The Pinkish side of things

You’ve seen it.  The Pink Corvette.  It’s changed with the times.  But it’s still pink.  And it’s always a Corvette.  That belongs to Angelyne.

Or, rather, her Sugar Daddy – who used to billboard his betrothed to fast track her way to stardom.

But Angelyne’s star must have fallen.  Like most these days.  Her Pink Corvette is dinged up and held together by tinfoil tape.  Or at least her rear bumper.

Beneath the sound and the fury–she’s plastic, too.  Or, at least her car is.

I wonder if Angelyne’s Botox has finally sealed what’s left of her inside a non-responsive sarcophagus.  If so, it would explain her slow reaction time.  Maybe she is at last encased in Botox and unable to drive.

Even a standard shift.

What never ceases to amaze me is that in a city of nine million (counting all the sprawl) a week can’t go by without at least one Angelyne sighting.

She is a statistical anomaly.

And a singular event.  She is our very own U.F.O.

Growing up in the midwest,a bluejay or winter cardinal outlined in fresh snow on the bough was more rare. Which leaves me to wonder if Angelyne has dumped her affinity for plastic surgery and opted instead to replicate herself with synthetic clones.

Maybe she is an A.I. test model.  And her Sugar Daddy is Elan Musk or Bill Gates.

Advance mathematicians who master game theory and compute God in the probability of pi must have some formula and value for this random occurance. I surely don’t.

I’ll leave the math for those more qualified.  I deal in symbols anyway.  And Angelyne is definitely that.  A mascot for all that remains truly Hollywoodish.

She embodies our obsession with youth and fight against time.  All the illusions of Maya.

I take comfort in spotting her ageless embalmed Barbi-car on the open road.  A certainty in an ever changing world. She keeps the myth and the glamour alive.  Or at least pumped up with collagen.

 

 

 

A Break from the norm

You could tell it was the truth. A man may lie but his hands never do.

He had just said he worked in the fields.

That’s Texas-speak for Oil Fields.  Where Progressives see the end of civilization and locals see a steady job.

We were working at a good clip. Currently, we were signing gold, felt, number fours — my uniform number when I played for the fictional pee-wee hockey team, The Mighty Ducks.

His job was to flip the numbers as I signed my name with a Sharpie.

That’s when he told me about signing legal forms for the fields.

“Stacks of them.  Your hand gets tired.  So if you need a break, let me know. ”

My scribble was devolving into cave etching.  I’ve always been secretly ashamed of my signature.  I wish it looked more fluid.  Like Zorro had done it.  But it is what it is.

I picked the Sharpie back up and soldiered on.  But, his comment about the fields stuck with me.

I looked at the man.  He didn’t look like a bigot.  Or a racist.  Nor a Nazi or Alt-white zombie.  Seemed like a pretty nice guy.  He was a Mighty Duck fan.  And an oil worker.  I can’t say with authority, but I assume he voted for Trump.  An overwhelming majority of Texans did — and we weren’t in Austin– so, it was a safe assumption.

If he didn’t, then many like him did and I don’t think the majority of them did it out of party loyalty.  Or ideology.  But because of their job.  The EPA and the Paris Climate Conference was reduced to a simple point of survival out here.  Like when they were closing military bases back in the late 90s.  It didn’t have to do with nuclear proliferation in rural South Carolina near a Naval Weapons Base, but simply the chance not to work at Walmart.

The Times have a’changed, but, not really…

It’s still a city / country thing.  This divide.  As we hunker down in our trenches and demonize the enemy on the other side of no man’s land to fill our idle hours with fantasies and justification…

It stayed with me.  I can’t help but feel that all of this subtrafuge and fear and double speak is a simple job thing.   It carried with me into seat 34A on the Southwest flight back to Los Angeles.  As I watched the wasted space of a vast desert spread out in the sandbox 39,000 feet below, I imagined superimposing solar fields and thought of John and Yoko’s ad campaign “WAR IS OVER.”

I suddenly flashed on Gandhi and his march to the sea and home spun cotton.  The importance of home spun cotton.  Bringing down an empire with a Spinning wheel.

Your mind wanders at 450 miles an hour up in the clouds… or at least mine does.

Our rural way of life has been gutted by vanishing industry and corporate policies that have actively undermined and outsourced the foundry of our once great economy.

These are the people they left behind.  So, of course our neighbors to the south and east cling to whatever well intended, but myopic, view their livelihoods demand.   Thus, the issues of the world get distorted because they are personal to many of us.  How can we think of the future  when we are thinking in terms of Christmas gifts for our kids ?

