Friday, March 27, 2009

Chapter Two - In the joint

(Indian Actress Gajini Asin)

I let Candi talk me into going to this new Indian restaurant with her last night, and I'm a wee bit hungover as I type this. I probably shouldn't share that information with a bunch of strangers, but I promised I'd be open and honest on this blog. Besides, I don't think it's a news flash for anyone that sometimes a young and underemployed actress and her snymphomaniac virgin friend will have a few drinks with dinner. There's no way we could stand each other for more than five minutes any other way.

We took Candi's car, because we always take Candi's car. The only other choice would have been my car, which I think I've mentioned is a Hyundai Sonata I got from my mom. Candi got her car from her parents, too, but it's not a Hyundai anything. It's a BMW, black and sleek and fast. Candi likes her car, but she likes it in that way she likes anything her parents gave her - with a huge dose of guilt, especially when I'm around. Candi blasted Lady Ga Ga all the way. I had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I like the beat of a good dance song as much as the next guy. But on the other hand, Lady Ga Ga sounds like a drugged out whore who needs therapy. I feel really sorry for her when she starts singing about making porn movies for drug money and how she hopes her daddy won't hate her for it. All that, to a fun beat. Lady Ga Ga is very West LA, and I don't mean that in a good way.

The restaurant is in a strip mall in Culver City, and I won't tell you the name because I plan to go there again and I really don't need to be called out on this blog yet. It's on Jefferson Boulevard. That much I can tell you, because there are a few Indian joints on Jefferson. When Candi pulled into the parking lot, I was, like, this is it? It looked so uninteresting, squeezed into a random minimall, next to ghetto clothing shops and a store where everything costs less than a buck. But Candi swore it was "amazing," and so in we went.

The first thing I noticed was how beautiful it was, in spite of being in a strip mall. You find this with a lot of first-generation ethnic restaurants in LA. They rent out this nondescript square of space, and do all sorts of mad creative things with it. In this case, they had the room sectioned off into cozy little "rooms" with sparkly Indian cloth on the walls. The lighting was mellow and sort of orange-yellow, the kind of light that can make anyone look good. There was music on, not too loud, and the hostess was the drop-dead gorgeous Indian woman with a body to die for, wearing a hot pink sari. For a second, she reminded me of my cousin Luisa (not her real name) from El Monte.

There was a bar, and this is where Candi decided we must sit. "You get to hear more of what people are talking about," she whispered in my ear as we walked toward the darkened back corner of the room. The bar was small, seating maybe about eight, with a TV hanging from the ceiling in the furthest corner. One of those Bollywood movies was on, with everyone smiling like they were insane, and doing these completely ridiculously mesmerising dances.

I sat next to Candi, and watched her watch the bartender. That's when I knew Candi had very little interest in hearing what anyone at the bar was talking about, and lots of interest in the bartender. Of course. It wouldn't have been like Candi to drive me all the way to Culver City for curry. It would, however, be exactly like Candi to drive me all the way to Culver City for a dude she could imagine twisting her into awkward sexual positions and grunting "Who's your daddy" in Sanskrit.

The bartender seemed to remember her, and smiled to see her. He was cute. There's no doubt about that. He was probably six feet tall, with dark hair and a broad jaw, big brown eyes that had that certain intelligence to them that I appreciate. He wore black trousers and a white shirt, with a green apron, and polished a glass with a white towel before setting on the shelf behind him.

"You're back," he said to Candi. Then his eyes danced over to me and he lifted his left eyebrow ever so slightly. "And you've brought a friend."

Candi made small talk, and introduced me. He told us his name was Chand, and had to spell it for me to understand what he was saying. He didn't have an accent or anything, but the name didn't sink in the first couple of times.

Chand handed us menus, and set to work making us a drink Candi ordered with great enthusaism, called Sex in Mumbai. It was cranberry juice, orange juice and lime, with booze in it. Pretty good, not great. The whole time we were looking at the menu, Chand was staring at me. It made me very uncomfortable, because I knew Candi dug him and he was not interested in being her sex God. Thankfully, Candi didn't notice. This is part of the reason she's such a crap actor, by the way. Candi doesn't pay much attention to the facial expressions and body language of the people around her, and sometimes you have to spell it out in very plain language before she understands what's going on. I think in her case this is all a blessing.

We placed our orders, and Chand walked off to deliver it to the kitchen. This is when Candi grabbed my hand and told me how much she wanted him. "Do you have any idea how many times I've masturbated thinking about this guy in the past week?" she asked me.

"Please don't tell me," I answered.

"Five, maybe six," she said.

"I asked you not to tell me." I tried to get the image of Candi masturbating out of my mind.

"He's hot," she gushed. "I want him to be the one."

By "the one" I was pretty sure she meant she wanted to lose her long-guarded virginity to this poor unsuspecting bartender.

