Copyright 2016 James Wallace
Published by James Wallace at Shakespir
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Table Of Contents
I Moved Here For The Chowder
When I moved to Minneapolis I didn’t think I would miss the food of Minot, North Dakota. Truth be told it wasn’t really Minot food I was going to miss; It was Seattle food. The Seattle fish and chips chain Skipper’s was collapsing. I didn’t know that then. The Skipper’s In Minot, ND was owned by the franchisee and didn’t close like the corporation’s stores.
One year before I moved to Minneapolis all of the Skipper’s there were shuttered. Also for about the first ten months I lived in the twin cities I was really poor. Finally when work started paying me better I got a craving for fish and chips and chowder and I could afford to indulge that craving.
The search was on. It would take years and it would be in vane.
My first stop was a two store chain the sold British style Fish and chips. It really wasn’t. On a choir trip in college I had fish and chips in London. The chips weren’t really fries like we know them. They were small cut wedges. They were served wrapped in a newspaper football with the fish on top of the fries. The whole thing was covered in salt and doused with malt vinegar. Every order came this ways unless you ask not to have vinegar or salt. What I got at that small chain in Minneapolis was American style fish and chips. I guess since they had bottles of an imported malt vinegar from England they thought they were selling “British style”.
It was at this fish and chips joint that I first heard The Minnesota Question. I asked if they had clam chowder. And the owner answered, “Why would you want that?”.
“Why would you want that?” During the rest of my time living in the twin cities I would learn to hate that question. It’s always asked innocently enough. But, it seemed to imply a kind of moral/intellectual superiority on the behalf of the questioner.
And there is no answering that question. I know. I’ve tried. Many, many times. It always ends with the asker getting a wry smile of slight glee at being superior. Being a mid-westerner the asker doesn’t show more than slight bit of glee. To do more would be confrontational. Confrontation is not Minnesota Nice.
Before I go any further I wish to make sure I am not indicting the entire state of Minnesota. I lived in southern Minnesota for a year and had no problems at all. So in truth the “Minnesota Question” and the concept of “Minnesota Nice” have nothing to do with most of Minnesota. They really only have to do with the twin cities.
People who have only lived in the twin cities can never know how much the rest of the state hates the twin cities. I haven’t been around much in Minnesota, but I have been to the north and south of it and start a conversation with a local and real soon you’re going to hear about how those people in the twin cities are “…so full of themselves. They really think they are the end all be all. The sun just rises and falls on them twin cities. God. I hate them. They’re so proud. I don’t eve listen to the weather on the TV from them. They only give weather for them and no where else in the state.”
I’ve had this conversation both in the south and the north. They are right about the TV weather reports and most of the other stuff. Minnesota weather, as with most midwest weather, moves from west to east. But Minnesota has three climate zones from north to south. Four zones if you include Duluth and International Falls.
I Lived with my parents in Truman. MN for a year. Truman is just north of Fairmont, MN. That probably doesn’t clear anything up in an orientation sort of way. Fairmont is on I-90.
Fairmont has a Taco John’s. The nearest Taco John’s to Seattle (as far as I know) is in Spokane. I ain’t driving all the way to Spokane just to get a taco burger and/or a taco bravo. Just to let you know. But, I digress.
What was frustrating about living in southern Minnesota was that our TV stations all came out of the twin cities. On average you had to add 10 degrees in southern Minnesota to the temperature they broadcasted. Since they only broadcasted for the cities. Up north you had to cut 10 degrees, summer and winter, from what they said. And Duluth and International Falls were 10 degrees less. But I think they got their own TV stations in Duluth.
Anyway mostly the weather report on TV would give just what was going to go on in the twin cities. On the map you could see the 30 degrees temperature difference across the state, but the weather guy/gal never mentioned it.
I don’t think the average broadcaster in Minnesota even knows they grow wheat and soybeans in the north and corn in the south of the state. Cattle in the north. Cattle, pigs, chicken and turkeys in the south.
“Why would you want that?” I’m thinking up north or down south they would ask that only if they really wanted to know. They would ask it only to learn.
Let me flesh this out some. Let’s look at the British fish and chips joint. I asked, “do you have clam chowder?” (a simple “No.” would have sufficed, by the way.)
“Why would you want that?”
“…Because they go together.”
“They do?”, Look of slight smirking glee on his face. The “do” in “They do?” is not said as anyone you know would ever say it. It is said accusatorially. And it is said with the “o” in “do” repeated so many times it’s creepy. Even creepier is how the “oo’s” ascend. It’s like a long painful whistle.
When I lived in Minnesota there were no 7-11s. Not a one. A local state wide chain had bought up all the franchises and put their own stores in their place. So I go to this chain and look and don’t find what I want and asked (stupidly) “Hey, do you have nachos and cheese?”
“Why would you want that?”
“Because I want it…and because Convenience Store Management magazine says nachos are the top selling food items at C-stores” (I kid you not. This was my argument. I miss reading Convenience Store Management magazine each and every month.)
“Oh! They dooooo? Well, that’s unhealthy. We sell a lot of turkey pronto pups. You could have one of them.”
“Pronto pups what’s that?”
“You’re not from around here? Right?”
No explanation. No nothing. And no nachos. I would learn to hate words “pronto pups”.
When I was in college at Minot State College in Minot, North Dakota the drama department took a field trip to Minneapolis to see some plays. It was a fun trip. We saw Hal Holbrock in a one man show of Mark Twain, at the Orphium, Annie Get Your Gun at the Chanhassen dinner theatre and Desire Under The Elms at the Guthrie.
A good time was had by all. As they like to say in small town weekly midwest newspapers.
I saw more theatre in that trip than I have when I actually lived in cities that had professional theatres. Maybe having been in a drama troupe and never wanting to act in a play again might have something to do with that.
But let me get this tug boat back to shore – On this trip I learned that you really can’t talk to some one from Minneapolis. They speak another language. It’s inborn for the people born there.
So like most 18 – 20 year olds let lose on a big city we wanted to score some beer. At the time Minnesota allowed people younger than 21 to buy, what was called, 3-2 beer. The reason for the 3-2 name was that it took three beers to get you as plowed as two normal beers would.
3-2 beer always gave me a headache and foul smelling stools the next day. A lot of bars in Minnesota still have “Strong Beer” painted on their side walls next to their “Meat Raffle” signs. Both of these signs mean that you are an outsider to the twin cities if you do not understand what is written.
“Strong Beer” means they serve the beer that ain’t watered down like 3-2 beer.
“Meat Raffle” is just like it sounds.
Do you really want me to explain? I’ll only make you feel stupid. I mean don’t you understand English? IT’S A MEAT RAFFLE! What more do you want!
Back to the drama trip. We had heard that 18 to 20 year olds could get 3-2 beer. So we wanted some of that. Sometime in the early evening we asked a locale guy in downtown Minneapolis where we could find a liquor store.
“Do you know where a liquor store is?”
“Liquor store? What’s that?”
“Umm,…A store where you can buy liquor?”
“Ohhhhh! You mean a package store!”
