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January 18, 2003
The Iranian

Part 15

February 17
11:33 a.m.

I'm peacefully sipping my nonfat latte in the patio of Fred Segal, reading one of my latest treasured finds from the 10 cents public library second hand bookstore: Washington Square. It provides a fascinating anecdotal history on the beginnings of my beloved Gotham city, which I miss so much: Washington Square was considered in the 1800s to be uber-class! A picture very foreign from the current inhabitants of this patch of greenery lost in the middle of New York's urban jungle, filled with fast-talking, chess-playing, weed-smoking con artists, or bohemian wannabe rich kids from NYU.

This book is something else: Every delectable word and phrase as delicately constructed as a souffle. An insanely cruel opinion of the greed, perfidy and delusions rampant in the human race. At the same time, the heroine, who is gently poked fun at throughout the novel, ends up becoming an ideal of purity and honesty that we should all aspire to. I always knew cynics were the greatest romantics (deep, deep down in their hearts).

My reading is momentarily interrupted by the yapping of my neighbors, an oh-so-cool collection of Melrose Avenue has-beens and wannabes whose sole topic of conversation is "the Industry" (with a capital "I"). A woman with long iron-straight black hair cascading over her shoulders, tight hip-hugger jeans and dramatic dragon tattoo enveloping her toned, tan, and muscular upper arm seems like a twenty-year old knockout from behind. But when she turns around, I realize, despite all the cosmetic surgery in the world, she is my mother's age! She keeps purring in a thick russian accent at an unseen companion in front of her.

-- "My sweetest Pashka likes his cappucino doesn't he? Yes he doeeessss... . Yes he doessssss... . He's the best Pashka... He's my Pashkaaaaa... "

Curiosity gets the best out of me and I peer out, only to find that the elusive Pashka is but a minuscule poodle sitting opposite his mistress, lapping up some cappucino she has poured him in a saucer. Two tables down, a kid looking like he rolled out of the Salvation Army, and hasn't shaved in 7 years, is talking on his zillion dollar Aloisson cell phone. What is it with this obsession of appearing what you are not in this town? Normally I abhor this kind of place, where people go to be seen and to feel good about their otherwise dismal life spent at their menial jobs, waiting for their big break to come. But, of course, as always, Chloe, the queen of the Tinseltown social butterflies has demanded that we meet here before heading to Artie's salon, not far from here, and get our hair done.

After giving Chloe the silent treatment for a couple of days because of the horrible blind date she set me up on Valentine's Day, my flaky roommate finally regained my favors by promising that she wouldn't sign the release allowing those sleazy TV producers to flaunt our humiliation on national airwaves.

And here she comes, traipsing in as always with shopping bags full of goodies from expensive Melrose stores (how does she afford it?), her sunglasses sitting atop her head, pushing her golden strands back, face still flush from the adrenaline rush any woman gets when she buys a new pair of shoes. Some people say chocolate is better than sex. I say, get me a pair of 8-inch stiletto heels, black velvet Goertz knee-high boots and we'll revisit that theory.

-- "Sup Naz?"

-- "Zero... So, can we go already?"

-- "What? I just got here! I'm not leaving without eyeing at least one celebrity here."

I roll my eyes. Why, oh why? What is the point? I have had numerous "celebrity sightings" since moving to the West Coast, most of which didn't even make me lift an eyebrow. I saw Laura Harring in a strapless pink ball gown, clutching an unrecognizable award plaque, dining with a couple of oily gangster types at the Conga Room, where we sat one table apart celebrating my cousin Sami's birthday. One morning, I was waiting my turn to put gas in my car at the station just across the street from my place when I realized the guy in front of me was John Tesh. Just last week, I was getting my coffee at the Galleria, that staple of the Valley... a-hem... scene, where I glanced at Alex Michel, the "Bachelor", doing an interview about his... wink, wink... nudge nudge reality TV show. Same day, same time, I was walking by Tower Records where I saw a long line of Iranian-looking Fob-ollahs waiting to get the autograph of... I kid you not... Siavash, a.k.a. the Sultan of the Scene. The only real celebrity sighting that made me tingle was seeing Jack Nicholson at the Staple Center, where I had gone with Ali to watch his beloved Lakers. And even then, I could only catch his balding cranium from the nose-bleed section I was ogling him from. Still... It is... JACK (swooooonnnn)

So I decided to let Chloe do her "see and be seen" thang and went back to my book.

-- "Hey?" She whispered excitedly to me after a few minutes "Is that Chris Kattan?"

I looked up from my book and could only see the back of a short black-haired guy walking to his car. I decided to humor Chloe though so she wouldn't feel her day was a total waste.

The trick seemed to work and we finally got up to go to Artie's and have our hair done. I promised myself I was going to be very pig-headed and only let Artie give me a simple trim and blow-dry. Am in no mood for his eccentricities today!

2:45 p.m.


I don't know how or why I let Artie and Chloe talk me into this. My hair looks like it has caught fire and no sane fireman would dare approach it. What was supposed to be a subtle auburn highlight to my long dark tresses has turned into a Lucille-Ball-worthy nightmare! The tomato-shade of red Artie has dyed my hair has made my normally fair skin look even paler. Add to this equation a pair of thick black eyebrows and light-colored eyes, and I have more colors on me than a contestant at a Drag Queen festival.

