You know middle age is approaching when multiple people get excited about a toilet.
I introduce the Cadillac of toilets. We haven’t named it yet, but I’m thinking Pacific Princess. (It’s as big as the Love Boat!) The Nightclub Store has been getting some cosmetic surgery. MISTER Edamame is afraid he’s going to lose us as a tenant, so he’s been throwing money into the building. We have a new floor covering, linoleum that looks like hardwood and buffs up nice. There was nothing wrong with the floor! It had been replaced ten years ago, the whole floor, not just the linoleum. But if he’s buying…
How about something useful? Make the outside surveillance camera operable? (Oops, did I say that?) We have sixteen cameras inside, and he bitches about the wires, but says nothing about the busted camera that dangles from a cord from the awning outside. He had the laborers use a few zip-ties and corral the wires, painting some of them beige to match the wall.
When I heard we were getting a new toilet, I had mixed expectations. Since the previous remodel we’ve had this, this… kid’s toilet! It can’t be more than twelve inches off the floor. Our older employees take so long in there because they can’t get back up. And then there’s Art East, who is no fan. “Did an adult install that toilet? How the FUCK does anyone over four-feet tall keep from dipping their junk in the water every time they sit down?” He does a Lewis Black-worthy rant, and I wish I could do it justice. It’s hilarious.
I suppose I should keep my voice down, as these toilets fall into a gray area. See, they were made before the great “toilet-water act of 1993” or whenever economy-flush toilets became mandatory. MISTER Edamame bought a dozen or so cheap before they were pulled off the market, and saves them for times like this. In order to fix the little toilet, he would need a new piece of plumbing installed. (Costing $600.) So MISTER Edamame released his miserly grip just a bit, hooked up this huge, classic throne, and now we’re shittin’ in tall cotton!
It’s too bad Weird Steven no longer works with us. He lives/lived a block from the Nightclub Store, and it irked Grinder no end that he would come use the store bathroom instead of the community john at his hotel. (“He’s too cheap to buy toilet paper!” “He only works sixteen hours!”) Weird Steven got fired for not having a phone, and stopped coming around a couple months ago. If I offended him, I wish I know what I did, so I could do it again, before I apologize for whatever I did. His conversational blurbs were often interesting, and that whole “learn something new every day” rule of mine was easy to attain, because of his oddball factoids. Back in line in the hotel hallway, and don’t forget your TP.
It’s nice to have a comfortable bathroom for employee use. One can drop off a few friends at the poo’ without baptizing their bits, and without spending half an hour with a plunger getting rid of the evidence.
Want to use it? Fill out an application. Employees only. Spouses of employees only if the parking garage is the final option. I let Rain use the bathroom, but not if any rat co-workers are around. Giggles, notorious for his bathroom activities, has been spending 2-3 hours after work, poking around in the back. Eva finally laid down the law, “At 7:45 you get your stinky ass out of here!”
All praise the Porcelain Gods!
When people ask why I’ve worked in stores for forty years and not became a manager, I am honest. I hate working with other bosses, sales reps and delivery people. The daytime crowd is not my scene. I’ve two fond sayings; “Gimme my happy crackheads any day.”
And, “When I work alone, I prefer to be by myself.”
If I want to make enough money to pay the mortgage, every now and then I have to come out of the dark. That would mean spending the day with Grinder, Uncle Cliffy or Southie. All nice enough guys, but they don’t want me around any more that I need them around. They forget what it’s like to work with me. They assume all I do is read, doodle or flirt with the girls. (Which is true, but I do it while running the store. And the store comes first.) The managers expect me to be making busywork when not ringing people up. Let’s not be silly.
I only do that when I see Master P coming.
I was all geared up, properly medicated and ready to kick ass and take names when I got a text from Eva Braun. “We are locked up until further notice. I have a dead body to deal with. I wanted to give you a heads-up.”
Eva had twice dealt with dead bodies at work. As longtime manager of the Mothership, she witnessed two suicides off the parking structure above the store. One after the fact, where she found the body on the sidewalk. The other she just happened to look up as the person jumped. “I couldn’t watch. It fucked me up bad enough as it was.” She’s a tough cookie, but no one should have to deal with that. She said she’d quit if it happened again. As these thoughts raced through my head, she called. “Good morning, Charlie Brown! I found your crow…”
It’s Saturday, April First, AKA April Fool’s Day. It’s also the tenth anniversary of this blog. No foolin’.
I have always wanted to be a writer. (Actually, I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but since I have no talent or musical training, I’ll be like Barry Manilow and write the songs that make the whole world sing.) Since the physical act of writing isn’t the part I enjoy, (creating the story/atmosphere/characters would be that,) I learned to parse my words and make sure it sounds correct before committing to paper. Once I read Stephen King’s tutorial in About Writing I made it my life’s mission to obtain a word processor.
