At first I was worried, and asked Master P if I was in trouble? He mentioned something that irritated him recently, “but that wasn’t it. I just need fresh eyes and faces, stirring the pot.” While stirring the pot, he tossed out a rotten rutabaga. I’m the big Irish potato going into the pot to fill that space. Once this became clear, I stopped worrying so much.
I’ve rather enjoyed the lack of drama the past couple years. The Waterfront store is closest to a true grocery store experience in the Master P chain. It could close at 6 PM and no one would care much. Once the office workers commute home and the sun goes down, the customer base is mostly cocktail waitresses and homeless kids filling up on jerky and gummy bugs with their food stamp cards between rounds of PBR at the nearby pub. There are a steady stream of familiar faces, but they are scarce after a certain hour.
Which gives yours truly a chance to stare stupidly into space and ponder the whys and what-ifs of life. During my time on the Waterfront, I watched the HBO series Deadwood, and couldn’t help comparing some of the locals to characters on the show. Sure it’s vague, sure it’s a stretch, but since they took the radio away I only have my mirthly musings to keep me sane.
I start making parallels to my life and the shows I get hooked on. I was fairly well-dressed during my Sopranos period. I was scared shitless during The Wire‘s run, working at the Nightclub Store during a rivalry between two nearby hip-hop clubs. Pop pop pop every Saturday night.
With the MAX rolling past and the historic feel of the district, it wasn’t hard to step back in time. So, hitch up your garters and come along for the ride. It’s NSFW, politically incorrect, and hopefully the Fine Dining Establishment (FDE’s) can’t read English yet…
Imagine my surprise when I saw this week’s cover, the year-end best-of edition. Look who is King of the Jailbirds!
The hair needs to be redder, and I am not bearded right now, but King Busted is a dead ringer for yours truly.
I didn’t do it! I plead the fifth! Or a half-gallon!
The cops are around all the time downtown, sometimes when you least expect it. I’ve had better luck sticking my head out of the store and yelling than playing phone-tag with an automated non-emergency system. Most things I need the police for do not warrant a 911 call, and the perps are long gone by the time I get official attention.
But not always…
Grinder was busy nosing around the Waterfront Store, peeking at my paperwork, issuing commands that would fall upon deaf ears the minute he left, etc… I enjoy chatting with the manager of the Mothership, my old friend from the uber-religious teen years of the ’70s. He is technically my boss, but I answer mostly to Dr T these days. And Master P, of course. Dr T and I have a more tolerant view of the customer base than Grinder, who polices the world for indignities on a moment-by-moment basis.
One of our customers was about to have a Grinder moment.
I don’t dress for success.
When two douchebag-jock Cali-types entered the store and began discussing rock stars, I paid little attention at first.
When I realized they were talking about me, they noticed the chill in the air. Customer service went out the window, and Mr Smartass took over.
“Metallica? Is that who I’m thinking about?” one said.
“How am I supposed to know what you’re thinking about?” I wondered aloud.
“We’re trying to decide which rock star you look like.”
Now they were pissing me off. “Poison? Fuck you.” I said it with a fake smile, but they noted the sarcastic tone.
“We meant no disrespect, dawg.” Then he turned to his buddy. “Definitely Poison.”
“There’s no pink or glitter on me. Or a fucking do-rag either. I dress like this because I work here part time for minimum wage and I am poor.”
“Dude, relax. It’s a compliment to look like a rock star. The hair… I wish I could think of that artist from the ’80s…”
I pondered aloud, “Dude, how old are you? You were sperm in the ’80s.” That got us all laughing, at least.
“We really mean no disrespect. You don’t have to cop an attitude.”
“What do you guys do, sit around and jack off to the Fashion Police?”
They left, bewildered. “Wow, that dude’s an asshole.”
More on that in a minute.
“Huh?” Said loud and stoopid.
More on that in a minute.
Yeah, daddy feels a rant coming on. More? You want more?
I have more.
Serious moments at Master P’s are few and far between. We are by nature a cynical, sarcastic bunch. (I tell people I have scabs on my soul.) But every now and again, we have to step back from all the frontin’ and deal with life’s true beauty and ugliness. Lately we have been doing a lot of that.
We’ve had to say goodbye to one of our own.
I called him Roscoe on this blog, because he resembled a rode-hard-and-put-away-wet Roscoe Lee Browne. His actual name was Marvin. Marvin was a proud black man, a few months shy of sixty. Up until last year he worked full-time in a steel foundry, and worked graveyard shift at the Nightclub Store on weekends. This had been going on since 2003, seven days a week. He would show up for his daily work lunch, shirtless under a construction vest and hard hat. He devoured The New York Times, The Oregonian and Wall Street Journal daily. His reading material was atypical of someone with that many knife scars on his upper arms.
Yes, Marvin wasn’t always an angel. He did a serious stretch of prison time at age eighteen. (His stories of prison rape have removed any interest in me ever watching the TV show Oz.) When he came out, he was a new man. His work ethic was his drive, and drive he did.
