Thursday, August 31, 2006

Boiling Cabbage In My Winners

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Look back, and smile at perils past.---Sir Walter Scott

    Came back from an average day at the Arco tonight, plopped down in my broken crack motel room barcolounger, kicked off my shoes and discovered something. My feet smell like boiling cabbage.

    It's time to burn those socks and buy this year's pair. My Sears sneakers, brand name 'Winner', are getting kinda ripe and raggedy, too. I'd better put in some overtime so I can afford a pair of Payless replacements. Or, I could scrounge around in the dumpsters for some interim size 10s.

    My superstitious chiropractor friend thinks that personal items carry with them the personality of their original owner, though, even after they're thrown out. So if I'm going to walk in someone else's shoes, I might as well do my dumpster shopping in Beverly Hills rather than Compton.
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I Do Not Own The Arco

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Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal.---Thomas Jefferson

    I was smoking in front of the Arco tonight when the Cadillac pulled up to pump number two. It had dealer plates and the temporary registration paper taped on the back window. Brand new. Sparkly. Big beige gas guzzling tribute to wanton consumption. I wanted it.

    The woman got out and walked briskly towards the Arco door. Short, thin black woman wearing an expensive wig.

    "Take me with you," I asked her.


    "Take me with you?"

    "I'll think about it," she giggled as she went inside. I finished off my Carlton and tamped the butt in my ash chair while she was ordering her gas from the other clerk. I swung back in the doorway just as she was headed for the restroom.

    "Take me away from here and we'll never speak the word 'Arco' again," I called after her.

    "Now you're just being facetious," she answered in a light tone that told me she was still considering my proposition.

    When she came out, I propositioned her more.

    "What's your job here?" she asked.

    "I'm the stock boy."

    "You're not the stock boy," she said, "You're probably the owner." (I get that a lot. Two or three times a week some customer informs me that I must be the owner, or least the manager.)

    "If you're the owner, let's go," she said as she walked back to that wide bodied Cadillac.

    I was five feet out the door before I remembered that I am not the owner.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Love In The Red Hot Fritos Isle

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It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.---George Eliot

    It was just another day of gasholes and beer humping at the Arco today until I saw her. Six foot five, blond, athletic. She is a classic American beauty. Someone you'd expect to see in a beauty pagent or a rodeo. I wanted her.

    She had driven in to the Arco lot in a large white van. She was wearing bluejeans that made her legs look like they rose up from the ground and went on forever. Statuesque doesn't even begin to descibe the effect of her. I wanted her.

    She was strolling through the short isles of chips and candy bars until I walked up and stood next to her. I was pretending to be checking the cooler door shelves for bottles missing out of six packs or holes in the rows of single beer cans that needed to be pulled forward.

    We stood side by side for what seemed like a very long time. I was racking my brain trying to come up with a good pick-up line. She seemed to be waiting for it.

    She wasn't wearing any strong perfume that I could comment on. She just smelled clean, like a bar of Zest. Her white blouse had no commercial message on it like the retards wear and it would sound pretty stupid of me to say what a pretty color her white blouse was.

    No ring on her finger . . . or in her nose or ears. I assumed there wasn't a metal rod stuck through her tongue.

    She had a big head. Not too big for a woman of her height, but still it was big. I imagined my head nestled on her shoulder and it felt right. I imagined us riding horses in the desert and it felt true. I wanted her.

    What could I say? What could I say? What on God's green earth could I, the middleaged, overweight smoker with bad teeth and a minimum wage deadend Arco gas station job, possibly have to say to a real woman?

    My mouth opened, because my mouth . . . and the rest of my body . . . was up for this, but alas, my brain balked.

    She eventually moved on.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mystery of the Vanishing Vasquez

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To forget oneself is to be happy.---Robert Louis Stevenson


Mystery of the Vanishing Vasquez . . .

Icehouse Psycho Implicated

    Part of my stocker duties is to empty out the five trash barrels by the pumps and put new trash bags in them. A few weeks ago, I found a Handicam video camera in one of the barrels. I'm still trying to get it to work.

    Yesterday, I found a large blue canvass purse. In it was some woman's life; her fake driver's license, her El Camino student I.D., her address book, her Social Security card, pictures of her wedding and children, traffic tickets, orders from the court for her to do community service time, her food stamp records and I.D., her storage key, several letters from the court concerning domestic violence and victim services, a lot of social services and police cards and on and on.

    The purse's contents painted a picture of a middle-aged housewife whose life had been changed by some kind of violence to her family. It appears that she was starting over, going back to school, trying to get some mechanically unsound car around town without collecting too many maintenance tickets. So why was her life in a gas station trash barrel?

    I had Arconian cash register clerk Renea call what appeared to be Darlene Vasquez's daughter in Venice Beach from a number in the woman's address book. Renea said they seemed uninterested that their mother's purse turned up in Gardenia. Curiouser and curiouser.

    Today, manager Kimmie got a hold of the woman's sister. The sister was crying, Kimmie said, because Darlene has been missing four days now.

    There was an eight-cruiser arrest by deputy sheriffs behind the Arco yesterday morning. It appears that The Icehouse Psycho---a nutjob who buys a 24-ounce can of Icehouse beer at the Arco every morning and then acts so bizarre on the side of the store that I have to run him off---was the guy arrested. Rumor has it that the usually penniless Icehouse Psycho was buying rounds for all the other street winos yesterday morning.

