I actively avoid traffic gridlock and large hordes of people meandering around with no real objective in sight. I do both of these for my own sanity. I hate the in between moments in which I’m just in limbo, whether it be on the 405 or caught behind a wall of tourists. I don’t do outlet centers. I believe IKEA is one of Dante’s lost rings and I begrudgingly make my way through the jolly flocks of consumers during the holiday shopping season. I am not a Grinch so much as I loathe waiting. I’m positive these are merely early signs of latent neuroses. I’ve made myself sound like someone who has a lot to do, which I don’t. I also sound extremely impatient, which I am not. Traffic jams, cars or people, are just one of my pet peeves.
Being around people doesn’t bother me, but being entrenched in a meandering mob that for all visible indication looks directionless grinds my stones. Outdoor malls, amusement parks and farmer’s markets are often the worst places for just such mobs but it’s hard to beat Whole Foods for people who manage to get in your way despite the fact that they aren’t really going anywhere. I still love Whole Foods though. If you want to get me really turned on then start whispering dirty things to me about fresh mussels, aromatic fennel, prosciutto, pancetta, pork belly and a world of vegetables to feel and smell, scattered neatly into bins. If you want to blow my load then tell me I can do private shopping before everyone else is allowed to enter the store. I love cooking, from the conception of it while standing in the store holding a yam to the presentation of it on the table. Some guys have mirrors above their beds but I have one above my dinner table.
It’s a recent Tuesday after work, and I’m mingling with the crowd through the strip tease of the produce section in Whole Foods. All the naked vegetables are lying around waiting for me to pluck them from the bin, fondle them for a bit and then take them home with me. I am willing to navigate the madhouse of people to find the right things. It’s an obstacle course of seemingly abandoned shopping carts and people spontaneously shifting from forward to reverse. The Whole Foods in Venice is a big store but you are still likely to run into people several times while you’re shopping. My interior monologue is generally filled with obscenities while I’m making my way through the aisles.
I’m walking past the section of vitamins and skin creams when I pass a striking young woman with dark brown hair and piercing brown eyes. Her eyes latch onto mine and I’m slightly transfixed as I walk by. She smiles at me and seems to be on the tip of saying something as I pass her. I look back over my left shoulder and see that she’s turned slightly and is still smiling at me. It’s not the smile you give the average stranger that let’s them know you’re a reasonable person and are fairly happy. Her smile was the kind you reserve for someone you know who you haven’t seen in a while. I’m immediately trolling through my memory for faces and people who might match her. I must know her but am slightly baffled as I’m pretty certain I would remember a woman that beautiful.
I need some chiles and some avocados. I’m feeling a guacamole coming on and I’m stoked to try out a new mezcal tequila I bought a few nights before. I pick up a fat anaheim pepper and a couple of poblanos for roasting, a bag of jalapenos and then spend a few minutes in vain trying to find some padron peppers. Now I am distinctly part of the lost hoard in Whole Foods meandering around. I can’t find my peppers. My head swivels right and left, scanning the greens, reds and oranges of everything in front of me and then I make eye contact with her again. She’s standing about 20 feet off to my right with her half-full hand basket lightly dangling in front of her, smiling at me again. Again, it’s the full on, ‘Great to see you‘ smile not intended for a complete stranger
Now my own smile is slightly more guarded. I decide to ferret this out quickly since I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed about not recognizing her.
“Hey! I didn’t recognize you at first. How have you been?”
When you aren’t sure if you know someone always start by saying something noncommittal and slightly generic. I’ve left the door open for her to finish these thoughts and hopefully my personal CSI skills will kick in and I will solve the mystery of the really hot smiling woman. However, my greeting only makes her laugh a bit and it’s clearly a laugh at my expense.
“Why would you recognize me? We’ve never met.”
She appears far too self-satisfied with her retort and I find myself at a very clear disadvantage. First, she seems to know me and I don’t recognize her but when I make a move to remedy my faux pas she decides to play mischievous and mysterious. Suddenly realizing I don’t know her at all has me wondering why the hell she keeps smiling at me the way she does. I am feeling somewhat unnerved.
“Oh, well I assumed with the way you were smiling at me we knew one another.”
“No, just simply smiling at you.”
Right. I am no further along than I was to begin with and now feel slightly provoked. I hesitate for a moment while the situation sinks in. People may smile at you this way in Kansas but you don’t receive an unsolicited smile as big as this from a complete stranger in LA. My brain starts to tell me something is wrong and I should walk away. I give her another half-hearted smile and return to shopping.
