There is a 99 Cents Only store on Wilshire Blvd, at the western edge of what used to be known as The Miracle Mile. It’s right across Fairfax Avenue from the glorious old May Co. building, with its remarkable gold cylinder, and a few doors down from the long-derelict Johnie’s Coffee Shop, in which I think one of Pulp Fiction’s best scenes was shot. In between, there is a school of beauty in which large-bottomed Latinas in meticulous and lavish makeup practice hairdressing on wigs.
The 99 Cents Only store of course sells a lot of crap. In their candy aisle, I suspect there is enough sugar to give half the population of Los Angeles diabetes. There’s a lot of high fructose corn syrup-laden food on offer, and a lot of MSG-laden food. But they also often have organic kale and arugula at a fraction of what the local supermarkets and Trader Joe’s sell it for, and panko (Japanese bread crumbs, you see), and Belgian chocolate bars with sea salt. One time they had wonderful delicious Quorn “burgers” in the freezer case, and I bought as many as I was able to carry.
I customarily walk down there after the gym, as I did on Friday. I walked west on the south side of Wilshire, past the panels from the Berlin Wall in front of the hi-rise office building right across from the County Museum of Art, past the many little chiropractic and optometry offices in front of which the homeless would be trying to sleep after business hours, and finally past the Petersen Auto Museum, which is in the process of being remodeled, and is apparently intent on being the most ridiculous builiding in Los Angeles. I crossed Wilshire on the east side of Fairfax, and then pressed the Walk button so I could cross Fairfax.
There is a dedicated left-turn lane on the eastbound side of Wilshrie, for the convenience of motorists who want to head north on Fairfax, maybe to Farmers Market, maybe to Canter’s — the worst, and most famous, delicatessen west of the Mississippi — and maybe even toward Laurel Canyon or the Hollywood Hills. Very often such motorists try to make their left turn after their green arrow has gone off, at which point westbound traffic is able to proceed, and pedestrians may waddle into the intersection. I have on several occasions pretty nearly been struck by someone who couldn’t be troubled to wait an additional 45 seconds for the next green arrow, and have taken, as I dodge them, to bellowing, “Red light, asshole!”
Commonly, they are too ashamed of themselves, or too intent on not being hit by cars, trucks, and buses heading west, to take umbrage, but yesterday was an exception.
The offended driver (of a faded red Accord from late last century, if I’m not mistaken) was maybe 55, short-ish, but stocky, in a dilapidated Seattle Mariners baseball cap that he wore in the traditional, bill-forward, way. I believe he had a couple of tattoos, but wasn’t covered in them, as one who wears his baseball cap bill-backward probably would have been. He was white, but very red with anger. He didn’t seem to be armed. “You want to say that again?” he screamed as leapt out of his car and came after me. “You want a piece of me?”
“Yes,” I turned around two-thirds of my way through the crosswalk to tell him, “Your septum.”
He scowled for a moment in confusion, and then demanded, “You a smartass? Is that it?”
“There are those who would tell you I am,” I admitted. “And my mouth does have a tendency to write checks my fists can’t cash, especially since I had my right shoulder re-replaced this past March. But I think your own greater concern ought to be the inconceivably expensive ticket you’re going to get if you don’t move your car pronto.” He had pulled over on Fairfax, in a No Stopping zone.
“You may be right,” he said, becoming significantly less red. “I should of waited. I shouldn’t be so impatient. It’s just that I’m under so much pressure at work, and…”
He exploded into sobbing. I am not heartless. I held him. Someone driving south on Fairfax hollered, “Get a room!” Oh, how clever! “Have,” I said.
“Huh?” he said.
“Should have waited, not should of, though I understand they sound nearly identical.”
“You’re into grammar and shit?” he asked eagerly. There was a hopefulness in his eyes now. “Me too. Or, rather, I am too. Maybe we should meet for coffee or something.” I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting him, and said yes, and tonight we will go out dining and dancing, provided he is able to recover his car from where it was towed. He is not my type (he is, among other things, male), but I cannot bear the thought of hurting him. I cannot.