Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stream of Consciousness

John Wayne.  Marion Morrison.  Jim Morrison.  Bruce Wayne.  Marian Cunningham.  Dandy Featherwafer.   George H.W. Bush.  Abraham Lincoln.

Ok so I don’t know the lyrics to REM’s hit single “It’s the end of the world (as we know it).”  I don’t even know if that’s the actual name of the song.  I’m just picturing a 45 (type of vinyl music disk) with the words as shown above.  Later on, if I feel like it, I may actually look up the name of the song.  Right now, it’s Thursday (I never could get the hang of Thursdays) and I’m trying to get to somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 words.  As I type this (pre-edit), MSWord has me at 120 words.  

Here’s the deal.  I don’t have any stories right now.  I only have an obligation to blog something by tomorrow.  Maybe in a few minutes, I’ll have a story.  Maybe I’ll pick up one of the threads of storyline I’ve been working on the last several weeks.  But I’m pretty sure I’m keeping these words in either way.  These 180 words. 

So where was I?  Oh yeah – those names above.  They are all linked somehow.  I look at it this way.  When I was a kid, we were astonished that big tough, masculine John Wayne was from Iowa.  Just kidding.  That actually makes sense.  What amazed us was - what kind of name was Marion Morrison?  First of all, the only Marion we ever knew Was Mr. C’s wife on Happy Days.  And the only Morrison we knew was, well we’d never heard of Jim Morrison (and he was already dead).  Oh I’d heard the song “People Are Strange (when you’re a stranger.  Women seem wicked, when you’re alone).”  Ok, I don’t know what that song is called either.   I had heard of The Doors, of course.  And as you probably know, Aldous Huxley’s “Doors of perception ( AKA trippin’ balls)” – might not have that title correct either – was required reading for all 3rd graders who took Mr. Featherwafer’s 3rd grade English class.  I remember it like it was yesterday …

“Ok who’s next,” Featherwafer asked, “Oh yes, I’ve been looking forward to this one.  Fred Hinsley, you’re up.”

“Actually, it’s pronounced Hinsley,” I corrected.

It was my turn to read my poem.  After weeks of struggling with this assignment, I had come across a brilliant idea.  The poem basically wrote itself as I listened to the radio one day.

Head down, I pulled myself from my seat near the back of the room toward the podium where I was to recite my poem.  I could sense all eyes on me as I looked down at the floor.  This was crazy.  These were my classmates.  We play together every day.  But now, they are my enemies.  Burned into my brain as I make the long walk to the front of the room is the type of shoe that each child wears.  Mark Anderson’s shoe is all ripped out, I notice.  It looks a lot like mine.  Delia Davenport’s Shoes are seriously tidy and clean.  My face feels hot as I turn to face the 30 or so Benedict Arnolds in the room.  How can they be so cruel.  Yes.  I know.  I’ve mercilessly ripped into every poem so far, cracking jokes and generally being class appointed heckler.  But that doesn’t make it right.  At least I have an ace up my sleeve.  My poem is literally a hit.  No way they will laugh at this masterpiece. 

Standing silent, waiting to begin.  Stalling,  I look at the class, sweat dripping from my bangs.  I then look  down to the podium.  No paper of course.  I have memorized my poem.  Finally, I lift my eyes toward Mr Featherwafer who nods for me to begin.  So I do:

“I remember all my life,” I start as several kids who were carving into the desk, stop and look up to me, “Raining down as cold as ice,”  Not the best rhyme, but I kind of lisp it to make it work.
“A shadow of a man, a face through a window …“ now all eyes are on me.  Some of the children begin rockin’ to the natural cadence of “My poem”

Then I dramatically slow down my reading …

“Crying in the night,”  I confess as tears begin to well, “The night goes into,”  Then overtaken by the beauty and emotion, I skip a big huge section of my poem and sing as other join, “Oh Mandy, well you came and you gave without taking”  and so on.

“That was, Um, not very original was it?”  Featherwafer judged
“No, I guess I might have heard it somewhere before,” I admitted.

Our grading system was 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  It equated directly to A, B, C, D and F.

“Well I’ll tell you what.  You can take a 5 on the assignment and remain “Fred Hinsley” the way you pronounce it.  Or I’ll give you a 3 if we can just call you Barry for the rest of the year.”

“I’ll take the 3 sir.”

“Wise decision young Barry.  You see class, what Master Manilow did here is called pandering to his audience.  It’s also called plagiarism. He knows his audience too well.  So he can get away with it.   Sit down Barry.”

“Thank you Sir,” I was so glad that was over.  A 3!  And all I had to do was sell out.  Sweet. 
895 words.  You know what.  I’m not going to edit this.  It’s going in as written.  Sorry everyone, but there’s football on tonight.

Ok, so what’s next?  I always thought that if Marian Cunningham had hooked up with Batman and got Married she would be called:  “Mrs. Bruce Wayne”.