It’s about a good job.  It always has been and it always will be.

So, what will it take for real change?  Maybe … We just need this guy in the fields to have a conversion of faith.  And we need to support him as our whole culture transitions.

As we step back from the brink like we have so so so many times before.  In October ninety miles off the Florida Coast, in Greece, in Turkey, in Israel….

I looked out the window from seat 34A again at the cracked  earth of southern New Mexico.  Somewhere to the north was the Trinity Site.

I saw it again in my intervisions.  Maybe I am a dreamer but picture it with me.  The entire southwest dominated by vast fields of solar power.  Our reinvented rust belt anchoring a reindustrialization that is the spear head of the environmental boom- where we become the world leader again in another era of progressive and proactive  environmental reform .  And all of it anchored in the small towns that make up this great country.

I grew up near small towns.  On the edge of a great city.

Where a Nabisco plant, or a Distribution Center, UPS training facility was enough to make a Company Town.  But now it seems like prisons are the biggest employers for so many of our dying towns straddling rail roads whose names we lost to time.

Maybe the oil worker vote counts more than mine.  He is the swing and the fulcrum.  Of course, many conservative law makers in rural states are self professed “climate skeptics” because they have to be.  Their constituents are dependent on industries that are in the energy field.  And if the oil worker ain’t working, then the man in the county seat is going to be out of a job as well.  But if their constituents are working for Tesla and or building transformers to house solar power, then they are suddenly changed into climate change advocates.

I had a high level political advisor in my Lyft one time.  This was back in the beginning of the primary season.  Before any of the eventual candidates even announced.  The guy was in town facilitating a speaking event for GW Bush.  We talked after he got off the phone.  He was trying to figure out which horse to back.  It was either Jeb or Hillary.  I paused and looked at him in the rearview mirror.  He had come up in Bill’s campaign as a teenager and a wunderkind.  He looked like a baby with wrinkles.  I asked him, “they’re on different ends of the, you know, spectrum?”

He looked up from a text message and said.

“Yeah.”

And gave no other answer.  It didn’t matter.  It was indeed a job thing.

Most People are Pretty Normal

Everyone always wants to know it.  Call it curiosity or the same conditioned reflex that causes us to pause and gawk at tabloids in the check out aisle.

“So, what’s the worst thing that ever happened ..”

It always starts with that word.   So.  The question may very in tone,  Like — what’s the most ridiculous thing that happened– or— do you have any horror stories…

But, it always begins with so

People get the smut eyes  waiting for me to titillate them with a story about the lowest most depraved shadow underbelly of the beast … I often wonder what people wonder.  What they expect.  I fear I disappoint them because I never had to drive Pablo Escobar.  Or pick up Tom Cruise in that one movie with Jamie Foxx.

What can I say?

Don’t get caught in the drive thru, it’s not worth it.  Strippers don’t look like strippers.  They wear sweat pants.  The only thing that gives them away is the drop off address and the fruity perfume.  Drug dealers probably have their own app and my car’s too small for anything too funky.   I had to deliver Botox one time.  On ice.  It was in a glass jar.  No customer just Botox.  And Koscher pizza to a synogogue.  So, yeah, unfortunately it’s really not that exciting.

So, what is it that people want to hear when they ask me to tell them the worst, or as many customers call it, the “best” story. I mean I don’t ask people who do market research for start-ups and branding what their worst story is?

But they always ask me.  Then–  wiggle in their seats…

The same seats that a young Indian Woman deposited her shell-fish all over on a friday night in the not too distant past.

It was one of those slow dribble pukes that keeps going.   Bubbling over.  The ones you can see coming but are powerless to stop.

She was a quiet little assassin.  Usually you can tell when you have someone on the cusp.  There’s a fog and a need to be still.  Also, cracking the window and leaning out of it like a lap dog is a prime indicator — then, it’s a matter of staying in the right lane and being quick on the take with the unlock button.

Mostly, it’s a matter of avoiding those people altogether; because no matter how much you screen  to determine if a person is going to get sick, they will one hundred percent assure you they will not.  No one openly admits, “yeah, I think I could projectile vomit all over you and your car, so please pick me up and take me across town.”

A One eyed detalier named Ernesto took care of her left over shell-fish at the car wash on Ventura and Dixie Canyon.  It seemed like this is what he did for a living.  Especially on Sundays.    Say what you will about heart doctors, but Ernesto performed miracles several times a week and for probably little more than minimum wage plus tips.