    I wonder if he offed poor old Darlene for her purse. I'll be keeping my nostrils open for the telltale smells of decomposition coming from the Voodoo Lot next door.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

Arconia Summarized

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The most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men.---Sir John A. Thomson

    One of my friends wrote about my Arco employment:

    “Better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in the rest of the fucking sane world. You’re king of the hill.  Next week if I'm not working I got to meet your Arconian friends.”

      To which I replied:

    “Well let's see what we've got here for you. We've got The Bookend Arabs, Alah and Ben Hur. I call them The Bookend Arabs because they are opposite poles of each other. One never stops giggling (I think I've mentioned The Giggler) and the other never stops scowling.

    Then we have The Homeless Peruvian Bigamist, Eddie, a little man with a big appetite for women.

Then there's Seroj, The Deaf Iranian. He's a jovial old fart who comes in second next to me for not taking any crap off the gas swine.

Then there's Renea, The Tattooed Momasita and Kimmie, The Filipino Cutie with a scarfaced boyfriend who keeps a close eye on her.

And me, of course, Iron Weed, the white rhino.
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time to work up an interest in avarice and covetousness.

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Be a friend to thyself, and others will be so, too.---Thomas Fuller

    My crack motel room roommate Creepy went to bed with all the lights on in his room. Apparently he's afraid the wino violence will spill over from the Arco gas station to the Motel Marquis. Silly man. It's the other way around.

    I went for a midnight stroll in the fog. Cabbage Patch was leaning against her lamp post.

    "Heard you kicked ass tonight," she said, grinning.

    "Where'd ya hear that?"

    "S'out ona street. You do that?"

    "A wayward ho, a wayward le, a pirate I shall always be. Arrrrr arrrrrr arrrrrr."

    "I heard THAT. Good fer you, Popeye."

    Even $10 street walking crack whores don't like rude winos.

    There's a new crack ho working the sidewalk in front of the motel: a cute 18/19 year-old Latina. A white Toyota pickup pulled up in front of the motel and dropped her off. I had the $10, but last night I saw the same john drop streetwalker Marie off and the night before Cabbage Patch and the night before that really raggedy blonde and I lost my appetite. The chain chain chain of hoes was just too much reality to get much bang out my ten bucks.

    I saw "Monster's Ball" down at the promenade in Santa Monica last night. Nice movie. Made me homesick. Also reminded me of an interracial relationship I had 8 or 9 years ago. Uh, two relationships, actually. No, wait. It was three. Must've been my black & blue period. One of 'em was REALLY hot. We broke furniture.

    Okay. I think I've mastered pride, sex and violence. Time to work up an interest in avarice and covetousness.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Attack of the Loitering Stumblebums

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The confidence which we have in ourselves gives birth to much of that which we have in others.---Francois de La Rochefoucauld

    Three of the Arco winos attacked me behind the Arco today. One of them tried to bust a 32-ounce beer bottle over my head after my first punch knocked him to the ground. I side kicked him in the bladder and knocked THAT idea out of his mushy head.

    I was trying not to hurt the fragile stumblebums, but the instigator, some fat woman alkie pushing an infant in a baby carriage who has been drinking beer on the property so long (while the baby fries in the sun) she thinks she owns the lot behind the store, that bitch wouldn't let the two men heed my warnings. Noooooooooo. She kept egging them on, egging them on to challenge the fat, bespectacled stock boy. So they nudged me and spat at me and pillow-punched me until I went Popeye on them.

    Then the woman hit me in the back and when I turned on her she said, "HA! You can't hit a woman!"

    So I punched her in the neck. Like I said, I wasn't trying to hurt them, just trying to give their clouded minds a wake up call. It was more like a pillow fight, really, but the woman taunted me that she was calling her boyfriend, "Boxer Bob" to come and kick my ass real good.

    "Tell him come get some," I told her. I returned to the back storage bin about a hundred feet from the store to finish my back stocking.

    Ten minutes later, a young man, late twenties, came running angrily up to the back storage bin talking shit as he approached, but I backed him off quick with the padlock wrapped around my middle finger like a brass knuckle.

    Him I woulda hurt. He saw it in my eyes and ran off to call the cops. So much 'show but no go' for "Boxer Bob'.

    The cops finally came and after I explained that I had asked them nicely several times to not drink alcohol on the property (they refused) and to leave the property (they refused) and after I read them the riot act (they threatened to kill me) and that yes, I punched the soggy motherfuckers . . . .  after all that explanation, the cops said that they preferred it if I would just call them next time.

    Wasn't much for them to do, really. It wasn't a hate crime: three white winos against one old, pissy, white stock boy. Misdemeanor battery, maybe, the cop told me, but it was a case of 'he said, she said'.

    "We have a camera back there," I said, "You can look at the tape if you don't believe me," but I could see the cop didn't want to get bogged down in gas station mini-drama.

    There's a new sign on the Arco cash register as the result of this incident. Basically it reads that clerks are not to sell beer to homeless or trouble making persons and if they do, they will be held liable for any financial repercussions.

    One of the clerks said he wasn't sure what that means and I said it meant he would have to come down to the station and bail me out.

