The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 17
Don’s eight or nine car triangle shaped parking lot adjacent to the Santa Monica Freeway at Robertson, across the street from his 10,000 square foot brick and concrete warehouse. Monday. 8AM.
The dead Dodge van and the dead Volvo wagon emerge like weeds from the cracked and broken black asphalt. There’s a guy living in the Volvo.
From the spot I’d taken in the dead southeast corner, gazing through the windshield at the scene, a little nostalgia was inescapable, like me and Patty English in the back of the van, circa 1980. Patty had gone from sandals and beads to mink and cocaine in less than a decade, and from selling her brother’s art glass to Santa Monica art gallery owner during that same time.
Stop, I told myself. Stop thinking about it. The ascension of the spirit travels along different flight paths. Leave it at that.
Just then Marta pulled into the lot. She looked exactly the same: like one of the plump, brown papier mache cherubs Don imported, minus the wings.
Some friendships—despite time and distance and change and dead communication lines—remain mysteriously, happily unaltered. So when we greeted and hugged each other center parking lot it was as if we’d never stopped being work mates, using secret code to mock Don and Cathy—the boss and his girlfriend/office manager.
But Marta knew something about me. Instantly. Something new.
Marta: Bob… are you broke?
Me: Kind of why I’m here. I’m hoping maybe Don has some work.
Marta: (Digging around in her purse) You have to eat.
Me: Marta, no. You don’t have any money.
Marta: I DO! You don’t know?
Me: Know what?
Marta: Are you here for lunch? (She pronounced it “loonch”) I’ll tell you then. But here—breakfast. (Bree-fahs).
The others pulled in: Cathy—Japanese, 50-ish, robotic and paranoid; Richard—born again Mex hoodlum; Beverly—college student, Hawaiian; and then, like a disputed champion slowly entering the ring to hot-blooded, split crowd analysis, Don—bi polar honky from Mars.
The rest scurried off as we squared off, center ring.
Don: (After an impossibly long psych-out stare down) Just… uh… come on. Let’s go. I’ll drive. Coffee?
Me: You bet.
There was no warehouse work, but, he told me, mopping latte foam from his silver goatee, Cathy needed some landscaping, irrigation, interior painting work done at her house. He wanted his master bedroom re-painted. And I didn’t have to stay in the parking lot, sleep in the old van. I could stay at his house, a two story, Tudor-style home on a hill in Century City.
Don: (Handing me the house keys) Do me a favor, though? Find real work.
Me: I will. Thanks, man.
Marta’s news—the reason she had money—was because instead of her usual Christmas bonus, Don had given her the down payment for a house. “But he’s no different, Bob,” she said. “He still screams at us. Still humiliates us. Last Friday he made Beverly cry so hard…”
Richard: (Interrupting) She banged her head, man. He was yelling at her, she started crying then turned to run away or something and banged her head into a door jam. That’s why she’s wearing shades, man.
Marta: He is the Devil, Bob. Don’t trust him.
Trust wasn’t the issue. Money was. So was a sudden distraction. The concept for the mural came to me the second I began staring at the two story warehouse wall behind Marta—four dark skinned day laborers with leaf blowers, electric hedge trimmers, lawnmovers, etc., posed outside a house not unlike Don’s… except, instead of faces, baseball box scores.