On The First Day of Summer

May 6, 2018 at 4:20 am (Cussed Dumbers, Drunk and disorderly)

Cinco de Mayo; it’s the beginning of our Xmas season.

Downtown is a constant beehive, although the past few years the sidewalk seems to roll up earlier than ever. I could take my break on 5th Avenue, sitting in plain view puffing on my one-hitter, eyeballing the occasional bus or MAX, and only see one or two shopping cart people rifling the trash for empties. That is standard from January through April. Nobody out for the hustlers to hustle.

But once May rolls around? Yeehaw!

Around May Day, the tents in Waterfront Park start popping up like genital warts all over the lawn. (The first of at least three grass-killings this year.) Cinco de Mayo is the first multi-day festival of the season, if you don’t count St Patrick’s Day, which is Portland’s second favorite holiday, following the Naked Bike Ride. After a couple seasons of rain and misery, the kids come out en masse, and they are hot and horny and rarin’ to go. My first “beaver-sighting” of the year came early-on. A young lady with a miniskirt made of beaded strings had no apparent clue how much she was showing off. I made eye contact quite a bit, but I saw enough to know that spring fever lives!

I sell a lot of 99-cent fountain sodas, and 25-cent cups of ice. I see a lot of drinking on the fly; now that we sell road-sodas (High octane lemonades and such) I am learning who all the day-drinkers are. Construction workers needing a boost after lunch, secretaries after 5 PM. Whatever gets you through the night.

Dizzy’s butter has been helping me through the grind. Without it, I’d be a cranky mess. Some things you just need. Thank you, dear.

As Saturday night pushed on, the amusements kept coming. One of the Officer Friendlies, a 30-year PPB vet with a gun and a smartass attitude, was watching the sidewalk for me when Giggles waddled up to engage him in conversation. “It’s so warm out here, I can wear my shorts!”

Officer Friendly glanced over at him and said, “Charles told me he’s not wearing any underwear, and the breeze is quite nice!”

“AUGHH!! Too much information!” Giggles scurried off in a dither. I laughed halfway to the bank when I heard the story.

I caught at least two counterfeit bills, and one of my co-workers with shitty eyesight and an almost-too-friendly demeanor was cited for selling an e-cig to a minor. (A 20-year-old minor with a lumberjack beard, no doubt. Fuckin’ stings.) Not just the criminals out making a buck. Gubmint wants its cut. $475. Fuckin’ ouch.

I saw a pretty girl enter the store quickly, pushing a stroller. I nodded hello, but there was something funny about the way she was looking at me. What the…who, wait… Agent Starling? OMG!! SQUEE!! I walked off mid-transaction and gave her the biggest hug. “You haven’t aged a minute,” I told her. Seven years, two kids, and she still looked twelve. Her husband and oldest son came in, cooling down the howdies. We caught up as best we could between sales, the there was a Kentucky Derby party happening at the bar next door, and I am the keeper of the Celadon American Spirits. (“It’s the seafoam-green one next to the–” SLAP!) The kiddies were restless, and the husband has always eyeballed me suspiciously, so it was probably best we bid adieu. Hopefully it won’t be another seven years.

After the race party broke up, and there was nothing left for folks to do but drink, I eased into my newspaper and took things in stride. One of the local regulars, a white-haired woman of about forty with a muscular build and a beautiful smile, came in and asked if I could break her $100 bill?

“Sure, but I might have to give you some small stuff.” I checked the bill for all the tell-tale signs, no worries here. I had one $20, the rest was $5s and $10s.

“I’ve always wanted to touch your hair,” she said, out of the blue. “It’s so pretty, but I didn’t want you to think I’m a weirdo.”

She’s a clean homeless person, and her hands weren’t dirty, so WTF? I leaned my head over the counter and said, “I’ve gotta count out this mess, so go ahead and go crazy.” I gave my hair a shake.

She took two handfuls, running her fingers out the strands. “It’s way thicker than I thought it’d be.”

I was tempted to say, “All the girls say that!” but as the Scorpions advise in song, “Don’t make no promises your body can’t keep.”

I let her have her way with my locks for a half-minute, then counted her money to her. She tossed the $20 on the counter, and said, “That’s for you, sweetheart. In case I don’t see you again, you keep being you.” She blew me a kiss and disappeared into the night. Fuck yeah!

I did pretty good in tips, all tolled. Several quarters here and there, and the occasional two-buck-chuck, as I lovingly call them. Dudes who know how often the frumpy guy gets the tip… As the little old lady said as she peed in the ocean, every little bit helps.

As the night wore on, my mood got better and better. When the phone rang, and it was Southie, I figured he was bored. He’s now manager of the Waterfront Store, and was moved to two night shifts for Cinco de Mayo. It’s like asking me to come in at 6 AM. You’re undoing thirty years of behavior. There will be consequences. “Charles, I feel so bad, I will cover your cab ride, bribe you extra, whatevah, will you come close up here when you finish over there?”

Free cab, three extra hours, plus a “bribe”? “I’ll be there as soon as Giggles gets me out of here.”

Giggles, scheduled at 11:45, rarely arrives before 11:50. When the phone rang, instead of ignoring his bullshit excuses, I answered. In his high-pitched squeal I hear, “I’m running a bit late, traffic is really bad.”

“No problem.” I explained how boss Southie is sick and wanting to go home at midnight. “So it’s no skin off my ass, but Southie might mind.” I hung up, grinning.

Twenty minutes later, I was packed and switching stores. I got a knuckle-bump from Little Ricky, and a squeeze from his supermodel girlfriend. I encouraged them to come keep me awake, but they had beer at the bar, so I understood. Another time.

Southie was ever so glad to see me. He peeled off a couple twenties and handed them to me on the way out. “I’d have gotten here sooner, but Giggles was late. He said traffic was bad.”

“That fat fuck walks to work.” Southie was not amused, but grateful to be gone.

Dizzy came down for a chat, offering CBD-heavy pen-vapors and intelligent convo. It was the fastest three hours of the week, and the most fun at work.

I might have been tempted to hang downtown if it hadn’t started raining about 3 AM. Besides, I have one more day of work. It’s Seis de mayo, so it’s only drunk and disorderly until 9 PM tonight. But I have a trainee, so we’ll see how it goes.

Regardless, it’s nice to have spring fully sprung and the fun coming back. It’s been too long. Get yore bone on, Portland!


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