Saturday, February 09, 2008

Los Angeles isn’t exactly a small town; neither is Santa Monica, even. So you should be able to walk around in blissful anonymity, right? Especially if you’re a proudly unpopular anti-social son of a bitch like myself.

But lately I’ve been running into people I know everywhere I go. A work acquaintance at the Whole Foods. Another at the movies. Some hole in the wall restaurant, there’s that guy I did a film with years ago. And they’re always friendly and happy to catch up – it’s cramping my inclination toward cantankerousness. Oscar the Grouch didn’t want rays of sunshine illuminating his garbage can.

Good thing my bad moods hardly go away easily. They’re especially quick to return when I run slow.

Like yesterday. I got a late start, could only cover half the distance I wanted to, but felt too tired to even run the whole thing. Plus, I had to get back home soon but could only walk, and my sweaty shirt was making me cold. I had plenty of reason to scowl.

“Don’t look so down. It’ll all be okay.”

A man heading in my direction was talking. I should’ve known I’d run into someone on Main Street. I came up this way as a shortcut, but every other time I walk along this store-lined street in Santa Monica, I encounter another person from my past – a gal from grad school, a pal from production, Hal from Hollywood Park Racetrack, still handicapping the horses…

So who was this dude? An older guy with a gray mustache and an affable smile. I knew him, but then realized he didn’t really know me, he was just being outgoing.

“Say, aren’t you Seymour Cassel?” I pronounced it Castle, but I think it may supposed to be like Ka-SELL.

He didn’t correct me. “Yes, what’s your name?” He shook my hand, as if we were long lost friends reconnecting.

I told him my name, and explained I’d seen a lot of his films; I always enjoyed his work. He seemed to be genuinely appreciative of the compliment, which was refreshing.

I rarely give praise to actors or celebrities, even if I mean it, ‘cause they often seem so jaded from hearing accolades. Hell, even the Westside Rentals guy -- I told him he was the best thing at the LA Kings game, and he gave me a disinterested “thanks-that’s-nice-of-you-to-say” and went back to his spastic dancing on the street corner.

But Mr. Cassell and I had a pleasant conversation. His son is an editor, he told me, not the actor Vincent Cassel, whom I had just seen in Eastern Promises. And Seymour has been living in Santa Monica for over 20 years. We both agreed it’s beautiful. “Especially when it warms up,” he said. “You put on your shorts and a nice Hawaiian shirt and just walk around…”

“Or even in February,” I said. “You can still go for a run by the beach.”

I realized I wasn’t cold or tired anymore. We went our separate ways, after saying, “see ya around”, and I probably will. I’m even looking forward to it.

Dammit. Friggin’ friendly folks. Destroying my lack of faith in humanity.


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