Lays Cement, Needs a Break | A Considerable Town | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Lays Cement, Needs a Break 

Thursday, Sep 30 2010
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Ranter: Soft-spoken, 40-year-old white guy with shaved head, neck tats and sunglasses

Location: 33 bus, heading east on Venice

Time: 5:15 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 28

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Topics Covered: A family crisis, the hatefulness of Angelenos, how to board a bus with no money, difficult times for cement layers, how mistakes lead to prison, the economy, the high price of infant footwear

Did Rant Include Advice on Whom You Should or Should Not Fuck With? No.

The Rant:

[After sitting silently for several stops, Neck-Tatted White Guy addresses a new passenger, the only other white person on the bus.]

NTWG: Excuse me, sir. Can I ask you for a favor? I just found out that my father died, and I'm on my way to the hospital, and I need to call —

[New Passenger shrugs, taps earbuds.]

NTWG: Absolutely disgusting. [Long pause] No "I'm sorry for your loss." [Shuffles shopping bag.] It's just disgusting. [Puts head in hands.] They say what goes around comes around. [Lifts head from hands.] There's some hateful people, and it's getting worse. Especially in Los Angeles.

[Neck-Tatted White Guy continues on in this vein for several stops. Eventually, a bearish Latino man sits beside him.]

Bearish Latino: You all right, man?

NTWG: I need a favor. May I ask it? I'm not going to ask for money. I just found out that my father died, and I'm on my way to the hospital, and I need to call my family to let them know I'm coming. I have no phone and no money. I've been laid off for months because of the economy. The bus driver let me on when I told him —

Bearish Latino: I have 50 cents. For pay phone.

NTWG: I don't need money. I just need to borrow —

Bearish Latino: I don't have a phone.

[Unasked, a Latino teenager hands over a phone. Neck-Tatted White Guy thanks him, then pokes at the number pad and holds the phone to his ear without speaking for a minute or so. Then he hands the phone back with many thanks.]

NTWG: I lay cement, and I can't get a break. I thought it was just hard times, but I think it's people, too. What people are becoming. Just now I kept asking people for help, and everyone looks at me like I made this up. What kind of person would do something like that? I'm with Local 600 in Burbank, but I've been to prison. I made some mistakes. And then there's the economy, so right now I'm working at Ralphs. It's a job. You do what you have to do, right?

[Bearish Latino agrees. Several minutes later, as he prepares to exit the bus, Bearish Latino digs a business card from his wallet.]

Bearish Latino: Call this man. He needs some cement people.

NTWG: Thank you. God bless you.

[Neck-Tatted White Guy lets five minutes pass in silence. By the time he speaks again, to a trio of African-American teenagers, few riders have heard any of the preceding. He pulls a pair of baby shoes from a shopping bag.]

NTWG: Can you believe that these cost more than my shoes? What's wrong with this country?

Reach the writer at ascherstuhl@villagevoice.com

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