I have two neighbors. If I’m standing in the apartment facing my front door, to the left there’s Joelle, and to the right, there’s Rich. (I may or may not have changed their names to protect their indentities – what with all this talk of anonymity and all.) Now, I don’t consider myself a nosy person – let’s just say that I’m “curiously watchful” – but I do know a bit about what goes on in my neighbors’ lives. I don’t stand at my front door and spy out the peep hole at what’s happening in the hallway, but I live in an apartment complex in a high density population area, so the walls are thin, the ducts carry conversations, and the floors vibrate, alerting everyone else to the ins and outs of everyone else. Sure, my neighbors’ lives come to me in bits and pieces, so I do a lot of detective-like piecing together to formulate the story of the glamorous lives that Joelle and Rich live.
I said “glamorous.” Joelle and Rich live glamorous lives. They dress up, go out, come back laughing, buzzed, drunk at all hours of the night, friends and lovers sashay in and out of their apartments. I, on the other hand, am Joelle’s and Rich’s pathetic neighbor. I stay home all day with no office to which I must commute, no need to change out of the pajamas I woke up in, no need to change out of them when I fall asleep at night, never having left my apartment since last Tuesday. I guess if you count going downstairs to the lobby to pick up mail that’s addressed to “Resident,” then I do leave my apartment at least once a day. I’m still shamelessly in my pajamas, though. And friends? They pop in and out of my life via a small window on my laptop called AIM.
Joelle is a little bit older than I am. I would say she’s in her early 40s, though she takes care of herself to about mid 30s. She’s looks like what I’ll just call a mature model-type – tall, long thin arms and legs, blonde, thin, toned, and tanned. I don’t want to name names or anything, but my guess is that she is divorced from a very wealthy husband, or at least separated, which is why she just recently moved into the apartment next door and can get away with what seems like a life of leisure. Joelle leaves her apartment early in workout gear carrying a designer workout bag, and comes stomp stomp stomping back (the floors here shake when anyone walks around) a few hours later. At night, she is always dressed in barely-there Hollywood hipster wear, and roars off in her Benz no earlier than 10 pm. Occasionally, her friends, all of whom are shorter, fatter, dumpier than she, will come by, have a few drinks at her place before heading out on the town. I am guessing about the drinks part, but it’s pretty clear they are doing something in her apartment for an hour that makes them laugh and giggle and speak in club-level voices in the hallway as they leave. I have spoken to Joelle only a few times and very briefly at that – I am always shy, mumble a few answers to her comments about the weather, etc. because inevitably, whenever she catches me, I am in my sweats, donning glasses, hair pulled awkwardly into a knot on top of my head, face unwashed, teeth unbrushed, with a bag of foul, fetid garbage that is horribly overdue for the dumpster.
Rich, probably my age, is slightly different, but no less glamorous. Rich is bi. He used to have an enormous house in Brentwood, but told me he sold it a few years ago because he couldn’t resist the profit. He has the apartment that’s next to me, and one in New York. You see, Rich is bi-coastal. He lives in New York when he is “producing” in the spring and fall, and of course, he jets back to LA to escape winter. When Rich is at home in LA, well, he’s never home, and if he does happen to be home, he is always talking. Very fast. Sometimes there are people at his place, but if there aren’t, he is still talking because I imagine that Rich has the latest bluetooth wireless chip embedded in his ear that also controls every Sharper Image designer co-branded electronic device in his apartment. Rich is bi, but he’s also metro. His wardrobe is trim-fit, mostly-black with designer accents, even his wire-framed glasses. I can only imagine that if I opened up Rich’s closet, which is built exactly like mine, there’d be a nice neat row of black turtlenecks (for New York’s autumn – though I would imagine he keeps a full wardrobe in New York), black button down shirts, black t-shirts, and Citizens of Humanity jeans. Oh my bad, was that yesterday? I meant True Religion.
