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Self Rediscovery


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
The Sheik. Sheiky Baby. She was actually his daughter. The Candy Girl. Her Daddy was The Sheik.

"Daddy is actually a real Sheik. He rules our tribe. My mother is the 5th wife. She's Dutch Afrikaan. I have her eyes, fair skin, and blonde hair. So I won't be in line to ever rise to his place, unless something happens to my 9 brothers, and their sons.

Our government was overthrown by religious zealots. We had to leave our ancestral lands. Our entire tribe, and many other tribes, fled to neighboring territories. We were offered refuge, of course, since we brought with us our goats, young girls who are sought after as brides, and our Swiss accounts. We had to buy our way into a refugee camp.

Then The Russians came. We were no match against their tanks and helicopters. Goat herders in turbans, with sticks, suddenly having to defend against an invasion. Our people simply want to survive as we had for thousands of years. On our land. Grazing our sheep, growing figs and pistachio, and selling our poppy.

This Congressman came, from your House of Representatives. My Dad told my brothers, that he must be crazy to fly around the world with buckets of chicken. But there he was, in a private plane, stocked with The Colonel's 11 herbs and spices. He met with my Dad, as well as a dozen other tribal chiefs. I don't know all of the details. As a woman, I was obviously not allowed onto the plane. My Dad did bring back KFC, for the family."

I'm listening. She's doing most of the talking. We're driving down Interstate 5, South. Riding in a mini bus, with Port Authority logos on the doors. There was an armed, uniformed Port Authority officer driving. A shotgun mounted in a quick release rack on the dashboard. The passenger compartment, where we were sitting, was upfitted with overstuffed benches, and cold beverages in chillers. This was the limousine version of a prisoner transport bus. The Crooked Commissioner usually uses it for transporting dignitaries. It makes them feel special when there's an armed escort, with lights and sirens to move traffic out of the way.

The Port Authority is operated by Port Commissioners. They oversee The Free Trade Zone. All cargo being loaded and offloaded is under their oversight. Or sometimes, what nobody sees, when everyone is turning their head the other way. All of the major ports have their own armed law enforcement.

We stop at Harris Ranch to use the facilities and refuel. It was the time of year where there was a layer of frost on everything. The bus was heated, but I could feel a chill in the air as I stepped off the bus. The cop driving us was wearing a leather motor officer jacket with a furry collar. I wrapped my leather motor jacket around Candy Girl's shoulders. I was just wearing a Pendleton and Levi's. I was shivering in my boots.


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"Nine sons. I have nine brothers. I'm the only daughter. Daddy sent me here, to America, to represent his interests. Because my mother is a Western woman, and I have been raised with Western culture, Daddy felt that I was better prepared. The Senator and his wife, your Auntie, set it up for me to be their conduit. Anyone who wants to connect with them, does it through me.

Back home, all of the other Emirs now must go through Daddy, as a conduit to The West. It is known that through his daughter, me, their voices are heard on Capitol Hill. And when Congress allocates funding for my people, it goes through my father's hands, before it's doled out to the other tribes. Everything. Daddy is like the distributor. Whether it's seeds for the cabbage crop to feed the villagers, to surplus boots, food, medicine, clean water, guns, bullets, and money. Daddy gets it all, and decides how to divide it.

Daddy, through me, has become the conduit for our people here in The USA. When someone from our homeland wants to get a message to someone in a remote village without phone lines, they can come to me. If they want to send money home, they come see me. I can handle all of their care packages by dispatch of a shipping container from The Free Trade Zone. The Commissioner and I have an understanding. Which is why we are riding in his van, with one of his officers, and why I have you with me."

What? Me? I don't know what she is talking about. I have no idea where we're going, or what she is doing. She made a steak dinner, and we went for a walk around the block. Literally, around the block. As in, we turn the corner, and this mini bus with a cop is parked along the curb. Next thing I know, we are on an Interstate freeway going towards The Border.

By the way, where are we going?

"Long Beach. A distant cousin, the daughter of another Emirate, is visiting. We're going to get her from the docks. She is traveling first class. On a cruise ship. You know your way around. Help me make sure that she has a good time. "

What? Why would she come on a boat? What the heck do you need me for?

And boom! Just like that. Her hand moved up my leg.


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
The Princess Rubali. Is everyone from The Hindu Kush beautiful? She had green eyes. She wore what I thought of as cultural clothing. She had about a half dozen girls following her. Her maidens. Her servants. Pushing carts with their luggage. Somehow, all of those girls and the baggage fit into the Port Authority's bus.


A nearby freight ship was offloading container boxes. Not the Conex that you find on a construction site. These were Mil-Spec. There was even special apparatus used to offload them. They didn't even bother to hide Uncle Sam's initials. I pay taxes now. It made a taxpayer like me, wonder where my tax dollars were going.



