Observations from a weekend in Los Angeles…

I don’t know how anyone can afford to live there. You can’t get most places without a car, and gas is twice as expensive as in St. Louis — $4.39/gallon. Sure, you could sell your car and get around via Lyft or Uber, but how are those drivers making any money when fuel charges are so high and they’re always caught in traffic jams?

I spent some time playing poker at the Commerce Casino, which I’ve visited many times before. Saturday afternoon, I had my back tortured by one of the massage therapists roving the room and working on players at the tables. I say “tortured” because, despite costing half what their counterparts in Las Vegas charge, I always forget how much more aggressively physical these women are. They’re almost all short Asian women who stand up on a stool, then lean over and shove their elbows deep enough into my shoulders to hit lung. I didn’t complain for the first few minutes, then remembered that I was paying for what’s supposed to be a relaxing and pleasurable experience. At that point, I struggled to overcome the language barrier and get her to understand that she doesn’t have to treat me like a spy withholding state secrets. Fortunately, she eased up and was very effective at removing a couple of knots below my shoulder blades.

Speaking of Asians, there are a lot of Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese employed at The Commerce, including almost all of the poker dealers, each of whom has an Anglo name on their badge, probably an attempt to make it easier for Caucasians to talk to them. I never knew there were so many women named Wendy, Angela, and Tanya immigrating from that part of the world.

Interestingly, those names don’t appear on the badges of the dealers in the portion of the Commerce where Asian players sit in very large numbers at table games like Baccarat and Pai Gow Poker. I wandered through that area on my final evening just to do some people-watching and observe the activity, even though I don’t know how to play either of those games. As if they weren’t confusing enough, I came upon one that involved cards, dice, and tiles (!). The table was packed and thousands of dollars were being pushed around on each hand (if that’s what it’s called). I watched for 20 minutes and left with no more knowledge of the game than when I started.

Elsewhere in the City of Angels, I went out for a walk in West Hollywood and passed a car wash that looked exactly like the one in the 1976 movie “Car Wash.” I didn’t see Ivan Dixon, Melanie Mayron, or Franklin Ajaye anywhere. Next door, I stopped in a convenience store for a bottle of water. At the register, the clerk told me it was $1.05 with tax. As usual, I had no change in my pocket, so I handed him a five dollar bill, dreading the large number of coins I was about to receive in return. Apparently he didn’t want to deal with them, either. To my pleasant surprise, he gave me back four dollar bills.

That’s how you keep customers happy. And it didn’t hurt my back one bit.