Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Proudest Moment, Part two

“Ready for another?” boomer asked.

“Waiting on you, Boomer.” Cube said.

It was Friday afternoon. Boomer and Cube had just finished the longest hottest gruelingest work week of their lives. They were beat. They were sunburned from the waist up. In fact, cube was now so dark that were it not for his fine brown hair that the sun had bleached nearly blonde, he might have been mistaken for someone other than “the whitest guy ever”. After sweating it out all week, swinging a sledge hammer 40 hours in the blistering sun, they wanted nothing more than the relief that only an ice cold American lager could provide. But not yet.

Boomer filled cube’s empty cup and then his own.

“Cream? Sugar?”

“What’s the score?” Cube Asked.

“3-2, you.”

“Bullshit. I totally won that last one.”

“You only say that because the speed of sound, proximity of your cup, etc.”

“Fine, 3-2” Cube was worried. He took the first 3. Boomer, the next 2. Boomer was catching cube and cube was losing confidence. The first one to 5 wins. However Cube felt a forfeit coming on. He really did not want to slam any more coffee. His forehead was drenched with dirty sweat. Strangely, the nice cool air-conditioned Village Inn didn’t seem to help.

“Can’t we finish this with beer?”

“So you want to quit? I understand if you do.” Boomer was bluffing his ass off. He felt if he had to drink one more cup of coffee, his already bleeding throat was going to send it all back up, still scalding hot, onto the table.

“Fuck it,” Cube said, digging a dime (the wager) out of his pocket, sliding it to Boomer. It all started with some sort of “Dime fawa cup of coffee” joke neither one of them understood. “You win Daniel,” Boomer’s real name. “Let’s get over to “Louis’”

Louis’ (pronounced Louie’s) was not a person. It was a bar. It was well-known in town as the primer bar. If you were young and didn’t have a lot of cash, you started at Louis’. You could get good and “started” for about 3 or 4 bucks. Then you could milk it at the highfalutin places like the Dundee Dell or Trovato’s or whatever.

The boys worked as “Instrument men” at a local architectural firm. It was summer work. An instrument man was the second best of 3 jobs on a surveying crew. Rodman was a distant third. First place was for the guy who went to school. He carried around and interpreted the blueprints. He got to drive the vehicle. His title was “Prick”.

Normally, the work is not bad. Normally, boomer and cube didn’t work together. They were on separate crews. But this week, everybody (except Prick) was pounding in property pins.

A property pin is a steel rod about an inch and a half in diameter and 2 feet long. It is placed gently in the ground via sledge hammer, to mark the corner of a property line.

The problem with the ground where new construction is happening is that it tends to get packed down by all the big heavy yellow machinery driving around, moving dirt, etc.

On the previous Monday morning, Boomer and Cube reported to work only to be told they needed to put in all the property pins for Oak Street between 165th and 168th by Friday. At this point, Oak Street was just a well-worn dirt trail. It had recently been wilderness. The earth movers were done grading the street. The property lines had been drawn. All that remained was to have a couple of dummies with a sledge hammer and a shitload of steel pins pound them into the ground on the hottest driest week of the summer. Some college boy had already gone by and tapped some 16 penny nails (with bright orange plastic ribbon tied around their necks) into the location for each pin. Thanks dude, we owe you. Don’t get me wrong. The nails could not be pushed into the ground. It was too hard. A hammer (lighter than a sledge) was required for even this job.

Boomer proudly pockets the dime, grabs his pack out of a small pool of coffee spilled on the table, wipes it dry, and shakes a Kool from it. He offers one to Cube, who respectfully declines. Cube has his own smokes, but Boomer is trying to convert him over to the dark side (menthol).

Boomer had a new trick he was working on. If he ever mastered it, he was sure to get a tumor. He would lay the unlit cigarette in his hand, cradling it in the crease between his middle and third finger. By slapping the wrist of the hand holding the cigarette, Boomer could nearly always catapult the cigarette directly to the right of his open mouth, sending it neatly into the Cobb salad of the person in the booth behind him. This time, by some miracle, it actually landed in his mouth. It was almost as amazing as his reaction, “What? I never miss. What?”