First it was a Mac, up until OS 8.6, at which time I went turncoat and got a PC. I would compose on Wordpad, or something like it, copy and paste it into email form, and send it to a few friends and relatives. I’d just said goodbye to a three-year relationship, and thatgirl suggested I start a blog. “It will be a great outlet for you, and you can chronicle all your stuff in one spot.” I went to WordPress.com, started piddling around, and voila! (Or ‘Wallah!!!’ as the ignant would spell.) I am Big Daddy to my own website.
Eight-hundred-plus adventures later, I’m still at it. Not many folks have blogs, at least ones in current production. I don’t write as much as I want to, but that’s a lazy excuse. (Sometimes procrastination works for me; I have a tendency to want to write the story before it has played out. Hold your horses, Wilbur!) I must self-flagellate: (Flagellate means praise, right?) I do think my writing has improved over the years. Practice (plus reading stuff written by GOOD authors) doesn’t make perfect, but it does inspire improvement.
Yeah, I’m still at it, and in some ways the situation is much the same. I just finished a long-term relationship with a woman I still dearly love, but I’m finally okay with it because she has moved on and has someone to take care of her. It was the same ten years ago. Neither thatgirl or Rain need a man to take care of them, but once another came on the scene I felt comfortable taking my emotional leave. It’s the protector in me, I guess. It’s not my problem anymore.
So I have my pages here, to vent, confess, plot. I see no reason to stop now. Writing is therapeutic for me. I don’t have a lot of readers, but I do have a faithful core, and I love you guys! Hugs, hat tips, bong hits and booty calls! Take the ones that apply to you! (Keeping my butt to the wall when Grinder comes by, tho.) Big thanks to Art East, for his visual contributions and continual egging on. You bring out the devil in me, bud.
Thanks to Dr T. A recent check of my phone showed we have shared 3,178 texts, mostly involving work schedules and the Chicago Cubs. The next nearest persons with that many convos are Rain and Dizzy, with about 1,200. This made me go “Hmm…” until I realized I’d piled up so many messages from Dr T because I’d never gotten irritated and deleted all his messages. There’s much to be said for friendship. I treasure yours.
A hearty hello to my buddy back east, Uncle Jeff! I’m guessing you’re spending this Fool’s holiday shooting craps in Atlantic City. (I shot craps once, but Rain couldn’t figure out a tasty way to cook them.) Thank you for all you do. I love getting the east coast perspective.
And now, it’s time to venture off to Master P’s. I’m at the Nightclub Store until midnight, then I have three days off. I intend to make the most of it.
As my Australian friends would say, “Cheese might!” Here’s to another ten years, and may the stories only get better.
So many things we’ve known all our lives are going away. Some of it is evolution. Some is common sense. Or, in the situation of weed and the counter-culture, you become obsolete.
Who’da thunk potheads would become a recognized, respected, government-regulated bunch of tax-paying citizens? (I didn’t, in my lifetime.) Even more so, who would think that such government approval would cause things like head shops to fall by the way-side?
Such is the case with my favorite surviving head shop, The Third Eye on Hawthorne. All good things must come to an end.
I got up this morning, prepared to take it easy. I had errands to run, and I wanted to drop in on Voorhees and Dr T. They are working day shift at the stores I usually work, so we share ideas on keeping the stores livable.
Because lately, people have been assholes. But before I could even take a shower, I see a 911 alert on my Twitter timeline. The Nightclub store had been robbed!
I’m getting by, still getting used to being alone. This has been one of the easiest breakups ever, maybe because we’ve had so much practice? I am happy for Rain, and she seems happy. I’m supportive of her, and I’m glad someone is there to take care of her. Boy howdy.
But I also have to take care of myself. It would be easy to fall into over-medication, or have a few drinks. That’s not where I’m at. But I still wanted to cut loose. Is there anything left out there, weedwise, that will give me a buzz?
I found something while stocking up on vapor cartridges. I looked at the young budtender and asked, “I have gotten high off spaghetti sauce and chili, but beef jerky? Really?”
“Oh ho ho,” he chuckled wisely. “Look at the numbers, 150 mgs…”
“Seven dollars? I’ll take three.” If they sucked, I was out $20. If good? I have a new bestest friend.
There were eight pieces. They tasted like kippered beef, I had no idea how they got the drug on there, spray? Is this what my lungs look like? (I saw an ad for Motel Hell; human jerky has been on my mind…) I nibbled about a third, fifty milligrams. Repeated later on, it was a nice, even high. I hate having pepperoni breath, and bits of meat in my remaining teeth, but the slow-creeping buzz made up for these inconveniences. I saved a dose for work. Who knows, it may save someone’s life.
