Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the month “April, 2018”

A Man, A Plan, A T-Shirt

THEY SAY THAT IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE. If you are selling cars or pizzas I can certainly agree. However, I’m not sure that this fellow has approached this in the right way.

He is obviously looking to find a young lady to spend some time with. He is lonely. He feels that advertising is a good way to answer his needs. His choice of media might be lacking in mass appeal, but he is trying.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Fifteen

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Fifteen

There was a lot of Fair yet to see and if the first few minutes were any indicator, Marlee thought, it was going to be a day she would never forget.

Falafel, enchiladas, kielbasa, satay, crepes, sauerbraten, they all called out to her senses, begging her to stop and sample the exotic flavors – sharp, subtle, sweet and biting. Aromas blossomed and vied for her attention as the street filled to overflowing with smiling people. Banners and flags lolled in the quiet air.

Marlee made a point to stop and peruse the goods at each booth, not wanting to miss anything as she worked her way up Haight Street.

Out in front of Mom’s Body Shop she got a washable tattoo to adorn her neck: a small black swan. For today, at least, Marlee could feel like a rebel.

At the mythical intersection of Haight and Ashbury a neighborhood garage band had set up their speakers, amps and mike stand. They didn’t have any permits and weren’t an official part of the Fair, but nobody really cared. They kicked that part of the street into high gear. The charismatic lead singer quickly gathered a gaggle of new young fans moving to the beat.

Just beyond this unofficial concert was a large flag adorned with a painting of a flying baby. It caught Marlee’s eye. The baby had wings and blue hair. She worked slowly across the intersection, trying to get close enough to see what the booth could possibly be selling.

While she was still “Pardon me”-ing and “Excuse me”-ing her way, she heard a loud female voice from up ahead.

“Yo! Marlee, Babe!”

Marlee was a bit taken aback at the familiarity of the greeting. She didn’t think she knew anyone that well yet, here in San Francisco.

“Marlee! Straight ahead, Sweetheart!”

Marlee plowed on, her pace a bit faster. She was uncomfortable hearing her name being yelled in the street by an unknown voice. Finally, she broke through the moving river of humanity and stood in front of the woman who was yelling for her.

“Marlee, Honey!”

It was Scar, the tattooed and pierced Madonna from Spider’s party. Perched high on Scar’s back, peeking out at Marlee was little Lucifer, smiling and drooling. His baby fine hair was worked into a bright blue Mohawk.

“Hi, Scar. How are you and how is this cutie pie?”

She wiggled her fingers at Lucifer. He grinned and two teeth were almost visible. He was teething on a piece of fabric.

“How ya likin’ the Fair, Toots? Havin’ fun?”

“Oh, it’s marvelous, Scar. What are you selling here?”

Scar leaned forward and pointed to the sign right above Marlee’s head.

“Robin’s Nest Baby Carriers. That’s what Lucifer is riding in. Cool, huh? I designed it myself. My real name is Robin.”

The baby carrier was more of a sling. A swath of fabric, at least nine feet long by Marlee’s estimation, draped and looped around Scar’s short frame. At the junction of three passes of cloth sat Lucifer, snug, secure and blowing saliva bubbles.

“They come in various lengths depending on the size of the Mother and of the little pisser.”

Marlee reached out and tickled Lucifer’s chin. He gurgled.

“Hello, Lucifer. How’s my little friend today?”

Scar looked back at her baby, her sky blue lips arched in a big smile.

“He is a cute one, ain’t he? I don’t know where he gets it. I’m really kind of plain under this rig and his father fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.”

“Well, Scar, I think you and Lucifer are just darling.”

“Yeah, real Norman Rockwell, ain’t we? So, tell me, girl – you havin’ a good time here in S.F.?”

Marlee’s eyes widened.

“Oh, wow, yes. I just danced in the street with a perfect stranger and it was….” She groped for the right word.

“The word is ‘Fun’, Marlee, and you need more of it. Kick your heels up and your knickers off a little more often, if you catch my drift.”

Marlee reddened.

Marlee never thought of herself as a prude. Not even close, but by the standards of some of the people she’d met recently, she was feeling like a cloistered nun.

She was a product of the Midwest. She had standards and a strong sense of right and wrong. Maybe it was acceptable for Scar to “kick off her knickers”, but it was still something special, sacred even, in Marlee’s heart.

It was close to two years since Marlee had buried her husband. Two years since she had felt a man in her arms and tasted a man’s skin.

She was still mourning her loss and still felt a “loyalty” to his memory. It was how she was raised, but it didn’t mean that there weren’t the yearnings. She had the primal desires to touch and be touched, to hold and be held, to possess and be completely possessed.

She missed the look in a lover’s eyes, urgent and intent. She ached for the feel of hands holding her in the dark, pulling her close. She lusted after the sound of a deep voice whispering in her ear, “I love you, Marlee.”

That was all missing from her life, but she knew that “kicking off her knickers” wouldn’t supply it.

Marlee was aware of her senses calling out for the raw ecstasy of uninhibited sexual love, but she also knew that what she really needed to fill was the hollowness in her heart.

This time, however, Marlee wanted a different kind of love than she had experienced with Phillip. Her mind had generated a checklist of what she needed and required of any man who would be considered for admission into her heart. She was a different woman than the one who had said ‘Yes” to a blushing and stammering Phillip years earlier and a continent away. She had loved Phillip, but it was an immature love – the love of a pair of 20 year-olds.

Now, after all she had been through and almost a decade, the first thing on her list for a new love was Maturity. When she was a girl, a boy had been right for her, but she was a Woman now and she needed – no, insisted, upon a Man.

Marlee had not come to San Francisco looking for that Man, or any Man, but, once there, her mind opened to the possibility and The List was born.

Creating “The List” was the kind of thing that Marlee did on Sunday mornings while lying in bed, half awake and her mind randomly flipping through the file drawer of her brain. It started as a romantic musing, but as time passed and her hopes and needs for the future crystallized; The List became a practical, no-nonsense set of criteria. Any man who wanted to reside in her heart and soul would have to withstand serious scrutiny and measurement against The List.

