I did everything wrong tonight driving Uber/Lyft

I went to USC even though my Uber sherpa told me not to. I got a burrito in West LA even though we know that’s not the best spot. I wasted at least 45 minutes trying to get my Benz key fob battery replaced at midnight.

And I didn’t tell this beautiful woman from MIT I was in love with her and we should start a family in South Pass.
But I did drive. Even though I wanted to just snuggle up with a series of giant bongloads and ice cream, I got out there into the night and drove until 3am for several reasons including we only die once.
His name was Richie he was an Asian millenial from Culver City who had just gotten back from Vegas where he was ‘consulting’ with a super rich nepo baby.
Richie works for a well known bank has a job where in order to keep their best customers happy, he’s instructed to hang out with a few of them to wine, dine, and visit boobies.
Richie has done this with this in Hollywood, North Hollywood, West Hollywood, Atlanta and TJ with this particular gentleman who trades stocks through him, finances homes, boats, small businesses, but is basically a 60-year-old teenager who can’t get enough of the best things in life. Blondes, redheads, and mexican hookers.
My passenger says he has an expense account but it only goes so far. So when the client told him, ‘meet me at burbank airport on noon Friday,’ there was Richie with a little rolly suitcase, a business casual outfit, and some comfortable shoes because they were going to gamble and drink and maybe snort somethings. But he knew they were really gonna spend a bunch of quality time at the Spearmint Rhino
home of “more 10s than I’ve ever seen, dude,” he told me.
oh, I know, I agreed. not only have I been a customer, I shared with Richie, but i once ubered a young lady from Brentwood to LAX and when I helped her with her lil rolly bag it was light as a feather and i was stiff as a board.
Richie was back there in the dark backseat. Head leaned all the way back, wiping his nose as we cruised down the 10 towards the palisades – another place i shouldn’t have gone to bc once you’re there late at night you can get stuck, but the angels were with me.
he was downing purple Gatorade while telling me how he blew through a grand at the Rhino in just a few hours because you can get a private room for $300 for 15 minutes, and then the bottle girl pours you and the dancer two shots for $100
to myself i thought, they ripped you off my man. but i just listened. a rarity.
later he told me of an adventure they had last year where they flew to san diego, took an uber to the border, walked over the bridge, and got to the infamous Tijuana Hong Kong strip club slash brothel.
if this guys so rich why’s he humpin mexican girls in TJ i asked
dude, i dont know. he can have anyone. he just likes talking dirty to skinny mexican hookers.
did you get any of them i asked?
no. i needed to make sure he didnt get robbed.
typically i wouldnt have gotten along with a guy like Richie. he seemed a tad frattish, a little elite, but for some reason we hit it off. sex drugs rock. and he was keeping it real with me. i appreciated that.
sorta reminded me of the boy scout from Up, but all grown, uh, up.
told me about one time he talked his client out of going to mexico and instead took him to commerce where there are just as many skinny mexican dancer prostitutes except a lot less danger. there he got a $350 half and half he called it.
beautiful beautiful woman, he smiling like it had just happened.
and i thought, i could never do any of that in a million years. im so much a germaphobe. Plus how am i gonna explain myself at the pearly gates? she was pretty?
St. Peter’s gonna say, they were all pretty. wtf tony.
but Richie looked so happy talking about it. like he was surprised she got down on her knees so quickly when he pulled out his roll of cash.
i wanted to ask him about the music because thats my favorite part of strip clubs but began nodding off and in the dark s-turns of the wooded palisades i was getting a little sleepy too.
$0 tip.

drove 14 trips last night at usc for lyft

fratboys make the news
but theres lots of wholesome kids over there.

on the last trip i was talking music
with a beautiful young woman
who was all you dont know lana del rey
my gray hairs were obvious in my beard

yeah youre probably right i said hey who’s yr favorite painter

artist? she asked.probably vincent van gogh.

weird, i said, cuz mines norman
fucking
rockwell

the winner of the shortest skirt in hollywood was drunk


she was waiting impatiently for me as i approached the curb outside the crowded club

long legs, tall shoes, not much of a top and a tiny jacket

its february and about to rain, in any other situation i would have assumed she was a hooker

but clubs these days, i guess thats the look

“do you have a plastic bag i could use?”

omg she needs to barf.

i’ll just pull over and you can do it on the curb. i can wait.

no i really want to get home she said and buried her face into my always at the ready barf bag

one reason i dont drive at night – it was almost 2am – is because ppl either want to

fight you, fuck you, or barf in your car.

