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Night Spies 

We are at Le Passage.

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Crowded bars and smoke-filled dance floors seemed to appeal to friends who were in from out of town, so of course I took them here: hidden away in a dark back alley, it seems so very LA. Standing on line, my friend turned and said, "Hey, check out Jerry Garcia." Peeking around three muscle-bound, T-shirt-clad gentlemen, I saw a portly man sprouting gray hair and a beard. "Jerry's dead, babe, but maybe Santa Claus needed a break," I responded. Two lovely ladies (and I use this term loosely) slithered up his sides. Once inside, I came face-to-face with Mr. Claus and recognized him immediately. A friend was working on a project about comedian Andy Kaufman, and this guy's name had come up quite a bit. I could not resist. "Hey, you're Bob, aren't you?" Flattered, I suppose, he smiled real big. "You got it." "What are you in town for, anyway?" "My mother's funeral was today," he said. "Oh, I am so sorry." And that was it--a small exchange on a random night in Chicago. But now every time I think of the place, I wonder how empty it must feel to spend the night of your mother's funeral at Le Passage with two (allegedly) well-paid strangers.

--Melissa Hellstern, writer

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