“O.K. – Yeah…package store.”
That “liquor store” needed a definition using the same words in reverse order should have given me a clue, a decade before I moved the cities, that I shouldn’t have wanted to move there.
I’ve never claimed to be too bright. I make mistakes I shouldn’t.
“Package store”, “pronto pups”, “rubber binders” and “mini donuts”. Besides the afore mentioned “package store” you don’t understand any of the other things I’m talking about. All four phrases are grouped under the phrase “speaking Minnesotan”.
Some Natives might argue that “mini donuts” is not a “speaking Minnesotan” phrase. Cause they are just mini donuts. But, the two state fair foods you wanted to get at the Minnesota state fair (at least when I lived there) were pronto pups and mini donuts.
At the Washington State Fair the food thing you want is a scone. To me scones are boring.
Mini donuts are considered superior to regular donuts because they are small. Their smallness means that more percentage of their surface has been kissed by oil than regular sized donuts. That you can buy mini donuts pre-packaged in any C-store in Minnesota any day of the year is not something any twin city person has never thought of.
I am convinced the mini donut state fair craze is not shared by the majority of people from Minnesota. It’s a twin cities thing. Once again the twins cities thinking they are the end all be all.
Nobody else in Minnesota gives a rip about mini donuts. Regular donuts do just fine and if you want something small go to a C-store. I think the deal is that people in the twin cities are so health conscience that never eat donuts all year and the state fair comes along and one or two mini donuts can’t be too bad for you, right.
Explaining people from the twin cities requires a lot of run on sentences.
But now you got questions and I got answers. Some of them won’t make much sense. My friend Jamie and me went to a bar in my neighborhood. We heard it was the place to get buffalo wings.
A friend at works said “The wings there are unbelievable.”
“SO are they hot?”
“Oh, they’re hot.”
“Why are you looking that way?”
“Like you’re not telling me something about those wings. Like you get food poisoning from eating them. They’re OK, right?’
“Let’s just say they’re special. But, they’re OK. I eat them like once a month or so. They’re really that good. They’re just a little strange. That’s all.”
“You’ll find out.”
I told Jamie about this conversation on the walk over to the bar. After I assured Jamie that my friend at work told me they were safe, we were both intrigued by the mystery.
As soon as we walked in the bar things got even more mysterious. At the near end of the bar a couple were drinking. They said hi. Jamie said hi back to them and then he said. “That’s a nice looking turkey, you got there.”
“Thanks. We know.”
“Good.”, Jamie as a knack of talking himself out of awkward situations. I didn’t say a thing. I was a little weirded out. The couple at the bar were sitting there with a frozen turkey sitting in front of them. A small puddle of water had formed around the turkey where it was thawing on the bar top.
“Who buys a frozen turkey and then goes to a bar to drink on the way home?”, I asked Jamie as we belly-upped to the bar.
“I don’t know.”, Jamie replied, “Why don’t you ask that guy with the frozen ham over there.” He pointed to the far end of the bar. I wasn’t going to and by then the bar tender took our order. We ordered the wings and two beers. The bartender gave us three tickets. Just like you get at carnival rides or theatres in small towns. Jamie asked, “What are these for?”
“You ordered three items so you get three tickets.”
“Yes, but what are they for?”
“Meat raffle. Next drawing is in 15 minutes. It’s a roast.”
The bar tender left. “I thought that was just a rumor. I didn’t think meat raffles were for real. I’ve heard about this. We walked right into the middle of a meat raffle.”
“They raffle meat?”, I was beginning if this was the ‘unbelievable’ thing about those wings there.
“Yes. That’s what a meat raffle is. They raffle meat.”
So just like you have to define the phrase ‘liquor store’ by rearranging the words to a twin city’s native, you have to rearrange the words to define ‘meat raffle’ to a non-native to the twin cities. Once again it takes a run on sentence to explain people from the twin cities.
Then the wings came out.
Now an average order of buffalo wings is 10 to 12 pieces. You’ll get 5 – 6 wing drummies and 5 – 6 of those double boned mid-section of the wing pieces. The wings at this bar were full wings. The drummy, the two bone mid section and the tip section. And there were twelve of them. That’s 24 sections of eatable meat sections (the tips don’t have much meat).
And they cost the same as the other bars. So twice the meat for the same price.
There was other thing I have to mention. They were the biggest chicken wings I have ever seen. They were twice as big as the ones everywhere else. You just had to taste them to make sure they didn’t come from small turkeys. We couldn’t finish them. I ended up taking half of them home. I don’t think the bar really researched what a appetizer portion of wings was. I have never heard of anyone taking home leftovers from an appetizer.
Later we got hit on by a 70+ year old woman in a lemon or lime colored one piece tarry cloth short suit. She was bra-less. The things were hanging down to her belly button. Until the bartender scolded her and sent her and her frozen two pounds of hamburger home. She was screaming that both of us must be gay because we didn’t want to sleep with her.
Maybe she misunderstood the concept of ‘meat raffle’.
I hope that helped you understand what a meat raffle is. Living it didn’t help me much. The interior of that bar was in the movie Grumpy Old Men. The exterior shot of the bar was another bar two blocks south. If you watch closely Walter Mathow pulls the door open to the bar when entering and pushes the door closed when he’s inside.
The doors of the two places swung opposite ways.
Now that we got the meat raffle done with, you people are wondering just what in all heck is a pronto pup. Well you’re going to have to wait; rubber binders come first.
Rubber binders are things made of rubber that hold or bind things together. Simple as that. Wait… rearranging the words just doesn’t define this one.
So I’m at work. And the guy I’m working with says, “Hand me a rubber binder, will you?”
“A what?”, I knew what it was. I just didn’t want to admit it. Things weren’t going to good. I had went to a place called Barnacle Bill’s. Their sign said they had steaks and seafood. They had fish and chips, shrimp and chips and a cod sandwich. And no chowder. Also the air conditioning was turned up so high or low or down. It was like 60 degrees in there.
I snuck out when the guy disappeared to get water.
I was down to one Minnesota owned national seafood chain. 1600 miles from the nearest ocean to their owners home base in Minneapolis.
But back to what I was saying to my co-worker. “A what? I’ve been across the width and breadth of this great country of ours and have never encountered a rubber binder.”
“There’s a bag of them in the drawer just next to you. Reach in there and toss that over.”
I opened the drawer and slid it closed., “Nope, there’s no bag of rubber binders there.”
“No! I saw them they were right there!”
“Those aren’t rubber binders.”
“Yes they are.”
“No they are not. Don’t you people from the twin cities know how to read? That bag in that drawer has a name on it. Those things are called rubber bands. Ever heard of them.”
“Rubber bands? What’s that?”
The other Minnesota question. ‘What’s that?’
“I’ll give you fifty dollars if you can show me a package of rubber binders. There is no such thing! You people made it up! Why do you people have to mess with the language! Just read what’s on the package and live with it!”
We both went silent. Such open displays of emotion aren’t really encouraged in mid-western life.