    No beer to the homeless or troublemakers, one of the clerks told me later, who're we gonna sell beer to? And the other clerk, Eddie, is afraid to sell ANYONE beer now. Technically, he can't even buy some for himself when his shift is over (Eddie's on his third month of homelessness).

    As an ex and semi-homeless person myself, I can relate to the plight of the homeless. It's the shitheads that give the rest of us a bad name.

ARCONIAN NEWS BREAK: Night Man Day Locked Down

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It is easy enough to be pleasant when life flows by like a song. But the man worthwhile is one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong.---Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    The Arco night man, Day, has gone cuckoo for Cocopuffs. Pissed me off when I heard they had him on the 72-hour observation hold at the nuthouse. I've been trying to break into that place for years. Three hots and a cot; you can't beat asylum living for low cost shelter. Best residency bargain in town. Bastards wouldn't let me in, even after I walked into their outpatient center barefooted and peed on their carpet, asking them what was I doing there?

    Alah and I plan to visit Day in the nuthouse this Sunday (they've extended his vacation two more weeks). I have experience visiting the mentally infirm, so I filled Allah in today on some of the protocols. One of them is to resist the temptation to pretend to the patient that he's not in a mental ward. Why confuse him more? I always used to ask Lynnie The Leacher, whenever I was visiting him at the nut farm, when was he gonna be finished being crazy and blow the joint? It gives them goals, I think.

The Flatulent Chinaman

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   Eight hours in Arconia today. It was the usual steady stream of gasaholics, rude drug addicts, unintelligible rummies, rugrats, pocket pirates, disgruntled roadies, road warriors, senile old ladies, abusive twits and impatient gas swine, but my work day was pleasantly punctuated by The Flatulent Chinaman.

    The little man in gray sweatpants strode into the store smiling, swinging his arms as if he was marching in a parade and trumpeting loud, baritone farts with EACH and EVERY step he took.

    Step, braaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAck, step, blurrrrrrrrWOOOOOORPPTFF, step, bloEEEEEEEERACK, step, brrrOOOOOOOOCKK.

    These were not shy, hissing farts mind you. These were LOUD, DEEP, "I'm Flatulent and I'm Proud" farts that only someone who has been exposed to the more gregarious cultures can appreciate.

    Our own little "fartiste" Le Petomaine! Wow. Happy is the man who can propel himself through life to the tune of his own spincter, is what I say.

    The other customers turned their heads and pretended they didn't hear the booming butt trumpet. Eddie was behind the counter at the cash register and I had the dubious honor of following the happily backfiring little man into the store from outside where I had been taking a smoke break.

    Just as our musical Petomaine sputtered up to the counter, he ended his colonious concerto with a four fart crescendo! The timing was impeccable. It had all the resonance and German gusto of Beethoven.

    Amazing. Stupendous. A Four Star Farting Extravaganza! That such unabashed divestitures of abdominal gas, resounding through the otherwise peaceful Arco gas station, much akin to a barrage of 12 gauge shotgun blasts, could come from such a diminutive little fellow such as this happy old fart just flabbergasted me.

    For a moment, I just froze in my tracks in awe. Then, I applauded, but everyone else just pretended not to hear the music.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Even The Homeless Hate the Homeless

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It is a wise bum who knows his own kind.---Mudhead

    One of my fellow Arconians, Eddie, is homeless. He lives in his car. He admits to living in his car, but denies he's homeless.

    Living in a car two months qualifies a person as homeless, I told him, but he still denies being homeless. He can't bring himself admit it. He has the same bigoted prejudice most people have about the homeless: homeless means you're bad or stupid or irresponsible. He's been raised to hate the homeless just like everyone else in America. He doesn't realize how many hundreds of thousands of working homeless there are in this country.

    I gave him some tips on where to get free showers and free hot lunches in the neighborhood. Eddie works more hours than I do at the Arco, but he's about $3.50 an hour short of qualifying for an apartment. I was going to let him use my shower, but my recently homeless roommate Creepy doesn't want any homeless people in our room.

A Lot Of Tension In This Town

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When you dig another out of his troubles, you find a place to bury your own.---Mudhead

    The guy who tried to read me the riot act about 'one bag or two' came in to the gas station again yesterday morning and harangued Arco clerk Rene about HER manners. He threatened to take his business elsewhere which is what all us Arco cashiers want him to do.

    Rene is Hispanic. Besides Rene and I, this customer also berated the Iranian clerk for HIS countertop manners towards blacks, so it looks like I was wrong the other day when I implied that this brother doesn't like white people and/or paper sack options.

    My bad. It's Arco clerks he hates . . . or white, brown, yellow, orange and gray people.

    This got me to thinking about the geopolitical map of Los Angeles. As I understand it:
     the residents of Beverly Hills hate poor people (any trash who makes less than $250,000 a year),
    West Hollywoodies hate heterosexuals,
    Los Felizians hate monosexuals,
    Santa Monicans hate pansexuals,
    Hollywooders hate tourists,
    downtowners hate the homeless,
    Inglewooders hate crackers,
    Comptonians hate the police,
    South Centralizers hate each other,
    Venice Beachers hate anyone over 30,
    San Fernando Valleyites hate Los Angeles,
    Gardenia hates Americans and
    Redondo Beachers hate 7-11s.

