Monday, March 16, 2009

Slumdog LA

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I woke up at an extraordinary hour on Sunday. I sat in the still darkness as I pecked away at the laptop as music played at a very low volume. I fell asleep early for West Coast standards, but I was drained after a travel day and the painkillers (from my bum knee) made me sleepy.

When Nicky woke up around 7am, she finished packing. It was a travel day for her and she'd be in transit for the next 24 or so hours as she flew to Uruguay for a work assignment.

We drove to Nick's Coffeeshop. I had not been there in two weeks. As soon as we pulled into a parking space in front of the place, we noticed the huge pieces of plywood over part of the front window. As we walked inside, we noticed more damage. The owner's son was cleaning the window and explained what had happened. Supposedly on Friday night after they had closed, someone lost control of their car. It skipped the curb, busted through a parking meter and then crashed into their front window. Luckily, no one was hurt and the restaurant did not suffer from severe structural damage. They were forced to delay opening up for the breakfast rush by three or four hours, but as soon as they could, it was business as usual.

I left for two weeks and all hell broke loose. And our slumlord rented out one of the two vacant apartments... to someone with a DOD sticker on their truck. Holy ape tits!

I dropped Nicky off at LAX and slowly drove back to the apartment with all of the other Sunday drivers. I'd be raging solo for a full week while she headed to South America. I welcomed the solitude especially since I'm in the final stretch to complete Project Z.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon writing other stuff. I was reluctant to re-start Project Z and instead, I focused on a couple of short stories. I wrote a story about a brownstone in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago, but then could not find where it was on my laptop. After a frantic search, it turned up in an unexpected place. Thank God. I really liked the tone of the piece and I hated to think how difficult it would be to write it again from scratch. I edited the first draft and then cranked out a second draft which was Truckin' worthy... perhaps even for the next issue.

I also penned another short story inspired by a thread on Phish message board about one kid's encounter with a Redneck couple in front of Popeye's on his way down to Hampton. He posted a couple of sentences which inspired me to write a full on short story with a similar theme.

Speaking of Phish, I wrote exclusively to Phish on Sunday afternoon. I couldn't believe how crisp and tight the band sounded at their reunion shows. One week later, I had enough time pass to allow the music to sink in. I also had the chance to listen to each of the shows a couple of times... in the car on the way home from Virginia/DC and while I wrote. It felt cool to crank up the volume and blast the ever funky MoMA Dance in the empty apartment.

Daddy even called to tell me about the high quality of playing of the reunion shows. He blasted the shows on his car stereo while he was driving home. He had to call me to tell me how much he dug them... and how excited he was for summer tour.

I took a break from writing to watch the NCAA selection show. March Madness was a blessing and a curse. I kinda wished that I had one extra week before it started so I could get a lot of work in before tipoff of the college basketball tournament. I have three solid days before the March Madness consumes my life for four straight days.

After the selection show ended, I walked over to Jack in the Box for a big assed iced tea. I wanted something to perk me up while I wrote. The place was almost empty except a few people at a booth in the far corner. There was no one at the counter when I walked in so I had to use the self-serve kiosk. They encourage customers to use the kiosk and even pimped a promotion that included two free tacos to anyone who used the machines.

I touched the screen and started to place my order... large drink and a chocolate cake for dessert. A kid ran up to me. He looked like he was 2 or 3 at the most. He wore pajamas pants and stood in front of me barefoot. Eye boogers dominated his eyes as snot ran down his face. He clutched something in his hand, which looked like a half-eaten egg roll. He watched me place my order and then bolted. Less than two seconds later, someone took his place, a sibling who looked like the first kid except that he was exactly twice his size and had a dirty face. He looked like he was 5 or 6 year old. He also wore pajamas pants and stood barefoot. He carefully watched me finish up my order on the kiosk.

"Would you like two free tacos?" said the voice from the kiosk.

Two boxes popped up... yes and no. The kid said, "Yes! Two free tacos!"

I looked at him and he glanced up at me with big droopy eyes. At that point his younger brother darted towards me. They both said, "Tacos! Tacos!"

I hit the no button and the older kid screamed something at me and then ran away. The little kid dropped his egg roll on the dirty floor. He looked at the floor, then looked at me, then looked at the floor before he picked it up and took a bite.

"What the hell? Is this L.A.'s version of Slumdog Millionaire?" I mumbled.

The kids were starving and hustling for free tacos. I wonder if their mom put them up to it? Or were they there by themselves? They obviously knew about the promotion and waited for someone who didn't want the free tacos and hoped that they could get them. I considered getting them the tacos, but quickly decided against the act of generosity. A middle-aged guy handing out free food to barefoot kids in Jack in the Box seemed overly suspicious. It was textbook behavior for pedophiles and I avoided the trap. I quickly escaped the plight and raced back to the apartment.

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