STORIES ARCHIVES

OCT. 2022

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10.30.2022

THE CUP AND STALKER

(a true story)

It was last summer.

A Wednesday or Thursday, I can’t quite recall.

My friend Leslie and I were having lunch at the Tin Shed over on Alberta. 

 

I love that place but it’s always slammed and you end up standing around out front with the alterna-youth for a half hour, squinting in the nicotine haze. 

Luckily during warmer months they have additional seating outside in a 

garden patio area. 

It’s just lovely. 

It smells good, and when everything is blooming the colors are beautiful.

 

So Leslie and I were out there among the flowers, gabbing away, catching up, when a young woman got seated at the table right next to ours.

I did a double-take on her.

I knew her from...someplace.

Someplace...but where?

 

In my mind, I knew her so well I should’ve gotten up and said hello. But the reality was I couldn’t remember where I knew her from, so I would’ve had to jump up and say, “Well howdy...Whatsyourface...how’s it going?!”

 

She opened her Willamette Week and started to read. 

As she turned a page she glanced over at me. I saw her furrow her brow and look down at the table in thought.

Aha! She knew me too. 

But now the tables were turned and it was I who was now Whatsyourface!

I couldn’t take it...

 

“Alright, where do I know you from?” I asked her.

 

“I was just trying to figure that out...” She said, laughing.

 

After a few moments of bandying questions back and forth (of course, being that it’s all about me, I assumed that she’d seen the band play. Nope. And the wind went right out of my sails...) we figured it out; she was a waitress at the Cup and Saucer, another one of my favorite restaurants in town. Then it was completely obvious. 

 

“The Cup and Saucer...yeah!...I eat there all the time.”

She’d been my server for dozens of meals. 

She just looked different out of her job. We all do.

Out of all of our elements really, who are we? 

Hell, I don’t know.

 

So with all that bologna out of the way, this woman, and Leslie and I got into a fairly epic conversation about restaurants, beautiful days, tattoos and photography.

After our respective meals we exchanged pleasant farewells and that was the end of that.

I thought...

 

That weekend, my wife, Kim was out of town. 

I woke up Saturday morning, broken and sore from a night of wringing myself out dry, and tearing myself apart in a hearty rawk fashion for an arena filled with nubile, 22 year-old, twitching females (well, in my pathetic, aging, mind anyway). 

I was hungry and the first place that popped in my mind was the Cup and Saucer.

See they have this Garden Scramble they do there; it’s scrambled eggs mixed with Garden (non-meat) Sausage, and grilled peppers and onions. It comes with hash browns and I always get it half-eggs and half-tofu, with tortillas instead of bread (an ordering technique I learned from Nancy Hess). It’s fantastic.

So I headed on over to fill my empty.

 

I sat down and lo and behold, there was my waitress friend from the other day.

 

“Hey, how are ya?” I asked Whatsyourface.

 

They weren’t that busy, and each time she’d pass by my table, she’d have some wry commentary about something. Typical back and forth between you and a person you kind of know and kind of don’t.

The food was awesome, just what I wanted, and I set out about the rest of my day.

 

The next morning, after another night of rawk, I woke up.

I found that I was once again craving the Garden Scramble from Cup and Saucer.

Normally I wouldn’t go to the same place two days in a row, but I knew it would be good and fill the void, and I wasn’t feeling all that food adventurous.

I took my book and headed over. 

I walked in the door and there was Whatsyourface.

She was pouring some coffee for someone and she looked up at the squeak of the front door.

She was smiling at the customer she was pouring for, but when she turned her head toward the door and saw me, her entire face changed.

Her eyes got a bit wide, and she looked away. 

Then she went off quickly toward the kitchen.

 

Hmmmm? I thought. 

I wonder what that’s all about?

 

I was seated in what I knew to be Whatsyourfaces section.

Cool, maybe a little more banter, a few humorous asides, some witty repartee’ perhaps.

I sat down and started reading my book. 