    Oh yeah, Rob Ryner hates smokers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Soon To Be The Ex-Employee of a Muslim Cheapskate

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To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.---George MacDonald

    Well, I think I may have screwed myself out of another job. The Arco manager wanted to confirm with me today that I was working Christmas day and I told her (in private, away from the other employees) "No, not unless I get double time for working the holiday."

    The manager said matter-of-factly that the owner was Muslim, so he doesn't pay extra for Christmas.

    "Christmas is a national holiday in America," I told her, "and this Arco is technically located in America. I'm still mad about Thanksgiving. Besides, Galen (the owner) just sold that vacant lot next door for a million bucks (the surveyors were there today, marking off the spots where the strip mall will be built). He doesn't need to be so cheap." (We're talking about an extra $18 or $24 here)

    The Arco owner doesn't pay holidays. He doesn't pay overtime or sick pay. He provides no health insurance. He doesn't even like paying minimum wage. So I figured the manager would just take me off the schedule, but when I went back to the store for cigarettes a couple of hours after my shift was over, the clerks there were hailing me as the leader of the Arco holiday pay revolution.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Magnum 32 Gang

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Let your boat of life be light, packed only with what you need.--Jerome K. Jerome

    The beer shelf I have to stock the most here at the Arco gas station is the Magnum 32 and 40 ounce bottle shelf. That's because 5 or 6 beggars, tramps and drug addicts ( who hang together loosely on the street as a group of loiterers I call The Magnum 32 Gang ) are regular customers.

    Tom, the long-haired American Indian-looking Asian member of the gang works 5 or 6 hours a week at the bicycle shop next door to the Arco. I don't know if you could call that bicycle shop a real business as one would normally define a place of merchandising. It's the garage in back of someone's house, but they open their garage door every morning and roll out the recycled bikes, which I assume have been salvaged from some junkyard, and they have a sign, so I guess it is a business.

    Tom mostly walks up and down the Crenshaw Boulevard sidewalk from the bicycle shop on Marine Street to the Immigration Assurance and Self Help Center on Manhattan Beach Boulevard (that street name should be familiar to you as it is just a mile west of the Immigration Assurance Center on Manhattan Beach Boulevard where I used to live . . . under the bridge).

    The first time I saw Tom about a year ago, I thought he was a movie extra in costume who had lost the western in which he was supposed to be filmed. He was sitting on a bus stop bench, not wanting to catch any bus, waiting for the inevitable. I've asked him several times over the months that I've seen him benchsitting if he was waiting for a bus and he just sneers at me as if I had asked an obviously stupid question.

    As long as I don't talk to him about bus schedules, though, I find him to be a surprising articulate and witty drunk. The mean-spirited part of me called him Tonto until I learned his Christian name. Since he's Asian, I suppose the more politically correct derogate would have been Tonto-san. He's good for at least two 32 ounce Magnums a day.

    Jeff, The Amazing Spineless Mammal, is a street thin Caucasian piece of crap whose youthful face and piercing blue eyes contrast greatly with his shock of platinum gray hair, his Colonel Sanders white goatee and his sidewalk-ironed and dusted clothes.

    Jeff's the 'touchy-feeley' member of the gang, always jabbering to anyone who will listen about how bad he feels that his fiancĂ© has to turn tricks on the street with construction workers to support their alcohol and drug habits.

    I feel his pain. Like hell I do. Any man who would accept his fiancees trick money must be in a lot of pain from walking around without a spine. Jeff's good for at least two 32 ounce Magnums a day plus five or six 16 ounce cans.

    I already told you about the old man, the ex-Arco manager now on SSI. He's mostly a 16 ounce can man. He's a jabberer, too, but he mostly talks about his glory days. There's this other guy in the gang that I haven't gotten to know much about. He looks like a hungover Santa Claus who has shaved off his beard to throw the cops off his trail.

    I made the mistake Thanksgiving of feeding Jeff and this guy some Turkey dinners out at their bus stop benches and after they had eaten, Jeff came back and informed me that he would be glad to do me the favor of accepting any more holiday gifts I had in mind.

    He spoke the words politely and earnestly in a sincere and kindly tone that suggested he would be happy to receive gifts from me and that there was no need for me to thank him for accepting my gifts or feel embarrassed and I smiled at him and thanked him as I considered punching the shameless bastard square in his 'The World Revolves Around MY Needs' nose, but I remembered how some self-righteous do-gooders had tried to rub the free food they were giving ME when I was homeless, down and out, in my face and I understood what Jeff was getting at.

    I don't have to LIKE a bastard to feed him. I wish more of my countrymen understood that.

Cookie Eating Time

I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.---Comte de Mirabeau

    Finished reading "The Soul School, Confessions of a Passenger on Planet Earth" (1995) by Guy Murchie, author of "The Seven Mysteries of Life". Too much 'passenger', not enough 'soul', though his travels through Iraq and Afghanistan are topical.

    This Guy has lead the life I have long fantasized about living myself, a kind of spiritual Jack Kerouac with credit cards and train reservations, so why did I find his writing so . . . uh, flat? He seemed somehow detached from . . . let's see, from . . . ah, from the grit of life. That's it. Not enough grit.