Marlee sipped at her tea and walked off to the side of the intersection at Haight Street and Cole. Ad hoc entertainment was everywhere. An old man sat in a folding chair playing a banjo. The Mother-Of-Pearl inlay on the neck sparkled in the light.

Setting her plastic cup on top of a newspaper vending machine, Marlee let her eyes focus on the smiling musician as his fingers flew and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” caromed off the brick walls nearby. She looked at him, but her heart retrieved The List from its file in her mind.

#1 on The List of qualifications for any future Love was “He must understand my passion for my music.”

Phillip never really did. He was impressed by her skill, but never understood how and why it fulfilled something in her.

At #2 on The List Marlee had placed “A great sense of humor.”

She wanted to laugh. There had been too many tears.

#3 – “Romantic.” Flowers, dancing, old movies and whispers in the dark.

#4 – “Not younger than me.” She had married a Boy. Now she wanted a Man.

#5 – “Dark hair. Maybe with a beard” Marlee found the physical contrast exciting.

#6 – “Intelligent,” which folded neatly into numbers 7, 8 and 9.

#7 – “Creative”.

#8 – “Enjoys the Arts.”

#9 – “Curiosity about…everything.

These four were very closely tied together. Possessing one almost presupposed the existence of the others. Marlee wanted a Man she could look at and regard as her equal and as a fascinating human being.

#10 – “Someone who likes to dance, but doesn’t have to ‘go dancing.’ A Man who will take me for a spin around the kitchen while singing a love song from the 1940s.”

One early morning, while listening to the parrots squawking outside her bedroom window, Marlee added several items to The List that were important to her and, maybe, to no one else on earth.

#14 – “Likes liver and onions.”

#15 – “Likes peach pie above all others.”

#16 – “Doesn’t mind if I eat snacks in bed and will even fetch me the salt shaker if I ask sweetly.”

Some things on The List reflected her growing power as a self-reliant individual.

#23 – “A Man who accepts me exactly as I am.”

#24 – “A Man who will not expect me to subjugate myself in any way for the sake of his ego.”

Her recognition of a basic human need was put forth as conjoined triplets in # 11, #12 and #13, then again as #17, #18 and #19 – “He must be GREAT in the sack.”

#20 followed up quickly on this thought with – “He will hug and kiss at any time, not just when in the mood for sex. Love does not always mean sex.”

Marlee was concerned that she may have gone too far with The List when she noticed that #57 was, “He knows how to use a vacuum cleaner” and she still had more items in mind.

“Jeez, I’m getting awful picky…but why shouldn’t I? After all, I’ll have to stand up against his List too.”

She ended her musing on the make-up of her “Perfect Man” and the likelihood of ever meeting him with, “Well, not in this world.”

“The rent is coming due on the planet. Do you have your share ready?

Shaken from her introspection by a softly insistent voice by her shoulder, Marlee looked down into the dark and fiery eyes of a Haight Street institution: The Kozmic Lady.”

“The planets are all aligned with the signs of water and fire. It means that steamy times are ahead and we may all be in hot water if we’re not careful. I hope you’ve got a fresh teabag.”

“Excuse me?” asked Marlee. “What are you talking about? Planets and teabags?” Marlee was totally confused. Who was this gnomish woman with gray hair and the sparkling eyes of a zealot?

Standing barely five feet tall in her worn sandals, The Kozmic Lady had been spreading her warnings of impending galactic cataclysms for more than three decades. The fact that she had never been right didn’t deter her from continuing her alarms.

“I’ve not been proven wrong yet either, have I?”

Marlee felt that she was looking at someone’s grandmother, who had slipped off course years ago and now traveled a different, yet comfortable, road through life. Everyone in The Haight knew The Kozmic Lady and protected her from serious earthly harm.

“We’ve all been here a very long time, even you, Blondie, and it won’t be much longer until you and I will have to pack up and be ready to run for our many lives.”

“Are you all right, Ma’am? Do you need help?”

“We all need help! I need new sandals. You need a new lover and we all need a new planet!”

Marlee was amused, concerned and a bit unnerved by this tiny apostle for an unknown prophet.

“I need a new what? A new lover? I don’t know who you are ma’am, but MYOB, as Ann Landers would say.”

“MYOB? Sweetie, you are my business and I’m yours. MYOB? No, girl, MYEB! Mind everybody’s business! It’s the only way we can all get off the planet with our socks intact.”

“Our socks?”

The Kozmic Lady reached into her canvas satchel and pulled out a sheet of paper. She thrust it into Marlee’s hand.

“Look, I gotta scoot. Read this paper and you’ll get all the latest news on all the latest news. Carpe Diem and hold the mayo! Andale!”

With that confusing homily The Kozmic Lady darted off into the crowd and left Marlee dazed and holding a paper covered with tiny printing and complex diagrams. Across the bottom was a handwritten message.

“The future is just ahead of you. Keep your peepers open!”

Stuffing the paper in her pocket, Marlee discarded her empty drink cup in a dumpster and wandered away from the corner and headed up Haight Street. The Fair had several more blocks of surprising temptations to offer to visitors and residents alike.

“People! Please give us a little room here so nobody gets hurt. Oh, hi, Luco. How’s it goin’?”

“Not bad, Mike.” Luco’s eyes went back up to the man in the sky.

“Every year some fool does the same dumb thing, don’t they?”

“Yeah. Well, whatcha gonna do, ‘eh, Luco? People! Everybody move back. Now!”

Luco, along with the still growing crowd on the corner, inched back, complying, but not really. New people were coming over to gawk and the crowd control efforts were becoming futile.

Not wanting to see what looked to be the inevitable outcome, Luco tried to extricate himself from the crush of people. He wanted to see the rest of the Fair.

He turned to leave, stepping around two women with toddlers on their shoulders. He got past them and stopped short as he found himself, nose to nose, looking into a pair of green eyes the color of the ocean at the Big Sur coastline.

“Marlee! Good to see you.”

The crowd pushed them closer together.

Marlee was startled to see Luco’s gray eyes this close up. She gasped and said to herself that there was fire in his eyes, a very controlled fire. For just a split second, her mind wondered what it would take to unleash it.

