Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Bodega Guys and Hook Hands

I've not been able to go into my bodega since last Monday. At the very least, the night shift (of the 24 hour place) is off-limits for me. My bodega guy asked me out. My bodega guy. Asked me out.

Now I understand those of you not familiar with bodega culture may not fully grasp how terribly horrible it is for your bodega to be off limits. This one is the shit, too. More like a gourmet mini grocery-convenience store. And it's a good idea to make friends with your bodega people, as I did, as well. You can have packages left off there, if your building doesn't have a lobby and you don't want your packages left outside. If they're close enough to your apartment, they'll help you carry heavy stuff home. And sometimes, if they know you real well, and if you lost your bank card and it's too late to go to the bank, and all you have is a check and you really, really, need a pack of cigarettes because you just got back from a trip to New Orleans and you can't help but wondering really, REALLY, why you live in the most expensive city in the world, well, then, sometimes, they'll let you write them a check. They're not stupid, though. You have to put your phone number on the top of the check.

See where this is going?

So anyway, last Monday, I had a drink with a friend that I haven't seen in a long while. I got home fairly early, got off the subway, and went into the bodega, as I often do, to purchase a snack. Well, flirty bodega man was in there, and asked me what I was up to for the evening. Flirty is younger than most of the other bodega dudes, and chattier, too. I just smiled at him, and told him I was on my way home. He then said, "Maybe we could hang out sometime before the holidays." Since I have never ever learned how to decline gracefully (WHYWHYWHY did I never learn that??), I just made some sound like "kayhrmsph," let it trail off, and walked out.

Well, I get home, and not but two seconds later, my cell phone rings with an unfamiliar number. I don't answer the unfamiliars. Ever. But I did listen to the message. It was Flirty. He had gotten my number from the check I had written, and wanted to see what I was doing because he was on a "quick break." Actually, let's be honest. I didn't even get asked out by bodega dude, I think I got booty-called by him. Claaaaaaaasy.

Reminds me of something else (a little bit):
My mom still lives (for now) in the town in which my sister and I grew up. The town definitely has elements of small-town livin', even though it is a fairly upscale Long Island town. Everyone sort of knows everyone, which is (I suppose) nice, but also, everyone knows everyone's business. That has nothing to do, per se, with my story, but I'm painting a picture here, folks.

Anyway, there used to be (or maybe there still is) a cab driver in this town who had a hook hand. A pretty high-tech hook hand, too. It was all metal, none of that fake skin plastic bullshit. He wasn't joking around with that hook, yo. We'll call him Vinny the Hook. So V the H wound up with my mom in his cab at one point. Suffice it to say, he became smitten. Whenever a call would come in from my mom, V the H would be the first one to pick up the dispatch, and be there to pick her right on up. I'm pretty sure he asked her out once or twice. My mom, unlike me, surely did learn how to decline gracefully, I imagine, because she never did wind up going out with the Hook, nor did she have to avoid the cab company altogether.


One day he was driving her home from somewhere (I'm sure she didn't even have to tell him where she lived anymore...which now that I think about it is REALLY creepy), and pulled in front of the house. She paid him, and was about to get out. But Hooky turned around with a bunch of CDs in his hand, and said "here. Take these. They make me think of you."

I'm sure that at this point, my mom made a noise akin to the "kayhrmsph" noise I made in the bodega last Monday, but she took the CDs. My favorite part of the whole thing is that apparently, the music that made V the H think of my mom consisted of the scores of several movies that she described as "satanic." Literally so. Not a judgement call, but literally movies condoning satanic worship.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Zillion Years Ago...Tenneessee in NOLA.

It was mother’s day. I remember, because it was the first (and only) day that the restaurant at which I worked was open for brunch. It had been set up far in advance, lots of food was ordered, we made drunken plans for everything to run smoothly. Skip, bon vivant, boss extroirdinnaire, sat me down along with RA (my best friend, surrogate mom, and co manager. She's only one year older than me, but at the time she was the most "together" person I knew) and Stevie Z. For some reason, he loved to blow smoke up our collective asses. I remember thinking that I knew and loved him so well. We watched him get drunk. We watched him snort smoke eat pills and every other damn thing. He watched us do much of the same, but did that mean he really knew us? I adored the man, but I was too stupid to realize that I didn’t know Skip, I knew the show that he put on; the act that he wanted us to see.

