I text Branden I’m gonna be in LA on Saturday, you want to have dinner, hang out. This is the Sunday before. No text back Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I start giving up hope he’s gonna get back to me. He pissed off at me for some reason? Maybe he doesn’t have time for me. He’s in real estate, I know he’s doing good with it, but we’ve known each other for almost 20 years, we were best friends for 4 of those years, always together. Maybe he’s moved on? Found someone else to replace me.
I give up on Wednesday, think about texting him back, but I’ve got my pride. You get one text from me, that’s it. On Thursday, I’m in San Diego with my Dad, he calls, leaves a message. Hey baby, give me a call, let’s do this. I give him a call right back. Sweet! Going to get to see Branden. I leave a message, text him, he calls me back couple hours later, we talk briefly, make plans. I’m going into LA on Friday, spend time with another friend, then go over to Branden’s house Saturday evening, go out for dinner. Really looking forward to it.
Saturday comes, he’s told me he wants me at his house by 5pm, but I know Branden. He’s doing real estate shit, he’ll run late, so I’ll wait a half hour, we’ll be good. I wait until 4:45pm, text him I’m on my way. I’m in Glendale, he lives in Beverly Hills, it’s a 50 minute drive. Everything in LA takes about an hour to get to, no big deal. He calls back, what the fuck, dude? You were supposed to be here by 5pm! I tell him, dude, I know you. You were going to be late, so thought I’d give you a little bit more time, you don’t have to rush home. I tell him, I’ll be there by 5:45pm. He says, all right, I’m gonna go do something, I’ll be back by then.
I type in the address, Siri tells me to take this right and this left. I drive through Coldwater Canyon, it’s good to be back in LA. It’s been 8 years since my last visit. I think about Branden, if he’s changed. Last time I was out here, he was just starting out as a real estate agent. I remember he took me to a couple houses, to check them out. I remember him running up these stairs, top speed. Branden does everything at TOP SPEED. You’re driving with him? Hold on tight. You’re going 80 on Sunset Blvd in the turning lane.
I get there 5:45pm, this does not look like his house. Where is it? Siri tells me that I have arrived, but I’m not seeing the house. I call Branden, he doesn’t pick up, he calls me back a minute later, says, I’m almost there. I say, yeah, dude. I’m lost. Where the hell is your house? He says, did you put in your phone 1736 ________ Avenue. Dude, I say. You texted me 5 1736. He says, I did? Yeah, I say. I’ll show it to you. There’s a space between the 5 and the 1. He says, fuck. My phone’s a piece of shit. Alright, I say, typing in the new address. Looks like I’ll be there in 7 minutes. He says, go in, they’re expecting you. I say, dude. I’m not going to go in when you’re not there. I’ve never met your wife, what will I say!? He says, stop being a nerd pussy and go in there. Fine, I say, but hurry. We hang up, I start driving.
I get there 7 minutes later, I’m in the middle of Beverly Hills. The first thing that strikes me is there’s no cars parked on the street. Why is that? People have 18 car garages in Beverly Hills, that’s why. And the streets are massively wide. I mean, you could break them into four, two lanes going either way. People here got some bucks. Duh. It’s Beverly Hills.
I see the house, walk across the street. There’s an old Honda parked in the driveway, and a black pimping Range Rover. He told me his cousin is staying over, the Honda must be his.
I ring the door bell, I hear yipping from behind the door. They must have a little dog. So LA. The door opens, a smaller woman says, you must be Clint, come in. I say, yeah, Branden should be here soon, I hope. She says, actually, I’m getting a massage in five minutes, you make yourself comfortable. Rayni is in the bedroom, putting the baby to sleep.
Branden married a girl named Rayni in the last year, they just had a baby girl, named Viviana. Viv, I’ll call her. I look forward to meeting her.
The woman says, do you want something to drink? I say, sure. I’ll have some water. She leaves, I look around the room. Sparsely furnished. Cool Miami Vice aqua colored couch, picture of a woman lying on a tiger rug, some baby toys, a couple chairs, lamps, framed pictures. Did they just move in? Branden and I need to catch up.