Picture Me As “Superfly”

 

LAST WEEK MY WIFE, THE LOVELY AND EVER OBSERVANT, Dawn, and I were driving around town taking care of some errands when she asked me a question that made me go, “Hmmm?”

Her question: “What ever happened to Whitewall tires?”

Indeed.

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Throwback Thursday from April 2015 – “You Are Not Pizza”

Throwback Thursday from April 2015

 

You Are Not Pizza

 

 

 

Pizza you are not

I WENT TO SEE MY NUTRITIONIST yesterday morning. His task is to help me to change my eating habits, thereby losing weight, thereby lowering my blood pressure, thereby continuing to be alive.

So far so good.

According to him I have lost four pounds since my last visit – and I did so without amputating any body parts or pretending I was a prisoner in a Northern Ireland jail. I have tried to alter my food choices – that means cutting back on pizza and eating more fruits and veggies.

I can do that.

He told me that if I can lose seven more pounds I will officially move from being considered “Obese” into a category labeled “Overweight.” He said the difference is that as an “Overweight” category resident it becomes conjecture about whether my excess weight is fat or muscle. I assured him that it isn’t muscle and hasn’t been for about forty years. After he stopped giggling he gave me that seven pound weight loss as a goal for our next appointment which is set for late July. In essence, he has given me the go-ahead to stay alive for another three months.

I’m jiggy with it.

I didn’t use that phrase with him. Not only is it about ten years passé, but he is also from India and I doubt that he was a “Fresh Prince” fan. With him I just mumbled an “OK.”

Since I started seeing him I have lost about 45 pounds. At first it was easy – “at first” lasting about three weeks. After that it became more difficult. At one point I considered having all of my internal organs removed. My wife discouraged me from doing that saying that “Zsa Zsa Gabor did that and look what happened to her.” I haven’t been able to discover what actually did happen to her, but it probably wasn’t good from the sound of it.

Instead I have lost the weight the old fashioned way: eating lots of fruits and veggies and implementing “Portion Control.” I can now spot a 3 oz. piece of chicken from across the room. I’ve always used potion control but just with different parameters that my Nutritionist has in mind. In one frame of reference half of a large pepperoni pizza is portion control. In a different frame it is – Oh, how shall I say it – NOT!

You can’t make everyone happy.

He asked me the same question my other doctors have asked me lately: “What are you doing for exercise?”

I gave him the same answer I’ve given them: “I stumble.”

You see, when I walk, I honestly have no idea what my left leg is going to do. There have been times when I want to go straight ahead, but my left leg decides on its own to go left. Why? I don’t know. It’s just being rebellious perhaps. Or it does those wacky things in retribution for two early childhood surgeries on the leg. Or maybe it just saw something more interesting off to the left. So, when I walk I do so carefully. Not too fast, not with steps larger than the distance I am prepared to fall face first into the pavement.

I honestly think, along with my wife, the Wonderful and Understanding Rev. Dawn, that I get most of my exercise pushing the shopping cart up and down the aisles at the Kroger store. I can put in some mileage there depending on how long the shopping list is that day. And the cart offers support and something to hold onto in case “Lefty” decides to wander off.

Ergo!

I chalk up yesterday’s trip to see the Nutritionist a success. He was happy. I was happy. My wife was happy. And remember:

You can’t make everyone happy. You are not pizza.

“Tranquilizer Darts in Aisle Seven”

I LIVED IN CLEVELAND, OHIO FOR THIRTEEN YEARS, Most of the time I liked it. How could you not like a city that could have a dozen live theaters going on any weekend? Or a city that had a store called “Lottie’s Delicatessen and Bridal Shop?” Or a city that provided the setting for the classic film “Howard the Duck?” Well, one out of three ain’t very good, but it’s better than Newark.

From 1965 until 1978 I was a resident of The Forest City. In Summer it was hot, but bearable. In Winter it was cold, snowy, and unbearable. It was the winter of 1977-78 that had me packing my bags and heading to California.

I’ve only been back once since then. I had trouble finding my way around. There were a lot of changes, very few of them for the good.

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This Can’t Go On

IT IS MONDAY MORNING. I don’t care what the calendar says or on what day of the week you are reading this. It is a Monday morning in my world.

For some reason I feel like I have been dragged behind a bus for the last two days and I don’t know why. I don’t have a cold although it is 28 degrees outside and snowing. I haven’t overexerted myself that’s for sure. I studiously avoid doing that. And I’ve been getting my beauty sleep – two hours in the Rip van Winkle Memorial Chair in front of the TV and about six hours in an actual bed.

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I Have Made Myself Hungry Again

WHAT CAN I SAY? IT’S A HABIT. IT’S A WEAKNESS. It’s a bagel. A morning is not complete without a bagel. If I don’t have my bagel I feel cheated. I feel depressed. I feel hungry.

Finding a decent bagel in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Pass the cream cheese.”) is not easy. Real, honest to goodness bakeries are hard to find. What most places offer up as bagels are just a half step above hamburger buns and just won’t do. But, as in any time of famine, one gets by with whatever one can find.

I think that you have to be in or within commuting distance of a big city to find a genuine, legitimate, my grandparents came from Eastern Europe, bakery that boils their bagels and is sold out by 9 AM.

Kroger’s don’t cut the Nova Scotia.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Fourteen

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Fourteen

 

“Oh, come on, John. I kind of feel sorry for him. He has his troubles. I admit that he is a bit weird but…”

Dawn took up where John left off.

“Marlee, Hon, he’s a real head case. Half the stores on Haight won’t let him through the door.”

Marlee saw their sincerity, along with the dash of fear in Dawn’s eyes. Looking back across the Haight Street she could see Dennis waving his arms, arguing with the tattooed clerk. A small cloud of doubt drifted into Marlee’s mind.

The clerk was getting tired of the same nonsensical routine. Her growing flush of anger was giving her tattoo snake an unreal ruddiness.

