Lucky Last Night in L.A.

It was my first time. I swear I only had one drink. And really, it was more a matter of chance than anything else, but it happened. I won bingo at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood. According to my friend Nancy, I’ve been “WeHo’d.”

We were attending a bingo night benefit at the popular LGBT haunt. These “legendary bingo” nights happen at least twice a week all year long, benefiting charities of all stripes. The beneficiaries for this game were a couple of people who were preparing to ride in AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to L.A. to raise money and for the San Fran AIDS Foundation as well as the HIV/AIDS services of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. This was definitely worth my 20 bucks.

Hamburger Mary’s legendary bingo is not your grandmother’s bingo. I can attest to this having actually played bingo with my grandmother many years ago in Florida. No, the winning games here mostly contain raunchy sexual terms and innuendos. I won at “Frank and Beans” where the winning bingo card is in the shape of…well, frank and beans; and if you don’t get that, maybe you should stop reading now. The game is played like a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with audience responses to the calling of various bingo numbers. For example, the drag queen choosing the bingo square calls out, “it’s not malignant, it’s…” and the audience responds “b-9!” Get it? That’s one of the more tame examples and was easy to remember.

What did I get for my startlingly good luck? The prize was pretty fabulous. Some people got DVDs or gift certificates. I got bath products from a company called WEN. Yes! I love bath products. But winning bingo at Hamburger Mary’s is not all glitz and glory. The MC (Bingo Boy) forces every winner to run through the restaurant while the losers pelt her (or him) with their losing bingo cards. There have been times in my life when I might have been a bit too reserved to go with this and enjoy it. That time has passed. I had a wonderful time with all of my friends whom I saw during my brief visit, but playing bingo with my friend Nancy and a bunch of women I’d just met was easily one of the most joyful nights I spent in L.A. Thanks to Nancy for taking me along.

After about six and a half days of L.A. – San Luis Obispo/Morro Bay – L.A., I finally have an opinion, however imperfect and spotty, of the city. I like L.A. and I want to go back…certainly before another 23 years pass. On my last day, the weather was warming up, the sun was out, and I was able to really enjoy the climate. I love warm weather. Recall my post from a few weeks ago and my relatively frequent trips to equatorial Africa? I am not a cold weather person. Then again I like the seasons and I can handle cold weather, probably better than most people in NYC. Is that a contradiction? Maybe, but it’s not as if L.A. is sunny and 75 degrees year round. There is variation, just not as much as in New York. The city also has far more to offer than weather alone. L.A. has a sleek, clean subway that reaches several major areas of the city, a pretty cheap and reliable bus system, charming houses, compelling history, the Church of Scientology (come on, you know you love it), much more non-glitzy “culture” than most people give it credit for, a diverse population, fantastic food, mountains, ocean, dessert, and lush tropical flora dotting almost every street. Parts of the city remind me so much of other places I’ve been and lived, including NYC, that I feel quite comfortable there. The drawbacks, apart from earthquakes and water use issues, are not that different from most major cities. So I will say it again; I like L.A. and will visit again in the near future because I’d like to have a more intimate relationship with the sparkling belle of Southern California. This was just our first date.

(P.S. Why do I write L.A. with periods but NYC without them? Feel free to speculate.)