    The cookie-eating phase of Ramadan started today, praise Allah. Finally all the Muslims in my neighborhood can stop fasting and taking out their low blood sugar levels on the Arco clerks. Religions that fast really put an additional burden on the unbelievers.

Another Satisfied Customer

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Faith is to believe what we do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.---St. Augustine

    Today a guy comes in to the gas station and buys two cans of 24 ounce beer. Usually when someone buys two individual cans instead of a six pack, he's buying one for himself and one for a buddy or a girlfriend out in the car and asks for separate bags so that each person can hold their own beer without getting their hands cold or wet.

    So I asked this guy if he wanted two individual bags or one. He goes off on me, telling me, "Look, buddy (emphasis on the word 'buddy' in a very unfriendly tone), ALL brothers don't start drinking their beer as soon as they get out of the store. Do you understand that, buddy!?"

    At first I didn't understand what he was getting at. Then I got it. He was accusing me of racism, of stereotyping his brothers and sisters as one bag alcoholics or something. It seemed silly to me, but his face was serious business, so I just told him, "Hey, I was just asking how you wanted it bagged. I REALLY don't care what you do with it, buddy. Stick it up your ass for all I care."

    This guy walked in thinking I was a racist because of the color of my skin and he walked out having proven his thesis correct to himself. Another satisfied customer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Where's My Community Service Plaque?

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Dare to begin! ---Horace

    A friend wrote about my little ID card tet a teat:

    “The age is 35, If you don't look at least 35 it is the sellers job to ask for ID, That's the law, it's not discrimination. Your boss can get in trouble if he tries to stop you for asking for ID.”

My response:

    “Well, the most important thing is that I can catch a $200 ticket if I get caught selling a minor cancer sticks. There are cops out there who cannot sleep well until everyone in this neighborhood has a police arrest record. Convictions don't matter. Just arrests. The cops just want everybody in the system.

    The reason I thought to write about this woman tonight was that one of the other clerks told me today that a customer matching her description came in early this morning, got pissed at being asked for ID and threw a bunch of sunflower seed packets at his head. I'll bet it's the same demented woman.

    I'm not the only clerk to yell back at belligerent customers, but I'm the only one who tells them not to come back.

    And I'm the only one who tells them that with all that cellulite they're packing in their trunks, they probably shouldn't be buying that 40-ouncer anyway, which is one of the reasons why the manager likes to keep me in the cooler (besides the fact that inventory loss and spoilage is way down since I was put in charge of that locked freezer--I keep a tight reign over the various beverage vendors and keep the stock properly rotated).

    I had some dipwad bastard tell me once he was going to have me fired.

    "Good," I said, "That'll give me more time to drive around the neighborhood and find out where you live."

    Most of the customers like me, though, partially because before I was hired at the Arco, they had to weave their way through a plethora of intimidating beggars to get their gas. I stopped that crap. Ran the creeps off. There's a right way and a wrong way to beg.

    You know, now that I think about it, I ought to get some sort of community service award. I ran the drug dealers out of the Motel Marquis parking lot, the drunks from drinking beer in the front of the motel, the hoes from doing business in customer's cars parked in the back of the Arco, the beggars from the gas pumps, the crack heads from sucking their pipes in the vacant lot and the winos from making their messes at the station and motel dumpsters.

    I even put the neighborhood muggers on notice that some of us victims fight back. Oh, and I stopped the streetwalkers from using the motel courtyard as a toilet.

    Where's my plaque?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Never Trust Customer Relations To The Stock Boy

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Don't yak unless you can improve the silence.---Mudhead

    The lady put two one liter bottles of Pepsi on the counter and asked for a pack of Newports Box. I asked to see the lady's ID.

    "I ain't got no ID right now."

    "I'm sorry, I can't sell you . . ."

    "WHAT!!? I comes here every day!"

    "I'm sorry."

    "Nobody ever asked for my ID BEFORE!"

    "I'm sorry. Really. I need to see . . ."

    "I HEARD you! What you think? I can't hear? You stupid or somethin'? You mean you're NOT gonna sell me no MUTHERFUKEN CIGARETTES?"

    "I'm sorry . . ."

    The lady huffed out of the store, leaving the Pepsis on the counter, muttering soto voce something about crackers. Ten minutes later, she was back at the counter with her ID, fuming and ready for a scrap.

    "Now gimme my gawddamned Newports," she barked as she slapped her ID down on the counter. After checking her ID quickly, I scanned the Newports and pushed them up against the sodas I had saved for her.

    "I seen you selling that other lady cigarettes without asking for ID," she accused. "Why you didn't ask HER for ID?"

    "She didn't look as young as you . . ." I tried to flatter her.

    "That's bull! You ask ME for ID, you gotta ask EVERYONE for ID!" A line of customers was forming behind this short, youngish-looking but angry lady.

    "I'm sorry . . ."

    "Sorry don' cut it. I'm feeling discriminated against," she declared. People behind her were juggling their purchases for a better grip while waiting for the lady to leave.

    "Ma'am, it's nothing personal . . ."