“Man, every time you come in here it’s the same crap. I’ll tell you one more time and if you don’t like it you can take your freaky business elsewhere. The price for the ‘tat’ is $65 – a one inch skull. There is no freaking ‘frequent flier’ discount. And one more thing…”

“What’s that, Sideshow?”

“Why do you always get the same tattoo every time, you Creep?”

“None of your business. Do you want it to be your business? I can arrange that for you, you little junkie.”

“Do you want the damned tattoo or not, Cretin?”

“Yes, I want the tattoo. Why else would I ever come in here, Skank?”

“To flirt with the help, maybe?” She smiled and flicked out her pierced tongue. “Paper or plastic, Twitch?”

“Plastic today.” He handed over a Visa card and she swiped it into the register. “Let’s get to work, Tiger.”

They disappeared behind the counter, out of sight from Marlee’s view in the People’s Cafe.

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Leave Me Alone!

SOME MORNINGS I JUST FEEL LIKE SLAPPING SOME PEOPLE upside the head and down the other side. Not out of any anger, but as an attempt to get them to wake up and smell the coffee – the coffee that I am trying to drink in peace.

Almost every morning lately I’m in my corner at St. Arbucks and no matter how hard I try to ignore it – I cannot avoid hearing the conversations of other people. The problem arises when all they want to rant about is Politics and Politicians. I can’t think of anything that I want to avoid more at 6:30 in the morning. The sun isn’t even up yet, let alone me. At that time of day I’d prefer a little music or the voices in my head who tell me “knock – knock” jokes.

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Throwback Thursday from April 2015 – “Support Your Local Kool-Aid Stand”

Throwback Thursday from April 2015

Support Your Local Kool-Aid Stand

kool_aid_stand

The other day the temperature got into the 70s and I was actually able to go out wearing one of my Hawaiian shirts (Wal-Mart Wonders) without feeling cold or having people stare. They do that anyway, but we’ll save that for another day.

The warm air made me think of my youth. By youth I mean age six to twelve or so – those years when you do stuff just because it is fun and not because you think it will fool your parents.

I grew up in a small steel mill town near Pittsburgh. Back then there were five mills operating. We lived two blocks away from one of them.

Every summer my brother Jimmy and I would try to come up with some way to earn some money to cover our vital needs (Candy, Baseball Cards, Soft Drinks – aka “Pop,” and miscellaneous inexpensive toys).

One scheme we used almost every summer was the Sidewalk Kool-Aid Stand. Our house was situated at the top of a hill, a two block walk up from the steel mill. The workers would finish their shift, walk uphill, and encounter our oasis of ice cold Kool-Aid. What a racket we had going there. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. These guys were dead tired and we were there with cold drinks that had enough sugar in them to kill a diabetic.

“Ten cents a glass! Get your ice cold Kool-Aid right here!”

We did alright with that little enterprise. Our secret weapon to increase the profit margin was to look innocent and pretend that we couldn’t make change for anything above a Quarter.

“Aw, keep the change, kids.”

That Kool-Aid stand was our tried and true operation for several summers, but it was not the only thing we had going. Not by a long shot.

Just up the block was what would today be called a “Senior Citizen Community.” We called it an, “Old Folks Home.” On those hot and sultry summer days their front porch would be packed with people trying to cool off. I saw them as an opportunity.

We didn’t make Kool-Aid deliveries, so we came up with another business plan.

What do hot, sweating people want -To not be hot and sweating, of course? A quick trip uptown to the store that sold Art supplies, back to our big dining room table, and presto!

“Don’t Sweat – Get Cool! Get your own personal, handmade fans, right here! Only ten cents!”

Just about everything we sold was “ten cents,” and, of course, we had that same problem making change.

The fans were made from heavy duty construction paper and really did work quite well. The Old Folks cooled off and we had enough cash to buy some cheap balsa wood airplanes to throw around until they either crashed and broke or got run over by one of the steel hauler trucks that drove past the house every day.

I also tried selling newspapers to the Old Folks, but that fell apart once they realized I was selling them yesterday’s papers.

Not every idea can be a winner.

These businesses faded away as I got older and started spending my money on things like girls and Aqua Velva. When you are eight years old and kinda cute you can get away with things that just don’t work when you look like you need a shave.

I Am In Control, But Bus Your Own Table

I CHECKED MY E-MAIL THIS MORNING like I do every day and after deleting 95% of the messages that are trying to sell me something, scare me about something, or to get me to help out some Nigerian Princess, I actually find one or two that are worth reading.

This morning I learned that today is officially “National I am in Control Day.” Well, I’m glad that somebody is – I just didn’t know that it was me.

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Se Habla Coffee Aqui?

 

THIS MORNING I DISCOVERED ONE MORE ADVANTAGE to being a retired old Geezer. I am no longer fraught with the problems of making career decisions. All of that is behind me in the far distant past – and in a galaxy far, far away.

I came to realize this about myself early this morning as I was getting my coffee from a young (23) barista down at St. Arbucks. The young barista has recently finished college with a degree in Spanish. With that degree her job opportunities in Terre Haute (That’s French for “No habla Español aqui.”) are rather limited unless you had a minor in burrito making. So, this pleasant young lady has to make some hard choices – either move someplace for a job that can utilize her skills and education or get used to wearing an apron and a plastic name tag.

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It’s Not Camelot, But…

 

TIME TAKES ITS TOLL on things as well as on people. Fortunately it is easier to repair the things than it is to fix people. Stuff. When stuff breaks we can just call someone to come and make it all better.

While the hair on my head has gotten thinner with age so has the roof over our heads,

It recently became obvious that the time had come to put a new roof on our castle. Time, the ravages of weather and a couple of fallen tree limbs made the decision for us. It could be put off no longer. It had to be done – and soon. The soon to be arriving spring rains could not be allowed to inundate us as we slept.

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Fiction Saturday “Haight Street” Continued – Part Thirteen

Fiction Saturday “Haight Street” Continued – Part Thirteen

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

The icy wind coming through the streets whistled, shaking the Eucalyptus trees to their shallow roots. The parrots found snug sanctuaries under the eaves of the Painted Ladies. The lonely young and homeless drug tourists huddled in doorways along Haight Street shivering and regretting leaving their warm homes back in Iowa or wherever. The night held no adventure for them.

