June 10, 2007

I was in Los Angeles recently. I called Dan the Hollywood producer to see what was going on with the television show we're working on. He replied: "It's always good to date a lot of people before getting married."

As I suspected: nothing.

I told him I had to go to the computer store, and he said he'd give me a lift. Five minutes later, his silver SUV pulled up. When I asked what kind of car it was, he said: "Porsche Cayenne Turbo." From that point on, if I called it a Porsche, he'd instantly add "Turbo" as if I'd left off a part of his name.

One of his hands was on the steering wheel, the other held his paper-thin BlackBerry. "New BlackBerry?" I asked. He gave me a look and said: "8300." I assumed that was the BlackBerry equivalent of Turbo.

I told him the reason I was going to the computer store was because I was upgrading my Apple software to something called Tiger.

"I'm the tiger," Dan said, definitively. "In Chinese astrology. I'm the tiger." Within seconds he had Evan, his PA, on speaker phone. "Evan, what do you know about Chinese astrology?" Evan paused. "Uh, nothing. But I can ask Ling-Ling, the Chinese intern."

Ling-Ling, Dan told me, was named after a panda. He asked Evan to Google my birthday to see what animal I was. "She's a monkey," he said. Dan asked him to read out what that meant, but something was wrong. The traits were way too positive.

"Are you sure you have the right birth date - January '68?" I could hear his fingers tapping keys. Then he said: "Oh, yeah, sorry, you're not a monkey. You're a sheep."

The Apple store is at the Grove - an outdoor mall that is modelled after a European village square but feels more like Main Street, Disneyland. Dan dropped me off in front of a fake-brick path that led to the fake outdoors. Suddenly, out of speakers in the floor, came Dean Martin's voice: "When the moon hits the sky like a big pizza pie - that's amore!"

Every 15 minutes there's a new song that co-ordinates with fountains synched to move to the music. There are four songs on the loop and I knew I'd been there for 45 minutes because I'd heard That's Amore, America the Beautiful, and Celebration. People strolled around eating frozen yoghurt, carrying their shopping, and a woman turned to her husband and said: "It's like we're at the Bellagio in Vegas!"

Everyone in LA seems so happy. I left the Grove with my Tiger upgrade and walked to Dan's office half a mile away. We ate lunch nearby, since the Turbo was getting washed. It had a spot of mud on the left tyre. Over lunch Dan said he had someone he wanted me to meet for the show, but made sure to downplay it so I didn't assume anything would happen. He explained the situation and said he wanted to "manage my expectations". What's to manage? They're pretty low anyway.

Afterwards he offered to drive me back. "Listen," he said, "chances are you're not going to make any money from this. This business is rough. I just don't want you to be disappointed." I said it's okay, I'm used to it. So with him willing to take a risk and me being prepared to lose, we continued driving. I was the sheep in a tiger's Turbo.