Headshot

Displayed on his laptop was the Facebook photo of someone I barely recognized. His was a good-old boy face, with clean features and a fresh haircut. He carried himself with forced-casual posture — shoulders back and spine slightly hunched — and it screamed American Eagle catalog. Teddy and Kathy laughed at his modeling photos as they passed the bowl back and forth, him clicking and changing the picture every other toke. Teddy gestured towards the screen. “Look at what Ky’s been up to.” Ky was a server who started working at the Thai restaurant just before I left. We didn’t
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Spin

There’s a crazy homeless lady yelling obscenities outside my window. I hate callously tossing around words like “crazy” and “homeless”– that could be someone’s grandmother outside – but she’s got a schizophrenic gait to her speech, see-sawing from sing-song to Banshee. That’s the “crazy.” And she parked her shopping cart of worldly possessions next to my car, and is using the rear end bumper as a roof. That’s “homeless.” Teddy suggests we get out there and tell her to move, but he doesn’t read horror scripts all day, so he doesn’t know any better. There’s always that guy in slasher
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Tipping (Isn’t a City in China)

Allan soured his face as I explained his duties as the bus driver for today: keep your phone on. Answer the calls. Make sure you’re constantly looping back here from LAX — don’t just stay at the airport. He had this “I-can’t-believe-my-lot-in-life-is-driving-a-bus” expression on his face. The sentiment seeped into his posture, and into his surly one-word responses to my instructions. He maintained that presence the entire day, up till the moment I signed his parents, indicating services rendered, and that he completed his duties. After I shook his hand, he paused, then said, “Handshakes and thank you’s are nice,
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Sell Yourself

You could tell he was a best-selling author the moment he stepped on the elevator. It was in the smile: the smug smile of success of someone who needs success to smile. If that didn’t tip you off, then the collared shirt with his name embroidered over his right tit and the words “Best-Selling Author” embroidered over his right tit did. His beard resembled a furry cat, a tawny feline that perched onto his chin years ago and never left. Instead, the pussiness seeped into his pores and oozed throughout his persona: the entitlement in his strut, the condescension in
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No One’s Listening

Jeff sat. He was new blood. A transplant. Like a minted quarter, shiny and uncirculated and fresh to death. Seated around him, three individuals who arrived a month previous. All whom sang the song and danced the dance required to get established in this town.  He had every opportunity to pop questions, to mine for nuggets that’d make his transition easier. Finding even one morsel would make the effort worthwhile. Competition’s fierce, and that one byte of data might separate him from permanent resident status or a return ticket in three months with nothing but a story. And he squandered
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Can’t Be Done

“You can’t be an assistant and a writer,” Teddy said. Why? “None of the assistants at the agency want to be actors or writers,” Teddy said. “They wouldn’t have time to do both. It’s just not done.” He forgot. That every day in Los Angeles was another day someone back home said wouldn’t be done. He forgot how many friends wished us good luck (zippo,) how many thought this was a pipe dream we’d never execute (∞.) Leaving home, leaving behind the foundation of a career, family and friends to live in a city with no home, no job, and
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Restaurant Work in Los Angeles

“Sounds like a no-brainer,” Teddy said. He reclined deeper into the sofa, sunlight splashing off the cigarette drooped from his fingertips. “What did you come out to Los Angeles for? You didn’t come out to serve, or to learn more about the restaurant business. You came to write. So take whichever job will help you do that.” He took a drag. Stared out across Culver City rooftops. “Wish someone told me that, when I was in New York. So I kept acting, instead of wasting two years bartending.” The choices? A modern, fine-dining Japanese restaurant. Or a local, burn-n’-turn Thai
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The “U” Rock Tradition

Cobie, in his old-soul, understated-fashion, raised his hand. “I’d like to say something,” he announced. He had thick curly hair and the gaze of Julio Aparcio. He turned his matador eyes to his hall mates. “I think we all need to give Chris a hand for laying down the law on some European kids at breakfast.” He started clapping. A quick “Yeah!” sounded, followed by hearty applause. Until that moment, sitting amongst my 13 charges for this session, a circle of cheering 13- to 15-year-olds, I did not realize how badly I wanted the recognition. I was 24-years-old. I had
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Free

Most people jump at the opportunity of “free.” At the end of our serving shift, I told the other server our tips were a dollar over, and I wanted her to have it. She tried shrugging it off. She continued pushing the vacuum cleaner over the tan carpet. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. I insisted. I told her I left it in my pocket and almost forgot it. If she didn’t take it, the guilt would eat me. She thought about it for a millisecond. “Okay. I’ll take it. I’m poor,” she said with a short laugh, then, just
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Service

“It’s not just about making tips,” Frank said. He’s always said it. “Don’t look at your job like that. Otherwise, you start thinking, ‘I’ll treat these people sitting over here better than those people over there because I think they’ll tip me better.’ You might know they won’t leave you a good tip. You might remember the last time they came in, how nice you were to them and how the man thanked you and shook your hand on the way out, but when you counted the cash on the table, you found they only tipped you 13%. Some people
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