    "Yes it is! I'm feeling like discrimination! You have to ask EVERYB—"

    "I'm sorr—"

    "This is discrimi—"

    "Ma'am, you're disrupting the business and insulting me. Can we let the other customers do their bus—"

    "WHA? I'm talking 'bout discrimination! You better jus—"


    That was a couple of weeks ago. They don't let me behind the counter much anymore. Better for them. Better for me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Not Going Anywhere 'Easy'

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The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.---Bejamin Disraeli

    Three to five hours of humping beer and soda cases every day is no longer enough exercise for me. This last week I've found myself yearning for more, so I started lifting light weights at 'home'. While I'm watching Fox News in 'my' broken barcolounger, I pump a 10 pound hand weight across my chest . . . two hours every night. I'm feeling the burn.
    My feet are getting better, too. Ten years of working / slacking on my ass had decimated my foot muscles from atrophy, apparently. My foot pain used to stay with me for three or four hours after I'd gotten off my feet. Now it's gone in half an hour.
    My health got really bad during my homelessness in the car. Sometimes I'd lay in that car for days and days without ever getting out (in matters of toiletry, I can only say that if nothing goes in, nothing comes out).
    I probably should have died many times in the nineties. Medically, I definitely should be dead, but I'm a hardheaded, stubborn contrarian. I'll be damned if I'm gonna go anywhere easy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Moving Along Slowly Through A Drizzle-Gray Sunday

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I can't write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.---Sir Walter Raleigh
    Creepy cooked a pancake breakfast for me this morning then skipped off to Candyland (the 99 Cent Store). One of our Motel Marquis inmates was filling the motel courtyard with the bittersweet sound of his lone coronet playing, giving the courtyard a bluesy, Jackson Square feel until motel manager Don put an end to that shit.
    "You let them play the blues, next thing ya know, they'll be wantin' ta crank up that damned Rap on their boomboxes," Don explained when I protested. "I checked to see when his rent is due. Think I'll just tell him to move along when he tries ta pay it."
    We're all paying a price for Rap music, I think.
    With nothing else to do this gray, drizzly Sunday morning, I walked over to the Arco for coffee and cigarettes. I sat on an ash can in front of the store sipping my coffee and smoking my cigarettes, vacantly staring at the gas customers doing their zombie consumer pump to cashier to pump shuffles.
    I had a Johnny Cash song doing a reverb in my skull when Kenny, the Canadian wino on SSI who drinks beer all day behind the Arco dumpster, mistook the vacancy in my eyes for The Wino Buzz and came over to share the Sunday morning reverie he assumed I was having. He talked. I watched the gas zombies.
    Kenny, now an alcohol-emaciated, petite little scruffy 90 pounder, had killed a black bear once. Brown bears're too dangerous. Some stand nine feet tall. The Indians tanned his black bear skin with their teeth. He knew some Indians like me, he said. He'd run in to a few 'Sees The Stars' before, but never met any 'Iron Weeds'.
    "I seen you fillin' them propane tanks," Kenny told me. "I used ta do that when I wuza Arco manager in Ohiee. Strangest propane tank I ever filled was one a them big hot air balloons. I seen the guy coming down outta the sky in one one day. He jus landed that thing in the Arco driveway, hopped out and asked fer propane like he's a regular camper 'r sumpthin. Weirdest thing I ever saw."
    Kenny's face had lit up with that memory. He seemed lost in the memory a moment, reliving the glory days of gas station cashierery, then a shadow ran across his face behind his eyes and he was back at the Crenshaw Arco, a little man in charge of nothing, barely tolerated on the sidewalk outside the store, a man told regularly by the police and store proprietors to "move along".

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Creating Crimes For Fun And Profit

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Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.---Oliver Wendell Holmes

    One of my friends wrote about the Arco entrapment (see previous two posts):

    “Hate to disagree with you on this one. I've seen cashiers go as slow as snails. You don't get paid for hustling like if you're on commission.  Two, if he just started he should ask EVERYONE to flash their ID when buying liquor.  I did.  I didn't care if they were blue-hairs walking with the aid of a cane.   Old folks got a chuckle when I asked. 

    Convenience store clerks are easy targets for small-time hoodlums.  Take your time.  One customer at a time.  They can wait; whether it's a coke to drink or a gas to pump.  How's that for point/counterpoint.?”

      To which I replied:

    “Bullshit. This is not catching a person committing a crime so much as the police CREATING a crime. There were no kids getting beer at the Arco. We were checking IDs. They set it up so Serge would have a lapse.

    Let's say a hundred people come to do business with you every day and every two or three weeks one of them is a person the police have intimidated into setting you up. If the mole can set you up for a criminal charge, the police will let him off of something HE did.

    OSHA has many laws about posting notices on certain walls about chemicals. Let's say the police have the mole bring a small bottle of solvent to your workplace. He spills something on your desk on purpose, then offers to clean it up using the solvent. In the heat of the moment, you say okay.  If you do, you are fined your next six weeks income, get fired and now have a permanent criminal record.

    Don't  EVEN tell me you wouldn't be screaming bloody murder if the cops set you up like that.

The Janus Of Public Opinion

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Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fail.---Oliver Goldsmith

    I was talking to my crack motel's assistant manager Monty tonight about the police entrapment at the Arco, you know, spouting my right-wing reactionary drivel about local law enforcement paying people to commit crimes (personally, I'm agin it, we've got enough of that going on at the federal level) and Monty surprised me by saying that when a person gets hired on as a gas jockey (i.e. in a minimum wage job with no benefits; no health, no overtime, no retirement, no sick or holiday pay, no respect or even manners from the general public) that that person has a solemn responsibility to the community . . .

