Nov. 26, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. – We’re back in Planet McDonald’s, this one located squarely in the orbit of the Walmart on Telegraph Road. We just got back after Jun treated us to a Korean repast at BCD Tofu in Rowland Heights.
As I scribble, Lester dines on some disturbing-looking yellow corvina. I guess disturbing is in the eye of the beholder. Or perhaps the eye of the fish. Maybe we’re just talking cultural difference here. What’s so wrong with fish eyes on the table?
A couple quick things, now that the electric buzz from the Starbucks mocha has burned off. First, I never realized how much more of a punch Starbucks coffee delivers visa vis its McDonald’s counterpart. One is a haymaker, the other a love tap.
I was bobbing and weaving, jangly as Jack Kerouac on Benzedrine. I could’ve written a thousand words in an hour and not stopped to consider punctuation.
And so we’re stiffening our resolve when it comes to McDonald’s and its seductive wifi access. Last night we successfully made it through a protracted visit to McDonald’s in Barstow without spending a dime. Tonight we’ll strive to do the same.
Something is amiss here in the Telegraph Road McDonald’s. Took me a while to pinpoint the problem. It’s the War on Christmas. The War on Christmas that’s raging in the dark recesses of my demented mind right now.
Everywhere we go lately, the sound of Christmas music continues its gentle assault on our ears. It doesn’t matter how incongruous the setting.
It happened this morning at the TA truck stop in Barstow. I was in a men’s room stall when Johnny Mathis came through the speakers and invited me to have myself a merry little Christmas.
Now, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is the saddest of all possible Christmas songs. But it’s hard to achieve wistful or poignant when you’re sitting on a toilet in the men’s room of a truck stop in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
Absurd, on the other hand, is low-hanging fruit.
When we walked into the tofu house this afternoon, who greeted us but Doris Day singing “Silver Bells.” At least I think it was Doris Day.
But really, what the hell difference does it make?
Silver Bells. In a Korean restaurant. On November 26.
Hey, I’m as sentimental as the next guy. I’m intent on rediscovering the Christmas spirit this year. I really am. But it’s hard to savor noncommercial Christmas magic over a boiling bowl of sun du bu with four days left until we even reach December.
Before our dinner expedition, we visited the truck yard which is the epicenter of Jun’s job. He embarks from here when he takes his car carrier on a cross-country expedition and returns here when he’s done. It’s right around the corner from here, and it’s a curious place indeed.
Undocumented Hispanic mechanics work inside the yard’s barbed-wire topped gates. The bosses and drivers, on the other hand, are all Korean.
They got American names, though. Jun is Jimmie. His manager is Scott. One of his fellow truckers, who smiled sweetly after offering us Korean rolls, is called Harry.
Just your everyday Jim, Scott and Harry.
Jun told me the company was foundering before Scott took over the day-to-day management about three years ago. Now it’s going great guns. The company has 17 total trucks, eight company-owned and nine owned by contractors like Jun, and grosses in the neighborhood of $4.5 million a year.
Jun calls the owner “Mr. Shit Clock.” Nobody likes Mr. Shit Clock. The mechanics call him “Mr. Barato,” since barato translates roughly from Spanish as cheap bastard son of a bitch.
I’m not sure why he’s called Mr. Shit Clock. Apparently his surname translates from the Chinese as shit. I’m not sure if this is Mandarin or Cantonese, or if this matters at all.
Oh, damn. I just consulted an email Jun sent me in August, describing a bit of his work milieu. His boss is Mr. Shit Clerk, not Shit Clock.
(The editor apologizes for the reporting error. And Jun thinks there’s no cultural barrier between us. Maybe I just have shit in my ears. Maybe that’s why I can’t tell Shit Clerk from Shit Clock.)
In that August email, Jun went into great detail describing his revulsion for Shit Clerk.
I’ll let Jun explain, because he does it so much better than I could.
“I nicknamed him Shit Clerk because he acts like a clerk rather than a boss. Simply, I think that he is not qualified as a boss. Probably, he is more likely a pawnshop owner or 7 eleven shop owner. Fucking cheap even a miser. But he is a very luck man, especially with his company and men powers, which he has no idea how lucky he is.”
Jun says Shit Clerk has grown a greater sense of entitlement as his company has prospered. Says he went to Korea last year and got cosmetic surgery on his eyelids.
“I guess he paid lot of money for that funny looking cosmetic surgery,” Jun wrote. “Why he did? I have no clue, but assume he wanted to look better. I was overheard that his wife had some cosmetic surgery too, plus pussy reduction operation. He purchased a half million dollar house. He bought Lexus 350 for his wife, Bmw 3 serise for his first son, and another lexus for his second son.”
Back in August, Jun exuded an affectionate, even protective attitude regarding Manny, the yard’s head mechanic. Manny has a family somewhere in Mexico, but now he’s got a girlfriend, another undocumented Mexican immigrant.
Jun said he bought protective gear for Manny and Marcio, another mechanic, because they have no medical insurance.
“Mr. Barato always tries to haggles with Manny about fixing his trucks,” Jun wrote. “I never heard that Manny was paid generously for his hard works. Manny gave him $3000 invoice, which most of his labor charge, but he cut down less than $2000. This shit clerk takes advantage of him becasue Manny and Marcio are illegal.”
One day he found Manny red-eyed in the yard. His father in Mexico had suffered a stroke. Jun said he got angry later that afternoon when he overhead Shit Clerk berating Manny for slacking off on the job.
“I gave $200 to Manny, saying send it to your Fadre’s hospital bill before I left L.A. Since then, Manny treated me as his real brother. Me too.”
When Jun wrote that email, Manny was at work on his transmission. That job went, to put it mildly, awry.
I’ll turn to that tomorrow.