My best friend tells me he’s always thought of me as Spiderman.

The other day I was on my way to work and my car died one lane right of the fast lane just past Coldwater heading west on the 101 to Calabasas from downtown.  Rush hour like it can only be in Los Angeles on her freeways.  Traffic came to a stop and so did my ten year old Audi.  My car died so silently it took me a minute to understand I was dead in the water.

I don’t do helpless very well.

There I was paying my cell phone bill so I could dial 911 as I sat in morning rush hour traffic at a dead halt.  Tires literally screaming to a stop behind me while I listened for myself on the radio for my fifteen minutes of fame as the latest asshole foolishly attempting to commute in a jalopy destined for mechanical failure in the human race to process the grist.

To say it sucked would be my personal contribution of understatement for the new year.

Eyes glued to the mirrors.  I watched them swerve recklessly.  They came to a stop behind me and hesitated too much in trying to steer around me.  They came upon me suddenly and slid to a stop.  They careened.  They cursed and blared horns.  I didn’t dare do any damn thing but sit there in neutral with my seat belt on.  I “fingered” them as they jerked around me to speed by.  I knew I wasn’t out of gas.  I knew my battery was good.  I understood that whatever had happened was most likely serious as in seriously expensive.

Turned out that was true.

Timing belt.

A $60 part.

When the timing belt gives up on a fairly expensive German car, the valves tend to bend themselves in the confusion and chaos.  Can’t just tow it because it’s all wheel drive.  Gotta have a flatbed.

Took the free freeway service about 45 minutes to even show up.  He sat on the shoulder and gestured at me to put my car in neutral and stay strapped in.  I did my best to gesture back that I understood and that I already had.  So the tow truck appears and I tell him he can’t do anything more than get me off to the side because I’m basically four wheel drive and he’ll do more harm than good if we go any further.  He left me on the side of the freeway to wait for a flatbed.  I had ample time to reflect upon when I had money and a warranty.

The free freeway service guy insisted upon pouring a gallon of gas in my tank and trying to jumpstart me.  I let him even though I knew it was futile.  He told me it was maybe two hours wait for a flatbed and pointed out that it was a pretty nice day.  He said at least it’s not raining.  I lit a smoke and examined the early morning freeway architecture.  The sun was bright, fat and glared hard.  The wind blew and I was was one of those poor fucks you see on the side of the road with a hopeless look on their face.  Ever been in that scenario where you know you’re completely upside down and it’s just about waiting for it to play out to a worse case inevitability?

I get to the repair shop and they confirm it will be thousands of dollars.  Thousands that I don’t have.  They tell me it could take five days.  I take some minutes to remember times when I had money and how this would have merely pissed me off.  I spend less time realizing that although I’ve managed to gain back some self sufficiency, my ass is still broke.  I think hard and begin to call anyone I know who has money and think about the losers who owe me money.  There is one woman who owes me enough to buy a pretty good used car.  More than enough to pay for this shit.  That woman will pay me if it’s the last thing I ever do or she ever does.

I worked it out.  I can’t say how save for some people think I’m worthwhile.  I turned onto a few dead ends before that.  It was pretty ugly.  Heart fracturing and skull crunching.

I tried to understand how it could have been worse.  I just came over the Sierras a week ago and it would have been a nightmare then.  White knuckle driving anyway.  Had it happened then and there, in the wind and snow, well, that would’ve tested me.  I’m agnostic so I have no business praying.

A few days prior to this nightmare cape, I obtained my medical marijuana recommendation from a certified and official physician.  Told him I had insomnia and carpal tunnel I thought from playing the drums.  They gave me some important looking letter sized certificate with a gold seal and for an extra nominal fee, an official ID card.  I didn’t have  to pay for any of it.  Employment perk.

I rented a Hyundai.  I don’t have an actual credit card but the owner of the shop put his card down for me.  How cool is that?  For what it’s worth, the dealership quoted the job at $6,600.  I sped away in my silver automatic Hyundai.  Is it Korean?  It only has 17,000 miles on it.  The radio is lit blue.  The AM reception is excellent.  I like blue lights.  The repair shop told me it would be about half as much as the dealer quoted.  The torque of the Hyundai is glaringly anemic.

I did my best to have a lemons into lemonade afternoon.  I had a late lunch at a place in Hollywood I used to adore.  Excellent gravy for the noodles.  I went to a dispensary for my first time to buy some green leafy medicine.  It was warm.  An almost hot day in the middle of January.  I couldn’t stop thinking about my yesteryear tiny apartment in the Hollywood hills.  The view and the Fish moving in with me and then the Bean.  A wonderful woman and a magnificent feline.  Simpler times.

The Bean died prematurely and The Fish dumped me after ten years.

All I want is for things to be simpler and enough money for when they get more complicated.  I can’t stand when things are beyond my control.  I hate not being able to impose my will in my own life.  I’m pretty good at what I do and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it again after a few really long, challenging years.  It’s still pretty jacked up.  I need to see a dentist and a doctor.  I drove the silver Hyundai to Walmart to pick up my prescriptions.  It’s too far but they’re so cheap with the pharmaceuticals.   Thirteen bucks as opposed to thirty five anywhere else.

Yeah well I understand I’m feeling sorry for myself.

But I think about all these people with all these cars.  One smog certification or check engine light away from living on the street after that car stops dead.  After it’s only movement is because of gravity or a tow truck.  How many like that?  Poverty is up.  The new normal.  Buy stock in Ramen noodles.  One or two more rivets pop in this economy and we’re flirting with a tsunami.  I could be learning to grow vegetables in the harsh northern Nevada climate by spring.

I wonder about buying gold.  Gas is way up.  Write your congressman.  Make him tired of you.

Today I learned that my base salary was to be doubled and a bonus structure was being implemented that would remunerate me for what I know how to do well.  I sell stuff.  I’m good at it.  I’m old enough to understand that taking anything for granted is foolish.  I’m not prevented however, from feeling pretty damn good about today and my efforts not going unnoticed.  I’m grateful, but I earned it.  Humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive.

It was that kind of day that only southern California affords.  Gorgeous and warm.  Spring in the middle of winter.  And my new employer gave me the chance to show my stuff a few months ago.  I showed it and they recognized it.  Today they showed me.  On top of it all, I’m being payed to write.

I wish all of you the kind of day I had today.

Drinks for my friends.

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