Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The 405 is a bitch in the morning, especially southbound. Don't get me started on the end of the 10, let's just leave it at the 405 and it's ability to pack in the most numerous asshole count along a confined corridor in my known world. My jeep gets disgraceful gas mileage, and contributes it's lifetime share to the marine layer in one of two months when I'm driving normally, but with stop-start and being tempted to drive over the guy in the Porsche roadster, you've seen him, the one with the toupee, I'm lucky I'm my calm self. So the freeway was horrid five years ago, it's still bad today.

The exit ramp for Sepulveda Blvd is popular. You take it via the Howard Hughes Parkway which is the shortest most pathetic parkway in existence. The ramp is LA's equivalent to the candy floss line outside the magic kingdom at Disneyworld on the July 4th weekend, and exactly like that, with a bunch of ugly strangers in parallel, children screaming in the backs, road rage just about to boil, although at Disney it's more like "I hate my family building up from years of selling out and compromise-rage", actually guys commuting on the 405 have the same issue. As much as I love LA, I don't enjoy being that ephemeral snake's dinner waiting for this line or that line, even at 6 am, even after the music video Everybody Hurts, and I don't think a Maserati would make it feel any less demeaning even though it would compliment my hairstyle.

Cut to the airport. I know that the plane I took is still flying today in 2006, even though it was half decade since I took the flight. The plane must have had a history of taking off in Des Moines and landing in Minneapolis, or freezing at Logan airport and landing in Albuquerque, all the while soaking up the smells of fat middle American businessmen and tourists and their demonic children. Old American planes go to Mexico to die, or retire, or work as senior citizen at Wal-Mart. If airplanes have twilight years, they're spent working for Aeromexico. Somehow in it's dilapidation, the FAA and the Mexican equivalent allowed it to rattle down runway 23, and Aeromexico 18 left LA at the ungodly hour of 7:20 am.

I'm good with turbulence even if I knew the pilot earned his chops flying ancient planes in the Mexican air force. I'm good with middle of the road pilots who look like Tom Cruise Top Gun wannabes. I'm ok with even with their porno mustaches and oversized mirrored sunglasses, so long as they do three things, take off ok, fly straight, and land ok. Turbulence is not a problem even if the pilot accidentally catches a few zz's listening to the San Diego tower hand him off to it's southern counterparteros. One thing that does bug me is the constantly opening overhead luggage bins, and people who take groceries on flights, that freaks me out. Our Boeing 737 was probably the first model of the 737 class ever sent down the tarmac, and it tended to rattled in places I dare not remember just now. The wing wobbled with each bump just a little too much, and I'm thinking back to that outer limits episode where Shatner's combating the gremlin on the wing, and I don't see anybody with guns strapped to their ankles. This I suppose was a good thing in our age of the terrorist.

Surprisingly enough the flight attendant spoke English. Of course any Mexican with constant contact with seedy gringos would know English, I'm just naive. Why is it that someone from a non-English speaking country fed up with being ramrodded with foreign culture and language hasn't grabbed the insurance salesman from Topeka on vacation in the stupid golf shirt with his man-breasts, pushed him up against the wall and screamed at him to speak Spanish or French or German... come to think of it, I'm sure the Germans have done this once. Despite disheveled condition of the plane's interior, complete with decade old coffee stains near my priceless groin, the in flight service was immaculate. I just had coffee that morning, and I feared the attendant would probably have exceptional glute- fitness with all the bending down to pickup random cabin baggage from overhead bins or spastic passengers, but at least it was good coffee. It didn't warrant second cup, and it didn't keep me awake, but it was a highlight of the four hours I spent in that flying Mexican prison.

My mind drifted off somewhere, and I'm in mid conversation standing on my deck three days before.

"Do you know Mexico City?" Estella was speaking to me via cell phone in her concerned tone, but her voice was still pure sex, or Mom, or a shampoo commercial. She was messing with my emotions without knowing it, or did she?

"I've been there before, I have your address, I'll find you, and plus there's one other thing."

"What's that?" I could see her changing her posture and sitting upright with that question.

"I can take care of myself, you know I'm a big boy."

"oh si, I know that." She giggled a little.

"Ok, cool, so get a cab to my place and we'll work on your Spanish". Her cool came out like a French maid saying asshole, only in French. "Coo- ewl" will have to do as my phonetic memory and spelling of such doesn't give it justice. Estella's voice inhabited a room in the same way that a fresh baked apple pie aroma sits in a kitchen. It's strong and enveloping, but pure pleasure and comfort. When she spoke I felt she could make all the pain go away, except I hadn't just fallen off my bike and scraped my knee and I wasn't five years old.

The old Boeing landed like a sack of bricks hitting a rubber floor and as soon as we stopped at the end of the runway the air-conditioning switched itself off and I could feel the heat outside sucking the coldness from the cabin. Aeromexico does this so that the interior of their aircraft becomes uncomfortably warm by the time it reaches the gate. This obviously makes for a speedy deplaning for all people except the huge woman with the groceries in front of me. I'm sure it's a good time for bacteria to cultivate in large numbers, although that might just be my racist subconscious trying to get me to stay out of unclean countries, nonetheless, Mexico City is even by LA standards, dirty.

