home depot charlie

Sometimes you get people at grocery stores, drug stores, Targets. He was a middle aged Black dude at the Home Depot.

Who knows why these folks don’t have cars. Maybe theirs is in the shop. Maybe they lost their license. Maybe they did the math and car ownership is more $$ than taking Lyfts.

Didn’t ask. Didn’t care. He was nice.

“Get everything you needed at the Home Depot?” I asked. It was a gentle Sunday afternoon. Nice sun shine. Little traffic. Simple drive down the road a few miles to this man’s home.

“We’ll see. This is just my third time here today.” he grumbled.

“Man, I wish I was handy.” I admitted.

“Me too. I’m like that dog at the computer. I don’t know what I’m doing,” he chuckled.

“So how do you do it? Do you have a pal? A book? YouTube?” I asked.

“Almost all YouTube,” he said. “The instructions are worthless.”

“Because they’re written poorly?”

“Because they’re so damn SMALL! Who can see those words? I’m gonna burn down my house and it’ll be because the ‘warning don’t touch the red wire with the black wire’ is written in the tiniest font size.” he complained.

“Tell me about it. I like baseball cards and, granted, I’m getting older, but I feel the text is laughably small on the back of the cards. Yes, they’re for kids. Some of these cards, but at the price of some of these packs, I don’t know how many kids can afford them.” I said.

Did I ask him what he was working on? No. Why get that in the way?

“You ever hire any of those Mexicans standing outside in the parking lot?” He asked me.

“Sure!” I said, “they know way more than I do.”

“Accurate. But they have a little cartel going. Everything is $75. Big job, little job, easy job, hard job: $75. What in the name of new math is that?” he asked, seriously perplexed.

“I don’t like to take advantage of our migrant friends, but I usually show them my $40 and ask, ok who wants this money for the job I have back at the crib?” I said. “Someone will go for it. And if it turns out big, I’ll give them some weed or something. A six pack.”

His name was Charlie. I know some Black guys have that name. Charlie Parker, for example. But he didn’t look like a Charlie. If it was a longer ride I would have told him that.

“God bless these motherfuckers who make these 2 minute YouTube videos, though, man,” Charlie said, rolling down the back window and spitting out some worn down gum.

“True,” I said. “What is their motivation?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to feel important? Maybe because they banged their head against the wall and when they figured it out they set their camera on a tripod and said, ‘imma tell y’all negros what i learned and here it be.'” Charlie deduced.

“Is that what you’re gonna do if the third time’s a charm today?” I asked.

“Hell naw. You think I know how to make a YouTube?” he chuckled.

Got him home. He got out. A few minutes later:

$3 tip.

i dont mind giving away my best ideas

When he got into my car he looked to be crying. He put his guitar, in its soft case, in the back seat and slid in next to it. He was going to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood about 20 minutes away.

I wanted to say “why the long face?” BUT HE HAD A LONG FACE so I just said, “is that one of those 7 or 8 string guitars?”

No, just 6, he mumbled, and sniffed.

He was a wholesome looking, young, Chinese student from Shanghai, I learned, who had been here since the fall. I kept asking him to speak up because I needed to know how I could cheer him up.

Finally I turned off the music and said, “look Amigo, you’re in LA now, even if you’re sad, you have to express it. You’re an artist, a music maker. I’m a sensitive poet myself, but you’re in a safe space here. However, there’s no mumbling in this Benz. If you wanna cry, we can cry.”

I took off my Cubs cap to reveal my freshly shaved bald dome, “TRUST ME, WE BOTH HAVE THINGS TO CRY ABOUT. So tell me what’s got you down.”

He looked up at me and smiled. I put back on my cap. And he said, “I don’t have many friends. There are many better players in school than me. I don’t fit in. I will go back home to China a failure. I will have to work in a factory.”

OK good, thank you for telling me. Now whats the name of your band? I asked.

He said he wasn’t in a band.

Mistake numero uno, I said. In Isla Vista you’d have two bands. In Austin you’d be in 5 bands. In LA, you need to start a band by the end of this month. Stop being so serious. Just find a bunch of other lonely loners at your school, start jamming, drink some White Claws or some shit and cull the Spirit!

