American Dream Machine
“What kind o unction? A convention o Tony Bennett ans? Amob wedding?”I don’t remember what he said next. I think he said, I was in Vegas,and I asked him how much he’d lost. I probably gave him a sloppykiss.
I knew it was you, Fredo!
There was an empty swimming poolnearby. It must’ve been February. Italian cypresses rose up in invitingcones, the scalloped houses dropped o in stages beneath us, andeventually the whole hill attened out into that ash-colored plane,that grand and gray infnity that is Los Angeles rom up above: God’spalm, checkered with twinkling lights and crossed with hot wind.“I can never remember the words to this one . . . ”“What?” I said. “It’s mostly moaning.”“They’re all mostly moaning.”George and I went digging into the old soul music catalog, toprove our masculine bona fdes. None o those Motown lite,
-type classics that turdscaped so many o my ather’s lateeighties productions. We went or the nonsense numbers, the realobscurities. We sang “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um,” “The WhapWhap Song,” “Oogum Boogum,” “Lobster Betty.” A couple o thosemight not have been real, but we did ’em anyway.“Nice pipes.”“Thanks,” he said. “I was up or
but I never got a callback.”We spent the rest o the night drinking and singing. People blameLos Angeles or so many things, but my own view is tender, orgiv-ing. I love
with all o my heart. This story I have to tell doesn’thave much to do with me, but it isn’t about some bored actressand her existential crises, a troubled screenwriter who comes to hissenses and hightails it back to Illinois. It’s not about the vacuoushorror o the Caliornia dream. It’s something that could’ve hap-pened anywhere else in the world, but instead settled, inexplicably,here. This city, with its unortunate rap. It deserves warmer witnessthan dear old Joan Didion.“Don’t do that, man.” My voice echoed. I clapped my riend onthe shoulder. “Don’t do the pleading-and-testiying thing. You’llhurt your knees!”“I’m all right.”By the time we were done, we were deep into the duos, thosereaky-deaky pairs rom Texas or Mississippi: Mel