manish was an indian gentleman from amarillo texas who is married to a guatemalan lady.
picked him up in the rain and dark of LAX where it was also cold.
i did not want to get him and take him to the north hollywood hampton inn for this reason: it was the first offer i received shortly after i had dropped off a dancer at jetblue. and typically i liked to decline a few rides to get a sense of how much uber is offering at that time.
also sometimes you get lucky and do a short trip around LAX for $14 from like a hotel to a rental car agency. these are $6 rides that get overpriced for some reason. what can i do?
but it was rainy and i would $29 and miraculously at that hour of the early evening the estimated time to get out there was a little over an hour so i said fine. who wants manish to wait in the rain for someone willing to go over the hill into the val?
as soon as he got in (no luggage, just a duffel bag and apologies), i could hear a young girls voice on his face time. maybe 5 years old?
sweetheart i will call you right back, please let me talk with the taxi man.
he clicked the button, paused, said hi and asked if i wouldnt mind stopping at a liquor store before we got to the hotel.
i was in a fantastic mood bc of the dancer, and the rides before those, and how well my new podcast episode was being received (i had been extremely nervous – it was about local politics, of which my guest is an expert and i am not one bit) that i said, for you, manish, anything.
he got back onto facetime.
and what did you have for dinner? he asked after showing her the dark streets of westchester that we glid down, shiny from the rain and the streetlights
quesadillas and carne asada she sang and then ok daddy i love you and quickly hung up.
after manish and i talked for a while i realized when he said ‘my hampton inn’ he didn’t mean the one i was driving him to, but the one he co-owned in armadilla
as softspoken and overly polite and gentle that manish was, he loved rum. (same.) but back in the day he would often find himself drunk.
a few years ago he was simply the manager of the hampton inn nestled right off the highway not far from a busy oil field that kept the rooms booked. one night, he was mighty buzzed but wanted one more bottle to say goodnight to.
so he stumbled into a nearby liquor store and struck up a conversation with a man from china.
aren’t you the manager of the hotel?
yes. yes. manish said sheepishly, slightly embarrassed he might smell of dark bacardi.
my brother has been buying little hotels in the states: best westerns, motel 6s, driftwoods, and fixing them up and raising the price and turning a healthy profit.
as it happened, the hotel was about to go up for sale. when it did the chinese man bought it and told manish he would make him a co-owner and partner if he ran the place. which he did. and as the profits began to flow, manish bought 5 acres that had two nice houses on it. he planned on renting the other one.
but then he saw carla.
who had come in to apply for the housekeeping manager job.
carla was recently divorced and had a daughter.
manish, a hindu from calcutta, hired her and a month later proposed.
wait a second my man. i interrupted, raising my hand and stopping the story.
yes sir anthony, he said.
was it awkward asking this newly hired woman on a date?
im sorry anthony, but in my culture we do not date.
i thought a minute and said ok, but did you two smooch or something before you proposed?
i do not know what smooch means but i am certain i did not do it to her. we never touched. i proposed and she said yes.
manish you devil, i said and applauded him from the front seat.
the 405 was super clear. possibly the rain and accurate forecast all week of its arrival convinced angelenos to stay home. but it was done for the night and the carpool lane was magic.
after the wedding manish’s inlaws moved into the second house. a few years later he made his own child with carla, a daughter.
and as the profits from the hotel continued to fill his coffers, he bought chickens and goats for the girls, and most recently two ponies.
i went back to clapping.
no no anthony, all of these things are quite affordable in amarillo.
but what do you know about horses? im sure you gotta pay a guy for those?
carlas father is a ranch hand. hes an expert with horses. and very grateful for the free house.
together we went into great detail about the operating expenses of his hotel. as we sped past the getty center and he asked me what time LA liquor stores close.
i said either midnight or two am, depending. and asked him what time they close there and he said 8pm. the clock said 8:15pm.
i said have no fear manish, i will get you the booze you want if i have to raid my own liquor cabinet. of which i have none, im a stoner, but its nice to imagine an old school globe on wheels which opens up to a fully stocked booty of booze.
he told me he doesnt like to drink around his daughter and when i asked him if he knocked back a few on the plane he said he didn’t want the older woman next to him to think he was going to lose his mind and attack her, so he had no drinks.
i will have two drinks as i wait for my food to be delivered, then i will have a third as i eat it, he said, staring out of the window, visualizing the rum being poured into those feeble plastic hotel cups.
i quietly prayed that he brought his own tumbler in that mysteriously small duffel bag.
it killed me that i didnt know the valley very well because i wanted to give him a postmates recommendations for his dinner.
instead i told him about pijja palace in silver lake, the brainchild of a young indian guy who was combining italian foods with his moms favorites. so like indian pizza or curry pasta. the tiktok kids were loving it.
we got in a rabbit hole about food as i transitioned to the 101 and he said, now you wont forget about my liquor store will you anthony?
i said manish, you need to trust me the same way you trust those ponies with your sweet angels. in a perfect world i would be a hotel front desk manager because customer service is my middle name
tony joaquin customer service bukowski
and we laughed but i said seriously i know the coolest liquor store of all and its right near your hotel
im so sorry antony but i do not require the coolest, best, or fanciest los angeles liquor store, i would be very happy with the closest one en route.
and i said no problemo. then realized he probably knew a little spanish and worried he may have taken it the wrong way.
then i asked why he was out here and he said the chinese partner wanted him to meet his brother because they want to buy more hotels and really, truly partner with him and grow the little empire
but tony i do not want any more.
i love my life. we work. we come home. theres our family.
satisfaction is not impossible to attain if you only concern yourself with having a good meal on your table every night and stop obsessing about more more more.
i completely agree with you manish, i said and noticed how he watched a small liquor store come and go and i did not turn in.
he became quiet.
and a minute later, a long minute, i watched in the rear view as we approached Circus Liquors, and he heard my blinker click click click click click click