Day and Night Grocery

November 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm (Cussed Dumbers, Sweet sticky things)

My phone rang. It was Rain. “You comin’ over tonight, right?”

“As soon as the train will get me there.”

It was Friday night, and the grown-ups want to play.

Rain lives in the upper Burnside area, near Civic Stadium PGE Park Jeld-Wenn Field. The area has changed since I roamed those streets on a daily basis, but the core neighborhood is still there. More young people and yuppies now. But then, I was young people when *I* lived there…

I called as I left the train. “I’m downstairs.” She has to come down to let me in. Security building.

“Buzz Carolyn. She’ll let you in.. I’m busy…” The way she said it let me know I’d soon be busy too.

“Would you like a beer? I’m buyin’.”

“Sure!”

“Heineken or Hurricane?”

“Honey, you’ll have to go to Day and Night to get me a Hurricane. I could drink a Pabst. What’re you having?”

“Starbucks in a can.”

“Oh. Well… I’d love a Hurricane, but I don’t wanna be any trouble…”

“No trouble at all, Ma’am.”

I marched off into the night. First stop, Commodore Grocery. It’s a hole-in-the-wall Kwik-E-Mart in the bottom of an old hotel, Asian owned-and-operated since at least the late ’70s. My first girlfriend (after moving to the big city) was a regular there. She was 21 and looked 40. (It was the butch beehive hair and black-rimmed cat’s-eye glasses, mostly.) Since she was legal, I must be too. I bought beer there daily until I moved away at age 20. (This was in 1979, the statute of limitations has long past expired.) It would be like old home week.

I perused their selection. The American section was as bland as Master P’s. He had some designer beers, but I was looking to spend about $5. On everything.

“You don’t have single 24-ounce cans?”

“No, sir. City no allow.”

Say no more. I know this law too fuckin’ well.

“Is there a store that does sell such things around here?”

He made a swerving hand motion toward Burnside. Aah. Day and Night Grocery.

Back in 1979, when I was buying beer at Commodore Grocery, I was also a full-time employee at Day and Night Grocery. Day and Night was on the corner of SW Broadway and Jefferson, nestled in by Abernethy’s Restaurant and Lounge. The Oregonian building is kitty-cornered, and the Broadway and Paramount Theaters were just down the hill.

In 1981, Day and Night Grocery moved to 1957 W Burnside, between The Matador and what is now Tony’s. (I think it was called The Flatiron back then.) We created a store out of a long, skinny space. I quit after moving to Forest Grove in 1982. The old location is now part of Higgin’s Dining room, and the next-oldest location (Matador/Flatiron) is now a check-cashing place. Day and Night Grocery had moved again. Now it was on 15th, as Rain so provocatively put, “across from Fantasy for Adults.”

I can tell Rain has been a good girl. Fantasy for Adults moved to 17th and Burnside a few months ago…

Rebuffed only in the slightest, I walked down 16th to Burnside. I passed the old Indian Affairs building, where my ex-wife used to socialize. I walked past the Marathon Tavern, the only place bar I’ve ever been 86ed from. I can never remember the layout of the place until I peek in the window, then it all comes back to me. I could smell the stale air of piss, cigarette smoke and beer through the window, even though the bar has been non-smoking for years. Psychological, I’d bet.

I passed couples holding hands, on their way to the new Fantasy. (“Who wouldn’t want to buy a new sex-swing on a rainy Friday night? Xmas is coming, so should you!”) Soon I was outside Day and Night Grocery. I looked in. Sign said OPEN. Nobody in sight. I pushed the door inward.

When I worked at Day and Night Grocery, it was less a skid row store and more an upscale store in a skid row environment. We sold $100 bottles of Taittinger and $2 splits of Thunderchicken from under the counter. We sold malt liquor, but we carried a higher-end assortment of goods, catering to the hotels and the business crowd.

Much like Master P does today.

A dog barked, and an Asian lady gave him a comment that made me smile but would be considered racist if *I* repeated it. (That said, stir fry jokes from an Asian lady can often be hilarious.) She watched my hands as I moved around the cooler, eyeing their selection.

Rain doesn’t drink much. She will get the occasional can of rocket fuel and sip it through a straw. (God and me love a $2 drunk.) I got her favorite, Hurricane, and a bottle of Henry Weinhard’s Black Cherry Cream Soda. It would at least feel like I was having a beer.

The nice lady rang me up. $3.60 for both drinks. Now I remember why I like Burnside. I pulled a plastic bag from my pocket and wrapped my brown bag into an innocuous mass.

The Burnside Briefcase.

I marched back to Rain’s and buzzed her neighbor to let me in. I’d taken long enough that she should be done shaving whatever she’d been shaving. (Tipping her hand as to her activities had me hurrying over since I’d gotten off work. Go figure.) I knocked on Rain’s door and made funny-faces at the peephole.

She opened the door. “Hey baby.”

I pecked her on the lips, careful not to smudge the lipstick. Yet. “Hi hon. Oh. Hi Nikki. And hi, uh-…”

“This is Quinesha.”

“Hi, Quinesha.” I looked at Rain. My surprise is a foursome? (!!!) Not so fast, studly.

“Quinesha is gonna hang here for a few minutes while Nikki runs some errands. Quinesha can’t go into over-21 places.” Rain turned away from them and mouthed, “Sorry. I didn’t know about this.”

Nikki left, and Quinesha took silverware from the kitchen and ate takeout. Rain and I went into the bedroom where we could speak freely.

“I’m so sorry, babe. She showed up and needed someone to watch her kid for a couple of hours. You *know* how I am with the babies…”

“Yeah,” I sighed. I was still optimistic. We’d once fooled around behind a locked door while her ex-boyfriend was in the next room, and have done it a bunch of times when her “sisters” have been visiting. This girl was cute, but young looking. I saw the look on Rain’s face and knew better than to ask.

“Can I at least smoke something before I take off?”

“Well, okay, but do it in here with the door closed and-”

“Wait. How old is this girl?”

“Eleven.”

“Oh fuck me HELL NO.” There was a bucket of cold water over the head and onto the nether regions… “So much for grown up time, eh?”

“I’m so sorry, baby. We can make it up tomorrow. Since they interrupted me, I’ll just have to finish my bath tomorrow night…” She looked like she expected me to explode.

No. We’ll save that for tomorrow night as well.

I sat on the couch and finished my soda. Rain told a long, rambling tale of how she used coupons to get $127 worth of groceries for $29. Quinesha put her plate into the sink and sat next to Rain’s can of beer. My paternal instincts kicked in; I took the beer and put it in the fridge. “Don’t want Nikki to think you’re having too much fun.”

Her smile said “Little chance of that.”

I was the perfect gentleman for about ten minutes, then followed Rain into the bathroom. She’d been cleaning nonstop since we’d arrived. I think she’d intended on burning off energy other ways. That wouldn’t be happening tonight.

“I’m gonna go. Let’s try again tomorrow night, eh? See if you can plan an uninterrupted night for us?”

“I WILL SEE YOU TOMORROW.” She said it like she meant it. I kissed her goodnight, wiggled a pinky at Quinesha and made for the bus.

Man, I wish Meg were in town. Usually when things don’t work out with Rain, I head over to Meg’s and watch her drink a beer or two. No fun tonight there, either. She was off visiting her boyfriend for Thanksgiving.

I was in bed by 10:30. Just not like I’d intended…

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