Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

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.”


“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.

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Pumping Iron!


At my local 24 Hour Fitness, I discretely listen to music that glorifies violence and preaches misogyny. The goal is that by listening to teenagers from Chi-raq shout about murder, I’ll be motivated to do, like, one more set.

This morning, while laying on the mat half-napping, half-studiously listening to what it’s like to be a young black male living on Chicago’s Southside, I spot Ricky. He’s carrying a basketball, and is flanked by a small entourage of big Armenian men.

Ricky is in his late twenties, has short dreds and he’s built like a guy who spends all day at the gym. After hi-fiving his way through all the forty-year-old men in stringger tanks doing concentration curls and incline bench, Ricky gets beckoned over to more men in tank tops doing lat pull-downs, twirling kettle bells, grabbing each other’s biceps.

roid gut

At this point, I realize I’ve been laying on the ground for a bit too long, listening to a song that consists of gunshots and Chief Keef in autotune declaring that all he cares about is money. Which is a little much, even for me. I proceed to finish whatever exercise I was in the middle of not doing, and then hit the showers.

It’s a joyous locker room. As it turns out, Armenian men love to sing in the shower. It’s also not uncommon to see a man standing in front of the mirror blow drying his balls in the middle of the locker room at say, 11:30 in the morning.

“My man,” I turn around to see the most popular man in the gym standing behind me. “You interested in a personal training session?”

“No,” I say.

“You looking for gear?”

While I google search “gear” in my brain, Ricky ushers me to the other side of the locker room, which doesn’t seem any more discreet. “I mean, you’re a fit dude. Kind of small, on the weakside, a little flabby but with some assistance, I’m talking about high quality, pro shit, you’ll be putting up big plates. You could go from zero to hero. Tell you what, it’s your first time, I’ll cut you a deal.”

At this point, three men walk over to Ricky and shake his hand, smiling, proud to know the man. Proud to be associated with him.

“Not that I’m interested in either, but are we talking about personal training or the other thing?” I ask.

“The other thing. And I want you to know this: there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not the lazy way out, you’ll still have to work hard, watch your calorie in-take. You’ll have to be accountable if you want to reach your goals—”


“I’ll make sure you’re pushing your limits. I’m here for you, bro.”


“Let me dispel facts: one, your dick isn’t going to shrink. Your testicles, yes, probably, but as soon as you’re off it’s reversible. Two, no one has ever died from taking steroids. Three, the results are real and that can’t be disputed. Also, roid rage isn’t a real thing and your sex drive will go through the roof.” Ricky puts his hand on my shoulder, looks around then says, “Sometimes, I’ll fuck my girlfriend like thirty or forty times a day. No joke. No exaggeration.”

If there was an appropriate response, I didn’t have it.


“So,” Ricky spins around his fanny pack, “we can do this with cash, Paypal or I’m actually using Venmo now. It’s pretty dope. You use it?”

“I do.”

“Cool. I fucking love technology. Do you watch that show Silicon Valley?”

“I do.”

“Awesome. So we’ll use Venmo.”

“Sounds good.”

“Pills? You seem like a pill guy. It’s your first time. Let’s go with D-Bols. You should be able to gain like four to six pounds of muscle a week. Minimum. Although, I should warn you that pills are for pussies and they’re mainly water-weight so when you’re ready for the real shit, you just say the word.”

“I will.”

Ricky looks around then hands me a small bottle that’s been stripped of its label. “This is going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, my man.”

“Great. Thanks, Ricky.”

He pulls out a piece of paper and hand writes a receipt. He keeps the carbon copy for himself. “Uncle Sam was on my back last year.”

“I totally get it. Thanks a lot.”

“Anytime, or in six weeks!” Ricky laughs. “By the way, you might experience some male pattern baldness, oily skin, backne, and after the initial increase in libido, a gradual decrease.”

With that, we shake hands. Ricky turns on his heels, slaps the guy next to him on the shoulder and says, “My man, you looking to get serious about your fitness?”

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