We've been in L.A. only four days and already Daniel has whored himself hugely. I love that about him. I remember back when he was faking like he was a folk artist, I used to lead him around from gallery to gallery by the hand while he wore torn overalls and kept his glance askance. It was the best borderline-retard impersonation I ever saw -- very understated, with his hair looking like a toddler attacked it with kindergarten scissors. Make that a blind toddler.
It was a good act, and his art sold like discounted crack until he himself put a stop to it. It turns out he's a real artist after all, contemporary even. Of course he still wears overalls, just not out in public very much, and his hair is still a wonder to behold. While Daniel slept on the flight from Atlanta, Grant and I enlisted some other passengers to examine it and place bets on whether it was real or not. "Those have got to be plugs," Grant whispered. "That's his hair," I insisted. Daniel's secret is that he chops it off in tufts with toenail clippers, then sprinkles his head with corn starch (I swear). In the end his head sort of looks like a moth-eaten ball of horsehair that barely survived a house fire. For Daniel, it's a very studied effect, one that he won't change even if we promise to pay for it ourselves. "Look, there's a hair salon. Get your ass in there for a real haircut," we keep telling him, as L.A. is chock-a-block with hair salons. Every other doorway boasts an avalanche of hair products.
I don't know how Lary can stand it because, of the four of us, he is the one who is a complete pussy about hair care. Nothing touches his head unless it's mint scented and tested by a team of Vietnamese scientists, which is alarming considering the rest of him could be covered in egg yolk and axle grease and he couldn't care less. I estimate that for shampoo alone Lary spends more than I do for an entire year's worth of bleaching the hell out of my own head. It might help, though, that I tell my hairdresser she could use battery acid for all I care. Anyway, Daniel always refuses the free salon visit. Oh well, he knows who he is. I'm pretty proud of him for marching into that L.A. gallery with his head looking like it'd been assaulted by bobcats and then walking out with representation.
Daniel's new work reminds me of Western Atomic Age, anyway -- the kind of stuff my mother used to buy in the early '60s. She had good taste back then. Then all of a sudden in the '70s and early '80s, when she was making decent money designing weapons during the Reagan administration, she went all rattan on us. Our entire condo looked like the movie set of Casablanca, complete with bamboo beads hanging in the doorway and dead palm fronds stapled to the walls.
Of course it did not help, at all, that I encouraged her. I'd taken an interior-design course at the local community college and came out insisting that the "Mediterranean look" was in. So the first thing I did was talk her into ejecting all her sleek, teak, '60s Lane furniture she'd had since her honeymoon and replacing it with a bunch of baled bamboo stalks that barely passed as patio furniture. The only regret I remember her voicing was when I'd told her how much I'd gotten for all her old furniture at the garage sale. "Twenty-five dollars?" she'd asked, disbelieving. "Is that all? That stuff was valuable. What are those people, blind?"
I was surprised by her reaction. I didn't think she'd mind. But looking back I see I should have known. By then we'd moved 25 times; that's 25 times we'd packed and unpacked this furniture up and down the California coast, 25 times we'd situated it in a welcoming manner throughout another rented living room, 25 opportunities for me to realize its value. I didn't tell her that I actually threw this furniture at the people, begged them to buy it and cut the price so low they couldn't say no. I couldn't wait to replace what I had, which, of course, made me blind to its value.
Daniel's new L.A. gallery has select pieces of furniture from the Eames era interspersed throughout the space, showcased like the marvels in design that they are. Some of them could have actually come from my mother's living room for all I know, as we didn't live far from here when I'd helped catapult these classics out of our lives. I'd love to get them back, of course, but I inevitably wonder what, exactly, I'm hoping to recreate -- my old living room or my old life. In either case it's impossible. The pursuit deflects from what I do have -- an exacerbating life full of accidents, some happy and some not-so, that led the four of us here to L.A. to sell a television show. So I try not to be so quick to catapult things from my life anymore. I try not to be so blind to their value.
Hollis Gillespie is the author of Confessions of a Recovering Slut and Other Love Stories and Bleachy Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."