There are precisely 2 problems with this, of course.  The first is nobody wants to watch a show called “Happy Days,” where the main character’s mother runs off with a superhero and leaves the lovable Mr.  C to drown in misery.  That’s not a Happy Day at all.  The second problem is that a move like that (Marion marries Bruce Wayne)  would surely be a ratings gimmick.  And instead of the familiar “Jumping the shark,”  We might be saying “Marrying Batman”  Or possibly “Marian Batman” to play on several linguistic thingies all at once.

The First president of the United States who was named George Bush was related to Abraham Lincoln.  I don’t actually know if that’s true or not, but once I dated this girl who claimed to be related to George Bush, Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe.  What are you doing hanging around with me, I sarcastically thought.  What I really thought was wow, Marilyn Monroe is related to Abe Lincoln? 

Every summer, Dad took us all on vacation somewhere.  Sometimes we went to Colorado or the Grand Canyon.  Sometimes we went to Florida or California.  But we always went somewhere. 

Every place we went had tourist shops.  Places to buy souvenirs.  We could spend an hour in these places, looking at the coolest stuff.  But dad would never let us buy any of those “trinkets” because they were a huge ripoff as he put it. 

Anyway – every single one of these places had, somewhere in the shop – a certain plate.  It was fascinating, this plate.  My brother and I always looked for it.  It was a little game.  Who can find the plate.  Usually it was dad because “spoiling the fun” was what dad often mistook for fun. 

The plate had on the left side a list of things about Abraham Lincoln.  On the right was a list of eerily similar things about John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 

Things like “Kennedy drove a Lincoln.  Lincoln’s barber was named Jackie O” or something. I don’t really remember.

  Anyway – when this girl said indirectly that Marilyn Monroe was related to Abe Lincoln, I thought of yet another entry for the plate. 1323 words exclusive.

Well that was lazy of me wasn’t it?  It’s unfortunate and rude of me – I know to post this unedited effort in.  I was mildly entertained by it, but most of all, it was really easy.  It is possible, but unlikely that I will make a better effort next time, but you never know.  Ok here’s the deal.  We don’t have work tomorrow or Monday.  I’m kind of in weekend mode.  I think I will do one thing that I suggested earlier and see what that song is called.

Oh my god I’m laughing pretty hard.  The name of the song is:  “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).”  Way to give it all away, REM.  Why don’t you just name “The Crying Game”  “The Crying game (because it’s a dude)” Or how about we call “Fight Club”  “Fight Club (Tyler Durdin is the narrater)” One more; “The Sixth sense (is being able to see dead people, like say Bruce Willis’ character, for instance.  Just Sayin’)” 1500.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Boomer and Cube go for a bike ride

“I really think she’s into me,” Boomer said, watching the tall, strawberry blond waitress run off to get our drinks.  She was good looking in a wholesome way.  She was probably 25 or so, whereas Boomer was almost 19.  I was well into my 20th year.  (I was 19), so I figured I had a much better shot with her.

“Why don’t you just take her friend,” I suggested, referring to the girl neither of us had seen, but were destined to meet the following night, “Surely she’s more into you than Laura.  She hasn’t met you yet.”

Somehow, Boomer and I had coerced the girl to bring a friend the next night for drinks. Wednesday, according to Laura, was her night off.  We had become regulars at the lounge below the dinner theater downtown.  It was one of the few places in town an underage guy could get a drink and unlike Louis’, it was filled with hotties.  They weren’t called hotties back then, though.  They were called foxes, but anyway.

“Well whatever.  I don’t care.  It’s just that she said her friend was a brunette …,” Boomer reminded me, knowing I was a complete sucker for dark hair.

“Enough about that shit.  Were you serious about riding to work tomorrow?” I asked.

“Yeah – you know I’ve been riding a lot in Lincoln.  I’m pretty good now.  I don’t think you’ll be dropping me this year.”

“Oh that’s nice.  Alrighty then.  Let’s ride to work,” I was overconfident.  I hadn’t been on my bike for months.  I was a masher.  I had never heard of spinning.  Boomer learned about it at school from other cyclists. 

The plan was to ride from the neighborhood out to work, which was about 12 miles.  We both worked at the cabinet shop, so we risked ridicule from the big manly men.  But we sort of thrived on that. 

Early the next day, I rode the 8 blocks or so up to Boomer’s house.  I was wearing my sensible bike shorts.  I had on a nice pocket T and some LOOK shoes that were designed with the clipless system in mind, but I still had toe clips.  I had some really nice crew length white socks to complete the ensemble, and my helmet, as always, was probably somewhere in the garage.  The shorts were specially designed for riding.  Cannondale was the brand name.  They had a zipper, pockets and a snap.  Pretty much everything you’d expect on a pair of shorts that had nothing to do with biking.  The only thing that distinguished them as official bike gear and not just a pair of two dollar casual shorts from Target was that they cost 31 dollars.  Oh and I bought them from Olympia on 40th and Hamilton. 

