Vince Lombardi said the price of success is hard work. Señora Otay-Mesa said the price of a taco is $1.50. Take your pick.

I’m coasting down Eagle Rock Boulevard when I see a kid washing a window in a building where a Filipino man once wrapped his fingers around mine, pushed his hand into the small of my back and said, “Dance.”

We weren’t alone. A woman with wispy red hair that looked like it may have been borrowed from a doll stood in the corner. She, the red head, was a dancing queen. There were glamour shots on the wall to prove it. And the tinny CD player in the corner, the full body mirrors reflecting the fluorescent light, the hardwood floors which once served as a middle school basketball court – she built all of that. A dancing queen’s empire.

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I have nothing to do, so I turn left on York and as is my practice, I look for a coffee shop that isn’t so thriving that I’ll have to struggle to find a seat or listen to someone younger or older than me lament to their coffee date about their struggle. Admittedly, these are difficult criteria in Los Angeles, and maybe anywhere I speak the language of the midday café crowd. With my eyes failing me, I pull over to find a place on my phone. I’m scrolling when I hear my name.

“Dude! What’s up?!”

I can’t remember his name, but I know we went to college together, so I return the enthusiasm, “Dude! Long time!”

He’s extremely tan and has apparently been wearing the same hemp bracelet for 10 years. “What are you up to? Where are you working right now?”

“Nowhere at the moment,” I say. “I’m sort of on hiatus, just kind of hanging out.”

“So you don’t have a job.”

“Technically, no.”

He nods as if he’s just learned that a national treasure has died. Or that the Comanche language no longer has any native speakers. “How long have you been out of a J-O-B?”

“Oh, not long. Since March.”

“Jeez. Two months. Hey, this is kind of weird but, can I get you something to eat?”

I laugh it off. “No way, man.”

“Hey, there’s no need to be prideful. I mean, you’re riding a bike.”

It’s true. I am. “It’s a nice day!”

“No, it’s not.”

It’s true. It’s not. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t in a rush.”

“Because you don’t have a job. Let me at least buy you a burrito.”

I want this to stop, but I don’t know how to make it stop.

FullSizeRender.jpgMy Taco is a family place that makes a taco borrego that is something to behold. I won’t tell you where exactly My Taco is because I’m already upset with myself for taking a guy who I didn’t like even when I knew him a decade ago. But we all make mistakes. Our poor, misinformed and now uninsured voted for Trump. We’re all culpable.

We settle in and he asks, “So did you lose your car?”

“No, I just thought I’d get some exercise.”

“Don’t you think your odds of getting hit by like, a bus are higher than dying of obesity?”

He might have a point. “I’m also skating tonight so I’m trying to get the lactic acid out of my legs from my game last night.”

The woman from behind the counter takes our number and leaves us with a half dozen tacos. They’re not pretty, but that’s why I’m able to keep coming back. The masses haven’t moved in because these tacos aren’t photogenic. They’re just tacos. Delicious fucking tacos.

“How many hockey leagues are you in?”

“Three. My nights are pretty wide open.”

“And apparently so are your days.”

“Yeah, but it’s hard to find a good midday skate. Holy shit, how much does that lady look like Kellyanne Conway?”

He turns his attention to a skeletal woman rollerblading in the parking lot. At the minimum, she’s been awake for a week straight. My college pal says, “You’re playing a lot of hockey.” I nod, my mouth full of lamb barbacoa, and he says, “I don’t feel like I should pay for lunch. You’re not even trying to get a job. You’re just biking around pretending to be homeless.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Come on! That beard! Those Vans? There are literal holes in your shoes. Actual holes.”

“Well,” I shrug, “you already paid. Want me to Venmo you?”

“I feel bad. You don’t have a job.”

“I don’t mind paying for my tacos. They’re a $1.50.”

“It’s not about the money.”

“Okay, you lost me.”

He pushes his greasy orange plate to the middle of the table. “Well, can I give you a lift somewhere?”

“I’ve got my bike.”

“Dude! You’re got to stop bringing that up. It’s making me sad. Seriously depressed. Just get like a Ford Fiesta or something. They’re cheap. Get a fuckin’ Kia.”

