I Lyfted a dancer named Jazmin to the Odd Ball Cabaret Easter Sunday just before the sun went down. The Al Pastor spits were under construction on Sepulveda and the roll top low riders were gone for the day around the corner at The Horseless Carriage, but you could still smell the fresh coat of wax.
And Jazinine’s stripper body lotion. She was a vanilla girl.
I don’t want to generalize, or sound insensitive, but for the sake of classification, there’s two kinds of strippers- at least the ones I’ve Lyfted in my car- the one that shows up in sparkles and heels and the incognito one, dressed as if they’re going to the gym.
Jazmin was the latter. Destinee was the former. I doubted either performed to Jack Johnson tunes. Destinee spent the whole ride out to Ontario’s Tropical Lei negotiating a deal that would send her to Arizona for a month. “Listen, I’m not going to Tuscon for five grand.”
I didn’t blame her. I was doing the math in my head. I wondered if the Arizona gig was the kind that allowed her to claim travel deductions. Unlike Jazmin, Destinee smelled like an ash tray.
“I mean, we hanged out and I was like fine, for a couple of hours, but for a month… In Arizona.” I was beginning to realize Tuesdays at the Tropical Lei was just a side hustle.
Her eyelashes were like war paint. She put on her face the whole way while barking into her Bluetooth. I turned up classical 91.5. Bizet’s Carmen came on to lend a little irony. I keep a good detachment most of the time unless a customer wants to talk, but I was moved by the image of a woman putting on war paint as if she was about to face battle.
Jazmin wore a different mask. And spent the whole way up Sepulveda in a contemplative state. There was an athlete’s concentration. You could tell she was willing herself into something. Destinee was farther up the road. And had passed that stop long ago.
After I dropped Jazmin off, I picked up a mother and her Abuela and took them to a storefront church where the chairs are empty and all the hands are raised and the singing in Spanish fills the dark night. These kinds of places stuck between bail bondsman and where you can get a pay day advance flank the neon with a different light. My car smelled like vanilla for a while. We have a smell. All of us. From the couple you pick up at the Korean BBQ to the line cook steeped in grease. To fear itself.
But cologne is the worst.
Soren is back as a “client of the Pineapple Hill Bar and Saloon again.” But just weekends now. He used to be a “client from twelve noon till two am every day.”
He’s back cause of some girl he met there once.” I will go back till I find her again and when I do, it will be a good night.”
He looks at me in the mirror. “She will remember me.” He sounded like an Armenian General McArthur.
“Yeah, Pineapple Hill’s got a certain… charm, attracts a particular…” I searched for the right word and opted to repeat his. “client.”
I quietly wondered how something could be a saloon and a bar. Felt like some kind of koan only a Don Henley lyric would unlock …
People talk when you don’t. And certain people prefer to talk to strangers. Soren was of that type. In the brief 1.4 miles it took to get from his spot to the Pineapple Hill Bar and Saloon I learned more about him than many of my cousins.
For example, Soren used to go to work tell, “the guys on job site what to do, get materials, then go to Pineapple Hill Saloon, and then check back on the guys at 3.30 to see what they did, and then… back to The Hill. It was my job. Back and forth. But no more.”
I waited for him to clue me in on the difference as I looked at the clock on the dash and that it read 3.30.
“Well, I hope you find her, man.”
“So, do I, friend. So do I.” After fighting with the door handle he got out. I watched him as he fixed his suede jacket then rolled the windows down to diffuse the cheap cologne.