Hollywood Lost

Hollywood Lost - no border

It’s noon, there are helicopters overhead, and traffic jams backing up Mission Street all the way to Division. It seems to be all about the left lanes feeding onto Van Ness, which I HAD planned to take before accessing the next right for a run down Market. A good bet at this time, in the search for a warm body to fill the back seat of my taxi.

Alas, San Francisco has other plans for ‘ol Citizen’s Cab #1015. Baby Trump announced yesterday that the U.S. will be exiting the Paris Climate Accord, putting us in the exclusive company of Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations on the planet not signed on. And no doubt, this jam is on account a to be expected left coast pop-up protest in the wake of his “decision.” ((Sigh.) If only Macron hadn’t bragged about that white knuckle handshake!)

Ah, forget the left. I’ll just continue straight on Mission…

Two blocks down, out of the cluster… SCORE! At 10th, it’s a young homeless chick, in a bright pink bob cut wig, standing next to a shopping cart full of her life’s possessions. Pink is hanging with some older, haggard-looking, model-skinny tranny sporting cheap, fashionable sunglasses. Hollywood also exhibits today, a wide-brimmed tan fedora by Brittany, and a hot pink tunic by Target’, swathed boldly over rolled up acid wash jeans, courtesy of Goodwill. Completing her ensemble is a pair of shiny black stilettos, which Hollywood rocks wistfully atop, by… Well, how the hell would I know? I’m just a cab driver.

Anyway, Pink is flagging me.

I ZOOM to the curb, to secure my bounty from any Yellow bastard around lurking with a mind to steal my dinner. And once secured, I lean over towards my shotgun to conference with Pink, who is now approaching the open window to address me.

Pink, “Hey, can you take my friend here down to 11th & Folsom? There’s a Public Storage space down there. This one here’s full.”

Hmm. Why is Pink speaking for Hollywood? A bit confused, and sensing an imminent fiasco on what would be an all of three-block ride that would undoubtedly resolve with a declined credit card, I reply,

“Sure. Get in.”

Hollywood staggers over in her stilettos, and pops in back.

We take the right down 10th, with Hollywood slumped in back behind dark sunglasses, and stuck in her cell phone. And with me searching my mind’s eye for where the Public Storage would be at 11th & Folsom.

Well, ya got me!

I break radio silence,

Driver, “Uh, do you know which corner the Public Storage is down there? I can’t think of it.”

Hollywood, a little edgy, and nervous, “I’m not sure. I think it might be 10th & Folsom. Can you look it up? It’s Public Storage.”

At a red at 11th & Howard, I quickly query Steve Jobs for any Public Storage near us. Alas, the only one that comes up is the one Pink and Hollywood were standing in front of when I stopped.

Jeez.

Driver, “My phone says you guys were at the only one in the area.”

Hollywood grows even more nervous, but takes command now, and sits up in her seat. She cranes her neck looking around, and anxiously begins directing me to circle the blocks around 11th & Folsom.

Hollywood, “I KNOW it’s around here, somewhere… We were JUST THERE this morning!”

As Hollywood directs, she has me making several illegal U-turns, and an aborted turn up 11th Street, which culminates in me running a red light! This, due to a several blocks long traffic jam that we can see leads all the way up to Market! (Damn global warming!)

FINALLY, after circling around for a bit, Hollywood spots a storage facility, and shouts, “There! THERE it is! Pull in the loading dock! THERE!”

And Driver pull into the loading dock, noting aloud, “This is EXTRA Storage. Not PUBLIC Storage,” to an apologetic Hollywood, who’s tail is now stuck firmly between her legs, or something.

As I pull in, I find all four parking spots full of actively loading and unloading storage clients. And I opt to block in a spot with a Lyft driver, with a sub-prime leased black Camry, who’s out behind at his trunk fiddling with blankets and a pillow. (The Hotel Safeway tonight?)

Driver, broaching, “Uh, so… what’s the deal? Are we going somewhere after this?”