Joelle and Rich are my glamorous neighbors. They are my trim, fit, trim-fit, LA social-scene hitting, modelesque, industry, uber-hip happenin’ neighbors on either side of me. In case you haven’t been following along, I’m the ugly one in the middle. Anyway, so I sort of know how it feels to be JP’s Sports Bar and Grill. JP’s is the ugly, dumpy, unkempt, quiet neighbor in Santa Monica of El Cholo and all the other fresh, trendy new places moving in that are turning Wilshire Boulevard into a 3rd and Beverly/Caheunga/Hollywood and Cherokee of the west side.
There’s nothing remarkable about JP’s – it’s just a corner sports bar. I had seen it many times before, but it’s one of those places that you see on your way to somewhere else that’s more glamorous, and never think twice about. It’s no different than that place in everyone else’s neighborhood, so if I had wanted to go to a neighborhood place, I would have stayed right here instead of driving over to Santa Monica. JP’s is there for the local Santa Monicas who live within walking distance of it, who can stroll over there in the same clothes they’ve been wearing all day, have a few too many, then stagger up an down 10th, 11th, 12th streets, finally stumbling upon a building that looks like their own. Then do it again the next day. Maybe in the same clothes.
We ended up there by sheer I-don’t-know-how. I think we were headed toward the Ocean without much of a plan other than to gaze at the Ocean and appreciate LA, then realized that we needed to eat lunch. We were lazily making our way along Wilshire Boulevard, and instead of dealing with the valet, the overdressed for Saturday morning crowd at El Cholo for margaritas on the sunny front patio, we ended up across the street at their slightly unsightly neighbor, JP’s.
It’s small, dark, and is a real sports bar with a slightly more mature clientele, unlike the sports “front” of Q’s or Barney’s Beanery that draws the college, and just-barely-post-college chaos (until now, I had no idea they were owned by the same people, but now I understand). There are neon signs advertising the King of Beers and other classy drafts along the perimeter of where the ceiling meets the crumbly, peeling walls. Dart boards hang on for dear life to the walls, and look like they might double over and slip right off the wall if anyone ever actually tried to throw something at it. We had stopped into JP’s during the day time – a sp
orts bar open during the day time on the weekend means that the crowd is going to be mostly dudes watching sports.
We perched ourselves on bar stools at one end of the bar, next to a trio of perhaps ex-UCLA-fraternity brothers (that’s who they were cheering for), now in their 40s, leading totally different lives, but still able to escape their wives and relive their beer-bonging days on the weekends. But only until 2:00 when their families get back from shopping. One, whom I shall call Brad (but known as “B-rad” back in college), was a Riviera Country Club pique Polo, Callaway visor big businessman; another, who looked like a Tommy, greased hair, Mystic tanned, dripping with gold jewelrywearing a black unbuttoned down to here; and the third, who looked like a Michael during the week, but Mikey on the weekends with the guys, was in shorts and a t-shirt. They were all drinking beer and flirting with the bartender-ess, a tiny semi-Goth pixie. Old habits die hard.
JP’s has a menu - standard bar food - but I couldn’t quite figure out where the kitchen was. We ordered, and the pixie told us we’d have to wait until “the guy who does the food” came back. He came back, she whispered something in his ear and pointed at us, then he bent over, heaved an enormous plastic cylindrical bag of frozen meat patties cut and stacked like perfect patty blocks from a freezer/refrigerator under the bar, as well as a white plastic bag of frozen, brandless onion rings. It was frightening, yet strangely approporiate. While he defrosted the patty in the microwave, he fired up the “grill” with an attached deep fryer right there at the far end of the bar. I had to wonder how old the fryer oil was.
Our burger was terrible – dry and hard from bun to beef. The onion rings were so overdone that I’m sure we could have used them in some sort of dartboard related game. We didn't finish it, but we didn’t care. JP’s isn’t about the food, and now I know I’d never go back there to eat. On your way to Rich's or Joelle's you might not notice that pasty-pale-never-sees-sunlight food-blogging girl at first, but knock on her door. Beer and Absolut taste the same wherever you are.
JP's Sports Bar and Grill
1101 Wilshire Boulevard (@ 11th Street)
Santa Monica, CA 90401