Out of gate 32, I never check baggage, I motor past a bunch of Mexican frat boys, a couple of nuns, and an incredibly short pilot wearing mirrored sunglasses and an oversized moustache (cloned perhaps) and clear the secure zone into the main terminal area. I searched my memory, found my shades and headed for the ride of my life.

Other than Estella oozing electricity, this was the other part of the trip that I looked forward to, and it's all legal. If I'm ever stuck at MEX, or arriving for whatever reason, I go straight for exit door number seven, cross the incredibly long and bland pedestrian walkway up the stairs, and go to the hidden taxi stand on the other side of the parking lot. Had I been less than adventurous, there was another taxi stand nearer to the terminal with more comfortable air conditioned cabs with larger seats and sane drivers, but I always have to do things the hard way and this was the experience.

I arrive at the forgotten taxi stand and there were a dozen people in front of me. Twenty or so ancient Volkswagen beetles with quaint little taxi signs lined up in front of the rank. The fattest Mexican dude I have ever seen, with enormous sweat pits under his arms held a clip board and was ushering people into the encroaching death trap taxis like some grotesque college kid working the two headed dragon coaster at six flags.

El rapido, the taxi attended, flailed at arm at me and asked me a question in Spanish. It's the same animal you find at LAX or LaGuardia, the body language is identical and even though my Spanish is on the level of a cocker spaniel understanding the finer elements of Madame Bovery in it's original French, I just smiled at him and muttered.

"San Angel por favor."

He laughed a little to himself, ripped a ticket off his clipboard and handed it to me. He went up to the next "cab", and I use that word lightly, and shot out something in Spanish to the driver and handed him a similar ticket.

The taxi attendant looked at me, he must have been two hundred and fifty pounds and he had tattoos on his neck. He then opened up a smile containing the most complete set of white teeth I have ever seen, whiter than Jessica Biel's. I recoiled in amazement as he grinned and said "Have a nice day senor".

I climbed into the backseat of the little green Volkswagen, the front passenger seat had been removed for ease of entry, and felt the luxury of 1940s Nazi German engineering at it's finest. The driver had an obvious interest in passenger comfort because I think the blanket he'd draped over the back seat hiding whatever damage was underneath was the same one my niece used to put under the saddle of her prized farting pony. The car had a new car smell, which I know came from a bottle, and the same type and color "Air Freshner" that you'd find in a Newark New Jersey taxi was stuck to the front dash.

The most complete Spanish I know is how to tell a taxi driver to get somewhere, call it surviving in Latin America or whatever. I have been told that my Spanish sounds more Portuguese in accent. I prime myself each time I have to make an impression on the natives down in Mexico because I'm really not a great person at languages.

Trying to get the scenes from "The Mexican" out of my head, more specifically Brad Pitt trying to speak Spanish, I think of the last time I saw Jimmy Smits on a film set. The way he carries himself, his bulk which is immaculately hidden, his perfect hair, the way people of both nationalities take to him, and think how would he sit back in this carrion infested cab and direct his "driver". A couple of seconds later, I'm relaxed, I am Jimmy Smits, I am cool, comfortable, a fluent speaking native of Mexico, ready for anything and I'm about to give the driver the audition of my life for my big break on Telemundo and he leans back over his seat and looks at me.

This is where the wheels fell off in my head, because he's this wiry little guy with a three day growth, horrible acne scars, and a matted mullet like he grew in an Arkansas trailer park that had no shower facilities. He looks at me through his left eye for his right eye was lazy and was investigating the torn roof fabric or whatever. I thought I was prepared for anything, but here sitting with me in this tragic version of a cab from hell was the Mexican version of John Merrick. I nearly spat out my gum.

I couldn't see any teeth when he smiled, but he looked me up and down and said in a southern California accent, "where to dudester?"

The world righted itself and my need for Spanish evaporated. I gave him the directions for Estella's place and with the world's worst English accent I'd ever heard gunned the little car out of the taxi rank onto the bumpy road with a "Rightyo guvner".


Blogger Charlie Brown said...

I want to visit Mexico someday, but not Mexico city. It sounds too harsh living there.

7:29 AM  
Blogger J said...

Yup, it's hard to breathe sometimes too...

12:29 PM  
Blogger Starved said...

mmmm.. mexico, I used to live a mear 45 minutes from dirty nogalas.. I love getting grimy sometimes..

3:19 PM  
Blogger J said...

ahh... if you want shithole defined, try El Paso, both of em...

3:28 PM  
Blogger Blondie said...

My friend...... long winded doesn't even describe it.


I'm thinking of taking a trip now... be damned if this story doesn't make me feel bored of my own life....

10:48 PM  

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