“I have a car.”

“I keep forgetting that because you’ve got that… meth mobile.”

“A bicycle?”

“You’re just putting lipstick on a pitbull.”

As we clear our plates, I ask, “So, do you work over here?”

“No, the overhead’s too high. I’m going to open up shop in Cambodia. Maybe Laos. Super cheap labor. Great full moon parties. Fuck, I love full moon parties.”

“Open up shop doing what?”

“Whoa. Lot of hostility from a guy who’s basically homeless, begging people to buy him burritos and shit. By the way, this place is bomb. Definitely coming back.”

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The front door jingles and we step outside where the Cracked-Out Nancy Kerrigan is still doing pirouettes. He throws a leg over his pearl white Vespa. “Well, I hope you achieve your goal of becoming a professional hockey player or whatever you’re doing with your life.”

“That’s not really… Okay, thank you.”

“Hey, let’s do this again soon. I still have the same number.”

“Perfect. I definitely have all the numbers in my phone that I had in 2008.”

He revs his Honda Airblade, flashes me a toothy smile and pulls onto York Boulevard. But unfortunately for everyone driving east now and for the rest of the day, he’s sideswiped by an orange Metro bus. The bus brakes, but not before it first tramples over his scooter, then his body, and finally his head. Cars begin to honk. A few people get off the bus and go about their day.

I mount my 12 speed, look right, then left, then right again. The traffic has already started to build. I feel fortunate to be headed the other direction and in the bike lane no less. More importantly, it looks like I don’t have to worry about him telling anyone about My Taco. We’re left with so little that’s sacred in this world. But at least we have tacos. Yes, at least for now we have tacos.

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Finally Famous

 

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If you’re expecting me to change – I am too. I suspect it will happen any day now.

It just seems there’s no way a person who has had his webseries featured on countless (2) websites, which has garnered too many views to even keep track of (97,000[1]) could continue to also be a man who frequents the Cha Cha Lounge before 9 p.m. for a shot of mediocre tequila and a 61 degree PBR at the bargain price of $5.

It’s just not feasible.

“You may have heard of my webseries,” I say to a man wearing a mask blowing leaves from one driveway to another. “Driving Arizona.” He shuts off his leaf blower and politely waits for me to go away. Little does he know people who have reached a certain level of fame have nowhere they need to be. Mario Andretti, Mario Batalli, Mario Lemieux, myself – we’re all men with absolutely nothing to do tomorrow, but to wait for it to come and cradle us with its sunlight.

It comes up at the gym. “Nice shorts,” says a man who has dyed his beard an unintentional hue of purple. “Thanks. Little trivia – they were in the luggage belonging to the character Sasha in episode 4 of Driving Arizona.” He stares blankly. “No. You’re right. It was episode 3!”dazfacebook5

There was a time when all my Lyft drivers were deeply devoted students of improv. Now they are men and women from towns that I haven’t heard of north or east of Los Angeles, lured here on weekend nights by the promise of endless riches. Or at least the app tells them if they keep driving – after gas, wear and tear, and emotional fatigue – they might break even.

“Just start driving or finishing up?” A man who is too tall for his Toyota Yaris replies but I’m wondering why I didn’t give him a third option – the middle, halfway through his shift.

Though I haven’t heard a word he’s said, when he stops talking I say, “Speaking of which, you may have heard of a little web series I co-created – Driving Arizona.”

“Sounds like a PSA for a driving school.”

“But there’s something beautiful about the innocuousness of it, isn’t there? Like a puddle that pools after the rain and when you stare down at the wet cement, you’re met with a reflection of the sky.”

He runs his fingers across his phone’s screen. “Is it alright if I drop you off here?”

So maybe it isn’t me who has changed. It’s the way people react to a person who has created something as eternal as the webseries. Bertrand Russell once said or wrote or communicated in some way that he now gets credit for these words in this particular order, “The search for something permanent is one of the deepest instincts leading men to philosophy.”

Well, Berty. It leads other men to the webseries.

[1] Which is 10x fewer views than your average video of a guy demonstrating how to find the pilot light in your oven.

