Category Archives: unemployment

Me, a Would-Be Arborist

Image result for cutting down redwoodsIt’s seven a.m. and my neighbor is shirtless. From his porch, he greets the children walking to school. Most of the men in my new neighborhood don’t wear shirts in the morning or the evening. But my next door neighbor is the only one who is committed to going topless all day. I imagine his closet is forty pairs of tan shorts on the bottom, forty pairs of Adidas sandals on the floor and where shirts would be it’s completely bare.

I leave home, wearing a shirt and hoping the other men on my block won’t judge me for it, to meet a novelist. He’s an ex-Angeleno who is also an ex-New Yorker and is now a Texan. From what I can tell he’s living in Texas as a sort of social experiment. He’s interested in America. He enjoys the novelty of eating brisket. The weather is torture but that too seems to be part of the experiment. Sure, he could move back to LA, live in perfect weather and eat Persian food whenever he wants but instead he tells me he might buy a ranch, acres and acres of open land. There he’ll build a recording studio. And as for the rest of the land? Frankly, he doesn’t give a shit. This is the thing we need to understand – he might do it. There’s not a callus on his hands and he might buy a fucking ranch. In Texas no less. You could probably buy a ranch in the valley, but that won’t do. He’s going all the way. He’s committed.

He’s heard rumors of my new way of life, my forays into the world of doing shit I’m completely unqualified for and doing it poorly. He wants to join. I tell him there’s one rule: we don’t wear shirts down here, and I don’t have a fucking clue what I’m doing. He’s in. Of course he’s in.

We go to Home Depot because that’s how I begin every day now. We’re there for a chainsaw. I ask a twenty-year-old woman in orange if she’s knows anything about stump removal. She laughs it off, which is weird because I’m being sincere. Try aisle 2, she says.

Along the way we flag down two gentlemen in orange.

The easy way to do it is to get some root killer, drill some holes, dump it in and then take it out in 6 weeks. The other way is gonna be a shit ton of work.

Say we want to do it the hard way.

It’s gonna be a pain in the ass. I wouldn’t do it. It’s no joke, back-breaking work.

Tell us more about this hard way.  

We never find the chainsaws. We find some other saws. I won’t even venture a guess at what they’re called. They look terrifying. I’m scared of losing a leg. I don’t want to 127 hours myself. I buy a pick axe and some gloves.

Chainsaw Pack, Black, 1000D Cordura(R)

It’s about 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we start the work. The sun is blazing but apparently it’s nothing compared to Texas. Luckily we don’t wear shirts. I can’t because I live here and this is the way of life and I want to fit in. My neighbor is likely snoozing through the afternoon but I know he has eyes everywhere. He once saw me putting my surfboard in my car and he said, “you like to surf, eh?” I mean, nothing gets past this guy.

We have two pick axes, a shovel, a crow bar, a hatchet and a drill. Most of this stuff was in the shed when I moved in. Now the backyard looked like shit before we started but two hours and six beers later, the once impenetrable ground is splattered fence to fence. The dirt is made of concrete. Concrete and clay. We dig about six inches deep on all sides and that feels like a miracle. And the roots? They’re as wide as La Cienega.

Let me start at the beginning. This tree, what’s left of it, people are saying it’s the biggest tree that ever grew in Los Angeles. Luckily, a man named Bob cut it down before I moved in. But Bob died of heart attack while playing tennis so he never removed the stump. He tried. God, he tried. There are slashes and chains to prove that he attempted to drag it out but it’s simply too big. From what I’ve been told by acquaintances who haven’t seen the tree but who have heard me describe it, the roots could go down as far as a hundred yards. Maybe even hundred meters depending on which is farther. (Personally, I’m too much of a patriot to fuck with the metric system.)

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We’re about a quarter of the way through a root, one that has been bludgeoned with a pick axe, hacked with a hatchet, speared with a shovel and kicked for good measure, when the man from Texas via NYC via LA concedes that it can’t be done. He’s sustained an injury. My injuries are more of the emasculating variety. Tomorrow he’ll get on a plane with a catastrophic hangover to go see a girl in Arizona who he’s never met but who I gather has fallen in love with him. But tomorrow for me means I wake up and have to watch a guy on the Celtics scream “Anything is possible” just to get out of bed, then go about digging a hole, wrestling a root, jumping on a crow bar only to discover that these roots go well beyond the earth’s crust and maybe even its mantle.