Our uniformed Port Authority Officer had walked off towards a row of buildings several hundred feet away. He came back driving a station wagon. He got out and handed me the key. "I just took care of everyone's paperwork. I'll take care of The Harem. Good luck." As he pulled away in the bus, I noticed one of the flatbeds with the government shipping containers pull in behind him to follow The Bus.


The Princess Rubali was standing next to the station wagon. Not knowing what to do, I went over to the passenger side and held the door open for her. That's when I noticed the shotgun mounted to the floorboard. A Remington 870. The Princess got in, as if it were perfectly normal.

Not knowing what else to do, I started driving. I know my way around The SouthLAnd. I take The 110 up towards Chinatown. I knew a spot there that had sandwiches. Nothing fancy. I ordered a lamb, a beef, beef stew, pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, and a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbon.


Conversation was light. There was none. We ate in silence. She ate like she was hungry. All that food on a cruise ship, and she's eating like she didn't eat on the boat. Between mouthfuls of food, she managed to finish her beer, and started taking sips from mine. I ordered another round. We had a third round by the time the meal was finished. A six pack for lunch. I ordered another six beers to take with us. For the road.

I still didn't know what to do. Where to go. But we were driving. I cruise through Chinatown, and take the freeway ramp by Dodger Stadium. The Princess Rubali opened a few more beers and handed one to me.

"Take me to High Desert. I have to see the adopted brother of my father. You know of him as Ali Baba. The Baba who sleeps with his daughter.

My father, is the eldest son of his father. Born of the first wife. Ali Baba is the illegitimate son of my grandfather's concubine. Raised alongside my father and uncles, despite the fact that he had no blood relation to us.

Officially, he has no status. He cannot take our name. He will never inherit title. My father sent him here, to America, because it is shameful how he sleeps with Ariana. He was provided with enough to make a living, and he got greedy. But you know the story. You're a part of the story. You have slept with The Ali Baba's daughter. Ariana has spoken of you and the Little Eva girl.

This is awkward. The first time I meet this girl. She is royalty. Royalty to a tribe of goat herders, who are rumored to molest their ewe. Royalty nonetheless. And she just casually mentions that she has knowledge of me, in a menage-a-trois. Ten hours to Susanville. I'm tapping my fingers on the steering wheel. Calculating in my head where the next fuel stop is going to be. Wondering why she is reaching across the 12 gauge and fondling me. Not knowing what to do, or what to say, I say, "do you always travel with shipping containers?"

"Those annoying things. No thanks to your American Congress. This member of your House of Representatives, and his Western Whore, came to our land. They had white powder on their nostrils. They flew in a private plane, loaded with The Colonel's 11 herbs and spices.

Now, they keep sending those big, ugly, metal boxes. Then we have to send them back, like it's some sort of bottle deposit for recycling. The women in the village really don't have the time to deal with those things. Every time they come in, we have to clean them out, repack them, and send them back. All while our men are in the field for weeks at a time with the goats, and being attacked by The Russians.

Luckily, The Usos are helping us on this end. It's part of the deal we have, for them to protect Ali Baba behind the bars. The Booty Bandits don't get to practice getting him pregnant, and nobody steals his Ramen noodles. The Usos get to do all of the work. Unload the containers, then repack them, and send them back to us.

So that's how this is playing out. The Uso are The Fudge Packers. They get to be longshoremen for the load. Buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and MANPADS go to The Hindu Kush. Magic carpets and refined poppy product comes back. The Ali Baba becomes the sacrificial lamb. He will stay locked up, as long as it takes, to foster this new arrangement, and to promote whatever other opportunities. The Senator and his wife, The Auntie, are making money upfront, off the float, and on the back end.

Her hand is doing things to me, and I have not consented.

I'm being used.

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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast

"Turn that off. You're going to be an old man one day, and still following that band on tour."

The shoe store girl. The girl who gave me shoes, from the store that she works at. The niece of The High Priest.

"And you'll probably still be wearing that leather jacket, and those carpenter shoes."


The Shoe Girl showed up at my house 3 days ago. She hasn't left since. She's wearing a sports jersey, and little else.


She's in the kitchen making pork chops. They're huge. More like pork steaks. Cooked just past pink. It's The High Holidays for her people. The People of The Book. The Chosen Ones. They are not suppose to eat pork. I say nothing.

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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
"For every dollar spent in The Hindu Kush, the poppy is grown, refined into product, and worth $2 by the time it gets to The Free Trade Zone. The Usos are our longshoremen. They unpack the Conex boxes. The product is now worth $3, by the time it gets to the distributor. Then $4 when it gets to the resellers. North, South, Crips, Bloods, Peckerwood, The Syndicate, different Clubs, whatever. Then it becomes street value.

We are not stupid. The Usos have to buy a bond of $1, for the privilege of being The Fudge Packers. It puts them at the top of the food chain. This also protects us against any unforeseen losses. If anything happens to the product, we lose nothing, because our $1 initial investment is covered by The Uso's bond. "

The Candy Girl and The Princess Rubali are explaining life to me. I'm making patty melts.