Clipped onto the pocket of my “bike” shorts was my craftsman 20’ tape measure.  Scratched crudely across the top of the tape measure were the letters C-U-B-E, as instructed by Roland at the cabinet shop.

Fade to cabinet shop memory …

“You might wanna put your name on that or sumpin.  There’s a lot of foreigners working here,” Roland told me. 

“And they want to steal my tape measure?”  I asked in all sarcasm.

“You never know,” Roland responded in all seriousness.

Then we both stood there for a moment, hands in our pockets, looking off into the distance through an open garage door at the cabinet shop, contemplating just how dishonest foreigners can be.  Perhaps the silence went on too long because Roland abruptly jerked to alertness as if waking from a nightmare, “Well anyway, get your name scratched on there and start measuring some pieces of wood or something, kid.”

And off he went.  Leaving me to measure wood, if you know what I mean.  Hardy har har.  I’m pretty sure if he’s still alive, he drives a pickup truck, the back window covered with a stunning scene of a waving American flag behind the profile of an extremely serious bald eagle.  You can tell the eagle is upset about something.  It’s almost certain that the events of 911 will haunt that eagle until the end of time.  Or at least until Roland trades that pickup in for a Prius (at which time, the terrorists win). 

Anyway – flashback level 2 will now meld back into flashback number one.

Arriving at Boomer’s house, I was already feeling tired and trying to look fresh.  Boomer was waiting, sipping on a cup of coffee and smoking a Salem.  Then as he stood to mount his bike, I realized he had done it.  Boomer was the first person I knew personally to go full Lycra.  I had to look away due to my modest Midwestern sensibilities.  I knew I had always wanted to wear clothing like that when I rode, but I didn’t dare.  I didn’t even think it was legal.  That settles it.  First thing tomorrow …

We took off easily enough.  We were going from about 50th and dodge to 144th and Industrial road.  So naturally since we were 19, we didn’t even dream of taking any route other than what we normally took in our cars.  60th street to L street to 144th and industrial.  Heavy traffic.  Especially heavy truck traffic.  Lots of honking.  Probably because of Boomer’s cool shorts, but we hardly noticed.  What I did notice though was Boomer was better.  A lot better.  He was in such an easy gear I couldn’t believe how fast he was going.  I thought the only way I’d be able to catch up with him would be to get into a bigger gear and push harder.  Of course that didn’t work.  Boomer dropped me hard on the hill up to 84th street and waited at the top, sipping his coffee, smoking his cigarette, etc.

“Told you,” Boomer said.

“No shit.  You are good.  I mean I think I’m about the same as I always was and I can’t keep up with you,” I confessed.

“Yup.  Um I hate to tell you this, because you’ll get better fast, but you want to be pedaling at no less than 90 rpms.  Otherwise, you’ll tire out too quickly.  It’s called spinning.”

“90 RPMs?  Spinning?  I don’t think so,”

“Just try it.  It’s not like you’ll go any slower.” Boomer observed.

I wasn’t able to pull the rest of the way to the shop, but I wasn’t getting dropped as hard either.  It was amazing.  Now I hate to tell you this, reader (Wesley), because you’ll get better fast, but 90 RPMs is still too slow.  Get on some rollers were you’ll hang out at 110 for long periods.  Take that shit on the roads and you’ll see speeds you’ve never seen before.  I think probably the higher the better.  I’m sure there’s no upper limit.  That’s why I’m now training at about 600 rpms.  But of course that’s metric so you do the math.

At work that day, my legs were all wobbly and I dreaded the idea of the ride home.  Plus we still had to go meet those girls downtown later on.  I think Jim, my roommate, sensed all this and asked Boomer and me if we needed a ride home.  Yes.  What a life saver.  Obviously, I said to Jim:

“Well I think I’d rather just get another good ride in today, but ask Boomer.  If he doesn’t want to ride the bike back, we’ll both go with you.”

So in classic Boomer and Cube form, we added a few miles to the bike ride on the way home, just because.

Dying up one of the last hills, just hoping I can make it all the way home in the autumn heat, Boomer came up with a life saver of a plan and began to sing our favorite customized song,

“Treat me like a fool,” Boomer began in his best Elvis Presley voice.

 I was obliged to continue, “Treat me mean and cruel,”

Then both of us, “But love me …”

“Tie me to a chair,” Boomer wailed.

“Burn my pubic hair,” I finished.

Then both, “But Love me.”

“Well if-a you ever go …” and so on.

Then I did the farmer nose blow snot thing, and a big chunk of brownish sawdust-snot came out. 

