5 feet from the Oscars at the Kodak Theater

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Konrad’s Live Report – 5 feet from the Oscars at the Kodak Theater (ok – so it is more like 500 feet, but it’s close…) Location: Hollywood California – corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.
My mission: to get a cup of coffee.

Part I
My wife has demolished the kitchen while painting and my mother is hiding out in my study, I have no access to coffee and moreover nowhere really safe to drink it.  I suggest that I might go to Target to buy a printer cartridge but my Mother reminds me it is Oscar night and I won’t get through or find parking coming back.  I suggest I will walk.

hollywoodblvd“No one walks in LA,” says my mother.  I ask for a cup of coffee from my wife and she scowls at me while holding up a paintbrush.  Since I am not helping her, I am not doing anything useful so my suggestion that she hooks the coffee maker back up is met with scorn.  If I want coffee I have to go out onto the streets of L.A.

There are at least three helicopters hovering over my house making it impossible to think straight.  I go out dressed in my long coat, naturally, this makes all the cops nervous, they give me the evil eye as I pass by.  I make my way out to get that cup of coffee at Tiago’s (formerly known as Cyber Java) down the street.  “Technically” it is open, but the Police activity in the area seems to have completely shut them down making them lose a whole day of business.  I figure I will be a friendly face.

The Cops on the streets outnumber the civilians two to one.  My street has been cordoned off, thus in order to get a cup of coffee I have to take a detour via a back alley.  A tour bus has gotten stuck on my street.  The cops are not letting it through and the driver is desperately trying to make a three-point turn with cars behind him and parked cars on both sides of the street.  The sight seems rather a disaster in the making.  Wearing their yellow blazers, the traffic-officers direct the cars to the bomb-sniffing Police officers armed with mirrors on long retractable poles.  “Credentials must be fully displayed to gain entry” and so on.  I see one car with its hood open and the Cops obviously analyzing the air filer.  Yes, that seems a good way to go to protect our national assets – the actors.

As I finally gain access to La Brea Boulevard I note a whole platoon of Japanese Media, tired and dejected carrying their oversized cameras like AK-47’s.  One of the Japanese reporters, a petite woman seems like she’d much rather be asleep.  As she passes by me, she looks up hopefully from her heavy duffel bag and large boom-pole mike as if hoping for some empathy.  I return the smile with a look of as much compassion as I can muster; this seems to raise her spirits a bit.

I outmaneuver the security forces, police, secret agents and the international media deployed as if for a war or a revolution, guarding parking lots, the several night clubs in my neighborhood and side streets and using back hallways and fire-escape ladders, I finally make it to the doors of Tiago.  The security guard on duty attempts to stop me, but I wave him off.  “Get lost buddy, I need a cup of coffee.”

I walk into Tiago’s.  All of the employees are there, as is Mr. Santiago.  I stumble to the counter, and happy to see my favorite coffee Barista, I am informed to my dismay, that they have shut down the machines and no coffee will be available because there has been no business the whole day on account of the Oscars.  What will I do now?  No coffee at home, no coffee at Tiago’s, and the streets are surrounded by the police!  With fierce determination, I make my way out.  This will be a long evening.

Part II
I am outside on the streets of Los Angeles hunting for a cup of coffee.  The situation is dire.  The whole area around the Kodak Theater in Hollywood is closed off.  The police, the bomb squad, undercover agents of the FBI, and various spies and potential terrorists are all playing their game.  The black limos, the mirror-armed LAPD and bomb squad, the heavy concealed weapon packing security forces, the traffic officers checking everyone’s eight-by-ten hanging laminated credentials hanging from their necks like retro Rap musicians CD’s.

I make my way down La Brea.  For a moment I consider talking Hawthorne, but the concrete barriers and one dozen LAPD sedans change my mind.  As I pass these cars I notice a paper cup of Starbucks coffee in one.  This gives me an idea!  Starbucks is my salvation.  I see a poor lost Scandinavian Media gofer.  He asks me for directions to the public restrooms.  I laugh.  “This is Los Angeles, we don’t have public restrooms.”  “What do you do then when you need to go?”  I am unable to give him advice on what to do, because his cell phone rings, and he runs away as if a dog yanked by a powerful chain.

