It happened three hours ago, or around 8 pm. I succumbed to an overpowering impulse to have a grilled cheese sandwich on rye toast. I pulled into Astro Burger (7475 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood) and ordered one, and then sat at an indoor table. Four people were sitting at the table in front of me, and there was some doleful guy sitting across from me. Maybe ten seconds after I sat down Phil Collins‘ “Sussudio” started playing. (The booth tables all have those little old-fashioned ’50s-style jukeboxes.) I suspected that somebody at the four-person table had played it because — get this — a bearded, somewhat overweight, dark-complexioned guy at this table started singing along with Phil while the other three just sat and listened. They were staring down at the table top, for the most part. Expressing nothing. Motionless. One of them, a woman, was very faintly grinning.
The portly singer wasn’t putting a lot of effort into it. He was singing like he was alone in his car, using Phil’s exact phrasing…”Soo-soo-sudio.” I could roll with four people singing along but one guy…? The three friends were so…I don’t know, impressed by this guy’s shitty imitation of Phil Collins that they decided to just…what, listen and absorb? By this point my face was starting to contort into one of my trademark scowls…one of my “what the fuck is going on here?” expressions. Who sings along to a Phil Collins pop song while his tablemates just sit there and listen like penguins, slightly nodding or half-grinning or just appreciating the performance? I forgot about the grilled-cheese sandwich. I’d forgotten why I was there. I stole a quick look at the doleful guy across the aisle and he was also staring at this quartet and making a slight face (or so it seemed from the corner of my eye). Who are these people? And then the song finally ended.