"The Usos don't have that level of financial sophistication. That creepy girl that you sleep with, Pale Amy, her uncle The High Priest is selling them the security bond. He's charging them 10 points. Then he factors their invoicing. Another 10 points. Once the Conex boxes reach The Free Trade Zone, he pays us our $2, and The Usos get the balance of $0.70. .

The Usos come out of pocket with $0.10, and get $0.70 on the back end. The High Priest is making $0.40.

If anything happens to poppies in the field.... like a fire, poor rainfall, or a flood.... we are protected by the bond. If anything happens to the Conex boxes in transit.... like a ship sinking, insect & vermin, or a seizure..... we are protected by the bond. The High Priest has to pay us $1 to cover the losses.

The High Priest then collects on the invoicing. He goes after the distributors on Net 7 terms. The High Priest gets 1 point for every week from The Distributors. That's 1 point, based on the $3 price. Every week. 52 weeks in a year. Until the $3 is paid in full.

It starts with our $1. We make $1. The Usos make $0.60 after buying the bond, and paying the costs for factoring. The High Priest is making about $0.45 for every Conex. Of course, it's not all free money. He's getting the money from The Pacific Exchange. Money lenders from his congregation. They all wear the same Big Black Hat. Those people are making the real money. "

My head is spinning. When she talks about $1. There's actually 6 zeros behind it.

"The Rabbi has one week, before he comes to see you."

What? Me? Why me? I don't have anything to do with this. What do I have to do with this?

"It has been decided. The High Priest is taking over 40 points on a dollar. They are being generous. They will allow him, and his Big Black Hat money changers to keep everything that they collect on Net 7 billing with The Distributors. In a year, that works out to be 52% of the floating $3 invoices. Their float is more than we make on every box.

He is to take the 40 points, and hand it over to you."

What? What are you talking about? What's going on here?

"It's simple. You made him an offer which he couldn't refuse. You're shaking him down.

You will get 10 points. Then the rest, you sprinkle around and deposit into your various company accounts. That money will get reported as legitimate income. Some of the money will end up as campaign contributions going back to The Auntie and The Senator. Some of the money, most of it, will be donated to various nonprofit charities to support The People in our homeland who are being oppressed. That money puts food on the table for the goat herders who are growing the poppy, and guarding the poppy fields. That is the money we use for poppy seeds, fertilizer, and ewes to keep the goat headers happy. That's the money that The Sheik is using to exercise options on shares of your REIT.


One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
"It's not right. It's my tuchus on the line. If anything goes wrong, I have to pay out $1 back to those goat herders in turbans."

The High Priest was dropping off the 40 points. He wasn't happy.

I just figured that it was in his nature to be dissatisfied. The stereotype that his people complained about everything. He embodied it. Actually, this guy was the walking stereotype, right down to the big black Hat.

"What am I? A schmuck? I do all the work, take all the risks, and just hand it all over like gelt? "

We've been over this. He's just venting. It's not like I can change the terms for him.

His niece, Leslie, is in the kitchen making pork chops. I always found amusement in how they do everything that they're not supposed to do. He calls them Chinese chops. Because they're seared in a hot, smoky wok, then liberally glazed with soy sauce.


The Senator gave him very generous terms. He only had to settle up once a month. At the 1st of every month, he was to deliver everything which was settled. Conex boxes are coming in every week. Until he had to settle the account with The Senator, he was also making money with the float. 52 weeks in a year, and he was getting 1 point every 7 days from the distributor. That's 156 points annually. And nobody questioned what he did with the money for 30 days, nor asked for a cut. He was making money. Good money.

Plus, the Conex boxes were coming in with bills of lading which listed Persian carpets and Afghan rugs. Because that's what was packed in the boxes along with the poppy product. Just in case anyone actually opened one of the containers, they would actually see rugs. The Usos were unpacking all of this stuff, and they didn't want the rugs. The Rabbi was actually reselling them, at full price. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up.

And he's getting a cut of the MANPADS deal. Him and his Big Black Hat money changers are moving the funds around their accounts and facilitating the transfer. Not to mention that he's also getting a cut of all the chicken that is shipping out with the MANPADS. I thought it was joke, until I saw it for myself. Every shipping container going back to The Hindu Kush, has pallets of The Colonel's 11 Herbs and Spices. Vacuum sealed like an MRE. There you go, Mr. Ewe Lover. Here are your bandages, iodine, antibiotics, and everything you need to fight a proxy war. And, oh, here are some buckets of chicken.

This guy was so occupied with eating my non-kosher food, drinking my non-kosher booze, and whining...... that he didn't even notice his niece running around my apartment, wearing my boxer shorts.