The night went on pretty much in the same sort of vein, which is probably why I had three drinks. I'm a lightweight. Three drinks pretty much does me in. The food came, and it was good, but a lot like baby food on rice. I believe most Indian food is a version of baby food on rice, with seeds in it and curry. It's not my favorite cuisine. I prefer Japanese. With Indian food, I'm always super relieved to get to the nan, which is like a tortilla made by someone who doesn't know how to make tortillas, but at least it's not like baby food. On rice.

Candi was orgasmic about the dinner, though. She slurped and oohed and ahed her way through all of her plate and most of mine. The whole time we ate, Chand stood back and watched me. Sometimes he served the other people at the bar, or fiddled with things behind the counter, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was staring at me. If Candi noticed, she didn't say anything about it. Mostly, she got drunk and talked about the new vibrator she had ordered from some Web site. She offered to share it with me, which made me want to throw up. "I'll wash it first, of course," she said. It didn't help.

As Chand cleared our dishes, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was an actress. Then, because I'd had too much to drink, I told him that I never got work as an actress and so I probably didn't have any right to tell him I was an actress.

"It's not because she can't act," said Candi, reminding me why I liked her. "She's one hell of an actress."

"So what's the problem?" asked Chand. "A beautiful young actress like you, if you're as good as your friend here says, shouldn't have a problem getting work in this town, surely."

"It's 'cuz she's Mexican," blurted Candi, failing to notice even then that her dream man had just looked me deep in the eyes and told me I was beautiful.

So it was that I had to explain to my East Indian friend that it was hard for a Mexican American actor to get anything but the most stereotypical roles in LA. He listened carefully, and when I was finished with my sob story, he joked that I could be a superstar in India. The he took Candi's dessert order (Candi can eat anything) and whisked himself off to the kitchen once more.

While he was there, Candi began to mull over what he'd just said. "You could, he's right," she said.

"Could what?"

"Could be a star in India. Look at them." She pointed her finger at the TV in the corner, with the Bollywood movie on. "Tell me that doesn't look like a bunch of Mexicans."

I watched for a moment, and I had to admit, the men in the scene had a certain resemblence to a norteno band. And the woman actress? She might as well have been waiting for the bus in Santa Ana.

Chand reappeared with Candi's desert and another round of drinks, which he said were on the house. He winked at me, which created some sort of problem with that pretty hostess across the room, who saw it and folded her arms in a huff. Candi noticed none of this. Me? I notice everything.

"She should totally go to India to be an actress," Candi slurred all over Chand. "You had the best idea ever. Ever. You're so smart, and strong. And handsome."

I tried to change the subject. "Who is that actress?" I asked, pointing to the TV. Chand looked, and answered.

"That's Gajini Asin," he said. I wrote it down and had him spell it for me. "She's a big star."

"She looks like the girls I went to high school with in East LA," I said.

"I know," he told me. "That's what I'm telling you. I see all these Hispanic girls out here, and you all look Indian."

"You're as pretty as that girl," Candi told me, pointing to the TV.

"I don't know," I said.

"You are," Chand confirmed. "Prettier."

We all watched the TV for a moment, and said nothing. I felt a strange tingle down my spine, the kind I've only felt before important things happened to me. It sounds crazy, but I always think it's my dead grandmother when I get that feeling.

Chand looked at us and smiled in this shy, strange way. "You know," he said. "Bollywood makes more money than Hollywood these days anyway. If you'd been born in Mumbai, you'd be a star."

"No, you don't understand. She can do any accent," babbled Candi. "She went to Julliard on a full scholarship. She can do anything." She poked me in the ribs. "Do British."

"Candi, please. Not right now."

"No, just do it. Show him."

I buried my nose in my drink and ignored her.

"I'd like to hear it," Chand told me.

Because I was drunk by then, I did the British accent. Chand seemed impressed.

"She could totally do Indian if she tried," said Candi.

"Well, in India we have a lot of different accents and languages," said Chand. "To break into Bollywood, she'd have to do an upper-class Hindi."

"So you'll teach her," said Candi, bouncing up and down in her seat.

Chand looked me dead in the eye again, and licked his full lips. "I think I'd like that," he said. "I think you could actually pull it off. You look Indian."

"Don't tell my mom that," I told him. "She thinks we're Spanish."

Chand found this hilarious. Candi, meanwhile, saw her big break. She was busily writing our home phone number down on her cocktail napkin, with her pink Hello Kitty pen.

"Call us," she said. "And we'll set up Indian lessons. You're a genius. You came up with the plan."

"Candi," I complained, ready to launch into her. Chand interrupted, however.

"This could be fun," he said. "It's on."

He called this morning, and we have plans for the three of us to go to an Indian market in La Mirada tomorrow morning, before I go to work as a wench in ye olde Middle Ages restaurant.

I'd like to say I'm pissed off at Candi about the whole thing, but honestly? I like a good challenge, and learning how to act Indian enough to try an audition in Mumbai is the most interesting thing to come across my lap in ages. Much more interesting than the nanny and maid roles I've been avoiding for the past year.

I don't think anything will come of it for me, of course, but maybe I can convince Chand to poke Candi. That would mellow her out.