 

I heard a little commotion and looked over to see the waitresses gathered in a huddle by the wait station.

I heard Whatsyourface say (and I’m not kidding):

 

“No, YOU serve him!”

 

Then she looked straight at me.

Then one of the other waitresses said to her.

 

“No problem. I got it...”

 

Then that waitress looked at me sideways, narrowing her eyes.

 

Oh my God. 

Whatsherface thought I was into her!

No No. Christ. I just want some food.

Oh brother.

What do you do when you’re in the middle of a problem like that? 

One you didn’t cause?

It’s something that happens to everyone.

You feel so stupid.

 

I was so mortified that Whatsyourface thought I was now Walker the Stalker, I just wanted to slink out of the restaurant and disappear. I thought -- well, that’s that. 

Great  There’s no way I’ll ever at at this place again. 

No sir, no how.

 

I ordered and ate my food, but I didn’t know what to do with myself while I ate.

I started to overthink everything I did. My every move was now suspect.

If I smiled I was a stalker.

If I made any kind of eye contact I had to be a stalker.

If I didn’t make eye contact, I was the anti-social creepy freak in the corner. 

Definitely a stalker.

If I hid behind my book. Stalker.

I ate quickly and bailed.

 

After that, I didn’t even THINK about going back there. 

I was damaged by the experience.

 

But after a while the old craving came back.

And I got defiant.

Dammit, I like that food. I want THAT food.

I didn’t do anything anyway.

 

A few weeks later I went there with Kim. 

While we were waiting to order I told Kim this whole story. 

 

When I was done I got the rolling of the eyes men have received from women since time began when they’re acting like a tool.

And just then Whatsyourface came from around a corner.

 

Being that Kim was there with me I figured I looked pretty safe.

Well, as safe as a six foot, tattooed guy with a shaved head can look anyway.

So I went out of my way to give ol’ Whatsyourface a very non-threatening, asexual, stuffed animal, I won’t hurt you ma’am, grin just to see if maybe all this was just in my head. 

She looked right at me and looked away fast. 

Okay, that was definitely the cold shoulder.

After that Kim had to agree that Whatsyourface indeed seemed freaked out by me.

Oh brother.

 

A few weeks later I went there again with my friend Eric and I told this story to him while we were eating.

 

He said, “Why do you still go here?”

 

I said, “I like the food.”

 

He said, “Why don’t you go someplace else?”

 

And I said, “’Cause they don’t have the same food!!”

 

And suddenly I realized; I was in an episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM or I LOVE LUCY or something.

I had a minor misunderstanding that could have been easily solved, but instead the thing was exacerbated completely out of proportion by a stubborn, annoying idiot.

 

Oh.

Hey, that’s kind of cool.

When I looked at it like that, it all changed for me.

 

After so many years of going out of my way to be as polite as I could possibly be, there was something about being the irritating guy that suddenly appealed to me. 

I wouldn’t have tried to be that guy but now since I was, I figured what the hell, I was going to embrace it!

 

Oh joy - oh rapture - I was annoying somebody... how wonderful!

Just wrecking Whatsyourface’s day a little bit. 

I’m the fly in the ointment. 

The hair in the bowl of soup.

The rusted cog fouling up the machine.

 

And God that made me happy.

 

Now I go to the Cup and Saucer all the time. 

By myself. 

I don’t look at her, she doesn’t talk to me.

 

But we both know I’m there.

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10.23.2022

I WAS A TEENAGE PARKING LOT

(a true story)

I picked up this book awhile back called INSIDE OUT.

It's by a guy named Nick Mason, the drummer for Pink Floyd. This book is

his recounting of the history of the band. I feel dumb as a grown man buying

these “rock books’ but I buy them anyway.

I will always be emotionally 14 years old.

Really sad.

 

INSIDE OUT is an interesting book if you’re a Pink Floyd fan. Goes deep

into the early days with Syd Barrett and what touring was like back then.