But the shell-fish is not the worst.  Not by a long stretch.

The worst involved Mad Dog 20/20 – the green Kiwi Strawberry variety – A John and two male prostitutes.  It was a Tuesday.  A little after Seven PM.   Let’s just say there was a dispute over money and one of them named Andre thought it better to walk then ride and departed my car while it was moving at 20 miles an hour on La Brea.

I was in my first week as a Lyft Driver.  There was no leakage, blood, or dismemberment, thankfully; just a lot of expletives.

But, no, I haven’t been the getaway driver in a bank heist or been involved in black market organ trading, I play classical music and tend to engage in pleasantries.  But then again, I tend not to drive when the midnight creep is on. I like to take them to the bar and then be home safe in bed by the time they want to come home.  Sure, the money’s better. But after handing out a few gallon sized zip lock bags and many close calls with Bobble Heads – what we call the drunks just on the edge of consciousness – I’ll let someone else go fish for the big’uns.  There’s a reason why the prices are higher.

No, for the most part most people are pretty normal. Really.  They look at their phones.  Don’t leave trash in the back seat.  Look out the window a lot.  The worst I can say is that a lot of people don’t trust you if you don’t rely on WAZE – the GPS of choice.  But my experience has taught me to interact with the program and rely on my instincts and sense of the street rather than just blindly trust a satellite.  Maybe it’s the John Henry in me.

What I find really fascinating is everyone’s fascination with what only we Lyft drivers must know.  Hate to dispel the fantasy, but most of you all are pretty boring.

 

Eating at Gas Stations

I hear the songs of the Silk Road  in every fridgerated van looking for cheap gas, but I am always careful not to season my left overs with scratch off dust.

This residual evidence of failed prospecting is, in my opinion, a true sign of elegance.  So is the roar of the car wash and the ding of the microwave.

They point the way like the Star of Bethlehem.

The key to choosing the right way to lunch is three-fold: identifying a working microwave, making sure there is a bathroom and a way to get a plastic fork if you don’t have one.

Bathroom conditions vary.  Just make sure there’s a toilet. And don’t worry about engine grease on the porcelain. That picture on the wall — of plastic flowers — really was hung there, and rightfully deserves to get tagged up.   Keep your expectations low, know you don’t have to move in, and tip the Bathroom Attendant on the way out.

In general, common sense pervades.

Avoid the ambitious and the negligent.

As in all matters, I seek the middle – water -course way.

There’s a gas station in west L.A. that serves fried chicken and novelty umbrellas but can’t seem to make coffee that doesn’t leave you with a pucker face and there’s an ARCO on Olympic and La Brea that feels like the back rack of a Goodwill store at the end of a weekend.  Or a Clearance Rack at Marshalls. Or the discount food spot near the bathrooms in the back of your Grocers? Got the image?

The one I like sells Big League Chew and little European chocolates with marzipan.  It doesn’t waste its space hocking jumper cables and gas cans but goes for the fruit and nut energy bar and jerky with acai berry craze.   There’s even a bowl of fruit.

It’s where Counsel Generals and armored cars go to fill up on Sour Patch Kids.   Rabbis and motorcycle cops grab Power ball tickets and Foreman fill gallon water jugs for the radiator and the rest of their crew.

And you can buy an actual map and not just a map to the stars.

Sure, you may be conditioned to look for the Seven and the Eleven but what does every 7-11 have in common.  They don’t have a bathroom.  Parking, maybe, and yogurt pretzels, but no pisser.

Although we all know there is one.  Right?  Back behind the Employee Only sign.  We see it telegraphed in the eyes that float above the red shirts.  They hold that over us as we do a pee dance and tell our life stories for an exemption.  Only once in three years of driving Lyft have I been permitted to use a 7-11 Bathroom.  It was a memory I would like to forget.  There is a reason they don’t allow us back there.  So play it safe, stick to the gas stations.

I always make sure to buy something if I am going to commandeer their microwave.  It’s basic roadside etiquette.  My favorite treat is a New York Seltzer – Black Cherry.  Whatever they do to buzz the shit out of that water with bubbles and squirt it with black cherry extract feels like a giggle in my mouth.

I tend to inquire before I choose a cup of coffee.  Ask which is the freshest.  If they don’t know, you don’t want to drink it.  It tells you right off that the coffee care is sub par.

Look for the signs.  If there’s real half and half in a dish with ice, that’s a real indicator the coffee is well pastured and hasn’t been fermenting and slowly turning to acid since Jorge left from the graveyard shift.

