Friday, July 3, 2009

Mike and Maria: The First Decade

Mike and Maria in the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel lobby, 2003

Ten years ago, on the evening of July 3, 1999, I was lounging in my West Hollywood apartment -- flipping through channels -- when the phone rang.

It was my friend Pang-ni. She and a few friends were heading to the Good Luck Bar on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. They were also hanging out with some off-beat guys, and well, they needed to be rescued. Would I join them?

Hmm. I was already in for the night. And Los Feliz was a hike from West Hollywood. But I had promised myself to make more of an effort to get out and meet new people. Plus, it was the July 4th weekend, I thought to myself, and I oughta be out having a good time.

So I got dressed, hopped on the surface streets and headed to this "Good Luck Bar."

Inside, Pang-ni and Brenda -- two friends from my college dorm -- were there.. and yup, I saw what they meant by these guys. It was a busy holiday weekend night at the Good Luck Bar, but the group had managed to snag one of the last seating areas -- which had just been occupied by two girls. Pang-ni had struck up a conversation with one of them, and I wound up sitting next to Pang-ni.

Before long, I was talking to Pang-ni and the new girl to her left. And later, I wound up talking to that girl a little bit more. She seemed pretty cool, and we talked about all sorts of nonsense. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Where we grew up. And what we did for a living. She told me she designed CD packages at Rhino Records. Oh -- and her name was Maria.

She was there, having a mini "girls night out" with her friend Andrea. (Turns out she was in a similar "what the hell, I'm gonna go out into the world, and if I meet someone, I meet someone" phase as well.) At the end of the night, she wouldn't give me her number. But I gave her my card. I was intrigued.

Later, while leaving the bar, Pang-ni asked me what I had thought about another one of her female friends who had been there that night. But all I could think about was this girl I had just met.

I didn't want to be too eager, and I didn't want to be Creepy McStalker. But I knew her first name, and I knew where she worked. I was going to wait a week, and then call Rhino. (Probably too long in hindsight -- but again, I wanted to play it cool and not scare her off.)

But before I finally got the nerve to call... I was in the office on Thursday night (back at my old gig at the now-late Electronic Media) when the phone rang.

"What were you doing giving your number to a drunk girl?" laughed the voice on the other end.

It was her. I couldn't believe it. Honest, to this day, she teases me that I was never going to call -- but I was. She just beat me to the punch. And thank God she did, because it gave me a bit more confidence to push hard for a first date. Soon.

We arranged to meet the following week at Lola's on Fairfax for drinks. And that led to our first full-fledged date: Drinks at 360 (now long gone) and dinner at the old Luna Park (also long gone), where Pancho Sanchez also performed. That led to another date at Campanile's Grilled Cheese night. And so on.

It all led to now -- marriage, home and Evan -- plus another addition, just a few weeks away.

And to think it all started that night, ten years ago. It's crazy to think how so much has resulted from that phone call from Pang-ni -- and that split-second decision to get off my lazy ass and drive all the way to Los Feliz. And ditto Maria's decision to meet up that night with a friend at a bar that, like me, she'd never been to. (And yes, we've felt cheesy for years that we met in such a cliched fashion -- at a bar, and a bar named "Good Luck," no less.)

Here's to decade number one -- and the awesome fact that there are still several more to go.

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