There are a lot of sentences like this one (imagine a slow, thick English

accent)...

 

“I recall a time after the Isle of Wight Festival when our transit van broke

down near a lorry yard in Schaffsbury. The van had to remain overnight.

There was quite a row the next day when it was discovered that Roger’s bass

had been nicked from the van by a hooligan. Fortunately it was found a

fortnight later in a dust bin by a green grocer in Ipswich...”

 

That’s not really what it said, I just made all that up. But that’s how my mind

recalls the first 150 pages. Interesting only to the hardcore fan.

 

I’m up to the part now where Nick’s talking about the making of THE

WALL. I find this fascinating because I think if I’m honest with myself, THE

WALL is my all-time favourite (note English spelling) album in the world.

It came out when I was 14 years old.

It’s about isolation, loss, rock and roll, hate, lust, and horror.

It’s whiny, pretentious, hopeless, and bombastically negative.

And it spoke straight to my 14 year old, I-hate-my-parents,

no-one-understands-me heart. It resonated.

About six months after it was released, Pink Floyd did a very, very limited

tour of THE WALL. The only shows in the States were in LA and New York.

In the 37 years since I saw that show I’ve only met 3 other people who got to

see it live. It was amazing.

I was alert, conscious, and totally sober for the show.

Let me explain how that happened...

 

I don’t remember how we managed to score tickets given the fact that a

goodly portion of North America was also trying to see the show, but we did.

We got four tickets.

There were three of us going. We were all 15 years old; Me, Purves, and

Kent.

We needed someone to drive though.

We chose a guy from our shop class named Tony Ruffalo. The criteria for

this choice was: he had a car, he was quiet, and he had the best hair in

school. Long, brown, flowing hair, like Jane Seymour in SOMEWHERE IN

TIME. He was also the first guy in shop to forge a bong out of scrap plastic.

 

The night we went to THE WALL show at the LA Sports Arena we were

prepared:

(1) case of Coors beer on ice in the trunk - CHECK.

(1) half ounce of Maui Wowee - CHECK.

(2) entire Thai Sticks - CHECK.

A small rock of cocaine - CHECK.

Yes, we were 15.

Our plan was to chop up copious lines of the Peruvian marching powder on

the actual album sleeve of THE WALL - because that was heh heh...rad.

Unfortunately, THE WALL sleeve is pretty much all white in color and

provided too many opportunities for the blow to blend in and get lost.

Instead we brought the album sleeve for BLACK SABBATH - VOL. 4. Much

more black in color.

 

SIDENOTE:

A little history that I wish I had been privy to while I was sitting in the

parking lot of the Los Angeles Sports Arena preparing to get astonishingly

fucked up:

Pink Floyd fans have always gotten high. Just as the sun is warm, Pink Floyd

fans are wasted. The music lends itself to an altered state. That’s just the

way it is and probably always will be as long as there is some sort of Floyd

Franchise. So at Pink Floyd shows in the 70’s there were an awful lot of

illegal substances wafting about, and being imbibed, stuck, sucked and

snorted.

It made Pink Floyd very unpopular with local police departments around

the world.

A few years previous to THE WALL, Floyd played at Anaheim Stadium on

their ANIMALS tour. Police Chief Daryl Gates decided that this would be the

perfect opportunity to really come down on them goll-durned, drugged-out

hippies. Over the course of the weekend show, LAPD arrested close to

eight-hundred people and beat a lot of kids up (an event dramatized at the

beginning of the Alan Parker film of THE WALL). It was a total mess and

the LAPD was chastised for being a bunch of Nazi pigs. They lost a lot of

credibility.

So that ol' sly boots Daryl Gates decided that the NEXT time that damn Pink

Floyd came to his town he was going to try something a little bit different...

 

So now that you have that information....

 

Fast forward to the night I went to see THE WALL performed live.

The four of us were sitting in Tony’s car in the Sports Arena parking lot

about to engage in a ritual as old as rock and roll; getting insanely ripped

before the show.

