I went to a birthday party last Saturday night in Echo Park. For those of you who don't know Los Angeles, this is a section of the eastern part of the city that I like to call "Sunset Boulevard east of that Tang's Donuts where all the homeless people play chess (as opposed to the Tang's Donuts up the street from my old apartment where where that old lady was murdered
)." I never go down there and don't know the area well, so when the party invitation said that the party was being held at a bar with no identifying features except a neon sign that said "cocktails," I was nervous that I would have some trouble finding the place.
So you can imagine how happy I was to find a bar with a large neon cocktails sign that even had some open parking spaces on the street! Especially since I had stupidly forgotten to read the invitation before I left my apartment and therefore didn't remember the bar's street number or name.
It turns out that bars that advertise themselves with just a neon cocktail sign are either one of two things: hipster faux dive bars that are so popular that they don't need to have their name written anywhere near the establishment, or actual dive bars that don't need to have their name written anywhere near the establishment because they don't want new people to find them. The birthday party was being held in the former. The place I walked into was the latter. I found myself in a sliver of a room filled with older gentlemen. The only woman in the place besides myself was the cocktail waitress, who was outfitted in a bodysuit made entirely out of red lace. She gave me a smile that managed to be both welcoming and so very sad. It was then that I realized that I might be at the wrong place. But I had to make sure, so I walked the ten feet to the back of the bar to see if there wasn't some back room or upstairs area for parties where I would find my friends waiting for me. There wasn't, although there was an old-timey popcorn cart. Its wares were tempting for about three seconds, after which point I started getting propositioned by the bar's colorful patrons and decided it best to make a hasty exit. On my way out, I politely turned down an offer of a ride home before I realized that when the guy said "I'll give you a ride!" he probably meant a ride on his penis and not in his automobile. It was his tone, you see, that made me think his intentions were not so innocent. That, and the hand gesture that accompanied his offer.
In college, I took a class on Victorian London. I remember being especially chafed at the fact that, after dusk, women were to be accompanied by an male chaperone everywhere they went for reasons of propriety. I was grateful to live in times that were so much less restrictive for my gender. And then I moved to a city where the same rules apply, except that they're now unwritten laws of common sense and personal safety for the young woman alone at night.