Good Books

7:38 am – Corner of N Beverly Dr and Elevado Ave, Beverly Hills, Ca

I stepped on the carefully manicured lush green grass and made my way quietly to the front door of the home with the pleasant white door. In surprise, I jumped back one step as a the wooden frame slowly swung open and a pretty blonde girl wearing Bart Simpson jammies appeared and confidently greeted me.

Before I reached the steps to her porch she jumped down and met me at the brick steps. She said….”gracias” and “tenga un buen dia tu” as she grasped the good book and rushed up the stairs to the house and shut the lock..

As I started to make my way away from the scene I caught a glimpse of her in the window upstairs in what I  assumed to be her bedroom before she disappeared from my history. Then as I snapped my way back onto the street, I caught the face of the leathery man taking stock of my process. He wasn’t happy…and I knew then that this was going to be a long day.

May 23, 1992 – 5:ish pm

The leathery man picked up 3500 or so copies of the good book from a contact he made. The weight of it lowers the back half of his beat-up and heavily taxed 1990ish white Ford Econoline back suspension. He takes stock and after a few minutes he deciphers that the risk is worth taking. In a few, he’s off and as he drives past the bright lights of the city of downtown Los Angeles on his way home he ponders the day immediately ahead.

May 24, 1992 – 5:45 am

My father rustled me from a troubled sleep in an uncommonly early hour. I was used to 7 am waking hours and 5ish on a Sunday was just uncalled for. Nonetheless, I felt his sense of urgency and I knew from past experience that it was not idea to cross him. In minutes I was dressed in my simple pair of blue denim jeans and faded white t-shirt. On my feet I snapped my Payless Shoe Source “Nikes” and as I made my way outside of my house on Eastman Avenue I had the audacity to ask “donde vamos.” Needless to say my question was greeted with quiet indignation and soon into the drive I found myself asleep.

California nearing summer wakes up in a splendor. It’s the upside of living on the west coast where surf and sand groggily wake up each day to the warming light of the sun. It was in this early splendor that I found myself awaking and then found that my father had let the cool breeze waft onto the back of the van and eventually into my nostrils. The ocean air near the Pacific eventually dissipates into another awkward form as it settles into the Los Angeles valley but at the coast it is pure and inspiring. It’s a smell more intoxicating than coffee.

“Hugo, Hugo…hey…apurate” my father shouted at me and soon the olfactory Nirvana ended and I came back to the world of our beaten up van with the old leak.

He explained….(in Espanol  which I shall translate and paraphrase)

Okay, today we got to deliver these phone books to all the houses in this neighborhood son. Every single one of these books has to get to each house. So today I’ll grab a few and you grab a few and we’ll walk up and down each side of the street to deliver them. I hope to be done by 4 but we’ll see. The faster we go the faster we go ok? Ok….let’s go.

The news hit like a brick in the pit of my stomach. I glanced down the long street ahead and noticed that for the first time that I was in an alien world. A place where cars bore brands foreign from the Fords, Chevys and Toyotas I knew. The lawns where all green and none hosted cars boasting rust. Spinning sprinklers didn’t seem to exist but carefully timed and coordinated water shows akin to Disneyland.

May 24, 1992 – 2:38 pm

Late lunch had taken about 30 minutes and as we started to work on our last 60 books or so my temper was flaring. I cursed each and every embarrassing step up another driveway. I cursed my father for the stupid and pointless Odyssey. I hated people’s looks as I came up their way and dropped the book on their steps. I attempted to gauge whether they feared, pitied or found me amusing. More than anything, I disliked when some of the people didn’t even acknowledge me. As if I was a phantom entity or service. Like water that flows effortless from the tap or cool air that chills a desert home in the summer time.

It was in that internal rant that I stepped onto the grayish home on Doheny Road. As I approached the door an olive skinned older woman greeted me and said hello. Sheepishly I replied back and in 10 seconds time I found myself embroiled in a rudimentary conversation.

She asked me “how is your day going?” I said “Fine thank you mam”.

Her: “Oh no (giggling) don’t call me mam. That’s for old ladies. You don’t think I’m old right?”
Me: “No, no I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.”
Her: “It’s okay, seems like you’ve been working hard.”
Me: “Yes, thank you, but we’re almost done for the day.”
Her: “We? Oh how many of you are you?”
Me: “Just my dad and me….”

Then from afar my dad shouted at me and told me to get back to work….

Me: “Sorry but I have to go.”
Her: “Seems like it….well have a good night”.

With that she took her right pointing finger and stroked the side of my cheek and as I left I felt a familiar electric twinge hit my lower back.

An hour or so later we were done (with about a dozen books still in the back of my father’s truck). As we crossed the lights of downtown Los Angeles my father and I hardly spoke.

When we arrived home and after I tossed the last few phone books unto our trash bin my father quietly thanked me for my hard word. In a scuff I say “de nada” and retreated to my bedroom. We never delivered books again.

July 25, 1992

We were in our living room watching the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in Barcelona. My sisters and I gathered around the television set in excitement and that year was special for me as my hero Magic Johnson and the Dream Team would play for the gold.

Just before the ceremony started my father presented me with a brand new and gorgeous Starter Laker jacket. For me, it was literally “Christmas in July.”

As my parents excused themselves to the kitchen to fight, I wore my jacket proudly through the parade of nations. I had never been happier in life….

But from the a distance I heard my mother shouting about the $100+ jacket and how “we could possibly afford it.”

Then I heard my father approach her and as mutely as he could he said in Espanol….”don’t worry, he earned it even though he may never know how.”