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Some monkey lovin’ makes this jungle feel like home

Times Staff Writer

Sometimes the place where you are not supposed to be proves to be exactly where you should be.

A year ago today, I was packing for a trip to Miami when I got a call from Star Shoes owner Johnny Nixon, telling me about a new monthly fashion and art show at his Hollywood bar. The idea of high culture at a bar intrigued the side of me that covers nightlife and appreciates the arts. But I was focused on my early-morning flight so I figured I’d check it out the next month. A few minutes later, I heard from my friend Kim, who mentioned the same event and convinced me to stop what I was doing and drive 20-something miles.

That’s when I met him: the man in the skirt. A fashion designer and host of the event, he wore a denim sarong over his gray slacks and a big smile on his face. The sarong he had made with his own hands and a sewing machine; the smile, warm and inviting, he’d obviously worn a lot longer. The name he gave his show, “Pure Monkey Lovin,” went perfectly with his playful personality and the tone of the night. So Kim and I stayed.

As it turned out, the idea of combining fashion and art in a groovy bar was a fresh topic, so the man in the skirt became a story before he became a friend. And then he became an even better story -- drum roll please -- because the man in the skirt is still around.

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Can you believe it?

I hardly can. Four years of living in Los Angeles has inculcated one unfortunate lesson: Don’t rely on anyone for very much, especially when it comes to taking care of your heart.

In a town that makes it challenging to pin someone down for a cup of coffee, forming solid relationships can seem as improbable as winning an Oscar. There are plenty of good people, but chances are you’ll run across 10 self-absorbed wannabe stars before you meet a stable, sane person who just wants to get to know you.

So, the idea of dating someone for a year starts to feel like a Hollywood fantasy. You look and see plenty of handsome faces, but nobody seems to be looking back. Then one day, when you are not looking, when you have vowed to walk the streets with blinders on, there he is, in his skirt, looking into your eyes.

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Even then, it’s hope against hope. You go out on one date, and then another, and another, and the whole time you are pinching yourself, wondering when he will disappear. The weeks turn into months, endurance tests come and go, and you both are still there.

But you wouldn’t be if you hadn’t taken a chance on a last-minute invitation. And you might not be if you hadn’t been relaxed enough to be yourself instead of a Nervous Nelly on the prowl in this sprawling, flaky, competitive metropolis.

To be sure, a year together is significant no matter where you live. Twelve months means the rose-colored infatuation is over and there are two exposed, vulnerable people who have chosen each other.

Even so, a year of pure monkey lovin’ in L.A. is about as seismic as it gets.

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Maria Elena Fernandez can be contacted at maria.elena. fernandez@latimes.com.


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