im too sexy for all those things so i just avoid the night, which hurts my wallet because you can make some great money at night

this trip, which is why i accepted it, was gonna pay me $44 to take her 18 minutes to the east of hollywood, the san gabriel valley, home to some of the best asian food in the usa

things i would have asked her about if i wasnt paranoid she was going to puke while falling asleep

or any number of ways for the face in the bag to fail

trust me they were all zipping through my head as i weaved in and out of lanes on the 101 freeway

other ubers, cabs, and drunks were annoying creeping the speed limit. there wasnt much traffic. there was no need for that.

i needed to get her home. pretty legs flirting with me. tattoos that said talk to me. hi tony.

itd been a while since i saw legs like that. thin but not scrawny. pale even in the moonlight. how old was she? never got a good look. she had rushed into the front seat of my car, which is usually not allowed but women have a way of being allowed exceptions

even if your little skirt defies gravity and sense

cute little silver purse sparkling.

enormous phone which had been dropped onto my dirty floor glowing from someone texting her

r u ok? someone wanted to know.

shhhh she is. let her cover her entire face some more.

i believe in angels because she was so tiny and vulnerable a bad man even lonlier than i could have, and maybe would have, done something terrible

so they put her in my car because i’d like to go to heaven to meet these angels one day

maybe she was one, visiting earth on spring break, not remembering her tolerance, and whoops drunk on hollywood blvd

which is dangerous no matter who you are.

with 5 minutes to go i wanted to tell her the time but what if that made her puke? i kept quiet as supertramp’s breakfast in america played quietly.

when we turned the corner to her house i said my only words

im proud of you

i tried so hard, she said.

you did it.

nite.

manny the gambler

his name was manny, he was mexican american. lives in mexico, works in altadena where he wipes an old mans ass.

a caregiver i picked up at LAX where it was dead all over LA so when the $41 ping came in asking if i wanted to haul him across town with an ETA of an hour i said hell yes.

not sure how he was an american citizen but he said he was one, not a super thick accent but it was there. fucked up teeth. laid back style. happy. comfortable. we immediately got to talking.

manny was making way more money than me. the old man paid him $300 a day to live in the house with him and his wife in a big house north of pasadena. no days off during the week, but every three months he was allowed to fly back down to mexico to see his wife and son, freddy.

freddy had just turned two.

after little bonuses, manny was paid $100k a year to do the things this man needed which was mostly to lift him out of bed, clean him, help him poop, feed him, and do some light housework for the old lady. the boss was an executive back in the day. plenty of money but got parkinsons in his late 50s and was quickly falling apart.

i hate to say it but it sounds like a boring job, manny.

it is. and its led me to gambling because i sit next to him as he mumbles and i study the horses.

oh at santa anita? (which is nearby)

everywhere. los alamitos, belmont park, i even bet on races in Japan.

what’s your system? i used to read a lot of Charles Bukowski who would drive from San Pedro to Santa Anita and he’d study the racing forms in the passenger seat as his wife drove.

i dont have a system, he said, i lose a lot. but i try to stick to betting on hot jockeys and trainers.

he then admitted he has a bit of a gambling problem where he’s lose $300-$500 a day on bad days, break even on good days and win on very good days.

it’s the app, he said, it lets me play all day, all night. i have to cut down in 2024.

when things turn sad only halfway through a trip, i try to redirect it to happier paths.

what was the best day of gambling you had in 2023?

manny perked up. i won $5,000 on a daily double. i put down $100 on a long shot and a favorite and it paid off.

what did you do with the money?

well im saving for a bar i want to build in mexico in my hometown. so i put $1,000 into that account and i bought some clothes and went to the strip club and fucked the hottest girl there.

wait what.

her name was selena.

was this in mexico or here?

in East LA amigo.

wait wait you can fuck the strippers here?

many laughed so hard he started hiccuping. yes amigo!

how much do you have to pay?

