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My Big Red Couch

Monday, March 07, 2005

Vegas Baby - Episode No. 2 - Strollin' the Hood

By the time I reached LAX my martini buzz was long gone, presumably lost somewhere over Oregon, possibly northern California. Aaaaaah, LAX. I don't have anything good to say about LAX except, yup, it's there. I pretty much have that sentiment about greater Los Angeles or el Eh, if you prefer. I wrangled my bags and waited on the curb for my hotel shuttle. It didn't come after a few minutes. It didn't come after a few minutes more. After about 20 minutes I called the hotel and asked. "You've got to call for a pick up," the clerk told me. Well, here I am a callin'. He said the van would be there in about 10 minutes and I went and waited where I was told to. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later John, my own personal chauffer showed up.

Ok, so he wasn't mutually exclusive. There were a couple ladies in the van already and they were headed to the Super 8 across the street from the Econolodge and I didn't get the details but either both are owned by the same person or it was a co-op van. Regardless, John hauled us to our respective hotels.

I asked him for two things: food and beverage. He said there were several stores within walking distance, sit down, take out, booze and/or grocery. He even offered to haul me to which ever one I chose. I'd been sitting the majority of the day so I opted to walk.

"Hey, do you take people places other than the airport," I asked?

"Where do you need to go," he countered.

I told him where the motorcycle rental place was and he said "I can't take you there in the van but I am headed that direction in the morning when my shift is done. I can give you a ride."

"Really? Thanks." I am amazed by this. Am I a bumpkin, just rolled into town whose going to get rolled in an alley (needless paranoia) or did I just get lucky? We agree to meet at the front doors at 9am when his shift ends.

So, I check into the hotel and the "suite" is located near the elevator and above the entrance. I say suite because the room was freakin' huge. It had one double bed, maybe a queen but it had room for at least one more bed. The TV was maybe 20" and from the bed it looked like the screen on my cell phone. I flicked through the channels because, for some odd mental construct of my own and even though I don't watch a lot of TV, I just HAD TO KNOW what was on.

Nothing. Hey, it's regular TV. Is there ever anything on regular TV? There were some interesting international channels, a couple asian channels and hispanic channels. What do you expect in el Eh?

A brief word about paranoia. I am not nor do I generally consider myself paranoid however, I have only been to Los Angeles once and while that was uneventful, somewhere in my subconscious evey episode of COPS, Dragnet, The Fall Guy and probably a bunch of other B moives and television shows is burned. Los Angeles is full of bad people. Very bad people. Nothing good happens in Los Angeles. Just pick up a newspaper or turn on CNN. On top of that there were probably more people within a 10 block radius than there are in the entire state of Alaska. THAT TOTALLY FREAKS ME OUT. I like people. People like me. But that's a lot of freakin' people. But let's set that all aside and take a look at the hood.

I stashed the majority of my cash and went out with $40. I could give up $40 if mugged and not lose too much sleep over it (needless paranoia). So I head off the direction John suggested and the streets, while not exactly bustling do seem like a 5 lane Spenard complete with pimps and hos.

Somewhere in the media, the movie "The Wood" perhaps, I remember something about how people greet each other in the city. The first guy I passed on the street yelled, "Yo Wood, wassup?" I gave him a nod. It was Inglewood after all. I walked about a mile to the West down Century Blvd. It wasn't as colorful as I pictured el Eh to be but this wasn't the Sunset strip. A pimp here, a ho there, a John creepin' his beat up Honda Civic around every corner and, every now and again, a cop or two.

In hindsight (and this would have sent my paranoia into overdrive) I didn't even see any gangbangers. So much for my irrational fear of the big city.

So I take my late night stroll down to where 110 crosses Century Blvd., maybe a half mile, maybe a mile. It was late and I needed a walk. So on my way back, about three blocks from the Econolodge, I stop at "the store." It's "the store" because by now it's after midnight and all the other stores are closed. It's just like any store at home; Mapco, 7/11, Tesoro to Go. EXACTLY the same. Except for the store-wide bullet proof lexan wall that the two clerks, all the booze and the cash register are behind. Damn. Maybe my paranoia wasn't that far off. I buy some goodies and head back to the econolodge for the night.

End of day. Stay tuned for Episode No.3 - Rollin' the Pannier (because it was just too much for one post).

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