Sunday, April 10, 2011

Journal of An American Arcology

THE STORY OF HOW A LITTLE GAS STATION ON CRENSHAW BOULEVARD GOT ME FINALLY OFF THE STREET (Part 1)

by James Jarvis

My story here starts with my discovery of the Arco during my 60 month bout with homelessness, during which time I had gone A LITTLE mad from sleep depravation and had come to see the violent philosophies espoused in a movie called “The Fight Club” as a homeless man’s epiphany.

I traveled around the Los Angeles basin from city to city for years, looking for cheap shelter and fistfights. Often that meant crack motels. I would stay a day or two, rattle at least one flophouse resident, then move back out on to the street.

It was during a two-day stay at the Motel Marquis that I discovered the Arco. Little did I know then that the little gas station would eventually provide me with the stability I needed to stay off the street.

Inviting Low Men In Orange Vests To Join The Fight Club

Almost got my ass whoopin' a few minutes ago at the Arco station on Crenshaw that I had walked over to for cigarettes. They didn't have my brand (Carlton Menthol), so I was spoilin' for satisfaction.

Some road construction workers (orange jackets, jail tattoos and hard hats) were in the station on lunch break. One of them, an Aryan Brothers, goateed, cracker-looking, tobacco-chawing, thirty-something baby-killer-lookin' motherfucker, thought I was finished when I was standing at the counter trying to decide on an alternate brand.

He squeezed in and paid for his purchase and I whirled on him, glaring into his hard blue eyes, my face inches from his and yelled, "What am I? Fuckin' invisible, motherfucker? Invisible? Fuckin' invisible?"

It was on. I was delighted. This guy had bulging arm muscles. It would be a challenge. I'd get a full workout from this chiselnuts. Not like the half-assed flailing I get from the stinkards on the street.

He started to explain for just a second, then caught himself and changed to something like, "What the fuck is your problem?" and "We can settle this outside, asshole. C'mon!"

He was pacing outside the door as I decided on Benson & Hedges. One of his co-workers, a tall, smooth-skinned black kid in his twenties said something like "You shouldn'ta cussed his face. No call for that at all." The kid glared as I answered him that there was something wrong with me. The Arco clerk was horrified.

By the time I stepped outside and up to my ass whoopin', the supervisor had caught on and was frantically calling my cracker to their truck. The cracker reluctantly got on the truck.

"You better walk on down the road," the supervisor yelled over at me as I walked toward the road repair truck. My cracker was frothing at the mouth, being held on the truck by two coworkers like an angry Pit Bull on a short leash. I walked up to the truck.

My cracker was yelling something like "Pink, pink". Must be some kind of prison jargon. I was yelling stuff like, "You want a piece of me?" and "Go for it".

Nose to nose, I smelled more than anger and sweat on him. I smelled his need for revenge. Not just on me, but on every motherfucker that had ever held him down, held him back, kept him in his low place.

The supervisor wedged in between us. He backed my cracker off with a few mumbled words I didn't hear and turned to me. 'He'd kill you if I let him, but I ain't gonna let him,' his eyes said.

When I saw it wasn't going to happen, I apologized to the supervisor. I felt kinda guilty messing up the supervisor's lunch break. Said I was just crazy. My cracker was pacing back and forth behind a line of men, still yellin' pink, pink.

"He apologized," the supervisor screamed to him, and then to me: "Walk on down the road. Just walk on down."

I walked a few steps away and froze at one more 'pink'. I turned around slowly, unwrapping my pack of Bensons like it was the only thing I had scheduled to do all day today and grinned my tooth-gapped crazy street-rat grin. The supervisor herded the rest of the great road beasts into the truck and glared at me. Guess I made his day, too.

Well, I said to myself as I walked back to the Motel Marquis, that was sufficiently stupid.

Little did I know then that I would come to live in the parking lot behind the little gas station and find peace with the idea of moving off the street.

 

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