Saturday, July 23, 2005

best of downtown party

I had the novel opportunity to attend, of all things, Downtown News' Best of Downtown Party this past Tuesday night at the Hotel Figueroa, which gave me a chance to reflect on the changing face of downtown Los Angeles, class conventions, and, of course, popularity contests. Turns out the three seemingly unrelated topics have a good deal in common, each game, if you will, with a clear set of rules, goals to be achieved, and faux pas to be avoided. The party celebrated the newspaper's annual Best of Downtown Issue, which hit the streets yesterday.

I walked into the poolside patio of the Hotel Figueroa with the best of intentions. Then someone handed me a tray full of these blue drinks, which looked so cool and refreshing that I helped myself to more than a few and promptly forgot about everything except enjoying more liquid refreshment, cute boys, and enjoying a sultry evening poolside with my friends Gabrielle, Kitty, and Craig.

Thankfully, my friends had more presence of mind than I did, otherwise I would have been content to sit in the corner of the patio, watch the inauthentic "bellydancer", eat Moroccan food, drink more blue drinks, marvel in the vivid bougainvillea flowers separating the patio from poolside, and watch the crowd suck up to Tom Gilmore.

Kitty was a consumate pro, working the room and pressing the flesh despite the unforgiving heat, my parasol hitting her head at inopportune moments, and the unrestrained and sometimes violent rivulets of sweat streaming from her head. I had almost forgotten that when surrounded by exceedingly corporate people, cocktails can be hard work.

Kitty introduced me to all these people sporting "Winner" ribbons from their nametags. It was interesting, the difference in reactions when I congratulated people on their triumph. Some were embarrassed, some were matter-of-fact, others basked in it. I wondered if the different reactions were an indicator of how hard they worked for that ribbon, whether they felt they deserved it, if they felt it was ultimately meaningless but didn't mind being the beneficiary of that designation. I tried to engage people in conversation more substantial than the usual cocktail chatter, but no one wanted to play. Either that or they just assumed I was a rambling drunk. It didn't occur to me until much later that maybe they just didn't have anything to say.

I didn't win anything, so I asked Kitty (and others) where my "Loser" ribbon was. After all, winners don't feel good unless someone else lost, right? I wanted those winners to feel really good about their win. But there were no "Loser" ribbons to be had, just more blue drinks. Eventually, the crowd dispersed and there were no more blue drinks to be had. I like to think that all the winners went home to their partners and celebrated with champagne and hot, sweaty monkey sex. It's amazing, isn't it, the power of "Winner" stamped in gold on a blue ribbon? That for one night, one can feel as Leonardo DiCaprio's character did on the deck of the Titanic, jubilant and secure in the feeling that he or she was the king or queen of the world.

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