The next morning he came, later than usual and plopped down. “God damn you.”, He said tiredly.
“What? I just got here.”
“God damn you. I went to seven office supply stores after work. It would have been eight, but they were closing just as I drove up. I searched through bin after bin of rubber ‘bands’ looking for rubber ‘binders’ and didn’t find any. I had the workers look for the binders on their computers. There were none. Those guys were surprised. They said, ‘We sale hundreds of packages of rubber binders everyday. What’s this rubber band shit? There’s got to be a package of rubber binders here somewhere.’ I left a trail of very confused office supply workers behind me. Even 3M doesn’t make them and I pass their factory everyday on my way to work. God damn you.”
“Yeah. Well, what did you expect.” I didn’t tell him I had gone to my bank after work the night before and had a crisp new fifty dollar bill in my wallet. Just in case.
I kept the fifty dollar bill for my run in against pronto pups. I hate pronto pups more than I hate rubber binders, 3-2 beer, meat raffles, “what’s that?”, “why would you want that?” mini donuts or package stores.
I knew pronto pups would come a calling sooner or later. And I was lying in wait. There are no rubber binders and that means there must be no pronto pups. It was pure logic. Logic against an illogical place.
Pronto pups have no place in a logical world. The name alone demands this. It is illogical and undefinable.
Pronto pups are evil!
Even turkey pronto pups. The allusion of turkey being healthy makes turkey pronto pups even more wicked. Turkeys are a dirty bird. Remember that always. Always. Turkeys are a dirty bird.
I only went to the Minnesota State Fair once in all the seven years I lived in Minneapolis.
It wasn’t like the North Dakota State Fair. Everything stopped making sense when I left North Dakota. You can put that on my gravestone.
I entered the Minnesota State Fair ground from the eastern main gate. I had illogically (at least to me) parked in some one’s front yard. I think it was like $15.00 for the day. I’d never seen anything like it. Yard upon yard and like fifty cars or more parked on each. All these people surrounding the state fair pretty much used two weeks of their yearly vacation time to park cars on their yards.
I asked a lot of questions of the owner of the yard I parked on until he said, “Say, you sure ask a lot of questions.” In mid-west talk this means both parties should walk away in mutual embarrassment. Only thing was I thought I was one or two questions away from going over the line.
I guess my North Dakota ruler of how things work was a bit longer than what Minnesotans expect. Once again I think it’s more of a twin cities thing. I never remember over reaching with anybody in Minnesota until I moved to the twin cities.
Like I said I entered the Minnesota State Fair through the main gate. 100 yards in was the first vender selling pronto pups. There was something weird about his stand. I walked all the way around it. I could feel his eyes watching me with suspicion. Then I registered it. There were hooks holding the pronto pup signs to the four walls of the booth.
I lifted up one of the signs and peeked at what was painted underneath. The guy in the booth was now chuckling, “You’re not from around here, right?”
“Only lived here for about four years.”
“We put those pronto pup signs on as soon as we hit the Minnesota border. We have to or we don’t sell a thing. A few years ago we did an experiment and left one of the booths without the pronto pup signs. The guy running the booth didn’t sell a thing. We had a pool so we paid him what he would have made that day. Weirdest thing ever.’
“I’m really glad I met you. I thought I was going insane here.”, and I shook his hand. I can’t remember if I bought a pronto pup or not. I should have. Maybe I did. Either way it would have ended up in the nearest trash can (out of sight of the vender, of course.).
The last straw for chowder was the Minneapolis owned nation wide seafood chain. I don’t know if the company that owns the chain started the chain or just bought the chain. I do know they blocked Arthur Treacher’s and Long John Silver’s from getting into the state.
Remember this was 20 years ago. So they may have changed their chowder. But, back then it was just a good bowl of cream of potato soup.
Since this is a sorta of foodie story I think I’ll bust out a recipe:
Twin City’s Clam Chowder
1 can condensed cream of potato soup
1 can of minced clams
1 bottle of clan juice or nectar
Open all three cans. Pour all of their contents into a sauce pan. Heat and serve.
Wow! Cookbook writing is easy. The secret here is not to drain the can of clams. You want all of their rich juices.
At the time there was a limited number of seafood restaurants in twin cities. This was the mid nineties. It may have changed by now. I knew a few stores I could buy a whole live lobster. But, live crab, live muscles, live clams, and live oysters were limited to a very small store in St. Paul called Coastal Seafood. The store must have been only 200 square feet if that. I’m not sure how much they had for storage. Probably another 200 square feet.
In Seattle the average size of an average seafood department in an average super market is about the same size of Coastal Seafood’s entire store. This store was serving the whole of the twin cities. It must be stated that Minneapolis also only had three sushi restaurants at the time. (one of those was a spite restaurant because of a divorce from an owner of one of the two original two sushi places there).
The joy of going there was the other customers. I only went there two or three times. Whenever something is hard to find it becomes almost illicit. Like finding and going to a drug dealer. The customers weren’t just happy, they were giddy. “I can’t believe this place is here!, was often exclaimed.
I bought a copy of the first Saveur magazine because clam chowder was on the cover. I subscribed to the magazine shortly there after. They didn’t just write an article about clam chowder, they gave seven or eight recipes of competing clam chowders.
That magazine used to really beat a horse to death. They don’t that now. New editor. Shorter articles. I needs me a flesh-out from a read. They stopped that. The new editor seems to cut all stories in half. The magazine became disjointed. It was like twice as many half articles published.
The new editor and I have parted ways for artistic reasons. Like he really cares. I never complained. People from the mid-west don’t. All I’ve got to say is the magazine is half as long as it should be and twice as long as it could be.
I stopped my subscription.
But you don’t and shouldn’t care about what I think about a magazine. What I really wanted to say here is I made the best clam chowder I had ever had in the twin cities from Saveur magazine.
To me this was sad. A novice cook. First time I use the recipe and it came out great.
I over wintered one last time in Minneapolis. Is was a severely cold one, as I remember. The next summer had almost 4 weeks of above ninety degree days instead of the usual two weeks. I hated both and wanted neither of either.
Somewhere in that last year I drove my neighbor lady to shop together at the grocery store. She had a shopping cart list for herself, her son and her boy friend. I had my usual tote basket bachelor list. After we passed the freezer section, she consulted her list and said, “Darn I forgot the pronto pups! Could you run back to that freezer and get a package for me?”
The state fair was over and I had hoped to never hear the words ‘pronto pup’ for the rest of my life. “There is no such thing as a pronto pup.”, I replied.
“Yes there is. There’s four or five different brands in that freezer over there.”
“No there isn’t. Those are packages of corn dogs. They’re called CORN DOGS!”
“Corn dogs? What’s that?”
“It’s what is printed on the package and if you can find a package of pronto pups I’ll give you fifty dollars.” And I just walked away. Oh, yes, a little doubt crossed my mind. I walked about seven steps and looked over my shoulder to see my neighbor staring at the freezer and mouthing the words “Corn dogs?!?” in disbelief.
