I arrived at the Waterfront Store just as Uncle Cliffy came out of the back office with my till. “I’ll take that,” I said. I took the cash register drawer from him and went into the employee office.
Mrs Brady was working with me. Wednesday is freight day, so I have a helper. Since she would be working with me for three hours, I felt no need to rush.
I counted the safe first. The rolled coins, then the bundles of bills. I didn’t bother counting the bundles of ones. Coworkers aren’t desperate enough to steal ones.
BUT. There have been a rash of shortages involving bundles of $5s. One or two bills missing from one or two stacks. Accidents happen, but not consistently, not repeatedly, not without intent. I have been helping catch the mice in the pantry. I counted every $5. On the dot, the way it always is when it’s Uncle Cliffy’s safe. Same with his till. But I had time, ten hours worth. I decided to count his till.
Just to double check.
I wasn’t quite that broke, but I had just finished getting all my bills current. Mortgage, credit card, bro-in-law/weed-card loan, etc… I had about ten bucks left, in the aforementioned configurements. It would be enough to get me dinner and a ride.
She got off work at 6:30. Knowing I would go insane and smoke waaay too much weed while waiting, I chose to meet her at the airport. “How about we meet where we used to play Scrabble. Security gate D?”
…But it comes!
I have most of the stuff I really need. I have a lot of stuff I want, or can get it without much effort. What I’ve wanted this year are not material goods. Peace in my soul and mind cannot be bought. While not in distress, I’ve felt better mentally.
I need a hug. Preferably from an old friend. Do Christmas wishes come true? Since Monday is also considered Christmas this year, I have until midnight to find out.
I was the first awake in the house. I skipped shaving. It’s Christmas and Sunday, for Chrissakes. Besides, I am on a mission.
I scooped up socks, stripped my bed. Stuffed an energy drink and fresh trash liner into the duffel bag, and loaded it into the granny cart.
Off to the light rail and the laundromat. Laundry is two weeks overdue, and strangers thinking I’m homeless are offering me blankets.
I woke up this morning, not wanting to move. Laying there for 45 minutes did nothing for my mood, so I got up. As I shaved, I felt life creeping back. By the time I came out of the bathroom, I was almost ready to skip and jump!
Lately, life has been a rollercoaster ride. Facing a lot of moods I would rather not. My usual means of escape have been unavailable, or don’t work. It was a rare feeling to seem complete so early in the day.
I’m guessing my mood won’t be as good twelve hours from now.
It’s back to the Nightclub Store after three days off. I have spent the past two nights working at The Waterfront, going through a bag of personal possessions I’ve been toting between stores. Rain showed up, so I offered her bits and pieces. A half-year’s worth of Busted! Magazine will be available at Rain’s Library of Crime. (My sister’s mugshot, as well as Meg’s, are in the pile.) There were copies of Portland Mercury that held Valentines for Rain, Angel and Clairissa. An I, Anonymous about cigarettes and folks’ price-bitching. An almost-used bottle of peroxide, which I regifted to Stuttering James. He tries to keep clean, but it’s hard living out of a shopping cart or three.
There was a stack of Exotic magazine, the local stripper catalog. I thumbed through a dozen or so, read a couple articles. Saw no dancers that I recognized. I offered them to Festus, but he wasn’t interested. A regular customer, who used to buy porno once in a while, came in. During the post-election riots, he gave me some weed and remained calm as I worried about buses and getting home. He is always positive, and always catching me at stressed out times. Having meant to do him a solid, I offered him the stack of semi-pornos, and any hard feelings caused by my gruffness were long gone. Hey buddy!
The pens are plugged in, charging. (Those are Sister’s. My trusty sidekick is already cocked and loaded.) The Magic Pen will keep my moods civil, if not downright giddy. I have to be optimistic. It’s the last Friday of the month before payday. It’s gonna be a shit-show.
“Hi, this is the electrician with REACH, we’d like to come take a look at your bathroom. Would an hour be okay?”
“Of course, but knock twice at least. We are day sleepers, and might be out of it…”
Last August, during the height of home repair ambitions, I attempted to swap out the light switch in the bathroom. Sister had pointed out that the wall was hot around the light switch, alarmingly so. After much internet research and a consultation with the carpenter neighbor, I tore into the wall and immediately regretted it. The wires didn’t match. I duct taped everything, and got the electricity turned back on just before sunset. Since that time we’ve been using a Coleman lantern in the bathroom. D batteries are expensive, but one set has lasted months. It’s better than a fire.