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Filed under De La Moda, Formal Correspondence, Staring Into A Cobalt Pool

Crying on the 134

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So far I’ve cried on the 134, the 5 and the 101 – twice. And that’s just in the last week. A friend texted me that he didn’t mind crying in public places when it’s in the name of celebrating someone’s life. I think I do mind, but I looked up on Yelp: “good bars to cry in.”

I don’t feel as if these tears are earned though and maybe that’s why I’m embarrassed when the person in the Prius chugging next to me sees me with tears falling from my face. I’m worried they’re thinking, “Come on, man. Do you really deserve to be crying? Did you earn those tears? Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t your brother who died.” Or if they don’t look, and I’m just sitting there with tears falling into my lap, awestruck and disgusted, that these people have the nerve to talk happily on the phone or casually rap over Drake, or what I assume is Drake, with their windows up and their A/C blasting. What gives them the right to carry on completely unaffected?

So either they’re accusing me of not having the right to feel the way I do or I’m mad at them for not feeling the way I do.

Since my hands are on the wheel, the tears sit until they dry on my face. And for whatever reason, a dried tear doesn’t feel the way I expected it to. I didn’t think it would be any different from jumping out of the shower and not bothering to towel-off. But it’s more like when you get out of the ocean and let the sun do the work for you. The salt water cakes on your face, drying it out, leaving it feeling crunchy and somehow less agile.

I don’t have a lot of experience with tears. On my wedding day, I’m told all my groomsmen were balling, and I’m sure if I had seen my brother and my best friends tearing up, I would have been right there with them. But I was facing my wife and her stone-cold bridesmaids who knew better than to let their mascara bleed before the wedding party pictures.

There have been a handful of other times in the last fifteen years where I can remember crying. Each time someone had died. But more often, someone died and I didn’t cry. It didn’t feel earned. I was sad, but I didn’t feel right crying just because the circumstances were sad. I felt like something had to have been cut from me, specifically taken away from me, in order to justify the tears.

But on the 101, skirting passed Hollywood, I could feel myself on the verge of tears, where I have been for almost a week now, but nothing was cut from me. Something was taken from one of my closest friends, but I still question whether I was in the right to feel like I want to bury my head in the steering wheel and sob like a fucking four-year-old on the shoulder of the freeway.

So if anyone has any answers about when it’s okay to cry, I’d like to know. Really.

I think I perceive sadness as weakness and weakness as a vulnerability to getting hurt. If you’re not weak, you can’t get hurt. If you’re not sad, you can’t be labeled as weak, so in my distorted view of the world, the best way to not get hurt is to not be sad.

The only problem is that I am sad. I’ve been sad for as long as I can remember. And it’s not like something horrible happened to me. I was a sad fucking eight-year-old. This hasn’t changed, it’s not anyone’s fault, but I am aware of it and I think it makes me below average when it comes to grieving or even appropriately dealing with anything emotional.

Your average teenage apathy became my modus operandi. If I don’t care, then it won’t hurt when I fail. I don’t really care ergo I can’t get hurt if I do. So I’m afraid to get hurt, which also makes me afraid to care. This is all probably very obvious for everyone else, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around why I’m crying on the shoulder of the freeway, and why I’m ashamed that I’m crying because I don’t deserve to feel this pain to begin with.

So now not only am I ashamed that I’m crying, but I also think I’m an imposter to this grief. I don’t even deserve to feel as shitty as I do. Why can’t I listen to Drake with my windows up and my A/C blasting? Why can’t I call my brother and complain that I hate my job and I should quit because life is short, etc.?

But I did all that last week. And someone just died which even further solidifies this thing about life being short and that it doesn’t need to be a grind and that Anne Dillard quote that I repeat too often, but wish I had tattooed on my forearm, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” Why is that so fucking massive to me? It seems so obvious yet every time I read it, it blows my fucking mind. Are you fucking kidding me? This day? This shit? These will be the pieces, which collectively make up my time on this earth? And I’m spending more than five minutes with people who I don’t love doing things I don’t enjoy?