There’s a saying in the twin cities that goes like this: “Well, if you don’t like the Twin Cities so much, you can just move, mister!” I guess it’s not really a saying. More like an answer to me when I complained too much. I had heard it more than a few times during my almost six and a half years in the twin cities.
So, I did move. I moved to Seattle. When people would ask me why I moved here, sometimes I would say, “I lived here for a few months in 1982, feel in love with the place and always wanted to move back.” Other times I would answer, “I moved here for the chowder.”
And then I would have to explain. Trash the twin cities and all and winters and summers in the mid-west. Sometimes a shorter answer takes longer than a longer answer.
I drove into Seattle on Labor Day weekend 1997. And I headed to the first place I wanted to go to. I didn’t even need a map. The way there was etched into my brain. I turned off of I-5 on 45th street north and made my way down to Iver’s Salmon House on Lake Union.
I parked, walked up to the fish bar and ordered a three piece ling cod and chips and a cup of clam chowder. My order came up. I walked to the dining barge. Took a quick look at the ship canal bridge and the university draw bridge – just to see if they were still there as I remembered and then I looked down at my fish and chips and chowder.
“Well, now, that wasn’t such a chore. Go to a place and get what you want. No questions asked.”, I thought.
And the chowder was good.
THE PURPLE SUITS
I work as a delivery driver for Blue Mont Cola Company. We’re a regional soft drink maker in Blue Mont, Minnesota. I can tell you that I’m proud of our products and the company too. I wouldn’t work anywhere else.
Oh, I’m Paul Brantley. You can read my first name on my uniform shirt.
The first time I ever saw anyone in a purple suit, I was driving my truck into town from the bottling plant just south on highway 15. I laughed out loud in the cab. Here was this teen-age guy in this double breasted suit, which was somewhere, in color between a plum and a black cherry. Kind of a maroon purple. Each seem looked black like you could see slightly through each panel of cloth.
That day it must have been eighty degrees out or so and about 94% humidity, so I wasn't expecting to see anyone a suit, tie and shirt (both of those last were also the same color) let alone a purple one. Man, I thought, You're going to fry your brains out, kid!
I was still chuckling as I pulled out to my first stop at one of the two grocery stores in Blue Mont on Main Street. This one was Jensen’s Market. I stop there on Monday mornings and on Wednesday mornings at Mont Foods, the other grocery in town. Bud Jensen has better meat than John Calsted, over at Mont Foods, but Mont’s has got better produce. They both have to worry about the Hi-Vee in the Austin south of us on 15. I go the Hi-Vee on Tuesdays.
So I was still chuckling and run into Bud and he asks me what I find funny. I guess thinking I’m going to give the latest joke from the salesmen at the plant. (The salesmen got the best jokes. They talk to everyone around the country. They can keep you rolling for hours. I only can remember a joke about two or three days. Although I can remember, word for word, just about any comedy routine I see on T.V. or at the comedy clubs I go to up in the Twin Cities. I think humor has many minds.) So Bud asks what’s so funny and I tell him that, “I just saw Shorty Olson’s boy walking into town in the strangest get up, kinda purple like suit thing.” Bud looks confused like at this and I start to explain how hot it is to wear a suit. He didn’t get it.
I wheel the first load over to my rack, Well Blue Mont’s rack, but well, you know. I always have to move the Coke off my rack and over to that guys rack first thing. That guy comes on Fridays and always over stocks. He just can’t get it through his head that we’ve beat him here.
If I didn’t have to drive all the way over to St. Peter Friday afternoons I’d come in here and wait for him. And you know what I’d say. I’d say, “Hey, buddy! This is my turf!! You’re nothing, but number two here. You got it, better product, better space!” and I’d laugh in his face. Coke and Pepsi delivers are so, so high and mighty like. At least you can talk to the R.C. guy and, now that they slipped from number three, the Schnapple guy ain’t to bad.
Anyway so I loaded my stock in silence and left the ten cases of each in the stock room in silence. Bud had given me a look to say, “Brantley, you don’t even come from this town. So don’t even comment on what a local chooses to wear.”
I’ve tried to fit in here. I, mean besides college, I’ve spent 12 years or more full time living here. It’s not my fault that my dad retired here half way through my junior year in high school and that instead of getting a job in the cities, like most people who graduate from Bemidji State, I applied for and got a job on the line at Blue Mont Bottling. I even was assistant coach for two years of the local little league. I like the game and go to a lot of Twins games or watch them on T.V., but once I get on the field it gets just as confusing as when I played as a kid.
When I’m up in the stands watching everything makes sense. I know the reason for every move and why the players are playing the lines in the late innings and when the hit and run is on and everything. People I’ve sat by at the dome have said, “You ought to be a coach for some little league. You know so much about the game.” So I tried it. But on field level it just one big mess to me, even coaching and not playing. Also I don’t think the kids liked me so much.
I’m real civic minded. I go to every city counsel meeting and I speak out at the meetings all the time. And almost all the times I make good points and everyone agrees with me on what I say. Except for the lawn height thing. Well, one straw can break a camels back. It doesn’t even have to build up with a lot of straws in some cases, like mine, it just breaks over one thing. And you’re out in the cold when it ain’t even winter.
It was a council meeting in the spring about two years ago, the council was considering a city ordinance about the height of home owner’s grass in their lawns. They had come up with a figure of 5” as the maximum and opened the floor for discussion. They’re good about doing that. During a couple of speeches about how 4 to 4« inches was long enough I was thinking about how Hal Sorenson’s son, Mitch, ran a lawn service during the summer and snow removal in the winters. Now Hal is one of the leaders on the council and he tries sometimes to pull sneaky stuff. Not so much that most anyone in town would notice, but there was talk in the Coffee Cup Cafe and Nick’s Barber Shop. So, I’m thinking that I got the high ground. I was wrong.
I made this lovely speech on how we here in America are, of a right ought to be, free to do with our property as we see fit. As long, that is, as we didn’t grow the grass so long and get a lot of snakes and cause hidden public dangers with grass hidden rusty metals and tires and such. Everyone was real silent after that and 4«” passed in to law.
My dad always said, “Son, when you’re alone in what you think is right, make sure you’re always right.” He died more than four years ago and left me the house. The winters are warmer than in Carlsru, North Dakota. That’s why he retired here from the ministry there. That and it was close to the Mayo. My mom died of cancer when I was in senior year.
I don’t know who turned me in for 4 and 3/4’s inches on my grass. You really had to jam the ruler into the ground to get that length. But I didn’t fight it, it was only a warning. So I mowed. But somehow that wasn’t good enough. No one, not even Bud or John, would say even word one to me, if they didn’t have to, for about a week or close to two.
I went around Blue Mont saying hi to everyone just like normal. But they weren’t making me feel like I was at home. So much for “Minnesota Nice”. Gradually they realized I wasn’t going to leave town, so they all decided to treat me nice again.
After that I would wonder at night how we were the only county in Minnesota to vote for Reagan and against Mondale in 1984. I guess these people here are only conservative when they want to be.
But, enough about me and politics here. Let’s go back to the purple suits.