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Update: It’s been a week. The stump is still in my backyard. I’ve hacked through three-quarters of a root the width of a Mini Cooper. This is maybe my greatest accomplishment. All around me my dog is eating dirt and for some reason onions. Or maybe they’re shallots. While I haven’t successfully removed one of the fifty-seven roots, I’ve apparently discovered a graveyard of shallots. Or maybe a bed of shallots. Maybe that’s how they’re grown. How should I know? I’m not a gardener. I’m an arborist.

Two Week Update: The stump is still there. So is the dirt around it. A friend recommended a bulldozer. Tragically all I have is a Mazda 3 hatchback.

Three Week Update: I’ve decided that the tree is part of the land. Would we take the redwoods out of Northern California? Would we take the Joshua Trees out of Joshua Tree? Then why would I even consider taking a tree of unknown origin out of the clay parading as dirt in my backyard?

Four Week Update: I think I’m going to hire a pro but I’ll have to do it while I’m out of town. I can’t face the guys who are going to take this out. Or maybe I’ll lie and say that the last owner left it like this. What an asshole. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

 

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The Greenest Thumb

Image result for farm romania black and white

Almost every nine months I pick my head up and there’s no one bringing me lunch at 12:30. I’m just alone, at home and over-caffeinated, wondering what the fuck I’m doing with my life.

So I start to plan for my future. I think about cutting back. In 2010 I sold my truck to pay my rent. That actually didn’t work out terribly other than not having a car in Los Angeles. That was problematic. What got me there was a couple weeks in Paris, then Spain, then a jaunt to the bullet-shroud coastline of Beirut. Unfortunately, I came back and well—what I’m saying is I know feast and famine. Famine more so than feast, but today I came up with a plan: self-sufficiency.

But in achievable doses. There’s a small team of small men who wear safari hats, cut down the weeds that constitute our lawn and then they blow it onto the cars parked nearby. That, I think to myself, is a job I can do. And the money that I’ll save? Come on, it’s a no brainer. Sorry Safari Silvio, I’m unemployed, grappling with what to do with my days and I’m coming for the $40 bucks you’re raking in like a bandit and dividing 3 ways every 2 weeks.

Image result for home depot mexicoSo I go to Home Depot, as is my practice, and I walk the aisles quickly, having no idea where I’m going for an hour. I work methodically through lumber, then power tools, door handles, combination locks, toilets, bathroom cabinets, sliding glass doors, 37 types of refrigerators, washing machines – this place goes and goes – and so do I from aisle 20-something to the far wall – ah, gardening shit. Succulents for me and my sucker friends who can’t keep anything alive. There are also shovels, the thing I used to dig a hole for a fence post, really too many tools to account for. I stand on the edge of the aisle for 7 long minutes trying to wave down someone in orange. They blow past me on scissor-lifts, motorized carts and on foot. Finally, I stop a 15-year-old girl with the name “Grissy” etched on her vest.

Hi, I’m looking for a weed whacker.

Like an edger?

Um, maybe. It’s for a lawn.

Lawn mowers are on 2 at the end of the aisle.

No, like a hand-held thing that you see guys sort of hacking away at ankle high stuff.

She waves me over – These are the lawn edgers. You’ve got gas, which have the most juice, cordless which are the next best and then this kind you plug in.

Hmm.

You probably want a battery operated one.

She darts off and I pull out my phone. I log into my uncle’s Consumer Reports account and read reviews of about 70 different “Edgers/String Trimmers.” All the best ones are out of my arbitrarily pre-determined and based on nothing price range. I pick up the cheapest one. Black and Decker. Yes, good old, maybe American… steel? I guess I’ll find out when I open it.

An hour later, I make two shocking discoveries: the first – it’s pink. The second, it’s neither gas nor battery operated. It plugs in. Fine, I’ll make do. These are the moments when I’m most resilient.

The device, which is apparently not a weed whacker, but still looks like one to me, doesn’t have a blade at all. Instead there’s a little green string with a pink hood around it. For the next five minutes I walk around my front yard like those old guys running metal detectors down at the beach. I don’t really have a technique yet. Swing and hope for the best. Weeds seem to be getting cut, some higher than others. Occasionally, I miscalculate and grind down to the earth flinging rocky dirt into my shins and Vans. I’m inching along when the extension cord rips out. It’s apparently about 45 feet too short to get the other half of the lawn. While I’m looking for another outlet, I pick my head up and notice two Mexican guys across the street. They’re smiling at me and I smile back. They toast me with their Tecates which they’re keeping in the bed of the truck they’re leaned up against.

