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.

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