“So, you want to head over to Louis’ then? I need a shower first,” Boomer exhaled, minty fresh smoke escaping from his tar filled lungs.

“Yeah, I’m going to head home. Pick me up in an hour,” Cube, working on his own trick, lighting the match from the book with one hand, and burning the tip of his thumb in the process.

Then Boomer had an idea, “You wanna catch Rocky Horror tonight?”

“Naaw, it’s at the 6-west now. I heard it really sucks. They don’t let anybody dress up or throw anything. All you can do is yell,” Cube informed.

“That’s all we ever did anyway.”

“Yeah, but I liked watching the freak-show too.”

“True. I say we clean up, head over to Louis’, then to The Homy for a while (you can’t finish at Louis’), Then I’ll ask you about it again. Deal?”

To be um, yeah, I’m not writing any more tonight, so …

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Proudest Moment of Someone Else’s Life, Part 1

It was the familiar wonderful sound and smell of fried eggs, bacon and coffee that woke Officer Jack Hughes from his blissful dream-state. She’s making my favorite again. As he made the dreamy transition out of his deep slumber, he realized he was lying flat on his back in bed, smiling. He was happy about something, but could not immediately remember what it was. Some vague feeling of great accomplishment. “I must have made a good bust last night. I always feel this way after a good bust.”

Let’s see, what was it? No wait. I’m retired. Crap. Dread filled Officer Hughes’ mind at the painful realization he was no longer on the force. He hadn’t made a bust in over 5 years. He hadn’t had bacon and eggs for breakfast for at least 2 years. Not since that 27 year old “Dr. Snotnose” told him he’d kill himself if he didn’t get his LDLs and triglycerides down. “But I’ll die without my bacon and eggs,” he pleaded. “Dr. Snotnose” would hear none of it. Louise, Jack’s better half conspired with the good Dr. “I still need you to fix things around the house. I’m afraid it’s oatmeal and grapefruit from here on out, snookems.”

Death by fiber, Ex-officer Hughes thought. Why couldn’t I have just died in the line of duty? Heroes eat bacon. That’s what it’ll say on my gravestone.

But now bacon, eggs and coffee is exactly what he smelled. There was no mistaking it. Is this some sort of dream, he wondered. He opened his eyes to see his bedroom ceiling. The old familiar Mississippi river shaped crack running southeast from the ceiling fan. No. I’m really here. I’m really awake. I really smell bacon and eggs, and I’m really happy. But why?

Sitting up on his elbows, looking beyond his feet he saw his current work uniform draped over a bedroom chair near the vanity. It all came back to him. The bacon and eggs were still a mystery, but he now remembered why he’s so happy. The next thing to do is casually go into the kitchen and tell Louise about last night. He relaxed for a moment back into his pillow, fingers interlocked behind his head. Big old grin on his big old face replaying the past evening’s triumph. He carefully framed the events into a lucid story designed for maximum breakfast entertainment value. The goal, as it had always been, was a sweet “My hero,” and a light kiss on the cheek from Louise. Of course she was being sarcastic, but Jack loved it. He knew well the great depth of her love.

Once he was ready with his story, Jack reminded himself to walk into the kitchen casually. No whistling. That will spoil the surprise. It will be difficult to refrain from skipping like a schoolboy into the kitchen. But it was a challenge old man Hughes was willing to accept. He had no choice. Also, he wanted to find out why that evil old woman was cooking his favorite breakfast when he could no longer enjoy it. “Louise, you got some ‘splaining to do,” as their old joke went. Louise never failed to back him up with her best Lucille Ball, “Waaaaaah!”

“Here he comes,” thought Louise upon hearing the floorboards announcing Old Man Hughes’ approach. “Funny, he doesn’t seem to be skipping,” she suppressed a giggle as she pulled the fresh squeezed orange juice from the icebox. “He’s got a story for me. I’m not making him eat that wretched oatmeal as he tells me his first new story in 5 years. Who knows how many more stories there will be?”

