Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saints and Sinners; Russians in Little Tokyo


The Grace Chapel on Centinella. Parking lot on right is where
the little motel stood before it fell in on itself not long after I
stopped flopping there.


     Stayed at The Centinella this weekend. Stresses have all but paralyzed my mind, so why not crash in a fleabag motel a few days … catch up on mattress sleep and showers?

     The Centinella sits deep in the heart of crack ghetto turf. I often have to turn down opportunities to buy crack from the street vendors on my 200 foot walks from the motel to the nearby 7-11. You have to be careful how you decline street dealers, especially if you’re a middle-aged white man walking the dark streets of Inglewood at 2:30 in the morning. When crack sales are down, a mugging will work just as well to bring home the green.

    The motel has 11 units in various states of disrepair and is operated by an absentee manager from India, who used to own a gas station and is working on a 4 year plan to get another one. He lost his gas station “because I wasn’t paying attention” he says.
Next time will be different.

    It also sits right up against the twisted, bruised fence of The Grace Chapel, an A-frame church that looks like it came right out of “Little House on the Prairie.” Sundays at The Centinella amuse me. The Grace Chapel windows look directly on to the motel room doors twenty feet away. Check out time is 11:00, the height of Sunday services at the Chapel. So the Sunday parishioners get treated to a view of every kind of drug-addled, sex-crazed, shabbily attired shirtless sinner stumbling out of their rooms into the harsh light of day as they (the parishioners) sing about the glory of purity and forbearance.

    Sometimes the sinners and saints look at each other; the saint with tolerance and pity, the sinner with embarrassment and longing.

    Yes, I stay in a motel so crummy even the manager doesn’t want to be here— isn’t here most of the time. The regulars, including me, know that to check in to the place one has to go a mile down the road to a hotel managed by his sister to get a key or have your towels exchanged. But it's better than sleeping in my Chevy Lumina on LaBrea again. Besides, I need the rest after last night's festivities.

    Last night I helped with the post 'arrest-and-bailout party' after the
Russian’s boyfriend bailed her out of the 77th Precinct jail at 1 a.m. She'd been arrested for prostitution at the Westin Bonadventure.

    Me, the boyfriend, the Russian, a phone dispatch girl /dominatrix and her unemployed painter husband caravaned from the jail to an all night Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo (downtown L.A.) where we drank sake, cursed police entrapment techniques and made a big, drunken scene over the poor quality of the mishusui / vegetable soup. 

   
    The first arrest for prostitution is $1,000 bail (cash), no 10 percent down thing like with burglary, assault or murder. Prostitution and public cigarette smoking are cash cows for the government here. The boyfriend got the $1,000 cash from his roommate. God only knows why his roommate had $1,000 cash on a Tuesday midnight.

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