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 – 2017

Archive for the category “Coffee”

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles

 

The fog was rolling in like a slinky coming down an escalator. I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero on my way to Wilma’s All-Nite Café for a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of cake.

My name is Henway, I’m a dick, head of the best P.I. outfit in town,

“Henway and ____.”

I’ve been thinking about getting a partner.

I’ve been in this racket for more years than I can count. I’m not much at math. I’m more of a people person and tonight I was hoping to meet up with some people.

When I came through the door at the café I could see the owner, Wilma Van der Sluice, behind W2the counter. Wilma ran her café like a maximum security diner. She made the rules and if you didn’t like it the service could really stink.

When she saw me come in she trotted my way, her two too massive braids bouncing up and down by her ears. She smiled and then suddenly disappeared from view. She bounced back into sight almost immediately, still smiling, but with an “It’s Better With Butter” wax paper square stuck to her forehead. Wilma was tough and she was used to these late night slip-ups.

“Hi, Lover Boy. What can I get you?”

“Hi, back at ya, Sugar Lump. I think I’ll check in with my friend there at the counter first.”

Sitting on one of the red vinyl stools was my mentor, the mug that got me into this business, Henry “Hank” O’ Hair. I dropped down onto the stool next to him.

“Hi, Hank, what’s shakin’?”

“Just my gun hand. Oh, it’s you. Hi, Kid.” He always called me “Kid.” He called everybody “Kid.” His memory isn’t what it used to be. It used to be bad, now it was worse.W4

Hank was wearing his trench coat and his aging Fedora, the one with the bullet hole in the brim, but that’s another, much longer, story. He was sitting there, staring at an empty cup. I gave a short whistle and Wilma came running our way, being more careful this time.

“What’ll it be you two hunks of handsome?”

“I’ll have a cuppa, Gorgeous,” I told her.W6

“Me too,” echoed Hank.

“Yeah, a coffee for me and another for my old friend.” Wilma jotted it all  down on her pad, smiled that smile that lit up many a late night like a welcoming sign reading, “Vacancy,” and headed back to her station by the cake dish.

Hank looked a bit down like something or someone had him by the short hairs – and he didn’t have many left.

“You look down, Hank, like something or someone has you by –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know the rest of it, Kid. What’s bothering me? I’ll tell you. I’ve got a case and it’s got me. I’ve been looking for a guy and it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth and I’ve come up dry. He’s on the lam and I feel  like I’m the goat here. I’ve looked high and low, near and far, and even sooner or later – nothing, nada, ne, yaga, yimba, a ole, nyet, nahin, and squat.”

“No luck, huh?” He shot me look that said things – I’m not sure what though.

W6

W6Wilma came back over to us and set down four cups of coffee. She smiled and winked at me. It was either a wink or a return of an old problem she had with a tic.

“Talk to me, Henway,” she said, leaning over the counter, her nose just inches from the brim of my imported Fedora. “Tell me something that will give me chills.” I knew where this was heading. I played along.

“Sure, Lambs Lettuce, Do you have any German Chocolate Cake left?”

“One slice and it’s all for you, Puppy Eyes, if you say the magic word.”

“Houdini!,” shouted out Hank. “The guy must be a Houdini to have me not find him.”

Wilma sighed. “Close enough. I’ll get the cake,” and off she went, her braids bouncing like her  head was on a tiny trampoline.

I didn’t like seeing Hank down in the dumps. I had to do something.

“What’s this Houdini’s name,? I asked Hank. He took a long and loud slurp of coffee, then spoke. “This ghost goes by the name of Lech Ontario. I’ve looked everywhere and Nem, nei, nahin, ne, ….”

I finished my first cup while he finished his sentence and then I told him that…”I gotta go see a man about a horse. I’ll be right back.”

W7The Euphemisms, both Guys and Dolls, were at the far end of the café. As I headed that way I passed by the aging Wurlitzer juke box. There were no songs on there newer than the theme from “The Love Boat.” 

