Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slouching Towards Crackland



Earl walks up to me at the Sidewalk Ritual location (the place where crack motel residents with nothing better to do all day walk out to the street and stare vacantly at the traffic in front of the motel).

It's high noon in the ghetto. Margo, one of our resident streetwalkers, is getting into a red pickup across the street at the Arco station. Traffic is heavy and I have a Falcon Inn hangover.


"Can you loan me a dollar?" Earl asks.


"Whadoi look like? Shanty Clause?"


"No, man. For real," Earl pleads, "I just came back from GR (social services General Relief). I got my papers. I get my money tomorrow. For real. Can you loan me a dollar? For real, man. I got my papers!"


"I had a poodle once," I say, "He had papers . . . but I never loaned him a dollar."


I can't believe my insensitivity. Must be the hangover. Liz the bartender was really playing me for drinks last night . . . kept toying with her low cut jeans, hooking her thumbs under the waistband and flashing the top of her pubic tattoo in my face when the other bar patrons weren't looking.


Creepy, my crack motel roommate, isn't around at the moment. He's probably walking around the neighborhood this morning in his fire engine red shorts and a '50s 'Leave It To Beaver' gray/green stripped shirt.


Or, if one of his movie extra checks came in, maybe he's sashaying up and down the isles of the 99 Cent Store on Hawthorne, fondling the bars of flea soap and giggling nervously like a schoolgirl who has just been informed by a classmate that the purple dinosaur has no penis. I don't know. I haven't checked the parking lot for his car. All I know is that we had the following conversation before he left:


"James," (waking me) "James. Are you working tonight? Do you have a girl?" (referring to my spurious work
driving callgirls to their outcall appointments)


"Umphff. Yes."


"I mean, are you working tonight and tomorrow night?"


"Umphff. Yes. Tuesday and Wednesday"


"Oh. Okay."


"Umphff. Actually, I think she's going to use Robert for Wednesday night, though."


Creepy walks over to my sleeping couch and stands over me with a confused look on his face.


"So, you're NOT working Tuesday (tonight) and Wednesday nights?"


"She'll probably use another driver Wednesday night."


Creepy takes two steps back and tries to digest the information, smacks his lips in disgust and whines, "Just tell me. Are you working Tuesday and Wednesday nights?"


"Yes. Yes I am."


Creepy likes to know where I'm going to be because of my nasty habit of changing flophouse motels without telling him. He keeps finding me, though. There are only so many flophouse motels in
Gardena.


I walk over to the
Arco gas station where Betty makes me a fresh pot of coffee. Kimmie, the young Asian manager, comes out from the manager's office to chat with me. Margo The Daytime Strawberry gets out of the red pickup and immediately begins trolling the Arco parking lot for her next prostitution customer.


"Man, I can't believe she's done already. That was fast!" I say.


"They're not thinking about intimacy (the guys who drive around this neighborhood in red pickups looking for pickups) you know," Betty says, "They're ready. Right to business. It doesn't take that long when they're ready," she says with a far off look in her face, a look that says she knows whereof she speaks maybe from a cousin or an old girlfriend and is reliving one of those moments.


"I can't do that," I say, "I can't drive around with an erection. Too much blood rerouted from my brain." Betty laughs. Kimmie's eyes sparkle.


"I'll bet that's right," Kimmie says, "Have you gotten any more of your girlfriends out of jail lately?"


I didn't answer. Kimmie knows about my business, but maybe one of the customers standing in line was an off-duty cop. No sense in painting a target on my back.


We watch Margo get into a white sedan and get driven off.


"You ought to charge her for using your driveway like that," I suggest to Kimmie.


"I know," Betty says, "At least ten percent."


"Yeah," Kimmie says, "We'd a made $4 just while you're standing here."


I shuffle my fresh coffee back to my motel room. Ah, peace and quiet.


Creepy walks in with a 99 Cent store bag, flips on the TV to the blaring, gaudy 'Entertainment Tonight' and starts in with his latest diatribe, speaking loudly over the noise of the TV.


"I bought a soap container. I'm tired of looking for soaps. I use 4 different types of soap on my body you know and I'm tired of looking through containers for the right one. Isn't this cute?" He shows me a soap dish molded in the shape of a miniature old style bathtub.


"You got some checks today?" Creepy works sporadically as a movie extra.


"Yeah. I don't know if I should work Wednesday night. If I work Wednesday, that means I have to work Tuesday night. It's a two night gig. You want linguine? We should get carrots. Oh, carrots are so good. Good as tomatoes. Tomatoes go in the linguine. Do you know where they shot 'Enemy At The Gates"? I was told . . . sometimes I wonder what I'm eating over there, at the Vietnamese place? A dollar nine cents a pound? What kind of meat is that? That's what worries me. I bought some meat for the linguine . . ." (yak yak yak yak yak . . .)


And my day of never ending noise and schizophrenic roommate chatter has started. I walk outside to the parking lot and call The Russian to see if maybe she wants to pick up some afternoon john money. Creepy is still talking to me back in the room. Except I'm not there.

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