In The Long Hot Summertime…

June 30, 2016 at 11:11 am (Cussed Dumbers)

Jaywalker Crackdown

Jaywalker Crackdown

Though Master P’s stores are always busy, summer is when we make the money. I’ve been through the cycle eleven times now, and this year is nothing new. I see the same bum piles and traveling scammers, and while the faces change, the behavior stays the same. Loud, rowdy and always on the edge of madness. We are Ground Zero for keeping Portland Weird, and will even sell you the tee-shirt to prove it.

I’ve been getting lower than usual hours, just coming off a three-day weekend. Yesterday, a Wednesday, is a typical work day for me, and having it off left me wandering about. Since I had nothing better to do, I hopped the MAX for the first of three trips downtown…

I didn’t recognize the tiny Asian-looking man sitting behind the “Self Taught” cardboard sign, until he began bleating off-key notes of “la Cucaracha.” Senor Santa! He’s a tiny old Mexican dude who’s been polluting the early morning air since my first summer. He’s older, as are we all, but I’ll be damned if his horrible trumpet playing isn’t music to my ears. I’ll comp him a coffee if he’s brave enough to come in when I’m working.

I scored an iced coffee from the Nightclub Store, then remembered Festus was working a day shift at the Mothership. Destination! I’d been randomly wandering around looking for people who owed me money or pain pills, so a destination was nice.

Not only was Festus on deck with a line ten-deep, Eva Braun was at the second register by the window in the little nook that is almost out of sight but allows a sweeping view of all the mirrors and camera monitors in the labyrinth that is the Mothership. The gang was discussing the latest gossip; someone representing Steve Buscemi was interested in using the store for a movie backdrop. We love the fuck out of it when Hollywood comes to town. Eva looked up at me and said, “Fuck you, no more day off requests. You are working next week.” She looked pissy, except for the corners of her mouth betraying her crankiness.

“Let me guess, forty hours over six days.” I said it like a death sentence, but I was secretly hoping…

“Actually, yes.” She showed me the final draft. My only day off in the next ten days? The fucking Fourth of July! I could have kissed her, but that would have been unprofessional. And hazardous to my health. Frau Pain. “Is that okay?”

“That’s perfect. It keeps me busy, but hopefully not burnt out. Plus, you can use a vet around. It’s the busiest week of the year.”

She painstakingly described the night lunch procedure for the week; only complicated if you have the IQ of a Master P’s employee. I assured her I would comply, and get compliance from the ignorant. “Are you going toward the Nightclub Store?”

“I could be. Why?” I was up for anything. It’s noon in the fucking morning, and I’d already been downtown for an hour. Days off are nice, but I’ve gotten to the age that where I feel guilty if I’m not accomplishing something. I had already watched Casino, and discussed Scorsese with Southie. Conversation enhanced by his Boston mob knowledge, now I will have to watch The Departed again… But I’m getting lost. Must be that piece of double-strength taffy my sister gifted me before she took my niece to school. Even without pain pills, walking around felt good! And the clouds were breaking, my long-sleeved shirt was becoming too much.

“Drop off some bags and paperwork for me?” She offered a dozen zippered bank bags and some blank time sheets.

“Yes ma’am!” I took them and walked over to Festus, whose line hadn’t stopped since I’d walked in the door. “You sir, are way too slow on the cash register. If it were me I’d have had two cigarettes smoked by now.” I turned and walked away before he could start cussing me out without offending the question-mark-shaped ninety-year-old woman he was helping. He was smiling, but his eyes were full of fuck yous.

As I headed out, I passed Art East, who was carrying a Honeywell turbo fan and some electrical gear. I figured it was his neverending battle with the elements. There is no air conditioning at the Mothership. Chocolate comes in liquid form during the late summer. The computers fare worse. He’s always trying new things to keep the electronics below 130 degrees. I could find out later. I had stuff to do!

