They come to America
If I were a porn star I’d really work at it. I’d hate to think all these guys are watching, thinking, ‘I could do a better job than that.’
The room was musky and dank, my girlfriend commented, ‘It stink.’ It had a bed, a table with two chairs and a TV with no remote. In a way, I liked it.
They come to America
By David Ochs
Rather than fight the early morning rush hour traffic, my girlfriend and I drove three hours to Los Angeles the night before her appointment with Immigration. We found a dumpy little drive-up motel called The Sunkist. The proprietor was a tiny little woman from India. She was on the phone and without saying hello asked if I had drivers license. I resented her being rude just because she was big time in the Indian caste system. I felt she should be grateful I was staying in her dump in the off-season, so I said, “I have a drivers license, birth certificate, Mastercard, Visa card, whatever you want.”
She said, “Sir, all I need is a driver license.” I was grateful her dump only cost fifty-five dollars and lightened up a little. She made us promise it was just us two (like we were going to invite all our friends off the street to our room and party).
The room was musky and dank, my girlfriend commented, “It stink.” It had a bed, a table with two chairs and a TV with no remote. In a way, I liked it. There’s something about the simplicity of a hotel room stripped down to its bare essence. I realized, if I were ever really going to be become a writer, it’d be in a room like this, where I’d eat a lot of take-out. Where I’d have sordid affairs with drunken whores and babbling psychos and I’d have to sleep with one eye open, lest I get my balls cut off. Well, maybe I’m romanticizing the whole thing a bit.
The TV was mounted high on the wall just below the ceiling and because there was no remote I’d have to stand on the bed to change the channel. There were only a few channels, one was the twenty-four hour porn channel. It was so dirty I was embarrassed to watch with my girlfriend. That’s the trouble with respectable women. I didn’t like the performers in the first porn skit. They knew what they were doing but it was sort of clinical, like it was their nine-hundredth film and they were doing it by rote. But maybe I’m jealous because I’m a poet and not a porn star. But if I were a porn star I’d really work at it. I’d hate to think all these guys are watching, thinking, “I could do a better job than that.” Anyway my girlfriend said she had a headache, so I stood up on the bed and changed the channel to sports.
But I thought of porn and the snooty little lady hotel owner from India, who probably thinks we’re all a bunch of pigs with animal needs—give us McDonald’s and porn and a cheap room and we’re happy—in the same way a pig needs slop, a sow and sty. As the night wore on the hotel filled up and we could hear the people to our left and on the right and above us; we could hear them talking, taking a crap or watching the twenty-four hour porn channel. But we managed a light restless sleep.
When we woke up, I put on the news—it was too early for porn—and I went to McDonald’s across the street. The guy at McDonald’s was over friendly and I sensed he was gay. I didn’t feel complimented, he liked me, I thought, the way he liked every guy. I drove my old lady to Immigration so she could become a citizen of our great country. I figured it’d take all day, that’s part of the immigration process: waiting in lines, cutting through red tape, filling out forms, calling for information and never being able to speak to a person. It’s the American way.
I dropped her off and drove to a nearby Starbucks but decided to go for a walk. I walked around the grounds of a giant Wells Fargo office, I looked at the lawn that Wells Fargo paid someone to landscape and wondered, “Who are the people who sit on their ass all day, make all that money, and hire some guy who has to bust his ass for peanuts?” It’s the American way.
As I continued my walk I thought to how a few months ago I went to the Chinese restaurant and realized I had no cash and went next door to the 7-Eleven to use their ATM, and had to agree to pay a dollar-fifty surcharge. Then when I got my Wells Fargo statement they tacked on another two-dollar fee. I imagined walking into this Wells Fargo monolith of a building and barging into a board meeting and yelling, “How could you greedy bastards charge me a two-dollar ATM fee?” The CEO’s frightened and red faced, and he hits the security button. What the hell? They need a few bucks to pay the guy that cuts the lawn, I guess.
I continued walking around the Immigration industrial complex and kept running into freeways with no access to cross. Finally, I found a sidewalk, went by a mattress store and other businesses that looked tired and dreary; I walked over a bridge that went over a gigantic aqueduct, devoid of water.
To the east, stood the barren San Gabriel Mountains; I wondered what they thought of this cesspool of humanity they overlooked. Even though it was February, the sun was beating down and it was hot and dusty. At the other end of the bridge was some kind of junkyard. A group of Mexican men were chopping up something wooden with insulation attached to it. There didn’t seem to be anything salvageable, maybe it was just something to do.
I kept going past rows of Asian shops where old Asian men smoked and spoke in their dialect. I passed a rundown trailer park bordered by old, rotting palm trees. There was nothing more to see and I turned back towards the bridge, the Mexican men were now sitting on patio chairs in the middle of the junkyard.
A fat woman walked past me on the bridge, I thought with the heat it must be hard for her. An angry motorist blasted his horn. From the bridge I saw a place that helped immigrants fill out forms. Immigrants come here from all over the world to earn some money but have to live like dogs, and lose part of their soul. All shoved together in this shit-hole. What irony, The City of Angels.
I made my way back to my car. My girlfriend was there. She had a big smile—she was now a United States citizen.§
David Ochs writes from Santa Maria when he's not exploring writer's niches in L.A.