Because of finances, I jump on any shift I can get, as long as it starts after 9 AM. (I’m getting old, getting up earlier, but don’t call before noon east coast time. Standards!) I feel guilty when I have time off. I should be doing something. I rebelled from that feeling all my life, and now I’m surprised that I’m having issues?
2016 has been one hell of a dark year. Dead celebrities left and right, scary politics in our future. What future? I’m getting old! I try not to run to drugs, but they’ve always been there for me. My biggest demon lately has been alcohol.
Not my drinking. Other people’s.
People often ask how I can tolerate working with the public? It’s not easy, but 99 out of 100 people are nice and just want their Twinkies or whatever. However, out of a thousand people, that leaves ten assholes. Sounds like a proper ratio.
I have been training new workers. I preach tolerance, but there are no shortages of rule-breakers, so everything is like school, and I am the hall monitor. After a week of newbies, they sent me to the Waterfront Store for the night. Sundays at Waterfront are deathly slow. Perfect for reading or recovery from endless screaming. I had a stack of Oregonians, waiting for a quiet moment to settle in.
That’s when the old lady with the bottle of vodka walked in.
How was work? Oh, just another night in the funhouse.
This was life around the Nightclub Store. The evening started quietly, but halfway through lunch I heard the helicopters, and then the jeers. Yup, we’re doing it again.
I had my store key on a lanyard, and when the throng would pass I’d lock the door, picking and choosing who I’d let in. Flash grenades didn’t bother Festus, but he wisely chose to come in when the tear gas crept near. A couple regulars made coffee, and I released them when no one was near the door.
Sister came to the store to hang out, and rode home with me. Our commute was calm, and halfway home Bro-In-Law joined us. I had dinner and watched the above recap of my day.
I hope this isn’t happening every fucking night for the next four years.
Since the election, Trumpers have been walking around gloating, and the HRC camp (under-forty) are pissed and rioting in the streets. (“Voicing their opinion” as they call it.) Opinions are like assholes, and downtown has been full of opinions since the election.
I just wanna go home!
Election Day, 2016. I thought it would never get here. I am so sick of politics. (I said that yesterday, didn’t I?) I decided to get out of the house, and out of my head. I sparked up my usual morning doobie, and took a train ride. I decided I would drop by and see if Eva liked the swanky leather waste basket I’d scavenged from Sister’s hotel. As I rode, my phone buzzed.
It was Southie, texting. “Hey, you want some extra hours closing the West End Store tonight?”
Ack! A whole night of drunken, entitled uber-liberals telling me how we’re all gonna die if Trump wins? No thank you.
“I can’t, I have plans later.” Then I called him, and told him what I always do: “If you can’t find anyone, call me and I’ll see what I can do.”
A little while later, he buzzed back. “How about 5:45-9:45?”
I pondered. I had just enough taffy in me to make that an entertaining night, and I’d have the majority of my usual late night. Why not?
“Sure, I can do that.”
I whistled while I walked, nodding hi to everyone, top o’ the mornin’, etc… I cruised into the Nightclub Store. “Ah, that’s why I’m closing the West End. They’ve got you down here!”
Cooter, a transplant from the new store, was in my spot on my usual day off. He replied, “No, I’m closing the West End. You’re at the Mothership six to ten.”
“No way, I’d never agree to that. It says right here, ‘5:45 to 9:45 at the Mothersh-‘ SHIT! No fuckin’ way!” I’d been reading without my glasses, and overlooked this little detail.
I typed furiously to Southie. “I thought I was agreeing to work the West End, your store. This is fucked up!”
“What difference does it make?”
“The Mothership is hot and nasty, and not in a good way!”
“You got me there.”
A minute passed, and he typed, “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Don’t bother, I’ll do it. But you owe me!”
“Hoodie.” Quickly followed with, “Eastcoast Bail Bonds?” I’d salvaged one of his hoodies from the dumpster. It was a birthday present from his daughter, and I’ve been wearing it a lot.
“I’ll bring it back! Washed!”
“You’re right, I owe you.”
I looked at Eva, who was alternating between slack-jawed and hysterics. “Charlie Brown, I think I just had an orgqaz-z-zmmm. I have never seen you get mad before. Pardon me while I savor this moment.”
“I’m only mad because I didn’t read the message properly. It’s my own goddamned fault.”
“Well, I’m still savoring, Charlie Brown.”
I rode home long enough to pick up my work shirt and vapor pens. I’m phoning it in, and having as much fun as possible.
It sounded good in theory, but the Mothership kept me hopping up to the moment Antknee appeared, suavely dragging on a menthol cigarette and organizing his bitch-face. We’re both used to the laid-back stores; a dad-voice is helpful. Unfortunately for Antknee, he looks like a bookish version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He looks anything but intimidating, but he takes no shit from the denizens of the night. I respect him for that.
As I rode home, depressed texts from Dr T, gloating texts from Festus. I popped in on the phoneless Rain, long enough to kiss her good night and remind her to go to court in the morning. She hasn’t been booked, so I guess she made it.
