Modern Manners

There’s a beautiful little garden beside a massive Mormon Church overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of Beverly Hills. On the entrance gate to the complex is an ornate plaque announcing, ‘All are welcome’. It’s a great place to write when the Coffee Bean feels too crowded, or loud, or cliché. I’m not a Mormon, but I look like one, so nobody comes up trying to convert me.

An hour before sunset, a little girl in a pink-striped hoody came over, drawn like a bug-zapper to my dog, Dude. Her mother said, “Kel!” and the girl stopped in her tracks. Her eyes remained laser-beamed on the white shih-tzu tangled to the bench. I smiled and said “Hello!” but the girl just blinked and looked at her mom, who was texting.

‘Kel’ resumed her death stare on the dog until her mother called for her again (“C’mon!”) and then ran to her little brother. I got blown off, LA-style, by an infant!

It’s like my agent said when I got here two weeks ago, “You’re not in Florida anymore, kid.”

Now, it’s understandable that little kids shouldn’t talk to strangers, but I am the farthest thing from a scary, threatening or even remotely bad looking (or smelling) guy! I’m a white 24-year-old male model, still in makeup from a Back-To-School photo shoot this morning! Not only that, but I was the only other person in the whole garden… not exactly Central Park on a Sunday!

This little girl played with her brother for half an hour, running and skipping around a fountain less than 10 meters away. The cuteness was hard to bear. Several times I tried to make eye contact with their texting mom, but nothing. It was just nonstop clakka-clakka-clakka-clakka-clakka from the iPhone… In a Mormon temple, for God’s sake! Mormon places are famous for being eerily cheerful. They are the poster-boys of unconditional friendliness.

I don’t mind adults being rude. Most of them have so much baggage and screwed-upness that even my own Hello’s are the Just-Say-Hi-And-Don’t-Give-Me-Your-Life-Story type.  I draw the line, however, at getting blown off by an infant trained to treat the humans around her as invisible.  This is where I make a stand! On behalf of common decency and general politeness, from one human to another, I say, “What the fuck?”

We’re not wired the way we used to be. Interacting used to require eye contact and gesturing. Now it’s all text-centralized, minimized to it’s most efficient.  “Kel” and “C’mon”. This is simply the way people behave in the dirty crowded cities. Nobody seems to want to fix this.

Some time after the little family left, I had my first human interaction of the day! A large bald man dressed like Secret Service came out of the bushes from behind, ready to kick me out of the church premises. Turns out my dog Dude wasn’t allowed in their temple garden.  During our stroll down their great lawn, the Mormon Secret Agent told me that they actually own a dog inside the church.

“So your dog is better than mine because he’s a Mormon?” I joked.
“He cost ten thousand dollars” He chortled.
“So he would probably rip the throat out of my neck if you give the order, right?”
“Yep. And your little dog’s, too.”


The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith once said, “Don’t be a dick. And when you see other people being dicks, try to help them be less like dicks.”*

This seems like an appropriate time to implement this lesson. Thusly begins a new series called “Urban Urbanity” intended to address and rectify all of those little ‘What the fuck?’ moments that piss everyone off… yet are totally normal.  Stay tuned!

Until then, you can find me on the corner of Sunset and La Cienega, giving out free hugs.

Love only.