Well, that’s wrong. I mean, if that’s what’s happening and my time is limited, why am I worried about whether a stranger thinks my grieving is earned? Fuck them. Seriously. Fuck them. But they don’t even care. They’re in their own bubbles too… and now it seems I’ve gotten off track. We’re talking about crying.

People say it’s a healthy thing to do. Why do you have to hurt before you can do it? Isn’t there a way to do it without the hurt? Probably not. I guess you do have to earn it.

A police officer is knocking on my window. I guess I need to carry on with what I was doing. Surrounding myself with people who I love, doing what makes me happy. But first, I guess I’ll let myself cry.

 

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Filed under De La Moda, Staring Into A Cobalt Pool

The Profound Effects of Losing an Arm Wrestling Match

My Lyft driver drops me off in a part of the Arts District that has apparently yet to be reclaimed. The door to the industrial building is unlocked. Inside, the lights flicker over the empty hallways and I don’t feel especially safe. But I’ve got my eyes trained on my phone, giving my driver who got lost twice and spent the whole ride complaining about people who complain about gentrification, five stars.

When I push through the door of #4, my friend who lives in Santa Monica but never seems to be there says, “You didn’t run into those pit bulls did you? I should’ve told you about the pit bulls.” I did not. He seems relieved and pours me a drink.

roof 2.jpgBecause no one can resist a rooftop after a few drinks, we crawl through a window and onto the roof. We peer through sky lights and hope to catch people in their most intimate moments: shadow boxing with the mirror, singing Frank Ocean to their pugs, eating kimchi in front of an open fridge while Ira Glass’s voice emanates from their phone. We peer into twelve living rooms and even a couple retail spaces. A few TVs are on, half-drunk glasses are sprawled across long dining room tables, laptops are open to email accounts, but no one is home. It’s midnight.

I stand at the edge of the building and wonder why I’m not feeling that thing we’re all supposed to feel when standing on the edge – the desire to jump. I think it’s because we’re not up high enough. Only four stories or so. You’d be lucky if you belly flopped and died. I set a bottle of Modelo on the lip of the building. If I was younger or drunker I’d toss it into the middle of the empty street but I don’t have the desire to do that either.

It’s FYF weekend and a steady stream of the artists playing tomorrow are being cycled through the loft’s speakers. We talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast and Joachim Trier’s editor and the Spanish repatriation of Sephardic Jews. There’s a moment where we quietly wish our ancestors had been booted from Spain five hundred years ago so we could spend our summers on Mallorca and not worry about leaving the Schengen Area after ninety days.

This might be the first time I’ve been at a party in a loft downtown where everyone isn’t doing coke. I mean, there’s coke here, but it’s all very discreet. A conversation about its source, an apology about coming up short on a few other pharmaceuticals for tomorrow’s festival, a confirmation of a Venmo payment received. I remember when people used to buy drugs with cash. Still, the party is very grown up. That is until someone mentions arm wrestling.

The last time I laid elbows and locked thumbs would have been the Carmel Middle School cafeteria. But really what we did there was play that game with quarters where we bloodied our knuckles. We did that and sat around waiting to be old enough to drive a car and tell everyone to fuck off.

I learned to drive a car, but I never got around to telling anyone, let alone everyone, to fuck off.

I lock hands with my friend – the one who has his mail sent to Santa Monica – and to be honest, I expect to win. It’s a delusion that I have. I always expect to win. I’m not talking about winning Jeopardy or checkers, I mean two men doing anything physical where only one can win. So I’m surprised when I put everything I have into it and I lose. Twice – left and right arms.

We shoot some more tequila. I talk to a guy who’s dedicated his life to working in the gardens at some monastery in the middle of Koreatown. For a moment, it seems like he might try to recruit me into the brotherhood of dudes who like to meditate and don’t mind carrying stones. I’m making up the part about stones, but the garden is real. Monks love gardens and beer, and I am perfectly fine with gardens and more than willing to drink beer. He doesn’t recruit me.

