A simple choice, really. Walk to the bottom of the hill, cross the street, and stick my thumb out to hitch south to Hermosa Beach, or, keep trudging down the hill with my arm out towards the street, my thumb hooked forward, hoping some poor soul would be turning south at the bottom of the hill anyway.
My bare feet were like leather soled shoes now, but not quite thick enough to stop the burning pavement from keeping my steps light and quick. My thoughts were molasses oozing slowly out of a jar, so I kept walking with my back to the traffic, and stuck out my thumb.
I will hail them, my brothers of the wheel, and pitch them a yarn, of the sort that has been so successful hitherto; and they will give me a lift, of course….
– Mr. Toad, The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
The faded blue beater car pulled over and a guy in a sweaty, white, short-sleeved shirt leaned over and yanked open the passenger door. I jumped in. “Thanks,” I offered. “Going as far as Hermosa?”
I was on my way to “The Zoo” as the locals called it. Someone had even spray-painted the words on a low wall that separated the sand near the Hermosa Beach pier from the strand, the sidewalk hundreds of people strolled every day of the year. The wall was where the “freaks” congregated to meet, talk, exchange dope for cash, and just “be.” It was one of my favorite places to meet people. I didn’t know them really. I didn’t even know their names, so I gave them names of my own, like “Mickey Mouse Watch,” “The Poet,” and “Freakazoid.” I loved my new friends. They had no demands. They expected nothing of me. At least most of them.
Faded blue beater car dropped me off at the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Pier Avenue. He grabbed my arm as I started to open the door. “Ya wanna go somewhere?” he asked. He had a wad of cash rolled up in a rubber band in his hand. I yanked my arm away. “Go buy yourself a decent car!” I scrambled out the door and slammed it shut. Asshole.
I walked over to the corner and began making my way through the throngs of tourists and locals already out and about. “Spare change? Spare change?” “Thanks!” I said when I felt some coins in my hand. I snuck a glance, hoping to meet a friendly face. Most looked away, disgusted. Within about six minutes I had enough for some breakfast and some “red devils,” usually prescribed to help housewives with insomnia. Mother’s little helpers.
The breakfast would fill my belly. The reds would fill my emptiness. At least for a little while. Long enough to forget that no one cared. Long enough to forget that I didn’t care. Whatever. Forget breakfast. I needed to find “Army Dude.” I thought about blue beater car and slumped into the first vacant seat in the café. Asshole.