Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category
By: Carolyn Parks
I’d been looking for a part time summer job and not having much luck. Most summers I work as a casual labor person for the local school district, but this particular summer I had a minor surgery and was told not to lift heavy items for a while. In short, all summer. Being home bound is not my idea of fun. I am a girl of action. When my cousin informed me she had a project that I could help her with I was interested, if a bit wary.
My cousin is a “Hollywood Person.” She’s been married to some pretty famous people, including George Hamilton and Rod Stewart. If you don’t know who they are, that’s okay, because I’m only vaguely familiar myself. She’s done some acting herself, but I’m not sure in what particular movies, being that the only acting of hers I’ve seen was a very strange play in Hollywood about boobs. She is my only living relative on my Dad’s side of the family. She is his niece, and we’ve spoken a few times (she came out for Dad’s funeral) and we’ve emailed.
She is well off financially, and to be truthful, I don’t know much else about her. The only formal visit I’d experienced with her was about 10 years ago when she was feeling nostalgic and tried to throw a “family” barbeque. It was not much of a success due to the fact that she did not know how the barbeque itself worked and had not considered that it needed propane.
Knowing I was looking for a summer job, and because I think she wanted to help me out, she asked me to come out to her house to work on a project she didn’t have time to do.
Off I went, on a fine summer day, in my Ford Explorer named Becket. (It’s a 2006, no GPS, this is important later).
I zipped in Becket through cities, following my printed directions, not having any problems or traffic. I got off the freeway at the correct exit and entered the 90210.
Beverly Hills is Hell.
Everyone drives 90 mph. If I didn’t drive 90 mph I experienced honks and finger gestures. I pulled Becket over as far as I could to let the BMW’s and Bentleys go ahead. I watched Limos miss bicycle riders with inches to spare. I looked around for Christine, but didn’t see her.
Streets tangled up fast. Beverly Glen merged into Beverly Drive, Mulholland morphed into Deep Canyon, Sunset wound itself in a circle, and I found that Hutton Drive East is NOT the same street as East Hutton Drive.
I started to sweat.
I turned Becket into an actual driveway that had a security shack but the man stationed shook his head at me and pointed to the street. I believe it was because I was a: driving a Ford Explorer, and b: lacking bling.
It was 11:15 when I arrived at my destination. I was worried since I was late; we had agreed to meet at 11:00. I walked to what I hoped was her property. The curb had the correct painted number, 125. There was no door, just a large metal fence with a gate. I tried to open the gate. It was locked. I couldn’t see over the fence so I wasn’t sure if there were windows or not to throw a small rock at. I dialed her number and waited. Nothing, not even an answering machine.
I walked back to Becket, pacing. I opened the hatch in the back and took out one of my spare emergency reading books. Walking and reading I began to question if the job, whatever it may be, was worth the trouble. I had no idea what she would be paying me.
At 11:30 I called again. Nothing. At 11:45 I called again. No answer. I figured I’d wait until noon and then give up. My stomach was growling and I don’t do well hungry. I was back in my book when my cell chimed. It was my cousin. She said that someone had woken her up by calling and calling her phone. Was it me? I said of course not, I’m not even there yet. But I’ll be there in a minute. Looking at Becket and then back at the tall fence, I figured he wasn’t visible from the inside.
The gate opened and a lady in a housecleaning outfit, (black simple dress, white apron, sensible black shoes), led the way to the front door. It was not a huge building, not as tall as the gate that surrounded it, and it was built into the hill. The house was a dugout gone flashy.
I walked through the door into an enclosed porch with green plants growing on the sides of a path. The path led to the entryway where a huge mastiff waited, and next to it, a white chihuahua. I had a thought to pet them, then figured maybe I should wait till my cousin showed up. She came into the entryway and said hi. We walked to the living room and sat down on a huge leather couch dotted with pillows and blankets. The walls were white and decorated with bad oil paintings in overly carved picture frames.