And I am back to work, holding court at the Waterfront Store. Master P, a diehard Limbaugh-loving Trump supporter, will be drunk with power. I must keep an optimistic thought.
So should we all.
Work has been, well, work. Lots of personnel changes, new managers, new stores. My recent floating between stores is morphing into having a home base. Until further notice, I will be spending time at the Nightclub Store, under the newly-promoted Eva Braun. Store managers don’t have a hard time bossing me around, even though I’m the one who trained them. They keep on me, but they are respectful. In return, I respect my bosses and their position. I couldn’t do what they do. Product vendors would drive me to a nearby tower with a high-powered rifle.
I have enough trouble dealing with the public. And the public is KWAAAZY!
It was the best-kept secret in the history of Master P’s stores. It wasn’t until the day before the actual announcement that I learned the location of the new store. It’s in the West End, on the tip of the Pink Zone in what used to be called Vaseline Alley. Yup, we are now running a convenience store in the middle of Portland’s version of the Castro District.
Oh, there’s more to the location than that. Once the home of all things homo, the Pink Zone has spread across the city, leaving only Scandal’s and a couple other low-key establishments. In a tribute to Portland’s acceptance of the different, they aren’t thought of so much as gay bars, but just good old-fashioned neighborhood bars. It’s about time.
The West End was once an extension of skid row, filled with chicken-wire hotels and dive bars. The mentally ill would wander the streets, spilling out of said cheap hotels. I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood when Meg and I were close. Over the years, the loonies wandered away, the bums moved to the Eastbank Esplanade, and Fred Armisen bought an apartment in a giant eco-building on 12th & Washington. Soon the yuppie storefronts came along. (“Cacao!” anyone? $9 for hot chocolate.) Between the Portlandia BS and the filming of Grimm, the neighborhood was recognized as another gem in the oyster. (“Fuck you, neighboring Pearl!”)
All of a sudden, everyone in the neighborhood is rich, and a cheeseburger costs $15. Ask my ex-wife, who took me to Lardo. I bet she’s still complaining.
With all the DINKs (double income, no kids) milling about, Master P saw an opportunity and ran with it…
I have a new weapon in the war on crime.
It was a typical Friday night. Everyone’s been paid, but it wasn’t too busy. At 10 PM the drinkers are out, and the street trash is drunk and either ready to crash or just getting started. (Meth, the wonder drug.) I see it all from my captain’s chair, the upside-down milk crate.
There’s been a lot of activity in the Master P camp, some of which I will be discussing very soon. Secrets have been kept, but gag balls, I mean gag orders have expired, and we can talk freely.
I have standards.
For those too young to get the reference, Radar was the string-pulling corporal on the TV show/movie M*A*S*H*. He could sweet-talk the colonel while hornswoggling Major Burns, all the while keeping his diva doctors happy. He could horse-trade three cans of k-rations for a drivable Jeep. Dude was a straight-up hustler.
Well folks, Radar ain’t the only one who can pull a miracle out of his ass…
Chuckles and I worked at a store before Master P’s, and over time I brought along him and Uncle Cliffy. While Chuckles was mostly immobile, he was as honest as the overnight is long. His inability to move was his downfall; Chuckles weighed over 600 pounds the last time I saw him, and he was walking then. Sorta.
The first time I saw Chuckles was a mindbender. I was in a roadside convenience store, being interviewed by Guy and Gayle, the names of my sister and brother-in-law. A huge redheaded guy named Chuck walked in, and by huge I mean jaw-dropping huge. I could tell by the look on his face that my shock had registered. Being fat at the time myself, about 450, it at once made me feel better and horrified about myself. I’d already lived through one hospital life-saving, where I weighed in at 528. Chuckles was walking around with about 150 more pounds than that. The fact that he could walk at all amazed people.
Chuckles loved guns and Jesus, hated drugs and hookers. I was cool with all of the above. (That was how people told us giant redheads apart. My hair was buzzcut to a quarter-inch, he was bald.) We both had a thing for black girls, but his took him for his life savings, so he hated black people too. This caused minor problems in conversation, because his racist commentaries would conflict dearly with what I had learned in life. I wouldn’t allow him to bag on people for being different. He was blessed to be born white, but cursed with the affliction that is mocked universally. He was fat.
I had some good times working with Chuckles. Whether pranking him, or pranking him, I always had him on alert. He needed it working the overnight shift at the Mothership. Eventually Master P had to let him go, and because of which, Master P even changed his store hours. Because he’d “eliminated the position” Chuckles could collect unemployment for upwards of a year while looking for a job closer to his home in the mountains. It’s the only time I know of Master P helping someone get unemployment. He also helped with Chuckles Social Security. Most bosses wouldn’t go out of their way like that.
And now, Chuckles has gone off to that great graveyard shift in the sky. Him and Jesus, hanging out, talking guns and eating pork ribs. Aim your guns at the south, Chuckles. RIP.