Hollywood, looking up from her phone, “Oh, Pink is going to meet us here. Then, we’re going to stop by my apartment in the Tenderloin, at 410 Eddy. And then, we’re headed down to the MetroPCS store, at 5th and Market.” Hollywood then assures, “Don’t worry. I’ve got money. My dad’s a millionaire. He sends me money up from L.A. every month. He calls it ‘cost of living’ money.”

And me and Hollywood wait.

And wait.

After a bit, I guess Hollywood second guesses how her dad’s benefaction comment came across, and she again looks up from her phone to go on to tell me how she ALSO has a job.

Hollywood, “Oh, and I have a job, too. But, it only pays thirty-four dollars an hour. And that ain’t SHIT in this town! I’m an AIDS counselor for the city. After they get their diagnosis, I’m the first person they see. I come into the room to help them work out their issues, after the news.”

Adding, “I’m smart, too, you know. I have THREE degrees! One in cultural anthropology, one in sociology, and one in psychology. I only got B’s in high school, but I have a photographic memory. I kicked ass on the SAT’s, back in the ’80’s. I got a 1450. And THAT, after I stayed up all night doing coke! They gave me a full scholarship to UNLV.

Yeah, I grew up partying in L.A. And I sang in a heavy metal band. Hell, I STILL get my party on! But, not when I’m working. Just at night. And sometimes, I’ll take a three day weekend. No one wants their counselor tweaking meth, or high on crack, when they’re first being told that they’ve got HIV!

I mean, would you?”

Driver, “Uh, no. I guess not… Hey! That’s really great that you do that work! Do you mind, uh, if I ask? How do people react when they first hear that they’re positive? Are they freaked out? Or, hmm. Does it depend on the person, I guess?”

Hollywood, “Well, to be honest, it’s not a surprise to most of ’em. It’s obvious that most of ’em have got a pretty good idea before they come in.”

Then, Hollywood digresses, a little, “I don’t hang out with other transsexuals, though. I hate ’em. They give us all a bad name! They’re all selling drugs, and prostituting themselves! I party, but I don’t sell drugs! OR prostitute myself!

Man, down in L.A. the cops SUCKED! THE L.A.P.D. would stop me on the Strip and hassle me ALL the FUCKING time! Checking for drugs, or to accuse me of prostitution! Man, I was just singing in a band! That’s all! We played The Roxy, The Whisky, all of ’em! And we’d bring in like ten thousand people! I was friends with Slash, and all of Guns ‘n Roses and Poison BEFORE they were even signed! They’d come to see my band play all the time! We were called Kandy Kane. And I’d wear latex and get up on the tables and do sex acts with the mic! Man, we rocked!

But, one night, after a gig at The Roxy, after I had sex with TWO men, I overdosed I did it on purpose, too. I was in my teens and I got tired of all the stigma around being trans. I’ll tell you though, I ONLY fuck STRAIGHT men!”

Hmm. Exactly how does that work?

But, before I can ask, Hollywood continues, “I grew up in a covenant. My mother was Wiccan. During my Coming of Age rite, I was visited by my spirit guide, and it was a woman! I asked my mom, ‘How come I’m not a girl?’ But my mom didn’t know what to say. This was BEFORE that shit was accepted, or even talked about! And L.A. was NO place to be TRANS then, OR now! Fuck L.A.! San Francisco is MUCH more accepting. But still, even here, it’s sometimes a problem! At least, the police are WAY cooler.”

It’s been about fifteen minutes now, and the meter is at $17.80, with most of it being accounted for at the slower, fifty-five cents a minute idling rate. And, as of yet, no Pink. She really should have been here with her shopping cart after around five minutes. It’s a straight shot down 10th.

Not fazed, Hollywood starts shuffling through her phone, and looks up a band she loves and says she’s friends with the singer of, Halestorm. Hollywood glows about how this song is on Game of Thrones, and how the singer is her hero.

Hollywood, “OH… MY… FUCKING GOD! She’s got BALLS! She’s my TOTAL HERO!”

