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The Magic Number

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What happened, Bar Marmont? We used to be so good together… You were a classic, attached to a piece of Hollywood history, whimsically decorated (butterflies!), not too trendy, but very hip.

I understood your dalliances with movie stars and other celebrities. Just as long as they would stay away from me, and I could still get in, it was all cool.

You have to admit, we had some fantastic times – intimate candle-lit dinners composed of small plates (not official small plates, but you know, plates that were small) of lovely food; salmon tartar, arugula salad with shaved parmesan, chicken satay, French fries…one time I even sampled your superb Portobello mushroom sandwiches.

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Remember the birthday parties in that little room off the patio – with its long table, private bar and bathroom. It had that little wedge of sky where you could watch it turn colors and fade as the candles and the Chinese lanterns brighten, until everyone glowed with gold light. Even if those parties were limited to two hours (so they could have multiple parties in one night – pretty lame) – there was still something magical about them.

But the best part of Bar Marmont, was the Number 9. The Number 9 is made with vodka sugar and mint, served in a martini glass with a sugared rim and extra served in a little carafe on the side. I am not a huge fan of specialty drinks, and I don't, as a general rule, like them sweet. But the Number 9, the Number 9 was something else. It existed in another dimension, a world before mojitos became common, and commonplace.

Then Bar Marmont closed for construction and finally reopened after a couple of years. Last week I decided to go and see what the reopen was like. It seemed to look much the same - it still had its wonderful butterflies, its ceiling lamps made of shells (or things that look like shells), dragonflies molded into the ceiling. But everything changes. The first thing was the parking. I don't know how much it used to cost, but now - it costs $18. Which is obscene. But I was still in, Bar Marmont, drinks, beautiful, right?

On entering, I was approached by a greasy looking guy with an accent, who asked me if I was there for dinner, prompting me to wonder if he was hitting on me. Thankfully, he was the maitre'd. We were there early enough to secure a table over in the low ceiling part. The waitress wore a stylish uniform, uniform, easy to mistake for a dress, and she gave of the drink menus. I looked at it. I turned it over. I wondered if this was it. It couldn't be. There was no Number 9. I asked the waitress if I could have one anyway. She was nice about, she checked, but the bartender nixed the idea. I was directed to the Westside or Westsider, a drink with mint and lemonade.

The Westsider is no Number 9. Just like Marmont, isn't quite Marmont. Maybe I'm getting older. Maybe I'm just getting pickier -- not that much is different. But the parking? Decent food and good drinks I can get a lot of places. And yeah, it's still beautiful. But the magic is gone. And so is the magical Number 9.

Bar Marmont, 8171 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA