“Malibu is only fifty minutes from here, do you mind if we go say hi to another friend?” Eli said, sitting beside me in the Maserati.
I didn’t even move my head; I could have said anything and it wouldn’t have mattered.
After stopping in Malibu, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz and a quick drop off in Calabasas we were finally back at 1264 Coldwater Canyon Road. I lay down in my new room and listened to my heart race against the pressed linen sheets. As casual a day it was, it was still extremely illegal, easily the most illegal thing I have ever done. Eli woke me up at 11 PM and told me that we were going out. I told him that my internship started the next day and he just laughed and threw me a Hugo Boss button down shirt to wear.
“Have you heard of Kanye West?” Eli asked me as we raced down the Hollywood hills in a white Mercedes convertible. I was from Albany not Lithuania, of course I’ve heard of Kanye West.
“A buddy of mine DJ’s for him. We’re gonna go to his house is that cool?” Yeah, it was really cool, way cooler than any social gathering I’d ever been to, but I had my first day of work the next morning.
“Eli, that sounds awesome, but I have to be at work tomorrow for my first day at 7—”
“I thought you said it was an Internship?”
“Yea well technically it’s an interns—”
“Okay then you’re fine, no one gives a shit about internships here, it doesn’t matter.”
We drove in silence for 45 minutes until we reached the castle on the beach. Every partygoer was either a supermodel, or a DJ or knew a supermodel or was dating a DJ. People looked at me differently that night than they did that day. It’s amazing how powerful of an impression a Hugo Boss shirt can have on people.
After six glasses of champagne and twelve meaningless conversations I found myself alone again. Eli was nowhere to be found. I wandered out to a marble deck that overlooked Kanye West’s DJ’s private beach and noticed a girl smoking a cigarette and staring into her phone. She looked up from her phone briefly and our eyes met for a quick second. At first she pretended like nothing happened and then she approached me and silently offered me a drag of her cigarette. I didn’t smoke but I also didn’t want to seem rude so I took the drag and tried to hide the emerging cough building in my chest, but it was impossible. I coughed up a lung as this girl watched in pleasure and laughed at my pain and even took a video of me coughing on her phone. Eli would have been mortified.
“Sorry, that was too good.”She laughed again as I continued to cough.
The mystery girl asked me how old I was and I froze. She would never believe me if I said 21 but I couldn’t tell her I was 17, I decided on 19.
“Nineteen,” I proudly boasted as any 19 year old wouldn’t do. The girl smiled at my eagerness and wandered off back into the party.
I woke up to Eli shaking me in a Malibu guesthouse bathroom. The night had been in a blur and I apparently puked on a $4,000 leather chair. It was 1PM and I was already four hours late to my first day of my internship. A sense of urgency rushed over me and I begged Eli to take me back to LA as soon as possible.
“For what? Oh, you had the mentorship thing today.” Eli casually dismissed my anxiety and assured me everything would be fine, we just had to make a quick stop at a couple of friends’ houses.
We drove all over Los Angeles county that day making drop offs, like the day before and Eli told me that he could make $100,000 in two weeks doing drop offs. The idea of someone that young with that much money gave me butterflies. It seemed unnatural and almost impossible to me, yet Eli was living and breathing proof of my doubts. People treated him like he was a 50-year-old man; he had wisdom, and lots of friends and apparently lots of money.
Doing drop offs with Eli gave me a sense of excitement. I felt important for once, and people began to treat me like they treated Eli. At a pool party in Venice on a Tuesday afternoon I got an email from my internship advisor asking me why I never showed up. I never responded to the email, I was busy, I was playing flip cup with Scandinavian super models.
After riding around with Eli for three weeks he decided that I was ready to make my own drop offs. I never asked him to get involved. He assumed I wanted a bigger piece of the action and he wasn’t necessarily wrong.
“Okay, so just these five places today, they all know you’re the new guy so don’t be intimidated. And if anyone gives you trouble or anything like that just tell them you’re with me and text me.”
With Eli’s blessing I felt unstoppable. He gave me the keys to a brand new BMW 6 Series convertible and told me to be back at the house at nine. My first day at work was very casual; lots of poolside conversations with people who had everything yet did nothing. I made six thousand dollars in four hours, more than double the amount of cash I got for my bar mitzvah and I worked 13 years for that. Six thousand dollars to me was like six hundred thousand dollars. I felt like a young gun. I felt like Eli.
Eli was very satisfied with my performance that first day. He let me keep all the money and said I deserved it. To celebrate we went to Gjelina, apparently the nicest restaurant in Los Angeles, and ate dinner next to Martin Scorsese. Eli was never giddy, he was always calm, especially around famous people, but at dinner he was like a little boy.
“That’s the master of cinema we’re sitting next to. Have you ever seen Goodfellas?”
I shook my head no, even though I realized it would have pleased Eli to say yes, and Eli went on a five-minute rant about why it was the best movie ever made. Mr. Scorsese must have heard a bit of the conversation because he looked over at Eli and Me and smiled as Eli impersonated Joe Pesci. The smile from Scorsese set Eli off and made him look like a little boy on Christmas morning.
A month and a half into working for Eli he told me that we were going to take a little trip to meet the man who runs his operation. I figured Eli was in charge and was very interested to meet the man he answered to. On a Wednesday afternoon a silver Bentley picked up Eli and me from 1264 Coldwater Canyon Road and drove us to a private terminal at LAX.
“Once you fly private you can never go back to commercial.”
Eli smiled and winked at me and we loaded on to a small private jet that we had all to ourselves. He drank gin and tonics on the flight and read Variety while I watched the clouds.