Louise understood the old man pretty well. Forty to fifty years of paying attention will do that. Retirement had been extremely difficult for Jack. His job had meant the world to him. He’d put his life in the hands of his comrades on countless occasions as they had in him. Since retiring, he’d slowly come to feel like he was no longer a part of the gang.

For the first few months of retirement, Hughes life had changed little. He still spent most mornings at the same old coffee shop, arguing sports with his old pals before they reported for duty. He still went down to Ugly Tom’s every Friday night to toss back a couple brews with the same group, swapping war stories. Lamenting how bad the kids these days are getting. Unfortunately, Jack’s stories were all beginning to start with the phrase, “Did I ever tell you about the time …”

His pals didn’t mind. They loved the way Old Jack crafted a story. The way he brought it to life. But Hughes minded. He felt now that he’s done contributing, he’s done talking about it. So he stopped going. His friends would call every Saturday, “Missed you last night, old pal.”

Jack had his excuse ready, “You know, Louise has been pestering me to take her to the fish fry,” or “Junior was passing through town, a break from school.”

Eventually the calls stopped. Jack became depressed. He rarely left the house. He rarely got out of his pajamas. His health started to fail. When Louise realized he was killing himself, she suggested he find a hobby. “I’m only good at one thing. I only ever enjoyed doing one thing. That ship has sailed, baby cakes.”

“Then go get a job,” Louise said.

“I’m not going to get a job. I’m retired. This is what I waited my whole life for”

“How’s that working out for you?”

“Dammit Louise, why do you always have to be right? What am I going to do? Flip Burgers? Some high school kid for a boss?”

“There’s always …”

“Don’t say security. I’m not going to be a rent-a-pig. What would the guys say?”

“Whatever they say, it’ll be better if they’re not saying it at your funeral. Talk to Bob. He’s always looking for a hand. I’ve never seen you this way. I’m worried.”

Bob was Jack’s best friend and first partner. He was about 10 years older than Jack, but you’d never know it. He had always stayed busy. About 5 years before Bob retired; he started moonlighting as a security guard. Eventually, he bought the security company and built it into a lucrative little empire. Bob asked Jack about a half dozen times if he wanted to make some easy money. Making reference to an old “dirty cop” joke from back in the day. Jack always declined, citing the joy of retirement. Bob knew it was more likely pride. But He also knew better than to push Jack too hard.

Louise also had a slightly selfish motive for wanting Jack to get some sort of diversion. Jack was wrong about one thing. He was not only good at police work. He was the best story teller she had ever known. When Jack was telling a story, he was reliving what he loved. He was happy. Louise was happy when Jack was happy.

Since retirement, the stories were fewer and farther between. Jack barely spoke at all. He was restless. He tossed and turned all night. When he was on the force, he slept like a baby.

This was how Louise knew a story was coming as she heard the floorboards creek. Last night he had slept like he hadn’t in years. When she woke and saw him peacefully on his back, goofy old grin on his face, she decided it was time to bring out the bacon and eggs. “I’ll bring the bacon, you bring the adventure, my hero,” had been her agreement with Jack from the time they were kids.

Jack had been at his new job as Mall Security for about 2 months. Because he was the “newbie”, he got the worst shifts. Even so, he had already gained a hint of spring to his step. The job did give him some purpose, but was mostly unfulfilling. He never said anything other than, “It was fine.” His shift started at 10PM and ended around 2AM. Only the movie theater was open after 9PM. It was closed at 11 on week nights. There was very little interesting happening. For most of his shift, he was alone. Certainly nothing to inspire a famous “Jack Hughes story”. To Jack it ended up being about the same as sitting at home, but with a little bit of cash.