Damn that was cool.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Autumn Approaches

Cube didn't like his boss at the Architectural firm.  There were the 2 survey crews at the firm.  The one Boomer was on was supervised by Ed.  With the exception that Ed insisted on listening to country music, he was a good guy to work for.  Dean led the other crew.  That was the crew that Cube was on.  The best thing about Dean was that he insisted on listening to country music.  Cube really disliked Dean. 

Cube was not in college, but this was really sort of a summer job for college kids.  It was seasonal work.  So as soon as the season ended, Cube found a job in the high tech fast-paced world of custom cabinet making.

Cube knew nothing about making cabinets.  He had taken wood shop in Jr. High (N.K.A Middle School) where he spent the entire semester building a Chess board.  The end result was a horribly uneven hunk of wood that was a hazard to play.  Say, for instance you decided to pull a fancy “castle” move or whatever the hell it is you do in Chess.  You were more likely to suffer a debilitating splinter wound and bleed on your king than protect him.

Cube’s roommate was Jim.  Jim worked at the cabinet shop.  Jim’s girlfriend was a friend of Cube’s.  She coerced Jim to put in a good word for Cube at the shop.  “Just look at that glorious chessboard,” Erin would say. 

“Erin, these guys are craftsmen.  It wouldn’t be fair to anyone,” Jim protested.

“Have you actually looked at the Chess board,” Cube attempted.

“Uh …” 

“Listen Jim, all this talk about Cube not having a job is giving me a headache.  I’m going to bed, BB.”

‘BB’ was Erin’s nickname for Jim when he wasn’t going to get any.

Jim had worked at the cabinet shop for nearly 10 years.  He was sort of a legend there.  Kind of an oddity.  Co-workers would frequently visit him while he was joyfully sawing away.  “C’mon Jim, let’s see ‘em.”

“Really guys?  Again?,” Jim would always say, a little shy.   Then “fine,”  at which point, he’d hold up both hands, palms out to reveal 10 perfectly intact fingers.

“Wow.  He hasn’t even got any tips gone,” one would say.

“I know, right?” the other would say, confusing everyone in the room since the year was 1984.

“I’m telling you Dave, the kid is just like me.  His self control is amazing.  I’ll lay down whatever odds you want, that not only will he never lose a finger, I’m willing to bet he’ll even find some.  He’s a smart kid.  A good egg.  He’s fucking brilliant, I tell you.  Oh yeah and he’s my roommate, So I can give him a ride and make sure he’s here every day,”  Oh Erin, you are so paying me back for this tonight, Jim thought (correctly).

“You say he has no experience,” Dave asked, caught between Jim and some completely unqualified kid.

“Worse, he took wood shop in Jr. High (middle school)”

“Oh shit.  Really?  Are you sure about this kid, Jim.” 

“No shit Dave.  He’ll be running ‘Doors’ within a year,” Jim affirmed.

“Alright send him in.  I’m still gonna put him through hell in the interview.”

Turns out it's not ‘what you know’, it's ‘who you know’.  ‘What you know’ has its benefits.  Like if you want to keep all your fingers.

"What's this thing called again," Cube asked Dave.

"Well let's see ...  It looks kind of like a table, doesn't it?  And that pointy round thing sticking out of the middle?  That's a blade.  A saw blade."

"Got it.  A saw table.  I remember now," Cube boasted.

"Yeah.  You'll do.  Ok this stack of panels here needs to be cut down to the size written on each one.  You know how to read a tape, right?"

"A tape? Like a cassette?"

"No. like that thing clipped to your jeans."

"Oh, the tape measure?  Yeah I can read it.  I took wood shop in Jr. High."

"Ok, these panels have to be exact.  Within a 32nd of an inch.  Never Short.  Good luck."

After some confusion about width and height and a couple of mishaps related to the meaning of "exactly", Cube was up and running as the Table Saw guy for the cabinet door panel things.  At first, none of the other guys really hung out with Cube except for his roommate, the legend.

The Framers were the guys who put together, well, the frames or something.  This was considered the coolest job in the shop.  The framers were like when you were at a concert with your date, then some guy starts hitting on her.  Then he walks up on stage and turns out to be Eddie Vedder, lead singer for the band that’s playing. Yeah, you were never going to get to be a framer.  What you will get from time to time however, while you're sawing away, is a well placed 16 penny nail to the chest from a bored framer's nail gun about 20 paces away.  Man, they were accurate with those things.  Occasionally, the nail will bounce off you and ricochet with great velocity off the saw blade.  Good times and high fives all around.  

As saw man, under certain conditions you would also get a standing ovation.  Seems like no matter how careful you are, once in a while, a piece of wood is going to bind up in the blade and kickback toward your crotch.  The natural (and wrong) reaction is to try to grab the piece of wood.  Do that, and there's a good chance the wood will pull your hands into the blade.  No, the right thing to do is raise your hands like you're under arrest and let the wood slam into your jeans.  The kickback makes a loud and distinctly scary sound.  Afterwards, the cabinet shop turns silent as everyone in the place stops what they're doing to see which route you chose.  If they see a man standing there, hands in the air, holding firm as the pain from the flying lumber to the groin registers, they collectively sigh, drop their equipment and begin the slow clap that soon becomes a thunderous round of laughter and applause.  That's the good one.  The other one happened to Cube's friend and earned not applause, but a mad search for the man's pinky finger and a trip to the hospital.  

