Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Death Wish In Soho House 4/6/10

My visiting friends had been warned. It was Earthquake Preparedness Month.

They asked me about the posters and, now that I’ve been here a year, I was able to tell them exactly what the heralding of the great event entailed.

Having learned from my experience during my first earthquake last May, this time round I had heeded the advice of the Pioneer hardware shop that first put my preparedness kit together and gave me advice.

I sleep with money and a torch by the side of my bed, and a lot of bottled water in the apartment. I know to run to a door-frame or under my dining table when disaster strikes.

My friends were impressed.

Or would have been, had we not been 14 floors up in Soho House’s new members only club, when Mexico’s 7.2 earthquake struck on Sunday afternoon.

The new Soho House venue is spectacular, as all of Nick Jones’s ventures are. When I briefly returned to the UK a couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the London Club’s new hotel in Dean Street, where the pillows are so spectacular, you need crampons and a compass just to make it into bed.

If I had picked up anyone en route, I wouldn’t have known, as I wouldn’t have been able to find them among the Himalayan linen.

Soho House LA is a mixture of modernity and old Hollywood, and has quickly become everyone’s favourite place. I have been a member of the London Club since day one; I had my 40th birthday party there, and I adore the new place even more. So, with 360 degree views over the city, and the best roast dinner I have had in years, I was quite content when the light fittings started to shake.

Shortly followed by the room.

It was only when I saw the fish clinging with their gills for dear life in the restaurant’s lake that I really started to panic.

The whole scene appeared to pause in freeze-frame. I hadn’t ordered flying fish for dessert, but one looked suspiciously close to landing on my plate.

These were the people I was going to die with.

I thought that the man on the next table, who had brought his brand new Apple iPad to lunch, would never get to use it (although it would be the first thing I was going to steal when the walls started to crumble). Gone.

We would never again see the beautiful Ally, who had welcomed us, or the immaculately turned out Phil, who had served us (I want to employ whoever does the Club’s laundry to do mine). Gone.

The cocktail glasses, apparently modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breasts, would be nothing but shards among the rubble. Gone.


The eerie silence lasted for about a minute, but felt like ten. Then, when the shaking stopped, and we realised that the earth had moved but not caved in, a strange thing happened. People started to chat to complete strangers, almost deliriously, relieved that we were all okay.

Or, I wondered, maybe we were not, and we had already gone to the afterlife. I wouldn’t have minded, to be honest. With its open roof, imported olive trees that canopy the restaurant, and great food, if Soho House was Sixth Sense II, I wasn’t going to be complaining.

There were worse places I could have died. Rite-Aid, for a start. I wouldn’t want them to find me among the hundreds of products in the Feminine Hygiene aisle that have so fascinated me since I came here (by the way, the TV commercials say that Refresh beats the others hands down, ladies, and I concur).

Or I could have been in Sports Club LA, where they would have found me like an inflated lobster as I tried to keep up with Victoria Beckham on the next treadmill.

Or in Century City’s AMC cinema, with the Buffalo Burger and fries down my front.

Yes, there were definitely worse places to die than Soho House.

We quickly learned that the earthquake had registered as 6.9; then it was up to 7.2. Our new best friends thought that for dramatic purpose, we would tell everyone back in Britain that it was 11.3.

We also learned that the building that houses the Club is on wheels, which apparently make it earthquake-proof. This worried me even more, as I had visions of us free-waying our way down the Hollywood Hills into unsuspecting Big Mac diners, who had not been so fortunate as to have just enjoyed the dining experience that we had.

The whole event has made me reassess my plans for Earthquake Preparedness Month. If you’re five miles away, what use is a torch sitting in the drawer of your bedside cabinet?

Now, I am going to carry my EPM kit around with me, and it will consist of just two things: my Soho House membership card and a corkscrew.

Because, at the first hint of another rumble on the news, I’m going to be out of my place quicker than Marie Antoinette’s breasts in her boudoir, and over to Soho House.

And when the fish start to fly, I just want to be drunk as a skunk before they find me among the rubble, with a goldfish up my nose.

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