It was a slow night at Wilma’s. There was just Hank and me and one booth near the back that had two people – A blonde whose face could start any clock, and a guy who looked like his face could stop your clock – permanently.

Just past the juke box was one of the few payphones left in the city. On a hunch, I started leafing through the pages of the phone book that was bolted to the phone. It was then that I recalled that Hank had taught me everything I know – well, not everything. I learned how to finger paint years before I ever met him, but you get the idea.

There it was – on page 437, halfway down the page –

“Ontario, Lech – 1313 Blueview Terrace 552-3918”

After I finished washing my hands like the sign on the Guys Room door insisted I went back to my spot next to Hank.

“Hank, have you checked the phone book for this Ontario guy?”

“Huh?”

“The phone book – did you look there?”

Without an intelligible word, Hank got up and slowly walked back toward the payphone. When he headed back my way he muttered, “Thanks, Kid,” and kept on walking. He vanished into the fog like a black cat in a coal mine.

to be continued 1

W5

I Want All Or Nothing

THERE IS GOING TO BE AN ECLIPSE in this part of the world soon. I plan to skip the event. Why? Because here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My eyes! My eyes!”) it is not going to be a Total Eclipse. The TV says that it will be 85% here. In my book 85% is a “C” – OK, maybe a “B” if you’re grading on the curve and you have a room full of Bozos. If I am going to go through the trouble of getting those special dark glasses I want the Full Monty – so to speak. I don’t think I’m asking too much.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “God Bless Joe Sheridan”

Today I thought I would post a piece from my short fiction file.

God Bless Joe Sheridan” is the story of the airplane flight from Hell.

 

God Bless Joe SheridanBox tied with cord

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN IN JAIL, but, by God, I’ve done hard time. So have you, if you’ve ever flown coast to coast, shoehorned into a seat next to someone who could be the lovechild of Carrot Top and Casey Stengel.

You know the type. They talk incessantly, but make sense very rarely.

It was on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I thought it was going to be a pleasure trip: see the Smithsonian, admire the classical architecture, shake my fist at Capitol Hill – all the usual stuff. Then I saw “him” trundling down the aisle of the Boeing 7-something-or-other jetliner.

“Uh oh” I said to myself. Why do bad things happen to, basically, nice guys?

I was in the window seat and I knew in my heart that, with this whole airplane to pick from, he was going to end up next to me.

The tip-off was the fact that his carry-on luggage was a cardboard box tied up with kite string.

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One Thousand And Counting

FOR REASONS UNKNOWN TO ME this blog is closing in on a milestone of sorts. It won’t be long (later this year) before I will upload blog post number 1000. I have no idea how it got that far. The closest analogy I can come up with is that “Down the Hall on Your Left” is like a runaway train being run by monkeys.

There are much bigger blogs out there. I know of several that have thirty thousand followers. Numbers like that would make me dizzy. For this blog, if I count all sources, it comes  to a little under one thousand. And I’ll be honest with you – even that number surprises me. Those blogs with the huge number of followers are usually about Cooking, Make-up, or Fashion. I am certainly not in any of those categories. This blog is more about “Stuff,” and that sort of limits things. There are so many subcategories of Stuff that it’s difficult to corral those large numbers. Maybe if I started throwing in some recipes or tips on where to buy Hawaiian Shirts. Nah – that’s just not me.

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Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Chainsaws And Britney Spears At 8 AM

britneySOMETIMES THE WORLD PLAYS TRICKS on me – Which is only fair because sometimes I play tricks on it. But this morning the world really had me flummoxed.

At about 8 AM I started hearing one of our neighbors firing up a chain saw. It would whine for a minute, stop, and then start up again.

“What is he doing over there,” I mumbled to myself? “It must be important for him to start that noise this early.”

I had not had my coffee yet, so my unfueled brain began to speculate about his motives. The fact that I’ve been reading a lot of Mystery Novels lately might have played into it as well.