Cube was working the second shift that day.

"So what's with the huge stack of panels," Cube asked as he stomped out his cigarette into the sawdust at the foot of the saw.  Normally the stack of panels was about 6 feet high.  Today it was more like 11 or so.  In answer to Cube's question, Roland, a manager jerked his thumb in the direction of the "Number of days without an accident" board and started to walk away.  "Is Ravi ok?"

"He'll be fine.  Just lost a finger.  Happens to all of us one day.  They can probably reattach it, but he says he's not coming back.  Oh and some of those panels have a little blood on them.  Don’t worry, the sanders can get most of it out.  True story,"  true story.

From that day on, Cube became known as "Waxer" mostly because he insisted on waxing his table about 4 times a shift.  But also because it implied masturbation or something, which is always funny.  There is simply no exception.

"Jeez Waxer, you could play air hockey on this thing," Dave, the boss once noted of Cube's nice shiny table saw.

"I just like having all my fingers," Cube said.

"I get it.  More fingers to 'Wax' with, eh Waxer?"

And at that they both had a good hearty laugh.

Cube worked hard and safely at the cabinet shop.  With the possible exception of Jim, Cube was easily the smartest person working there. 

And within 3 months, Cube had learned every part of what it takes to make a door.  He had even spent some time doing the untouchable job of sanding.  There was actually nothing wrong with this work other than it was mind-numbingly boring.  The sanders were hunched over panels all day, smoothing them out.  The sanders always wore facemasks.  The leader of the sanders was a really cool guy.   His name was, true story:  Texo Daro.  Cube Always thought that was the coolest name anybody could have, but he wasn’t sure why.

Cube was now basically running the whole cabinet door part of the shop.  Just like Jim the roommate had predicted.

When Summer rolled around,  Boomer came back into town and was gonna pick up at old KMA (The architectural firm), but Cube put in a good word for him at the Cabinet shop.

“I know one thing about Boomer.  He never took wood shop in Jr. High, Dave.”

“If you say so Waxer, I’ll give him a chance.”

“Actually, that’s ‘Cube’, with  ‘C’”, Cube corrected.

“Whatever you say Pube Waxer!”

And they both laughed for a while.  Cube, because Dave was the boss.

Edit: I guess the leader of the sanders was actually Dara Texo.  But it was a long time ago.  It's still a cool name, though.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The End (of one story)

Sitting at Marv’s childhood home, waiting for Old lady Carson to return from the kitchen with the iced tea he had flatly refused, Dr. Johnson began to get impatient.  He looked at the walls covered with the pictorial diary of Marvin Carson’s life.  At least up until he moved away shortly after Dr. Johnson had met him. 

Coming into the front room from the kitchen, carrying a tray of iced tea glasses and a pitcher and all that, Mrs. Carson yelled, “No I haven’t seen him in about 15 years.  Of course, I always get the birthday and Mother’s day calls.  He’s a good boy.  Just busy.  You understand that, don’t you Herman?  Big smooth walking Dr like yourself?

So the old lady still had that same old ornery streak.  Well two can play at that game, thought Johnson as they fell into their same old routine from nearly 2 decades ago …

“Why don’t you stuff it you crusty old bitty!” Herman shouted playfully, grabbing a glass from the tray, causing old lady Carson to nearly topple the whole thing with the unexpected weight shift.

“Suck the shit out of my ass, you scrawny little so and so …” shot back the good lady Carson.

But now, Dr Johnson couldn’t continue.  He was here on serious business.  As much as he’d love to finish the game, he needed information.  Mrs. Carson, sensing his somber mood, became concerned.

“What is it, baby?  You know you can always tell mama Carson anything,” Mrs. Carson incorrectly stated.

Because no he couldn’t tell her that sweet Marv was not a big exec out West, but a cross dressing, hash slinging waitress down at Cecil’s.   Except he wasn’t slinging hash today.  Today he was in the ICU from accidentally poisoning himself trying to kill the good Dr.  Oh yeah, and also he was only being kept alive by an experimental genetic concoction thrown together by a brilliant, but careless young veterinary student.  This same concoction that will eventually turn Marvin the cross dressing waitress into Marvin the frog if Dr Johnson cannot decipher the contents of the poison immediately and somehow reverse the effect.  And this bitch wants to make tea and chat!

“I need to find Butch,” Dr. Johnson finally blurted out.

“Oh him,” Mrs. Carson believed that Butch was somehow responsible for Marvin going away and she’s held a grudge since.  Luckily for the Dr., she had no idea that Marvin was actually all gay for him and Butch had nothing to do with Marv’s relocation.

