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Late For San Pedro

Bumpy Ride, late landing at LAX. Stateside pilots talk about “a little rough air.” In Mexico, they’re more honest and refer to una zona de turbulencia. Fog, air traffic, gate delays. Due in San Pedro (now thought of it with the corrupt long-E pronunciation favored by locals: Pee-dro) for a luncheon address.

Still 70 minutes left. Figured: screw the rent-a-car, jump in a cab, though one-way fare would easily be 40 bucks. Only taxi idling where designated sported eccentric, purple/orange livery. Inside, its dozing driver was a piece of work, too.

Dodger cap, blue bill flipped up, five or six days’ stubble, big-time hair-farmer. Two-foot honky dreadlocks loosely bound: leather lace from someone’s hiking boot. Right lobe adorned with three shiny hoops.

“Dude!” he greeted me. “Where we headed?”

“Fabulous,” I slurred, sotto voce. By then, we’d already slid into traffic, so there weren’t many options. “San Pedro,” I told him. Long E.

“Whoa…” he marveled. “Where’s that?” As if I’’d requested an overland voyage to Uzbekistan.

“Well,” I related, “a little ways down the coast. Port of L.A. is there, so you’ve got your container cranes and warehouses. Also a good-sized yacht harbor.”

“So, O.K.,” he grilled me earnestly. “If you were goin’ there, how would you get there?”

“I am going there,” I reminded him. “Ordinarily, I’d climb in a taxi and give my destination. That just might not cut it this time.”

He ruminated intently for a mile or so, then ventured, “Do you, like, remember which freeway we take?”

‘I’m thinking the San Diego, south, to start,” I muttered. “Then the Harbor?”

“Wait. Is that first one you said, like, the 405?”

“Look,” I spelled things out. “See that egg-shaped thing hanging off your dashboard? Black button on one side? That’s a sophisticated, wireless communication device. Why don’t you activate it? What I’m saying is, press the black button, call in, and get directions from your dispatcher, far as which roads lead to San Pedro?”

A sunny grin burst forth beneath the Dodger cap. “Great idea, dude!” he exulted, ebullient, grabbing the mike and describing our situation.

In response came sounds resembling a retaped, scrambled voice claiming credit for recent mayhem, spewing out a frenzied line of gibberish.

“Tech farrow fauve den won-ton, Zee-Zye, O’Grady.” Over and out.

Clouds of awestruck mystery again hovered over the wheel. “Damn! What was he sayin’? You understand any of that?”

“Some,” I barked back at him. “It’s possible he said take 405 and then the 110, exit onto Seaside, or whatever.”

“Yeah, yeah, all right,” sighed my relieved chauffeur. “We’re in business.”

When we at last approached San Pedro, he appeared to enter an even deeper meditative trance. I resolved to permit him ample time for transformative processes.

“Yo, I like this place,” he finally declared. “There’s palm trees, and boats, and shit. I think I’m gonna start comin’ down here!”

I allowed how I was happy to have broadened his horizons, but lost patience with the dippy puppy-dog routine when he couldn’t decide what should be done next.

“See the sign? MARINA?” I snapped. “That big arrow? Follow that.”

He did. After we turned, a giant billboard welcomed us to the yacht harbor. “Whoa!” my driver exclaimed. “Those signs really work!”

Who knows? Maybe he’s still cruising around near the wharves, each day a new adventure.

Perhaps he bought a long-board, scored a job in a bait-shop, leased some compact furnished room.

Can’t say for sure, ‘cause I booked my shuttle-bus seat back to the airport as soon as I was inside the hotel.

Perspiring behind the podium; tepid, amplified remarks generating deservedly torpid response. Yet, on far fringes of Tinseltown, I may have represented the fare of my hair-farmer’s lifetime — or a meager down-payment on his nightmares. When the flag finally dropped, after all, we were in San Pedro, not Century City.

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