Sept. 13, 1957
The night was made for love, according to such perpetual sentimentalists as Lanny Ross.
But not according to me.
At my advanced age, the night was made for such prosaic chores as getting to the column you didn't write during the day.
Unobserved, you can sit around in your shorts, stare at the typewriter
and sip hot milk until, touched by inspiration or desperation, you
begin to write.
That was the depraved condition I was in at precisely 2:29 a.m. when suddenly the phone rang.
I flipped it from its cradle to my ear.
"Coates here," I informed briskly.
A rather unsteady voice mumbled, "Geez, I dialed an old British movie."
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"Paul?" he inquired uncertainly.
"Well listen. I got a hot one for you."
"A hot one what?"
"A story, buddy," he explained. "Hot story."
I set aside my warm milk and fumbled for a pencil.
"Shoot," I snapped.
"Shoot, buddy," I explained. "Let's have at it."
He cleared his throat and said:
"All right now, get this. It's an expose. I'm in Gardena."
"And you lose?" I suggested.
"I lose a little," he admitted. "But I'm not complaining. They take me on the emmis."
"Then what's the beef?"
He snorted into the phone. "What's the beef? I'll tell you what's the beef. You ready? Take this down."
The caller paused dramatically.
"They," he said, after a moment, "won't give me nothing to eat."
I shifted the phone to my other ear. The right one. It's my good one.
"And I'm willing to pay," my caller went on. "I don't want no charity from no one."
"They," he continued, "know that I had a drink."
"A few drinks," he added.
"A lotta drinks," he finally cried, "an' I am drunk. If I don't eat something soon I won't sober up."
He took a deep breath.
"What's what they want. They want me to get arrested for drunk driving."
"Why?" I asked.
"So I won't tell what I know," he replied.
"What do you know?" I asked.
"That they won't let me in their restaurant to get something to eat,"
he said patiently. "I been trying for a half of an hour. But every time
I come up to the door, they tell me to go away."
"Listen, Paul. Send a photographer out."
"To take a picture of them not letting me in."
"Can't do it," I told him.
"Can't take a picture of something that's not happening," I explained.
"I thought so," he said bitterly. "You're like all the rest. You write
about the downtrodden. Then when someone calls you up with a problem
you just give him a brush. A brush-off. A cold shoulder."
"You," he said accusingly, "are a phony."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," I said, "but..."
"You don't care what happens to me. If I don't get something to eat I'm
going to be drunk, but nobody cares. You're just like all the rest. And
I might as well be damned."
"Might as well," I agreed.
"Might as well what?" he challenged.
"That does it!" he snapped. "I don't have to take profanity from anybody."
Then he hung up. I picked up my lukewarm milk, stared at the typewriter
and tried to figure out what to write for today's column.