And I liked him the way I knew him: flawed, a fuck-up, but a self-aware fuck-up that I oddly looked up to. I couldn’t strive to be someone that made a lot of money, woke up in the morning, kissed their kids and went to work. That wasn’t going to happen for me. But I could aim as high as Skip: a fuck-up that somehow made it work. A happy go lucky jovial fuckup, who paid his bills and whose parents loved him. Now I know there ain’t no such thing, really.

The three of us were regularly smart people, I swear. But when it came to Skip, we became bobble headed idiots, “sure Skip, right Skip, totally Skip, we’re in this with you.” He’d tell us it was because we were the only three people he could trust--business wise, and with everything else. I still want to think, even now, that that wasn’t all it, though. That a teensy bit of him didn’t just pick out the three of us because we were suckers, but because he really did want to give back to us if he ever could. That he would have made us four equal partners in something he really thought would be great. That he didn’t just need someone to pick up his ever-increasing slack.

Of course, on that early early Mother's Day morning, what wound up happening was that Steve, RA and I were the only ones that showed up. I’m not even sure we had any customers…maybe it was packed. Maybe it was a giant disappointment of an afternoon, money-wise. I do remember that it was a no-nonsense time for RA, though. That it was one of those days she was genuinely pissed to be there, she did her work, and she left. I bitched, but I secretly loved every minute of it.

We banged out brunch; we cleaned up. RA left. Steve and I hung around afterwards and probably had a drink or two to celebrate finishing up. I sort of loved Steve at the time, so I’m sure I was in no rush to get out. He probably had no where else to be, anyway.

Before we opened, and all through brunch, we tried calling and calling Skip. He didn't show up, and we had no money in the register. Steve actually sent me to the nearby casino with 20 bucks to make a little cash to put in the register before opening. I'd be lying if I said that was the only time this happened. Skip never picked up his phone.

When he finally did call back, I'm sure he knew we were done for the day. It was no coincidence. His back had been bugging him for weeks and weeks. The man needed surgery. I know he couldn’t afford it; probably had no medical plan, and his parents, though dripping with money, had no interest in helping him out, (if they even knew at all).

But right in the middle of our drinking, the phone rang. It was Skip. He did, in his defense, sound miserable.

“I’m sorry, hook," he said to me when I answered. "Can’t even get out of bed today, my back’s terrible. Lemme get Steve-o real quick.” I was so mad at him, but it still hurt a little that he wanted to talk to Steve, not me.

Steve rolled his eyes and took the phone. Unlike me, his annoyance was genuine.

As I smoked my cigarette, I half paid attention to Steve, scrambling for paper and a pen, exasperatedly sighing, jotting down some information and slamming down the phone.

“He needs Vicoden. Tennessee’s got some.”

“So what does that have to do with you?” I wanted to know.

“Apparently, I have to go to Tennessee’s hotel room, the one he lives out of, in god knows where, get them, and bring them to Skip.”

“For what?” I meant reciprocation.

“For nothing. Out of the goodness of my goddamn heart. For the 25% of this shithole that he’s always promising us. For a part of this business that he’s driving into the ground, anyway.”

He was so annoyed, but all I wanted was to be asked to go, too. An adventure. He wouldn’t ask, though, I knew.

“Want me to go with you?” I caved.

“Well I was going to just ask to borrow your car. But yeah. Come take a ride.”

So without questioning why he was going to ask to borrow my car for this excursion (he had his own vehicle which was, if not "perfectly good," then at least sufficient), I happily trailed behind him, practically skipping out of the building.

Tennessee was a recent hire at the restaurant. I was never sure exactly what his deal was. I think he was brought on as a dishwasher, but he wound up being a general maintenance dude, possibly due to his drug connections. No one was ever given any other way to address him except for “Tennessee,” and no one really questioned it. At this time, it was news to me that Skip even knew where Tennessee lived, nevermind talked to him outside of the restaurant. Like I mentioned, I was a little slow on the uptake back then.

Tennessee lived in a run-down, scary motel in a part of the city I had never been to. Actually, it was outside of the city, in Chalmette, and why or how Skippy even found him is beyond me. We were really in the middle of nowhere.

