Category Archives: unemployment

A Sample of the Red Flags that Made Me Realize I Desperately Need a Job

1.jpg-I was walking home from Trader Joe’s and I saw a group of people shuffling into a colorful building. It ended up being a guided meditation for gay addicts in recovery. It was hard to get a word in, but I decided to stay. I’ve been going twice a week since May.

-On June 3rd, I rode my bike twelve miles to get a taco because I couldn’t find my car keys.

-Nine hours ago, I was shirtless in my bedroom. I was also pantless. But I wasn’t thinking about my lack of shirt or pants, I was watching two flies buzz between my bedside lamp and a photo of myself wearing a suit on a mountain looking very lost.

I’ll spare you the gory details but in quick succession I killed both flies. One with a New Yorker[1] where I was reading about a divorced lesbian couple in Manhattan who were fighting each other for the right to raise Abush. According to the article, Abush is a six-year-old boy from Ethiopia.

Before I killed the fly, I had already decided that these presumably bored (read: loving) millionaires also needed jobs. Or more demanding jobs. Or they could adopt more children from Ethiopia. Or America. They needed to do something to keep Abush as far from the limelight as possible. And I say this as someone who grew up on the Central Coast where there were more kids named Forest than Bill.

But this isn’t about people named after and for shrubbery. Three months ago, I had killed one, maybe two flies in my life. In the last week, I’ve killed at least double that figure. We’re talking upwards of three flies. If I don’t find myself in an air conditioned building with free coffee and a desk with a phone I’ll never answer, I worry that I could kill as many as a half dozen flies before the year is even over. This troubles me.FullSizeRender.jpg

-Yesterday, I put my left foot on an escalator’s handrail, brought my head to my knee and had a nice long stretch for three floors in the Sunset Boulevard location of Kaiser Permanente.

-I went to the doctor for what I’ve heard called a “check up.” Nothing was wrong with me. I told the doctor that, but also said if he wanted to put his stethoscope on my back and listen to me breathe or whatever, he was welcome to do that. He looked at me like I was fucking insane, confirmed from a distance that, at least physically, I was fine and then told me that they didn’t validate parking for patients. My co-pay was $15. Parking in the structure for 53 minutes was $86.

-Since Sunday, I’ve spent nine hours in the sauna and two in the steam room and I fucking hate the steam room.

-I introduced myself to someone who I thought was my neighbor because I’ve seen him on and off for the last five years. He replied, “I’m carrying mace and as a member of the United States Postal Service I’d be within my rights if I used it on you right now.”

-I’ve started wearing sunscreen even though I once saw a poster in the nurse’s office in college with a teenage girl sporting a neon tank top and third degree sunburn. A blurb above her remorseful face read: 80% of skin damage occurs before the age of 18. I was 19 at the time and decided then and there I was never going to wear sunscreen again. The nurse told me that I definitely had alcohol poisoning but the worst was over and to be careful. She was so sincere that I felt one of us should cry. It was a relatively short game of chicken before she walked me out. I won’t say who left in tears because I’m a gentleman.

-I’ve watched both seasons of “All or Nothing” with the LA Rams and the Arizona Cardinals and I have no idea who won the Super Bowl last year.

-I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt from my high school (average class size: 107) and I almost introduced myself.

-On Wednesday around midnight, I got home from hockey and was greeted by two coyotes on the stairs leading up to my place. I thought, “Well, if I have to fight these ‘yotes to the death, so be it.” But then I remembered the flies I’d killed. Flies with fly families and fly children who probably stayed up at night wondering if their fly mother and father loved them and would ever come home; flies that can relate more to Jeff Goldblum than I can because I’ve never seen that movie.

As I stood there, my shoulder going numb from the weight of my hockey bag and my head full of Jeff Goldblum, which is exactly what that fucking guy would want, I saw the coyotes were long gone and while I might not have a job, I did still have four episodes of “The Keepers” waiting for me upstairs, and in this life, well, that’s more than enough.

[1] I signed up for a trial subscription seven years ago and I haven’t figured out how to cancel it. As a result, I’m wildly cultured.

Leave a comment

Filed under unemployment

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.

ANN.jpg

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.”

harmony.jpg

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.

2 Comments

Filed under unemployment

Alice and I Have Been Reading the Crystals

lunch beers:meditation.jpg

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!” 

giphy.gif

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under unemployment

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

JLG.jpg

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?