And Hollywood blasts the song through her Android, holding it up by my ear and singing along, albeit an octave lower than the band’s shrieking female singer, thus betraying that Hollywood’s transition is not yet complete.

On the performance is complete, Hollywood is all hyped up and now anxious about Pink, still missing in action. She calls Pink, as I listen in on the one way.

Hollywood, “GIRRRRL! Where ARE you! I’m still in the taxi! We’ve been here for like twenty minutes now!

Uh, huh…

Uh, huh…

Okay, well, you just come down here and load your stuff. I’ll go by my apartment, and then come back to the storage space and pick you up. You’ll probably be finished by the time we get back. And then we’ll hit MetroPCS.”

Hollywood directs Driver, “Okay. 410 Eddy, in the Tenderloin. Between Leavenworth and Hyde.”

And we roll.

I opt for a wide berth around the cluster of traffic north of us, taking Folsom over to 7th. Although nowadays, Paris Climate Accord or no, traffic sucks in this town. (And thanks to construction and new bike-only lanes, particularly my chosen route. Lesser of the evils.)

Sure enough, we stop and crawl up 7th Street, with the helicopters even louder hovering over us now.

Shit.

The Federal Building!

The George W. Bush Federal Building, home to Nancy Pelosi’s office, is up ahead on 7th, between Market and Mission! That’s GOT to be ground zero for any protest!

Oh well, we’re in it now.

En route, Hollywood doesn’t sweat the traffic, and gets to telling me more about her life. It does pas the time pretty good.

Hollywood, “Yeah, I’m still transitioning. I was married, and have a twenty-one year old daughter. I got a girl pregnant, and decided to do the right thing and get married. It delayed my transition.

And now, my daughter’s pregnant. I’m gonna be a grandma!”

Huh!?

Driver, “Wow! Uh, congratulations! That was real stand up of you, doing the right thing and all. Um, are you cool with your daughter?”

Hollywood, “Oh, yeah! We’re GREAT friends! The light of my life!”

Eventually, we cross Mission onto the block of the Federal Building, and the thick of the protest. As we pass a large vociferous group circling out in front with bull horns and signs (one with a picture of the Earth that reads “I’M WITH HER!”) I finagle the bus/taxi-lane adjacent the building, and pas the jammed lanes to the right, and work it so I cross Market on the yellow, so as to cut over and head straight up Lev, instead of being forced left onto Market as, um, the law would have me.

I check the rear view…

No sirens, no blaring horns. And I didn’t even cut anyone off!

SWEET!

We’re clear.

And in a few short blocks, we pull up on Hollywood’s apartment in the Loin; 410 Eddy.

The meter is now at $26.60. And without prompting, Hollywood throws me up her black leather wallet, with its ornamental tassels and little brass rings, as collateral, and jumps out of Citizen’s Cab 1015, with, “I’ll be right back!”

And “right back” she is!

Hollywood immediately turns around and re-opens the back door and starts in all edgy and anxious, freaking out patting the back seat of the cab, and patting down her jeans pockets, with,

“Where’s my key? Where’s my key! SHIT! It’s GOT to be here! No, TELL me I DIDN’T lose my KEY!”

She has me hand her back her wallet, as she haphazardly shuffles through it looking for her key, lamenting aloud, “Damn it! I ALWAYS keep it on a chain around my neck! WHERE IS IT!”

And then Hollywood pulls a chain out from under the collar of her tunic, to find a key at the end of it. She throws me back her wallet, slams the back door, and again with, “I’ll be right back!”

Five minutes later…

Hollywood comes down, exiting the metal gate of 410 Eddy with a RATTLE! and a CLANK!, a renewed spring in her step… and a fresh wardrobe change.

And for the second part of our show, we feature from Ross, a low cut, canary yellow rhinestone studded blouse, highlighting cleavage, by UCSF. And a short, tight, white leather skirt by Taste of Leather, accentuating perfectly the skinny, weathered legs of our model, Hollywood.

With a beaming smile, and a flare of fabulous, Hollywood waves a limp wrist to direct, “Ok, driver. Back to Public Storage.”