He didn’t say anything. Just looked out the window as we waited at the light in Echo Park. I had picked him up at some cheapass apartment complex near downtown.

You know what I’m gonna do for you, Chaichi? I’m gonna give you my best rock n roll idea. Steal it, improve on it, ignore it if you want, but pay attention, I am twice your age and have seen most of the great bands and I am so envious that you can do the one thing I cannot do: rock the devil’s banjo.

What you do is get three guys who are even more shy and quiet than you. Tell them to get matching outfits. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Maybe matching tshirts and the same color pants. They will be the fake band. Give them a name like 69 Count Topsheet. It doesn’t matter because no one will remember it.

They will get on stage, and as soon as they start playing, you and your actual band will bust through the doors dressed as burglars. You know what a burglar looks like?

Bro said no. So I pulled over, searched for the Hamburglar on Google on my phone, showed it to him and went back to driving. Was I making him late? Details, details, I was changing his life.

So you and your band, dressed as Burglars: striped shirts, black pants, and ski masks with eyes cut out, grab 69 Count Topsheet, tie them to each other with rope, another one of your friends, also dressed as a burglar, with his hand in his hoodie pocket yells at them DO NOT FUCKING MOVE!

Then you grab the mic and say “WE ARE THE MOTHER FUCKING BURGLARS AND WE ARE GONNA STEAL YOUR HEARTS. ONE TWO THREE FOUR”

And you rock, you man.

I don’t know if they believe in the devil or dragons or eagles or thunder or darkness or what over there in Shanghai but you embody it for 45 seconds of yelling and playing and staccato rhythms and the tightness they probably teach you in those worthless Fusion classes over there.

“Hey I like Fusion,” he sniffed.”

Then use it in the punk rock. And after that 45 seconds, the Burglars stop on a dime, theres a breath silence, and then you solo as fast as you can.  Show that crowd of 13 people what you have up your sleeve. Rock out with your cock out as the Bard used to say.

And then you stop on a dime again and you say. Thank you, this one is called “100 Miles And Runnin'” from our favorite band N.W.A and you play the fastest version anyones ever heard of that song.

 

“Who’s N.W.A?” he asked.

Doesn’t matter. Learn it. Teach it to the boys. BE WORTHY OF YOUR INSTRUMENTS. And fucking deliver that shit down the gaping maws of the 20 people who have suddenly appeared in the crowd.

“I love this,” he mumbled.

One thing tho, do not say the n-word when you sing this. Say Ninja, I advised.

“What is the n-word?” he asked, intrigued.

Look it up. Never say it. Ninja. Only say ninja.

Then play one more song. Don’t make it longer than 2 minutes. And when it’s over, run out with their guitars to your awaiting van, and speed off.

Woah.

But you’re not speeding anyway, you are driving around the corner. There you will tear off your burglar clothes, and put on your cop outfits. You will then run into the club and say “WHO CALLED 911?”

69 Threadcount will say “THE BURGLARS STOLE OUR EQUIPMENT!”

And you, as a cop, will say, which way did they go?

And then you will run back out and, Friend, if you do this right, all 30 people who witnessed that will never be able to stop telling their pals about what they saw. It’s theater, punk rock, and if you’re any good at that six string: true rock n roll the way the Blacks intended.

The Burglars, he said.

The Burglars, I said, and turned back on the radio.

$3 tip.

