, the girls with perfectly plastic faces done up in full makeup and the guys with groomed stubble and coiffed hair.
The leader, a pseudo alpha male in an unbuttoned red and black flannel and aviators, yells at one of the girls in the group. “Goddamnit, Stacy! I told you to keep your fucking feet out of the mud; your shoes need to be bone dry or else you’re gonna slip. And put your fucking phone away before I throw it in the water!”
With swelling arrogance the pseudo alpha forges ahead, leading his friends while the teenagers struggle to get their footing. I join Lou in a prime position to watch the impending collision while Bernie stays by the wall, vainly guiding those he can see.
Lou, being a better man than me, calls out to them. "I don't think you guys should go yet,” he says. “There’s another group coming the opposite way."
Pseudo alpha responds, "Hey bro, you ever been here before?"
Lou says, “Uh, Yeah, I’m here right now, in fact."
"Oh, Yeah?” he says. “Well I've been coming here for twenty years, pal, but thanks for the referee."
Incredulous, Lou just waves at him and through his teeth he says, "Sure, no problem."
I see Bernie from afar and he's ecstatic, pointing in the direction of the pseudo alpha, making a look as if to say, ‘would ya get a load of this guy.’ Eventually he jogs over to us, and out of breath he says, "Holy shit, can you believe who’s here?"
"Who?" Both Lou and I ask in unison.
Bernie points. "That guy, right there."
"The douchebag?" I say?
"Bro, that's fucking Jared Leto," he says.
“You’re kidding,” I say.
“I swear to God,” says Bernie.
Just then, the high schoolers make the connection. The girls squeal and one of the guys rubbernecks so hard he slips off the rocks and into the algae covered water.
"Well, I’ll be damned," says Lou. “I love Jared Leto. I always knew he was a prick.”
That’s a profound moment. A chance meeting with a prolific actor only to discover they’re a real asshole supremo. I guess I wouldn’t expect anything less in this town. Hows that old saying go again, the one about meeting your heroes?
“Let’s get out of here,” I say, and as we walk off I take one last look back and see Jared explaining to the kids how to get across, where to put their hands and feet, showing them not to be afraid. He was teaching them instead of just leaving them like we did. Imagine that. I guess that makes us the real assholes of the day.
In the end, the joke’s on us.