Tag Archives: losangeles

While Returning Home

The full moon shifted the tint of the sidewalk despite the row of orange streetlights. The bus sighed, closed its door, and wheezed down the street. As it disappeared down the hill, the low buzz of a late night city settled around Kevin.

Four nights a week he worked the tables on the late shift, so four nights a week he walked this route back to his apartment. Down the main boulevard, up a couple side streets. He didn’t mind, though the phone calls of concern from his parents caused him to spend at least half a block every time thinking that someone would emerge from the darkness and shoot him in the head.

On the last boulevard block, the worn black Tercel was parked in its usual spot in front of the refurbished lofts. Flush against the curb, windows barely cracked, sun shades on all four sides of the interior. The wrinkled aluminum kind that made it look like a car for marathon-running clowns. Kevin braced himself for the barking. The dog couldn’t love living in the car, but had survived for at least eight months, and considered it his territory. His resonant woofing made sure to advertise that.

Shoving his hands in his jacket, he shut out the imagined declarations his mother might make. Filthy Mexicans, it would start off — or perhaps conclude. He had never told her or his dad about the car. They hated him living in the city enough. They didn’t need this ammo.

Approaching the back bumper, he heard a shifting, then the barking began. The brown dog (he didn’t know breeds, so he just had colors) scrambled over a shade and got his mouth up against the window crack. “Bark, bark! Get the fuck away from my shit!” Kevin was so primed for the jolting noise, he was past the front bumper before he noticed the woman sitting on it.

Hunched over a cheap hubcap, she poured out a small flow of water. With her haphazard ponytail and beat up clothes, she could have just as easily been from the cool arty side of town. But the way she snapped her head at Kevin when he stopped, her defensive lean, told him she stayed much closer.

“Hey,” she said, screwing the top back on the bottle of water. She looked toward him but not at him. Her face looked weathered but not old. A layer of grime covered her pale white skin. The dampness of her shirt hinted she had washed herself before he interrupted.

“Hey,” Kevin replied. The hum of the vents and lights around them held back silence.

Before the moment when he’d have to say something else, he turned and kept moving down the street. He heard the car door open and close, a few extra barks sneaking out. He didn’t look even when turning up the side street. Heading up the darkened street, he moved toward home, not looking up to see if the trees glowed blue.

A Cunning Plan

An hour before dusk really set in, but twenty minutes after the sun had bowed behind the buildings for the day, James headed out to rehearsal. He waited for a string of six cars to roll by before he jogged across the street and down the dusty alley. The grit and crunch of the dirty pavement marked the time of each step. He had almost come out the other side when he realized that he had left his stupid bass at home again.

Turning to head back, he saw a group of five people had trailed him down the city canyon. They chatted with each other in well-projected Spanish, a multi-generational bunch, a family in practice if not necessarily blood. As James approached them, he wondered if they were out for a leisure stroll or moving with a purpose. People who say nobody walks in this town only know the people who don’t have to. Crossing next to them, he saw that one of the younger men, maybe in his early 20s, was wearing a dark shirt with a line drawing of Lord Edmund Blackadder on it. An Atkinson quote ran underneath it, but James would have had to gawk rudely to discern which one it was.

He kept his eye on the Latino man, hoping to catch his attention and give him a nod. He hoped that would do enough to convey his shared appreciation for classic British comedy. To clearly show that the advertising on his wardrobe had made a connection, had some resonance with someone else in the world.

The man never looked James’ way. The group walked on, still chatting and laughing, still making sure the young child didn’t run off too far. James thought about looking back to see if there was something on the back, but he thought that might be intrusive. He was halfway back up the swirling alley before the sound of their voices stopped echoing around behind him.

Rael, Electric Razor

My car securely parked, I moved through downtown to get to L.A. Live. I wouldn’t say I hustled, since I don’t really hustle. But I moved quickly — I only had seven minutes to showtime.

The crawling line of traffic and the density of people on the sidewalks made sense once I discovered that Chris Brown was playing at the Staples Center that night. I passed diverse groupings of young women in tight dresses and piled-high hair, of young men in expensive t-shirts and even more expensive jeans. A little girl, seven years old at the most, pulled at her father’s arm as they crossed Figueroa: “Come on, Daddy. Come on!”

Once in the proto-Vegas canyon, I veer off to one of the smaller clubs. I’m not there to see a pop star with violence issues. My destination: a Canadian tribute band is doing their painstaking re-creation of a Genesis show from 1975, performing all of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (plus some inevitable encore songs). Every website associated with the performance gave the showtime as 7pm — none mentioned that this was merely when the doors opened. Having rushed for nothing, I settled into a twisty bank line of late middle-aged men with gray ponytails, pasty skin and faded Pink Floyd shirts.

We began shuffling forward a few minutes later. Before entering the facility, everyone had to pass through one of the two bulky metal detectors permanently installed by the door. Pocket contents were tossed in circular plastic bowls, and each time traveler inched forward, wondering if their glasses would trigger the machine. TSA had trained us well.

When I was two back from breaking through, the line stopped. The guard didn’t shout “Hey!” at his supervisor — it was more of a pained question in a slightly raised voice. “Hey?” While waiting for a response, he held up the object of our delay: a two-inch keychain pocket knife. It was the kind of innocuous object that would have gotten someone dragged out of the line at the large arena a half block away and possibly tossed in an interrogation room for a few hours. “Hey?”

The supervisor, who looked as if he had just crossed over from being intimidatingly beefy to affably obese, finally turned around. Taking in the question, he didn’t expend the energy required to run his eyes over the crowd. “Yeah.” His tone sounded like he had been asked whether he enjoyed getting handjobs. The guard shrugged and waved the line on. Of course the knife could go in — with these guys, why would anyone give a shit?