“Kiko, it’s Jon with UBER.”
“Where are you?” Her Japanese accent sounds almost Chinese, it’s so aggressive.
“I’m on Club Drive. There’s no exact address.”
“I’m on Shelby!”
“Is that where you dropped the pin, Kiko?”
“I don’t know! I meet you at Papa John, okay?”
Drive away, Jon. It’s 7:00 pm, you’ve been working since 9:00. It’s been 8 minutes. You’ve got the cancellation fee. Just leave.
“Across the street. Papa John!” I hear her turn and say in Japanese, “he got wrong address” to someone, then hang up.
I’m projecting. I don’t know what she said. I don’t speak Japanese. I turn around, make the left onto National and head towards the fucking Papa John’s. You guys never check where the pin drops to make sure it’s in the right spot. You just click “request ride.” I get it. This is all still new, you don’t really care and part of the comfort is that I’ll come get you, wherever you are, mistakes and all. You’ve purchased “the ultimate boyfriend experience.” Only thing better is when I take you to the airport. Four more rounds of
“Where are you? – I’m here!” and one round of “Helen Keller” and I guide Kiko and her two friends Mike and Amy, also Asian, to my car and everyone gets in. Amy’s (20s) on the right, in retro dress and bright smile, Mike’s (30’s) on the left, helixed beanie and an oversized copy of Aesthetica Magazine with Kiko (Mid 40’s) bowl cut and sunglasses, in the middle. They’re artsy fashionistas with that casually Asian aesthetic that can make a t-shirt and jeans look like a suit. She didn’t enter a destination. Of course not.
“You guys never find me! Sake House Miro on La Brea. We’re late. Your car is grey in the picture!” It's Silver.
B*#@%. It’s at least a $15 ride, though. I find the address and start the drive up Pico to La Brea. I’m 100% sure they’re speaking in Japanese to mock me (or they’re just Japanese.) Chinese and Japanese both share that quasi-monotone, where you can’t tell if they’re ecstatic or bored to death. Japanese is clenched and tight, Chinese, staccato and screamy. Eavesdropping in a language I don’t know is like being at the Opera – I start off like, “I’m not gonna read, I wanna experience the story through emotion, and 30 minutes later I’m back to Supertitles because I dunno what the fuck’s going on. That’s happening now. I’m dying to know what they’re saying and then “nahhh, just follow the aural rhythm, imagining allegiances, betrayals, whatever” (It always sounds so portentous.) Mike flips pages, indifferently looking out the window, Amy giggles and agrees with everything while Kiko runs the conversation like Anna Wintour, holding court with her backseat Vogue staff. There’s no natural segue, so I just jump in.
“Is this place any good?” Kiko lifts her sunglasses in surprise. Our eyes meet. Her's are gorgeous and they hit me like a smack in the face.
“What? Sake House? It’s our favorite. Sushi is fresh and cheap, DJ on Saturday nights – japanese something-something – you should come. You’re so nice. You rescued us. Because you’re a good person.”
“He’s cute” she says to Mike in Japanese (totally guessing) and giggles as Mike looks at me.
Was that “cute” for her or him?
“Yes! Yes!” They all agree in English. Kiko grabs my shoulder as I pull into the driveway and stop.
“No, really, you should come.”
No way. I’ve been on the road all day and I need to sleep, not have stranger-sushi with self-centered, happy-go-lucky hipsters who're gonna get me drunk and stiff me with the check. Nuh uh. The last thing I'm doing is --
“Okay!” I say.
Cheers from the backseat. I toss the keys to the valet as he and I exchange a “mutual employment” glance and roll into Sake House.
Ever been? The one on La Brea. It's tiny, with Christmas string lights and wobbly two-tops. I’m immediately starving. Everyone’s speaking Japanese and I’m barely hanging on, but they’re laughing smiles are like arms around my back. Before the sake bombs discharge, tuna is gliding down my throat and soon we’re all howling with laughter at some joke I didn’t understand a word of and I couldn’t care less. I’m hangin’ with artsy Japanese fashionistas and we’re fuckin’ besties and they’re super cool and I’m ripped, and fuck the day’s anxiety. My arms are swingin’ on my hips doin’ my best Nancy Sinatra with a mic in my hand singing “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.'” The crowd’s singing with me: “One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over—“
BOOM! The front doors blow open, the deafening roar of motorcycles pours in as 10 super sleek, leather clad Yakuza burst through and spray the entire room with machine gun fire!
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!?
In shock, I look over at Kiko – I can tell by the look in her eyes that my passengers are the targets…and I’m with them! I dive down under the table, glass and bullets spraying everywhere. Kiko pulls me out the back door, snatching the swinging keys off the valet board. She takes the wheel of my car, pushes me over into the passenger seat and in seconds we’re screaming south towards the 10 Fwy, Yakuza breathing down our necks! I turn to Kiko terrified, but she’s smiling and laughing mischievously, through the blinding headlights. She ducks her head as bullets fly and I can’t comprehend how the living fuck I got here! She pulls a donut ON THE 10, grabs a pistol from her fashionable jacket, fires and hits the lead motorcycle, which flips over and takes out the other bikes like bowling pins! My car screams to a halt on the shoulder. I look at Kiko, breathless. She smiles, licks her lips, and kisses me passionately—
Okay so...that didn’t happen.
I politely declined their invitation. Kiko, Mike and Amy were genuinely disappointed, which really touched me (Not their real names, I just like when Asians have American names like “Sally” or “Joe.” Kiko’s name? Totally real.) I dropped ’em off and watched through my rear view mirror as they entered Sake House Miro.
Next time. Life’s too big right now. Gotta get to sleep so I can get up and do this again tomorrow morning. And the truth is, it was the invite to be besties minutes after being mortal enemies, that made all the difference. That complete 180 reminded me of a recurring theme in this city: We’re all dying to connect. I turned off the app and drove home.
And no, they didn’t tip me, because you guys never tip.
Rate your passengers from 1-5 Stars.
Addendum: It crossed my mind that my Asian references could be perceived as completely racist. Broken English, Fashionistas, Yakuza, or that I sometimes picture Asians I see walking down the street as Anime Superheros (it’s awesome.) This could sound completely racist. Truth is, “I LOVE our differences. Our dichotomy. Our Yin/Yang (duh.) “BDSM & Shibari, from the same folks that brought you Martial Arts and Meditation!” On the inside we’re the same, while the outside is a spectacular, psychedelic 'Yellow Submarine' of difference. I love me some almond eyes and tiny hands as much as I love mocha skin and lips I wantonly fear might devour me, as much as super ginger pink arms packed with smiling freckles. Our slightly different thoughts as well as our appearance. That said, I’ll do my best to paint in thoughtful technicolor as I let my freak flag fly.
Feel free to picture me as a member of NWA with a nasty drive to the basket, and below average ability to succeed in institutions of higher learning btw ;-)