“So what’s there to do here anyway?”
“Um, I don’t really know. It’s been a while since I’ve been here.”
“We’ll you’re the LA native, what did you do before we met?”
‘I dunno, I mean there are a lot of freak show stores in Highland Park, I’m sure we’ll find something to do.”
“Maybe we could get our fortune told or something?”
Clara points to the sign that reads “Madame Maria’s Palm Reading and Tarot (323) 259-1012”. Paul shrugs his and takes out his cell phone.
“Maybe they’re making contact with the dead.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s a long distance call.”
Clara and Paul continue their walk down Figueroa Boulevard the sun reflecting off of the gum pimpled asphalt. The palm trees, despite their multitude, did nothing to dampened the effects of the sun and Paul could feel the sun burn spreading on his apple cheeks. After walking by their third bargain clothing store supplying the hot fads of the Latino pop faze of the early 90’s Clara began to get frustrated by the lack of adventure in her boyfriend’s home town. This was LA- where was Lauren from The Hills? Where was the traffic? Where was the glamour? Where was Steve Aoki doing blow off of an iphone? She really ought have rented a car for this trip even if it was only for a week. How was she to guess that Paul’s parents needed the car all weekend.
“Oh, I remember this place being kind of cool, in that dusty attic kind of way.”
“What place? You mean that camera store? Well-I do have a question about my flash for my Polaroid camera.”
The outside of Frank’s Camera Store was a sad sight. The front window contained yellowing advertisement advertisements for action cams and photo albums that were covered in a film that could never be developed lied empty and spread eagle. They opened the door to the dark warehouse, the light reflecting against the glass, made their first steps into the store blind ones.
When their eyes adjusted they took in their surrounding. Display cases cut up the store so that the garbage could be separated into different piles. Old broken cameras were in one case, on top of another case a cheesy staged 80s wedding photo cut outs coming in a variety of sizes stood as small army, and in one corner a stack of leather camera bags sat like discarded husks.
Walking through the display cases, they saw that a small alcove had been made for camera repairs. Inside, an ancient man was scratching for life out of something clunky and mechanical. Sprinklings of German was in the air and guarding Frank’s work station was a colossal St. Bernard lying on its side asleep. Paul took in the dog’s presence. Seeing his gigantic chest heaving and eyes gooey with boogers gave him a quality that reminded him of a football mascot costume left out in the rain.
“CAN I HELP YOU WITH ANYTHING?” booms a craggy voice from above.
Paul and Clara’s eyes found the source: a 50 to 60 something year old woman sitting at an elevated desk containing 20 years worth of phonebooks.
“We were just looking around, I guess.” Paul muttered as he and Clara slowly approached the woman.
“What? Could you speak a little louder?!” the old lady nearly screamed.
“I was wondering if you knew how to fix a flash on a Polaroid camera?” Clara said just slightly louder than Paul. They had finally had approached close enough to see her in better detail. Her hair was wheat colored and was a managed wild. Around a couple of her teeth there was a black outline, indicating their falseness. She was wearing a red polo shirt, a bra that had seemed to forget its function and some jeans. By her beige cord phone a maroon placard simply stated “Elsa”.
“That depends on if your bulb is broken or if it is the actual camera is malfunctioning.” Elsa started, her face pulled into a myriad of expressions by strings of wrinkles.
“ You might just want to buy a new flash or camera. I don’t have one here but I can get you one buy tomorrow. I’ll need to call some people. I’ll use the yellow pages and find someone for you. I do not use the internet; I REFUSE to use it. I do not need anyone screwing around with my freedom. My daughter, she is a genius. We built my computer together. I went and bought the mother boards, the hover boards, crazy whatever boards and we built it. BUT I said I’ll NEVER have the internet. I don’t even have a cellphone- UNLESS you are hooker, drug dealer or making a thousand dollars with every call you do not need a cellphone. You are always attached if you have a cellphone. I mean why do you need to be talking to people at all hours of the day ‘ ohhh my boyfriend broke up with me,’ GOOD riddance, he was an asshole anyways- get over your shit and get a new one. I’m not saying that’s going to happen to you two lovebirds, but you know what I mean.”
Paul and Clara not quite knowing what to do, merely smiled and nodded, affirming their love. Clara was about to say something along the lines of what about all the resources on the internet when Elsa started talking once more.
“I was blessed with a wonderfully sweet grandmother who once told me ‘Be there for your friends when they need you, but don’t try to solve their problems-that’s what professionals are for’. You aren’t being paid to listen to their issues. I mean what makes you qualified to tell someone what they should be doing with their life? ACCK! I sure as shit don’t want anyone to know what I am up to!
