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STYLE & CULTURE | AL MARTINEZ

Talkin' to the Big Guy -- or Girl

October 24, 2003|AL MARTINEZ

I was sitting at a sidewalk table outside a restaurant called Sopranos on Sunday evening, waiting for some takeout pasta to be prepared, when Queen Latifah sat down across from me.

The restaurant was in Woodland Hills, where, during the day, the temperature had sizzled up the tube, so I didn't pay much attention to her at first. My head does funny things in the heat, so I figured she was just a hallucination.

But by then it was early evening and the heat had softened to the sweetness of a baby's kiss, emerging out of a red and gold sunset like a gift from heaven. I was sipping a martini as I waited, ignoring the hallucination, when Queen Latifah said, "Aren't you going to offer me one?"

I was stunned. My hallucinations don't talk. "My God," I said, "you're real! You're actually Queen Latifah!"

"Right on the first part," she said, "wrong on the second."

"You're God? But you look like ... "

"I can look like anything I want, Elmer. I can look like a one-legged bird if I choose." She snapped her fingers and a martini appeared in front of her. "Never mind, I'll buy my own." She sipped, then said, "You ain't been writing about me lately."

"Well, we've all be busy electing ... you know, the Body in Sacramento."

"Arnold? My boy. He loves me. Not too bright, but well-meaning."

"They all love you when they're running for office or fighting a war."

"That's what I'm here to talk about. I want you to do something for me."

"Do I have a choice?"

"Nope. Take notes." Snap! The martini turned into a notebook and the olive toothpick became a pen. "Write that I'm sick and tired of being used. Talk about me in church and hallelujah me in tents, but leave me out of war and politics. God just don't belong there."

She was wearing the kind of low-cut, glittery dress she wore in "Chicago," and I was having a hard time concentrating, but my pen moved just the same. It was like spirit writing. I'm going to have to try that again.

"No. 1," she began, "I decree that 'under me' be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. No more 'under God.' Henceforth, it shall be 'under gods.' Plural." She sipped her martini. It glowed with a celestial light. "That way, all gods are included, you see? God in heaven, Allah of the desert or the president of the New York Stock Exchange. You all have different gods. Worship what you please."

"Not bad," I said.

"I'm a smart cookie. That's why I'm God."

"Can I get one of those glowing martinis?"

"Work first, then drink."

"You're working and drinking!"

"I'm God, boy! I don't get sloppy. Just take notes. No. 2: Write that I'm not on anybody's side during war. War is not my idea. You thought it up all by yourselves."

"You're talking about ... "

"I'm talking about that nut general who's saying I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and the god of Islam is the devil. What's his name -- Boykin? You tell your readers that I'm sitting here having a little something with you and I'm saying I love everybody! That's my job. I love Bush, who loves me at all the appropriate moments; I love Osama bin Laden, who loves me when it's convenient; I love Rush Limbaugh, when he's not being a fool; and I love poor little Gray Davis, who's been bugging me lately for a decent job. But what I don't love is the rumor that I have tons of virgins waiting for people who blow themselves up in my name! I don't dole out virgins to sacrificial lambs!"

"Got you. No virgins in heaven."

"I didn't say there weren't any. I said I don't deal 'em out like cards."

"I have a question. How do you feel about that slab with the Ten Commandments being hauled out of the Alabama Judicial Building? You wrote those, right?"

"Well, I edited them. That kind of thing is no big deal. War is a big deal. Hunger is a big deal. Cruelty is a big deal. Arguing over a slab is like arguing over how many fleas there are on a dog. First things first."

"OK, so you think Lt. Gen. Boykin is a doofus, you want 'God' pluralized in the Pledge of Allegiance, and you're pretty much leaving the Ten Commandments slab up to us. I'll put it all together and see if it makes a column."

"I decree that it will make a column!"

"But I don't know if ... "

"That's a dee-cree, boy! You don't mess with God's decree!"

She was gone in a flash, fluttering toward heaven in the shape of a one-legged bird, but her glowing martini, filled to the brim again, remained and slid slowly toward me. "Loved you in 'Chicago'!" I shouted to the sky. There was no answer, but the sunset had gone and the night had darkened, and it was the evening of the seventh day.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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