The Bad Project

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Chapter 13. To Hollywood with the Entry Group/Marianne

It was Friday. Marianne herded the entry group plus Mandy, their sophomore mentor, onto the Zoombah van for their trip to Hollywood. They were going to see the tourist sights, then see a movie at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They had signed up for the van to bring them at 4:00 and planned to dinner down in Hollywood too.

“I love weekends,” Marianne said as they settled down in the Zoombah. “I’m beginning to feel like college sucks now. Except for the weekends. They save us.”

“Yeah, it sucks,” Crystal said. “Too much work.” Crystal told Marianne that she had driven through Hollywood but never visited the Hollywood tourist attractions even though she was from LA. Marianne thought that she acted blasé, but inside she was excited.

Crystal didn’t see Mandy, sitting on the other side of the van about two-thirds of the way back, turn her shoulder away when she spoke, but Cass did. She sat behind Mandy on purpose so she could keep an eye on her. Marianne noticed too, but hoped Mandy and Cass wouldn’t precipitate anything. She wanted the women to have fun, not to argue. Mandy was leaning over toward Cosima and Elise, talking about clothes. Maybe she would just think about shopping. As they continued to talk, Marianne glanced back and saw Cass relax and start talking with Angela about kayaking at Catalina Island over winter break. She felt her tension go down several notches.

They commented on the neighborhoods the Zoombah drove them through. Early in the ride, there was no ethnic diversity and the shops were upscale. Then they drove through through the North Hollywood arts district, and there were all kinds of people. Elise loved seeing all the shop windows and told Cosima she couldn’t wait to go shopping the next day. As they got to Hollywood, they drove through residential areas, a mixture of mansions and apartment buildings. There were some homeless people poking through trash cans, grocery carts waiting nearby. There were graffiti on most of the flat surfaces.

Mandy said, “Uh-oh. We’re coming to a bad neighborhood. This sucks.”

Marianne tensed up, but Crystal ignored Mandy and said, “Look at all the different kinds of people! Everyone tryin’ to be an actor. I wish them luck. There’re lots of assholes with scams to trap would-be actors.” Mandy made a face but didn’t say any more.

The seven women got out at Hollywood and Vine, thanked the driver, arranged to meet him again at 9:00 PM right there, and then looked around. “Do you know who Lana Turner is?” Marianne asked. “Everyone says she was ‘discovered’ at a drug store at this intersection, but I’ve never seen any of her films.”

“She’s old school,” Cosima said. “Mom remembers seeing her movies when he was growing up. My Grandma didn’t want her to go because Lana was risqué, but shit, she couldn’t resist. She sneaked out and did it anyway.”

“That’s what I would have done,” Mandy said. “No one’s gonna tell me what to do.” Marianne didn’t like the way she looked at Crystal out of the corner of her eye as she said that, but Crystal seemed not to notice.

Crystal said, “I once rented ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ It was pretty good. Lana Turner was screaming hot all right, but the sex was a lot less blatant in those days, at least in that movie. I didn’t dare rent ‘Peyton Place’ which my Dad said shocked Grandma so much.” Mandy snickered and whispered something to Cosima.

Cass quickly jumped in, “Let’s rent ‘Peyton Place’ and see what she was like. Do you think it was her best movie?”

Elise said. “She was nominated for an Oscar for it.”

“Sounds good. It’s on our ‘To Do’ list,” Cass said.

The women had walked down to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. On the way, they passed the Hollywood Wax Museum. They exchanged comments with the “Frankenstein” shill outside the door. They walked on to Ripley’s and paid the entry fee. As they went inside, Elise said, “Ugh. You know this is just like an old circus freak show in so many ways. I don’t think I’m going to like it.”

Two headed animals were fascinating if repulsive, and there was at least one exhibit each one found really interesting. After a couple of hours, the women were ready to move on.

“Freaky, but worth it,” Mandy commented as they left.