One Too Many
The Barbary Coast

Sometimes delivery drivers would give us kids change, maybe a couple of quarters, to help them offload cases of beer, soup cans, or whatever was heavy. Those cases had to be hand carried down steep, narrow, dark stairwells into basement store rooms. I had just started high school. Young. Before I got a bad back. And the minimum wage was maybe a couple of dollars an hour. So a couple of quarters, for 10 or 15 minutes of carrying heavy boxes, added up.

One day, The Old Man who owned The Bar called me over to the back door in the alleyway. He told me to hang around, and whenever the delivery guys came, let them in. "You know how to count? Look on the delivery ticket, count off the delivery, and make sure it's all there." Of course I did. I had seen him doing it for years. Whenever I helped some driver carry cases of beer down to the basement, I saw him counting off everything.

The Old Man pulled out a roll of bills, and handed it to me. There must have been a few hundred dollars. I was so young and stupid that I didn't even count it. "Everything is COD. Make sure that you count everything, it's all there, then pay the driver. Here's the keys. I gotta go. I'll be back later."

Delivery guys came as they usually do. They already knew me. "Where's The Old Man?" Busy. I'm watching the place. As usual, I help them with the load. Then I counted it. Then I paid them. And as usual, they each gave me a couple of quarters before they went on to the next stop.

When the bartender came in that night to start her shift, I was still sitting at the end of the bar waiting for The Old Man. I was bored, so I started cutting up limes, and refilling the little bowls with peanuts and pretzels. As if it were normal, she poured me a beer.

The Old Man didn't come back until later that night. He was surprised to see me. "You're still here? Why didn't you go home?". I gave him whatever was leftover from his roll of bills, and all of the delivery invoices. He pocketed the money without counting it. Looked at the invoices for a moment. "Did you eat yet?"

He takes me next door to the diner. They knew him. Of course they knew him. I was so naive then. He owned a bar, next to a restaurant, there would be no reason for the neighboring business not to know him. He nodded at the owner, and held up two fingers. We sat in a booth in the corner.

"How did it go today? Was everything smooth? Do me a favor. Can you stick around? Stay till closing. Help me lock the place up after the bartender leaves."

The Old Man did most of the talking. He looked over the invoices. Told me that sometimes they are short, and to just write it down. Told me that sometimes the drivers had a little more, that was okay, and to just take it if they wanted to sell an extra case or two for a lower price. He said to just keep an eye on the place, and if the bartender needed my help, she would let me know. When the bartender counted out after closing, to take the money home with me and bring it back tomorrow. Don't leave the money in the bar overnight, in case someone breaks in. "Oh yeah, don't cut fruit, fill peanut bowls, and carry those cases of beer downstairs no more. You're the manager now. You don't have to do that."

We finished eating. He tells me that in the register, under the cash drawer, there's a key. The key for the bike parked by the front door. It's street cleaning tonight. He needs me to move the bike, so that it doesn't get a ticket. "Better yet, just ride it home. Bring it back tomorrow."

He hands me a couple of twenties. "That's for today. Thanks for everything. I gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow."

$40. The minimum wage was about $2 an hour. People were lucky to make $100 a week. This guy just gave me what people make in 2 days.

That was it. I was in high school. Not even old enough to have a driver's license. But I'm working at the bar.

The next day, I went down to the bar after school. The Old Man wasn't there. I still had the key, so I let myself in. Vendors started coming. Produce, linens, pest control, people to service the soda lines, etc. There was even a guy who brought the bags of peanuts. I didn't know what else to do, so I counted in the deliveries, signed off service tickets, and paid them with money I had from closing the cash register from last night. When beer deliveries came, I didn't help. I didn't carry cases of beer or kegs of beer anymore. I told those drivers that The Old Man said that I wasn't supposed to do that anymore. Still the drivers tipped me. Actually, within a week, all of the delivery drivers were tipping me. Not just quarters and dimes. They were all tipping a dollar. I was picking up an extra $50 a week just from the vendors slipping me a dollar here and there. The Old Man said that if they didn't want to tip me, and kick back a little, then I can change vendors. Call another company to do the work. Then the new guy will tip me out.

Then the bartender came in to start her shift. She explained that when she counts out the till at night, she always leaves enough change to open the next day. I'm a kid in high school. And now, I'm sitting at the end of the bar, watching the place. Mostly from behind a newspaper. Every night, I must have read the newspaper twice. The bartender, who was in her thirties, somehow amused herself with a little 3 inch compact mirror. How can girls spend so much time looking at their own faces?

A young girl came in. Wearing a white top, black pants, and an apron. I knew right away, she wasn't old enough to be there, and told her so. She looks at me, laughs, and says, "you're not old enough to be here either." She introduced herself as the server from the diner next door. She said that she saw me last night with The Old Man. Her boss sent her over to see what I wanted. The Old Man said that if I got hungry, I could order food on The Bar's tab. The Old Man would pay for it. I wasn't hungry. If I change my mind, I'll come over for something.