We sat in the dark of the car with our icy cold cans of Coors.

KMET FM DJ, Jim Ladd, was playing a set of Pink Floyd in honor of the

momentous event. No one was chatty, we were just enjoying the excitement

of the moment.

The show was starting in an hour and a half.

Our designated driver Tony, had received the few first hits off the pipe as a

ceremonious thanks for the lift.

I was sitting shotgun.

Purves was in the backseat in the process of reloading the pipe for the rest of

us. He packed the bowl and passed it to Kent who was sitting next to him.

Kent took a long deep hit. I relaxed into my seat in giddy anticipation of my

first toke.

A flashlight shined through the front window...

We froze.

Uh oh.

Seemingly out of nowhere, four men approached each one of the doors of

the sedan, blocking us from exiting the car.

It was so fast we had no time at all to react, or do anything but sit there

stunned.

They all had flashlights and were shining them into the car. We could see no

faces.

A flashlight tapped on the passenger side window where I was sitting.

 

“You better roll this god damned window down right now, boy...” a deep

voice said.

 

I looked back at the other guys and saw reflected in their faces what was

surely on mine.

Sheet-white fear.

 

“What do I do..?” I asked the guys.

“Open it, I guess...” said Purves.

 

I rolled the window down. The man at my window shined the light on

himself for a moment.

It wasn’t a cop.

It was a guy dressed in boots, jeans, flannel shirt, with a John Deere cap on

his head. His colleagues were dressed pretty much the same.

For a fleeting moment, I was relieved. Whew - it’s not the cops. Then

suddenly the fear came back compounded - then who ARE these guys?

 

“Hey, doper...how you doin?” said the man leaning into the window. A slight California redneck twang was now evident in his voice.

 

Oh God. We weren’t going to be arrested...we were going to be killed.

 

“Okay...” I said meekly.

“Say, you god damned doper...how old are you..?” He was smiling. Really

enjoying this.

“15...” I said.

“15? Well, you ain’t old enough to drink beer then, son.”

 

He reached into the car and took the beer from my hand. He then held it

over my lap and turned the can upside down. I sat there foolishly while

pretty much the entire contents of the can poured onto my crotch.

All his friends laughed.

Mine did not.

 

“Alright, you dopers...get your butts outta the car right now...”

 

What could we do?

We certainly couldn’t fight them. We couldn’t scream for help cause we

parked at the far lonely end of the lot to make sure we wouldn’t get hassled.

No one was around.

It was us and them.

So we got out of the car.

One of the guys spun me around and suddenly I was assuming the position

with my hands on the hood of the car. The guy searched me, found nothing,

and moved onto Kent, where he also found nothing.

Then they searched Purves.

And hit the mother lode.

The pipe, weed, coke, Thai sticks...if it hadn't been so terrifying it would’ve

been a pretty good Cheech and Chong routine.

 

“Well, well, well. What DO we have here?”

“Let’s kick the shit outta these faggots...” said one of the other men.

“Kick the shit outta ‘em? Let’s just kill ‘em...sure wouldn’t be missed.”

 

One of the men took the pipe and crushed it under his boot. Then he took

the pot and spilled it out all over the ground, grinding it into the gravel and

broken glass. He crushed the little rock of coke beneath his foot along with

the Thai sticks, and smeared it around into nothing with his heel. He gave

the asphalt a couple good kicks.

Then the guy walked up to all of us one by one, sticking his face into ours

and breathing through his nose.

Then he spoke...

 

“Now I know you all wanna get in there and see that Pink Floyd. So you boys

better get in there right now. And if we see you again out here, you gonna be

in a world of hurt...you get me?”

“Yeah...” we all muttered, completely confused.

 

What? They were letting us go?

We weren’t going to be killed after all?

This isn’t Deliverance 2? I don’t have to be Ned Beatty?

Thank you, Lord. Thank you...

 

“You better run before we change our minds, dopers.” said the head

redneck.