I finally narrowed it down to two possible motives:

  1. He is cutting down a tree three inches at a time.

Or

  1. He is cutting up and disposing of a corpse.

What else could it be?

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Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch

REAL LIFE CAN BE QUITE PREDICTABLE. It’s Fiction that always throws me a curve sending me off in a direction I never anticipated.

Most people are creatures of habit, like cats, they like to follow predictable patterns. Knowing what to expect gives people comfort and lowers anxiety. That doesn’t work in fiction. There we have to continually throw banana peels in our characters way. The expected has to fail to appear and one roadblock after another has to necessitate countless detours and perils.

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A Territorial Dispute

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT. I tend to want to do today what I did yesterday and I don’t like anybody to mess with that – and by extension – me. His morning I was faced with such a situation

Just about every day I start my conscious activities down the street at St. Arbucks. I get my coffee, as usual, and then I stumble to my table in the corner, as usual. Sip coffee. Take meds. Plug in phone. Write. That’s it – nothing fancy, but critical nonetheless.

Today everything was moving along swimmingly until I turned the corner and prepared myself to hunker down in the corner.

THERE WERE PEOPLE SITTING AT MY TABLE!

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It’s Just A Game To Me

PICKLE BALL? I’VE HEARD OF IT. I’ve never played it. I have no desire to play it. It sounds strenuous and I don’t do strenuous any more. I’ve seen pictures of people playing Pickle Ball and at first glance it looks like a combination of Tennis – Ping Pong – and Cardiac Arrest.

The only reason I’m looking at it at all is that I know someone who is into Pickle Ball in a big way. He is always heading off to play here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “I’d like a Gherkin, please.”) or to take part in some National Championship tournament.

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What Are You Gonna Do? 

DURING OUR STAY IN DEMOREST, GEORGIA, on the campus of Piedmont College I must laud high praise on the facilities and the very helpful staff – but I do have one minor, teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy complaint. I say this knowing that I may be the only person here who cares about it. Excuse my reiteration.

In all of the literature from the college, bent on luring us all to come here, they gleefully state that there is a “Starbucks right on the campus,” in the “Commons” building by the bookstore.

Technically they have told the truth.

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Adventures In Tire Land

TRAVEL IS ADVENTURE! OK, I’M COOL WITH THAT – UP TO A POINT. Once that point is reached it ceases to be adventure and becomes a serious pain in the Gluteus Maximus.

Tuesday and Wednesday were travel, and I guess, a bit of high adventure. But on Friday and Saturday it all became a pain in my Levi’s.

Friday Morning: I came out to the Toyota to transport my wife, the lovely and officially present, Dawn, and friends Carol and Martin, to a meeting where I was blissfully not needed. En route a sensor light came on telling me that I had a tire in need of air. We took a short detour to a nearby gas station and, for a buck we got the offending tire nice and plump again.

Come Saturday morning I took a peek at the car and I could see the tire in question was looking flabby again. It was time to have the tire repaired or replaced.

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We’re Having Such Funnel

WE HAVE ARRIVED. We are now in the Megalopolis of Demorest, Georgia. It is a town that is bigger than a breadbox, but smaller than Tokyo.

Our accommodations are in the dorms of Piedmont College and I’ll tell you – these dorms are nicer than some apartments I’ve had. The furnishings are a bit “IKEA,” but better than stuff rescued from a curbside or dumpster that I have had in my younger days. This dorm has a recreation room with a big screen TV and a Pool Table/Ping Pong Table. There are laundry facilities that are FREE! And each dorm room has a private bath. None of this trotting down the hall to take a shower business. And, may I add, a very nice kitchen. If it had a stove I would consider moving in.

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A Walk On The Wild Side

I DID SOMETHING TODAY THAT I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE in all my 120 years. It was risky some people told me. A close friend pleaded with me not to even try to do it.

“You may not get out alive.”

Don’t you just love a little Hyperbole? At least I was hoping it was Hyperbole.

I decided to not take any unnecessary chances – so I took my wife, the lovely and ever so courageous, Dawn, with me.