There weren’t many people walking on the street. Whenever someone did pass by a shaking voice would call out from the doorway, “Spare Change?” Most people ignored the plea. It would be better for one young man if everyone had. But not tonight.

A little after midnight and the fog filled the streets. Visibility was measured in yards not miles and sounds were muffled by the thickness of the air. A lone figure walked down Haight Street toward the Park. He wore a warm coat and gloves. A woolen scarf obscured his face. He walked slowly. He was in no hurry. There was no need.

The sound of footsteps thudded through the fog and as they approached the doorway the words, “Spare change?” reached out to the man with the scarf.

“Spare change? I think I might have something for you.” He reached into his pocket. “Yes, can you come a little closer? I can’t quite reach you”

The teen from the Midwest moved out of his sheltering doorway, reaching out.

“I don’t have much change, but I do have this,” He pressed a five dollar bill into the outstretched hand. “I hope it helps.”

“Thank you, Mister. Thanks a lot. I really mean it.”

The man put his hand back in his pocket.

“You must be cold out here tonight. Where are you staying?

“Yeah it’s cold, but I don’t have a place for tonight. I couldn’t connect with anybody to let me crash. I’ll be OK.” His teeth were chattering.

The man moved closer. “Nonsense. Let me help you. I live in the neighborhood and I can let you crash there tonight.”

“No, Mister. I’m OK, and I’m not into that. I don’t swing that way.”

The man took another step closer. “No, no, you don’t have to worry. I’m serious. I’m just trying to help. No funny business. I promise. A place to sleep and a hot meal.”

The freezing young addict had heard the stories about men who offered “help” to Street Kids. He’d also heard about the other Street Kids who ended up dead, butchered in Golden Gate Park. He was so cold and hungry. “No funny business, Mister?”

“No funny business. I promise you.”

Five minutes later, as the two figures walked through the swirling fog down the side street toward the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, the younger man said just two words, “Hey, what’s….” That was all he could say as a black ceramic knife plunged into his throat. He was pushed into the space between two houses, a space where the trash cans were stored. The man with the scarf worked rapidly as a dog in one of the houses began to bark. Cuts, slashes, and incisions left the face of the soon to be dead young addict unrecognizable. It was quick, savage, and merciless. His eyes were wide with terror, while he still had them. One final rip across the throat ended his fright. The dog continued to bark as the camera emitted a single flash of light

“Just like I promised – no funny business.”

***

Marlee woke up with a rip-roaring headache and her throat felt like she had been eating broken glass. Even through the lingering fog she could tell that the sun was high in the sky. A bleary-eyed peek at the clock told her it was 11:18.

She crawled out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. One look in the mirror told her that last night’s party at Spider’s must have been fun.

“Why do I feel so hung over? I had a couple of beers, but…Christ on a crutch.”

Two Tylenol would help the headache, but nothing else would get better until she ate something. It had been almost 24 hours since her last real meal. She couldn’t count the bagel she’d split with Scar while they watched Dawn and John slow dance to Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels. Marlee had opted for a nap before the party, assuming that there would be food at the party. If there was she’d never found it, at least nothing beyond peach pie and bagels on a wire.

She moved slowly to the kitchen and checked to see what she could fix quickly and easily. Cold cereal…puffed rice would be good. No milk. Oatmeal…no oatmeal. Marlee made a mental note to get to the supermarket before she starved to death.

Eggs. She had eggs, but the thought of breaking the shells and watching them ooze yellow and runny made her stomach gurgle in protest. Food was out for the moment.

A long hot shower and the Tylenol helped Marlee pull herself into human form. It also made the idea of the eggs more palatable, but she had no bread for toast.

“Welcome to Marlee Hubbard’s empty cupboard.”

Slipping into her sneakers and wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and sunglasses, Marlee trudged up the block toward The People’s Cafe.

“Let somebody else do the cooking this morning.”

Marlee could see that getting a table was going to be difficult. It was lunchtime and tourist season was here. She considered going across the street to the “Squat and Gobble” or up the block to “The Pork Store.” They made a decent plate of eggs and she could see that there were some empty tables.

A rap on the window pulled her attention back to the cafe. Grinning through the glass was a familiar face. John, the bearded novelist and peach pie philosopher was waving at Marlee, inviting her in.

She pulled open the heavy green door and saw at once that John was not alone. Across the table sat Dawn. Marlee noticed that Dawn was wearing the same clothes she’d had on at the party the night before.

“Marlee, we saw you out there, your nose pressed up against the glass like a lost puppy. Please join us, Darlin’.”

John scooped up an empty chair from a neighboring party of three.

Marlee looked around the cafe.

“I don’t see Luco here this morning.”

“Nobody expected to,” John said. “He’s good at starting parties, but he’s lousy at finishing them. He was being poured into a cab when we left about an hour ago.”

Marlee shook her head sadly.

“He has a drinking problem, doesn’t he? I had to hold his head last night. He was just plastered.”

Dawn set down her fork.

“He has a problem, but it isn’t his drinking. He uses the booze to try to solve his problem. The poor sweetie doesn’t realize that the alcohol won’t do it.”

“He does seem to be so unhappy beneath the surface. His eyes were so sad.”

“His eyes? I know, Honey. I’ve looked at those gorgeous grays and it’s like staring at a closed door.”

John put down his own fork and laid his hand over Dawn’s.

“I’ve known him for a few years and we’ve gotten drunk together a few times. He never talks about himself or his past and after a few too many he starts muttering in Spanish. At that point he becomes no fun to be with.”

“You aren’t a lot of laughs either when you’re drunk, Darlin’.” Dawn leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Marlee was trying to decide if she should get up and order something to eat. Her head was starting to pound again.

“Darlin’,” said Dawn. “You look like you been rode hard and put away wet.”

“I feel like it, Dawn. I don’t get it. You two look fresh as a daisy.”

“You went home and slept, didn’t you, Marlee? Big mistake,” John said as he got up to go fetch Marlee a cup of coffee. “Don’t go to bed until you are prepared to stay there until Spring. Those short sleeps will kill you.”

