Don’t I ever do anything but stare longingly at the 405 carpool lane, I thought, as I stared longingly at the 405 carpool lane.
As if the thousands of brake lights flashing in front of me wasn’t a clear enough indicator, I peered deep into my phone for confirmation. Google Traffic was a river of red dotted streaks where there used to be freeways. I had time to kill. I decided to sing the only Christmas song I could remember.
“On Denver, on Dover, on Dubai and Blitzen. On Helsinki, Reykjavik, strippers and vixens…”
And so the song went as I went from the 405 to the 10 East.
I exited on Crenshaw Boulevard. I drove south again. South toward South Central Los Angeles.
South Central Los Angeles: once home to African American Males With Attitude (Or A.A.M.W.A.). Now home to Central American immigrants, Kendric Lamar, and two lesbian poetesses who just want to be left alone.
I spotted a postal employee and wondered whether he had read Chuck B.’s novel on being a man of the post in Los Angeles.
I leaned back my seat. When in Rome… I was practically supine, leaving what happened in front of my car to fate. Fate, I laughed to myself. I was driving along Crenshaw Boulevard.
In these types of neighborhoods, instead of having a Starbucks on every corner, there’s a liquor store. Instead of people standing outside texting or pretending to read Proust, people are talking, and they’re talking loudly. Almost all of them are talking to themselves.
But I had a job to do. I turned right off of Jefferson and headed south. I drove very slowly so as to not miss anything such as: the man selling vacuum cleaners on a basketball court or the gentlemen wrapping tin foil around street lights.
I pulled up to the address I’d been given. It looked like all the other houses on the street: impenetrable. There was a fence and about ten signs that warned of a malicious, but yet unseen dog that would kill if push came to trespass.
The door opened. A Hispanic woman in either her thirties or seventies opened one door then another and then another. She peeked her head out, store-bought blonde, and asked me if I was here about “the drapes.”
The meaning of drapes was seemingly endless, but I surmised, in this instance, drapes was likely code for either cocaine, heroin, bath salts, speed, crank, meth, immigrant sex slaves, locally-produced sex slaves, “hot” iPhones/iPads/MacBooks, pirated DVDs featuring Catherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher or Chinese Democracy—the album.
“Yeah, I’m here for the drapes.”
“Um, is there a dog I should be aware of?”
She laughed, waved me in. I gulped then sprinted all seven steps to the door. Once I got there I didn’t feel much better.
It was a mini-factory within a house. It looked like the inside of a meth addict’s mouth. And I was inside, which pretty much meant I was making-out with a meth addict. (Not to make light of meth addiction or the destruction it causes to mouths, but I’m trying to make it clear that this wasn’t Versailles, yo.)
I handed the woman a blank check for $500 dollars.
“I don’t have any cash,” I said. “Sorry.”
With an acrylic nail she tapped the trash bag on the table. The table was tall and crowded with rolls of material and carpet. Across the table, a few Hispanic women pretended to not notice that I was hyperventilating. I was hyperventilating because while all this was going on I was bracing myself for the moment when I would be clubbed over the head with a drain pipe from some abandoned home which I would likely wake up in—if I ever woke up—from my forthcoming bludgeoning.
“And that one, too.”
Three little boys, maybe seven years old, tossed another bag on to the table.
“O.K.” she said.
She nodded. I threw the bags over my shoulder and made for the door. I figured I was either walking out of there with the bodies of two recently slain gang members (age: 8 and 10) or twenty odd kilos of Colombia’s Most Stepped On.
I threw the bags in my trunk, turned on the ignition and held my breath until I was on the freeway again and west of La Cienega. I passed five cops, forty-two transients, three white chicks, fifteen ads for Mexico’s most flavorful beer and one apartment complex called The Rosa Parks Villas.
What did I do with the bags? Well, I did what anyone would with trash bags of unknown contents procured in South Central. I dropped them off at an elementary school in Encino.
(This is in no way an admission of guilt. Any bags found with cholito corpses are merely coincidental. Any bags full of contraband with a decent street-value may be returned to sender: 1825 Wilcox Ave. #1, Hollywood, CA 90028)