4:32 p.m.

Oh. My. God.

Have shampooed my hair three times. My whole bathtub looks as if I have killed a pig in it. It has huge red stains all over it! Yet the color on my hair stubbornly refuses to fade. No matter. Have to get to work. Though may get fired as surely will scare customers away.

5:12 p.m.

Getting ready for my shift at Sal's. My boss Sal Junior took one look at me and asked me if it was "freaking Halloween". I decided to put on a baseball cap and pull it real low over my eyes to avoid similar comments.

8:05 p.m.

God, I am exhausted! And it is only halfway to the end. God punish me for choosing to work at a busy diner... Although I never really "chose" to be here, really. Oh god, what am I doing with my life, in my late twenties, with freakish red hair, no boyfriend, no job prospects, smoking a cigarette behind the back door of a burger joint in the middle of Sherman Oaks!

8:07 p.m.

Grrrrrrrrr!!! Had to throw my cigarette away because Sal Junior claims one of my customers is asking for me. What, I already have regulars? Already a sign I've been here too long.

I got to table 7 and annoyingly, said customer is engrossed in the menu. I can't even see his face. I cough discreetly but the man doesn't take a hint. Exasperated, I cry out:

-- "Soooooooooo???? What's it gonna be Charlie?"

My customer pulls down the menu to reveal an LAPD officer in full uniform. Oooppssss. I start to sweat but the guy seems amused.

-- "How'd you know my name was Charlie?" He replies, with a thick Chicago accent.

But, wait a minute... This voice... It sounds familiar. And those blue eyes tucked deep down under the shade of his police hat also ring a bell.

-- "Gavin?" I ask, incredulously.

To this, his eyes sparkled, and his grin widens.

Yup! This is the same guy I inadvertently pushed in the pool at Chloe's party weeks ago.

-- "No really... I think I like Charlie... You can rechristen me anytime... " He answers, mischievous smile in full gear.

-- "I didn't know you're a co... ummm... I meant, a police officer."

-- "I'm not. This is just my Chippendale costume. I'm going on stage to do my number in a few minutes."

I stare at him, blinking for a few seconds before I get the joke. We both giggle and I sit down in his booth, much to the dismay of Sal Junior, who is giving me furious glances from behind the counter.

-- "Seriously Gavin... You're a cop? And... What happened to your British accent?"

-- "Oh you like my Chicago flavor do you? Thanks! My speech coach pulled his hair out before I could pull it off. It's for a movie we're shooting nearby."

-- "Oh wow, so you're an actor! Should have guessed! No cop could be this good-humored!"

-- "Weeeellll... What I'd really like to do is direct! Figures uh????"

Gavin and I keep chatting for a few minutes before I have to go back to my station. He is really cute and funny and... Oh my god am I swooning?

When he's done with his sandwich and ready to leave, he tells me in a more serious tone.

-- "Naz... I hope you don't mind me coming here like this. Chloe told me where you worked and I decided this had to be better than the crafts table on the set."

For some reason, I am suddenly getting nervous. Sweaty palms. But I try to appear chipper.

-- "Oh no are you kidding? I have all my starving actor friends come here!"

Gavin reaches into his pocket and pulls out a card.

-- "Listen I have to go now but I thought... This week-end... There's a Kieslowski festival in Hollywood. They're showing his Decalogue. I've always wanted to see it. But I wanted to see it on the big screen. Anyways, if you're interested, please give me a call. I'd love to hear your take on it. Chloe told me you're an even bigger film buff than I am."

Before I have a chance of saying anything, he has shoved the card in my hands and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek.

Before he pushes the door, he turns back and says:

-- "By the way, really like what you've done with your hair: I love getting into trouble with a beautiful red-head!"

11:01 p.m.

I am sitting on my bed, my phone to the right side, Gavin's card on the other. What am I supposed to do? Sure this guy's cute, and the Kieslowski thing sounds great but... I mean, this isn't just some random guy asking me out on a casual date kind of thing.

I actually kind of like him.

And if I take this next step, it is closing the door on Ali forever. I mean, it is admitting to myself that we have broken up for good.

Well what am I so torn about?

I mean, Ali obviously isn't running after me is he? And this is the kind of thing we would never have been able to do as a couple. A Kieslowski festival? Puh-leeze! He would have fallen asleep before the opening credits rolled out. Same as me falling asleep when he tried to get me to watch his Cowboys with him. Maybe it wasn't to be between us anyway. Gavin and I have so much more in common. We are both actors or trying to be. We love films and could go on and on about the significance of the scene in Taxi Driver when Robert De Niro looks out from his payphone onto a narrow hallway leading to the streets of Times Square. With Ali, I constantly had to worry about what surprise he would hit me with next, after the bombshell known as his ex-wife Shohreh. Do I really want to share the rest of my life with a man I can't trust?

I sit on the bed for a few more minutes, unwilling to make a move. But the answer was obvious from the start.

Finally, I pick up the phone and dial the numbers.

A sleepy male voice answered.

Taking the deepest breath in my life, I say:

-- "Hi Ali, it's me... Do you wanna talk for a little while?"


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