I live above a liquor store in City Heights. The store’s sign stands out in the neighborhood, as it’s the only one in English. Across the street is a Vietnamese donut shop and a tortilleria. Smells of meat juice, lime, and browning starch fill the air like custard in a maple bar. At night, rummies stumble from the bright oasis under my place to the donut shop and back to my place, their expeditions between the two poles dictated and scheduled by the alternating rise and drop of the two main chemicals in their blood and brain, sugar and alcohol. They pee behind the donut shop. I’m thankful for that.
Every window on the block below ten feet, and half above that mark, bear etched tags of rival gangs. There’s one on my second-story living room window. It was in this neighborhood before me. On summer days, the swirly spider-webby scratches in the glass gleam in the sun rays. I’m not even sure what the tag depicts. It looks like an “A” with the partial outline of a wing. At night when I can’t sleep, mottled strands of cream-and-brown carpet fibers bend beneath my toes and I stand, naked, and stare at the little etched mark in the yellow beam of a sodium street lamp.
People are afraid to come to my part of town, sometimes rightfully so. At the broad intersection beneath my etched window, I can see sensible drivers lock their doors. On my first day here, I did too. The idea is that if things go haywire, you get an extra five seconds to lie across the front seat and stab at whatever vehicle controls you can mash an instep or palm against, and in the half-safety of steel, deliver yourself away from the area of danger. It’s not a bad idea. Lately, there’s a group of guys going around separating people from their cars and wallets.
On this night, I sit beside my yellow window, press my upper arm against the cold pane, and look down, past my little half-winged “A” scratch in the window to the intersection below, where a rummy had no car door to lock, and something unknown relieved him of a good deal of his alcohol-diluted and sugar-caramelized blood. Around him, bone-white TV news vans form a semicircle in the wet black asphalt.
Thursday, February 28
The Bold and the Beautiful
CBS 9:30 a.m.
I watched the Oscars the other night. Well, part of the Oscars because, really, who can suffer the whole way through? Here’s what doesn’t make sense. Anton Chigurh looks like a drop-forged street-tough killer when he’s in a powder blue leisure suit and flippy wig — not exactly the manliest of outfits. But, put him in the man’s man formal uniform, the tuxedo, and he looks like your drunk uncle who cries a little too much at weddings.
WGNSAT 8:00 p.m.
Here is a bit of advice that you can rely on without exception: if you walk into a dentist’s office and he is over 60 years of age, walk out. Because he thinks you’re a sissy what with your sniveling insistence on “Novocain” and “sterile instruments.” He remembers the days of REAL dentistry when all you needed was a pair of fireplace tongs and a rock. I’m telling you, walk out.
Friday, February 29
Hell Date Special
BET 7:30 p.m.
Dating, or as I like to call it, “Let’s Play Mouth Herpes Tag,” is tough. There’s all the drinking, late nights...mace. My advice to single guys out there is get used to the tickly tingle of a stun gun and coordinate your shirts with the color of police lights as well as barf. Oh, look. It seems that I am now “It.”
Saturday, March 1
ox 8:30 a.m.
Reminds me of that time I fell for the line “just let me take a couple naked pictures of you, baby. Nobody’ll see them but me.” I didn’t really want to, but I thought, hey, there aren’t any porno sites for big-butt, bearded, tattooed... Oh, great. There they are. Yep. I’d recognize that luchador mask and those hot-pink ice skates anywhere.
Discovery 9:00 p.m.
I’ll make it easy on anyone who wants to tell me about “The Secret.” I want a time machine and a pet dinosaur, so, really, all you have to do is come up with the time machine and we’ll both be set. I’ll believe in your “Secret” thing, and when I bring him back, you can pet my new friend, “Snappy.”
Sunday, March 2
Ever Increasing Faith
Lifetime 7:00 a.m.
Also related to the Oscars: can we please do away with the annual compulsory black church choir bit about the hardships of love and breaking down walls and teaching children with love and prayer to break down walls with love and prayer and, rather, teach children about hardships of walls and teaching and loving and children and prayer? I would not presume to speak for Him, but I am guessing that God would appreciate not only praise but fresh lyrical themes as well.
Monday, March 3
Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious
CW 9:00 p.m.
My reality show about becoming the next Evel Kneivel will have to wait. I don’t have the money for a motorcycle. Until I save up, I’ll have to make due with my spangled jumpsuit, ten-speed bicycle, and ramp I made out of 2x4s and a Frisbee. So far, I’ve only jumped over a dead cat, but it’s all about progression.
Tuesday, March 4
America’s Next Top Model
CW 8:00 p.m.
The better show is Korean-American Gladiators, in which tiny dry-cleaning shop owners are pitted against bodybuilders in challenges of strength, skill, and endurance. If you’re smart, you’ll wait for the “Playing Cello While Doing Long Division” round before placing any bets on Jumbo McSteroidpants.
Wednesday, March 5
Sam the Cooking Guy
CASD4 9:30 p.m.
Sometimes I wonder if Luke would’ve been better off had he not been rescued by Ewoks. I mean, have you ever had Ewok food? They are persistent: it’s tough to turn them down once they’re passing that stinking bowl of berries and bugs around. And there’s something that looks like it could be a squirrel. Trust me, you don’t want any. The rest of the rebellion you’re going to spend mapping out the distance and number of Storm Troopers between you and a restroom.
Thursday, March 6
ABC 8:00 p.m.
Here are some questions you can ponder, you know, to keep yourself from getting bored during the week waiting for the next baffling episode of Lost: What the hell is a caper? Why are there fewer and fewer hunchbacks? Why is a month of sixth-grade P.E. class dedicated to square dancing? What did cavemen use to brush their teeth? Why are the Japanese and Swedish so weird? The answers next week. (Or not; you never know with me.)