A little after midnight, the waitress came back. This time, with some takeaway boxes. I could smell the food. "You never came for food. I figured that you must have been busy. So I brought this in case you were hungry." She set the food on the bar, and began opening everything. "You have to eat. Don't work so hard."

I'm perched on a stool. She was leaning in, against my thigh. Now she is close. So close that I can smell her shampoo. Her body was pressed against mine. Her butt was now seated in my lap. Before I knew what was going on, or knew what to do, she started feeding me forkfuls of food like I was a baby. The bartender set down another beer, and gave me the strangest look. At the time, I didn't get it.

"I saw you today. You rode The Old Man's bike to school." What? How did she see me? What? "You haven't noticed me. We go to the same school. " She was a senior, in college prep classes. I was just in my 1st year, and I'll be lucky if I don't get held back a year. She's telling me about applying for universities and applying for scholarships and grants. I'm absentmindedly touching her butt. The bartender keeps looking at me weird.

It was closing time. The Captain and Tennille were on the jukebox. I asked if she needed a lift. She laughed out loud. "I live here. Upstairs. Number 304. You can come up, if you promise to be quiet."

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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
The bartenders started tipping me out at the end of the night. Bartenders. There were two of them. They overlapped each other on weekends. It was busy and The Bar needed 2 bartenders. I didn't ask for it. They started doing it on their own. Every night, after they counted out and balanced the till, they gave me a twenty. $25 on Fridays and Saturdays when it was busier. All that I did was sit at the end of The Bar, watch television, read the newspaper, and eat food from next door.

Now I'm in The Bar every day. No days off. I didn't mind. The Old Man would show up every few days. I'd give him all of the money that I was holding from the cash register, and the invoices to offset the balance. At first, he would look over the bills, and count the cash. After awhile, he trusted me. Just pocketed the cash without even counting it.

I didn't really have any set pay. Every few days, The Old Man would give me a couple of twenties. $60. $80. Maybe if it was a busy weekend, I'd get $100.

People in The Neighborhood were now starting to know me. They acknowledged me. Made eye contact and nodded in passing. Some would come into The Bar and make small talk. It got to the point where when they closed their tab, they would tip out a couple of dollars to The Bartender, and then slide me a couple of dollars as well.

I'm a kid, in my first year of high school, and I'm running a bar. Making hundreds of dollars a week, when the minimum wage was $2. In a good month, I'm pulling in $1,000.

Drunk girls would sit in my lap and flirt with me. The Bartenders would slap my butt and tease me about which girls liked me. I didn't even know what was happening. That's how young and naive I was. The Waitress from next door, Mei Mei, was starting to come by every night with food. Then I would go upstairs to her room, room 304, after I closed the bar. It didn't even strike me as odd that she was still in high school, like me, and she had her own little apartment.

One day The Old Man says to me, "how long have you been around here, watching this place for me?" I don't know. A few months. Maybe 6 months.

"You save any of the money you have been making?"

I haven't really had a chance to spend any of it. I've been changing the smaller bills into hundreds, and just sort of keeping it my pocket.

"Let me see."

I reach in my pocket, and hand him my small little stash. He counts it. Then giggles. He counts off I don't know how many of the hundreds, then gives me back the rest.

"Congratulations. You just bought that Harley of mine, that you have been riding. Now go around the corner to Florsheim, and get yourself a decent pair of shoes. I'm tired of you walking around in those jungle boots. Take tonight off. Take the little waitress next door somewhere nice on your new Harley. The bike belongs to you now. Tomorrow, a lawyer will come by, after school, to see you. She'll have you sign some papers, and get you squared away."


Mei Mei. The little waitress. Does everyone know that I've been going to her room every night?

We went to the same high school. She wanted to be discreet. We didn't hang out or talk to each other at school. I would walk down the halls by myself, because I didn't have a crew. I had friends from the neighborhood, but stayed away from standing around in a big group. People would nod to me, and I would acknowledge them in passing. I would walk by Mei Mei, as she hung out with her crowd, and I would sort of nod and wave in their direction, but not to any of them in particular. She and a few of the girls would giggle. I could see her face blushing, as she looked away. But none of her friends knew that we were hanging out after work.

The Bartender came down the stairs to the storeroom, and slapped my butt. "The Little Waitress is upstairs. I think she's looking for you."

Little Mei Mei was sitting at the end of the bar, next to the stool I normally sit in. Reading my paper. Taking sips from my beer. She looked different. She wasn't wearing her waitress uniform. She was wearing a dress. A nice dress. Her hair was different. She was wearing makeup. She looked grown up. Like one of those ladies that you would see on television, or in the movies. I'm wearing my usual Levi's, and a leather flight jacket like The Fonz.

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Little Mei Mei took my hand, chastely kissed my lips, and wordlessly led me outside. Out front, on the sidewalk, there were a few other kids. They weren't old enough to come into The Bar. All Mei Mei's age. Seniors. 3 years older than me. A few of them might have already turned 18. They were all dressed up like her. The guys sort of nodded at me, and the girls giggled. Mei Mei was holding my hand, and hugging my arm. She says to no one in particular, "we'll follow on the bike".