I began seeing more and more of them. The male version was a double breast job. The female version was kind of a short matador like jacket and those tight bell bottoms, that France and New York keep trying to push back down our throats saying it’s coming back in style, and always the same high heel, black, wedge shoes. The men wore black wingtips.
All of the people, individually, looked like they just walked off some style runway. Even the fat ones. I mean the woman looked especially nice. You could tell, Just like the models in Italy and other places, that all they had under the slightly see through purplish material of their suits where pantyhose. Even the old ladies and guys hair looked better than usual. What was real funny was that no one was talking about those suits behind the wearers backs.
Sales of soda dropped off some. I couldn’t figure out why. Big Blue even slipped a little. Big Blue is our kicking ginger beer. If you’ve never had ginger beer it’s like horse radish in a bottle. I’ll clean your sinuses clear out. Souix City has a good one and the Jamaica Ginger Beer isn’t too bad, but Big Blue will knock you out. They let us snitch a bottle or two a day off our loose stock on the trucks. I drink it only when the day has got too long. Man, is it a pick me up.
Besides Big Blue we have cola, diet cola, a non-cola (like 7-Up, but we’re not allowed to say that) called Big White and Diet Big White and Big Orange. Also a root beer, but it doesn’t do so well, with A&W and Iron Horse around and all.
The Cola is our big seller which is the one that makes Coke and Pepsi so mad at us here. #1 in the three county area.
I took marketing in college. So that’s how I got the three county prime area, because I was so good in my first two areas. The other drivers really would like my route, because I come home every night and don’t have to ever stay in hotels or motels like they do. But they don’t realize how hard I had to work to get this area and how hard you have to keep working an area when you’re number one. The product sells itself when it’s good, but you have to keep reminding who you’re selling it to that it’s selling good or they’ll start taking all those national Coke and Pepsi commercials seriously.
On about Thursday I went to William’s Standard, like always on Thursdays, and they only could take about half of what they usually take. The two gas jockeys and their mechanic all got on those purple suits. “Why do you let those guys wear those things?”, I asked Charley Williams, while I stocked his cooler.
“What things?”, he says.
“You know those suits?”
“You mean the uniforms?”, he’s looking confused.
“No those purple double breasted suits.”
“What suits?”, he’s looking at me like I’m not quite right.
“Huh?”, now I’m the confused one, “Aren’t they worried about getting oil or gas on those fancy duds?”
“What? They’re uniforms. We got a cleaning service comes and picks them up once a week. What are you talking about?”
“Well, I mean, you see…never mind. Hey, same time next week. Ahh…See Ya.” I left shaking my head all the way to my Blue Mont delivery truck.
It was my last delivery of the day so I drove back to the bottling plant, dropped off my truck and picked up a twelve pack of New Ulm Deer Brand beer to get drunk on. Dad wouldn’t of like me getting drunk. The type of churches he ministered in weren’t too much into alcohol. But things were getting weird out there in town, with all the purple suits, and I need a good drunk to be able to sleep. Also they were giving me pressure at the plant about my deliveries slowing down. Yeah, sure forget about the five good years on the route, just look at the negatives. What have you done for me today.
Friday mornings I have to get up about two hours early. It’s my longest day since I go out further out of town and by afternoon end up in St. Peter at the Super Valu.
I try to get to the High School locker rooms at about 6:30am, in late August, because by then the football team will be out on the field and I won’t be in their way. Old Math Severtson, the school janitor, handles the sport equipment and is always in the locker room’s equipment room when I come in. It makes for a long day him, getting up early each day for the football season and staying at the school late for the basketball season. He’s told me he does it to keep young and keep in touch with the kids. I think he does it partly so that they won’t just think of him as a broom or a mop, but an actual person. I get in there Friday mornings and we always trade the latest jokes and talk of the town.
“Hey, Math.”, I called as I came into the door and his world. I expect that Blue Mont High has the cleanest equipment of any high school in Minnesota, Math being a janitor and all. I pulled out my keys and opened up my cooler (actually Blue Mont Bottling’s machine, but well, you know.) to see what I need to fill. Old Blue is always empty. These football players like to kick them back fast after practice and home games to show what big men they are. And, man, if you drink an Old Blue real quick, like that, it’ll open up your entire head and lungs real wide. I remember doing that after basketball practice and everybody just screaming out in a euphoric pain. That ginger beer is just that godawful powerful.
But, that particular day Old Blue was only down about a third and Big Orange, the kids other favorite, had only a quarter down. I went back to the equipment room in search of Math to find out what gives. Maybe the new coach this year had, unwisely in my opinion, switched the players to Gateraide or something.
“Math?” he didn’t answer from the doorway so I went in deeper into the room. I came upon a most disturbing sight. Math was hunched over a work bench way in back. He was retying and reworking a set of shoulder pads and not looking like he usually does. His face was vacant. He was just going through the motions of working on the pads like he was a machine or something. But, the scary thing was that he had on one of those purple suits. The maroonish purplish cloth, of the jacket and pants, had a glossy shine to it reflecting the dim overhead fluorescent lights of the equipment room. I had never seen a suit up close before then and let me tell you they look almost unreal. It’s real hard to explain how they look.
I backed out of there very slowly and when I got back amongst the lockers in the main room I just turned and ran. It wasn’t until I was driving the truck out of the school lot that I realized that I had left the pop machine open. But heck if I was going to go back in there.
Things got even weirder as I drove towards outskirts of town and past the football practice field. Some of the guys were running the tires, others were attacking the tackling dummies, the quarterbacks were throwing to the runningbacks and wide ends and the coaches were walking around pushing their men on. All of them, I mean ALL of them, had on purple suits. The players had their pads, helmets and tape on over the double breasted suit coats, shirts and ties and had rolled up the legs of their pants up to the knees with their blue and white target socks and black cleats below.
The cheerleaders, who usually practice in the afternoons, were out there too. Going through their routines and jumps in their purple bullfighter jackets, with bellbottoms and blue and white pompoms waving with their movements. The whole thing was an eerie sight.
I drove for a mile just shaking away and had to pull the truck over and get a Blue out of the back to steady my nerves.
The rest of the day went pretty much normal. I did my rounds in the further out towns and stops in the three county area. Summers aren’t bad. I usually get done around six or six-thirty. Winter Fridays are real long, with all the snow and ice. Sometimes I have to go until about 10 or 11. Once I had to weather out a blizzard at the Top Hat Motel in Jackson and didn’t get back home until Sunday afternoon.
You never realize how many times a day people you run into ask you, “Hey, Paul. How are things over in Blue Mont?”, until you don’t want to talk about it. I had to work real hard not to look like I wasn’t thinking “What have you heard?” when I would answer them with my usual “Things are O.K. over there.”
I got my truck back to the plant at about 7:15pm and didn’t run into anyone there. I had kind of dogged it a little all day so I would get home late for that reason. I drove my car home and polished off the rest of the twelve pack from the night before. I’m not much of a drinker, but I was still so shook from that morning, that I had to even gulp down some scotch, I had, after the beer was gone.