Marvin put up with a lot of nonsense on the graveyard shift, until it was time not to put up with it anymore. Marvin was particularly protective of wine and ice cream. If he caught you stealing, he would tell you to put it back. If you didn’t, he would tell you one more time.
There would be no third time. Marvin would teach you old-school. A punch to the head may not knock any sense into ya, but it might knock that bottle of wine out of your pocket. We had a mugshot on display for the longest time of a fellow with a plum on his forehead for not moving fast enough putting back that pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Marvin would also chase you. If you did a beer run and the store was empty? Marvin would lock the door and chase you. Boss Whitney finally got him to stop doing this with street logic. “Marvin, if you’re running down the street angrily threatening some scrawny white kid, who you think the cops are gonna shoot?”
Finally, Marvin quit chasing people.
A couple years back, Marvin had a heart attack and quit the foundry. He got all his paperwork together, applied for the pensions, and settled into a comfy retirement. He continued to work the two days a week at Master P’s, but that wasn’t as much fun for him since the radio ban. After 2:30 AM, Marvin was the entertainment.
After moving to the Waterfront, I didn’t see Marvin as much. He’d drop by on occasion to say hello to the boss. Dr T and I would tease him about his life retired, and he would use one of his standard lines, with a Cheshire grin, “You make me laugh.”
Marvin liked to laugh. After a while, when something was funny, Dr T would look at me and say, “You Marvinize me.” After Marvin’s passing, we chose to keep the saying as a tribute.
Marvin has a sister, who is six minutes older and never let him forget it. When she came to collect Marvin’s last paycheck, Master P met with her and her daughter and grandkids within earshot. I heard that Marvin had passed quickly of a heart attack. He would be cremated, which is fitting. Though not widely known, Marvin was partial to the herb and would love the thought of being smoked upon completion of this earthly visit.
As Marvin’s sister left Master P’s Waterfront Store, she came close and gave me a tearful kiss on the cheek. “You take care of yourself. Marvin thought you were the greatest. You made him laugh.”
That may be one of the sweetest things ever said to me.
If there is a rock and roll heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band, and I’d bet Marvin is working the door. He will let you in if you behave; just be cool with the wine and ice cream. No cover charge, if you can make him laugh.
We miss you, Marvin. RIP.
Rain and I were sharing the bathroom after an intimate lunch. My cell phone rang, with Meg’s unique ringtone. I looked at Rain, made a “Shh” gesture with index finger to lips, and answered.
When I rang off, Rain was giving me the look. You know, the look. The one that says there’d better be some spectacular bullshit coming out of your mouth in 3…2… “Why I gotta be quiet? Is that your girlfriend?” She pronounced it gurrrrrlfrenn.
“No, dear. But I’m trying to talk her out of some money, and it’ll be easier if she doesn’t think I’m going to be spending it on you.”
“What you need her money for?”
A guy’s gotta have some secrets. Rain has been busy trying to figure out mine…
Upon occasion, when work is slow enough that I can stare stupidly into space, I will mess with stuff. I try to find humor in everything. Cash register receipts? I call it the tale of the tape. I accentuated this one with a doodle:
Once I’ve tired of messing with receipts and expired products, my gaze falls upon the Sunday funnies. I love single panel humor, and someone pointed out that single panels of Peanuts can be the saddest or sickest of ideas when seen alone. Of course, I take it farther. I collect panes from three or four comics, or switch the dialogue balloons to make my own story. Yesterday’s was enough to make Weird Steven squirm:
Sigh. Off to work we go…
Seems like every store I work at has a Drunkass Dave. He’s the guy who lives in the doorway over there, or in the closet of the car wash, or sleeps in the dumpster behind the food carts. He drinks away the day, panhandling and milking human services for every available cent. He is a bum.Our Drunkass Dave at the Waterfront store had the unmitigated audacity to think he could run the city better than everyone else, so he got on the ballot to be elected mayor. (He managed to come in 13th.) As a lark, Master P allowed him to place a bust in the store window. It brought lots of conversation to the window, along with lots of people buying The Mayor, as he came to be known, dinner and cigarettes. Oh, and beer money. They give him lots of beer money.
We would not sell The Mayor beer. We don’t sell his kind anyway.
So, where have I been? Well…
I got maced. More on that in a minute.
Is my life like the wreck shown here? Nah. That was a blip on the radar. I had more fun pretending to be mad so I could cuss out two drunken idiots who thought they were being funny. (“Ya wanna blow job with your cheap cigarettes too?” That was me shouting at them as a pretty girl walked in.)
It’s festival season downtown. I’m working at the Waterfront store these days. It’s a different bird. Basically four 12-hour days a week, including commute. I close the sucker down at midnight, sleep, return. It’s closest to a true grocery experience at Master P’s, and I’m comfortable with the routine. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, though.
Days off? Jam-packed with socializing. I have managed to create a universe wherein I have TWO girlfriends. It’s not quite sitcom worthy, but there are challenges. Things were different when I just hung out with Meg and just saw Rain for booty calls. Now I do both with both, and thought they both know about each other, I have to dance delicately at times. No matter how open-minded we claim to be, jealousy occasionally rears its ugly rear.
But more on that later. I said something about a macing?…