As we mount the bike, I'm reaching down open the petcock, she whispers in my ear. "It's prom night. Senior Prom. You're my prom date." My first year of high school. I'm 14. Going to the Senior Prom. And I'm wearing a leather jacket and dirty jeans.
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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
Growing up in Chinatown, we were poor. But there were layers of poor. Some weren't really as poor.

It was a time in society, where segregation was normal. Everyone stayed in their neighborhoods. They knew their place. Every major city was like that. Everyone had an "ethnic ghetto". Everyone knew their place. Although we all went to the same schools, and our parents worked at the same jobs, life was still segregated. Sure, there were blacks in The Fire Department, and Asians on The Police Force. If you went to a department store, or a factory, you would find Latins, Jews, Irish, or whatever. But still, everyone knew where they belonged, and there was no trouble that way. You wouldn't find blacks at Caesars Latin Palace, a bunch of Italians at The Apollo in Harlem, or a group of Jewish kids at the Irish Cultural Center.

So that's how it was. Chinese stayed in Chinatown. Next to The Italians. Maybe it was the fact that The Chinese had to go to Angel Island and the Italians had to go Ellis Island. Maybe because of Marco Polo. Maybe because we ate the same noodles.

Both the Italians and the Chinese had the same social classes. The different layers of being poor. You had the families who have been in America for several generations, with American Born kids. There were the business owners. They owned the stores, restaurants, buildings. There were families where the bread winners had jobs with The City, or had union jobs with prevailing wage. Then you had the immigrants. They were the ones who worked at those little shops, restaurants, bakeries. Often at a subminimum wage, and longer than 8 hours a day without overtime. Wage theft and abusing immigrant labor was common. It still is. And I mean abuse. If you broke too many dishes as a dishwasher, the boss would take you out back, kick you up and down the alley, then deduct money from your wages. Chinese and Italian restaurants aren't at all as glamorous as Panda Express and Olive Garden.

I'm underage, working in a bar 7 days a week with no days off, and getting paid in cash off the books. No fixed wage. Just whatever The Old Man decided to pay me, whenever he felt like paying me. No real job description or labor agreement. I just had to do, whatever he told me to do. If I didn't like it, I lost my job. He bought a bike, got tired of it and wasn't riding it anymore; so he "sold" it to me, and took it out of my pay.

Mei Mei had a different story. We weren't even in the same class. She was a waitress. But her Daddy owned the restaurant. Actually, her Daddy owned the whole building. He was also the landlord, who collected rent from everybody. That's why she is in high school, and has her own little studio. Her family had a car. Two cars. One that her Daddy drove. One that she drove. Because they could afford to not only buy a car, but also rent a monthly parking space in a private garage. Buildings in Chinatown don't have driveways, garages, or yards.

I was clearly just another worker. Like the dishwashers that Mei Mei's Daddy hired. During off hours, they also went upstairs and cleaned her apartment. Although I never got my butt kicked for breaking dishes, and I didn't have to wash Mei Mei's toilet. She's in high school, She had her own apartment. She had a maid. And she had a Monte Carlo.

That's how it was back then. We went to the same school, but acted like we didn't even know each other. In that setting, we couldn't be seen together. It would have been bad for her to be linked to a poor "bar boy". Which is what I was. A boy hanging around a bar. Wearing Levi's and a leather jacket. Kids in her social class went to formal social gatherings at The Golf Course. Chinese didn't belong to private country clubs. The ones with a few extras played golf. Even if it was at a public course, it was still a golf club with a club house. Poor kids like me hung out at pool halls. Pool halls, which we weren't technically old enough to be in. Pool halls didn't have club houses, or have formals.

One day, there was a commotion outside on the sidewalk. I could hear the yelling, cursing, and what sounded like "thumps" and glass breaking. The Waitress came to the end of the bar where I was sitting. "You better go out there, and see what's happening."

As I came out the door, my eyes squinted to adjust to the light. It was dark inside of the bar, and there was still sunlight during daylight savings time. I hate daylight savings. No reason at all to play with the clock so that the sun is still up, after dinner.

There was a large group. Kids. Some from my high school. They had this cop surrounded. He had some kid on the floor. His baton was out, and he looked ready to swing his stick at whomever approached. But everyone sort of stopped when I came outside. Now, they were all looking at me. And it was a good 30 seconds of a "freeze frame". As I slowly turned my head from side to side, registering who was there, if I knew them or not, and if they were holding a stick, a knife, a lead pipe, or a bottle.

Mei Mei's Daddy appears from the doorway of his dining club. He looks over at me, and nods. Everyone sees this. Then as if on cue, the dozen or so kids surrounding the cop all take a step back, or so it seemed. And in that split second, it was over. Police cars came screeching with the sirens wailing and yelping. Cops jumped out of their cars. The kids all ran off as they dropped whatever makeshift weapons from their hands.