Life rolls on. I have been trying to pick up as many hours at work as possible. I chat with Dizzy. I helped Dr T pay his phone bill so I have someone to text randomly. (He was cool without a phone for a week, but apparently I wasn’t. He can catch up with me after payday.)
Festus has disappeared into the country. Maybe he quit paying his cell phone bill, I dunno. He’s quit talking to me.
The other residents of the burned-out hotel will visit, or text. One of the locals called me, all excited about some pills. When I looked up the numbers, it broke his heart. Those aren’t oxys, those are furosemide. AKA water pills. Talk about pissed!
Work has its share of drama. I’m just trying to keep my head low, be useful and productive. I was given yesterday off, freight day. I usually run a till and put stock away; it takes the whole shift but I have most done by lunch. My coworker, at 11 PM last night, was still knee-deep in cardboard, no idea how he was going to get it all done.
Well, I’m not going in early today. I figure I’ll get there about the time they get yesterday’s work done.
March 1 brought change to my life. My relationship with Rain changed forever. We have friend-zoned each other. I think this is going to be fun.
I make light, but it hasn’t been exactly easy. For the last six years she’s been on the edge of every thought. Everything I do I would factor her in somehow. It’s all part of being in a relationship. We fell in love. It/we may not have been a traditional couple, but we were a fun, colorful couple. (I had to stop and change that to past-tense. Still used to it being “us/we.”) We were constantly in contact, when her phone wasn’t turned off or lost. And when that happened? We would meet by giving or knowing each others coordinates.
So when I have to wait five minutes for the bus, I don’t pull out my phone to call her, or text some mushy love note. I craved a cigarette. Wow, that’s where my tobacco habit transferred to? She was good for me in many ways. She kept my hands busy.
My last relationship, before Rain, was an off and on three years kinda thing. We still chat via internet on occasion, and I still love her like yesterday. She’s doing well, has been in a relationship for years, and I am happy for her. But I couldn’t let go of her until I knew she had someone. It’s been the same way with Rain. We’ve broken up a handful of times, but never because of someone else on her part. (My part? Whistles, glances heavenward…) Now that I know she has someone who makes her happy, I can let go a little bit. I’m still going to care what happens to her, and still going to miss her sometimes.
But I won’t miss waiting on her.
Money shenanigans from “friends” started the day. Small loans over the course of the month earn me bus passes from the indigent. When it came time for “the envelope please,” they are nowhere to be found. While scrambling to set up and pay for new bus passes, I get a call from Rain. “Can I borrow $20 until midnight?”
“Sure.” We do this all the time. I loan her my meager available checking account balance, and when her check clears at 10 PM I am standing there with her at the ATM to get it back. “Are you at home?”
“No, I’m in the Pearl, staying with a Frenn… Just call me when you get to 10th & Johnson, and I’ll meet you at the park.”
Frustrated with the day, I looked forward to seeing her. We haven’t been spending much physical time together, but we talk constantly on the phone, and I usually feel better after seeing her. But she’s been alternating between being super vague and then referencing “her Frenn…” I figured something was up.
When I got to the park, she wasn’t there. I called. “I’ll be right down,” she said. I watched the doors to the buildings, soon I heard her calling my name, “Outie!”
I walked toward her. Got a hug, slipped her some cash. “Can I also get back the $30 you borrowed earlier this month?” After some reminding, she agreed to do so. “Cool, I will call you about 9:30, and we can meet up?”
“Sure,” she said. “I guess you’ve figured out by now I’m in a relationship?”
“Yeah, I kinda figured,” I said.
“He’s an old friend. We laugh and laugh…”
“What’s his name?”
“Herbert, but everyone calls him Bubba. Like my dad. Funny, huh?” She paused, “Don’t be mad, Charlie.”
I wasn’t. “I understand. I hope you are happy.” Fortunately the train came pulling up about the same time the tears did.
She kissed me on the lips. “We will always have each other, Charlie. That won’t change. You will always be my special friend.”
I bid her so long. She still had my $50…
When I returned by 9:20, she was “getting dressed, be right down.” That can take anywhere from two minutes to two days. I sat on the bench, looking for her other special friend who was meeting us. He knows her money habits as well.
I waited until ten, and then called. Got lots of screaming and yelling about stupidity. “I’LL BE RIGHT OUT!”
About fifteen minutes later she came out, with her overnight bag. She put down her stuff, wheezing, her COPD in full force. (I guess she’ll be dropping dead on someone else’s dime now.) She was cussing people, cussing me, then saying, “I’m up there in this man’s house, yelling and screaming at IDIOTS! I’m not mad at you, Charlie.” Soon a cab was pulling up, and we were on our way to the ATM. She will pull money out, hand it to me, and I will be down the road. Last trolley in a couple minutes.