And she stares out of her window, as Driver offers his compliments.

“A change of clothes, eh? Well, that short skirt is more befitting this beautiful day! And you look wonderful! You ARE a diva, aren’t you!”

Hollywood beams more, “Yes! YES, I am! Oh, and this weather is just magnificent! And thank you for the compliment, driver. I’m currently a size 5, and I’m trying to get back down to a size 4. I have an entire wardrobe down in L.A. that’s size 4 I’m waiting to fit back into.

I don’t drink, or smoke pot. All that sugar, and carbs! And the munchies! Not for me!”

Hollywood emphasizes this with a flipping back of her scraggly, badly dyed blonde-orange hair, and a “Hmph!” Then, she quickly diverts back to pre-wardrobe change Hollywood, jumping up straight in her seat and patting down the back of the cab.

And adding extra wrinkles to her already haggard face, she barks, “SHIT! I left my phone upstairs!”

However, we’ve already moved several blocks on, and Hollywood let’s it go surprisingly easy, following with, “Ah, I’ll get it later.”

Hmm. We are headed to MetroPCS for whatever reason, when this is all done. Does she need her phone?

Driver, going to score LGBTQ cred with his passenger, “I used to work as a token straight waiter at Orphan Andy’s for two years, in the Castro. I really got to know the gay community there. It’s the heart of this city, if you ask me. Or, at least it was back around ’98-2000, when I worked there.

All the older regulars would tell me about how the golden age of the gay community was in the late 70’s, after sexual liberation, and before AIDS. They all had sad stories from after that, though, of all the friends they watched die in the 80’s. And about the fear, and the stigma and confusion around that. But, a lot of them are HIV positive now and living perfectly fine with the drug cocktails they’ve developed now. It’s like nothing at all! Er, so they say.”

Hollywood, “Oh, yeah. I’m HIV positive, too. The cocktails are great. It’s really no issue. I go on with life like it’s nothing.”

With that out of the way, Driver digresses back to Hollywood’s living situation, at 410 Eddy; The Kinney Hotel. From the face of it, it looked like a crackhead SRO. (Albeit, somewhat cleaner.)

Driver, “Do you mind if I ask what your rent is? Do you have to share a bathroom down the hall?”

Hollywood, “Oh! Yeah, there’s a shared bathroom down the hall. And a shower there, too. But, I have a sink in my apartment. And I keep it decorated and clean. I like it there. There are sharps disposals hanging everywhere, though. But, rent is only $540 a month.”

Driver, “HOLY CRAP! $540 a month? In San Francisco!? Are there any vacancies??”

Hollywood, “Oh, the building is only for HIV positive tenants. That’s why all the sharps disposals.”

Hmm. My gears turn.

We eventually make it through all the Caramgeddon back to EXTRA Storage and wait, again, for Pink – who is either upstairs packing her storage space, has not made it yet here, or has come and gone. And now, unfortunately, Hollywood has no phone on her now to call Pink and verify.

Ten minutes later…

The meter’s at $42 even, and Hollywood is over it.

Hollywood, “Driver, here’s forty cash, for collateral. That’s all the cash I have. But, I’m gonna pay by credit card when we’re done. Head up 9th Street. We should see a guy on a bike, in about a block. I’ll just tell him to have Pink meet me at MetroPCS, and we’ll just go.”

We roll.

Sure enough, on 9th, between Folsom and Howard, we find a homeless encampment full of dismantled bikes, tents, shopping carts, and BBQ grills. Oh, and mostly black homeless guys, all wearing spiked leather clothing.

Hollywood scoots over to the seat behind me, and starts yelling out of the window.

“FANG! FANG! It’s me! Hollywood! Tell Pink we waited for her, but she didn’t show! Tell her to meet me over at the MetroPCS when you see her! I’ll be there! And tell her to call me on my 306 number!”

A startled Fang turns around, and then nods in acknowledgement to Hollywood.

We continue on up 9th, and turn onto Mission, seemingly having cleared any traffic from the protest. And I search my mind’s eye for where the MetroPCS store on 5th Street might be.