“I suppose you can find him at his hangout.  I hear from his mother, whose heart he’s repeatedly broken, that he spends most days and nights down at The Original Chico’s”

“Never was much of a talker was he?” Johnson said.

Note:  The Italicized stuff really really happened.
Jack slowly walked the center aisle of the movie theatre looking for any signs of disruption.  He paused nearly imperceptibly as he reached row 19.  This row was currently being nicknamed in Jack’s mind.  “Row Trouble” was his working title.  A light sniff of the air in the direction of the ne’er-do-wells to his left served as subtle, but powerful warning that not only was good behavior expected, it would be enforced at any cost.  Unfortunately, the boys were too busy looking for their toilet paper to worry about “Porky, the rent-a-pig.”

Dejected, Jack moved on to the very front of the movie theatre.   As he made a left turn in front of the screen to walk back up the left side aisle, an unfortunate little accident happened.  Jack was aware that he was walking in front of the screen, partially blocking the view.  This was a test.  It was intentional.  What he didn’t know was that nobody in the theatre gave a shit.  This was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  Most of these kids had seen it dozens of times.

So Jack thought he himself was being addressed when at the moment he chose to walk in front of the screen, “The Criminologist, An Expert” appeared to the traditional screams from the crowd of “ASSHOLE!!!”

With catlike blubbery agility, Jack spun to face the yelling crowd.  Incredibly, they were still yelling.  How can this be?  Saddened by his total lack of affect on the crowd, he slumped into a seat in the front row, defeated.  Head in his hands wrecking his carefully designed combover, Jack began to quietly weep. 

“You’re weak, bruiser,” Jack thought, using his high school nickname on himself, “You just can’t put the fear in them anymore.  Why are they still yelling?”  Pulling out of his man-breast pocket one of those nasty old snotrag things old guys always carried around with them, he dried his eyes and looked around.  “Ah, they’re yelling at the screen, dummy,” with a relieved chuckle and long blow into the snotrag, Jack regained composure, hurriedly readjusted his combover with the fingernails of his right hand and replaced his rent-a-cop hat.  Standing again to partially block the screen, Jack noticed that some of the kids had newspapers draped over their heads.  “What the …” That’s when Jack became aware of a light mist mysteriously falling as if it were raining in the theater.

Which, um, precipitated the great sprayer bottle confiscation of 1983.

While Jack and a couple of ushers went row by row, collecting spray bottles, Jack noticed he was tapping his toe to the beat.  He found himself humming, something about the “Pelvic thrust.” 

Just as Jack reached the very back of the theater, it happened.  His favorite midnight movie sound in the world.  The sound of an empty beer bottle rolling to the front, underneath the seats.  Jack and his crew had exhaustively experimented with empty beer bottles in the theater’s off hours.  They could pinpoint with amazing accuracy ground zero if they could find where the bottle came to rest.   Midnight movie protocol dictates that if you hear a beer bottle rolling your way, you must raise your feet to allow gravity to naturally take the beer bottle as far as it can before being stopped usually by a theater chair leg.  Giggling is optional, but always appreciated.  A few seconds after it began. The rolling sound stopped with the obvious clank against a seat leg somewhere.  Over Jack’s earpiece, he got the news he needed.  “27 R, left.  Repeat 2 – 7 – Romeo, Lima.”  No surprise there.  “27R left” decoded to 19 M or N, depending on release with the bottle pointing left or right.  Accurate enough to indict the flophead gang.

“Nice going Boomer.  Now he’s coming over here,” Cube complained.

“Then I guess we better get rid of the evidence, then, huh?”

At that, every bottle in the row was released to the general vicinity of row 27 making, well, a glorious ringing noise that caused Jack’s blood pressure to venture to new heights, his ears, an extraordinary vibrant glowing red.

“Hey Flopheads.  Consider this a warning.  Any more floppiness out of any of you, and you’ll be outta here.”

“Sorry sir,” Butch attempted.

“Don’t ‘sorry sir’ me.  Just settle down and stop your flopping,” Jack simultaneously yelled and whispered, spraying the boys with enough saliva that Cube pulled the newspaper back out for protection.  “And give me that paper!”

Unfortunately for the boys, they would never get to yell Cube’s favorite line.  The Criminologist, An Expert appeared on the screen at exactly the same moment Jack was demanding the contraband from Cube.  Cube was a purest and had no choice.  He was forced by tradition to scream  “ASSHOLE!” at that exact moment.  It totally had nothing to do with Jack Hughes.  You think that mattered?  You think Jack Hughes believed him?

