The God of Random Things
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Everyone knows that L.A. is not ruled by the Author of Peace & Plenty, but a local deity known as the god of random things. He's the genii who builds a Moorish house next to a Cape Cod. Who sews a patch of fake fur on a polyester warm-up jacket. Who chauffeurs six Elvis impersonators to the same event. Who causes you to miss your big break, along with the exit to the Five.
Of course, plenty of folks in this town actively worship the god of random things. You can't blame them: not when whole fortunes depend on the unexpected. Without this local deity, who would arrange for surprise plot twists? Cause a rage for plastic shoes? Tear chic holes in the knees of jeans?
In fact, every night, thousands of Angelenos head out to make this god some offering, some sacrifice to stay in his chaotic graces.
The trick is not to sacrifice…too much.
Tonight I'm standing in line at the House of Blues wearing a salmon-colored fedora and a pair of jeans with holes in both knees. In front of me, two girls shiver and fidget. The first—tall with blue-white skin—wears an electric green tube top and pink plastic beads. The second—short, plump, and perhaps 20—has covered her bust with a bit of lace held by spaghetti straps that cut into her skin. She has drawn black lines to highlight her lips. Her jeans are pulled tight by a length of galvanized chain so her bare midriff will roll over the top. Each seems just a little too naked before the god of random things. The tall one speaks first:
"So….where's the baby tonight?"
"With grandma," replies the plump one, adjusting her straps.
"That baby's so cute," says the tall.
"Yeah. Her hair just got long enough for pigtails."
"So…Is Tomás the father or not?"
"Hey, I don't know."
"Why don't you have the damn DNA test?"
"Well, he's probably the father. He thinks he's the father."
"…but if you found out for sure, he might not help out anymore, is that it?"
"Leave me be," replies the plump, a little miffed and hiking up her jeans.
"Okay," persists her friend, "but Raoul still thinks he's the father."
"The baby looks a lot like Raoul," replies the plump, with a sly smile. "He brings her presents. I just make sure Tomás isn't around."
Then she pauses: "It's a little random, that's all. I mean life's a little random."
She knows I'm listening, and when she turns to the Urban Man and raises her eyebrows for confirmation of this great truth, I give her a slight nod. Then the doors open.
I've come for the band—a rowdy bunch from Dublin— but tonight I have a hard time getting into the confusion of the scene. In fact, after an hour I'm ready to leave when lo, the pudgy girl in the lace and spaghetti straps, having lost her friend, spots my salmon fedora, waves as if we're old buddies and decides to dance with me. "Let me try on your hat," she gestures over the music—and in deference to our local deity, I let her. Then lo again, before I can say another word, she dances away.
Because the girl's so short, I have a hard time following even a salmon-colored fedora through a crowd leaping and frothing like the un-intentioned waves of a stormy ocean. And when I do track her down and ask for my hat back, she gives me her sly look.
"Oh, let me keep it!" she mouths, Angeleno to Angeleno—and I see that tonight, I have been selected to provide the sacrifice. For a moment, I consider explaining about the limits of my personal devotion to the god of random things, but the music is too loud. And just as I reach out to retrieve my salmon-colored fedora, she dances away again.
Copyright © 2008 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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