    "Wait, Monty, aren't you the same fella tellin' me two weeks ago that no good ever came from a cop coming on to this property? Wasn't that you tellin' me that?"

    "Well, yeah, James, but that was different. That was HERE."

    "Exactly. Janus (the two-faced god) rides again," I said.

    "I don't know what the new ho's got ta do with the price of rice in China," Monty said.

    "Me neither," I said.

    Sometimes my conversations with Monty leave him unsatisfied.

Doing Their Part To Put More People Out On The Streets

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Much unhappiness has come into the world because of . . . things left unsaid.---Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    Shortly after I left Arconia last night (the Arco gas station where I work), a deputy sheriff gave a 20 year-old a marked five dollar bill to go and buy some beer at the Arco. The deputy parked behind the Arco and waited. The 5'11" 20 year-old man waited until it was real busy in the store and set his trap (put the beer on the counter).
    Serge was working the counter alone and was distracted by some idiot woman who was trying to buy gas on her ATM card and was too stupid to know how to swipe her card. Plus, the limousine drivers, who buy gas on a charge system, were yelling for their pumps to be turned on and some kids were yammering "How much is this?" and "Do I have enough if I get two of these and one of those plus . . ."
    I've learned something this month of selling gas at the Arco. There's something about the process of purchasing gasoline that turns normal people into rude, impatient, flaming assholes (I call them gasholes).
    I don't know what it is. It's like these Angelinos think of driving as a God-given right and having to stop to buy gas somehow pisses them off . . . and they blame the gas clerk for their inconvenience. I know it's just a matter of time before I pop one of these gasholes in the nose. I'm waiting on a certain taxicab driver now. Pow! He's gonna get it.
    Anyway, the man got the beer, walked around the corner to the waiting sheriff, and BAM! They got Serge for a $900 ticket for selling beer to a minor.
    Serge makes maybe $600 a month at the Arco. If convicted, he'll be fired and perhaps a nice judge will let him make payments on the $900 ticket out of his unemployment checks.
    Hooray! Hooray! Your tax dollars have put yet another hard-working $6.25 an hour man out on the street! Are you proud?
    My question is this: since the deputy sheriff gave the 20 year-old man the money for the beer, isn't the deputy sheriff guilty of purchasing alcohol for a minor?
    Yes, it's a facetious question. We all know that the job of law enforcement is to criminalize ALL the citizens so that there is a record on everybody. People without criminal records make cops nervous.
    Don't believe me? Try this little experiment. Watch a cop's reaction when he meets a non-criminal in a store or something. He'll barely say hello. But watch what happens when that same cop runs across a felon.
    Alla sudden the cop gets all chattery and smiley, like he's high on ecstasy or something. Cops like felons. They live in the same world.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Man Is Gas Island

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Seize the day.---Horace
Seven hours humping beer and soda cases; scrubbing floors, sidewalks and gas pumps; counting cigarettes, filling propane tanks, selling gas, bagging groceries, fronting shelves, smiling at assholes, showing little old ladies how to pump gas, emptying trash, breaking down cardboard boxes, sweeping, filling bags with ice, running the boogeyman beggars off the gas islands and mopping, mopping, mopping.
That's a lot of work on a holiday for $43.50 minus taxes. Better be losing weight.
Got two turkey dinners today: one from Broke Fingers (aka the night man Day, a co-worker named Day who works the graveyard shift) and another one from a customer. I think they appreciate how I have run the most vicious of the panhandlers off the gas islands (where they scare the crap out of the customers using the old Intimidation Bum scam) and they want to keep my strength up.
Turkey on a paper plate gingerly wrapped in aluminum foil: how folksy.
My crack motel roommate Creepy ate at the Sizzler today. He made a special trip over to my workplace to let me know this. Creepy visits the Arco daily to check up on me and brag about some fine meal he’s had on a movie set where he was 'working' as an extra or at the El Camino Community College where he majors in Financial Aid.

Holiday Blues, Jolie Style

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I am never bored anywhere; being bored is an insult to oneself.---Jules Renard

    Couldn't sleep after the seven hour workout in Arconia today. Creepy's been pouting in his room since I threw a book at him the other day. He's probably learned more from that book than any that hasn't been thrown at him.

    Took a drive around the city in the Creepmobile: gas fumes and smoke spewing out the front end, sparks from a loose catalytic converter cover shooting out the back end (finally, it fell off). People in cars in the next lane glared at me like I was Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies, out for a ride in the jenny.

    Drove over to the Hollywood Park Casino on Century. Walked around inside for a while looking for grifters, hookers or thugs. You know, just looking for a familiar face on the holidays.

    Drove over to the 24-hour hamburger joint where I was mugged a few years back. Drug dealers, streetwalkers and muggers, but surprisingly no familiar faces.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Arconian Snapshot

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It is better to wear out than to rust out.---Richard Cumberland

    Cabbage Patch the crack ho came into the Arco today while I was stocking the Gatorade in the freezer. She's got a new Mars Attacks hairdpiece that looks better than her Pageboy and Raggedy Ann wigs. She shouldn't have any trouble attracting attention standing on the street corner wearing the Mars Attacks piece. It makes her look like Danny DeVito's Penguin with a tall cactus on his head.