I don’t even have an ATM card. If you are dumb enough to walk around without 20 bucks in your pocket- you deserve all that shit that comes to you. I mean come on- when that thing came out, I was like, you are something stupid if you invest in that. This was before all the identity theft mumbojumbo too. To turn your back on everyone when you take out money- how STUPID is that? I mean you are so vulnerable. I was just reading a FANTASTIC article in the paper about it too- that’s right- THE PAPER! You really need to read the paper; it is all there. You don’t need any internet, they all lie on it anyways. But this story, it was incredible, let me tell you. It was about these guys who would go down to Mexico to do bad stuff. I mean I know women could go down to do bad stuff too, but these were all business men- BIG SCANDAL. Anyways, what they would do was go down to Mexico to go and pick up hookers.
How it would work was they would go up to this place- it was like a drive-thru or an isle or something. They would drive up, the girl would walk in and they would start their business arrangement. Sure enough, these men started disappearing! You see what they were doing was, they were, these ladies of the night, were getting these men drunk.
They would give them something to drink, laughing and what-not, but there would be poison in the drink so they would pass out. THEN, their pimps would come into the car and take away these men’s wallets, their credit cards, watches and everything and drive the car out to the desert and their bodies would decompose unwitnessed.
Nobody knew how this was happening. All these business men kept disappearing and the ONLY connection was that they all were drawing from the same ATM. They would take out their money at the same place for the hookers and then go to the drive-thru thing. Still- this kept happening and these bodies were never identified because they were stripped. Then ONE time, this dumbass cop, he forgot to take off his tag. Then when they found his body dripping with fluid and whatever they were able to identify him and as it turned out- THE POLICE were in to too GO FIGURE.
“Well, they wouldn’t have been able to find the dead bodies with out the ATM link though?” Clara said attempting to challenge Elsa
“ACK!” exclaimed Elsa, disregarding Clara with a wave of her hand.
“You know technology is becoming a bad thing! My daughter is having a heck of a time with my granddaughter. I understand her having a cellphone, she is an single mother and forgets that her daughter gets outs at 12 on Wednesdays because of the budget cuts- THE BUDGET CUTS- ACK- LIKE THAT IS WHAT WE NEED! ON EDUCATION! Anyways, I pick her up, no problem. But she isn’t safe from the internet either! I know the Myspace asks you to be 14 before you get one but that didn’t stop my 12 year old granddaughter from getting one! It isn’t that hard to get one and those little shits will turn on you. But all of my friends have a cellphone, an i-pod, myspace, facebook, whatever. They are now controlled by everyone else too. I try to tell people. Older people are too worried about their real estate investments and are too tired and young people just are too brainwashed- and NOW we have the budget cuts Tee riffic. These internet places are just not safe for children. The perverts that are out and about- it would blow your mind how easy it is for them. The school that my granddaughter goes too, it is too simple to get into.
I mean- I walked right in there- they assume because I have an elastic key ring and I smile I am a teacher. DON’T even ID me. Great.
Her school is in North Hollywood and one day I saw a man sitting in his car for a good half an hour before I stared him down and he got scared away. That incident made me take action in my own hands. I sat in front of the school everyday for a month- just observing what was going on. Those kids are vicious these days- but you’ll NEVER guess what the worst kid gangs are- THOSE VIETNAMESE GIRLS. They are evil man- I saw them with my own eyes. They look so pretty with their long straight hair and they looks so shy and nice but you’ll never imagine what I saw. See what they do is they surround their prey- the kid or whatever- and they’ve got these long sharp nails and they take them and dig underneath the kid’s hair line. It looked like they were scalping them. These Vietnamese girls, Oriental gangs- they are vicious. It was shocking these girls, it wasn’t white kids starting it or Mexicans or Black kids, just these evil little girls. I mean they’ve got everything under control now- but man, that was some horrifying shit. I was sure glad I was camping out in front of the school and caught on to that one.”
Right as Clara was about to tell Elsa that Oriental was not a politically correct term, the lights flicker and go out.
“I told you! I told you! You with your fancy computers! Look now! Helpless! Look- I’ve got a battery-less flashlight- what do you have an IPOD? That won’t work for shit!” The St. Bernard starts twitching on the floor chasing something that isn’t there. Elsa continually winds up a broken flashlight and Paul’s pant leg vibrates with the call from the psychic.
Frank's Camera Store