Just as Jack was about to abandon hope that the new job would ever bring excitement, he heard a rumor. There was an old, beat up Movie Theater in midtown that was closing. For years it had survived off ticket sales of its weekend showing of the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture show”. The movie was shown at midnight and had a huge following. The rumor was that the Six West, which was the 6-plex at the mall where Jack worked, had agreed to pick up where the old theater left off. The old theater had allowed its patrons to yell and scream, throw things, dance around in the aisles and dress in costume. Jack had no idea what “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was. All he knew is that the crowds tended to get a little rowdy. Not on my watch, Jack thought.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Absent Friends

When you ask most people what they consider their proudest moment, they might say something like, “The day I got married,” or “The day my first child was born,” or “When I graduated from college.” Etc. For me it was the day I got to teach Northern California how we do things back in little old Nebraska.

When I was in high school, my bestest goodest buddy, Greg was a fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. He had been to it maybe twice. I had not seen it. I had seen it advertised as the Friday and Saturday midnight movie at the Admiral Theatre for years. I really had no Idea what it was.

If you don’t know, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a Science Fiction Musical Satire of cheesy Sci-Fi movies from the early to mid 1900s. The story is told from the point of view of an innocent young couple Brad Majors (ASSHOLE!, Major Asshole, to you) and Janet Weiss (SSSSSSSS). They are recently engaged and are on their way to visit their old Science Teacher (Great Scott!) to tell him the news, when a flat tire on a dead end road on a rainy night changes their plan. They run into a transvestite, Dr Frankenstein character from another planet (Transsexual) in another galaxy (Transylvania) who takes them in and um, liberates them.

As excellent as the plot sounds, the real reason people went to see this movie was to yell and throw stuff. When Greg and I started going to see the movie, we were pretty primitive. The only thing we yelled was “Fuck her, I did!” when Janet discovers Rocky weeping in his aquarium in his gold lamé undershorts.

But as the months went on, we became true craftsmen. Thinking about ways to creatively add to the RHPS experience. Once, Greg and I constructed a cardboard plaque with a drawing of a mouth full of teeth on one side and a nice long neck drawn on the other. This turned out to be one of the awesome-est things ever. When we were being frisked at the front door to make sure everything was kosher, the kid asked about the plaque. We showed him the neck and told him what it was for. He nodded approvingly and said (I’m not kidding) “What about the teeth?” He just about fell over laughing when we showed him the other side.

So yeah, normally, you needed toilet paper, newspaper, toast and a spray bottle of water if you wanted to go the equipment route. We just had the plaque. But I’m not here to talk about the plaque.

After a couple of years of fairly regular attendance, we were officially RHPS experts. At least that’s what we thought. We knew every line (in Omaha). I knew the whole script. I knew all the songs (including the ones not on the Soundtrack album). I knew the Roxy Theatre version of all the songs. I had the picture disc. Etc. etc. But still, there were plenty of blank spots in the movie where you could actually hear some of the dialogue. No one had an answer for a good 20 percent of the film. At least not in Omaha.

So one Halloween night in Palo Alto California – I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was either that or go see "The Cure" live in concert. I know. I should’ve seen "The Cure", but then the proudest moment of my life might be something I'm less proud of than what I'm about to describe.

My plan was to show these California people that I knew as much about this movie as any of them. I was so wrong. This was 30 miles from San Francisco. I’m going to teach them about Sci-Fi transvestite movies? Whatever. Hey, I was a dumb kid.

In Palo Alto, on Halloween, there was no dead air through the whole movie. I could not yell a word in edgewise. People were yelling hilarious stuff all the way through. It was amazing. Most of it was completely new to me. My tired old lines sucked compared to theirs. But I just yelled mine anyway. It was still fun. And with so many people yelling, no one could know for sure who the guy was, yelling the lame lines from the 70’s.

Then it happened. Totally unexpected. Much like when you’re telling a friend about your embarrassing rash in a noisy bar just as the really loud cover band abruptly ends their song. I could not hear what was being said in the movie, but I knew my cue without having to hear it. Dr. Frankenfurter says: “ …and you shall receive it. In abundance!”

