“All I ever hear from anyone is - How am I going to pay for

this? How can I afford that?” Alana traipsed around Vanessa’s bedroom wheeling a clothing rack around until it was positioned in front of Vanessa’s unmade bed. “It’s getting pathetic. These people,” she pointed in Vanessa’s direction, “they had all the fun. We wind up living in a world with restrictions and rules and regulations and one that no one can afford to live in.” “I heard that,” Vanessa remarked. She entered the room, patting her hair dry with a towel. “Max, you don’t mind that I get ready in front of you.” “Do I look like I mind?” I had just been summoned away from the desk in the creepy room at Vanessa’s request. “I’m sorry about John Johnson barging in like that before, but he’s very important to me because I, apparently, am very important to him.” “I understand.” “Did he interrupt your writing session a lot today?” “His last name is McCormack,” Alana muttered. She was now swishing through a host of dresses and shirts hanging on the rolling rack. “If you’re going to talk about people behind their backs, at least get their names right.” “What is your hang up, Alana?” Vanessa scanned the room until she found the object she had been looking for. She

procured a jet black, poker straight wig from a dresser and smiled. “Why not? We’re going all out tonight, right Max?” “Here,” Alana now held up a shirt for Vanessa. “This one is good. It works with the wig. Hey, Max do you want to rummage around for a wig to wear tonight? I’ll wear one if you wear one.” “You two are really bonding. Good to see.” Vanessa sat at her vanity table and began primping some more. Her table was filled with all kinds of fancy perfume bottles, vintage glass jars and a faux antique brush and hand mirror. Just what one would expect from some Hollywood star, only now Vanessa was more of a friend to me than someone as remote as that. “What kind of wig, Alana?” “Whatever – let’s dig around Van’s room here and find something.” “Nothing with a ponytail or a mullet. I’d rather die.” “So, why are you in such a bitchy mood, Alana?” Vanessa persisted. “Let’s see, my car needs a new transmission. My MasterCard just maxed out, my life revolves around waiting for you to pay me…”

“Shit. I forgot to give you money yesterday.” Vanessa straightened the wig and adjusted one of her bra straps, knowing I was in the room. “Yeah, you did. Ah ha, look at this one.” Alana dug out a ginger-toned, shoulder length wig with a slight wave to it and held it up to me. “I’ll give it a try,” I said, reaching for the wig and checking to see if it had any mysterious stains or dirt lying around. It didn’t. I pulled it on and adjusted it while Alana and Vanessa faked a few oohs and ahhs and followed those up with a serious laugh. It turned out to be a contagious laugh, and I had to grab my phone, snap a photo and text it over to Ernest. Later, we were all dolled up enough to gather into Alana’s car. Alana looked good, although a lot like herself despite the ass-long blond wig she wore. Vanessa looked like she was about 39, wearing the black wig, a billowy purple shirt, and teetering on super-high black boot heels in a pair of skin tight black Spandex. As for the car, for a twenty-year old BMW that needed a new transmission, it wasn’t a half-bad ride. John McCormack was sandwiched between Vanessa and me in the back seat. He held his cell phone up to his ear like a transistor radio. He wasn’t

wearing headphones, so the rest of us had to put up with RadioKLUX’s stream. The DJ, Ron Crooner, announced Rod McKuen and Anita Kerr's "You Wonder Why I Love You". Was it an ironic, synchronistic love song from John to Vanessa? As the song began, Ron Crooner lamented to his audience that he couldn’t sing. More irony? Alana complimented John on his cell phone transistor radio, told him to kindly turn it down and then explained that we were going to pick up Vanessa’s friend Billy. Billy would have to ride up front or he’d get car sick, which is why the rest of us were squooshed in the back. John McCormack said he didn’t mind. He knew who Billy was from Children of Now, the guy in the stovepipe hat. Why I hadn’t pegged that at Vanessa’s party that one night is still beyond me. I guess I cared about Vanessa’s story, but I didn’t grasp at every single, ever-loving detail. Once Billy was in, and after he complimented us all on our stunning wigs, we were off to Downtown LA. Personally, I don’t believe in any other downtown than the one in the City. I have to say, after that night I have a more humble, respectful attitude towards the area.

We arrived at Nickel’s Diner and unloaded ourselves from the car. Vanessa really did look amazing, and I told her as much. “Thank you, Max. That really touches my heart. Listen, if there are too many distractions, don’t worry. I can always hire a ghostwriter to finish everything off in the next few weeks.” She kissed me on the cheek. Instead of feeling flattered that I had flattered her, I now felt crushed. A ghostwriter? Sure, my main gig is transcribing interviews, but this biography of Vanessa’s was literally my big chance. Now, I was threatened into being obscured. I felt too sick to even order food, even the corn flakes and sour cream that were on the menu made me feel like barfing. In addition to this, Chasfiend82 was at the head of the table for the night. He asked about 8,126 questions, all of which Vanessa and Billy were too happy to answer. I was too upset to take notes. It didn’t matter if there were any gems of information I could make use of. Alana noticed something was wrong. “Your wig is crooked,” she whispered to me as dessert arrived.

“I need to get drunk,” I whispered back. The rest of the group chatted away. Chasfiend82 had a smear of maple donut glaze on his upper lip as he smiled at some amazing story Vanessa regaled him with. Billy chimed in. “That was Chas for you. Remember that time he hit a lamp post over on Doheny? I was in the passenger seat. Smashed up the most gorgeous GTO.” “The gold one!” Vanessa added. “The gold one,” Billy nodded. “He told me later –now, there I am in traction in the hospital- and he says, Aw don’t worry about that, baby, that kind of thing happens to me all the time.” Everyone roared, except for Alana and me. “Good thing you had your seat belt on,” Alana said not hiding her sarcasm. “That’s just amazing. That is just amazing,” went Chasfiend, uttering his mantra for the night. “Chas did some pretty nutty things,” Vanessa laughed. “Gosh, the parties we would go to –Mrs. McCracken’s - and her spiral staircase?“ “Best pot brownies ever,” Billy added, his expression completely serious.

“How’d you get into any nightclubs?” Alana wanted to know. “Because.” That was Vanessa’s answer. It is also the title to a beautiful Beatles’ song, but it didn’t really answer anything.

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