Walking along Hollywood Boulevard, Crystal said, “Let’s go and see the Wax Museum. It’ll remind us of all those old movies and TV shows.” Mandy gave a false sounding laugh again, but she didn’t comment. No one else followed suit. After a little discussion the others agreed, and they all paid, and went in. As they wandered through the exhibits, Marianne criticized some of the likenesses, especially Leonard Nimoy of “Star Trek,” Robert Redford, and Lucille Ball.

“Lucy! I loved those old reruns when I was little,” Crystal said. “I don’t care if she doesn’t look much like Lucille Ball, she makes me think of a fun time I once had. And there’s Diana Ross. I still have Supremes CDs.”

“Okay, but shit, they charged us a ton of money to get in,” Cass said. “I expected better looking images.”

“You know, they are fucking awful,” Marianne agreed. “The ones I saw in Orlando were better. They need to melt these down and start over. They’re not worth the price.”

Crystal laughed. “Don’t be so picky. This is just for fun, and if you get shitty about money, you won’t have a good time. Relax.” She patted Cass’ shoulder and smiled at Marianne.

“I can’t relax,” Marianne threw in. “Wonder why? Maybe it’s all those tales about dangerous LA we heard at home.” They walked on. Marianne and Crystal entered a room featuring a display of Frankenstein’s monster. Mandy was inspecting the details of the monster’s hands.

Around the corner came a black man with a five-o’clock shadow on his heavy jaws, a spider tattoo on the left side of his neck, wearing a denim jacket, black slouchy jeans, and a black knit cap. He muttered under his breath, “It’s that smart-ass Crystal and a high-toned Asian gal.”

Crystal hadn’t been looking at him, but when she heard that, her head jerked around. Her eyes met his and her right hand involuntarily went up to cover her mouth. He was one of the men, Zuni. He was the one her father had beat up first, not the one he had blinded. Her blood froze. She couldn’t say anything. The hand against her mouth started to shake. The man looked at her and smiled a sly smile.

“Gotcha goin’ don’t I baby? But life ain’t so fuckin’ good for me. I gotta go now.” He rushed out, leaving Crystal feeling stunned.

“What was that all about? Do you know that man?” Marianne asked.

“Sort of. He went to my high school,” Crystal managed to get out. Mandy was all the way across the room so she hadn’t heard what Crystal said. She stared at Crystal. After a minute she called, “Do you know that guy? He looks scary.”

“Not really,” Crystal said in a shaky voice. “He went to my high school.”

“So, you lived in a bad neighborhood?”

“Hey now, don’t be insulting. C’mon, let’s go see Marilyn Monroe,” Cass said to her. Marianne thought it was a heroic gesture, trying to take Mandy away before Crystal got angry. But she seemed too upset by the man to respond to Mandy.

Two tough-looking men in pinstripe suits with wide lapels looked into the room and went by into another part of the museum. Crystal said, “I hope they’re after him.”

Marianne looked at Crystal in concern. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I’ll be fine. Maybe I need some water or something,” Crystal said. The two women rejoined the rest of their crowd in a larger room nearby. Mandy was talking confidentially to Cosima and they laughed together and looked at Crystal. She didn’t seem to notice.

Marianne said, “Let’s eat now.” She looked casually at Crystal, who was still a little shaky. Maybe the food would help her calm down. Everyone agreed and they went back outside to look for a small restaurant they could afford.

They spotted a small Thai restaurant nearby and walked that way. Marianne thought there was something fishy about the man in the black knit cap, but she could tell Crystal wasn’t about to tell her what he had done. It was something significant, Marianne was sure about that. She had been frightened by the way he had shaken her roommate’s composure. But Crystal seemed to be recovering now.

Fingers crossed all will go well, Marianne told herself. Then she thought, I could write about this scene. Lots of good tension. Look at how tightly Crystal’s fingers are clasped together. And see how Mandy looks at her out of the corner of her eyes. Marianne was slightly ashamed of that thought, but told herself that writers had to put aside concerns about the privacy of friends. But putting aside concerns about family? That would probably be beyond her for quite a while, she thought. And anyway, they would go to the movie and forget their own problems for a while as soon as they finished eating.

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