So before I realize what is happening - as I’m yelling *my line at the top of my lungs, it gets real quiet. I’m the only person yelling – and it’s the only time there was only one person yelling. Yes! There is a dead spot in Rocky Horror Picture Show in Palo Alto on Halloween! And I just fixed it. There you go Northern California. You’re welcome.

Me: Hey Franky, what’s your favorite high protein drink?

Dr. Frank N Furter: Come. We are ready for the floor show!

Uproarious laughter. Joy from freaks in California all around. People moving back into the seats near me. Admiration from the real pros. At last. The 2 seconds of the movie not filled with screaming fans will soon be but a memory. I couldn’t believe it. How do you not do something with “come”? Seriously Northern California, I thought you were better than that.

Anyway. That was the proudest moment of my life. And my dad’s. Oh yeah, he wasn’t so thrilled about my obsession with the transvestite movie. Don’t dream it, Dad. Be it.

*The line was not my invention. I believe it was Charles Cox who penned it. At least that’s who I heard it from. Of course that name might be wrong, too. Anyway – this Charles guy forgot more about RHPS than I ever knew. He also told me that Princess Leah was Luke's Sister about 2 minutes after Yoda said "No, there is another." Of course I didn't believe him. Everyone knew Yoda was talking about Lando Calrissian. But they kissed! we protested. Anyway. He was right about that too.

In case you haven't heard.

Note: This post was written on 9/12/2008. I never published it. I don't know why. I actually have a new post about the proudest moment of my life that I will publish in a couple of hours or so. But I've decided to post "The lost Blog posts" from time to time. There are a lot of them.

And now, the very first "Lost Blog Post", In case you haven't heard:

There's this one guy who's white (John McCain) and running for the office of the president of the United States. He's a racist, though. I know this because he publicly says bad things about a black man (Barry Obama) every day (except on 9/11 day). It sounds worse than it is though, because the black man that he says things about is a sexist again. He stopped being a sexist for a few days. He decided to be the bigger man and bury the hatchet, so to speak. He actually worked very hard to make amends to all of those he'd hurt with his disparaging comments toward a certain woman (Mrs. Bill Clinton, who was also a racist, by the way). And let's face it, his target was a human being worthy of great respect and honor. A great American. A woman who weathered an unbelievable battle against incredible odds, and who demonstrated the sort of grace and humility in defeat rarely witnessed in the political arena.

Well It seems like no sooner does Obama patch it up with Slick Willy's old ball and chain, than he starts picking on another woman (also white - and also a racist). But it's worse this time, because many people seem to think this new woman he's picking on is "hot". The great american from earlier (Hillary) gets no such accolades. In fact, when her husband (The Right Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, Esq.) was running around on her publicly, most people weren't saying "Oh that poor woman ". It was more like, "He's cheating with that heavy girl? He can do better."

Now maybe your method of foot massage differs from mine, but hot and Sarah Palin is not the same thing. [skip ahead] Ain't no ball park neither. Sorry for the brief S. Jackson moment.

Anyway, because you can't read, I'll list the reason that I will no longer look at the news until after November:
I know what the Republican Vice Presidential candidate's daughter's name and age (17) is.
I Know that the daughter is pregnant.
I know what the guy who got the daughter pregnant's name is.
I know that he is a hockey player.
I know that Lindsay Lohan had advise for Sarah Palin's daughter of some kind.
I know that the 17 year old is now engaged to the Hockey player.
I know that Sarah Palin has a child with Down Syndrome and that it was rumored for a while that that kid was actually the daughter's.
I know that if you put lipstick on a pig it is still a pig.

Funny thing about me knowing all of this is that I have not read even one article about any of these things. Just the headlines. So yeah, there's no reason to read the news. I might be tempted to read if the headlines started out with the word "Umm".
Not the word "Umm" like I'm trying to remember something. But the one that always preceded the words "I'm going to tell" when I was a little kid. It's like the news writer people are a bunch of tattle-tales. As readers, we should spank them for it and send them back outside to figure out a way to play nice with everyone. But we don't. We read the story and then we say "Umm, Hillary's aid called Obama a terrorist. Umm."