The woman comes back in, with a bottle of Artesian water. They don’t drink tap water in Beverly Hills. It’s Artesian water. I crack it open, sit down on the couch and wait.
5 minutes goes by. Where the hell is Branden? There’s a wall of sliding glass doors in front of me, small pool beyond. Why not? I’ll go sit by the pool with my Artesian water. I go out, beautiful night. Perfect jacket wearing night. I’ve got a long sleeve shirt on, and a denim Levi’s jacket. Just perfect. I sit down, remember I have to call another friend in town, call him, leave a 4 minute message. I love leaving lonnnnng messages on people’s answering machines. I usually do it when I’m bored. Just go on and on, using different voices, more stream of consciousness. I get to the end, push pound, listen to it. Yep. Good message.
I look at my watch. Yep, still no Branden. I call him, he picks up. What the hell, dude, where the hell are you? He says, chill. Chill. Had to take care of some business. I’ll be there in 5 minutes. Yeah. 5 minutes. His 5 minutes, in reality, is 25 minutes. Whatever. I’m sitting by a pool on a November night in Beverly Hills. I’m not doing bad. We hang up, I go back inside, still, nobody around. I start snooping around the house, go in the dining room first. Nice big dining room table, cool black and white picture framed on the wall. I go through the door, into the kitchen. Not huge. They have the trendy appliances, of course. I sneak a peak in their pantry. Lot of goodies, looks like they’re trying to keep it healthy. I leave the kitchen, go through the dining room, into the foyer, and there’s another room ahead. I look in, cardboard boxes everywhere, surfboards. Yep, they must have just moved in. I make my way back to the living room. If he doesn’t get here in the next 15 minutes, I’m out of here. I wait, 2 minutes later, I hear a car pull up, music blaring. Sounds like rap. Branden LOVES rap. He likes that gangsta shit. He comes in the door, he says, hey baby, I go up to him, we hug. Damn, I’ve missed this guy. He’s looking good too, wearing a fresh, mix-matched suit. Almost high water pants, with brown dress shoes, no socks. Must be the style. We chit-chat a little bit inside, do you want to change, I ask, he says, no, let’s go. We go outside, he’s driving a black BMW. Dope. I climb in, smell the smell of cigars. I like a cigar every now and then. I ask, you smoke cigars in here? He says, yeah. I say, I wouldn’t mind smoking a cigar tonight, he says, all right, I’ll hook you up. We start driving, he cranks up the music full blast, says, I’m gonna show you my properties.
Yes. Properties. Plural.
We make a bunch of turns. We get to this one intersection, nobody’s around, he starts doing donuts. Yes, that’s right. Donuts. Tires SCREECHING, the smell of burning rubber, me holding on for my dear life, my children’s faces flashing before my eyes. Donuts. Somehow, he rights the car, we keep on going. Yes, Branden’s a maniac and he drives like a maniac would. Like a fucking maniac. But deep down inside I LOVE IT. My heart starts beating fast, I hold my breath, I fear for my life. The things you need to feel in life on occasion. We make a few lefts and rights, he grabs a remote, the gates open, we enter the property, we get out, he shows me around. He bought it for like 5.8. Put a million into it, and is now flipping it, asking 12.95 mil. That’s a lot of profit right there. And the place is GORGEOUS. The lights they chose are amazing. It’s like art. There’s one lone red leather chair in the living room, I ask Branden about it, he says, I don’t know, my designer probably brought it in. He shows me all the rooms. Amazing. He turns off the lights, we leave.
We get back in the car, we drive to his second property, get out. We walk up some stairs, look down, it’s just a lot, with some basic construction done. He tells me, we’re going to do this, and this, and have this here, and build that there. Extremely impressive. He says, this is gonna be my house. So and so lives there, and Joe Blow movie star lives there. Unbelievable. This guy that slept on my shitty orange couch 15 years ago is building a 10 million dollar house for himself. Not too shabby.
