Transcribed from strangers’ conversations on a Long Island Rail Road train on August 2, 2013.
Shorts: A young woman wearing shorts whose name was never mentioned, or, if it was, I didn’t hear it.
Thomas: Shorts’ boyfriend who is sitting across the aisle from Shorts.
Mariah: A young woman sitting next to Shorts.
[They are drinking white wine and eating sandwiches.]
Mariah: My sandwich is stale. I can’t believe we have to put up with Peter and Skylar
Shorts: Skylar has a dog. A lot of people get in tomorrow.
Thomas: Virginia is getting in tomorrow.
Mariah: Where is our house?
Mariah: Who knew the Hamptons were such a challenge?
You got Oakland. You got Berkeley. You got San Jose. You got San Francisco. Those are the big ones. You got Sausalito. You got Tiburon. You got Emeryville. Good boat towns. Fremont, Hayward, Concord, Sunnyvale, Santa Rosa, and Vallejo are also cities in the Bay Area.
We’re up in Napa County now. You got Yountville, you got St. Helena, Napa the city, Calistoga, and American Canyon. Valleys in Napa Valley include: Pope Valley, Capel Valley, Chiles Valley, and Gordon Valley. Dry Creek is in Napa County.
In Sonoma County you got Cloverdale, you got Cotati, you got Healdsburg, you got Petaluma, you got Rohnert Park, you got Santa Rosa (repeat), you got Sebastopol, you got Sonoma the city. You got Windsor. You got Sea Ranch and you got Bodega.
In Alameda County you got Oakland (repeat), Fremont (repeat), Hayward (repeat), and Berkeley (repeat), and Emeryville (repeat). You got Alameda the city and you got Albany and Livermore and Union City and Newark and Dublin. There’s Piedmont and there’s Pleasonton and there’s San Leandro. A girl I know who grew up in San Leandro says San Leandro is the pits. Have a good time there and prove her wrong. Komandorski Village: that’s a mouthful. Scotts Corner is named after a guy named Thomas Scott and used to be called Scott’s Corner with an apostrophe.
In Contra Costa County you got El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo. You got Clayton, you got Concord, you got Danville, you got Lafayette, you got Martinez, you got Moraga, you got Orinda, you got Pleasant Hill, you got San Ramon, you got Walnut Creek, you got Antioch, you got Brentwood, you got Oakley, and you got Pittsburg. “I’ll take two pickets to tittsburg” is an old Pittsburg joke. You got another mouthful coming up: Bayview-Montalvin.
We’re down in Marin County (repeat) now. You got Ross. You got Mill Valley. You got Fairfax. You got Larkspur. You got Novato. You got Corte Madera. San Anselmo and San Rafael. You got Sausalito (repeat) and Tiburon (repeat) and Belevdere. Stinson Beach: small town. Good fish tacos in Stinson Beach. Eat a Caesar salad in Tiburon (repeat) and drive up to Stinson Beach (repeat) for a fish taco or three and have yourself a time. You got Marin City and a place called Black Point-Green Point. Sleepy Hollow is not spooky. Keep USA out of Dillon Beach!