And we did. Like the wind.

 

I read in the paper a couple weeks later they were undercover cops sent out

by the LAPD to scare the wits out of people and discourage drug use.

Intimidation tactics. Since they couldn’t have the fun they had back in

Anaheim, beating up and arresting the kids, they just decided to traumatize

them.

My God, who dreams this stuff up?

Some men in this world certainly do enjoy their petty torments.

And thanks to those scary guys I saw one of the greatest concerts ever put

on, sober as a judge. And while I’m not thanking them for their fascist

pigging behavior, I do appreciate the fact that I remember nearly every

second of that show like it was yesterday.

The Bowie show I went to about ten years ago with my friend Shawn? I can't

remember much of that.

I've learned to drink a lot faster now...I think I'm still waiting for the imminent rap on the side window.

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10.15.2022

OF MICE AND MARGARITAS

(a true story)

My dad turned 80 yesterday.

Quite a milestone.

Really amazing considering all the health trouble he’s been having.

You’d never know it to look at him now though.

He’s getting around pretty good.

 

Three months ago, the guy was in a hospital bed, hooked up to everything

they had, totally incapacitated from a stroke.

Couldn't move, couldn't speak.

Now he's here at his house, walking around just fine.

And talking.

(Deep sigh) and talking. And talking.

Whew.

Matter of fact this S.O.B. has been talking non-stop since I showed up

yesterday.

I can hardly think because he won't stop flapping the lips of his cake hole.

The only reason I’m able to squeeze out these few sentences here is because

he's gone to take a shower.

 

Last night he wanted to go out for dinner for his birthday.

Great!

I'm thinking maybe a little Italian joint, something nice.

It’s slim pickins around here in his small town, but there are a few places

that might not make my guts go urby-burbly.

Alas, he wanted to go to this place right down the street. A Mexican place.

A place that was here years before he and my mom moved here, but a place he

never went to until a couple of weeks ago.

Now he wants to eat there all the time.

 

“Sumpin’ different...” He said.

 

He used the same phrase when Kim and I took him to Europe a few years ago.

We were in Tuscany in a small family-owned hotel, eating the most fantastic

food, drinking the most incredible wine.

 

“Howd’ya like it, dad?”

 

“Sumpin’ different...” He said without looking up from his plate.

 

Money well spent.

 

Anyway, this Mexican place we went to last night...I’ve eaten there before.

During the time my dad’s been on his extended hospital stays, I don’t think

there’s a place I HAVEN’T eaten in this one-hors d'oeuvre town.

 

But just for a moment, let me back up and say - Ooooh. I LOVE me some

Mexican food.

I grew up in Southern California. I was raised on Mexican food.

My mother was half-Mexican, half-Basque. Her father was a chef.

This woman knew how to cook up some by-God Mexican food.

So I know Mexican food, okay?

 

But this place Pops and I ate last night - it made me all sorrowful-like.

It was pretty weak.

Tasteless food, dry beans, soggy rice.

Not exactly horrible really, but there are a few much more edible places

here in Paradise.

The other thing about this dump we ate at is that you have to order at the

front counter.

Can I go on record right here, and say that I hate that?

I go to a restaurant to sit on my arse and be served, bish.

And to pay for the privilege, God spankin’ dammit!

It’s one of the things I love about me as I'm getting older; that I have no

problem whatsoever with paying someone to do something I don’t want to do.

Here’s money. YOU do this.

Cook and serve me food...now.

Also, I have a problem with someone calling out a number when they want me,

which they did at this shithole the old man took me to.

 

“Number 34...number 34?”

 

“Oh, that’s me...”

 

A number. I’m...just a number.

I don’t care for that.

Also, and maybe I’m just whining now, but watching my father eat has never

been a pleasant experience.

Last night, he had cheese and hamburger enchiladas.

So did his shirt, and a good portion of his wind breaker.