Bathrooms that are inside are always a good indicator –  but not the rule.  There’s a fine establishment in Santa Monica near the promenade on Wilshire that has an outdoor bathroom which still passes code.  But they don’t have a microwave, so they’re only good for licorice or a bag of nuts.

I had a friend that called those grilled frozen breaded deep-fried things that rotate in conjunction with hot dogs on metal wheels – “Man food.”  Yeah, eat at your own risk.  Anything from those racks tends to turn into a clay brick in your tummy.  Said brick then becomes an unwelcome guest for a day too long and makes one contemplate if there is indeed a genuine health concern that demands immediate medical attention.

I did it once I will never do it again.  No, you’re better off eating at donut stands.  Serious. they are very under rated.  Try anything they press into a bagel or croissant.  And it’s cheap.   But they will banish you forever if you bring in outside food or drink.  So beware.

Hence why the best bet is a well lit gas station.  (See E. Hemmingway “A Well Lit Place.”)

I tend to limit what I buy to Green Tea or bubble water and warm up whatever I prepped before.  However, I do have one exception.  Maybe its the combination of taste, price etc, but I can’t seem to resist Nutter Butters.  The four pack. Even though there is a sense of sadness when you eat the fourth one.   They always tend to be stale and don’t hold together when you take them because they are so brittle.  But what can I say.  For 99 cents!  It’s the best value / nutrition to junk quotient you can find in any gas station feed store.  Believe me.  I’ve looked.

 

That time of year again.

There’s nothing quite like the energy of people about to go out and do some serious drinking.

I equate it to being inside the locker room right before the big game.

Caged animals about to unleash their shadows after a week of work they mostly hate.  The “Happy Hour” as we call it is a cultural institution.  Like Velveeta Cheese in a box.

Rarely does happy hour actually contain itself to sixty minutes.  It tends to spread and bleed over into the evening and has been known to deposit one at Carney’s for a chili-dog.

Kinda like a tornado. It picks you up and drops you off someplace else unexpected with an uneasy feeling in your gut.

Fridays tend to be the happiest of happy hours.  Pay checks and the promise of the weekend really bring out the war paint inside anyone- but especially people stuck in middle management.

But the Holidays bring on an altogether different animal.  Kind of like the Playoffs.

I didn’t know it was that time again till I heard my customers make the small (“small talk”) about it as we crossed the fat end of Santa Monica down 11th street.

They were headed to the office Christmas party.

Mostly, they were torn up about whether or not they could have gotten away with some day drinking.  Or prep work.  Or pre game … They talked really loud, like they had hearing damage… It might have been just the excitement.

They would have made awful criminals.

The quality of the corporate sponsored Christmas party is often dependent on the social norms and drinking habits of upper management,  Judging by Mario’s description of his boss, Harold, who liked to surprise his staff with a tray of shots every once in a while, it had hopes to be a real shoot out.

Vegas was taking odds.

In addition to the drinking habits of management, an almost equally important determining factor is the day and time which said party is held.

There’s was at 4:00 on a Friday.

Yeah.  The metrics were lining up for a throw down drag out bacchanal.   When the bosses conspire to make a party mid-week, they are slapping an ankle bracelet on the possibilities of a three alarm fire or chance for unwanted offspring.  But a Friday party may just end up in the papers.

Their expectations were understandably high.

For prep, Mario hadn’t eaten all day.

“I had a Spicey Chicken Sandwich at 10:00 AM.”

In Dallas.

He made his living on the road.  I surmised he probably had a lot of travel points and wondered if he was with Marriott or Southwest.   He didn’t feel like a Hyatt level – more a “Courtyard by Marriot” type.

Like all things, it’s hard to discern if it is the job that makes the lifestyle or the lifestyle that chooses the job.  Probably depends on who you ask.

I didn’t know what he did, but I had a pretty good guess she was new.

She was much younger than he and unsure about a lot of things.  Unsure if they were on a date or if they were just sharing a Lyft.  Unsure about Mario’s sexual orientation and unsure about her makeup. Unsure if the dress was too short.  Just unsure.  She held onto the door handle for fortitude.

Bracing herslef against something…

I dropped them off at the Promenade and they waded through the holidays shoppers and tourists, bravely into the unknown hoping for a night of revenge and restitution for having to put up with what they have to put up with all year.

I hoped that Mario got his wish and could make an asshole of himself, test the limits and see what he could get away with to mutiny against unfair pay and power structure.  And I hoped she – whatever her name was – knew what she was in for.