Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.
In all of Los Angeles County there was only one place that would rent to me. I loved my first solo apartment. But, let’s be honest— It was in a questionable area.
My slumlord deemed me “a ghost.”
She explained: “You have no credit. Having no credit is worse than having bad credit.”
Her rationale made no sense. I had had a credit card for four years and a cell phone for two. I paid them off in full each month. Surely, that should have given me credit. Apparently, it did not and that’s how I ended up living at Mariposa and Hollywood in late 2002.
Pride and lack of experience prohibited me from asking my parents to co-sign on an alternate (safer) apartment. I was excited I got Mariposa all on my own. Bonus, I could paint it any way I liked! I was the center of my own universe. If you walked four blocks east you could see the Hollywood sign. Eight blocks west I once received a rate inquiry. Ten years later I learned the area of Western and Hollywood was the unofficial Red Light District.
That explains so much!
Welcome to Little Armenia. The area had character. And, unlike most L.A. apartments, I didn’t even need to buy a fridge! Sure, the fridge barely kept food cold enough and had exoskeletons of cockroaches emended into the rubber on the door, but I was living in Los Angeles
The city’s car culture lead to extreme isolation. I really wanted to date. Really REALLY wanted to date. Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.
I met a tall redheaded Italian-American. (I was super excited to tell my Italian-American artist friend back home.) In the early days of internet dating, it was customary to meet in a crowded area. That’s exactly what I did with the Redheaded Italian. But, he wanted to forego the original plans and go for sushi off the 5. I hated driving in Los Angeles and the 5 is a trucking route. When he offered to drive, I didn’t question the potential danger; I was just relieved I didn’t have to drive.
When we got to the restaurant I was perplexed that it was in a strip mall. He assured me that most good L.A. sushi is in a strip mall. My doubt eased when we were seated at the sushi bar and he knew all the chefs by name. I ate all kinds of wonderful and mysterious sushi, including tempura-battered shrimp heads.
It was a good evening and as relaxed as a first date could be. He did the majority of the talking, mostly, about his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t mind; it meant I didn’t have to talk so much. Clearly he still cared about her. I figured if he could care this much about someone who cheated on him, he could care for me too. I learned that he was close to his family. I had visions of meeting them and laughed to myself how at 4′ 11.5″ I would fit in among a family of giants.
He drove me back to my car. We made plans for another date and then I drove home. Since my apartment didn’t come with parking, I had to park several blocks away. I used it to plan the dinner i would make for the Redheaded Italian, which would have to be sentimental, yet cost-effective.
Living in my very first apartment I had a very strict weekly food budget. My favorite grocery store was Food4Less (eight blocks away), followed by Jon’s (four blocks away). This dinner was going to go over my weekly budget, but I was determined to make it special.
Struggling to make ends meet sometimes, one applies for jobs they wouldn’t usually apply for. I applied for a position at a small marketing company. I made it to Round 2.
Round two was like a cage match. With our mentors, another girl and I were sent to the Pavilions at Melrose and Vine for the day-long interview.
It wasn’t marketing at all. We were carnival barkers.
Step 1: Place yourself in a well-traveled area to hock stuff.
Step 2: The hook. “Hey, come see what we’re doing to help missing children.”
Step 2A: If they have a kid, offer to fingerprint it. Once the kid is ‘printed, give the parent the fingerprinted card, gratis.
Step 3: The merchandise. They’re looking at it. Hand them the item they look interested in.
Step 4: The pitch. Explain proceeds from the gifts you’re selling helps to prevent and protect missing and exploited children.
Step 5: The close. With the pitch and item in their hand, odds are the mark, I mean good citizen, will buy it.
I was walking distance from Paramount Pictures, home of Sherry Lansing, Linda Obst and a myriad of other entertainment executives I looked up to and wanted to emulate. Here I was harassing people that could be potential bosses or co-workers.
I hated it.
But, my competitive streak was stronger than the other girl. I won.
Day 1: Training Day (unpaid). It was also my special dinner with the Redheaded Italian. Work was supposed to be over at 5, but my supervisor kept making us stay later. I kept calling to push back dinner. Eventually the Redheaded Italian said, “let’s re-schedule.”
He probably thought I was a flake. I didn’t care.
1. The sherbet in my icebox (in the fridge that barely kept food at a safe temperature) would turn into soft serve soon.
2. Food could potentially spoil.
3. I was over my weekly food budget.
4. There is no clear salary for my new job.
I got home at 9pm. I didn’t bother to cook. My dinner was rainbow sherbet, straight from the container.
Day 2: More training (also unpaid). An all-day lecture. At 6am I called home. My mom gave me permission to quit. (It felt silly I needed this, but it was good to have Mom’s blessing to do something so devious.) I called work, told them I was sick and quit.
Since I no longer had the job I hated and the shrimp was going to go bad, I decided to turn the Italian Redhead’s dinner into a celebration dinner for me. I was excited to learn how to devein shrimp. If it came out good, I could possibly make the meal for him. I waited for his call to reschedule.
He never called. I was a little sad for missing out on the potential for love, but I was more relieved. At his height I’m not sure how I could’ve afforded to keep feeding him. The meal lasted several days.
(It only occurred to me while writing this post that I’ve done several variations of this meal. The first time I reimagined the meal was for Sonodoro.)
6 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half (optional)
salt and ground pepper to taste
STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS
DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.
SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.
Chop the tomatoes….
Cook according to package instructions.
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Dump veggies into a bowl and set set aside.
Melt more butter and add the shrimp. Cook until pink on both sides. Add veggies to shrimp. Stir together and add remaining tomatoes, and lime juice. Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat. (As an alternate to shrimp you can use pitted black olives.)