$500, $600. she takes you to a little room. theres no bed, no couch. its just a little platform with some cushions. but its enough privacy and safety that you can do what you want to do. and i did everything.

everything?

everything, ass, mouth, i ate her out. it was exelente.

i paused and said, manny, am i a germaphobe? am i a prude? i dont think id go down on a stripper. ive kissed a stripper once in vegas because she had this tongue piercing and i kept staring at it and she said buy me a glass of champagne and you can kiss it. so i did.

same thing, my friend. these girls are no dirtier than the ones you’re already kissing. i ate her out good and id do it again.

so what kind of bar are you saving up for?

a strip club.

are there no strip clubs in your hometown in mexico?

yes, but they’re all crowded. we could use another one.

and your wife would be ok with this dream of yours?

she knows who i am. just last night i was fucking her and my son was on one side of her and i was behind her but i didnt care. she knows im wild. i am wild. but she likes the money i make here and she likes the house i built for her from money from that old man. and she knows this bar will be what gets us a bigger house.

but you just built one!

si, but to be honest tony we learned a lot building that house and i will never start from scratch again. the next one will be a house thats already built and i will just add little things to it and rent out the house my wife and son are in now.

we were going to the mall next to the race track. manny was hungry.

where do you want me to drop you off?

the cheesecake factory.

but of course.

trust me i have not stopped thinking about her

her name was Bella. she tried to kiss me last night from my back seat not long before the ball dropped.

i picked her up around 11pm in toluca lake in front of a crowded bar. her former boss, a woman, was drunk and needed a ride home to pasadena and Bella was being so sweet.

the whole way to Pass the drunk ex boss was all, “Bella i feel so guilty, you’re so young, you should be out there, im so embarrassed you are coming with me.”

and Bella was all, “Martha, you hired me. you promoted me. you were alway the best boss to me. it’s ok. Tony here will take me to your house and take me back. It’s my pleasure to do this. You would do it for me too.”


which is all true and this is just another reason women are so lovely.

dudes would draw a dick on their friends face with marker and call him a pussy and toss him into the uber and give the wrong address. but there they were: two slurring women hugging each other as we sped east down the 134 through Glendale.

dropped Martha off and Bella started confiding in me saying she was sad because “the boy ive been talking with said he couldnt make it to the bar tonight, and i’m sad. i really like him. he’s the hottest guy at [big company].”

i was talking to her while peeking at the rear view mirror to try to judge how hot she was, but I intentionally try not to look at my female passengers at night because I have enough problems as a Libra falling in love with people instantly.

let me ask some questions Bella, if you don’t mind.

yes please, Tony, she said. By the way she called me Tony at the end of every sentence. a tad annoying but whatever. it was 20 minutes there, 20 minutes back, and i was making $46 because of all the nights a year you make reasonable money, new years eve is one of the top three.

have you been on a date with him before?

define date tony.

you arrange to do something, he picks you up, you do the thing, theres some sexual tension when he drops you off at home, if you’re lucky theres a smooch and then you tell all your bffs immediately what you want to name his babies.

we did have 1 date, at a brewery, and there was a kiss, tony.

when was that?

two months ago.

i hate to tell you this Bella, but handsome boy has too many options. thats why there hasnt been a second date and why he didnt wanna go to toluca lake for nye.

and she started to cry.  fuck.

through the sobs she told me shes 25, lives with her immigrant mom, and feels like she is behind her friends and The World.

i was all, bella, it’s not a race. also, do you wanna be a 30 year old divorcee with two kids? there are worse things than being an incredibly big hearted 25 year old in the back of the greatest uber in LA

she laughed and blew her nose into the jack in the box stack of napkins i handed her.

do you have cats, Bella?

yes! yes i do tony!

ok if your cats are fed and snoozing across the room and you are on the couch and you want them to come to you and lay on your lap, and you call them or scratch the couch pillow next to you do they come?

no, tony.

do they come if you haven’t fed them?

sometimes tony.

you cant feed these bitch boys baby. let this pretty man starve a little. stop telling him about places youre gonna be. stop inviting him to go hiking, thinking youre gonna lure him in your Alo pants. every girl has Alo pants.

i have Lululemon, tony.

i paused imagining that pretty voice in canadian seethru pants.

do you know what im saying Bella?

but tony what if he never texts me again?

Bella, we live in the second most populous city in the united states. what is your background?

i’m Salvadorian.

do you have any kids or an ex husband?

no.

no offense but what? do you know rare it is for a beautiful 25 year old Latina to enter a dating  situation with no kids?

she started crying again comparing herself to the others.

no need to cry. you have an advantage over all the chicas. you dont see that when you go to Latin clubs?

i dont go to clubs, tony.

well promise me in 2024 you will. because you will get eaten alive. in the best way.

and we pulled over in front of the bar.

by the way, the entirety of the ride back she was leaned forward in that back seat, she kept bumping my side with her hand because she wanted to talk closer to me. occasionally she would say sorry if she hit my side hard.

i was wearing my covid mask.