I walk down the street to Sunset Boulevard.  There are a number of Police cars in the parking lot.  I see the Cops are busy.  I walk into the place of my salvation.  I am confronted with absolutely no seating.  Every table and chair is occupied with a lap-top wielding patron drinking coffee with the kind of desperation I have at this moment.  None of them seem satisfied though.  I wonder whether their wives have demolished their kitchens as well.  I get in line behind a Chinese fellow with a Hong Kong T-Shirt.

Since the line is long we strike up a conversation.  He hasn’t slept for two days.  He is live blogging and reporting from the Oscars for some media outlets in Hong Kong.  He seems jittery.  He informs me, while at the same time typing into his iPad and into his Blackberry (simultaneously) that he just saw a celebrity.  He can’t remember which one, but “the celebrity” was instantly identifiable by the “celebrity” walk.

He then proceeds to drop a dozen names of better and less known actors, directors and movie people, all of whom he has apparently NOT seen, but whose activities he is following from his vantage point close to the Kodak theater.  I was about to ask him where this is, but another device of his started vibrating and he nearly drops his iPad to answer it, at which point he lets me go ahead of him in line.

I am momentarily distracted by the appearance of six LAPD officers in their dark green jackets and the word “Police” on their backs.  Strangely all of them are shorter than me.  They make a bee-line for the bathroom, cutting through the room.  I watch amused as the crowd in the coffee shop parts to let them in.  They all stand outside of the single restroom with hands on their guns.  I am greeted at the counter by a beautiful girl with stunning blue eyes.  She smiles at me.  I order my coffee and tell her she looks beautiful.  Serves my wife right, I’ll just flirt with this coffee girl here in revenge for not making me coffee.

The cops are getting restless, one of them knocks on the restroom door.  I hear a Norwegian accented voice from inside respond “Just a moment, I am zipping my trousers up.”  Shortly thereafter the Scandinavian man walks out.  He towers over the troll-like LAPD officers like a Viking Giant.  I give him the thumbs up.  He smiles at me.

I leave Starbucks, I have my coffee, I must now make my way home through the dangerous celebrity, media and police infested streets of Hollywood.  But I am armed with caffeine.

Part III
I am walking up La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, California, the Oscar / Academy Awards occupation of my neighborhood is about to reach its zenith.  I see more helicopters frozen over my house.  People are running like crazy chanting strange slogans: “It’s him, I can’t believe I saw him,” – and “Oh My God, do you think I’ll see her?” And so on.  My phone vibrates in my pants.  I pick it up.  It’s my mother.  “Konrad, the Oscars are about to start!”  “I know, I can see the disaster from where I am standing.”  My wife gets on the phone – “All Five of the Polish national TV networks are there!”  “Does that mean I should hide?”

I hear people speaking Polish on the street.  Must be the Polish TV.  I switch to English on the Phone.  They pass by with their cameras and self-important attitude.  One of the women looks positively ruthless.  Must be the regional commander of the Polish Media Forces.  I get out of the way.  Her high heels resemble combat boots.

I make my way with my coffee in hand.  The street is suddenly deserted.  It must by 5:30 pm.  The population is huddling before their TV’s.  The “police-hour” is at hand.  I shouldn’t be caught outside while the Oscars are airing live, that would be considered disrespectful.  You should never insult the locals, it might get you photographed and placed on YouTube.

I walk onto my street, the tour-bus is still there making his three-point turn.  He has been stuck by my estimate for at least 45 minutes.  None of the Cops or traffic-officers can be bothered with helping him out.  The tourists in the bus are actively making fun of him.  At least five cars are now blocking the street above.  It appears that it has occurred to no one that the driver can’t accomplish his u-turn without someone spotting for him.  I walk up to him and start directing him how to turn.  Finally, he knows just how far he can back up and when he has cleared the parked cars.  He makes it.  He signals a thank you to me.  I wave him off with a thumbs-up sign.