I show a girl from Dubai a picture of my family. I eat two slices of margherita pizza. I realize my shoulder is killing me, grab another Modelo and another slice of pizza and stumble out into the street.IMG_1723.JPG

Unless you’ve lost an arm wrestling match on the bar of a loft in the 30th year of your life, you don’t know my pain. And this particular pain runs deep. Or at least deep enough to send me to the gym on a Saturday. Like Rocky summiting the stairs in Philadelphia, I arrive ready for the workout of a lifetime: blood, sweat, torn calluses – but alas, I’ve forgotten my headphones – so I just trot down to the sauna instead.

It’s the usual crowd: an Asian dude in his sixties, four Armenians guys in the their twenties who may have just walked in off the basketball court and an older Armenian guy who I imagine spends his days in a track suit when he’s not nearly naked in a wooden box full of men. Pretty soon it’s just the two of us – me and the older Armenian guy – and I’m reaching the fourteenth of the fifteen minutes I had planned to be in there, when he says, “Do you like to have fun?”

“Not especially. I mean, I will, but I don’t seek it out the way I used to. I don’t have the energy for it.”

“Funny. I like that, and because I like you, I want to let you in on something.” He reaches into the pocket of his red Ralph Lauren swim trunks and pulls out a business card. It’s black and wet with what I hope is just the condensation in this sauna and not his sweat. He hands me the limp card and winks.

It takes both of my hands to hold it up flat so I can read the words: V.I.P. Companions. There’s a 1-800 number and the promise of discretion for “gentlemen who seek the companionship of beautiful, interesting and quiet women.” I hold onto the card for longer than I mean to because I’m imagining a harem of mute women. Dozens of non-speaking models. How do they find and enlist all these beautiful mute women? I’ve never met a person who didn’t speak – are they notoriously attractive?

“Very discreet.”

“I appreciate it but I’m—” I point to a ring that isn’t on my finger because I left it in my car when I was still under the impression I was going to lift weights today.

“Married men can have fun too.”

“Right, but you may recall my stance on fun – I’m not really seeking it, generally speaking.”

“Lots of nice parties.”

I massage my shoulder, remembering the defeat of last night’s party. I can’t take any more parties. I’m retired from fun. I try to hand the card back again but at this point it should really just be thrown away. The black sheen is now stuck to my fingers. It looks more like leftover squid ink pasta than a business card. I put the crumbling remains in my pocket.

“You deserve to be happy, my friend.” With that, he stands, winks and walks out. I’m on the verge of passing out as I enter the thirtieth minute of my time in the sauna, so I’m only able to give him about a fifteen second head start.

Then we meet up again in the locker room, shower side-by-side because we have to, and he doesn’t say a word to me. But he winks again. I don’t know what’s worse: losing an arm wrestling match, having a card for an escort service in my pocket or being repeatedly winked at, but here I am, taking it all on the chin.

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Filed under De La Moda, Red Cups

Alice and I Have Been Reading the Crystals

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Like a vision in the night, a FaceTime request rattles from the dashboard of my car. I have one of those things Lyft and Uber drivers have though I don’t drive for either. I answer the FaceTime. It’s my volunteer spiritual guru: my mother[1].

She asks where I am, where I’m going. I’m on the 10 West in predictably sluggish traffic. The kind of traffic that seems to collude with your underperforming air conditioner just to stretch out your misery. Or maybe that’s just my air conditioner.

She says, “Just imagine yourself out of the traffic. Pull yourself from it and then it’s like it’s not there.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I say.

“Not any more dangerous than the traffic.”

I think she has a point. But I can’t be sure. I’ve been hearing things like this my whole life. She takes a more serious tone: “I’ve been studying the course on miracles and I realize now, as a lioness, I didn’t honor your growth—”

The worst stretch of the 10 between downtown and Santa Monica is the entire fucking thing. There isn’t a single redeeming quality. But whether I enjoy myself or not, I am told that time continues to pass. And so it does, the time passing, the cars inching along. My volunteer spiritual guru continues to talk. She tells me that she recently noticed her life is running parallel to Alice in Wonderland. I don’t question it. And then I do question it. How? From memory she recalls a scene where the Red King is sleeping:

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee, “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”

Alice said, “Nobody can guess that.”

“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”

“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.

“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”

“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!” 