For the next hour, I massacre half of the lawn. I kick up dirt and fill the walkway with all manner of plant shrapnel. I leave myself sprinkled with prickly plants, Bermuda grass and dirt. My once white Vans are now anything but.

But when I look across the street and I see the two hombres crushing Tecates, laughing until they’re crying at the hatch job I’m doing to my lawn, well, it brings a smile to my sunburned face. There are only so many moments when we can provide this thrill, this pure-unadulterated joy to a stranger. And you know what? I did that this morning. I made two guys, who apparently know the right way to use the thing that I’m using that’s not a weed whacker, basically piss themselves with amusement.

As I finish up, they guzzle the last of their Tecates, open the bed of their truck, wheel out a lawn mower and a blower – a fucking blower – I knew I forgot something at Home Depot. And they proceed to brilliantly mow my neighbor’s lawn. When they finish there isn’t a speck of dirt or grass on the walkway. Everything is blown directly on my neighbor’s recently washed and waxed Cadillac.

I’ll tell you what, those guys did a hell of a job and earned every drop of those 10 AM Tecates. And if I contributed in any way to what they accomplished across the street, well, I’m grateful to have played my small part.

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Soundbath Sociopath

ALTO

I’m told it makes me a monster. I stand and receive one of our soon-to-be depleted resources, carelessly letting it fall on and around me like it will last forever, and how do I celebrate this communion? With a quiet lather.

It’s something I don’t share with people. They either think I’m a sociopath or they simply don’t believe me. “Come on, when you’re alone and the pressure’s cranked and you’re feeling like a million bucks?”

“It’s never occurred to me.”

“Sure, bro. Sure.”

So I keep it to myself, this secret, the secret that I… I don’t sing in the shower.Don't Speak, I Know Just What You're....jpg

But the secrets don’t stop there. The Canadian man who leans into the small of my back pushing me deeper into pigeon pose tells me (and the rest of the room) that I’m deserving of love. After ninety minutes of paid instruction on how to follow my breath, I corner the Canuck.

“Yeah, so about that deserving of love thing—” He closes his eyes and nods his all knowing head. “So, am I still deserving of it if I set my Spotify to private so I can listen to Chief Keef and other sirens of misanthropic drill music while lifting weights in an effort to lift more and heavier weights so in this alleged “survival of the fittest” world I can readily beat the living shit out of my fellow man — even you — even though I respect you and all your slow breathing, it’s really helped me a ton. But you know, if it came down to it, I’m only listening to that stuff so I can prepare myself for the moment when I may have to crush not your um, spirit, but your actual skull. Am I still deserving of love?”

His eyes are kind and deep. Well, I don’t know about deep, they’re the size of marbles. So even though I can’t speak to their depth, they’re definitely kind. The man who fled the rule of Justin Trudeau says, “This is where your mind drifts, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just an invitation to return to the present, to follow your breath back to the moment one inhalation,” he breathes in deeply, “and one exhalation.” He breathes out for what must be two full minutes. He reaches up and puts his little Canadian hand on my shoulder. “I’m actually doing a soundbath workshop on Saturday that deals with exactly what you’re talking about.”

“Really? Which part?”

“Well, it’s a full hour of yoga, so I’d say all of it. There’ll be steel drums and — you know what? Let me get you a flier. I have a feeling this one’s going to fill up fast.”DJ Soundbath.jpg

And my next secret? I ride two hundred miles into the desert on the back of a knock-off Asian Vespa to listen to steel drums bounce off the Rockies and our chakras. And in a way, my problems begin to resolve themselves.

We don’t shower, so there’s no longer any reason to feel shame about the thirty one years of quiet showers I took before I arrived here.

And there’s no wifi. I’ve gotten to a place (spiritually?) where I’m so paralyzed (free?) that I don’t know how to listen to music without wifi or at least a cell signal. Just like that, Chief Keef falls out of my life.

I’ve been reborn. I mean, I’ve only been out here for two hours, but just like the flexible Canuck promised, the soundbaths have healed me. I’m whole again.

Now I’m just throwing this out there but — is it a call for help if you find yourself screaming, “Om” in the middle of the California desert with a throng of Silver Lake moms who are all thirty-three and speak English with a British lilt even though they moved here when they were nine? Or… am I finally home?

With the palms of my hands together over my heart and my brain slowly leaking out of my ear, namaste.

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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.

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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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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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