hey paul

i was nearly home but i hadn’t been to the movies since puss n boots two weeks ago.
the only problem with the movies is they charge you $7 for coke,
so when i saw a trip request to burbank, sorta near the batman statue amc, and it was paying $20 bc it was rush hour. i took it.
the pickup was four blocks from my house. my weed vape was on my nightstand and it was getting chilly, it sure would be nice to have a jacket if i was gonna be out at night.
so as i was heading toward “paul” i got the courage to do the impossible: to ask him if it was ok if i swung by my place so i could get my jacket. andmyweed.
paul was in a jean jacket, jeans, work boots. the place i picked him up was a house getting a remodel. not the greatest, but a house, nevertheless.
i asked him if i could swing. he said sure man, of course. and i was so grateful. did the thing and we were on the road.
so were you working at that house? i asked.
no, i work in compton, thats my homies’ place. we were celebrating bc he just got out of jail.
what was he in for, i asked, definitely feeling i was crossing a line, but shoot your shot mj
some bullshit, he said.
i was never good at getting people to tell me why they were in jail.
theres a few areas of los feliz and silver lake where during rush hour traffic is near stand still. i was eluding those and somehow catching every light as it was about to turn yellow.
and then he said, as a matter of fact, i was in the same joint he was at.
the supermax in valencia
i turned down the ted nugent and said
go onnnnnnnnnn
he laughed and told me about a failed armed robbery he had nothing to do with other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time
for you, i asked every question and he gave me every answer.
q: on the tv show Oz, everyone is seperated by race – the Blacks, the whites and the mexicans. is that true?
a: no. the whites and the latinos are teamed up against the Blacks and the Others. also, i have never heard of Oz.
he was 21. seemed older. but trusted me for some reason. maybe bc he saw earlier how the bike security guard from the church next door was waiting for me at my car outside my apt when i returned with my jacket andweedthing
q: Oz was hbo’s first great series before the sopranos. it was about a penitentiary. in Oz the whites were white supremacists even if they weren’t. they had to fit in. so some played along.
a: even the real white supremacists had to partner with the latinos because they would be outnumbered by the Blacks and Others.
i told him i appreciated him being cool with all of my questions. he said it was chill. and, you know, it was.
q: if i was in jail id want to do shitloads of drugs and work out. how do you get drugs?
a: the best way is Happy Mail. the guards check everything that gets sent to you and they read everything. so you can’t have them write you anything other than they miss you and they cant wait to see you again. and then they’ll be a picture of them in there. that picture has been dipped 100s of times into heroin or pcp or meth. when you get it, you put it in hot hot water.
q: and you drink it??
a: no you lay on your back back, and slowly snort it.
q: and that gets you high?
a: it fucks you up. hardcore.
i had done 15 trips up until then, most of them really good, this one though. woah.
q: please tell me rape in jail is a terrible myth.
a: at the supermax there is only one small shower, and only one man can be in there at a time. at county it’s a different story, big showers, lots of people. things happen if you haven’t played your cards right.
q: what was it like being in there during covid?
a: the a/c was broken and they never let us outside. i never saw daylight because the one little square of window we had in our dormitory faced the hill.
i asked him if he would be a guest on my podcast. he said yes. they all say yes.

haters call it the university of spoiled children

which i think is unfair.

just like i don’t agree when people say the younger generation who attend this private school are “entitled.”

ive driven lots of kids, who attend various colleges in LA and they’re all different.

i did run into someone the other day who was either entitled or just not with it.

USC has a Target across the street from its campus. Next to it is a Trader Joe’s. The complex is called The Village and it is very popular day and night.

To get into the parking garage under these establishments, one must get in a line of cars, that extends a good block some times. I was there during one of those times.

Now if I was a smart college student I would walk across the street to where the fire department is because then the rideshare car can easily pick you up at the curb. But these students don’t do that. They stand at the curb next to the Target next to the lane of cars trying to enter the parking structure.

Drivers like me have to drive in the center lane and usher the passengers in, illegally. Dangerously.

Wanda was waiting at this precarious location Saturday afternoon. I got in the center lane, yelled at her to come on in. She obliged, got to me, opened the door, tossed her bag in and said, “my friend is up the stairs with two cases of water, can you park at the curb there?”

She pointed to the lane of cars waiting their turn to turn right into the parking garage.

If this lane was this empty at the time, I would have had no problem picking her up at the curb. However, it was not like this at the time. Nor is it ever.

“You want me to loop around and then block all these people from turning right?” I asked.

By the way, minutes before we had this discussion I called her when I saw the traffic jam and asked her to wave her hand so I could see if she was truly in the worst spot imaginable. She was.

“I’m wearing a red sweatshirt that says USC on it.”

If I had a dollar for every person wearing a red USC sweatshirt going in and out of the Target and Trader Joe’s, I would have $100 dollars.