I watched this man, my father, a grown person, lift food up and insert it

into his craw. Then as much as I wanted to turn away frightened, I looked

on as every fork full of his Mexicano mixture retained a 9 to 14 inch

stubborn strand of stringy melted cheese that just refused to leave his

mouth. I watched this clinging cheese, mortified.

This was no attempt whatsoever on my father’s part to bite down, and break

this length of goo before chewing; oh no - he simply put the food into his

mouth, and let the stuff dangle off his lips and chin.

After a few bites he looked like Fu Manchu.

 

“Hey, Messy Marvin...” I said. “You have shit hanging off your face...”

 

With the back of his hand, he wiped at the cheese, spreading part of it onto

his cheek, some onto his shirt, and the remainder onto the sleeve of his

jacket.

Quite a nice look.

 

For those of you maybe feeling a little bad for my dad at this point, like I

might be beating him up too much, and thinking that maybe this might be

residual affects of the stroke, let me assure you, after knowing this man

for the last 43 years, the stroke actually improved his abysmal table

manners. He’s a disgusting pig.

After a meal, the rim around his water glass looks like someone had

attempted to salt a margarita glass, but instead fouled-up and cream-cheesed

it instead.

Water with schmear.

Appalling.

 

This place we ate at last night though was, however, a step above the OTHER

Mexican place my dad and I usually frequent when I’m in town.

 

The night before my dad went into the hospital back in October, we ate at

this other spot.

Up until this October night, this other spot was my favorite Mexican joint

in Paradise.

The food was great.

And guess what - it SHOULD be great, for Pepe's sake.

I think if you have a Mexican restaurant, and your state also borders

Mexico, but somehow you can't seem get Mexican food together, then you’re

doing something wrong.

But back to the story...

 

My dad and I were digging into our food there at the other place, and

throwing a few margaritas back dontcha know, when out of the corner of my

eye I saw something dart under a table near us.

I turned my head toward the movement, and stared hard at the spot.

 

“What’ya lookin’ at?” My dad asked.

 

I wasn’t sure...

Suddenly a big gray rat ran out from a hole in the booth, and started

greedily filling his mouth with chip remnants off the floor.

Then it sat upright on it’s haunches, and ate the chips with his sharp, rat

claws.

 

"Bih wat!!" I yelled at my dad, my mouth full of tostada.

 

“Hah?” He said craning his head around to see, but in the wrong direction.

 

I pointed, “Bih wah!! Bih wah!!!”

He turned to look.

And wouldn’t you know it, the thing jumped back into the hole in the booth.

 

“I don’t see anything...” He said turning back to his meal.

 

Which of course was the exact moment the rat jumped back out of the hole,

and started in on the chips again.

 

“Jebus Cwyst! Thayo!!” I was desperately pointing again.

 

Of course, the second my dad turned - FWEEP - right back in the hole.

 

“Is inna ho!” I explained through beans.

 

He didn’t bother turning around again. He just ate.

And every thirty seconds or so, for the next several minutes, the rat would

dive bomb the chips, then slip back into his booth hole.

I just sat staring. Riveted. I occasionally shuddered, but I couldn’t eat

another bite.

My dad, on the other hand, finished his entire meal, appetite intact.

He’s always been that way. Nothing’s going to wreck his supper.

I think my dad could be in Pakistan, searching through the crumbling ruins

of a building for survivors after a 9.4 earthquake two weeks after the

fact, and still not only be eating a sandwich with his free hand, but asking

if anyone had any ketchup.

 

I motioned the waitress over to our table. I was trying to be subtle.

I waved her in close, and when she got right next to me I said to her sotto

voce,

 

“I don’t want to freak anybody out, but there’s a rat over there under that

table. He keeps jumping in and out of a hole, eating stuff off the floor...”

I looked at her, waiting for a response.

 

“Oh good!” She said.

I cocked my head. Not really what I was expecting from her.

 

“Pardon?” I said.

 

“Well, the store room’s right underneath the dining room. I’m sure that’s

where he came from...”

 

I looked at her.