Dawn and John were finishing up their own plates of eggs and potatoes and the sight of the greasy plates made Marlee cancel her lunch plans. The coffee was enough for now.

Letting the heat of the inky brew warm her, Marlee started to feel more alert and the warmth was helping her headache a bit. She looked out of the window at the busy people rushing by along Haight Street, all intent on their own personal missions. Her eyes were drawn to the red neon shining from “Mom’s Body Shop” across the street.

A young woman with a tattoo of a green and blue snake coiling around her neck was standing in front of the open door, a cigarette dangling from her lips. She looked relaxed, almost bored…until she looked down the block.

Her body tensed, she swore out loud and threw her cigarette into the gutter. Still muttering, she stormed back into the shop. Ten seconds later a customer scurried through the front door of the tattoo parlor. It was Dennis Thayer.

John saw him as well, and saw Marlee watching Dennis.

“You know him,” John asked?

“He lives in my building, in the apartment right above me. He’s a real strange duck for sure, but I just didn’t take him for the tattoo type.”

John’s eyed widened.

“He’s your neighbor? Move.”

In The Big Inning

IN THE OFFICIAL LITURGICAL CALENDAR the Sunday after Easter is called Bright Sunday, but in the Unofficial calendar it is known as “Holy Hilarity Sunday” when God’s sense of humor is celebrated. What better way to celebrate that and the new season of Major League Baseball than with the following creation.

Today’s blog is “The Opening Day Genesis” by Glenn Birkemeier published in “McSweeney’s Internet Tendency”

 

OPENING DAY GENESIS

Shoeless Joe Jackson

In the big inning, God created Heaven on Earth. And it was without form, and void. God separated the dirt from the grass. He called the grass Outfield and the dirt He called Infield. God made the Infield a 90-foot square and the Outfield not less than 400 feet to center and 320 feet down the lines. He declared this Fair Territory. All other territory, God then declared, was Foul.

And God divided the players into two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, to play The Game on His field. God called some of these players Pitchers and some of them Hitters. He placed a Pitcher precisely 60 feet 6 inches from a Hitter. Then God commanded that it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ol’ Ballgame.

And God granted jurisdiction of The Game to lesser Gods, whom He called Umpires. God said the Umpires are infallible, blessed with Heavenly authority, whose judgment is not to be questioned under penalty of expulsion from The Game. And God looked at his creation and He was pleased. Then God created the Infield Fly Rule to confuse nonbelievers.

And God said, Let there be light beer, and there was. And, God said, let there be peanuts and hot dogs and overpriced souvenirs and let there be frosty chocolate malts with little wooden spoons that you can buy nowhere else except at this Heaven, which God called a Ballpark, and there was. God looked at His creation and it was good.

And the Lord God formed, from the dust, a collection of elite players in His own image. The Lord God then breathed the breath of life into His creation. God called this creation the National League.

And God said, It is not good for the National League to be alone. The Lord God shall make it a mate. And thus, while the National League slept, God took several of its top players and created the American League.

And God blessed The Game, saying, Be fruitful and multiply. Put teams in every city with deserving fans, God added, even if this occurs at the expense of starting-pitching depth.

From time to time, God understood, The Game would be corrupted by the Serpent. The Serpent was more cunning than any other beast and he would take many wicked forms: the Black Sox, segregation, the Designated Hitter, the Reserve Clause, dead balls, juiced balls, spit balls, corked bats, George Steinbrenner, AstroTurf, the 1981 strike, collusion, lockouts, Pete Rose, the 1994 strike, greenies, cocaine, HGH, Andro, steroids, $20 parking, corporate mallparks, Scott Boras, Donald Fehr, and Bud Selig.

Ty Cobb

But, God said, the goodness in The Game shall always prevail. As needed, the Lord shall bestow upon The Game a Savior. And the Savior, like the Serpent, can take many forms. The Savior shall remind Fans how blessed The Game truly is. The Savior shall be called by many names, including Cy, Matty, Honus, Big Train, the Babe, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Buck O’Neil, Hank Greenberg, Red Barber, Harry Carey, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Satchel Paige, Bill Veeck, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Hammerin’ Hank, Cool Papa, Dizzy, Lefty, Whitey, Stan the Man, Big Klu, the Say Hey Kid, Campy, Duke, the Mick, the Splendid Splinter, the Gas House Gang, the Big Red Machine, the Damn Yankees, Pudge Fisk, Pudge Rodriguez, Yaz, Pops, the Wizard of Oz, Fernando, George Brett, Moonlight Graham, Roy Hobbs, Wild Thing Vaughn, Bingo Long, the Ryan Express, Donnie Baseball, Rickey, Eck, the Big Unit, the Cactus League, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Camden Yards, Rotisserie Drafts, Web Gems, Derek Jeter, Dontrelle Willis, Vlad Guerrero, and, from the Far East, Ichiro. And, God guaranteed, there are many more to come.

God looked upon His creation and He was very pleased. And God spoke, yelling,PLAY BALL!

Throwback Thursday from April 2015 – “It Ain’t Gonna Happen. Don’t Even Ask”

“It Ain’t Gonna Happen. Don’t Even Ask”

Moms Body Shop

OK, I’LL ADMIT THIS UP FRONT – today’s blog comes under the heading of “Geezer Rant.” There is no great social content, no thunderbolts of wisdom, not even anything that might be worth putting on a T-shirt.

I want to talk about tattoos.

I am of a generation that looked upon tattoos as something you saw on sailors on leave and guys doing hard time. And Popeye – who, while he technically was a sailor, he was, in reality, nothing more than ink on paper.

That was about it. If my mother was walking down the street and saw someone approaching who had tattoos who wasn’t in uniform she would clutch her purse a little bit tighter. “Nice people” just didn’t get tattoos.

News Flash! Times have changed!

Starting in the late 1970s I think we began to see tattoos appearing on people outside of the aforementioned groups. It was also about the time that Popeye disappeared from the public consciousness (Strictly coincidental, I’m sure).