San Francisco (repeat) is the only consolidated city-county in the state of California. You only got San Francisco (repeat). That’s it. That’s all you got here. Eat at the Stinking Rose in North Beach and you will have garlic farts for a week. In San Francisco you got all these too: Alamo Square Anza Vista Ashbury Heights Balboa Park Balboa Terrace Bayview Belden Place Bernal Heights Buena Vista Castro Cathedral Hill Cayuga Terrace China Basin Chinatown Civic Center Clarendon Heights Cole Valley Corona Heights Cow Hollow Frederick Knob Crocker-Amazon Design District Diamond Heights Dogpatch Dolores Heights Duboce Triangle Embarcadero Eureka Valley Excelsior Fillmore Financial District Financial District South Fisherman’s Wharf Forest Hill Forest Knolls Glen Park Golden Gate Heights Haight-Ashbury HayBro Hayes Valley Hunters Point India Basin Ingleside Ingleside Terraces Inner Sunset Islais Creek Jackson Square Japantown Jordan Park Laguna Honda Lake Street Lakeside Lakeshore Laurel Heights Little Hollywood Little Russia Little Saigon Lone Mountain Lower Haight Lower Pacific Heights Lower Nob Hill Marina District Merced Heights Merced Manor Midtown Terrace Mid-Market Miraloma Park Mission Bay Mission District Mission Dolores Mission Terrace Monterey Heights Mount Davidson Nob Hill Noe Valley North Beach North of Panhandle Oceanview Outer Mission Outer Sunset Pacific Heights Parkmerced Parkside Parnassus Polk Gulch Portola Portola Place Potrero Hill Presidio Presidio Heights Richmond District Rincon Hill Russian Hill Saint Francis Wood Sea Cliff Sherwood Forest Silver Terrace Somisspo South Beach South of Market South Park Sunnydale Sunnyside Sunset District Telegraph Hill Tenderloin Treasure Island Twin Peaks Union Square University Mound Upper Market Visitacion Valley Vista del Mar West Portal Western Addition Westwood Highlands Westwood Park Yerba Buena. But San Francisco (repeat) is the only city in San Francisco County (repeat) so you really only got San Francisco (repeat) here.
San Mateo County. You got: not much! Don’t go! You got Colma and Daly City: you can skip those. Foster City: not much to do there. Half Moon Bay: sounds nice but it is not nice. You got: Atherton, Menlo Park, Brisbane, Belmont, East Palo Alto, Hillsborough, Burlingame, Millbrae. You got three Sans—San Carlos and San Bruno and San Mateo the city—and you can skip all three. South San Francisco is not in San Francisco County (repeat). It is in San Mateo County (repeat). Woodside, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City: skip those. Moss Beach: never been, not going.
Moving on to Santa Clara County. You got San Jose (repeat), the tenth-largest city in the USA. East San Jose is a city too sort of. King and Story: not a city but has a good name. Cupertino: good spot. Steve Jobs lived there before he died. You got Gilroy. You got Los Altos. You got Morgan Hill. You got Los Gatos and Milpitas and Monte Sereno. You got Saratoga and Sunnyvale (repeat). Palo Alto is a college town with cheap food and smart girls. Eat your fish tacos in Stinson Beach (repeat) and your Caesar salad in Tiburon (repeat) and then drive up to Palo Alto (repeat) and chat up a smart college girl and drive her around the Bay Area. Now that’s an ideal Bay Area day right there. Santa Clara the city is a place. You got Mountain View. You got Campbell. Rucker is a place but not a real town.
Solano County is a county in the Bay Area. You got Benicia. You got Dixon. You got Rio Vista. You got Suisun City. You got Vacaville. You got Fairfield. You got Vallejo (repeat).
An acquaintance I saw on the train works for a magazine but is considering a move to ad work for the money but also because people in her office are over-qualified underachievers and she’d prefer to be around folks with more passion for their jobs.
Content people want more money and ad people want be content people but still make ad-people money, is what we agree on.
At work there is a rotting fish smell in the hallway and I look into a studio where a swordfish is strung up near a harpoon and there is a guy in Gorton’s Fisherman clothes posing for a camera.
I take a picture and consider sending it to her with the caption That swordfish sold out and look where it got him! but I lost her number in a phone-switch and don’t feel like asking around for it in order to send a picture of a fish, and there’s a chance she would think I’m trying to change her mind about her career, which I’m not, it’s just a thing people say, sold out, that doesn’t mean anything, and if I were sending it I would need to edit the caption and add something that indicates the fish was for an ad so she could make the connection to our conversation on the train, but the picture has not been sent, all is moot, let it be and move on.
Now there’s a girl we think is a hip-hop singer walking around the office saying, “Where’s the beer at?”