On our first travel day, as we headed off to Georgia, we threw all caution to the wind and – brace yourself – had dinner at “The Waffle House.”

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It Is All In The Statistics

THERE IS AN OLD SAYING about Truth and Lies. That goes something like, “There are three kinds of deception – Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.” The clever wag that coined that must have worked for either a Government or an Internet company.

I’m not accusing anyone of telling lies! OK? I’m just saying that some things are very hard to believe – particularly in the area of Statistics.

This morning I was tiptoeing through the statistical backwater of this blog and I saw some numbers that made me stop, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and down a fresh cup of coffee.

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Throwback Thursday – from 2015 “I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong”

Throwback Thursday – from 2015

I Felt Lucky, But I Was Wrong

Harry1I TURNED ON THE TV THIS MORNING looking for some mild entertainment. I usually fire up the Tube as background noise while writing. My hope was for an old musical – you know, a Fred and Ginger type of film.

I didn’t find it.

Instead I was treated to a “Dirty Harry Marathon.” A bit different than I had hoped for, but…I felt lucky and it made my day. After all, a man’s got to know his limitations – at that time of day.

So – I started to work on a piece about the arrival of all the colorful birds in our backyard –Harry3 Hummingbirds, Cardinals, Finches, and even the big Redtail Hawks. I thought that a Fred and Ginger musical would help me rhapsodize about the songs I could hear drifting from the trees. That was my plan anyway, but Dirty Harry and The Dead Pool took me in a different direction.

Instead of something idyllic and suitable for reading over a glass of wine it came out reading like something from the first draft of “The Birds.” In real life I doubt that two Finches could take down a Condor and pluck him bare – and I’m not really sure that the Woodpecker in our backyard was strapped. It was perhaps the strangest 1500 words I’ve ever written.

After about three hours I just gave up on the writing part and moved from my office/kitchen Harry poptable and moved to the Rip van Winkle Memorial Chair in front of the Big Screen TV. It was now me and Inspector Callahan taking care of business. Popcorn – I needed popcorn.

A minute and a half later I was back in my chair with a hot bag of popcorn and a Diet Somethingorother.

“Did I fire six shots or only five?”

“It was six you big dummy. Harry, munch, munch, gulp, bluffed you.”

Most of those movies (I can’t call them “films.”) were shot in San Francisco while I was living there and I knew a few comedians who got small parts in one flick or the other. They played punks/thugs or ambulance drivers – not exactly roles that win Oscars. Some of them didn’t even get their name in the credits, but they did get paid which is, of course, the most important part.

I was never in any of them. My film career was limited to two “Independent films.” That means that nobody in their right mind was willing to finance the project so it was shot in pieces as they could scrape together some money. I agreed to be in the movies as a favor to the director, but only if I got paid in cash – no checks. My Momma didn’t raise no fools (a couple of whining neurotics perhaps, but no fools.).

I sat there for three more hours watching David Soul be a vigilante cop and Tyne Daly getHarry5Harry4machine gunned on Alcatraz. Luckily, they both went on to star in their own Cop Shows (“Starsky and Hutch” and “Cagney and Lacey”).  

One of these days I’ll try the Singing Bird thing again, only I’ll check the listings first to see what movies will be running. I won’t even try if they are going to be doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger Marathon. I’ll wait until I see a Busby Berkeley mob of Bleach Blonde Chorines hoofing it across the screen.

I’d even settle for an Abbott and Costello Festival. At least then I’d know who was on first.

Harry6

I May Be Going Bananas

I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND SOME PEOPLE. No, that’s not accurate. Closer to the nugget of Truth would be, “I just don’t understand most people. Of course, of the few people that I do think I understand I’m usually wrong.

It’s not that I think I am superior or more intelligent than the bulk of humankind it’s just that my most frequently muttered phrase is, “Why they do that?”

A prime example of my mystification with people happened yesterday.