“I don’t get it...good?” I said.

 

“Oh, well my husband’s an exterminator, and he’s been out of work for a

couple of months. Maybe I can get him a job!”

 

She was radiating pure joy as she skipped off, I’m assuming, to dial her

lovey-bubs with the good news.

 

Me?

When I get home I’m going to start at page one of The Joy Of Cooking, and

never leave the house again.

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10.12.2022

AND TO TALK GOOD TOO...

(a true story)

I'm really not sure why, but I seem to attract strange moments.

Like iron to a magnet. Ever since I was a kid.

It's always been this way and I really don't why.

 

I used to think maybe it was because I was a little strange myself.

I mean, yes I may be a little off, but I don't really believe that to be the reason I

attract this stuff. Not really. 

As a matter of fact, I think I'm incredibly normal compared to the things that I

seem to bump up against every day.

 

Could be that I just notice things that most people wouldn't give a second thought

to?

I visualize myself much in the same way W.C. Fields portrayed himself in his

films; 

The only sane man in the room while turmoil and chaos whirl around him. 

Many times during the day I too want to look, full-faced into the camera, and shake

my head as if to say to all of you out there, 

 

"Do you see what I have to deal with here?"

 

Case in point - 

Yesterday morning I was trying to open a screen door while balancing a cereal

bowl and a tea cup in one hand. 

I grabbed the door handle and suddenly I was Jerry Lewis. 

Everything slipped from my fingers, and the screen door came back and slammed

me in the side of the head. Lay-deeeeee!!!

The tea cup bounced once and survived. The bowl ended up as plastic shrapnel

all over everything. 

So this morning I went to the Chinese market around the corner to get some new

bowls. This place has really cool, nice-looking, cheap bowls perfect for cereal and

soup.

I found a few bowls and went to the register.

 

Inside my Man-Bag I carry this traveling wallet with a large, zippered pouch for

coin storage. Because there's so much room in this thing it's always crammed full

of jingling doubloons.

I am usually carrying between seven and ten pounds of loose change at any given

moment. 

If I were to hit you in the head with my wallet, you would definitely die.

 

As I was handing over my money for the bowls, the clerk said,

 

"Much change, you want?" 

 

And she indicated the cash register with her eyes.

I guess I misunderstood her, because I thought she was asking me if I wanted to

trade my change for some paper money.

So I told her no, that's okay.

But she wasn't asking me, she was TELLING me she wanted my change.

 

"No, no, you give!" She said.

 

And reached out and took my wallet from my hands.

I couldn't help but laugh and just stand there dumb-founded while she opened

my wallet, unzipped the change pouch, and proceeded to dump all my change

out on the register table.

 

Then she began to count --

Four quarters, "One!"

Four quarters - "Two!"

Eight dimes and four nickels - "Tree!"

 

There were five or six Chinese people in line with me. They just waited patiently

while she counted it all out.

14 dollars worth. Pretty good.

Then without looking at me, she handed my wallet and the bills to me, and went

back to the other customers. 

And we were done.

I found it all incredibly amusing.

I was accepting of the situation because of the cultural differences, but could you

imagine being on line at Safeway and the clerk grabs your wallet and says,

 

"I need your change.”

 

And dumps everything out, tallies it up, then hands it back without so much as a

thank you?

That clerk would be handed their own ass on a tray.

But in the Chinese market it was okay with me. 

Truth be known, I even relished the gruff mistreatment a bit.

But why? Why didn't I get irate about it?

I'm not in China. I don't have to play by Chinese rules. 

I don't know why it didn't bother me, it's hard to explain. 

It was fun!

 

Here's another thing that happened this morning about a half-hour later... 

I was in Starbucks waiting on my soy latte.

That's always a dumb feeling to me. 

You're standing there with three or four other people who are waiting for their

drinks. Everyone's sort of pacing around in very close proximity to each other with

nothing at all to do for two to three minutes. 