Rock musicians started sporting more tattoos. Then they started popping up on Deadheads and other fringe elements of Fandom.

Little by not so little, more and more people began to dive into the ink. It came to be viewed as a bit of sexy rebellion. Tiny butterflies and hearts were showing up in places where they would only be seen by lovers and gynecologists.

Then, over the ensuing decades, the territory expanded into what has become known as the “Tramp Stamp.” That is an unfortunate label, but I didn’t make it up. Fashion and tattooing merged and soon the only piece of skin that wasn’t considered available as a canvas was the face. Well, that seems to have changed as I see an increasing number of people with those permanent reminders of a temporary idea on their mug.

OK…here comes the real Geezerism part.

Putting a tattoo, of whatever variety, on your face sends only one of two messages to the world: 1) I’m going to reject you, world, before you reject me! or 2) “Screw you, Mom and Dad! How do you like this?”

Actually both messages are pretty much the same when you get down to it.

I seriously don’t anticipate seeing anyone on the cover of Business Week who also has marijuana leaves tattooed on their forehead. I don’t expect them to see them in any job that doesn’t require a hairnet and a paper hat.

I used to know a woman who ran a tattoo parlor on Haight Street in San Francisco and we chatted about this one afternoon. For a person who made her living with ink and needles she tended to agree with me. She was loaded with tattoos herself, but not on her face or her hands. She advised her customers to not get anything that couldn’t be covered up for the workplace.

She encouraged me to get tattooed. I declined. I did told her that I didn’t like needles and, if I were to ever sit in her chair, I would get a tattoo of my name and address so, that if I was found unconscious, my rescuers could at least send me home. She suggested that I add the line “Return postage guaranteed.” Clever girl.

I think that it must be a generational thing. I have ZERO desire to get a tattoo – no matter how drunk I might get or desirous of being considered cool. It ain’t gonna happen.

In fact, I’ve been doing a little speculative research and I think that tattoo removal will be a major growth industry over the next few decades. When today’s rebellious billboards see those multicolored eagles on their chests starting to look like badly bruised pigeons and the Tramp Stamps disappear under the muffin tops, there will be lines around the block at “Mom’s Laser Tattoo Removal Shop.”

My friend who owned the tattoo parlor told me that getting a tattoo removed was time consuming, expensive, and “It hurts like hell.”

Alright, we have reached the end of my Geezer Rant for today. Far be it from me to tell anyone what they should or should not do. If you are old enough to get a tattoo and you are ready to live with it forever – go ahead. I won’t stop you. But, for crying out loud, don’t put a picture of Popeye on your face.

Remember my motto for Life: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

A Season Of Hope

 

ONE OF MY GREAT JOYS IN LIFE, aside from my wonderful wife, Dawn, Family, and Coffee, is Baseball. We are now into the 2018 Season and, of course, I am rooting for my team – The San Francisco Giants.

Last year the Giants sucked like an overworked Hoover vacuum. This year we are hoping that they will do better. In 2017 my boys lost 98 games. The season is 162 games and you aren’t going to get into the postseason playoffs winning only 64 games – not unless you buy a ticket like everybody else.

Read more…

Who Wants Seconds?

 

LET’S HAVE A SHOW OF HANDS. How many of you have eaten in a restaurant this week?  (Pause while I count digital hands)

OK, that’s about average. According to my in depth research I have learned that approximately (statistical wiggle room) 58% of us eat out at least once a week. The other 42% are still waiting for a table at the Texas Roadhouse.

I have to admit that we eat out more than we should. It is expensive, time consuming, not always healthy/nutritious, and leads us all into eating more than we should. But it is fun and I think that is why we do it so often. Let somebody else do all the hard work and the cleanup. Oh, yeah.

Read more…

Back It Up Over Here

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF WONDERFUL PEOPLE who follow this strange blog and who are into recipes, cooking, and the very creative Culinary Arts. I’m not really all that sure what they are getting out of it, but I am most grateful for their attention. I mention this because today’s blog is about food. Specifically it is about the monthly special at a local eatery.

Every Thursday Dawn and I take our son, Alex, out to dinner and just a mozzarella stick’s throw from Alex’s house is “Charlie’s Pub and Grub.” It is just a neighborhood bar that has transformed itself from a real Punch Palace roughneck bar into a nice place to go for a casual meal.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued – Part Twelve

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued

Haight Street

by

John Kraft

Even though it had been only a few short hours, he looked surprised to see her. The three women looked annoyed.

“Hi, Luco,” said Marlee. She nodded to the women, waiting for Luco to make the introductions. His eyes said that the idea of doing so had yet to make an appearance.

After a short, but awkward silence with nothing forthcoming from Luco, Marlee took matters into her own hands.

“Hi, my name is Marlee.” She extended her hand, but none of the women moved. Marlee got the message.

“OK. Well, I guess I’ll see you all later at the cat show.”

Feeling the chill, she started to leave.

“No, Marlee, wait,” said Luco. “I’m sorry. Where are my manners? Has anybody seen them?” He giggled at his own joke.

Luco was drunk. That much was now quite obvious to Marlee.

“Marlee…yes. Tina, Shaniqua and Millie, this is Marlee. Marlee, these three ladies are…Sheena, Monique and…Tillie.” He was groping in the dark for the names.

All of the women looked at Luco as if he had completely lost his mind. He hadn’t. He’d just mislaid it at the bottom of a tequila bottle.

“What? Did I say something wrong?”

The women looked at each other.

“Hi, Marlee. I’m Mindy. She’s Tashika and this is Sylvie.”

“Oh, really?” said Luco. “I’m sorry.” He seemed embarrassed, but it was hard to tell. He had riveted his eyes on Marlee, like he had never seen her before.

Luco leaned forward toward Marlee. “Are you having a good time?

“Yes I am, Luco. I’ve met some very interesting people.”

She looked at Luco, taking inventory of this man.

His eyes, she noticed, had an undefined sadness in them. He was in isolation behind his eyes. Here he was at this party, surrounded by women, yet standing in the foggy air very apart and alone. Marlee wondered why.

