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?…
His nonstop use of the word ‘slash’ was giving me ideas. It was the wrong day to keep making stabbing references.
Y’all know about my love for knives. I’m no Bad Bad Leroy Brown, would never bring a knife to a gunfight. But I’ve got this male thing, like some guys do with cars or motorcycles. I’m no gear-head, but I do enjoy them-there implements of violence.
One evening several months ago, Dr T was heading to the bar after work. “Hey, wait a second.” I handed him a $5 bill. “Gamble for us, and if you win anything we’ll split it.” My uncle used to do this with his sailor buddies. It would keep Dr T busy and not outside smoking.
“Sounds like a chore I can handle.”
Several hours later I received a text. “Down to $2. Ideas?”
“Shoot the moon!”
The next day when I arrived at work, a pink piece of paper was in my cash drawer. Dr T said, “After I texted you, I put the $2 into the poker machine. I won FOUR LOCH NESS MONSTERS! So I bought a Raffle ticket from Melony.”
“Did she bless it?”
“And how!” Dr T grinned. Melony blesses the lottery tickets she sells by rubbing them every wonderful place before handing them over.
“All righty then. Wouldn’t that be something? Two-hundred-fifty-thousand Loch Ness Monsters… We would have to leave her a tip.”
“If we win, she’ll take more than the tip!”
Dr T and I have borrowed South Park’s monetary system for personal use. How much is a Loch Ness Monster? According to Chef’s dad, “Two dollah fiddy cent.” $7.59? Three nessies and a nipple. We talk money like this in front of Grinder and watch the vein on his forehead grow.
I love how the State of Oregon has parlayed our $5 investment into a million-dollar dream.
For gosh knows how many months, the ticket rode with me everywhere. Last Friday Dr T texted me the winning number.
Working a lot of hours can mess with you. Get up and work, go home and sleep. Going through the motions.
I have a co-worker whose first name is the same as my middle name. He is 64 years old, a stable, well-adjusted man. He does floors for a living at a high-rise up the street from the Waterfront store, and moonlights for Master P. He often stops by for a cuppa joe before his shift. Last night he came in like usual. What was unusual was his question:
“Look at me. Notice anything out of place?”
I scanned him from head to toe. “No. Is this some kind of trick question?”“You know how you get up and do things without really thinking? I did that this morning. Look at my feet.”
“Hah! I foresee nothing but left turns in your future…”
Not only was he wearing two different types of shoe; both were for the right foot.
“You could have gotten the same result by nailing one foot to the floor…”
“You’re not gonna let me hear the end of this, are ya?”
“Oh, sure I will.” I snapped a phone-pic. “Just as soon as I send this picture to all our co-workers…”
Sometimes it’s the little battles you win at work. The average cashier takes heaps of verbal abuse throughout the course of their employment. It’s the nature of the beast. Rarely does the abuse turn physical. That’s when a cashier’s job gets scary.
The other night, Christmas night, Weird Steven declined a lunch break. Nothing was open, and I was cranky from being up all day. I was grateful not to have to spend the extra hour at The Mothership. Had Weird Steven taken his lunch? This story would be about me…
It’s Xmas, Part 2. Since the American public is getting screwed out of a sloth-day with Christmas falling on a Sunday, today we get to pretend it’s Christmas all over again. Cool! Where’s my fuckin’ presents?
What? It doesn’t work that way? And I have to go to work?