And God forbid you should actually make conversation with each other...God

forbid. What are you crazy or something? Don't talk to me! I'm just trying to get a

coffee drink to start my day, you lunatic! I don't need to chit-chat.

Here's what I think - I think after they give you your change, they should hand you

a rag and say, 

 

"And since you're just going to be standing around like an idiot for a few minutes,

why don't make some use out of yourself and tidy up a bit..." 

 

I would do that in a heartbeat. 

Also, if you had a job to do for a few minutes, you wouldn't be burdened with the

feeling that you had to make eye-contact and smile at the other humans. 

 

"Hey, no time to talk, bub...can't you see I'm clearing cups here?"

 

So there I am, standing around idly pulling lint out of my pocket, when the barista

puts two drinks up on the counter and says in a very weird, nasally voice,

 

"NNNNhh NNhhhh reshnnnneee..." 

 

And then turned back to her work.

Now here's where it got interesting. 

Up until now, myself and the other four people waiting there had tried to avoid

looking at each other for any reason. But now, as one, we all looked up into each

others faces, brows knit in complete confusion.

Everyone's face spoke the same phrase: WTF did she say?

Then we all shrugged our shoulders.

 

One roomy gal who wasn't bashful stepped right up...

 

"Miss?"

 

The barista kept working.

 

"Excuse me...Miss!?" She was antsy, and clearly didn't like being ignored.

 

The barista looked up and smiled.

 

"Is this my quad shot?"

 

The barista opened her mouth but said nothing.

 

"Quad shot..? Quad shot?"

The barista said, "Ni nan we made it ip you wah..."

 

I scanned my brain searching for the language of origin. 

I came up snake eyes.

 

Then it suddenly hit me...oh man, this chick is deaf!

What she'd said was - I Can Remake It If You Want.

But, y'know like Marlee Matlin would say it.

 

Roomy gal was stymied now.

 

"No, that's okay..." and she left.

 

I'm thinking that was for the best because what in the Christ does any person need a quad shot for anyway? 

What the fuck, lady...are you on fire watch this afternoon? 

But then I got to thinking (and I shimmy out on thin ice here I know...) what good is

a barista who can't hear anything no matter how good they make the coffee?

They have to be able to hear, right? And to talk good too.

They don't just make the drinks, they take orders as well. 

When I'm in line the barista always leans across from their station and says,

 

"Can I get a drink started for you, sir?

 

I have to be able to hear and understand that phrase, don't I?

The barista has to be able to HEAR when every other person is asking about the

drinks that are waiting on the counter, don't they?

Excuse me, is this my carmel macchiatto?

Huh?

Pardon me Miss? Is this my decaf cappuccino?

Huh?

C'mon, that's not the right job for that person!

 

I mean, yes by all means hire the handicapped, or disabled, or lesser-abled, or

whatever term I'm supposed to use, but not for jobs that aren't the right fit!

 

I can hear the backlash now - 

Hey Jim, we may be differently-abled, but we can do anything you can...

Sorry, brother - no, you can't!

There are some things you just can't do!

Not because you don't have the inner strength, the determination, or the intestinal

fortitude...but because you can't!

You don't hire a blind guy to do the commentary on Monday Night Football.

You don't get a mute to be an auctioneer. 

The guy born without taste buds is simply not going to get into Cordon fuckin'

Bleu!

 

But that's okay - we're all made for different things. 

There are a million things that I can't do, even with all systems firing, because of

my physical and mental make-up.

 

I am never going to be a swimsuit model. Body ain't good enough.

I am never going to be in MENSA. Ain't smart enough.

I'm never going to swim the English Channel. Ain't strong enough.

Jeez, we're are NOT all the same, for Pete's sake!

Good grief.

 

And here's where I cock my head, lift one eyebrow, give a wry look into my

invisible television camera, and say to you viewers at home...

 

"But say, come to think of it... 

That deaf barista gal sure made one helluva good cup of coffee!"

 

(LAUGH TRACK. APPLAUSE)