I was flat on my back late at night out in the garage when I heard my father’s footstep on the cement. I knew the sound. He’d been left with a limp from all those years riding a brake as a limo driver. All those awards ceremonies and all those drop-off and pick-up lines: Golden Globes. People’s Choice. Spirit Awards. The Oscars. My dad had a little hand in bringing people together to celebrate what’s best about America. And now, his ankle was hanging by a thread.
“She’s almost ready, Dad,” I said after rolling out from under the car. We stood there looking at my pride and joy: A replica of The Beast, President Obama’s brand new Cadillac limo. I call mine “BeastWest.” And it’s the world’s most environmentally friendly limo. It runs on bio-diesel fuel. And we don’t burn just any kind of fast food grease. BeastWest runs strictly on In n’ Out.
My goal is to one day drive the President. But dad told me I probably needed more on my resume than not quite finishing Santa Monica College and going door to door selling Cutco Kitchen Knives. That’s when I thought, “If I can’t drive Barack Obama yet, at least I’ll drive ‘The Beast.’”
Now Dad was telling me it was time for an inauguration of my own.
“The ankle’s shot, son. The Oscars are just a couple weeks off, the toughest night of the year,” he told me. “You’re going to have to take my place, boy. There’s no time to lose.”
I didn’t know if I was ready. BeastWest hadn’t even been out on a test run. No responsible limo driver feels competent unless he’s spent hundreds of hours test-driving around dummies in the backseat disguised to look like celebrities.
And driving a limo in The City of Angels has challenges like no other job. At any one moment you might hold in your hands the fate of a true, world-changing visionary, like John Lasseter of Pixar. Or Dr. Felix Nussbaum, the head of otolaryngology at UCLA, the man who pulled off that medical miracle after the actor Christian Bale lost his voice. In its own way driving a limo kind of makes you an angel yourself.
This was Grammy week. More partying than most any other time of the year. Dad waved me off and I took BeastWest on her maiden voyage way out PCH. I picked up two very attractive young women heading back into town. They were junior music execs. They were going to a pre-party before the pre-party before Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton..
The two women instantly admired the limo’s amazing interior. I couldn’t help telling them the story of how BeastWest was my way of saying, si se puede.
“I know how you feel,” one of them said. She looked like one of those girls on “The Hills.” Fresh out of the crayon box. This one’s name was Gretchen. “The whole world has been turned upside down.”
“Yeah,” I said, “can you believe James Franco not even getting a nomination for ‘Milk?’”
Gretchen’s friend didn’t say anything. She had slumped over on her side, moaning. She was early 20s, with red highlights in her dreadlocks, a bare midriff and thousand-dollar jeans.
“Her world’s definitely turned upside down,” Gretchen said. She laughed and said, “She loves Jew haters.”
“I hate Jew haters,” her friend groaned.
“You love Jew haters, Gaby, admit it. What about you, Driver?”
“Well, I suppose it’s up to each person’s conscience to decide,” I said. “That’s what this country’s all about.”
“Duh, Ricky Retardo…that’s what they call body shots at Moonshadows now,” Gretchen said. “Body shots off young girls. What Mel Gibson drank before the cops pulled him over on PCH and he ran off at the mouth like that.”
I was thinking that’s why I love L.A., a town where no matter who you are or how humble your circumstances, you can walk into a bar and order a Jew hater and feel like a superstar, when I heard a shriek from the backseat.
“Ohmigod. I make myself want to throw up,” Gaby said. She’d sat up from her stupor and was looking into the car’s built-in mirror. The BeastWest is like a rolling green room. “Where’s my makeup?”
“After four Jew haters, you need more than makeup, girlfriend,” Gretchen said. “You need to plump up big time.”
Gretchen grabbed a handful of syringes out of her pocketbook and ripped the antiseptic cap off one of the needles. “Ride as smooth as you can, Driver,” she said.
“What the hell is that?” Gaby asked.
“Where’d you get those?”
“Oh, come on, where do you get anything,” Gretchen said. “Hold still. Look at that wrinkle here, by your mouth.”
“That’s a dimple, bitch,” Gaby said.
“Just hold still. If you don’t want the Jonas Brothers to vomit at the sight of you.”
It must have been 5 a.m. when I pulled back into the garage. I was tired, but I did what my father always told me to do. I right away got out the hose and the rags and began giving BeastWest a primo detailing. No matter how late you get in, don’t wait until the next day when the mud’s caked on solid.
Dad must’ve waited up, because I caught sight of him in the reflection of the hubcaps as I was bent over and polishing. He was just standing there with his cane, a crooked smile on his face, watching me clean my ride.
“Son,” he said, “you two are gonna make this country proud.”