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Spirituality and the City

Story by G.D. Shaw - rogueapemedia@gmail.com Photos by Muge Karamanci
Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

I want to meet the man who’s preaching Buddhism throughout China. It’s all underground and secret and he has a temple in the City of Industry, Los Angeles (go figure). He’s rarely in town, but his sidekick Big Ernie, once a cracked out trucker turned Buddhist Temple manager, calls to tell me the Man’s here until tomorrow morning.

I call and convince my weird science friend Tim that he may see a vision if he meets this guy. He’s skeptical but willing, and shows up at my place in an old Ed Hardy fatigue jacket, looking disheveled enough to be pulled into a police line-up. We head downtown on the 10 Freeway but something’s wrong with Tim’s old Saab convertible, so we pull off at Figueroa as steam whooshes out from under the hood.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

We call Triple A and wait, and wait, and WAIT. I call Big Ernie to tell him we’re on our way and he says the Man’s leaving for LAX at midnight. It’s ten p.m. and we’re alone on the side of the road—which is dark and a little daunting, so I decide to ditch the car and catch a cab. But there’re no cabs, and Tim’s whining he doesn’t want to leave his car. Why? No one can steal it—it’s broken down, and we’re carrying his smelly sneakers and sports gear so no one will smash his window or slash his roof.

We walk a few blocks and finally see a cab. We flag him down but the driver just cruises by staring at us suspiciously. Then, a hundred feet up the road, he screeches to a halt. I run and jump in, Tim hesitates. Inside we both sniff, there’s an odd smell. Could be crack, could be meth, but there’s definitely something. He heads toward the City of Industry and starts weaving erratically through the traffic. Tim and I look at each other nervously.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Then we hear a police siren. The cab driver hits the gas as I look through the back window suddenly realizing we’re the subject of pursuit. The cab driver throws a package out the window as I yell at him to stop the car. Suddenly the traffic slows down and the cops pull up beside us. A bullhorn blasts, “Move over to the side of the road now!”

Shit, we’ll never meet the Buddhist at this rate. The cabbie pulls over, gets out and jumps over the center divider. A cop chases him, the other one orders us out of the car. Tim asks me if we should take his sports gear with us. We don’t and get out. I smile at the cop and tell him we were only passengers, and that we’re in a hurry. He’s cool—I’ve always had decent cop Karma. But, he says we’ll have to wait for his partner to come back, which he does. The cabbie got away. They’ll get the cab towed and give us a ride back to the city.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

We grab the sports gear and jump in the back of the cop car, which smells like vomit and urine. They apologize, but tell us it’s clean. When they drop us off downtown we hail another cab—it’s eleven-fifteen p.m. He’s the slowest driver on the planet—leaning forward on the steering wheel—cars beeping at him and flashing their lights. He tells us he hates freeways. I ask him to step on it—what’s his name? Joseph—but he ignores me. Tim’s complaining because we left one of his shoes in the cop car. I lean back and breathe.

Now we’re in the City of Industry but we can’t find the Buddhist temple. The numbers skip from five hundred to seven-fifty then jump to the nine hundreds. Is this some sort of mystery we have to figure out before we can meet the great One? By the time we realize we’re in the North section and the temple’s in the South, the cabbie’s gone and so has the temple group. I call Big Ernie who tells me they’re heading to LAX for a meal before the flight leaves at six a.m.—plenty of time.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

A dense, quiet marine layer settles over the City of Industry. Tim’s hungry and when he gets hungry, he gets mean, rambling on about deprivation. Why us? Why here? Why now? I ask him why not us, why not here, now? And just as a look crosses his face that he may lunge at me, I notice, through the fog, a twenty-four hour 7-Eleven. I call a cab company and ask them to meet us there.

Tim prowls the aisles as if he’s a predator looking for prey. He grabs Doritos and a Coke. I pay because he suddenly decides he can’t find his money. I eat a Twinkie. I hate Twinkies, but tonight I’m out of my comfort zone, so all bets are off for doing anything normal, anything within my life’s pattern. I enjoy the Twinkie tremendously. We stand outside waiting for the cab. Watching Tim eat is like watching a plant get watered—he grows, smiles, he’s animated—laughs about what’s happened. No cab.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

A young dude covered in gang tattoos strides out of the 7-Eleven. I offer him fifty bucks to get us to the airport. He’s got one of those suped up Honda hatchbacks—red with white trim, tinted windows and sparkling rims. He says he will if we can grab his grandma, who he’s supposed to be watching.

Tim looks at me nervously whispering—the guy will steal our money then shoot us, this could be an ambush. I ignore Tim’s fear. Typical closeted white boy, closeted scientist. He deals with virulent viruses better than other people. We follow the tattoos into his stucco bungalow. His granny is asleep in front of a loud TV. The dude wakes her up.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

I ask Tim if this’s the pistol packing granny he’s scared will shoot us. She doesn’t want to shoot us, but she’s hungry and wants to make some chicken tacos before we leave. Which she does. I pace. Tim’s in the bathroom practically the whole time and the grandson’s on the back porch making some early morning drug connections.

We leave. The Buddhist’s plane goes at six a.m. It’s three-fifteen a.m. now. The driver cruises, then speeds. His name is Adolph. Why did his family call him that, I quiz? Tim jabs me—he doesn’t want to upset Adolph. Adolph doesn’t get why I’m asking him about his name. His grandma is asleep in the front. Adolph Hitler, I explain, such a distinctly fascist name. What’s a fascist? He asks. I explain. Tim pinches my leg so hard I punch him back. Hard.

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

He shrugs off the question—it’s a family name, what does he care? I tell him he should care because this guy would’ve killed his family—being brown and all—had his family lived in Germany at the time. Our Adolph’s glaring at me in the rear view mirror. You want a ride—I give you a ride, but you’re pissing me off. I smile and tell him I’m sorry, and really appreciate what he’s doing. I explain to him that we’re going to meet a great Man who’s spreading Buddhism through China—that’s when grandma throws up—one minute she’s snoozing, now she’s sick. The dude pulls over—and we all jump out. Grandma almost falls out, but Adolph catches her just in time. He tells us he’s got to get her to a hospital.

I’m trying to find the closest twenty-four hour clinic or emergency room on my phone. Downtown there’s one. Can he just drop us off? Tim asks. No, Adolph and I say. They pump her stomach—food poisoning. From the tacos she ate. They want to keep her there for a few hours. Adolph tells us that if we clean out the car we can take it and bring it back. I clean the car—Tim watches. He can’t help; his gag reflex is too strong. We’re heading to LAX—it’s four-fifteen a.m… We may just make it. I really want to meet this Buddhist. I really want to meet this great Man.

3 Responses to “Spirituality and the City”

  1. Angelica Holiday says:

    Shaw is not only adept at keeping me on the edge of my seat, but leaves me wanting more. Any chance of future installments?

  2. […] I sent a short story to a dear friend who passed it along to the e-magazine editor for review. “Spirituality and the City” was published, but if it hadn’t been published I would’ve appreciated her helping me get the […]

  3. Nephew no. 3 says:

    On the seat’s edge too! Definately need some more…no more chicken tacos though! Yup…you can leave those ones out.