Hmmm.

Ya got me!

Once on 5th, I break.

Driver, “Uh, I can’t recall exactly where the MetroPCS on 5th is. Which corner is it on? Is it inside of Westfield Mall?”

Hollywood, “Oh! It’s on Market, actually. Take a left at the light, onto Market.”

WHOA!

Driver, “Uh, I’ve done a lot of illegal maneuvers today, but that one will get me busted for sure! There are cops ALL over Westfield Mall there! Do you mind if I just drop you off just across Market?”

Thankfully, Hollywood is amenable, “Oh, no problem. Here’s my card.”

We cross Market, as I simultaneously take her card and hand back her $40 cash collateral. And once across, I immediately throw on the flashers and stop, leaving a line of Ubers and Lyfts stuck in the intersection behind me.

I quickly break out my iPhone and Square credit card reader, before broaching nervously, “Uh, the meter’s $50.80. I hate to ask, but do you want me to add anything?”

And an audibly pained Hollywood gasps, and comes back, “Wow! Fifty bucks! But yeah, you’ve been really great, driver. Add a ten dollar tip.”

I enter the $60.80 amount into the app. And it immediately comes back with a red triangle, with a single word inside of it, punctuated by an exclamation point, “DECLINED!”

Hollywood jumps up and grabs the back of my headrest, as anxiously protesting, “No WAY it’s declined! I have a TON of money on that card! Try it again! Try it again!”

They always tell me to try it again. And to this day, I have yet to see returned a different result.

I swipe.

“DECLINED!”

Hollywood, “SHIT! FUCK!! Go to an ATM! Find an ATM! I’ll pull money out. Look!! There’s a Bank of America ATM right there! Go THERE!!”

Hollywood points to an ATM a few yards away, at the Powell BART Station plaza. I pull forward to a safe spot out of the way, but around the corner and out of sight of the ATM. However, a woman of integrity and class, Hollywood again leaves behind her black leather wallet, with the tassels and ornamental brass rings, as collateral.

To be fair, I happen to know that Square does only try charge the credit card feature, which can be declined for various reasons, while still leaving the ATM/debit feature usable, say at an ATM.

One minute later…

Hollywood shuffles back sprightly from around the corner… with cash in her hand.

WHEW!

She opens the back door, and triumphantly reaches in to hand me up three twenties, adjusting her bra and blinking all flirtatiously, with, “SEE! I KNEW I had money on that card!” Adding, “Hey! Do you have a number? I’d love to call you for a ride again, sometime!”

Driver, passing, “Sorry, I don’t really have a clientele. I don’t give out my personal number. But you have a beautiful day! Okay? Enjoy this weather!”

Despite the rejection, Hollywood smiles back warmly.

And with a pronounced turn of her hips, and another flirtatious flipping back of her scraggly, badly dyed, orange-blonde hair, Hollywood gushes, “You TOO, honey! You have a bea-U-tiful day!”

And I sit here idling now in my taxi, watching, somewhat in awe, and somewhat dumbstruck, yet somehow completely buzzed, as Hollywood flitters off towards MetroPCS… and out of my life.

 

_____

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Photo by Alex SacK

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Alex Sack

Alex Sack, born 1970, is a taxi driver who grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs of Maryland. He attended several different colleges and universities around the D.C./Baltimore region as a music major for 4 & 1/2 years before quitting - pre-diploma - to the horror of his father. He tried his hand as a professional musician/songwriter seeing him through travels domiciled in New York City’s East Village, Los Angeles (where he scored a few songs on The Disney Channel's 'Even Stevens') and San Francisco - where he's ultimately put down roots. Alex is a single dad to two boys, currently ages 14 and (a hormonal) 16. His post-natal fallback occupation as Operations Assistant at a start-up clean-tech engineering consultancy came to a sudden end with the one-two punch of the owner’s fatal skiing accident in Tahoe and the subsequent downturn in the economy.This - and an acquired nervous twitch to cubicle work - has led to his latest job...

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