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For some reason I feel more comfortable hearing about the miracles. “So you’ve been reading the crystals? What else do they say?”

“Yes, yes. I’ve been reading the crystals,” she repeats, as if to prove she knows she lost me.

Traffic is moving slowly enough that I’m finally able to get a look at where my volunteer spiritual guide is standing. She’s in the house I grew up in, but there are sheets of plastic over some of the walls – there’s no longer a sink, stove top, oven, or dishwasher.

It’s all very obvious to me so I say, “I take it this is some sort of subtle feminist statement? You’ve ripped out your kitchen as a rejection of the Patriarchy – as a part of the male construction of what a household should be. You’re rejecting all that and unshackling yourself from the kitchen and thereby the male definition of what it means to be a woman?”

“What? No. I’m remodeling the kitchen.”

“Oh.”

She had to run. Reading the crystals takes some time. I’ve since passed La Brea. I should make it to Santa Monica by midnight.

 

[1] Services by said volunteer spiritual guru were never requested or retained. Yet like a crossing guard in the middle of the afternoon, she shows up in neon waving a baton, stopping and ushering as she sees fit. It’s thankless work.

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For $300 I’ll Let You Crash into My Car

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I’m sitting on my deck, drinking my fourth cup of coffee and pretending to work. Which feels unnecessary because there’s no one around and I don’t have a job. Yet I’m holding myself accountable, or at least drinking the amount of coffee that should beget progress, when I hear the crunching of metal. Or the crackling of plastic. Either way, what I really hear is, “Hey, where do you think you’re going?!”

But I’m focused on my work. It’s amazing that one’s coffee can get cold when it’s this fucking hot outside, yet mine does. I’m not even wearing a shirt because of the heat and yet my coffee is the same temperature as the water in Morro Bay right now.

“I think that’s my neighbor’s car!” I hear a woman say. See, this is why I can’t get any work done. People are constantly shouting in my neighborhood. Oh great, and now there’s the pounding of footsteps coming up my stairs. Where’s my shirt?

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My dog starts to bark at my neighbor, a woman who looks like Parker Posey, if Parker Posey had decided to not pursue acting and become a Silver Lake mom instead. I find my shirt, I put it on. Now that I’m thirty, being fully clothed feels necessary.

She’s pointing to her phone and talking at a manic pace. “I was watching the guys work on my yard and I saw this truck hit your car and the guy tried to drive off so I chased after him and I was going to take a picture—” she points to a man dressed like a park ranger who isn’t a park ranger but more likely a gardener. “That’s him.” Then calling out to the man who isn’t a park ranger, “This is my neighbor!” She tells me again that he was going to drive away but she wouldn’t let him because she’s “kind of psycho” when it comes to these things.

I follow her down the steps and clumsily shake the hand of the guy who hit my car, which confuses everyone. I think I say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” My neighbor leads me to my car and points at the area that the guy crashed into – it’s my front bumper. It was hit once before by an Asian kid in Santa Monica who reversed into me while he was talking on the phone. His insurance company gave me $800 which I handed over to the Cha Cha Lounge over the course of a few Friday nights. The blemish remained. But this guy had fucked up that same corner a bit more. There was a dent and the headlight was crooked. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed if my neighbor didn’t point it out.

I’m getting ready to begin what I’m sure will be a brief and embarrassing conversation with the guy who hit my car when Parker Posey says, “Great. So do you think you could move your car? Whenever you get a chance, of course. Because I’m getting some work done, so…” She pointed to another massive truck. This one was blocking her driveway.

“No problem.” I’m aware that my car is a major blemish on the street. I’ve often wondered if a few neighbors were going to get together and buy me a new one because I’m undoubtedly bringing down the value of their homes by parking in front of them.

Parker Posey disappears into her mansion and I look long and not very hard at the corner of my car. It’s hot out, which is about the only thing I’m thinking.

The man who is not a park ranger speaks unintelligible English. His teeth have round edges, but his skin has that beautiful deep olive complexion that they only dole out near the equator. He’s maybe sixty years old. I think he’s saying something about a fair price. I ignore this and I ask for his insurance and his license. I plan on taking a picture of each and then just dealing with it later. Such is my policy. Deal with it later.

