My man Red

LA5400

A small, strong dude with the name of his mom tattooed on the back of his shaved skull. Yesterday, he closed his auto shop. Twenty-five years.

His name is Israel. Always tight with his old school hip hop style. LA cap, cool glasses, white sleeveless shirt, baggy jeans and a pair of old red Js or Timbs. He’s in his mid-fifties looking like a small version of Fat Joe.

His business being across the street from my room, I saw him work six to seven days a week changing tires from 7am to 8pm. During heat waves or torrential rain, it didn’t matter. My man was out there with his assistant. I’ve seen cars pulling up with a flat regularly. Always wondering why they would go to his shop when there’s an auto shop every block in this part of Los Angeles. Great customer service, I suppose.

He hooked me up with two Mexican brothers to help me find a car a few years ago. We did find one far away –they gave me a ride– but I couldn’t afford it. I told him good morning if not everyday, every other day. “How’s life treating you man?” he would ask me, pulling me aside on the sidewalk. I would You Know this shit hard, more amused and more thankful for his thoughtful question than willing to answer properly. One time he wasn’t look well. As I passed his shop every weekend to shoot my basketball, that time I stopped and asked him what was going on. He was just sad because of some family bullshit, some conflict with his kids and his ex-wife. He was sad enough to need a hug. I hugged that man on the corner like he was family.

It was just black and brown people doing business around cars and tires. Maybe there was something else. Maybe not. He owned his shop and was very proud of that. He told me multiple times that he didn’t like that gentrification going on but that he was not concerned. Until they come for you. And it’s really a weird, elusive “they”. Some motherfucking ghostly holding for which $1M is actually like a dollar bill, probably patiently waiting to get rid of all the small shops on that block. That’s how things are now.

On Sunday as he was emptying his space, I went over and gave him a bottle of wine. Neighbors and customers stopping by to help or drop a plate of food. He was visibly exhausted. Sad. He told me that he got his money so, all good? Money matters but don’t matter at the same time. He’s planning on moving out of LA and find a place somewhere south. It’s hard to start over. I know that.

Yesterday, when the sun was going down as I was playing bass, I could see him alone in his empty lot, strolling, remembering, wiping his face from all the liquid coming out of his holes. He was looking around and he really was red. He had this road sign on the wall, BIG DADDY BLVD. He slammed the doors of his blue truck in slow motion and painfully drove away.

I’ll miss his stroll. I’ll miss waving and shouting “have a great day!” at him and hear him answer whatever, he has already waved back as I’m speeding up. I’ll miss hearing him laugh in the aisle of our local market. He knows everyone.

As I was reading this last night, I couldn’t stop crying. People of Los Angeles and cities on earth, it’s time to fight. Talk to your fucking billionaire friend and tell him to fucking chill and retreat to his/her far away gated community, far from us the 7.5 billion peasants out there.

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