She peered past his long lashes and through his soft gray eyes in an attempt to use them as those oft-quoted windows into his soul. All she saw was a dark, forbidding barrier. Nothing could get past it. Luco was a divided man. Marlee wondered what had happened to him to make him so apart from himself.

Mindy, or maybe it was Tashika, saw the intensity of Marlee’s gaze and the way she was assessing Luco and put her face right up to Marlee’s. “Jesus, honey, leave something for the rest of us.”

Inside Luco’s mind he was considering Marlee in a new light. She was no longer just the next customer in line, but a woman, a very attractive woman. In the misty, diffused light, an aura seemed to shine around her. Had he been sober he would have realized that it was just a trick of optics. He was not sober and her image reminded him of the pictures he had seen as a child, paintings of the saints floating in a beatific corona.

Seeing Marlee appear so suddenly, her hair glowing and the turquoise teardrop pendant so brightly perched by her heart, Luco was attracted and unnerved.

“Marlee, you look like Santa Maria de Merida. Your hair, your turquoise, your halo.”

“My what? My halo? Luco… you’re drunk as a skunk.”

“No. No. Listen to me. Can’t you see it, Tamisha? Doesn’t Marlee look like Santa Maria? You’re beautiful. You’re sagrada.”

“Luco, I’m not any saint and you need to stop drinking for tonight.” She looked at the other women who all had their arms crossed, not amused by Luco’s fixation. Mindy’s eyes were just slits aimed at Marlee.

“You want him sobered up, Your Holiness, you do it alone. I came here to get laid.” Tashika picked up the thought.

“Yes, Little Missy, we came here to get this man drunk, horizontal and naked. Now, you butt in and he’s talking about your ‘halo’…Damn. Girls, let’s leave these two alone so they can pray.”

They all pushed past Marlee, giving her steely looks. Sylvie stopped and spoke, not caring that Luco was standing right there.

“Girl, you bring him up to the second floor and maybe we can all get a taste of each other.”

“What?” Marlee was incredulous. The fog swirled as the girls walked away.

Marlee and Luco were alone and her mouth was open in amazement. His eyes were half closed in a stupor. He was ready to pass out.

“Luco? Are you alright? You don’t look so hot.”

“Hi, Marlee.” A silly grin stumbled its way across his face. “Marlee, I’d like you to meet three of my closest friends. Tanya, Slovakia…hey. Where’d they all go?”

He looked around at the empty air. The motion disoriented him and he started to reel. Marlee reached out and grabbed him before he fell over. She tried to get her shoulder under his for support. Luco smiled at her then turned his head toward the street and vomited.

“Oh, Luco,” said Marlee. Luco’s place in her unconscious ratings dropped several spots. She held him until his session ended.

“C’mon, Luco. Let’s get you inside.”

She put her arm around his waist and draped his arm over her shoulder and began to maneuver Luco’s bulk toward the house. All she wanted to do was get him inside and then let him sleep it off.

Climbing the steps up from the walk was a big job. Marlee half pushed Luco ahead of her. It wasn’t so much walking with him, as it was controlled falling.

When they reached the top step, Marlee was out of breath.

“Let’s stop here for a second.”

She leaned up against the wall and Luco carefully sat on the rim of a large planter box filled with geraniums. Marlee held onto his hand, just in case he started to teeter backward. Marlee took a few deep breaths.

“I need to get in shape, Luco. Luco? Are you with me?”

He looked up at her and smiled.

“Hi, Marlee.”

Marlee looked at him and laughed. She couldn’t help herself.

“Luco, I’d hate to be your head in the morning. C’mon, big fellow. Let’s go.”

She gave his arm a tug to pull him to his feet. It worked and Luco rose onto two very shaky legs. He tried to steady himself, but lurched forward, bumping into Marlee.

The force of his body in motion pinned her to the white siding by the door. His muscled chest pressed against her. Marlee gave him a shove, but he was dead weight. His face was flush against hers.

“Luco, let’s get you inside. Where is everybody now that I need some help?”

“Hi, Marlee.” He smiled and without warning he turned his head and kissed Marlee full on the lips.

The force of the kiss surprised Marlee even more than the kiss itself. After all, drunken men often do stupid things.

One summer she had to deal with the pawings and sloppy kisses of a gangly oboist. When Luco’s body crushed against her and his mouth clamped on hers, the first words that entered Marlee’s mind were, “Band Camp.”

“Luco,” she managed to mumble when he slipped off her face and shifted his amorous moves to Marlee’s neck.

“Oh, mi corazon. Te amo.” At least that’s what it sounded like to Marlee.

She wasn’t angry. She knew that it was the alcohol and gravity that had Luco acting this way. Marlee wasn’t mad, but she sure as hell wanted him off of her.

Marlee gave him another good shove and he rocked backward onto his heels. Afraid he might fall and hurt himself she grabbed his shirt to steady him. Luco’s marinated endocrine system took that gesture as a call to action and Luco, once again tried to kiss Marlee. This time his right hand found her breast.

“Damn it, Luco,” said Marlee, her patience gone. She pushed him off and pulled her hand back to hit him. The force of her shove made the slap moot. Luco staggered back. His feet tried to move fast enough to stay under him, but failed. He reeled and fell, luckily backside first, into the planter box. He landed with a thud, crushing the season’s first blossoming of the geraniums.

Marlee, her hand still ready to slap Luco if he tried again, was breathing heavily from the surprise and the exertion. She could see her breath misting as she exhaled.

She looked down at Luco, sitting on the flowers, looking dejected and mumbling to himself. A lone surviving geranium poked up from Luco’s crotch. Life goes on.

Seeing Luco in such a sorry state upset Marlee. Luco had always seemed so “in control,” so above the crass and mundane. And now, here he was, sloppy drunk, sitting in a flower box.

“Oh, Luco. I’m so… disappointed in you, and that’s my fault, not yours. I believed in the image and forgot that there was a real person behind it.”

Luco stirred and looked up at Marlee.

“Mi paloma. Te amo. Besa Regalito por mi.”

He blinked and for a moment his fog lifted.

“Hi, Marlee.”

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