We hop back in the Bimmer, he takes me to his 3rd property. Did I say the last property was impressive? Holy shit! It’s the view, you can see EVERYTHING. We’re like 3 blocks away from Sunset Blvd. My boy is killing it! We get out some cigars, light them up, smoke them, and it’s an incredible feeling to be on top of the world, with a man, that is building it.
We linger for 10 minutes, he shows me pictures of what the house is going to look like. Yeah, just like 15 million, no big deal. He makes a phone call, more business, I smoke my cigar, and am at peace.
We get back in, drive. He takes me to this place called Soho Club. Exclusive, members only. Membership costs $25,000. And not everybody with 25 grand to spend can enter. You have to be an artist, or a successful writer, or an actor. I button up my jean jacket, and away we go up the elevator.
We go in, swanky as you can imagine. Incredible view. Everything about real estate in LA is about the view. LOOK AT THE VIEW. What’s the view like? Oh my God, it’s an incredible view. We sit down at an outside table, I got to be this guy, I get out my phone, to take a picture with my boy. A woman comes up. I’m sorry. No photography allowed. Are you kidding me? Holy shit, this place means business. And you know what? I’m all right with that. It’s unique. My boy orders some sides, pizza, salad, meatballs, the server leaves, we start talking, catching up on old times. We talk about chipping Cialis, and having threesomes. I ask him to tell me a Hollywood story, he tells me he just worked with Bruce Willis, he gets out his phone, plays me a message from him. Hey Branden, this is Bruce… I say, in awe of my friend, tell me another one. He says, well…last week Leo texts me, I’m working with him (Leonardo DiCaprio, naturally), he tells me to meet him at the Soho House. He says, I’m in a meeting with Martin Scorsese, and I’m going crazy. I meet up with him at the pool table, we talk some business, he asks, you want to meet Marty? I say, sure, we go to his table, Leo introduces me to Scorsese as “the Gordon Gecko of real estate.” Scorsese says, we should put him in a movie, what do you think? I say, let’s do it.
Server brings us food, I have an non-alcoholic beer, and Branden has a sweet ice tea. They brought him the glass of tea, and a small glass, almost like a flute, of sugar water. Pretty neat. I take a sip of my beer, and it’s not bad. Branden tells me, when I first stopped drinking, I’d have about 12 of those beers a night. We eat our food, talk more. During one of his stories, he stops, texts, resumes the story, but not that well, goes back, stops, texts, says, to make a long story even longer, keeps on telling the story, starts going on a tangent, I reign him in, he finishes off the story, basically. We finish off the food, he pays, we walk to the other side of the bar, go through sliding glass doors, to another patio, where we can finish our cigars. Branden sits down, I say, I have to take a leak. I walk through the restaurant/bar. There’s so and so, there’s so and so, she looks familiar, there’s Tony Hawk. Hey, I used to play your video game. I ask a waiter, where can I find the bathroom, he says, all the way down that hallway. I walk down the hallway, I notice a photo booth, two guys exiting. Sweet. Branden and I are gonna have to get a picture taken. I make a left, find the door to the bathroom, open the door, shit. There’s a girl in there, at the mirror. I apologize. Sorry, the door closes, hey, wait a minute. It’s the men’s room. I open the door back up, say, yeah, this is the men’s room, she smiles, plays coy, says, I’ll be out in a minute. Oh these LA girls. She leaves, gives me a wink, I go in, do my thing, leave, go back to the cigar patio, sit down. Shit. Someone took the rest of my beer. Damn. And that would’ve been so awesome with the rest of my cigar. I’m too lazy to get up and get another one. Branden and I talk more, he’s telling me about his life in LA. I’m in awe. 12 years ago, he had like 5 grand to his name. Now, he OWNS THIS TOWN. So proud of my best friend.
We finish up, let’s go.
We go down the elevator, get the car from valet, take off. He drives recklessly home. More donuts in Beverly Hills. You know, Branden. I’m really not ready to die just yet. Oh what the hell.
Let’s die tonight.