I dropped the bank bags off, missing Southie but passing pleasantries with the new young lady from the Virgin Islands. I did a little training, loaded up on a second iced coffee, and headed back out. I took a couple sneaker puffs on a quiet side street, and found a bench on the transit mall. A perfect vantage point to watch the daytime denizens. I *know* what happens at night. Day shift is a whole ‘nother bird.

I was startled from my reverie by Festus, who was on his way home for lunch. He teased my slack-jawed expression, which came earned. I caught a reflection; it looked like my nose was wearing a saddle bag. But I was smiling! We BSed for a bit. I got caught up on gossip that isn’t even gossip yet; the best kind. (None of it involving me, which truly is the best kind.) By the time his lunch was cold and he was due back, he headed home. “I’ll get there when I get there.”

That was pretty much my motto for the day.

I took the train home, checked in with the family, watched a couple innings of matinee baseball. Back onto the train. I found a couple small errands to run. Went home post-rush hour, curled up for a nap, and couldn’t sleep. Shit. As I rumbled around the kitchen, Sister said, “There’s still one piece of fudge down there if you want it?” I was twisting my arm into a pretzel for her as I beelined for the fridge. I sliced it into thin servings, letting it dissolve on my tongue. Suddenly I was energized again.

Back onto the MAX for trip number three!

I’d heard from a friend, who had some pills for Rain that help with withdrawal. I swapped them for some weed. “I know I owe ya, but I have somebody else’s Vicodins for sale if you’re interested?”

“Yeah, I’m interested, but I only have three bucks.”

He hemmed and hawed. “Fuck! I need three bucks for my bag of zip. I’ll sell you five of them for that.”

I took the cellophane and walked before he could do the math. Three for five bucks would be a sweet deal. Five for three bucks is a blessing from the meth-math god. As soon as I looked them up on Google to make sure I wasn’t eating estrogen pills or something else, I gobbled three of them. That left two for an hour from now. All of a sudden my feet didn’t hurt, and I felt sociable!

"Altoid?"

“Altoid?”

My buddy Voorhees was working. Normally he’s at the Mothership, but not in a lunch capacity. I shot the breeze with him for a bit. The cool breeze. “What the fuck is this?” was my inquiry when I saw the Coleman cooler behind the counter. “Meth lab?”

“Check it out. Art East made a homemade swamp cooler. We put ice in the bottom, turn the fan on and the duct blows it directly on the cashier. Is that fuckin’ cool or what?” Voorhees knows how miserable the heat can be. He had a heart attack at work once. We take comfort where we can find it.

I put my face in front of the breeze, singing “Blow me… Ya hardly even know me…” I felt the rising warmth of the fudge and the Vicodin, and knew walking would be so much fun.

I stepped outside just in time to watch one meth-head punch another in the face. SPLAT! The ‘punchee’ took it like he deserved it. Of all the weird things I saw that Wednesday, that was probably the weirdest. A bitch-punch and that evil stupid grin.

It was nearing 11 PM, if I hurried I could take Rain her meds and get the last train out of Northwest. I called and told her I was coming.

I haven’t been seeing much of Rain, but it’s like we never miss a beat. I palmed her the pills, waved at Salty who was relaxing on the couch. We had just enough time for a sneak-kiss in the bathroom before I was back out the door and smoking another bowl at the trolley stop. It took me to Psycho Safeway, where I grabbed a Porterhouse steak and a chicken breast. Down the hill to MAX,for my last Green Line excursion of the night. Whether I wanted it that way or not. Last train out of Old Town, loud and colorful. I returned home unmolested.

I have come to love post-midnight barbecuing. Our oven element is burnt out, so I cooked both chicken and steak by the light of my big screen TV cast through the window, and the spill-off of the street light. By 2 AM I was smoked, fed and ready for bed.

And now it’s time to make the doughnuts. Feed the beast. Smack some knuckleheads around.

Nah, maybe I’ll just take a couple bong hits and go with the flow. Let us keep our cool in the long hot summertime…

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