at the curb she didnt leave that position. very close to me. she tried an awkward hug but mostly got the back of my seat. then she kissed at my face but pecked 89% mask.

i turned around to her.

trust me, dear reader, if anyone was overdue for a smooch at that time it was yours truly. i havent gotten a good old fashioned sloppy one since my last gf. years ago. its been quite the dry spell. but Bella was slurring, clearly emotional, and trust me, i know what i could have said to have gotten a tiny bit of action on one of those tree lined side streets off Riverside Drive.

but thats playing with fire.

so when i turned around to her, she retreated and laid back in the seat so i could get a good look at her for once and holy 2024, fresh face, beautiful hair, well pressed blouse and a pair of oversized Ann Taylor slacks you’d see Lauren Bacall wear with a blazer and no shirt.

she was dressed to get kissed.

and here it was 11:45pm and her body language was saying come here dummy.

i said holy shit bella youre a knock out. here’s the business card to my podcast. my email address is on the bottom.

next week i want you to go to a latin club in this exact outfit, and go alone and dance and speak spanish and if you are not the princess of the dancefloor with every guy in a cowboy hat sipping Modellos. and if they don’t all swarm you and fight over you, email me and tell me im an idiot.

youre not an idiot tony. and she leaned forward and took a picture of the business card and tried to kiss me again but i gave her mask.

she plopped back in the seat and pouted.

i could smell her ariana grande Ari perfume as i waved good bye when she finally slid out of the car. i waved but didnt look back because looking is what leads to these stories ending forever.

no tip from martha.

aphantasia girl

her name was alice, chinese, 27 looked 20, waiting at the dennys about a mile away from LAX

it was 10pm. it’s the end of December. do you know where your dreams are? 9,000 people were scheduled to arrive at the airport either coming back from Christmas with family, or jetting to LA for New Years Eve.

lyft was offering a bonus bribe of $10 on any trip out of LAX, bc its a shitshow and surely they added that to the fare.

the rideshare waiting lot is usually filled with 100 cars of chainsmoking men who dont really wanna drive but for sure dont wanna be home with their families. so they sit there for an hour for a $20 ride to hollywood which will take them another hour. so sit there an make $10 an hour gross?

gross indeed.

upstairs in the horseshoe it was bumper to bumper because lots of people’s friends came to pick them up like good friends do. but do us all a favor. just pay for your friends’ uber. youre making things worse.

so i had this plan to drive just barely outside of area that would get me into the uber waiting lot queue. over by the rental car places. this way i could get all the pings that weren’t coming solely from the airport, and maybe someone dropping off a car.

it’s hard to explain but these little scraps of trips can turn out very profitable around the airport bc, well, the airport is where you get fucked. the hotels the rental cars the terminals itself. everyone is trying to suck as much out of you because you had the nerve to use an airplane to gtfo. cabs busses uber and lyft are no different and there was a time airport rides were The ride to get with rideshare but the companies made damn sure to end that gravy train real quick, maybe in hopes people wouldnt camp out in the waiting lots and drive around.

but control is an illusion. these drivers fucked up and got married too young or to the wrong woman or they hate their kids or they hate driving in LA so now they sit in that lot as pollutants rain down on them and time drains through the hourglass.

i sat in the benz for about twenty minutes on a dirty side road littered with potholes next to a couple of guys putting together their homeless tent and bedding for the night while it drizzled. i declined one bad offer after another. $5 to go to inglewood, $7 to go to hawthorne, $15 to go to dtla. love you too uber you so and so.

because it was so slow ,i only wanted long trips for big money, which is the only thing that woulda gotten the angry dads out of the lot too, so it was a stalemate of sorts.

which is why when alice’s ping came through for $45 to go to ontario i said hell yeah and nearly knocked over my super big gulp.

is ontario far? yes. but at that hour the eta was just over an hour. for reference, sometimes it takes me an hour to get from LAX to hollywood for $25, so… hell yes.

alice was peppy, sweet, borderline adorable and so full of life. she flew down here from frisco to go to a rave with some of her friends who would meet her at their airbnb

why was she at the dennys? uber wanted to charge her $400 when she opened her app up in the airport. so she figured she’d walk out of the airport and past all the hotels to the dennys.

as denzel washington said in training day: my n word

she was talkative and vulnerable and we were getting deep even before i made it over the 405 via the century freeway east

i asked sheepishly, so when you say you’re going to a rave, alice, are you one of those straight edge girls who are just there for the music and the plur or are you down to lose your mind on party drugs and dress up skimpy?

she giggled and admitted she is not at all straight edge.