Soon, urban lumberjacks were invading the house with ladders and groovy tools. Drills with lights inspired Alien imagery as they poked through the attic. The old ceiling fan came out, looking an accordion made of dust. While one electrician worked in the crawlspace above, the other ran wires through the wall, and soon we had light over the bathroom sink. No more shaving like Ray Charles!
Once the electricians departed, and Luna came out from under Niece’s desk, I took the inaugural shower. A hot, steamy, fog-engulfed experience had been replaced with a completely dry mirror. The air was crisp by comparison. The mold on the ceiling might eventually go away after all…
It may not seem like much, but it’s the universe’s Xmas present to us. Our most gracious thanks to you, Universe. For light. For being. For everything.
Multnomah County Library is always coming through for me. Being low of budget and even lower in patience when it comes to finding new music, I was thrilled to hear that the Rolling Stones have a new blues album out. While it isn’t on the shelf in hard copy, I can stream it to my phone and play it through my TV, or the cute little speaker Rain gave me. It’s the size of a tennis ball and fills the room. (Great for jazz, Slipknot not so much.) While trying to connect phone to television, I saw David Spade and Angus Scrimm from Phantasm playing Come sail Away.
Oh wait. I’m watching Styx.
Back in my misspent youth, before weed and alcohol even, I had a couple Styx albums. They rocked about as hard as it gets on AM radio, and I liked their mystical side. For some reason I was allowed to study Greek mythology in grade school, and I knew what Hades was thanks to a Jehovah’s Witless upbringing. I’d often dreamed of swimming the river Styx and playing with the dog Charon. I discovered Jim Beam about the time The Grand Illusion came out, and it was “my album” for a year or so. Pieces of Eight followed, and I scooped that right up. My musical tastes were shifting from pop to heavier stuff. Led Zeppelin, Rush, Judas Priest, and of course all the “devil music.” Mom liked the ethic preached of in Blue Collar Man, so she left Styx alone.
I’d never bothered to see Styx in concert. Over time their focus shifted from hard rock to power ballads and poor attempts at rock opera. By the time I could afford Styx tix, they had broken up. The two albums previously mentioned seemed the pinnacle of their appeal to me, and if I wanted to hear them, all I had to do was switch on KGON-FM. Lady, or Lorelei can be heard once a day, and Renegade still gets played almost hourly after dark. And of course, the staple Come Sail Away…
So when I saw them playing on TV, I watched out of morbid curiosity. I cringe when I see a lot of the rock stars of my generation, but these guys were doing all right. Tommy Shaw’s nose hasn’t fallen off from coke abuse, and his hair appeared to be his own. James JY Young, the Phantasm caretaker doppelganger, rocked his business suit, and later in short sleeves. Hitting 60 doesn’t mean you have to go to hell. Topping it all, he was having fun! Getting paid to have fun is what it’s all about.
So I’ve been on a Styx kick the past week or so. Castle Walls echoed in my head, reminding me of the snow storms of 1978 when I worked at PCC and stared off toward the icy mountain tops. I can still taste Jim Beam when I hear some of the songs.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was when I clicked on Crystal Ball. I’d forgotten that song. I heard three different versions before selecting this one. The boys were just boys then; now they are grown-ass men.
Thanks MTV for that random week of nostalgia. Now I can get back to that new Rolling Stones album. It’s called Blue & Lonesome, it was recorded in two days, and it kicks ass.
I just got to hear that song one more time…
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.
We have developed an open-door policy. If she wants to go out, we let her. Bathroom accidents are virtually non-existent, and to call her in all we have to do is wrinkle a bag of Cheetos. (She’s not particular; crunchy or puffy is fine. No Flamin’s tho.) She crashes head-first into the back door, sending it flying open. It sounds like a police raid.
Sometimes she just wants out to chase Django. Django may be old, but he’s got a mean left hook. He’ll drop three jabs on Luna before she knows what’s hitting her. They have an okay rapport, but Django gets respect.
Luna’s not against trying new things. After initial trepidation regarding the bathtub, she now loves wash time. But the latest fun and fascination?
She’d been coming in and out, saw the stuff on the ground, curious but not thrown by it. But when it started falling from the sky? Welcome to the land of confusion!
She looked around, up and down. She looked to Sister for reassurances, who acted like it was as normal as anything. So did Luna, until a snowflake hit her in the eyeball.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a puppy get angry with the snow. She jumped, barked, looked to see who was sprinkling this shit all over us? After a few seconds she mellowed out, and returned to the house looking like she’d come down with the world’s worst case of dandruff.
She’s got it under control now. She plays in the snow just like she plays in the mud; balls out. (Well, in a manner of speaking.) She’s still not big on visitors, but she’s keeping the house safe from squirrels and snowflakes.
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.