Palace of Fear

It’s official.  Today I went where so many other Hollywood celebrities have gone before.  Michael Jackson. Linsday Lohan. Not OJ Simpson, that was Beverly Hills, but Justin Timberlake’s 48-year-old cougar stalker, for her restraining order.  Yes, I’m talking about the Los Angeles Superior Court House.  My  landlady, Susan Blais, who IN MY OPINION is a psycho, is taking me to court (I have to put that IMO in or she might sue for defamation if she’s bored on a busy Saturday night and deep Googles herself and finds this).  I can’t say what is going on, yet, because I’m not sure it’s advisable to talk about it here until it’s over and I’ve inevitably lost, but trust me, it’s nefarious, it’s evil, it’s demented. In my opinion, of course.

Lindsay Lohan, whose thighs are bigger than mine, arrives at the Los Angeles Superior Court last week, wearing a dress that sells out online an hour later. I wore leather.

The court house reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”: long white marble corridors with countless wood doors leading off them, each one holding a drama, a mystery, a trauma; insouciant lawyers wafting by, the women strutting like rickety grandfathered American Airlines flight attendants still defiantly propping up glamor at 55, the men with the gruff, slovenly look of battle-worn litigators who have long since gone deaf to the law’s calling; and the filler in between all of this, the American civil servant: doughy, usually not white, know-it-all, seen-it-all, “NEXT IN LINE, PLEASE! STEP DOWN!”

Katherine Helmond getting a facelift in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil," which also reminds me of my mother (sorry mom), not just because of this hilarious scene, but because of the relationship between Helmond's character and her son, played by Jonathan Pryce. How does Gilliam know us so well?

In my mind I dubbed it the Palace of Fear: imperceptibly, shuffling down the marble halls, wafting through the callow attorneys, darting between the Weeble-like civil servants were the cowed would-be criminals, the victims of justice, the people like me, lost among the frigid lanes of the Dictatorship of Bureaucratia, unsure what room to go to, why the entrance on Grand Avenue is on the fourth floor, but the entrance from Hill on the other side of the building is on the first, four flights down, down, marble-and-wood-door down.  I was up and down, in and out of rooms, shunted back and forth, until finally, thoroughly spun around and calling for Dinah my cat, I ended  up in an elevator saying out loud, thinking I was alone, “Should I be going up, or down or …”  But I wasn’t alone.  There was another man with me, clutching a perplexed sheaf of papers in hand, eyebrows twitching.  He was a black man my age, no doubt also strafed by the recession, also brained by an in-his-opinion evil landlady.  He jumped a little and said, “Don’t be upsetting me with that shit, man!”

Outside the Palace of Fear, where the entrance from the street is on the fourth floor, and it's all downhill from there. Isn't justice purdy?

The great thing about these experiences is you get to see what these places are really like outside of a TV show or a movie, and for some reason the real thing is just so different in a not-very-entertaining way, or not as entertaining as a movie or a TV show.  It’s immersion into the realm of unpleasant senses.  You’re now in the drama, the drama is you.  This is happening.

It’s the same thing as living in this shithole building I ended up at in an emergency move in November when I needed a place quickly.  It’s this old school 20s Hollywood apartment building that was built for wannabes and still houses them.  It’s a dorm, basically, owned by the wicked witch/evil queen in every Grimm’s fairy tale I was read as a child (in my opinion).  Living in the entertainment district of Hollywood is like living in Times Square when it was making its transition from “Midnight Cowboy” to “Lion King.”  This is Holly-weird Central, complete with the charming pot dealer who lives beneath me, who calls me Daddy-o.  When I was watching back episodes of “The Shield” in here, I felt that I was living a stereoscopic reality with what was happening on the criminal-chasing, siren-blaring, cop-barking screen and what was happening outside my windows.  I am in this.  Dinah, my dear, we have fallen into a hole and can’t get out, and the Red Queen wants my head.

When I am confounded by my predicament I ask myself, “What would Lindsay do?”  Not true.  I’m being flip.  I ask myself what Bill Hendrickson from “Big Love” would do, I shit you not.  I find episodes of that show comforting.  The Hendricksons are just living the Libertarian dream of being consenting adults who should be able to be legally polyamorous, but they are relentlessly beleaguered, and I identify with that and find it comforting in a schadenfreude-ish way.   Scary?  Yeah, well.

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