Saturdays I like to wake up a little later, wash my uniforms and other clothes and then about noon I hit the streets. I pick up my truck and kind of putter around town. Making sure that all the pop machines, on Main by the movie theater, by the bars, down by the ball park and on the highway are all full for Saturday night and the rest of the weekend. Winters I make sure the heater coils are on so that the product doesn’t freeze. I don’t need to really do this. I don’t get any overtime from it. I just like being seen around town in a fresh uniform, saying hi to everyone I meet and catching up on all that’s happening. I guess if I didn’t do this I would probably stay at home, not really having any purpose to go down town. Even though Saturday afternoons look busy with lots of people moving about on Main Street, everyone is taking it a little slower. Just enjoying the day and chatting like the whole town is one big Coffee Cup Cafe.
But, of course, that afternoon was different. Oh, everyone was out like normal, but it was all a sea of sickening purple. I was all alone, at least in color, in by navy blue Blue Mont Bottling uniform pants and shirt. Everyone else in those double breasts and bull fighter suits. The sunlight reflecting off of them onto the building fronts, like the whole of Main had been deeply bruised.
I went first, like always, to the machine on the sidewalk in front of the Champion Auto Parts store. That one always needs a good half top off since when I filled it on Wednesday. But the darn thing was completely full. I couldn’t believe it. I had to check the change drop just to make positively sure. Not a quarter in it. I was in shock. These people can’t live without their Big Blue and colas and Big Orange and such.
What was going on?
I closed up the machine and just walked dazedly down past the furniture store, the White Eagle Drug, the Tru-Valu, the post office. Nobody saying anything to me. Nobody talking much at all. There was no joy in any of their faces. It was even worse than the time after my lawn grass length debacle.
No one was home in any of their eyes and the houses where all purple.
I was feeling worn out and needed a Blue Mont Cola. So I bought me one out of the cooler in front of John Calsted’s Mont Foods (which means I took my keys, opened up the machine and snatched me a can. This job does have some good perks to it). Not even the kids stopped to watch me, in hopes of a freebie.
It was all so dream like. I needed the caffeine in the cola to wake me up.
I saw Sherry Johanson coming towards me, just a face in the crowd, from down the sidewalk passing by the Norsk Boutique. I reached in the open cooler behind me and got out a diet for her. I had almost asked Sherry out to the prom in our senior year. I didn’t though. She was in a different social standing than I was in high school. See, I was like third string basket ball and, even though she wasn’t a cheerleader or anything like that, she was the first string point guard on the girl’s team. I made C’s and B’s and she made B’s and A’s. Like that. It wasn’t a class system thing, it was more, like I said, a social standing thing. I mean, if Wayne Henderson hadn’t of asked her at the last moment, she could have gone with me and not lost any standing at all. If it was a class thing she would have really been looked down on for even talking to me.
As it was, we had a lot of classes together and were even study partners in some and kidded around and such in the halls. I once told her, a couple of years ago, at this pig roast at the Swanson farm, about my wanting to ask her to the prom and she had said that I should have. I guess Henderson was about as romantic as being asked out at the last minute. Not that it matters, but he went on to be a history/accounting teacher and assistant coach over at New Ulm.
So she comes up to pass me and I say, “Hi, Sherry. You want a Diet Mont?” And she doesn’t even react to hearing her name. Just blank faced like every one else in purple (which was everyone else, but me, if I didn’t make myself clear before).
She walked around me and, I hate to admit it, my eyes went right to here bottom. (Now I don’t want you to think I’m a sex thirsty man, who only thinks of women as breasts and bottoms to lust over. And it’s not that I’m numb and indifferent to the opposite sex. I’m not a prude. I’m just a gentleman. My mom raised me good that way. Just wanted you to get that straight that I don’t make it a habit to go around looking at women that way. O.K.?) So I’m looking at Sherry’s behind and the seat of those slightly see through maroonish purplish bell bottoms looked so lovely and round and had the tightest little wiggle enough to melt me a lot. I had to remind myself to breathe in and out some.
And you know, right then I got a strong feeling. Not like an angry feeling, but like a strong thing, without hate, like I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I dropped my unopened cola can on the sidewalk and I pushed through the purple suited horde to catch up to Sherry. I moved around quick to stand in front of her. “Sherry, I said hi!” and she stared at me blankly as I held the Diet Mont can up in my right hand to offer it to her. She slowly moved to go around me again and I grabbed her right shoulder with my left hand and put my other fore arm against her left shoulder. I didn’t do it hard like. More just holding her shoulders, than grabbing her. I just wanted to keep her there.
“Hey, Sherry, don’t you recognize me?” Nothing answered me from her eyes. Her chestnut brown hair had more life in it. Which doesn’t seem possible to me now, but right then it was a reality. I moved my nose about a 1/4 of an inch to hers and looked right into those vacant eyes, “Are you even listening or hearing me? What the heck happened to you? To everyone? What the heck is going on here?” Now most times I don’t say anything mean to anyone and maybe what I said to her just then wasn’t really mean, but it’s as mean as I get. So I said it, “YOU KNOW, YOU DON’T EVEN LOOK AT ALL GOOD IN PURPLE!!! NOW, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT!?!?!!” It didn’t even phase her.
Of course, it was a lie; she looked more than devastating in that color. She had filled out since high school. I think if we could get all the Home Coming Queen candidates here right now, she would win hands down. Strangely she had never married. She just came back from the U of M and had become the home EC. teacher and girls basket ball coach at Blue Mont High.
She shook out of my grasp and backed and then turned away from me, not even scared or nothing and headed back down the sidewalk going the way she had came. I was floored, but I wasn’t going to give up.
Right about then, my mind being some what frazzled, I came up with an idea that if I could just get her to drink from the Diet Mont soda can she would be all better. It’s not that she looked thirsty, it’s just that, well, Blue Mont Bottling products are such a big part of my life and maybe if I could get her to share something I was proud of, I could pour a little of my life down her. It seemed like I was the only life in town. All those people I knew and none of them alive. Just a purple swarm on a hot and humid August day.
I weaved in and out of their suited forms, trying to run, but trying not to run over any of them. I caught up to her and not too roughly whirled her around. She just stood there not moving. Maybe somewhere in her pretty head she figured she wasn’t going to get rid of me too quickly, so she would just have to wait me out. I don’t know. “LISTEN!!!”, I started and then realizing she wasn’t going to move away again I moderated and softened my tone. “Listen, Sherry, I offered you something to drink and I think it would be only polite of you to say no thank you or to at least take a sip. See, it’s Diet Mont.”, I held up the now sweating can for her to see. “God, it has got to be more than eighty five degrees out and I’ll bet this would sure taste good to you now.” Logic wasn’t working for me then, so I thought maybe I had to keep it simple for her. “Look, I’ll open it up for you.” and I popped the top. That little cloud of mist and spray came out of the hole in the can, like it always does on a hot day. “See it’s all open and all you got to do is take it from my hand and drink it down.” I looked at her hands. They hung motionlessly inward at her hips, the fingers slightly curled in towards her palms.