“No Louise, I didn’t believe him,” Jack, proudly confessed to his gal Louise, bacon grease running down his chin,  “I grabbed that little punk by the ear and threw him out of the theater.  For good.  The rest of them just got up and left.  Problem solved.  I doubt those boys will ever be back to my 6 West Theater.  You know I might be the best thing that ever happened to that place.  With me around to keep the peace, The 6 West Theater will enjoy years and years of success.  I’ve actually gone from embarrassed by my role to proud to be a part of the most successful movie chain of all time.”

Louise’s love for Jack had never been greater. “My hero,” she said at last, back turned to Old man Hughes as she prepared a “little more” cheesy scrambled bacon lard eggs and coffee. 

With a nod and a chuckle, Jack sipped at his coffee, pensively staring off into the distance at a future that looked brighter than it had in nearly a decade.

“You know what, Weezy?  Whaddya say we get the bikes out of the garage and go for a spin around the park?”

Raising her head to look up at the cupboards above the stove and prevent her tears from dripping into the frying pan,  Louise, voice trembling in joyful disbelief, said, “That will be just fine, Mr. Hughes.”

And they lived happily ever after.

Ok I’m officially lost.  I don’t recognize any of these places.  Of course it doesn’t help that I’m such a dummy.  Literally.  Essentially a block of wood with a clever series of mechanisms designed to facilitate the illusion of speech and emotion.  But I have neither.  Nor do I have thoughts.  I do not exist except in a purely physical form.  I’d argue that you are no different, but I am also incapable of arguing. 

Where did I get off track?  I just wanted to step outside and clear my little wooden head.  After furball escaped my grasp and ran loose at the hospital, I tried to do the right thing.  I reported it immediately.  Well, I tried to.  But the nurses at their station thought it was all some elaborate joke.  “Who’s making the dummy walk?”  I may not have a soul or feelings or a brain or a heart, but some things are just mean.  Looking at my ridiculous reflection in the plate glass of some unknown Jewelry store, I realize I just need to sit down somewhere and be quiet for a while.  

I continue down the rain-slicked sidewalk, ignoring the stares and gasps of horror from all the people regarding my approach.  I know.  It’s a miracle someone like me is walking at all.  And granted, it doesn’t look very realistic when I do it.  Something about the way my legs bend looks unnatural to humans.  Maybe it’s the fact that my knees are actually just a seam where the pantleg fabric has been sewn straight across so my legs hang “naturally” in the seated position.  I was not made for walking.  I was made to be seated on a man’s lap.  “Dummies are to be seen and not heard,” they all say.  Or “There’s just something inherently creepy about a dummy.”  Yeah thanks for that one.  Feels great.  Fortunately, I don’t have tear ducts or my face would warp.  Hey, what’s this bar up ahead?  Maybe they don’t care if a guy comes in and just wants to keep to himself …

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Everybody knows about Chico’s.  But few know the story of how it got started.  Because of the very nature of Chico’s it’s tough to get a straight answer from anybody.

Chico or “Little Guy” was born to a poor family in southeast Omaha.  Chico’s father worked long hard hours as a CEO for the largest company in town.  At least that’s what he told Chico.  Actually, he was a cat burglar.  He chose his profession in hopes of conquering his fear of heights, but it didn’t work.  Chico’s mother, the iron-jawed Penelope Featherwafer, was left with the difficult task of providing for the whole family.  While old man Featherwafer was out, dressed all in black, quietly leaning against ground floor walls, trying to muster the courage to climb to a first story window ledge, Penny was putting in extra shifts at the laundry washing place.  And you know what?  It didn’t pay too well either.  So what I’m saying is they were poor.  I have a reason for saying this.  So pay attention. 

Chico came from poverty.  It’s not like ‘Chico’s’ just fell into his lap is what I’m saying.  This is a story of how a guy in this country can go from rags to, well, Chico still dresses in dirty old t-shirts and torn up jeans, but he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to.  I mean, his mother works in a laundromat for God’s sake.  Though they rarely had enough food on the table, there was always an extra helping of love at the Featherwafer house.  Sniff. 

As soon as Chico was old enough to work, he got a job at his uncle’s neighborhood bar, cleaning up.  “I remember when Uncle Don first showed me how to use the sar-dust to clean up the barf,” Chico recalled on Letterman that time he was on just after Charles Grodin. 

“Sar-dust?” Letterman asked, making a goofy look and sticking his tongue out sideways, then letting out a high pitched “Wee-heee,” Causing Paul Shafer, Charles Grodin, the studio audience and most of the people waiting for Craig Ferguson, to laugh at dumb old Chico.  Well Chico was no dummy.  He sensed he was being made sport of, stood up and began reciting his motto to the audience.  As if in a trance, the audience joined in chanting the motto in the creepiest monotone you’ve ever heard.  David Letterman, obviously uncomfortable with the sudden turn, took an index finger to his collar and gave a tug in hopes of loosening the solid grip his tie seemed to have on his neck.  Grodin also looked concerned, but he was just “acting”.

As Chico left the studio, about half of the audience went with him where they found the nearest Chico’s and enjoyed a quiet sulking drink.

