Three days ago I was walking into the Beverly Hills Four Seasons and I thought I saw the bass player for Green Day standing in the lobby and talking on his cell phone. He appeared to be arguing with someone. I was pretty sure that it was him although I am no Green Day scholar by any stretch of the imagination.
Today I walked into an old Court House in the exact middle of a small town in the exact middle of the Country. There, I saw an old bailiff named John. I’d never met the man before that moment but he greeted me in a friendly manner and asked how he could help me.
I was sent to Beverly Hills by my wife. She runs a “mommy blog” and was asked to screen a movie coming out soon. She could not make it so she sent me instead. So there I was, one daddy in the midst of all of these mommies. They had us stay in a fairly posh hotel in Beverly Hills. Not the Four Seasons, that is only where the press event was. But the Hotel I stayed at was not far behind. There was a ferrari dealership literally attached to this hotel. Literally attached. Attached in the way that they figured the people staying at my hotel may also decide they are in the market for a new Italian sports car while they are there.
I’m from a midwestern city. It is a fair sized city and the capital of the State I live in. I’d like to think we have enough culture here. I have traveled enough around the world to have a fair idea what my city has to offer and I’ve come to the conclusion that we are probably in the middle of the pack. It’s a perfect size city. It has a bustling downtown area without the feel of Chicago or New York or L.A.
I had been to Beverly Hills before. I’d stayed there for about 6 weeks while I helped a restaurant chain open up a new dining establishment. This time, I was only in town for about 29 hours. It was interesting to see only this small sliver of the city in such a short period of time. There was no dilution here. Everything was new and beautiful and in your face. It didn’t apologize for any of this. I didn’t want it to. I could waste time on here making the point that there was way too much money held by way too few people, and they all seemed to be hanging out at my hotel. Or the Four Seasons. But that point has been made before. And that is boring.
When I walked into the Court House today. It looked like any other small town Court House you could picture in your mind. They had the clock tower. It was on the square in the middle of town. It had a marble staircase winding up the three floors of it’s height. In other words, I didn’t think much of it. I had been subpoenaed to appear in a Court case there. This is a fairly routine part of my day job but I am usually required to appear in the Court Building in the city where I live and work. Downtown in the capital of my State. This time, I was required to drive about 30 minutes east to this small town where I now found myself.
After the screen of the film in Beverly Hills, the treated us to a four course meal back at the swanky hotel. There were crab cakes and racks of lamb. There was “flourless” chocolate cake. Endless glasses of Malbec. After the dinner, I met my cousin, who works in the film industry, at a Mexican Restaurant in Santa Monica. We stayed out until 2am. This was actually 5am my time. When my head finally hit the pillow, I had been up for 24 hours straight. It was a blast.
At the Courthouse, John wore a blue blazer over a polo shirt. The blazer had a badge on it that said “bailiff”. His pants were brown and he wore a black belt that had been well used. Several of the holes of the belt were worn and frayed, indicating several fluctuations in weight over the years either one way or the other. I had been told to be at Court promptly at 1pm. I had been told that Court always starts on time. I got there at 12:45. John was sitting at a small desk outside of the Courtroom. He was the only one there. I identified myself. He said that Court always runs late and that I should make myself comfortable. I sat on a wooden bench outside the Courtroom for a moment before getting restless. I stood up and started walking around the lobby, looking at the old photographs on the wall.
The press event was at the Four Seasons Hotel. I had never been to any Four Seasons Hotel, let alone the one in Beverly Hills. After seeing the bass player for Green Day, I went further into the lobby. The main foyer was filled with fresh flowers. The smell was almost too much. I couldn’t imagine the time and money involved to keep the arrangements that flawless and fresh. The press event involved me (and the other bloggers) interviewing the cast of the film. I was impressed with how prepared everyone seemed to be. These were not just mommies blogging in their spare time. These were members of the press, covering a real event. The predicable questions were asked, the predicable answers were used as responses. “How did you prepare for this role?”. “What was the most challenging thing about the movie?”. One cast members, an 18-year-old actress, walked in to a standing ovation. I can’t imagine being that age and having a room full of actual, full grown, adults applauding you when you walked into a room.
I wasn’t looking around the lobby of the Courthouse for long before John asked me if he could give me a tour. He said we had about 15 minutes to kill and he’d love to show me around. I accepted and he escorted me into the main Courtroom. This was the original Courtroom that was used back when the building was constructed in 1895. John explained to me that everything was kept as it had been 120 years ago. He showed me the ornamental molding, where the wall meets the ceiling. Hidden in the plaster were random animals. I saw a giraffe. I dinosaur. He said no one knew why they were there or who decided to put them there.
After the press event, I went immediately to the airport. While at the gate, waiting for my plane, I google searched the young star that was in the film. The first thing that came up in my search results were pictures taken of her at a beach. She was wearing a small swimsuit and the photographer published unposed shots of her bending over and squatting and other unflattering poses. There was a filthy, rude sexist article attached to the pictures. I really did feel bad for the girl. I wondered how she dealt with these things. Although I wouldn’t have been appropriate for the press event I had just attended, I wished I had asked her that question rather than the vanilla queries that we had asked instead. It wasn’t until I got home later that night and decided to follow her on Instagram that I the reality of everything set in. She had posted the same photos that that paparazzi had taken of her on her Instagram account. I felt foolish.
There were racks under each seat in the Courtroom. John said that for years he had figured that they were for hymnals, but was confused because he couldn’t imagine them having any religious services int the Courthouse. He finally figured that the racks were for the gentlemen to keep their hats during court. I touched the backs of the chairs in the Courtroom. The wood felt smooth and sturdy beneath my skin. I tried to imagine all the lives that these chairs had supported over the years. There were windows in the back of the room that looked out upon the town. John pointed out the Baptist Church, the Catholic Church, the Masonic Lodge, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Lutherans. All scattered around. And here, in the middle, the Courthouse with it’s clock tower passing time for everyone around. It was at that moment that I thought back to Beverly Hills and my brief time there. How I stayed up for a whole day. How everything seemed to move so quickly there. How youth wasn’t as precious and fragile as I thought. How it was something bought and sold and cashed in on again. As we were walking out of Court, I touched the back of chair again, one more time. I went back into the lobby and sat on the same old, wooden bench. But as I put my weight on it’s worn and sturdy frame, this time I knew better.
They didn’t need me in Court. The lawyers had worked thing out amongst themselves just like they usually do. A deal was made, I was thanked for my time and sent on my way back to the office. I wasn’t expected back right way and so I decided not to jump on the interstate again. I took an old, state road back west towards the city. It took a bit longer to get home. But it was a road I had never been on and there were farms and ranches stretched along the pavement. The sky was watercolor blue and it washed down into the fields on either side. I continued west, towards Los Angeles, 2000 miles away. But I knew I wasn’t going that far.