DON'T PEE IN THE HOT OIL
A limo tour of the toilets of Burbank and Glendale (LA Weekly, September 1995)
by Greg Burk
TITO DRIVES FOR AVALON LIMOUSINES. HE USED TO BE a bodyguard for Ferdinand Marcos, former president of the Philippines. He escorted Imelda Marcos on her last Manila shopping excursion. He has successfully dodged rebel death squads each time he has returned to his home village. ("They don't understand, it was just a job.")
Every time someone offers to send me on an all-expenses-paid Sunday limo tour of Burbank and Glendale, I always insist on being driven by Tito. As a resident, he knows that Burbank patrolmen are unusually alert to vehicular aberrations. And Glendale has one of the highest ratios of cops to citizens in the nation. With Tito at the wheel, I feel safe. From the police.
Dave and I load a cooler filled with Anheuser-Busch Natural Light into the limo; I wave goodbye to my family. My wife: "You're not going to get really drunk, are you?" Me: "I'm not?" Tito shuts the door on the world. I shove "Highway 61 Revisited" into the CD player. Dave and I crack Naturals, recline on the firm seats that might as well not be kid leather because I wouldn't know the difference, and head for Paul's house.
Paul looks back over his shoulder as if expecting God's grip on his neck, and falls in. We all slap hands: Tonight, we're the assholes behind the smoked glass. Paul is in the midst of research for his doctorate thesis on black-and-tans. Did you know that, contrary to expectation, the darker Guinness floats atop the Bass? It does. At Dalts Grill, the B&Ts hug the statistical high curve on the Dedalus freshness index. Dalts is a littie bit of Westwood on Olive Avenue, if you crave such things, which I don't. Still, there's a fine dark-wood bar topped with antique marble, and a battery of large televisions, each sporting crystalline reception, and that quintessential 1930s-L.A. hexagonal mini floor tile. Present at the bar in a post-baseball afterglow: my old Weekly colleague Sean. Good to see you, dude. Sure, I'll say hi to Kelly.
Back in the limo, I lift a crystal decanter from the built-in bar to sample the house provisions. Scotch, guesses Paul, and right fine at that. Och, what a coincidence; our very next stop is Buchanan Arms, a pub on Burbank Boulevard, and there at the bar guarding a pint is Dave's friend Bill. What does Bill like best about living in Burbank? "It's just like Mayberry. I have the home phone numbers of four of the five City Council members." Though Buchanan's is a Scottish establishment, displaying an "Expose yourself to Scotland" picture (a man unfurling his kilt to a horned shaggy bovine creature) adjacent to portraits of the royal family, it is not too proud to serve Irish beers; we find ours well within industry tolerances, and the room has the feel of a place where you can confidently make an ass of yourself. Obtainable next door in the Piccadilly Shop: those hard-to-find large cans of treacle.
Upon returning from the bathroom, I remark on its beautiful strip of green wallpaper adorned with roses and daisies. "They don' t have that in the men's room," Bill informs, prompting me to recall that there was a toilet but no urinal. "It didn't splatter when you were peeing, did it? If it splattered back, you were in the kitchen. Don't pee in the hot oil." As if on cue, our large, handlebar-mustached Latino bartender, 'Hola, laddie" Sam, distributes trays of complimentary bar food: deep-fried fish and bangers with U.K. mustard and gravy. Yessir, that's proper ballast. Bye-bye the noo, compañero.
As we cruise along Magnolia, the air conditioning gently ruffling our silken locks, the CD player blaring live Deep Purple, Paul points down Hollywood Way to Peggy Wood's Pet Emporium: "That's where I get the mice for my snake."
Jack's Cinnamon Cinder on Magnolia is supposed to be a cowboy joint. Dave and I feel Buds are de rigueur; Paul spots a guy at the bar with a Beck's and tells me to get him one. I consider this a gaffe, so as I approach the bartender, who's a bruiser, I'm a tad circumspect: "Two Buds and, uh, a . . . Beck's." The Beck's sipper lifts his head. "Ja," he addresses the bartender with an accent like Goebbels. "See, if you stock it, they buy it." Soon I discover the place's bathroom has the most creative wall covering I will encounter today: ancient linoleum veined to impersonate marble, except it's green. Dave reports that the condom machine dispenses "The American Defender." Just to make it three for three, Paul now runs into Jim, a guy he used to work with. Paul makes an office reference: "I gotta go in and face Lola tomorrow." Jim honors us with a look like the calf beneath the sledgehammer. "I don't know how the fuck you do it," he says. The Jukebox spews Mariah Carey and the Village People. Maybe this isn't a cowboy joint on Sunday afternoons.
One of the best things about a limo is that big picture window on the side. It rained for a minute yesterday, and the Santa Monica Mountains look like something out of John Ford. Natural splendor, Natural Light. Okay, I'll have another one. On Central Avenue in Glendale is the office of Dr. Susan Chobanian, my otolaryngologist. In order to write lots of record reviews, I must listen to lots of records. Bad things get into my ears, it seems; Dr. Chobanian irrigates the canals. ("Ugh. Where did all that come from? You could plant potatoes.") She also cured my snoring.
Glendale Avenue. The big hardware store is the only one Dave knows of that sells eggs. There are many bail bondsmen. The Glendale Humanistic Psychological Center: "Promoting self-esteem."
We are primed for our next goal, Glendale Batting Cages on Colorado Boulevard. I want to actually hit something, so I suggest softballs at a slow speed. Dave and Paul insist on the Drysdale cage, 72 mph, hardball. In his prime, Big D threw consistently in the 90s, often at people's heads. Even at this somewhat slower speed, his pitching-machine reincarnation puts our penises in perspective. After intense concentration and a prolonged period of adjustment, we proudly discover that we can occasionally foul one off. Don: You're still the king.
As our limo slides down an alley, a derelict-looking man in a T-shirt turns to give us a look of overt contempt. To my surprise, this is the only person on our odyssey who seems to hate us as much as we deserve.
On Glendale Avenue, Incahoots is a gigantic establishment with many bars. It's empty except for a consort of extremely unhappy-looking people who are receiving line-dancing lessons. Don't go there on a Sunday afternoon if your dog died or you lost your job.
"50's Q" down the street is a pool hall of middling distinction. We drink Bud and play Screw Your Buddy, and if there's a corner pocket, none of us even knows its ZIP code. Funny, the cues seemed straight. Good thing Tito is waiting right outside as always, holding the door open. We couldn't have found him. Or opened the door.
After all that research, we repair to the Rusty Pelican on Harvey Drive for seafood and a hillside view of the setting sun. When you order margaritas there, you get shakers that will provide you with three damn good ones (each), and we do our best to justify the generosity and to display solidarity with the message on the splash shield at the bottom of the urinal: "Say No to Drugs."
We muse about what college was really for. Apparently, it was for sex; I wish I had known it at the time. Recalling his own experiences and reflecting on life's reluctance to supply us with more free limo rides, Paul sums up the tragedy of growing older. "It's too bad," he says, "that everybody has to work."