Later that night, Mei Mei tells me: "That cop, he works for us. Thanks for coming outside. Daddy said that if you weren't there, who knows what might have happened". What? Works for who? Who is us? What are you talking about?

It turns out that the cop was not an ordinary cop. He was a Patrol Special. The Merchants Association sponsored his beat. He literally worked for Mei Mei's Daddy. Mei Mei's Daddy, who was the head of the local Merchant's Association, wrote his paychecks. Patrol Specials wear police uniforms, have guns, carry police radios.....and do everything just like every other cop. They could arrest someone. They could shoot you. But they are paid by private citizens who have the means to hire their own private police officer.

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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast
I'm the last to know anything. Sometimes, I never know at all. Why didn't anyone tell me? It's better that way. If I ever get subpoenaed, I can honestly testify that I didn't know, and I still don't know.

Sometimes I'm not told at all, and I learn just like everyone else. From the newspaper headlines.

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"Wear those new shoes that I bought you. We're going out tonight."


What? $12 for shoes? You've got to be kidding me. People with good jobs were only making $2 an hour. A day and a half's wages, for shoes?

We took her car. It had heat, and air conditioning. Let's not mention what that costs, and how many days a person would have to work.


She liked to drive her car when we went somewhere, where the valet parking guys couldn't park my bike.


We took The Stockton Street Tunnel, which connected Chinatown to Union Square. From there, Geary Boulevard westbound, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. A grandiose castle, perched over Seal Rock. Just in time for the sun to set.


None of us were "rich". But she was better off than I was. Her Daddy owned a building, a restaurant, and he was the head of one of the merchant's associations. I've grown accustomed to her paying for things when we went out, and her buying me things that I couldn't afford. Like shoes and clothes.

Nobody told me back then. And I wasn't smart enough to figure it out. Her Daddy ran The Block. As head of the Merchants Association, he collected the membership dues. Every business on The Block had to pay him. He paid the police for the Patrol Special cop, to be on The Block. All on the up and up. Everyone on The Block who was running street action, paid up to Uncle Gandhi by way of percentage rent and association dues.

There was a group of hoodlums who hung out at a pool hall on The Block. These guys were always getting into trouble. Cops would get warrants and raid the pool hall. At least once a week, you would see a group of those guys running through the alleys and jumping walls, with the police in pursuit. What I didn't know at the time, was that these hooligans were Uncle Gandhi's boys. They did his bidding. If there was a misunderstanding of some sort, these guys were willing to step up.

Uncle Gandhi didn't have a son. He only had Mei Mei. So by extension, since I was with Mei Mei, The Boys looked at me as The Dai Low. Not that I needed them to do anything nefarious for me. But I was the figurehead. That's why I was working at The Bar. Because Uncle Gandhi suggested to The Old Man who owned The Bar, that he should give me an afterschool job. He told The Old Man, that from The Bar, I could keep an eye on things on The Street. Only, I didn't know what was going on. I really didn't know. What was I supposed to be keeping an eye on or watching?

There were different layers, multiple layers, of insulation. None of The Boys on The Street ever got to speak to Uncle Gandhi directly. So it made sense that I never actually spoke to them either. I never directed their activities. I never gave them directives. Those kids worked it out amongst themselves, how they earned. The ran their own little street level rackets like football parlay cards, fireworks sales, buying and selling stolen goods, and whatever other petty crimes. We never told any of them, not one of then, to go do this or go do that.

If anything, anything at all, needed to be communicated, it was a game of "whisper down the line". One person would mention to another person, that if anyone ran into so and so, to tell him to "cool it", or "lay low for awhile". That's what the cops never understood. We never told those thugs to go beat up anyone, commit a crime, or shoot at some other kids across town. They did stupid things on their own. The only thing that we would have told them, would be to stop doing some of the stupid things that they were up to. Sometimes they listened. Sometimes they didn't.

As far as Uncle Gandhi was concerned, they operated a pool hall. They paid rent. They paid percentage rent. A pool hall is a legitimate cash business. Just like The Bar. If money was made on The Street, it went into the pool hall's cash register. So if a kid made $1, he blew it playing pool. They reported income, paid taxes, and had payroll with legitimate employees. The kids at the pool hall, hired themselves, and got legitimate paychecks. The $1 makes it's way around the block, and comes back to the kid as a paycheck. The cops couldn't say that they were evading taxes with ill-gotten gains. The cops couldn't seize their cars, bikes, homes, boats, cash...... as ill-gotten gains.

And these kids had all of those things. The pool hall was incorporated and externally managed. The different family associations were all issued shares of the corporation. Through the family associations, there were accountants who set up business accounts for the pool hall, issued payroll, and everyone filed taxes. Then The Boys got tax refunds, on money that they made on The Streets. Some of the kids were vendors, and paid for services. The corporation paid dividends on earnings. These street thugs were building investment portfolios, and trust accounts.