I did something then that I had never done before; I touched her in a loving, gentle sort of way. Like as if she was my girlfriend or wife. The way that lovers touch. I put my left hand behind her neck. Her thick brown hair feeling cool and soft to my fingers’ touch. And I raised the open can to her lips. The coldness of the can’s edge parted them some.
I tilted the can for her to drink. The dark liquid flowed onto her lips and down her chin and poured onto the purple material covering her chest. She didn’t even react or shiver. If she wasn’t breathing or standing, she could have been dead.
I was glad the pop was a diet. If it had been a regular the syrup on her chest could have started to draw flies or bees. She just stood there. Nothing happened. I removed the half empty container from her lips. I thought about wiping the dampness off of her chin, but what difference did it seem to make. Her empty face held nothing but a memory for me. I dropped the can and heard its’ thwawking sound on the concrete between us.
I turned, something inside of myself was crushed. Head down I manhandled my way through the horrible purple throng and back to my truck. “It’s really Blue Mont Bottling’s truck, but well, you know…”, I sobbed softly, even though it wouldn’t have matter if I was screaming it. All those bruised purple people not giving a darn if I even existed.
“Paul?”, I heard a voice and instinctively answered, “What?”
“Paul?!”, the voice came louder behind me. Jeez, now I’m hearing voices, I was starting to think, when – “PAUL!! OH, GOD, PAUL!!!”
The voice was so real, “Sherry?”, I whispered and turned against hope to take one more look at sight of her.
Do you remember that photograph from the Vietnam war of that girl, I think she was about eleven, running with arms up down the street of some forgotten village. She was naked. Her clothes had been burned off. I saw it again years later and was amazed how her body had burned into my brain. That photo is as haunting as, I imagine, the horrors of war are. This was what was running towards me. Only Sherry Johanson wasn’t some little Vietmenees girl.
But the contrast of nudity against others wearing clothes was just as strong. Looking at that photo then and, now, Sherry in real life, had the same effect on me. I wanted to hold her in my arms, real tight, if only just to stop her running and to cover her, protectively, with my body.
Back then, in Carlsru, when I had first seen the photo in a magazine in junior high civics class I wanted to grab up all the Time or Newsweek magazines, we had to subscribe to for the class, and hid that picture from all the boys in my grade. Not to keep it private, but so that I wouldn’t have to hear any of their crude remarks, that I was sure to come form them, about how much they were turned on by that naked running girl. But, not a boy said a word about it. Not even months later.
Sherry ran into my arms and clutched to me tighter than I had ever been held ever before. Her face buried deep in my chest and crying so hard and shivering so much to be frozen in the thick heat of that afternoon. “Oh, Paul, Paul. Oh God.”, She kept sobbing over and over.
I was way too moved. I was speechless and didn’t even realize I was crying too, until I opened my eyes to look down at top of her head and wondered why her brown hair was being soaked dark when there was no rain.
Her quaking slowed and she pulled away from my chest just enough so that she could look up at me. “Oh, Paul”, she was saying as she reached up to wipe away my tears with the back of one of her hands.
“You’re alive.”, I somehow got out in and around sniffling.
“Of course, I’m alive and I’m…”, she glanced down at herself, “What the hell happened to my clothes!?!?”
I thought she was blaming me so I started to protest, "Hey! I didn't -" She put a finger to my lips to stop me.
“I know you didn’t. I’m just wondering why I’m running around naked in the street…”, She glanced around, “And why everybody has those weird suits on.” Her face took on a quizzical look, “Are they purple?”
“Yes. Yes they are.” Relieved that some one else was seeing the purple suites too and I was laughing and crying all at the same time and she was hugging me again like she would never let go.
There isn’t much else to tell. Sherry and I ripped open can after can of well shaken up Blue Mont soda and started spraying everyone on Main Street with it. Pretty soon everybody was naked and screaming and soaking anyone left in a purple suit. John and Bud let us have at their stock and I unlocked every machine in town. Naked people were dragging purple people into the theater and shoving any body part, they could get hold of, under the nozzle of the concession stand’s soda fountain. The same was happening over at the Coffee Cup Cafe and the Wagon Wheel Restaurant.
Thousands of gallons were spilt that day. Sherry tried to get me out of my clothes, since I was the only one wearing any. But I didn’t let her. I guess I wanted to feel the power there is in being different and being right for it.
Back at the plant I was a hero. Old Jake Gullickson, the owner and CEO, made up a plaque in my honor as the all time distributor of product in the company’s history. He pointed out, kiddingly, that I had also had the least amount of profit for that much product in the company’s history. It’s hanging in the main lobby for all visitors to see. The profit thing wasn’t on the plaque, thank God.
What was on the Plaque was the company’s new slogan, printed on a banner beneath the Blue Mont Bottling logo, it said, “The Soda That Saved A City”. It’s now on ever can, bottle, soda fountain, sign and truck the company’s got. You’ve probably seen it.
Oh, I forgot to tell you what happened out at Pike Lake, just west of town. People say that late that afternoon the surface of the lake boiled and shook and that a huge maroonish purplish saucer thing lifted out from under the water. It hung for awhile, shadowing the whole lake and then took off in a crimson streak into the sky. Who knows?
I do know, these days I have more to my life than just Blue Mont soda. Sherry and I got married. The first one’s due in about three months. Sherry kept her teaching job, but now she’s got a real home to be economical with.
The Green House
It was late January and we had gone into escrow on our new house. You probably know the place. It’s at 2183 Elm Street. There aren’t any elm trees on Elm anymore, like when I was a kid. The Dutch had something to do with that. Well win the war and loose the battle.
My wife Jen and I liked the layout of the little house. There was only one small problem; it was green.
I don’t just mean just on the outside (that at least had a lot of white trim). It was green in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bed rooms (two of the upstairs), in the family room in the basement, in the guest room down there too and even in both bath rooms (full tubs in each. Thank God the sinks, the toilets and the tubs were white. I’ve never seen avocado bathroom fixtures. I don’t know why.).
It had a weird garage. Some previous owner had sewn on another garage on the back of the first one. Two garages back to back with doors on each end. I guess he (It had to be a man. Who else would think in such a stupid way) wanted a two car garage. It was probably the only fifteen by forty foot garage in town.
The garage, inside and out, was green, of course.
On St. Patrick’s day we invited our friends over. Things, of course, snow ball with parties and we got a lot of people there we didn’t know. I didn’t wear green and when ever anyone came up to me and said, “Hey, I’m going to have to pinch you – you don’t have green on!” I would just say, “My wife and I own the house.” This would get an, “Oh.”, a look around and, “I guess that’s O.K. then.”
The month past and we couldn’t wait until it was warm enough to paint the place. You can get real sick of the ghost green tinge the walls give to a cream carpet in a living room. And the winter months are very cold shaving the stubble off of you moldy looking face in the mornings. At night, even in the dark, our bodies seemed to glow phosphorescent.