I keep on walking.  I spot the man from Hong Kong smoking, he is sitting on the sidewalk with his iPad live-streaming the beginning of the show.  He is too absorbed in his typing on his cell phone to notice me.  Several Nigerians are standing around smoking.  I ask them what they are doing here on my street and not in front of the Kodak theater.  “No one smokes in LA.”  I nod my head.  I walk up to my house.  The deafening sound of the overhanging chopper makes it seem like a place under siege.  Two LAPD officers look at me like I don’t belong.  I raise my coffee at them and say “I live here.”  “We’re sorry, but you have to move along.”  I walk up to my door and they look like they are about to do something, but I walk in quickly enough to escape them.

Part IV
My wife and mother are watching the Oscars.  The kitchen is a disaster area.  My mother’s desk, next to the kitchen is covered with cellophane.  My mother Liliana, informs me that the whole day is wasted, so she decided since she can’t beat ‘em to join them, she is sitting back remote control in hand ready to watch the Oscars.  Sylvia, my wife, looks at my coffee, and is appalled “And for me?”  (implied: after all the work I have done). She steals the cup and starts drinking it.  I can’t get it back, my mom is in the way.  I fought the police, the media, throngs of celebrity seekers to bring this small cup of coffee home, and now it is gone.  Luckily I had a few gulps of it before I came inside.  The show is about to start, I haven’t watched hardly any of the movies this year, who can afford to go to the movies in a recession?  But my Executive Producer Dan Sutton treated me to “True Grit” and “Tron: Legacy” at least those two films were good, so I resolve to cheer for them and for Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” – any film with both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in it has to be good, I hope it wins.

The show comes on, with its usual idiotic banter, and yet I watch as I do every year, it is a tradition in my house.  Kirk Douglas walks onto the stage, perhaps I ought to get up here at home in front of my TV, I resist the urge.

As the show produces its expected and unexpected wins and losses, I am happy Christopher Nolan wins best supporting actor for “The Fighter,” and though I hoped for Hailee Steinfeld’s win and thought that Helena Bonham Carter should have won otherwise, I am not displeased with Melissa Leo’s win for best-supporting actress in the “The Fighter.”

The tribute for the departed members of the film scene comes on, and then an image of Leslie Neilsen flashes… yes, another film I saw this year with Dan… Forbidden Planet from 1956 which starred the silver-haired leading man, back then with raven hair.  I raise my empty coffee cup to him, to Kirk Douglas who is still with us, and to Denis Hopper and to the unbelievable Lena Horn, who is not.

Natalie Portman’s win is absolutely well deserved, as is Colin Firth’s.  I am happy to see Francis Ford Coppolla on stage being recognized for his work with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.  Though I rooted for “True Grit,” and though “The Social Network” understandably is the overall winner for its relevance, “The King’s Speech” deserves its win.

The 83rd Academy Awards are finally over, time to help my wife clean up the Kitchen.  Oh, really?  It turns out she cleaned it up during the Oscars!  What a great gal.  My Mom tells me she is envious of my ability to write while being so distracted.  I assure her I wasn’t all that distracted.  “Is the kitchen cleaned up?  Can I go back to my desk to write?” Asks my Mom, “Maybe I can salvage something from the day.”  In the words of Tom Hooper who just won the Oscar for best Director “The moral of this story is to listen to your mother!”

Sylvia has finished with the kitchen, she asks when she will get an Oscar for her contribution to artists living decently.  I can’t be bothered to reply I am busy writing, my Mom is happy to have access to her desk again, she doesn’t reply either, she is busy editing and translating.

Maybe I can make some coffee now that the kitchen is safe. “ Writers don’t sleep in LA,” I mutter under my breath as I type these words.  I can smell the coffee brewing, it’s going to be a long night.

1 Comment
  1. Anthony Todd says

    I can smell the coffee. Well done. This is the sort of short story I would like on my site.

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