Parker-Posey.jpg

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!

2 Comments

Filed under unemployment

Yes And: Hollywood House Party

scenic view

On the porch of a house in Hollywood a girl in harem pants plays a mandolin and sings, “No new friends, no new friends, no new friends…” We walk along the side, entering the way pool guys and gardeners do, to arrive in a backyard full of mostly bespectacled men with beards. They’re all 29 years old. Well, that’s not true. Some are 28, others are 30. And not all of them have beards, some have mustaches.

Other than the bearded men, who all introduce themselves as writers, there are also actors and improvisers, and actors who hate improv and improvisers who insist they have no interest in acting.

I drink two or three or four beers with the American flag plastered on the side before I notice my friends have disappeared. And of course, the beer isn’t working. I’m talking to a black guy with a Mohawk who tells me he speaks French fluently and thinks I’d be very handsome if I didn’t have a beard. When I don’t respond quickly enough, he tells me he’s a very talented graphic designer and has a background in the theatre and once spent three weeks in Paris when he was fifteen. Then he asks me who I am dressed up as. He says he can’t tell. I look down to confirm that I’m dressed as I’m pretty much always dressed. He tells me that this is a 90s costume party. I excuse myself, citing an empty Dixie cup.

Around midnight, a busload of girls who are too pretty, too pale and have snorted too much coke, show up. They swing from one end of the party to the other, like marionettes chasing each other. They look like they’ve just stepped out of Nylon Magazine. As it happens, and as they are quick to tell you, they are those girls. “Google me,” one of them says. “I’m legit.”

I tell her I believe her. She tells me she doesn’t care if I believe her or not, because there are a lot of people talking a big game here, but she’s actually very legit. She asks if I recognize her from an HBO show that she was on. I do, I tell her so. She says she doesn’t care if I recognize her or not because she’s legit. But then, in almost a whisper, she does ask one favor of me, “Don’t tell my sister what I’ve been doing.” I agree and she floats across the party, plucking a joint from a stranger’s fingers, she disappears in a haze of smoke, leather, and the obligatory floppy black velvet hat.

My drink is gone. Or rather, I drank it all, but the crowd is too thick to fight my way back to the bar. I haven’t seen my friends in an hour, maybe longer, so I elect to take a lap around the party. One stride into my lap, three guys ask me if I want to go in on a gram. I tell them I’m not actually looking to hole-up in the bathroom with three strangers and a gram from somebody’s friend’s neighbor’s roommate’s connect. They look at me like I’m fucking insane and we part ways.

The girl in the leather jacket and the floppy hat swings back in front of me. Her skin is almost translucent. Her eyes are blue, her scleras are a shade of porcelain, and her jaw, grinding down her perfect teeth, seems to have a mind of its own. She asks for my number and I ask why. She tells me to fuck off and that she’s making a movie and the budget is 3.5 million. Then she asks again for my number. I guess we both assume that she’s answered my question so I give it to her. She puts my name into her phone and then under company she writes: Financier*. I tell her that she’s confused me with someone else. She assures me that she hasn’t because she doesn’t make mistakes and that she doesn’t care what I think because she’s legit. I can google her. Then a tall blonde girl wearing six shades of black, whisks her away so they can pose for a photo shoot. Not an impromptu photo shoot. There are lights, C-stands, a prop couch. And now there are models dropping their chins, pursing their lips, flicking off the camera.

I’m ready to fight my way over to the bar when a girl in a crop top comes over and asks me to guess who she’s dressed up as. I say, “Sheryl Crow,” for reasons that are still unclear to me. She says she’s Courtney Love. Then she proceeds to tell me that Courtney Love is not just a singer, but she also used to be married to Kurt Cobain who was the lead singer of Nirvana, which was a band in the nineties, before he died of an overdose. She tells me she learned all of this in a documentary she watched on HBOGO using her parents’ login info. She asks if I have any coke. I say no and she tells me that she was born in the year of the Ox. I say, “I think I was too – 1985, right?” She buckles over laughing then says, “No. Gross. 1997.”