The Boys knew to expect 90 cents back, for every $1 in cash that they spent at The Pool Hall. 10 points. That's what The Merchant's Association was getting as their external management fee. That covered their accounting, payroll services, book-keeping, etc. It also paid their rent, utilities, covered whatever donations that they needed to make towards political campaign funds, and most importantly, the Merchant's Association membership dues. 10 cents on every dollar adds up, when you have a gang of kids, and they're all making money on The Streets.

All the while, I never knew. Nobody tells me anything. No matter what the communication was.... when word went out to The Boys on The Street, it was always, "The Dai Low said........" or "The Dai Low thinks you guys should....." I was The Dai Low. Because Uncle Gandhi was "The Uncle". And his daughter Mei Mei was buying shoes for me.
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One Too Many
The Barbary Coast

They now sell sneakers that look like shoes. Makes me think of a simpler time. When I thought of high top basketball shoes as the sneaker version of boots. They went up over the ankle for support and protection. They were much lighter in weight. And I could run in them. The shoe of that era was Reebok. All the disco bunnies wore them with leotards and leg warmers.


When people only made a couple of dollars an hour, a working man had to work 3 days to buy these. And that, was the beginning of an era. The Era of The American Consumer. Television commercials were promoting credit cards. I had the Reeboks, blue polyester pants, and more babes than I can handle.

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There was a lot of heat in the neighborhood. People were getting killed in the crossfire. Innocent people. Tourists. And that wasn't good for business. It wasn't good for anybody.

I was out of town when that happened. It's the truth. That summer, I was down in Mexico. Even though I was down there with credible witnesses, I was still brought in for questioning, and got a beating from The Cops. It's just the way it was. And actually, the way it was explained to me, they had to do it. If they didn't bring me in, and rough me up a little....... everyone would be suspicious. The Cops were doing me a favor by beating me up.

There were over 1,000 young people in Chinatown. Literally. thousands, between the ages of 15 & 25. We all could have been suspects. Even The Girls. A lot of those girls were just as much, if not more, dangerous than The Boys. They could hit you with a pipe, stab you, or shoot you. Only you never even see it coming. Because she's so cute.

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Everybody has watched TV, and seen it in the movies. The Miranda Rights. And most people don't know that the police could question you all that they want outside of Miranda. And who is really concerned about Civil Rights? People are being killed left and right. You've got no Civil Rights when the cops are beating on you. Nobody ever consents to a beating waiver. If the cops ask you directly, "did you kill that guy?" - yeah, you have Miranda Rights. They should have allowed you to remain silent, and have a lawyer present for questioning. But they could question "outside" of Miranda all day. "Nice watch, where'd you get that? What's the word on the street? What have you heard? Is the shooter at your house, hiding under the bed? Where's the gun? Who ordered the hit?" They are questioning you like a witness, not as a suspect.

As the cops told me at the time, "We know that you are The Dai Lo. That crew from The Pool Hall is taking orders from you. You are calling all the shots from The Old Man's bar."

None of it was true, of course. I never told anyone, to do anything. I didn't find out until much later in life, when I finally figured it out for myself, that the illusion was crafted of me being The Puppet Master. When word filtered down to The Boys at street level, it was always, "The Dai Lo says this or that" or "The Dai Lo wants you guys to". Only problem was: who was The Dai Lo. Everyone thought it was me. The Boys on The Street. The Police. I was set up to be The Dai Lo. Uncle Gandhi was The Uncle. He was The Boss of The Block. I was with his daughter Mei Mei. Everyone just assumed that when they got their orders, I was the one giving them out. The real truth is that it wasn't me. I never ordered anyone to do anything.

I never asked. It's better that I didn't know. From what I do know, the police have the wrong idea. What I heard back in those days was for The Boys to "cool it", "lay low", "get off the streets for awhile", and "stay away from...." To The Police, there were groups of violent youth gangs, who were out of control. They wanted to frame it, to fit their world. Youth gangs fighting over their gang status, and illicit fireworks sales. I'm not an expert. But that's probably what The Police were told. Here's your whodunnit, all wrapped up. Now go out there and make some arrests. Bang a few heads. The community supports your efforts. Get the troublemakers off the street.

The Police, at that time, never bothered to think outside the box. Which is why it was so easy to give them a story to fit in the box. They never bothered to look into which associations these gang kids were affiliated with. They never bothered to look ahead, like moves on a chess board, to see who had the most to gain. It never occurred to The Police that fireworks were only sold on The Fourth of July. There's no way that 3 weeks worth of illicit fireworks, is what everyone was getting killed for. Really? How did everyone live the other 49 weeks of the year? If one crew shoots up another crew, and The Police crack down on both, then who fills the void? When The Police take out 2 powerful gangs, who takes over that action? The Police were never smart enough to suspect that their strings were being pulled, like puppets.
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