We made some small talk. She mentioned that the project she had in mind for me was to rework her phone book. She wanted the information from her old hand written book entered in a database in the computer and then printed out again for a new book. She got up and I trailed her to her bedroom where the original book was. She gave it to me. I saw it was an old book, large, and it was jam packed with notes, letters, pictures, post cards, and what looked like a record cover. Wow.
After passing me the “book,” she took me on a short tour, and by the time she shut the door of her bedroom I had come to some conclusions.
Beverly Hills People:
Regard time as fluid. If you make an appointment with one, please show up at least an hour later than the scheduled time. They get miffed if you show up early. They do not own alarm clocks.
Eat breakfast at 12, lunch at 4 and dinner at 10. I am unsure as to when they go to sleep at night… if they do sleep at all.
Leave little trails of things on the floor or on tables. Half a banana. A flower. A napkin. Towels. Those items are for the housekeeper to pick up.
They don’t know what a swiffer is nor do they realize their hardwood floors are covered in dog hair. I REALLY wanted to swiffer the floor.
Think microwaves emit harmful rays and are unsure as to where the can opener is. (I brought soup for my lunch. This posed a problem).
Have “flower and plant” people that take care of plants in the home and patio. Not gardeners, those are separate. The gardeners mow the grass and water the lawn and the plants in the yard and are not they allowed in the house.
Don’t know where their furniture comes from, such as the clear plastic dining room chairs or the Romulusand Remus statue, because most houses come “furnished.” They don’t know who Romulusand Remus are.
They must ALWAYS have at least one fake zebra rug.
I ate my soup, out of the can and cold. I felt lucky to have found a spoon. After I sorted the couch pillows from small to large in ascending order I sat down and patted the chihuahua between the ears while the mastiff lay down by my feet on the fake zebra rug. I heard the front door squeak open and a young woman around 25 years of age stepped in.
She said she was my cousin’s Personal Assistant.
Within minutes she consulted with the housekeeper and the plant guy. The kitchen needed the tile scrubbed and the plants in the entry way needed trimming. She went in my cousin’s bedroom for a minute to lay out her clothes for the day. When the Assistant came back she sat herself next to me on the couch. Her business suit was champagne colored and matched her shoes to a T.
My cousin’s Assistant said she comes by on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She works for other stars too, but me being me didn’t know who they were. She brightened at that, since she felt that my cousin was putting a lot of trust in me with her phone book assignment. Meaning: “Sensitive Information.”
The Assistant explained in short what needed to be done regarding the phone book and then left to pick up some groceries while my cousin napped. I worked my way through the mess of numbers and notes. Some of the people listed had up to five numbers and numerous addresses. I figured the numbers followed by a question mark were the ones I needed to check in person before transferring them into the word template. The names and name changes were numerous. One name was listed as: Jocelyn Ballard, also see “J. Housier, Jackie Smith, Jo Glenbury, J. Manchester, Joce De Bloom.” Joce was a new one on me.
By three pm my left eye was twitching. The Assistant announced she could send me any additional numbers or addresses that may come up later via email, but for now I could work from home. My cousin came out of her room to say good bye and I said verbally and nicely that I had a lovely visit and would be coming back very soon, but in my head I said, no, no thank you, I never want to come back again. Ever.
Becket was waiting. I changed all my lefts into rights and rights into lefts with a black marker on my printed out MapQuest directions and started Becket. He was ready to go.
Things went wrong around Mulholland. I was too far down the road to turn around after I saw that the gates and lawns were not the same gates and lawns from the drive up. I got to an intersection and saw that I was somehow on another version of Beverly Glen. I chewed my lip.
At Sunset I grabbed my cell phone, encouraging a police officer to pull me over, (I could only be so lucky), and dialed my husband. I got a “hey” and lost contact. I looked for a strip mall but all I saw were lawns, gates, and fences. No convenience stores, no fast food joints.