When she realized that, yes, it would be very rude of me to block traffic so she and her roommate could eventually get their cases of water in my car, she looked at me dumbfounded.

I said, “I’m going to park across the street and wait. You two figure out how to get your water from Target to me.”

She pouted.

“This exercise is easier than getting into USC, trust me.” I said.

Half hour later they were in my car. A male Target employee, carried the water for them. Hero.

No tip.

For either of us

watts ride it

as my uncle, rip, would say, “he was Black as night.”
picked him up at the Southeast LAPD station. two miles from Watts. so, yes, the Hood, as I would say.
why was i in the Hood picking up someone at the police station at 9am? the cool answer is: bc danger is my middle name.
sadly my middle name is hugh and the actual answer is: if you drop off a passenger at LAX at 8am, it’s quicksand all around there. you want to go north to Santa Monica or Venice or lord help you Brentwood, because all of those areas are surging bc all those people are going to work via uber.
and even though those places look close on the map, after 7:30 they may as well be in milwaukee. the traffic is so bad you’ll be lucky if you even get to the 405 let alone traverse. tra-goodluck.
so i went east down Century through Inglewood. stopped off at burger king bc their croissanwich is underrated and sometimes they’ll over do it with the bacon, which’ll kill you, but lol no one thinks of death in the hood. youve never been more alive.
did a ride or two and kept heading east in part because these are all streets, not freeways. and ppl in the hood are already at work at this hour. streets are calm. then i noticed it was surging in watts.
watts is poor and crime ridden. the average income for the whole household is $25k, which seems impossible, but anythings possible in los angeles.
which is the real reason i accepted the ride from the southeast lapd station to the 77th street station today. it could be a cop, it could be a crook, it could be the mom of a guy who needed to get released and she went to the wrong spot. for all i know it could be the most ballsy graffiti artist of our time who loves tagging ‘hear in la’ on police station walls.
turned out it was a guy Black as night, wearing a covid mask around his chin, and waiting for me as i approached the station.
he ran to my car and got in.
“glad Pookie busted you out,” i said, wearing my mask correctly, over my mouth.
“Pookie?” he asked, and then getting the joke, laughed and said, “fa sho” and laughed.
big guy. handsome. great hair. but it wasn’t done. it was uneven and it made me wonder how long they had him in the holding cell.
he told me he was in a car with two of his buddies and “a female.”
the car belonged to the parents of one of his buddies. let’s call him Dumbshit. Dumbshit is in and out of the System so often, his own father forgot he was no longer in jail, so when he noticed his 2018 Honda Accord was not in front of the apartment, where he left it, he reports it stolen to the cops. turns out his son Dumbshit asked the mom for the keys, which she gave him, and he went out with the boys, and the female.
a few hours after reporting it stolen, the dad asks the mom why she’s cooking so much food. she says, because Dumbshit is home.
when did he get out? the dad asks.
this afternoon. he’s partying with his friends right now and when he comes home i want him to have a little treat.
oh shit, the dad says and calls the cops to unreport the car as being stolen but guess what, Dumbshit, his friend, my passenger and the female were already face down on Figueroa Avenue with cops surrounding them when the dad realized he should never call the LAPD for anything because they seem to drag their feet until they don’t.
and not only didn’t they drag their feet last night, there was a copter above the scene where my dark as night passenger was asking himself what on earth is happening here?!?!
were you scared they were gonna shoot you?
i was positive they were going to shoot me, he said. even though no one was arguing, no one was resisting, no one was refusing to hand over ID. nothing. he knew that because they had been drinking and smoking in the hood with people who look like he does, that makes cops make mistakes sometimes.
just like the dad did
just like i did being at LAX at 8am.
luckily no mistakes were made last night on Fig. so this morning my man was picking up some property the cops had confiscated from him when they searched everyone.
and he thought it was at southeast but it was really 77th so thats where i took him
and the next ride was with this well dressed mexican girl and her multi face tattooed bf and their dog who were going to union station to get on a train to then go on a cruise.
the french bulldog, one year old, weezed the entire trip. i felt so badly for him.
they paid $4,000 for him, she told me.
no tip.