The important thing now is that I move my car. Parker Posey has reappeared and is smiling intensely, waiting for me to move it. She doesn’t have all day. Her house is worth close to 2 million. Last year, I Kelly Blue Booked my car out of curiosity and it came up as $615. Something tells me that number isn’t going up.

Again, he asks for a fair price. “Um, how about $400?” Cars are expensive to fix. I’ve probably put 10 grand into my $615 car in the last three years. He shakes his head and tells me that’s way too much. I suggest the insurance company again but this dude is strongly opposed and I’m not shocked. This is Los Angeles. I’ve almost exclusively been involved in accidents with guys who didn’t have driver’s licenses. I once got rear-ended by a Mexican guy and his daughter and for some reason I ended up giving them two hundred dollars. I try to not tell that story too often because it confuses everyone. But you had to be there, watching this father-daughter duo chipping away at the American Dream in a Toyota pickup that was definitely nicer than my car. I didn’t want to interfere with their perception that anything is possible. Including the person who is not at fault paying out the guy who just rear-ended him.IMG_1195.JPG

But I’m not quite ready to pay this guy. Really, I just want to go into a cool room and drink coffee that is warmer than the air temperature. “$200,” he says, shrugging, which I assume is a symbol of his generosity. I mean, I’m not a professional negotiator, but we both know where it goes from here. He says $200 a couple more times, I say $400 and eventually, one of us (me), drops down to $300 and we agree that’s fair.

He opens his wallet revealing about seventy $100 bills and accidentally plucks out five. He puts two back and hands me $300. I shake his hand, then I drive my car twenty-five feet and park. When I get out, the park ranger is walking up to me, “$300. It’s good.” Then I think he tells me that he’s working nearby, or something about the transmission of his truck. Where he crashed into my car actually looks pretty bad in this light.

But hey, a deal’s a deal. And in America, we don’t welsh on our terrible decisions. We double down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have $300 to burn at the Cha Cha Lounge. Also, I’m looking for a job. Preferably one that doesn’t require a working knowledge of cars or negotiation skills. Thanks in-advance!

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Filed under unemployment

How do you say ‘bowling’ in French?

Reaganomics

On a television the size of a shipping container, I watch as two sisters from South Central swat a ball back and forth with the same intensity and speed as I’m applying to a pitcher of Pacifico at a bowling alley off of Pico Boulevard.

Over the din of clattering pins and urethane balls pounding the hardwood, a girl in rented shoes says, “I still do it here and there. Like weekends and holidays, but mainly as a diuretic.”

“I see,” I say. Though I don’t.

“Which is why I think it’s really fucked up when my sister calls me a cokehead. I mean, HELLO, I wouldn’t be snorting this stuff if I could achieve a regular bowel movement.”

“You’re up.” I point to one of the six hundred big screen TVs. This one happens to have our names and scores. Her name, according to the scoreboard, is Ganges, though not after the river, she tells me. After her cat.

“Who’s your cat named after?”

“No one. That’s just her name.” She scoffs and says, “Who’s your cat named after?”

“I don’t have a cat.”

I’m here for a birthday.

Jeff and Jules

She struts to the mechanism that cost Woody Harrelson his hand before he was famous for True Detective, and picks up an eight-pound, neon green bowling ball. She takes the ball, brings it up to her nose and stares down the alley.

I turn my attention to the pitcher and refill/refuel, depending on how you look at it. I hear the pins bang against each other and then the slick hardwood. She strides back with all the swagger of a person who can both claim to use cocaine for the explicit purpose of shitting and bowl a strike in a romper. She may be one of a kind. It’s girls like her that remind me Los Angeles is a special place.

A special place, and that I probably shouldn’t stay here too long.

In Santa Monica that is. The night is thick with salt air and the wind refuses to blow. And tonight, it seems, not even Milagro over ice can solve the weather.

I pick up my phone and search the advertised D.U.I. checkpoints so I can carefully chart my course home; not unlike a sailor bound for Easter Island. Or maybe it’s nothing like that. I’m just headed to Silver Lake.

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Filed under Red Cups