    Therelle The Face Licker came in, too. He had to rest his tongue from walking up to strangers on the sidewalk and licking their face as he does every day. Both Face Licker and Cabbage Patch seemed taken aback to find ME working for wages. They had gotten used to thinking of me as a man of dubious leisure. The fat man has gone square. What's the neighborhood coming to?

    Yes, kids, I work at a gas oasis with Alaa The Giggler and a new guy named Kamel. I'm getting good at filling propane tanks. You'll recognize me right off if you see me there. I'm the sweating, groaning anarchist in the freezer. I couldn't make this stuff up if I smoked pot all day.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Currently Engaged

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It is good to act as if. It is even better to grow to the point where it is no longer an act.---Charles Caleb Colton

One of you emailians suggested it wouldn't be six months before I discovered the flaws in my Arconian employers (my $6.25 an hour paid exercise program), declared war and got out on the street again. PUHLEEZE! It wasn't six hours before I saw the flaws here.

PUHLEEZE. They must have $5,000 worth of over-stock stacked to the ceilings. Maybe $10,000 worth. There is no running spoilage recordkeeping or control processes. No inventory purchases trends charting.

Everything is done on scraps of paper. The manager is spending 9 or 10 hours a day trying to account for what's going on in her store, climbing over half-empty cases of hot beer trying to count her stock daily and running around to the wholesale stores to make last minute purchases on her guesstimates. The back room looks like earthquake country or my daughter's bedroom.

Give me six months running that place and I could get sales up 20 percent and overhead down 30 percent. Yes, I said 30 percent. I could cut the cost of supplying (inventory) and running (labor) that store down by one third. I've done it before WITHOUT the fancy inventory software that this Arco has. I could manage that place working two hours a day after I got it organized. It's much smaller than the store I ran in San Antonio.

But that's not what I'm there for. I'm there to get some exercise for my upcoming adventures as a freight car hobo. So I give a damn about my employer's flaws. I'm currently engaged in my own.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

14 Pumps And 400 Feet Of Register Tape

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Your neighbor is the man who needs you.---Elbert Hubbard

     Uuuuggggh! It turned out to be 10 hours in Arconia. Ten hours on my fracturing heels processing pump orders. Processing, processing, processing. Grabbing twenties and punching in pump amounts as fast as my fingers could go. There is no end of gas consumption in Los Angeles. No end.

     Hell is a lot of things. Yes. There are many levels of hell. One of them is 14 gas pumps and 400 feet of cash register tape.

     Creepy brought me a surprise plate of spaghetti around 5. He came sashaying across the gas station parking lot in his fire engine red Daisey Duke cutoff jean shorts carrying the aluminum foil-wrapped plate like a West Hollywood waiter bringing dinner to his biggest tipper. I was mortified.

     It looked WAY too snugly wugly domestic blissness to my Arco co-workers and they started teasing me about being gay.

     Screw it. I don’t care what they think. I was hungry and my roommate makes a mean plate of spaghetti.

Crack Ho Wig Collection

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In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play--Friedrich Nietzsche

     The Arconians cut my hours back to three today, giving me a few hours of "Kid Rock" easy listening time. One of the crack hoes must've been doing business up against my motel room door last night because this morning there was an awful raggedy red wig on my doorstep. I checked for lice and wore it over to the Arco for my morning coffee. It'll make a nice addition to my crack ho wig collection.

     One of the other Motel Marquis residents, Kevin, has an old car with broken door locks he can't afford to replace. The crack whores do business in his car at night. Drives Kevin crazy. I'll not tell you what disgusting things he finds in his car every morning just before he drives his daughter to school.

Poverty is vulgar.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Miss Pimping

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Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. ---Mudhead

Six hours on my feet tonight working at the Arco gas station as a cash register clerk. Got a sudden nostalgia for the stone crazy halcyon days of pimping my fast Lumina all night, every night for The Dragon Lady, One-Eyed Rob, The Midget, The Hungarians, the Bulgarians and every other flesh-peddling legal panderers of the twisted night.

I kinda miss Motel Du Jour, Peekaboo Police, Perverts On Parade, Taxicab Mafia Tag, Racecar Randy, Liar's Poker and all the other games of the wicked one has to learn if one is going to survive the occupation of driving callgirls to their appointments for escort agencies.

I have to admit, I kinda miss young women peeing, puking and passing out in my car. I kinda miss the stalking, gawking and mad midnight missions . . . the wild west outlaw nature of the work . . .  the adrenaline rushes. It was like seeing a different car crash every night. Hell, it was like being in a different car crash every night.

I miss bruising my eardrums with blasting-loud techno-pop as me and The Russian blew past traffic on the 101. I miss Ukrainians throwing me around Super Eight Motel rooms and running naked on the 2 a.m. beaches with a whirling, twirling moonstruck gypsy woman. I miss pulling leopard skin-clad women out of Santa Monica Park trees. I miss chaperoning pothead valley girls to New York City and bouncing around inside my car waiting for the after hours clubs to open at 6 a.m.

Okay, I'll admit it. I miss the international sex, too. French, British, Check, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Filipino, South African, Hungarian, Australian, Haitian, Spanish, Puerto Rican, German, and Italian sex (some you've seen on TV). That was kinda interesting.

Six more hours in Arconia tomorrow.

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