“gosh do i look that innocent?” she said turning the light on her iphone and checking herself out in my backseat window.

before we got to the 110 we had already agreed on several things. the top was she should definitely move to australia to get away from all the dramas happening in her life, namely her demanding family. weird friend group. and lack of a mans.

if i was a million years younger i woulda humorously cleared my throat, but come on america, alice was sneaky hot.

then she told me about this rare condition she has and i was all i wish we were driving to ontario canada because it became so interesting as she told me about

aphantasia

she admitted with zero energy that she has no inner monologue and she cannot visualize anything.

“so if i say, ‘think of an apple,’ you can picture one, but i can’t. i know it’s green or red, but i can’t see it. stupid, right?”

alice, this is precisely why i drive a car in the middle of the night to the middle of nowhere in the LA winter rain. do not stop telling me everything.

she said, i also can’t solve problems in my head. so if i am at work, and someone asks me something hard, i will say, let me think about that, and i will put my head down but nothing happens. i shut down. im not thinking. im not feeling. im nothing. like a computer that has been unplugged. or a playstation on pause.

i said, alice, how can i phrase this, first of all, you’re incredible. i’m bursting with questions. my head throws raves normally, but now you have poured a bucket of lsd on it.

so my question is, have you ever had a boyfriend?

yes.

so when you kissed him, what would go through your mind?

nothing.

do you dream?

yes but i cant see anything.

so you’ve never had a nightmare?

i’ve had nightmares.

you’re amazing i told her.

i am happy you think that. so many people don’t take me seriously and i haven’t been able to find a therapist who can help me with issues that are unique to this condition, because only 6% of people have this.

way too quickly we got to the oddest airbnb because it was in a little suburban neighborhood with no trees because it was all new, row after row of the same looking tall narrow homes

i gave her my card and said,

take me with you to australia when you go. i’ll bring snacks.


$11 tip

freedom

Picked him up at the airport. He had his iphone ear buds in but he kept talking to me as we got out of LAX to his apartment in WeHo.

He was a screenwriter and novelist who asked me if I ever considered writing about driving rideshare.

As a matter of fact, I said…

He was very encouraging and I admitted I was stuck in the middle of the worst Catch-22.

“Any story I really want to tell is so juicy or has so much detail that I am afraid I will expose the passenger even if I change the name and the places and everything,” I said.

“The heart of the story will be about THAT person, that real human being who might be horrified if they saw what they told me in confidence end up on the page, or worse in a kickass Netflix series where each of these stories gets put to life with a different celebrity driver each week talking to a new celebrity passenger, acting out the tales I have written down.”

He took out the ear buds and said, “wait, I thought you had lived in LA for a while. I thought you had been in the business.”

I have, I said, questioning my answer.

“No no, this isn’t journalism,” he continued, “where if you see a building on fire and you write about it, it gets published in the paper the next day. The odds of you writing a story that gets bought AND produced is minimal.”

He went on.

“Most stories don’t get deals. And most deals don’t get made. It doesn’t matter who you are or what the topic is. Right now in the shelves all around Hollywood is another Hollywood’s worth of unproduced screenplays.”

My stories will never make it to Netflix?

Your stories will never make it to Netflix.

Then I am free.

You are. Write it down. All of it.

I floored it.

$6.43 tip.

for the win

his name was Win and he was crying.

i wasn’t doing so well myself because earlier in the day i had picked up some ADHD meds they finally decided to give me and it was not making me feel 100%, let’s say.
i was nauseous, out of sorts, and oddly horny.
i like to be at peak performance when i drive, and absolutely alert when im driving other people. even if they are crying in my backseat, which i rarely allow.