Pulling over on the side of the road was impossible, there was no space on whatever street I was on. I looked at my phone, but still no signal. There was no choice but to just drive. I passed by the famous Beverly Hills Hotel, too late to pull in. No way to flip a u-turn, due to the concrete dividers in the road.
I grabbed the phone with a sweaty hand. Still no service. I threw the phone down on the passenger seat. Hard.
Long stretches of walls and pavement merged into landscaped lawns and patrician dwellings, some even without fences or gates, and visible front doors. The landscaping changed. I saw movement in the distance.
Sidewalks grew, some with grass borders, and I saw a group of wood signs planted that had “Maps of the stars!” printed on them, then some with “Next Right!” I smiled. Where they sold maps there would be a store or a cart I was sure.
I turned Becket Right.
There was not a store, nor a cart.
Instead there was a swarm of busses and people and Jeeps, bicycles and balloons and flowers. I had the thought that maybe I’d hit a block party. Awesome! People that could show me the way home had to be there. I drove on.
I braked hard, nearly hitting a woman in a bright orange and pink muumuu. She had a huge camera and was gesturing to her child who was holding a stuffed animal and a box of candy.
I saw a huge mound of more balloons, more flowers, and now, candles.
My cell chirped, I lifted it to my ear and said, “I’m at Michael Jackson’s house.”
I stopped Becket, climbed out and grabbed a man walking to the memorial, and said, “I’m lost, I hate Michael Jackson, HOW do I get to the 101 Freeway?!”
The man answered, “Je suis désolé je ne parle pas anglais, je suis de la France?”
I ran back to Becket, slammed the door and gunned the engine. I REALLY did not want to be at Michael Jackson’s house.
I made it to Sunset. No dwellings looked promising for directions.
I saw metal gleam and looked over. A black man in a uniform was unlocking and pulling a large metal gate open to the street. I pulled Becket over to him, lowered my window, and shouted before he could start shooing me, “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE I am LOST I don’t CARE about Michael Jackson I just want to get out of here I am from Orange County and I want to go home!!!! How do I get to a freeway??!!!”
He looked at me, head tilted, and paused. He said, “Go out back on Sunset. Go right, which is north. You’ll see the 405. It should get you home. Now get outta here. NOW.” I went.
I made my way to Sunset and saw a sign for the 405. I got cell and husband. I passed famous sights. I didn’t care in the least. All I wanted was the 405 fwy. My husband led me via cell, shouting out street names so that I knew I was going the right way, and I made it to “Church.”A street named Church?
Church it is.
I turned Becket on to the 405.
I passed through Inglewood,Compton, and Carson, and from the freeway they all looked more inviting than Beverly Hills.
Two hours later I was home in my house. I was happy to drive into our neighborhood where all the houses look exactly the same. I was HOME, in the land of gas stations, stores, and eateries all within 5 minutes or less! I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
I drank wine, made dinner, baked yummy corn bread muffins with fresh herbs from my garden, and cooked hot dogs and beans in the microwave. The invisible rays did not bother me.
The next morning I ate Cheerios and contemplated how to get fired from the “Phone Book Project.” I picked up the phone book from the kitchen table, looked at it and put it in the closet. I went for a walk.
I do now have access to phone numbers of a variety of interesting people, such as Cher, Warren Beatty, and the Bruckheimers, and a whole bunch of other famous stars I don’t know.
A malicious person could do something naughty with those, but not me, right? I’m a responsible person who can be trusted. I wondered if Al Pacino would answer his own phone. Or Jack Nicholson.
Summer has waxed, and I’m still not finished the project. The Assistant called today and said it was okay if I didn’t finish. She said that other people have worked on this project for years. Somehow that never came up during the original visit. School will be starting soon and I will need to give the book back, and descend into the third level of darkness, or is it the eighth?
Either way, when I do go, I will bring a GPS device with me, a lunch that doesn’t require a microwave, and maybe a bottle of wine, end of story.