I guess I’m getting old. Maybe that’s why the booze isn’t working. The girl in the leather jacket and the floppy hat texts me her name and the words: director/writer/actress/model/singer. I look around, but I don’t see her anywhere. I also don’t see my friends or the girl who was born in 1997. I find my way upstairs and into a conversation where a girl where a Wu-Tang shirt volunteers that she doesn’t actually know a single Wu-Tang song. Then a blond guy doing his best James Dean takes her to a nearby couch where they proceed to aggressively make-out while ten guys watch, sipping their beers.

I wander back outside with a cup half-full of vodka, which is not how I approach life by any means, but rather this cup was empty and then I filled it up. Thus, well, you get it. On the perimeter of the party, I sip my lukewarm vodka while actors improvise conversations and girls who look like models, because they are models, pose in front of a lime tree, a staircase, a parked car. A man wearing a baja hoodie comes up to me and demands to know where we’ve met. “I don’t think we have,” I say. He tells me his name and that he’s on mushrooms and that surely he’s met me before because he’s a musician and I’m a musician. I tell him I’m not a musician, but he doesn’t believe me.

He puts his hand on my shoulder and continues to talk about knowing people on a deeper level. The more he talks, the less he sounds like someone on mushrooms and the more he sounds like someone trying to act as if they’re on mushrooms. He continues his monologue while tightening his grip on my shoulder. I can’t fathom why someone would decide that this party would be a good place to do mushrooms. I tell him that I need to go home, he tells me that I don’t. I tell him, “I need to take my dog out for a walk.” It’s three in the morning.

“You’re a good pet owner,” he says. “A dedicated pet owner.” I ask him to please let go of my arm. He tells me that he used to have a blushing disorder but he had endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy surgery and now he never blushes, but a side effect is he sweats in weird places like his chest, his groin, his feet. He holds up his hand and says, “My palms don’t sweat anymore, neither does my head. That’s another side effect.”

Maybe he actually is on mushrooms. I’m also starting to think I should leave now. I slowly back away from the man on mushrooms so as to not alarm him. He watches with wide eyes and pleads for me to not go. I get into an Uber with a driver who tells me he’s studying at a famous barbershop in Inglewood. “It’s where Ice Cube trained for his role in the movie Barbershop,” he says. I applaud him for pursuing his education.

By the time we reach my place, my driver has pitched me his mobile barbershop business and targeted me as a potential investor. He tells me the sky is the limit when it comes the mobile barbershop industry. I’m not convinced that’s true, but what the fuck do I know about haircuts on wheels? I tell him to count me in. He gives me a card and we agree to talk in the morning. I’ve had enough of Hollywood, I’m going to get into the mobile hair game.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda, unemployment

The Road to a Carne Asada Quesadilla

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m in the back of a hired car with a greasy carne asada quesadilla in my lap. I’m firing questions at my driver like I’m Charlie fucking Rose. The subject, of course, is the Egyptian American experience. My driver looks back at me through his rear view and questions my credentials. “Are you kidding me, man?” I say. “I’m legit. Look at these eyebrows! Look at this beard!”

“My sister pays to make her eyebrows look like yours, and yours look better.”

Because I can take a compliment I say, “Shukran.”

“I can say ‘thank you’ in Chinese – does that make me Chinese?”

“Maybe. But I thought you said you were Egyptian.”

“What?”

“Never mind the Chinese — what about this beard?! I mean, I grow beards the way other people grow…” But I’ve lost my train of thought. I can’t think of anything that grows quickly except for weeds and people don’t intentionally grow weeds. Also, my goal is hyperbole and I’m not sure weeds grow that much faster than my beard. I should spend more time at Home Depot and learn about plants. And horticulture. And other stuff.

“We’re here,” he says.

Yes, but how did I get here?

I’m at the Tacos Arizas truck and I’m speaking Spanish, because, well, I can still taste it on my lips now – I’ve been drinking tequila. And the speed at which I’m speaking leads me to believe I’ve had quite a lot. Like enough to put a teenager in the hospital. Even though I’m speaking Spanish, the tequila is doing all the work. Of course my time in Spain, my degree in the language, and the years wasted translating sentences from a text book so I can learn how to say: “In the summer, I like to go jetskiing with my family on the lake” – those things might be helping.

In the end, the only thing I really say is, “I’ll have a steak quesadilla. For here please.” Here being a side street next to a Walgreens in Echo Park. Behind me are two brothers. Yes, they’re clearly brothers. You can tell just by looking at them. But one speaks with a thick Boston accent while the other has no detectable accent at all. Which might be confusing if I didn’t know these guys, but I do, so I’m not confused. Yes, we arrived here together. Now it’s coming back.