I take you for real nice suppers, steaks and tates and red wines. Isso cold out Porp Porp, I got hot chocky from worky and will need tricky. You got that chicken-broth cunt. I want, I want. Hai Jamesons. May I ax you? How you got such perfecto faces and butts? You’re the bottle, I’m the genie, rubby rubby, loosey goosey, Porp so juicy, Bem so moussey, and by that I mean you silky like chocky moussey. Suppers please, yous and mees, beefs and cheeses, ducks and peas. Porppourri, you so dreamy, wanna reemie that teenie Beasley and get all meanie. Suppers please, peas and cheeses, beefs and geez you faces pleases.
*Around 2001 my mom started hosting dinner parties for middle-aged singles in the tri-state area. (The three states are Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.) Baby boomers would descend on our house a few times year and get really drunk, and my friends and I would often bartend. Being 15 at the time, this was our unfortunate introduction to partying.
One of the regular guests was a Dayton divorce attorney who happened to be Rob Lowe’s dad. He was older than most of the crowd, and after a drink or two he became quite the charmer. One night I found myself in a conversation with Rob Lowe’s dad and three male strangers. The strangers were businessmen types who I remember being pretty annoying compared to RLD, and it seemed like they were just meeting RLD for the first time that night, and RLD does not mention that he is RLD when he meets people for the first time.
For whatever reason, the strangers started an unbearable local-celebrity name-dropping contest. It went down sort of like this:
Stranger 1: I had dinner with the governor last week.
Stranger 2: How is Bob?
Stranger 1: Same old, still a bullshitter.
Stranger 2: Your words, not mine!
Stranger 3: The other day I was playing golf with John Glenn and he told me what it’s like to shit in outer space.
Stranger 2: How is Johnny Boy doing?
Stranger 3: Still a prick. I hope he dies soon!
[There was a break in the action, and then RLD chimed in with this:]
Rob Lowe’s Dad: You think that’s cool? Well, get this: I’ve fucked Rob Lowe’s mom.
I’ve fucked Rob Lowe’s mom is what he said.
He may or may not have explained later that he used to be married to her. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter.
Great party, mom!
*Remember Spellbound, that documentary about spelling bees? One of the girls in it, April, lived in my sophomore year dorm. We weren’t friends, and I don’t think we ever really spoke to each other, but I would see her at parties, and I heard she didn’t like talking about how she was in Spellbound.
*Neil Gaiman’s brother worked on a documentary with my old roommate, and when he passed through New York he crashed on our futon for a few nights. He seemed to enjoy talking about how he was Neil Gaiman’s brother. The Neil Gaiman movie Mirrormask happened to be in theaters the weekend Neil Gaiman’s brother was crashing with us. He paid to see it in the theater even though, if I remember correctly, he had already seen it.
*A few years ago I brought my younger sister to a party at my friend’s parents’ apartment in SoHo. She was 17 at the time, didn’t know anyone else there, and was pretty bored, so she went out to the hallway to make a phone call. A half hour later she came back to the party with John Mayer and his friend. Someone gave John Mayer a beer and he drank it at the kitchen counter. He lived down the hall and talked to us in great detail about how the layout of his apartment was different than my friend’s apartment. I think he said his countertop was different and his ceiling lights were newer. That’s all he would talk about. He said, “Not tonight” when a young girl tried to take a picture with him. He told my friend that his parents were teachers and didn’t own a nice apartment, and that he deserved to live in the building because he earned his money, implying my friend had no business being there, which was rude.
*Kenneth Starr has a daughter who went to Vanderbilt University, where my brother went. One late night out when I was visiting, Kenneth Starr’s daughter and I happened to be in the same cab. I didn’t talk to her, or know who she was, or even realize there was a girl in the backseat at the time because I was so drunk. But later on my brother told me that Kenneth Starr’s daughter was in my cab.
“Who is Kenneth Starr?” I said.
“You know, the Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky lawyer,” he said.
“Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard that name before.”
“That’s his daughter.”
There you have it, my brushes with fame. To be honest, I only wanted to tell my Rob Lowe’s dad story, but it’s not long enough to be its own article so I had to tack on a few more of my brushes with fame.