I move over to a big crate of avocados but feel the nagging desire to look over my shoulder and see if she’s still smiling at me. I make the call to ignore that and focus on finding some ripe avocados I can use later that night.
“Wow, those look big and yummy.”
It’s her again. I think about pretending I don’t hear her but before I can put that plan into action she is right next to me. I catch a faint whiff of her perfume and she smells good. I’m now being followed by a beautiful woman who smells very nice.
An aside: All of us men like to think of ourselves as far more attractive than we really are. As far as egos go, we have outties, extending out into the world like a sword. So, we also all like to believe that very attractive women will flirt with us in places like Whole Foods. Most men walk around with some kind of script in which we’re a dashing hero and beautiful women will throw themselves at us wherever we go. We are told this kind of thing happens and we all buy into it. One minute you’re buying groceries and then next you’re hot and naked with the checkout girl back at your place and she’s saying naughty things about paper or plastic. We believe this can happen.
It doesn’t happen. The world is not our unfulfilled porn script. I know this. So, when a very attractive woman is following me around and smiling at me – I get nervous. Call it another Jackson Panic law – if it seems like you’re on the brink of being in the middle of a fantasy porn, watch out because weird shit is about to happen.
She starts grabbing the avocados and squeezing them as well. She picks one very green one up and gives it s a solid squeeze and then nudges me with her elbow, “Am I doing this correctly?”
“I’m not sure there is really a technique. You just want to see if it’s tender enough for when you’re thinking of using it.”
“Is it tender enough for tonight?”
She is smiling at me again.
If you’re thinking things are starting to sound an awful lot like the opening for a bad porn – you’re right. If you’re then thinking I should quickly refer back to the Jackson Panic law I just mentioned – you’re two for two. If you’re beginning to think I often ignore my own advice – you are a goddamn genius. Remember the outtie egos men use as swords? Yeah, I just used that thing to bat away any semblance of common sense.
Talk of avocados leads to talk of guacamole which then naturally segues into talk of margaritas. I know a thing or two about margaritas. So where does a girl with a beautiful smile and piercing brown eyes find a good margarita? I know the place and tell her I will take her there.
Fast forward thirty minutes and you find us sipping the perfect margarita at a little spot in Santa Monica. The walls are decked out in crazy paintings of half-naked women fighting bulls and their tequila selection is endless. My drink is not on the menu but rather is a special call I’ve worked out with one of the bartenders. I modestly named it ‘el guapo’ after myself. They are strong with the perfect balance of salty and sweet.
Heather likes margaritas. I like Heather. She has recently relocated to LA from Salt Lake City. She’s been doing real estate but is starting fresh in LA in a multiple of ways. With the second margarita things start to make sense and traces of weirdness begin creeping in.
It’s an ancient story really. A young person is raised to believe certain things but eventually that young person’s mind begins to question those beliefs. What does one do when one’s instinct is in conflict with one’s upbringing? It’s the old ‘kill your parents, kill your god, kill your teacher’ notion. Obviously not literally since we only advocate violence against snowmen here at igetpanic, but it is a more a suggestion to question everything, including all manner of authority. Is it ironic I am borrowing from Buddhist teachings in telling you to question those who have influenced you? Yes, yes it is.
Back to Heather. She was raised in the Mormon church and led a fairly sheltered life. Now she was breaking free and migrated over to Los Angeles to see what life outside the church was like. She smiles a lot because she is genuinely happy and she smiles a lot at me just because I’m the lucky guy who crossed her path at the moment she was opening up to the world. She was engaged to be married a couple of years back but began to worry she needed to experience more that life had to offer before settling down and starting a family. Now she’s sitting on a bar stool next to me, drinking her el guapo and her comely smile is turning more to a ‘come hither’ grin.
There is a slight lull in the conversation and Heather blankets me with her intensely beautiful brown eyes. Then, with all the proper and officious demeanor one might normally put into suggesting you start composting, she says to me, “I think we should start having a purely physical relationship tonight with no strings attached.”
I am in mid-sip with my drink and looking over my glass at her suddenly very serious face. I take a moment and another swallow as I wait to hear what else she might say. She apparently has finished making her case.
“You mean, just a purely sexual relationship.”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, straight guys who actually use the Shake Weight – these are all things that don’t exist. Likewise, purely physical relationships with no strings attached don’t exist. I know this and will go so far as to say that this is clearly another Jackson Panic law, but there is this little voice inside my head saying, ‘maybe this time it will work.‘
While I am taking the three nanoseconds to mull over her offer – the full blown smile appears back on her face. I return serve.
Things were about to get interesting and weird, real weird.