Before the taco truck: We bust into the Gold Room sometime after 1:30. I ask about the drink specials, but I already know the drink specials. Three tequilas. Three beers. Six, seven years ago, this place used to be scary. It was thick with cholos who had been pushed out of their homes, but still came back to drink in this bar where you can throw peanuts on the floor. People got murdered within a police baton’s throw of this place, but now they have Firestone 805 beers in the fridge. Adios, Tecate, Bohemia, Victoria, Corona. There’s a new lager in town and it’s crafted on California’s lovely Central Coast.

Fuck me. Of course I order a Firestone. Where is my moral compass? Why do I pine for the days when shit-faced cholos would give me and my friends menacing looks while we slurped our bargain-priced drinks before last call? Now this place is as mundane as the lines at Costco. Everybody just minds their own business.

But before that, there was the Thirsty Crow, the Black Cat, Bar Stella which actually didn’t happen, and then Jay’s Bar which did.

At Jay’s, Frank Sinatra is on the TV and Dinesh from Silicon Valley is next to us at the bar. I’m drinking mescal. The same mescal that I drank a week earlier on Balboa Island where one can buy frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and watch very blonde women go on uncomfortable first dates with very leathery men who promise jaunts on the yacht to Cabo and Cannes. I did not have a chocolate banana then or now. But sometimes I think I could drink mescal forever. Then I remember what happens to the Consul in Under the Volcano.

“How, unless you drink as I do, could you hope to understand the beauty of an old Indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken?” 

Goddamn, that is an exquisite sentence. But it’s just bleeding with insanity. The nectar of the Oaxacan gods is not to be overindulged.

Before all that, I’m on my couch with my feet up reading a review about a biography of Saul Bellow even though I don’t like Saul Bellow. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve even read anything by him. I often confuse him the guys who wrote The Swimmer or Rabbit, Run. Maybe that was Bellow. I don’t know. All I know is I’m quietly having a couple of tequilas. A tequila nightcap because it’s the day after Cinco de Mayo and the stuff was lying around. And, as of Sunday, I’ve quit whiskey again, so I might as well drink this stuff. I have one tequila knowing full well I’m going to have a second, and by the time my phone buzzes with an invite to a bar down the street, I’m on my third. I’ll go for one drink. Maybe two. I’ll be back before midnight.

1 Comment

Filed under unemployment

Car Talk #2

cdtI once had lunch in La Mancha with a man named Victor. We drank wine, ate paella, and two hours later I watched him kill a bull with a sword. I left Spain shortly after that, but not before he gave me the slain bull’s ear. It was bigger than my hand. He wanted to make sure I didn’t forget him.

I’ve never killed a bull, but I have helmed a 1994 Camry that bucked with the same force as those bulls that Canadians on amphetamines ride at rodeos. Unlike those canucks, I don’t own a truck. Or a horse, so I had to get my bucking hooptie fixed.

The time had come to retire my largely incompetent mechanic’s coveralls. Sure I never understood a word of his broken English. And yes, he cost me thousands of dollars and tens of hours in his incompetence. But we had fun. He’d grumble something presumably related to my spark plugs or Soviet Armenia and then he’d take my credit card for a joy ride. I’d leave with a handwritten receipt, the Check Engine light still glowing.

The new shop I moved on to is very corporate. They keep the mechanics in the garage and they have girls working at bistro-style check-in tables. The girls are nice, but instead of asking about my car, or its problems, we go into their life story: their fiance’s job, their gym routine, the pros and cons of fish oil. For a moment, it feels as if I’m stuck on an airplane next to a nice lady who is probably flying to Sacramento or Santa Fe. Before I leave she says, “Well, it’s a good thing you did stop bartending, because you aren’t always going to be pretty.” She takes my key and she promises to call.

I stop by after work to have them swipe my card and retrieve my car. The girls smile and say, “If there are any problems, just drop it off again.”

I do. Every morning. For the next five days. And each day they call me to say they’ve spotted the elusive problem and for a nominal fee they’ll address it. I agree.

Each day I return to work, several hundred dollars poorer than the day before. After a week of hearing about my automotive woes, my co-worker says, “You’re familiar with the definition of insanity, right?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Information Pertinent To Gratification, unemployment