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An L.A. story

October 27, 2006|Peter Mehlman | PETER MEHLMAN is a television and film writer.

AROUND HERE, you gotta love what you drive.

No wait. That's the slogan for Mercedes and not at all what I meant to say. I meant to say, around here, you gotta have a story with a satisfying beginning, middle and end, but the truth is, there are 4 million stories in Los Angeles and lots of them don't amount to anything.

So, I lost my credit card.

After watching a baseball game at a pub on Fairfax with an actor friend whose character was being written out of the TV show "Studio 60," I tried cheering him up by pouncing on our check, only to find my MasterCard missing. Right away, I knew where I lost the card.

That afternoon I had gone to the Kinko's at Wilshire and 6th in Santa Monica to copy a news item stating that a man who shot four strangers was mentally ill. Somewhere between START and JOB COMPLETE, I flashed back to the latest colossally pretentious commercial for KCRW I'd seen at the Laemmle's Monica. I'm sticking with KPCC, I thought to myself while grabbing the copies without retrieving the MasterCard.

Back at the pub ...

I gave the waitress my American Express card. The difference between cards escapes me, but I use MasterCard to roll up the frequent flier miles that I give away to East Coast friends so they can come out here and disrupt my life for a week. The Amex is purely for wallet aesthetics. Sure enough, it had expired.

Right away, I knew why I had an expired card. I'd been sent a new card, but I'm a little fast about tossing my mail in the recycle bin even though I don't believe for a second that the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation reincarnates junk mail into legal pads for Manatt, Phelps.

Again, back at the pub ...

The exasperated waitress was just a vocabulary shy of calling me malfeasant, so I hauled out a huge load of cash. I have a Tiffany money clip too pompous to grip less than 18 folded bills, so I constantly milk Wells Fargo to keep the clip satisfied. A few years ago, in lieu of the usual business gift basket, I got a gift certificate for Tiffany, a store so bulging with impractical items that all I could find was a silver money clip adorned with Roman numerals, the significance of which DaVinci couldn't decipher.

The waitress took the cash, saw the money clip and said, "Wow, bling, bling." When white people say "bling" or "street cred" or "holla," you know the words are officially extinct, but I shrugged, drove home and, immediately after forgetting to cancel my MasterCard, went to sleep.

The next night I went to the Dodgers-Mets game with a friend who coincidentally would be directing the first friend's last appearance on "Studio 60." His euphoria over scoring the tickets was dampened by the disappointing early ratings of "Studio 60." So to cheer him up, I assured him the show would catch on, even though I was a person who never saw the show and didn't have a valid credit card.

I picked him up an hour before game time at the New Otani Hotel at 1st and Los Angeles. According to MapQuest, the ride to Dodger Stadium would cover 2.11 miles and take six minutes. MapQuest ignores things like UCLA football games in Pasadena, USC football games at the Coliseum and music festivals downtown, so, although the 2.11 miles was accurate, the six minutes was so wildly optimistic we listened to the first five innings on the car radio. Around here, you gotta love what you drive in neutral.

Let me tell you something: The magnificence of Vin Scully describing a baseball game wears a little when you get gridlocked out of witnessing seven runners cross home plate.

We finally got to the turnstile, and my friend hurriedly produced the tickets, which weren't tickets but printed e-mails with bar codes. A scan of the bar codes indicated that the tickets were already being used by someone else now sitting in our box on the first-base line eating our Dodger dogs.

We walked to customer service, whose motto is "Sorry, there's nothing we can do." Beside himself, my friend said, "But I got the tickets through my agent!" The customer service rep, apparently having gotten her job without the benefit of representation, said, "Sorry, there's nothing we can do."

We walked to the centerfield bleachers, where I noticed fans leaving the stadium to smoke. A guard would initial their tickets so they could inhale and go back to their seats. We glanced at the initials on someone's ticket, wrote the same initials on our tickets and breezed into Dodger Stadium.

Hello, is this the hotline number for Homeland Security?

In a way, I'd like to tell you that we went to our box, ejected the impostors and sat down just as the Dodgers staged a heroic ninth-inning rally. But we watched from the bleachers as the Mets celebrated on the Dodgers' home field.

A day later, I canceled my credit card and asked if there were any wayward charges. In a way, I'd like to tell you that a fortune in baseball souvenirs had been charged by someone illegally sitting behind first base at Dodger Stadium. But there were no charges, and not having a credit card for the next week didn't affect my life at all.

My friend's agent sent a gift in penance for the ticket snafu. In a way, I'd like to tell you it was a Tiffany gift certificate, but it was a gift certificate for a lobster dinner. I finally watched an episode of "Studio 60" and, while it had a nice beginning, middle and end, it might not catch on anyway.

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