Tuesday, June 3, 2008
It was 3:30 a.m. and I was standing outside of a 15-passenger van on the streets of Crenshaw in Los Angeles.
That's so gangster, isn't it?
That, in a nutshell, was my weekend in the City of Bloods and Crips, er, Angels. And I was stranded on the streets of the hood. What a weekend.
Rewind with me for a minute…
Last Friday night, I went to a trendy little area in Westwood, just outside of UCLA's campus, and went to Jerry's Deli for a late night breakfast with a dozen or so friends and colleagues that were in town for the Pangos All-American camp that I was covering for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports.
I was also working on 23 straight hours of being awake.
Jerry's Deli was a neat little spot and we were taken to the back table in the café, passing what was some sort of celebrity, some girl named Kardashian. I guess that's some sort of big deal or something. She asked if I was single. I proudly told her that I wasn't. Sucks for her.
At any rate, it was off to my hotel, you know the posh Vagabond Inn (pictured below) on the other side of town. After taking our exit to get to the hostel, er, hotel, I heard the engine make a noise that you just don't want to hear.
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.
We ran out of gas at 3:30 in the morning. In L.A. In Crenshaw.
I was experiencing my own Blackhawk Down experience. It was me, seven others and our van minus the gas on the rough and tough streets of L.A. We were stranded with no help in sight.
Did I mention the community of homeless people that we parked right in front of? Did I mention that they weren't happy about our arrival?
Shortly after we coasted to the side of the road and in front of the homeless community, we saw our savior of night. A police squad car was driving up the street rather quickly and we jumped out and tried to flag him down.
Dude drove past us like Jeff Gordon. He had no interest in our stranded situation. The officer flew by without even blinking an eye. Our cries for help went unanswered.
The call to AAA ended like this: "Sorry, sir, we don't respond to the area you are in at this hour."
The night couldn't have been any worse at this stage of the tragedy. At one point, I decided to venture out on my own into the cool night air with two other gas shortage survivors.
We got two and a half blocks before realizing that we had no idea as to where we were. Things weren't going well.
After more calls for help and more passers by wanting no part of our crazed crew of renegades, help finally arrived and we were able to make it to our posh hotel.
I was up for 27 straight hours. I survived my experience of being out on the streets of L.A. I survived a Kardashian.
Los Angeles was a fun trip, outside of my Friday night of course. The basketball was okay. The company I had with me was great. My good friend, Rob, and I found the world's best taco stand on Figueroa Street, just a stone's throw away from USC's gorgeous Galen Center.
Chanos was the best part of the time in SoCal. The $1.50 chicken taco was a lifesaver. Pure authentic Mexican food on the cheap and it was beyond tasty. Pure spice too. I think I had six of them during my time in L.A.
Every bite was full of flavor and buying it as a walk-up customer on the corner of one of the busiest corners in South Central was a highlight of my spring. Washing the spice down with a milkshake from Fatburger, which was right next door, was so Cali.
I'm about to say something that is probably sacrilegious but here goes: Fatburger is so much better than In and Out burger. So much better. The burgers were better. The fries were better. The milkshakes were better. And yes, I feel really fat because of it.
In a nutshell, that was my L.A. experience. Gang violence, good food, okay basketball, great weather and great friends.
You couldn't have asked for anything better.