Win was a student at an art school studying Toy Making which i never knew was a thing, but i guess if George Lucas made more money off the Star Wars toys than he did the movie, someone figured ah, let’s join the cash grab.
he was crying because his teachers hated all of his concepts. he had to look up the phrase Basic Bitch after one of them put that in the notes of his most recent idea.
“i’m going to get kicked out of school. my mother is going to be so disappointed. the shame our family will endure will be too much,” he said between sniffles.
no one gets kicked out of art school i assured him, they want your money.
Win told me several of his classmates had been kicked out.
were they really booted or did they quit? i asked. people love to quit shit, i said.
he just cried and told me how his mother carried the whole family on her back after his father went to jail.
ok look, before i start crying, what do these teachers want, i asked.
they keep saying they want us to think Outside Box. they say they want Edge. they say they want New.
fuck. i sighed.
what happened, Win asked startled, probably concerned about the traffic or the Benz.
im Mr. Outside Box, i said quietly. but he heard.
YOU ARE? Please help me Anthony. Please.
here’s the problem bro I am the wrong person to help you. I am incredibly dark. I’m Black but im lightskinned because all the darkness is inside me. cut me, my blood looks like ink. any idea i give you will be great, but very few teachers ever gave me good grades. IT TOOK ME SIX YEARS TO GRADUATE COLLEGE!
please Mr. Anthony. Please!
Uber refuses to change my name to Tony, so trust me, it’s just as weird for me to hear that name as i’m sure it is for you.
Win, my heart is so dark im probably gonna go to Hell bc God judges us by our hearts and theres no faking that. also ive done bad things that im trying to make up for, but inside it’s borderline evil.
if I get kicked out, I have to return to China.
fine, Win, you wore me down. if you use this idea please do not mention me. if you end up making it and becoming rich, say it just dawned on you while you were in the back of an Uber driving around LA. do with it what you want.
he was all ears.
first when you pitch this, tell your teachers that once this becomes successful all of the profits needs to go to a homeless nonprofit like Invisible People.
ok ok but what is it.
In a way it’s a parody of Barbie, but it’s hyper realistic versions of homeless people. tents, shopping carts, half broken bicycles, weirdly healthy dogs, rickety structures covered with blue tarps, street lights that have been tapped into so the people can “steal” the electricity to run generators and little tvs.
and of course you have the figurines of the people. that should be the easy part. young people with face tattoos. dudes with giant coats on in the summer. a guy who’s mostly naked sleeping on a bus bench that has an armrest in the middle of the seat so people cant sleep on it, a guy with an almost new Kobe jersey, and a guy dressed up in his army fatigues.
Win gasped. so dark, he whispered.
and edgy, and Outside that fucking Box. i said as we drove through an overpass lined with tents, old RVs and port-a-potties.
very.
but here’s what i want you to do, i want you to either pee on it or figure out a way you can make them smell bad.
then Win said something that worried me. he said, we have chemicals that can make things smell like fruit or happiness.
do you have anything that smells like sadness?
yes.
sell the extra jars of bad smells separately.
Win was so quiet looking out the window. as if he had just been offered the opportunity to sell his soul to the devil for a really great slice of pizza.
each homeless person and two accessories like a tent or a skateboard is bundled in a pair of clean new athletic socks rolled in a ball the size of your fist. when someone buys the toys they should give the socks to the first homeless person they see.
you will not go to hell, Anthony, Win finally told me. you are very nice.
Nice? I said surprised. Now let me tell you about the second series of homeless toys. There will be a garbage truck, 5 cops, and 3 guys in yellow vests who roll by and put all the tents and things into the back of the garbage truck and make the homeless people leave.

then Win went back to crying.

picked up a black lady who was 66

she told me that she went to high school near the beach instead of in her local high school out there in the hood

i was driving her from the airport to her home on 60th street in south LA

i love driving these people so much it’s insane.

she told me about going to school by the airport in the 1970s

sock hops, football games, always eating lunch outside.

i was so excited when i became a senior because i could sit on the Senior Lawn and eat. she was beaming like she had just been blessed with this honor yesterday.

dont let them catch you sitting there if you werent a senior she said cackling

i asked everyone knew what year everyone was

oh yes. don’t let em catch you on that lawn, ya hear?

driving from near where her high school was to the house she grew up in near the 110 freeway would take us exactly 39 minutes so i asked her how long it took to take the bus to school every day

bus-ES she clarified, i took three busses. one to inglewood at market street, one to westchester and one to the school. it took about two hours each way, she said but she loved that school.

what was your mascot i asked and she searched her memory banks.

the comets.

on good conversations like the one we had i just turn the stereo down to one. kc and the sunshine band was playing when i caught her looking out the window as we zipped past dulans soul food on crenshaw

we would play crenshaw all the time. back then they were good. they hated us.

why?

because we were a white school. i was one of the few colored girls. they would wait for all us Black kids to get off the bus at Market to walk across the street to catch the next bus. they wanted to fight. i looked away. but i heard. i heard them call us all the most disgusting names just because we wanted to go to that school.

once we were beating them badly in basketball. my friend saw people were whispering. the whispering got to us.

get on the bus.

before the fourth quarter we were on a school bus

out of there.

$10 tip.

manish from tx

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.

A MONTH?

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

$11.78 tip