On the corner of Lankershim and Victory lies a quaint little AM Auto Service where a brilliant, soft-spoken, charming old mechanic named Gary works.
“I’m late!” I try to yell so I’m heard over the hustle and bustle of broken engines being repaired and rugged Armenian men showing off gold bracelets, dragging on cigarettes, and yelling in Armenian at each other like it’s no big whoop they’re smoking at a gas station. These men are tough. I bet they wear Brut and spit tobacco and punch each other in the face sometimes, when it’s late and whiskey’s involved. These men do not have cats, unless of course their wives wanted one. I’m scared.
A petite man pokes his head from the hood of an engine.
“I know!” Gary exclaims and smiles from ear to ear, not the least bit irked I’m late … again.
His presence calms me, and I remember why I come here in the first place.
Gary, a man old enough to be my grandfather, has been my trusted mechanic from the day, eight years ago, when a family friend raved about him at a dinner party and told me if “I didn’t go to Gary that I was an idiot.”
He walks toward me. His legs are firm, muscular, and iron-like. He doesn’t bend them; I swear he could be a soldier.
I still try to explain.
“I can’t believe I’m two hours late! Should I come back?” I ask and notice the endless line of cars and impatient customers also waiting to see Gary.
From what I gather, Gary’s become somewhat popular. His brilliant, affordable repair work is what gives him clout, but I think it’s something more. Something a little less tangible.
Gary’s strong demeanor shifts, and he morphs into a soft little helpless puppy dog. His eyes become gentle as he looks at me: “I always have time for you, it’s OK.” And he wipes more oil onto the sides of his pants unbothered that the oil isn’t wiping off but bleeding into them.
With his smile alone, he manages to somehow wave the line of cars to back up so mine can cut in front. I feel embarrassed. I’m ready for people to start flicking me off so I look at the floor. When I can’t stare at the decade-old gum smudged into the depths of the pavement, I look up. Not only are the people who’ve just moved their cars (so I could budge them) not angry, they’re smiling! And I think it’s because of this thing, this intangible thing Gary has.
When my 1990 Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible broke down on the side of the road a few years ago, who rescued me? When I went to Europe for a month and needed a ride to the airport during the worst time to be on the roads in LA, who took me? When my Honda broke down and I had no money, who let me pay a month later? Gary.
I write about this to give mention to a man that’s worked hard his whole life and slipped under the radar. As down as I can get sometimes about the people in the entertainment industry, there are wonderful people in this world, without hidden agendas, who help you simply because they’re nice.
If anyone needs a mechanic, he’s your man and can be found wearing a little blue jump suit with oil wiped evenly on each pant leg and a gentle smile.
Alice can be reached at AliceActress@yahoo.com.