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Throwback Thursday June 2015 – “What Did You Just Say To Me?”

Throwback Thursday  – June 2015

What Did You Just Say To Me?

pills1 I REALLY CAN’T HELP IT. I’m a bit of a Smart Aleck, Wiseacre, and (Fill in the euphemism of your choice). I know it.

Most days I have it under tight control. Other days – not so tight.

A lifetime of experience and a number of years when I got paid to be a (Fill in the blank) has taught me that if I’m not fully awake, not feeling well, or someone goes “Boo!” and surprises me, my brain and mouth tend to go off on their own to play. When that happens all bets are off and I’m as upset as anybody else at what happens next.

This morning is a perfect example. I apologize in advance and in retrospect.

It was early, I was still a bit groggy, and my back hurt. This is a dangerous combination. It is pills2comparable to taking part in a Pogo Stick Race while carrying a Thermos filled with Nitroglycerine. Cover your ears and keep your head low.

I had just stumbled into St. Arbucks in desperate need of coffee. I was seated in the corner, minding my own business. I had my Morning Blood Pressure Meds spread out on a Kleenex. My iced coffee was at the ready. It was an idyllic scene at 7:30 AM.

A sip of coffee and my Fish Oil was down my gullet. Another sip – another pill.

While I’m focusing on the task at hand an imperfect adult stranger walks up to my table and pills4says, “That’s a lot of pills. Cancer?”

I ask you – is that any way to start a conversation? With me? At 7:30 in the morning? Before I’ve had all of my coffee?

 

Without missing a beat the few brain cells that were awake kicked into Defensive/Offensive Mode. I looked up at her. I smiled. I spoke.

“No, they’re not for cancer. They’re to try to control my unpredictable and violent outbursts that happen when strangers walk up to me in public and ask questions. Do I know you?”

Even her spray-on tan faded.pills5

She backed up and exited the store.

I consider my reply to fall into the category of a “Public Service Announcement.” I hope she heard it clearly and will think twice in the future before acting like such a dummy.

What if I had been taking a buffet of meds for cancer? Is that her business – or anybody’s business for that matter?

What a yutz.

Most people who know me find me to be a gentle, even kittycat-like, with my playful and loving demeanor. I may jump around and make noise on occasion, but I don’t claw at the sofa and I am housebroken. All I ask is – please don’t sneak up on me with dumb questions at 7:30 in the morning. Later in the day I can deal with stuff like that in a more civil manner, but anyone who does it before I’ve had my coffee is pushing their luck.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program – in progress.

pills6

Yearning To Return

LAST YEAR WAS A TIME OF TRAVEL FOR US. Our seven weeks in Ireland was followed by about 10 days in Detroit, then a week in Texas. That was all squeezed into the period from early April to early July.

This year promises to be more sedate, but hardly comatose. We’ve already done one trip to Texas with another booked for Mid-July. In between there will be another 10 day sojourn, this time to Georgia near Atlanta. After that the calendar looks empty as far as travel is concerned – until the Holidays late in the year.

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Happy Hour!

LITTLE BY LITTLE, STEP BY STEP. The universe is starting to listen to me and take my suggestions to create a better world.

Example: 

This morning I pulled the Toyota into the parking lot at St. Arbucks and I noticed a large sign tied to a steel barrier by the front door.

Happy Hour at St. Arbucks? Two weeks when their “Frappe-whatevers” will be half price. Well, Yippee-ki- yo – I guess.

Leave your day behind. Forget the stress and strain of the job and drown it all in a pancreas shattering blast of sugar.

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Sunrise Monday Morning

IT’S 6:45 AM AND I AM IN MY USUAL WRITING POSITION – a corner table at Starbucks – with coffee and a pen. Like most other mornings I start off by checking the online news to see what mischief the world has been up to overnight, and then I look at my mail and lastly, Facebook.

What I see on Facebook is usually enough to launch my day and give me something to write about – but not today. All of my friends and acquaintances are either still asleep or busy monitoring their blood pressure.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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