Terroni Downtown ****/*****
802 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
A spike of fear hit me, piercing my chest, then clamping my genetically and ethically compromised heart — it pounded so heavily, I thought it might pop, or just give out. I was on the elliptical at my local gym. And I was struggling. It was a combination of sudden anxiety and lack of physical activity. It had only been a week since my last workout, thus countless dirty martinis and cigarettes later. So, ten minutes into my cardio, while Katy Perry sang through my earbuds about “Walking on Air”, I simply just needed some to breathe.
Stepping off the machine, I tried to set my mind straight. Panic had been seeping back into my life lately. It was November 2nd and my 26th birthday was the next day, November 3rd. Yes. Yours truly, was getting old, and I wasn’t too thrilled about it. It was around this time of the year, that I began asking myself the tough questions.
What am I doing with my life? Do I know where I’m headed? Do I have the respect of those around me? Do I respect myself? Do I even like myself? And more worrisome, do I even know who I am?
I lay down on the gym mats, and instead of doing sit-ups, I stared at the ceiling and ruminated. I was fortunately still in my twenties, but I had become aware of a few damning things.
A) Partying had now begun to take its toll. Case in point: I was in a gym. In retrospect, beer is never a good choice, especially when you can’t have less than four when you’re out for “just one”.
B) Trying to eat healthy at Chipotle is not impossible but incredibly boring. (However looking a Chipotle worker dead in the eye and ordering from the kid’s menu AKA getting the perfect amount of food for AN ADULT and eating it all, feeling fine, and only spending $6 is a completely rewarding experience).
C) Working generally sucks. So if I could be paid for just being me, and report to no one, that would be amazing.
D) I am getting dumber at a frightening pace(but is realizing my degeneration into idiocy a form of high-intelligence? hmmm)
E) You can always say “screw it” and just throw a rager for your birthday when you’re pretty much shit out of fucks to give.
So yeah, I was having a party later that night, which would eventually roll over into my birthday, thus I was at the gym, trying to get my swole on, and look as studly as possible for a night that was all about me (and some girl named Shmophie, pictured here).
Even more special was a birthday dinner that I planned with some very close friends – after all, what’s another year closer to the Great Unknown without a decadent meal to celebrate? So, I made a reservation at the recently opened Terroni Downtown location.
Having had Terroni for the first time, almost exactly one-year prior, at their Beverly Boulevard location, I found it an ironically perfect choice to kick off my birthday weekend. Though, tbh, my excessive fun began the previous Saturday when the Halloween festivities commenced. I ended up in my finest costume yet: a fabulous rendition of Michael Douglas AS Liberace. For the most part, I wasn’t recognized as the closeted piano player, but rather “Gay Dracula”.
Arriving at Terroni via Sidecar — chauffeured by the slowest, most talkative, former mall Santa — I gathered with my 8 other pals (making it a total of 9, my lucky number) and entered the establishment. The interior was that of an old bank (gargantuan arch-windows, patterned ceiling, white marble floors) which now had been re-purposed as a sprawling dining hall.
Met by the hostess, wearing a gold lamè trench, and an afro, channeling Foxxy Cleopatra, I came to the conclusion, that even though we all dressed impeccably, the service staff somehow outshined us.
Leading us across the restaurant, for what seemed like five whole minutes, and finally to our large, round corner booth, I was visibly upset that our waiter wasn’t the man-bunned, burly dude with the fitted, designer cargo pants. You can’t win them all.
Our actual waiter, while not as sexy, was quite capable handling the nine of us, and my big mouth — that immediately ordered a dirty, gin martini. What seemed like an army of servers peppered a massive lazy susan at the center of our table with rustic bread and olive oil, and we all tore into it, gnashing our teeth, like hyenas. Funny, that even by now, we all hadn’t learned the valuable lessons of not gorging on too much bread prior to a hearty meal, or y’know, chewing before swallowing.
There was even one low point where someone in my party asked about the possibility of Mac ‘N’ Cheese as an entrée while perusing the menu. “Don’t EMBARRASS ME.” I scowled, probably with my mouth full, and breadcrumbs all over my face.
After our rounds of drinks, rounds of starters hit the table – from fresh arugula topped with mushrooms and sheathed in paper-thin slices of Parmesan, to raw calamari salads.
The whirlwind of dishes persisted: an anchovy pizza (deliciously salty), a few “capunti al Ragu d’Agnello” (a pasta with a slow-cooked lamb sauce), a simple but sublimely prepared linguine with clams, a couple dandelion and sausage rigatonis, and finally a quail stuffed ravioli special, which was by far, the best of the lot.
Even better, was the ample sharing involved at our table, feeding each other our different plates, comparing flavors, and of course, ordering up more booze.
As dinner was coming to a close, a potted tiramisu (with candle) was escorted out of the kitchen, and into my mouth. I think there was possibly a sloppy, self-conscious rendition of “happy birthday” sung. But more importantly, as I peeked at the time on my iPhone, I realized we were late. To my own party. It was 10:15 – and I told people to arrive at 10:30. Oops.
Racing out of Terroni, we all high-tailed back to Silver Lake, just in time for the first guests arriving at my home for the celebration. I hurriedly lit the torches outside, put on my newly gifted John Maus vinyl, cranked up the volume, and cracked open a beer.
I wish I could tell you what happened throughout the night, but I can’t, honestly. After my front, jungle-esque patio transformed into a teeming milieu, filled with birthday well-wishers, some strangers, a Power Ranger, and even a bipedal bunny, I simply surrendered into the present moment. But here are some pictures to fill in the gaps:
When the good-times winded down in the early morning, I found myself alone among the after-party debris. I lay down on my living room couch that I had placed outside earlier, amongst the over-hanging greenery. I was comforted by the silence. Thinking back, I recalled a friend who recently told me: “I believe people, on their birthdays, are particularly wise.”
So, I thought about my last few birthdays…
And I couldn’t disagree more with that statement. Firstly, I knew no one on their birthdays that shared any wisdom. Unless we’re classifying “wisdom” as vomit and “sharing” as throwing up inside my car.
There was so much pressure, by this new age, to have some sort of answers to the way the world works, how I was supposed to fit into it, or meaningful revelations about my identity. Instead, what I really understood at the moment, as a 26-year-old was that I didn’t have any solutions to any problems, answers to any riddles, or conclusions to any stories regarding my life thus far — and that’s okay.
As I gazed at the messy remains of what 70+ people left behind on my rented property… there was ONE thing I KNEW…
… I’d be damned if I was going to deal with this mess later.
So I started to clean. At 5am. Fifty-six minutes I noted in my head. Fifty-six minutes until my mother, twenty-six years ago, had popped my ass out on the street known as life.
I re-arranged the overturned patio furniture, picked up the empty beer cans, bouncing them into recycling bins, nabbed up hundreds of cigarette butts stained with tar and lipstick, and delicately collected the shattered glass of what few cups and wine ware I had to my name… all as the sky brightened into day.