So Chico helped the family make ends meet by working at “Donny’s Spirits and Grill” all through high school.  Don would let the boy do his schoolwork at the bar when there was no “Sar-dusting” to do.  Even so, the boy usually had to work until 2 or 3 AM, so he dropped out of school on his 16th Birthday.

One late night, walking alone to his house, he thought he heard a noise as he passed an alleyway.  More curious than scared, he started to walk into the alley to investigate.  “Hello,” Chico offered warily into the darkness, “Is there somebody there?”

Just then, he felt his insides drop to his feet as something swiftly and tightly gripped his wrist, but still he saw nothing.  Thrashing, unable to free himself, he slumped down, beaten and confused.  Still not knowing who or what held him.

“I hear you quit school today,” came the familiar voice of his father.

“Dad?”, asked Chico, incredibly relieved, but more confused, “What are you doing?”

“I’m not really a CEO, son.  In fact I’m not much of anything.”  Chico’s father confessed.

“Wha wha, I don’t” stammered Chico.

“Just listen, son and I’ll tell you about the cat burglar who was afraid of heights.”

As Chico’s father began to tell of his failed life as a father and husband, Chico and his father seemed to get farther away.   Chico’s father’s voice fading out and then coming back as the story finished,  “And now you know the whole story of how I am not a very good cat burglar, son.”

“Well dad, you stole my heart in the middle of the night,” Chico said.

“You keep saying shit like ‘at, you might need to run back to Donny’s and get that Sar-dust,”

And they both laughed and laughed.  But really.  Chico had found new respect for his dad after learning of his lifelong struggle and eventual complete failure in everything.

“I guess what I’m saying son, is never give up on your dream and you can be like me.”

“You mean, quit dreaming and finish school?”  Chico asked.

“Same difference, little guy.”

Two hours later, as Chico came down for breakfast to make good on his promise to his dad, he found a quiet table.  Nobody eating.  Nobody talking.  Everyone looking down. 

“What’s going …,” Chico began

“Shhh …” mother warned.  Chico had no idea what to make of this.  Tears streamed from his silent mother’s eyes.  Nobody was talking.  The house was silent.  Then Chico’s father slid the morning edition across the table toward where Chico was standing.  Looking down, Chico was surprised to see the smiling face of his uncle Don.  Reading the headline, Chico collapsed to the nearest empty chair with the realization that he was now unemployed.

“When uncle Don left me that bar, I was stunned.  We all walked around in a daze for a week,”  Chico told Oprah Winfrey as she was searching for her earrings in the soiled sheets of the cheap hotel they had rented for the hour. 

In the years he’d worked at Don’s, Chico had basically learned the whole business.  In fact he was left to open the place up on the very day Don died.  All the regulars came in, but the night was anything but regular.  No one said a word.  Everybody just looked down at their drink and silently honored Don in their own way. It was like the foreshadowing scene from breakfast earlier that day.

At about 8:30, a couple of drunk college kids came in making all kinds of noise and disrupting the reverent tone of the place.  Chico asked if they could take it down a notch and they began to get surly.  That’s when all eyes turned to the strangers.  Old Marvin Tastyblanket stood up to address the young men.  He was about 65 years old, and obviously nervous.  His hat dampened from the sweat of his hands clenched tightly around the brim.  “Please sirs, we don’t want any trouble in here.  We’ve just lost a good friend and all we ask is that you find a seat, get a drink, and shut the fuck up.”

“What’s that old timer,” College boy with the more yellow sweater asked.

“My friend here was suggesting that you two stop talking,” said Old Crusty McNeill, standing to Marvin’s side as others began to take a stand, rising against the noisy educated duo.  When there were enough old guys to overwhelm the youngsters, they had a change of heart and not only did as Marv suggested, but College boy with not quite as yellow sweater made a nice plaque for the bar with Marv’s words on it.  It became the motto of Chico’s.  “Find a seat, get a drink, and shut the fuck up.” 

Nobody could have possibly guessed what had been started. A few days after the “College boy” incident.  Chico’s started getting a little busy.  Although you’d never know it just walking by.  Walk into the place and it’s packed.  Packed and silent.  Everyone pouting into their drinks.  Chico throwing on a sad face while he licked his thumb to rifle through the wad of cash he counted. 

After a couple of weeks, there was a very sad, quiet line to get into Chico’s.  Then a few months later, Chico’s West.  Then just this morning, the first of surely many Chico’s Japan opened to dragging feet and a soul crushing depression that can be found at any one of over 340 Chico’s, now worldwide.

That’s basically the story of how world famous Chico’s, the bar for people drowning in self-pity got started.  The night clubs, sports bars and neighborhood bars are fine if you want some company or are in need of a good cheering up.  But if you want to be left alone to wallow in your pathetic miserable little troubles, Chico’s is the place for you!