Steve, long haired, dirty Steve, liked to sit in my car and smoke with the windows rolled up. I never asked him not to, though in a show of great passive aggression, I always made sure to roll down the windows whenever I had one. Not just my window, but all of them. We barely spoke on the ride out to the motel. I knew he was aggravated, so I didn't push it.

There was a pair of blue jeans hanging from the balcony outside Tenneessee's room, like a flag directing us where to go. It was a good thing, too, as this was not the type of establishment with a uniformed front desk attendant, and even if it was, what was I going to do? Ask if he knew where Tennessee was?

His room smelled musty, but I have to say that I was expecting to be hit with a stench much worse upon walking in. He was just lying there like he expected to see us. Of course he expected to see us.

“Y’alll ready?”

I was confused, but I figured I just wasn’t down with the lingo. I was beginning to realize that this shit probably went down all the time. Without me. “Yeah, we’re ready, man, we’re ready,” Steve told him.

Tennessee nodded. “Well, y’all sit here for a minute, let me go take care of this.”

So he left. He left Steve and me in this room in the middle of Chalmette. Steve didn’t seem to think it was strange, though, so I’ll be damned if I was going to act like I did. He picked up the remote control to the tv, and started flipping channels. I think we settled on a nature program with wildebeasts or some such nonsense. I watched for a while, but I’d been up since seven in the morning, and probably had been out until four the night before. I dozed off pretty quickly.

Steve, apparently dozed off himself. I know this because we were both simultaneously woken by someone bursting into the room. Had we locked the door? Had Tennessee?

We woke up slow, but there was suddenly a ball of energy in the room. A scraggly white chick, probably coming in at 90 something pounds, had flew in, notably un-shocked to see us. She was talking so fast. Was she talking fast, or had I just not fully woken up yet? Did Steve know her? She was telling a story. Did I miss the beginning, or did this chick just not know/care that she started in the middle?

“And I was banging on the door all last night. I don’t know if he didn’t hear me or what, do you know where he was? I think he was here, and just didn’t answer the door. Did y’all hang out with him? I bet y’all hung out with him. I’m not blaming you, I’m sure he didn’t tell you he was supposed to be with me. Were you here then? Oh, shit, y’all heard me banging on the door, didn’t you? I feel like an ass. See? He makes me always feel like an ass.” She spat questions and statements at us through the gaps in the front of her mouth; she was missing a considerable amout of teeth. Steve looked at me and smiled a little, raising his eyebrows, and I felt comforted. At least he didn't think this shit was normal.

“Well I’m gonna go after I fix myself for a sec, just hold on,” she went on. I’d never seen anyone shoot up in front of me before. I swore I wouldn’t make a sound. I was wide-awake now. She looked like a crack whore, but she shot up like a pro. I guess one wasn’t exclusive to the other. Or maybe I was too young and knew nothing, which was becoming abundantly clear as the day went on.

She did nod out for a second. I didn’t think it was weird at the time, because I was so tired myself. But just for a second. In another minute, she was up and zipped out of the room as fast as she came in.

Steve looked at me, with that clowny smile that he had, and his laugh, his perfect ‘ha’s that he made when he laughed. Genuine, though..

“What the fuck are we doin’, baby.” Not a question. Just a statement. This is why I loved him. For moments like this. He didn’t find this shit any more normal than I did, and I loved him for it. I looked at him and smiled.

At the time, I never thought "wow. How did this happen with my life, that I'm sitting in a motel waiting for a dude with no name, to give my boss Vicoden. " I didn't question working at a job that required me to go to the casino just to be able to open up. Steve was older, though, and I'm sure that shit ran through his head like a motherfucker. Maybe.

More later.

The sad thing is, I sorta miss that time in my life. Even though I was a moron.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One More

Sigh. Now I'm in a bad mood. This helps.

UGH to the UES; Miscellany...

For some reason, I've found myself having to go to the Upper East Side with increasing frequency over the last week or so. It's made me realize something I truly don't like about myself: I sort of despise people that obviously have more money than me. (I'm talking about folks that drip money, here, not your average joe schmoe who happens to make more of a salary than I do. It's not hard to accomplish.) I don't mean to...but up there people sort of exude money. You can tell, especially, by the haircuts. Not the shoes or the bags or the teeny weeny dressed up dogs (I know, I'm making myself ill with this cliched bitterness), but the chicks in their mid 40' can see it in the layers and the highlights. I'm sure none of this would bother me (or, let's be honest, it would bother me less), if I wasn't currently residing in a state of broke-as-a-joke-edness. Generally (here comes another less than mind-blowing revelation), I avoid the area like the plague. Though it is fair to mention that we found a really good park for street hockey, of which I am so fond, up there last Sunday.

