t was 445pm. I got a ping to drive someone from the middle of South Central to Anaheim for $50.
The Uber app swore it was only an hour trip. But it always lies. I, however, am a college man, and I can figure out how to get there in around that time. So I clicked accept.
As I drove the 10 minutes north to where he was in the 60s, I thought to myself “whats the catch? why are they offering me $50 for a 60 minute trip? They usually give you fifty cents a minute not nearly a buck.”
Stopped at a light where an abandoned Pastrami shop swayed in the wind and a stray dog limped up the sidewalk, I thought, oh, because you’re the only person in the hood at this hour and not one damn body wants to be in Anaheim at 615pm on a Friday night. Uber is finally paying what they should.
Plus the passenger could be anyone. It’s a crap shoot. Ironically, a group of my passengers’ neighbors were shooting craps next to a stairwell as I approached.
First an old woman came out of the modest apartment complex. What could I possibly talk about for an hour with her, I worried? Then an extremely large man with an LA Kings jersey and an LA Kings cap emerged and got in.
Hit it, he said and pointed west.
Anaheim was south east, but whatever. I peeled out. Starled pigeons scattered.
His name was Darnell. Before we even got to the 110 I knew where he worked, that he was a Christian, didn’t smoke weed because of his asthma, the old woman was his mom, and he had a short fuse if you praised either the Angels, the Clippers or the Ducks.
“Oh so you’re a homer,” I chided.
“One star,” he said, straight faced and mimed like he was pressing a button on his phone.
As is common knowledge, I get along pretty much with everyone. If I am on bad terms with someone, they fucked up royally and never earnestly apologize.
But the people I get along best with are light skinned brothers like myself, particularly sports fans. He was headed to the Ducks / Kings game and he really wanted to be there in an hour.
We talked about everything. Sex drugs rock n roll, the gangs, the projects, the venues, the hookers, we said a prayer to Jesus, and we spent a good chunk of time debating grits and whether it was sacrilege to put sugar on them.
For a Black man who spent his entire life in South Central he knew an obscene amount of information about hockey. I asked him how is that possible.
“Oh because I’m Black I can’t like hockey?” he said looking over his sunglasses.
“You can only like hockey if I give you permission,” I replied.
Faberglasted. He said, “I don’t need anyone’s permission.”
“You say you like the Kings, name all their players.” I said and turned down the Slayer.
Darnell cleared his throat and said, “Moore and Arvidsson on the wings. Danault at center. There go your first line. Second line is Kempe, Kopitar and Byfield. Third is Fiala, Lizotte and Iaffalo. On D you got Doughty and Anderson; Roy and Durzi, Walker and Elder. In the net is the legendary Jonathan Quick. His wife is Jacqueline.”
I let that last fact of his hang in the air a little and said, “Everyone knows that. Who plays the organ at Staples for the Kings?”
“Dieter Ruehle,” Darnell yawned.
“The best in the game,” I said.
“No competition,” he agreed.
We were flying down the 105 to this freeway and then that one. Did I mention how big this man was. The orange and brown colors from a Dunkin Donuts sign blurred by. His head whipped around.
“WTF?” I asked.
“I thought that was a Whataburger,” he explained.
“Negro, you know there aint any Whataburgers in LA.”
“I know. That’s why I had to make sure,” he chuckled.
“You are soooo big. Are you always hungry?” I asked.
“Zero stars,” he said.
Turns out Darnell does security all over LA: the forum, sofi, staples. Almost every night he gets a call for the next day or two. He takes them all.
“Is this one of those jobs where you have to stand all night?” I asked.
“I get a few breaks. But honestly, I could use the exercise.”
We were becoming friends.
“What was the best concert you did security for? Prince? Beyonce? The Weeknd?” I asked.
“I don’t work at the Grammys any more after what they did to the Weeknd,” he declared, super seriously and then went down the list of all the acts that have beaten his guy at the Grammys.
Then he said, “but the best show I saw was Linkin Park.”
Got there in an hour and seventeen minutes.