| El Niño Has a Tantrum|
We're on La Brea, shopping for Noguchi lamps. "My decorator got me hooked," he says, headache suddenly forgotten, "and I love their organic forms." He calls his assistant from his Humvee, outfitted with NASA-level racks of communications hardware, for the address of the store. He's solicitous on the phone, apologetic for making a purchase, for feeling entitled to this small, unnecessary expenditure. Paradoxically shy behavior from someone who, it is said, has just become the most expensive network of interconnected natural disasters in history.
"Yeah, when the news broke, I had tons of joke messages on my machine ... you know, Tom Cruise asking to borrow some cash. But it's really not about the money for me. It's about my personal journey. I mean, I didn't even know I could do this."
Aside from John-John and Caroline, no one's growth has been as scrutinized or as public. But Niño's occasional acting out belies an inner sensitivity — a sensitivity that loves Noguchi — that is all too easy to forget. "It's nice to be the subject of almost every dinner conversation. I won't lie; I like the attention. I mean, who wouldn't? But it comes with a price. I get blamed for just about everything going."
I gently bring up some of the rumors that hound him: the drought across much of Southeast Asia; the 300,000 starving people in Papua New Guinea; the gerbils. For the first time in our brief acquaintance, Niño loses his cool.
"You know, I gave the Weather Channel the best numbers they ever had, and then they're all, 'Oh, too rough, man.' So, I'm like, OK, how about fewer hurricanes on the Atlantic coast this year, fewer tornadoes in the Midwest; how about fishermen up in Alaska pulling up pompano and orange roughy in their nets? And then it's like, 'Oh, Niño's lost his edge!' and I'm like, why don't you bastards in New York and Boston complain about my edge when your utility bills go down to almost nothing this winter?"
Chastened by his own outburst, he drives us out to Malibu for a late lunch. "I like the ocean," El Niño says. "It's where I come from. It relaxes me." The view from the outdoor table is magnificent, the sun brilliant, the Pacific lapidary, each whitecap applauding my lunch date. His irritability now gone, El Niño takes justifiable, proprietary pride in our surroundings.
He picks at his seared tuna over Asian greens. "Asian greens," he muses. "I thought I got rid of all those." He lets out a bark of laughter that dislodges a large mansion from the cliffs above us, sending it crashing down to the highway where it crushes a school bus full of children. Restored as he is by the sea, El Niño doesn't even notice.