This week, Last Days flees our adorably dingy little burg of high-tech prosperity and low self-esteem to come to you direct from the glammy, hammy netherworld of Los Angeles, California, where a thrillingly wide assortment of ethnicities converge to blast their horns at each other in endless traffic jams, and where even the dogs have cosmetic surgery. Viva L.A.!
MONDAY, JUNE 12 Our week got off to a terrifying start as Last Days boarded an LAX-bound flight on the dreaded Alaska Airlines. Following weeks of news reports documenting Alaska's life-threatening slovenliness, no one on board could have been ignorant of our journey's peril--a situation not helped by today's Associated Press item about a veteran Alaska pilot's letter to company executives documenting his "serious questions regarding the air worthiness of the aircraft" he had recently flown up the West Coast. Glancing around, Last Days looked for clues regarding our own chances of landing in Los Angeles alive. Were a majority of people silently weeping and crossing themselves? Was the flight staffed with older, uglier, more disposable personnel? Thankfully, the flight staff looked young and vigorous, and no one on board seemed overly anxious, except for one very loud man behind us who pontificated on the distinction between leadership and management ("Ray's a manager; I'm a leader"), and a nervous Nellie behind us who fretfully twisted her hair before moving on to clipping her fingernails. (Where will this growing acceptance of public grooming stop? Flossing in church? Douching on the bus?) Meanwhile, Last Days engaged in our usual double stress method, alternately begging God for mercy and whimsically envisioning our funeral. (What song should play? Who's forbidden to come?) Eventually we relaxed into the comforting knowledge that it really didn't matter if the plane crashed or not: Either way, we land in Hell.
TUESDAY, JUNE 13 Last Days' "L.A. = Hell" theory was proven to be a premature diagnosis, as this morning we were taken to a very lovely, non-hellish beach. Our enjoyment was greatly enhanced when our tour guide announced that this was the very same stretch of sea and sand featured in the opening segment of the landmark movie musical Grease! Film connoisseurs will remember the heart-rending scenes of Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) frolicking in the surf, as deeply in love as two teenagers portrayed by two middle-aged homosexuals can be. But soon summer ends and school begins, and Danny protects his status as a Cool Dude by treating the innocent Sandy like a stinking pile of shit. Happily, Sandy learns the redemptive power of a big slutty makeover; Danny offers his heartfelt apology; and the two fly off to Heaven in a convertible.
·· Speaking of heartfelt apologies, today the Los Angeles Times reported on the formal message of contrition offered by Argentinean President Fernando de la Rua for his country's role in harboring Nazi war criminals after World War II. During his visit to Washington D.C. today, de la Rua said this formal apology was necessary to help Argentina come to terms with its anti-Semitic past, and Jewish leaders welcomed his public act of contrition. "Sometimes, symbolism is substance," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. "Nobody in Argentina today is personally guilty of what happened 50 years ago. We're talking about a historic responsibility.... This apology demonstrates to the world the appropriate manner to deal with this history." De la Rua and Steinberg then put on skintight black Lycra pants and flew off to Heaven in a convertible.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14 Today Last Days luxuriated in one of the few attractions (along with easily accessible beaches and easily rentable porn stars) that would ever make us consider moving to Southern California--Six Flags Magic Mountain, the greatest theme park ever! What makes Magic Mountain so special? Unlike the Disney parks, Magic Mountain has little interest in cultivating a kiddie-pleasing, "everything is beautiful and perfect here" atmosphere, opting instead for a scary, sexy, thrill-a-minute feel. A large part of the park is devoted entirely to Batman, and the acre-wide Gotham City is a wonder to behold: dilapidated buildings trimmed with barbed wire and bio-hazard signs, sickly parade music wafting from rust-encrusted loudspeakers, everything gray and oppressive--basically, it's Buchenwald with roller coasters, and Last Days hopes Seattle's maligned goth community will accept our deep appreciation of Gotham City as the dingy, soiled olive branch that it is. But the primary reason for visiting Magic Mountain is Goliath, the highest, fastest, most amazing roller coaster in the entire world, featuring a 255-foot drop and speeds of 85 mph. Last Days rode Goliath incessantly, eventually teaming up with Lara and Rachel, two just-out-of-eighth-graders on their third day of summer vacation, who worshipped Goliath as much as we did. After eight consecutive rides, we retired to the arcade, where Lara and Rachel played Foosball while Last Days tried our luck on the Love Tester. Our first reading declared us to be "Passionate," while a second go-round upped our status to "Hot Stuff." Lara and Rachel, mysteriously, were not impressed.
THURSDAY, JUNE 15 For more than six weeks the L.A.-based Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has been striking for more equitable pay for commercials aired on cable television, and today Last Days fortuitously drove past a large group of SAG-ers picketing the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a Campbell's Chunky Soup commercial (featuring Denver Bronco running back Terrell Davis) was being shot. We didn't have time to join the strike, and we didn't see any celebrities (unless you count Harry Hamlin), but we did toot the horn of our rented Daewoo in support.
FRIDAY, JUNE 16 Today Last Days visited the luscious seaside town of Santa Monica. Strolling along the popular Third Street Promenade, we spotted something that we have feared since the day we were born: a real, live, stripey-shirted, white-faced mime. To a soundtrack of Bach solo piano, the heartbreaking creature thrilled passersby by pretending to do things he was not: smelling a pretty flower, waving to birds, walking against wind. Meanwhile, we wished we were dead.
SATURDAY, JUNE 17 As devotees of this column are aware, there are few things Last Days won't do to bring readers fascinating stories from far and wide. However, today, to our great sorrow and shame, we opted out of an experience so extraordinary that to mention it now plunges a thousand figurative knives into our heart: a staged reading of August Strindberg's classic psychodrama Miss Julie, featuring in the title role none other than Jim J. Bullock, best known as the swish-errific Monroe on the sitcom Too Close for Comfort. Please, please, please accept our heartfelt apologies. We swear to God that should we ever again have the opportunity to see Jim J. Bullock read the part of Miss Julie or any other Strindberg heroine, we will frantically jump at the chance.
SUNDAY, JUNE 18 Today Last Days came home. Tom Skerritt was on our return flight. When we arrived, it was gray and cold. We were happy.
FYI: The song played at our funeral will be the Velvet Underground's "After Hours." And you are all welcome to come. Send your Hot Tips to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the 24-hour Hot Tips Hotline at 323-7101, ext. 3113.