“Hey, I can use the ATM at Safeway!” She left us in the cab and ran into the store. Shit. This might take a while.
After sitting with the cabbie for ten minutes, I went in, finding her testing scented sprays in the home department. “Babe, the cab is waiting.”
“I’ll be right there. Everyone always trying to hurry me.”
“Is there a bathroom here?” I got the code and left her at the register.
When I returned, she’d rung up $127 in purchases, “after Club Card $88! I saved $39!” Yes dear, but did you really need four pine-scented bathroom cones?
I wheeled her cart out to the cab and loaded its trunk while she talked on the phone. She palmed me $50. “Is that all I owe you?”
“Yes, babe, we are all even. Thank you. Now I have to get walking, because I have missed the last trolley.”
“Well I was gonna offer you a ride–”
But I’d turned and left, and when I stopped to look back, the cab was pulling off in the direction of downtown. “Well shit, if you were gonna offer!” I shouted silently in my brain.
I pulled out my phone and called Transit Tracker. Sixteen minutes to catch the Green Line in Old Town. The walk would do me good, and I will make it if I don’t get mugged.
I texted Rain one more time. “I made the train with four minutes and 3% phone power. I’m going to miss saying this, but Goodnight, Rain.” I used her given name so she would know I’m serious. It was a code of ours. Innie and Outie have become a retired memory.
I cut down alleys, cruised through the North Park blocks. I texted Angel first, giving her the news. She’s single too? Slow down, big fella, it’s only been a couple hours. I texted Dizzy, who offered feline hugs as well as human, but I was in no mood to be around people. I went home, ate a simple green salad and went to bed.
Yes, I will miss the shared intimacy of my friend Rain’s presence. I will miss telling her I love her, and will really miss calling or texting, telling her good night and good morning, like I do most days. It’s no longer my department, and an insult to her new man.
Six years ago, I was the new guy. When I finally met the old boyfriend, we recognized each other and got along well. The women in my life have had pretty good taste in men, which is both reassuring and flattering. I’m not running with a bad crowd.
I will miss being a boyfriend. I loved spending four hours riding trains across town to bring her candy, or a pack of cigarettes. I will miss her angular beauty in the night, and the smoothness of her cocoa thighs, but that part of our relationship died last year. I figured I would be the one to eventually get horny.
So it’s not the end of the world this time, but I do feel a bit gut-shot. I will stop feeling guilty when her friends flirt with me; in fact, I may just flirt back. But I’m not jumping into her end of the pool for awhile. The dust needs to settle.
Meanwhile, I need to work on finding some new female readers…
After spending the morning doing grown-up stuff, errands, chores, I found myself in need of soda pop and cerebral amusements. While fetching the refreshments, I crossed paths with Sister.
She’s been a constant companion and best friend lately. She’s also been going through a rough time. Losing Sandy the dog and fretting about losing everything else has been weighing on her mind, and she’s been drinking a lot to ease the pain. I would be more upset if I didn’t understand so well. Blues as a lifestyle should only mean music.
I’ve been trying to distract her with Squibbs, but she one-upped me with a heavy duty medicated laffy taffy. I halved it, and have been enjoying my chores a little more. It kicked in, and I felt the urge to smoke a little something. So I took the half-joint of Chem Diesel to the kitchen. “Hey Sis, help me smoke this? It’s what was in that baggie you gave me the other night.”
She gets a lot of roadkill from the hotel, especially Mary Jane’s hand-me-downs. People either forget or don’t want to take their stash home, so they leave it for the maid. The maid (and her dope-fiend brother) thank you very much! This particular half-joint was originally two tight buds in an eighth-sized baggie. After a couple twists in the grinder, it was fluffy and ready to burn. We killed it off, and she pulled out another surprise.
“You can have the case, I just want one of the joints.”
She handed me a small flat container that looked like a Band-Aid tin, only thinner. Its sleek profile would fit nicely into an inside pocket. The strain was Green Crack, a personal favorite. I loves me a sativa-dominant hybrid, and these were gram-sized joints. We’re talking a full trip, with a third of a joint left over for when you wake up. Seattle’s finest.
The Chem Diesel seemed to do the trick. Instead of rushing out into the rain, I got preoccupied with bragging about all the first-class weed I been smoking, and now the rain is gone and the sun has come out. Oh, whoa is me!
So Sister and I are gonna take the train downtown. The new Rolling Stones album is waiting for me at the library, and she has a gift certificate for a local Mexican restaurant. We are thinking of getting taco salads to go. Seems like a good way to kill an afternoon.
Oh, look what time it is! So long, Green Crack. It was your time to go…