Otherstuff: I was in Ozzie's today, trying to get some writing done. I've been sort of blocked, these days, so I started writing about the first thing that popped into my head, just to get the pen moving. What happened to pop into my head was a Morphine song, particularly, the disgust I feel every time I hear it. (The song is "All Wrong.") I have nothing against Morphine...I actually quite like the song, more than quite like it, in fact, as I do the entire Cure For Pain album. It's just that I associate the song with a specific person and a specific thing that bothers me--really, really fucking bothers me--about this person (a person who otherwise ... well I'm just delighted by this person). Since, for me, the whole thing is a particularly charged topic, I was writing like gangbusters. The song, and thinking about it, jerked something loose, and it was on.

Anyway. I sort of lost track of time. When I finally looked at my cell, it had been an hour or so after I started, and please believe it felt like, at the most, fifteen minutes. Not but two seconds after I got up to leave, I shit you not, folks, the motherfucking song came on in the coffee shop.

When I figure out what this is an omen for, I'll let you know. Something, though. Something.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We Swear, We Had No Idea...

I had no idea that there is a Chuck Klosterman "book" subtitled "85% of a true story." Or maybe I knew it in the back of my head, but I promise that's not where my blog title came from.

Reminds me of this:

New Yorkers (or maybe it was national, I don't know): do you remember, sometime in the early 80s, there was this Public Service Announcement about keeping prescription meds away from kids? Well, the pill puppets that starred in this PSA, in all their creepy, pastel-blue, falsettoed glory, had a little song. It went like this (at least, part of it did):

This is serious (serious)
We could make you delirious (delirious)
You should have a healthy fear of us
'Cause too much of us is dangerous.

Sound familiar? It's Dangerous by Busta Rhymes. I saw an interview with Busta (I call him Busta) a bunch of years back, when he was called out on it. And totally jovially and unapolagetically, my man just laughs and said that he must have heard it, but forgot, and then a zillion years later was writing Dangerous, and thought he came up with it himself. I don't totally buy it, but part of me sort of does, you know?

Kind of like the Klosterman thing.

I really, really enjoy italics, colons and semicolons.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A JHS Flashback; Ronnie James Dio

In an effort, I suppose, to photographically capture the full embarrassment that (was) is (my) adolescence, my junior HS had a practice of taking class pictures on the first day of school. In 1990, this was also my first day in the school altogether, having just moved from gum-snappin' Queens to a fancypants preppy area of Long Island.

Apparently, I wasn't one to play it safe with a white shirt (or, as was the style at the time, a teal, oversized Champion sweatshirt with white turtleneck underneath, folded over). I was going to win friends and influence people with my mustard-colored blazer. What 13 year old wears mustard? Me, yo. And it was extra-hot, because when you cuffed up the sleeves of this gem (of course I cuffed the sleeves!), it revealed a satin, hunter-green paisley lining. God, I was sexy.

Combined with my sky-high half ponytail and the truly inexplicable one-piece-of-hair-in-the-center-of-my-forehead (trying to emulate bangs, I suppose?), I was going to make lifelong pals.

Sigh. It took a minute to recover from that one. The funny thing is, I did make a lifelong pal or two, and right now, I'd like to say hi and thanks.

Hi and thanks, dudes.

I'm still figuring this thing out. More later.

Oh. And Ronnie James Dio invented the ceiling fan. Not enough people know that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Too Lazy for the Stamps.


I'm the last on this bandwagon, eh?

Maybe that's why it took me 7483295078490 tries to come up with an untaken url name.

So I'll do away with the "welcome me to blogland" post, and just dive in with a teeny weeny anecdote.

While back in New Orleans last week (there will be a lot on here about New Orleans), I met a dude
who, though he was eligible for food stamps for a while (he found a spot of hard luck, as one does), he didn't get them because he went to the office and "they had those hard chairs, and there was no music playing..."

So he left.

I love NOLA.

Naked in Public, baby.