We wound up not having sex at all (well, once a month and that eight times when we couldn’t take it anymore and got a hotel room for a weekend in April. The hotel room was such a lovely shade of light tan.).
Spring finally came. We had our work cut out. New appliances had to bought. The avocado washer and dryer in the utility room in basement would wait to last, though, until we restocked the bank account after everything else. But the avocado (who ever thought to bring nature, in it’s most unnatural state of color, into our homes) stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and kitchen sink had to go.
The kitchen was maybe the worst. The hall to the bed rooms past the bathroom came in a close second. It had green carpeting green painted wood cabinets and doors and all those green walls and ceiling. Mostly we made sure to keep the doors open so anyone walking in the hall way wouldn’t get too severe of a claustrophobic green feeling.
After the appliances and the walls, all the kitchen had going for it was the lime colored linoleum.
A day sticks out in my mind. It was morning and a Monday. I was just pouring myself a French roast coffee (thank God I found a woman that liked it strong). Jen was out in the living room looking out of the big picture window at the front lawn. Since it was Monday I had to go to work at the “Computer Software Factory” (as Jen calls it) and Jen had the day off from her nursing job (We had Sunday off together. Which is a lot more than most new married couples have these days.). I came up behind Jen, set my cup down on the coffee table, and put my arms around her waist in a nice back hug, “What you thinking, my beautiful little wife?” (This has to be explained. She wasn’t really little. I’m 6’2”, 250lbs and she’s 6’, 190lbs. But, it looked damned good on her. It all comes from my mom who when she first saw us together exclaimed, “Don’t you make a cute little couple!” You’d have to have met my mother. She probably weighed 150lbs, at the most, her whole life, until the cancer got her. She died. But after she said that it was Jen’s and mine’s joke – “My Little girlfriend: My little fiancee: My little wife.”)
“I hate the grass. It’s so green. So, damn, damn GREEN!”
“Oh, Honey, it’ll be O.K.. We got the Goodwill picking up the kitchen appliances and the carpet and the linoleum ripped up. All we got to do is paint and get the new things delivered that we ordered. You’ll see.” And I gave her firm belly a nice squeeze. She really has a nice firm belly. And a swell ass. I love her.
She seemed better. I went out the back door, looked at all the avocado and green junk in the back yard waiting for the pick up and took the very short stroll to our red Dodge Sundance in the driveway beside the house. (“Oh, Baby, it’ll be Christmas everyday!”, Jen had jested back in January the day we first moved in. Her own car was a blue Ford Tempo.)
I came home from work. It was a normal day…at work, that is.
Jen was crying. I couldn’t figure out why, looking around. The new white things were in the kitchen, (we had agreed that white was the proper color for major appliances. Also they were cheaper when you had to replace them all.) the cream carpeting was in the hall way and the cream with blue and gold flecked floor tiles were on the kitchen floor (the tile wasn’t my first choice, but us men have to give some, and at least it wasn’t green).
“I PAINTED ALL DAY!!!”, Jen blubber out gesturing towards the walls. They looked like white paint over green. I knew we had bought a light cream, called “Pacific Sand”. The effect looked like a watered down hack had done it.
“I know dear.”, playing my husbandly duty to the hilt, “You know it was a dark color of green?”
“DON’T YOU EVER PATRONIZE ME!!!!”, she screamed. Sometimes the husbandly duty doesn’t work so good. So that night it was couch time for me. Only I went down to the basement and slept in the guest bed. Which was worse. It had these sheets my mom gave me after college with a leaf pattern on them. I never really minded them until then. Leaf patterns mean more green in the bed.
The next morning wasn’t any better. I came up behind her to do my ‘it’ll be O.K., honey” hug in the living room and she was in her white nurses uniform (which didn’t seem all that white being slightly green tinged by the reflecting morning light off the walls. Maybe it was all in my mind, but they had gotten a deeper shade of green during the night.). “I’ll give it one more day. If this doesn’t look less green by the time you get home, I’m going to my mother’s until you get it right.”, she stated. This sounded fair.
See, even though we went to work at the same time, she got home about three hours before I did (“Mindsweep” and “Total Damage” seemed to be required ends to the work day at my place of business for us underlings).
The first thing I noticed when I came home was a about two inch long arrow shaped light kelly hole in the wagon wheel shade we had painted the exterior of the house with. How did we miss that?, I thought. I’d touch it up after dinner.
Then I went into the house. A deep rich forest color had been splattered everywhere. The appliances were unreturnable. The kitchen floor tiles looked like a Green Bay fan, who had forgotten all about yellow, had done his best to show the colors. The living room carpet looked as alive as the grass outside of it’s picture window. I was mad, of course.
I found her in the upstairs bed room (the one that wasn’t ours). I started, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPEN-” and then I quit. She, my Jen, was sitting whimpering in the corner. The darkest, almost black, shade of green was oozing down the wall and completely covering her. It was more than mere paint; it was like blood from an alien.
She was thickly covered. An inch or more thick. It puddled around her more than two feet beyond her outstretched legs. I didn’t know what to say.
And then she screamed. You don’t want to know what she was blaming me for. I don’t blame her at all.
All I know is that I took the next day off. Maybe her mother had gotten the green out of hair. I don’t know she had left and didn’t call.
I went to City Hall and found out where the lady was who had sold the house to guy that had sold it to us (The guy was nowhere in town. He had moved to California.). She was in a nearby nursing home.
I went to the Golden Rest Home where she was. I found her in the T.V. room. I turned off the set right during Jeopardy saying, “Sorry folks, I got business here.” She turned her face towards me, frightened. “Mrs. Jabowsky?!?”, I asked her.
“Yes?, …Oh, you must have bought the house.”
“Yeah, that’s me!”, the wheel chairs wheeled out and the walkers walked fast leaving us alone.
“Oh, my! Oh, my! That green, green,…green, green house.”, she murmured, “My husband died of a heart attack, you know.” Her white hair shook.
I never thought it would be me sitting in a Room. Not like I hadn’t heard of ‘em. Hell, I’d even voted for it. I just never thought I’d ever do nothin’ to get into one.
See, they sit you down in the eight foot by eight foot Room. It’s got only a chair (no need for two, I guess), a table. a door, a window (some claustrophobic rights group had fought damn hard for that window, I can tell you. It were all over the papers. Some folks sayin’, “They don’t need no fuckin’ window. They’re not going in the Room to do no sight-seein’.” And that was the truth. Only it felt good havin’ that window, to me now.) and, of course, there was the button.
My troubles all started long before I was born. There was this ladies studies professor and she said, “All sex is rape.” So some guys in government get all like this is right and they write this thing called a bill about it and some other guys say this ain’t right and they say they can’t vote for “All sex is rape” (only it wasn’t just that short it went on for pages and pages in the bill thing). So they amend the bill and put in “…if the woman says it was.” (only that goes on for pages too, but that’s the short jist of what it was. We was told this in grade school or before that even. Hell, I think my mama probably told it to me. So we all just knew it from early on.) And then it passes. So when a bill thing passes it’s a law then.
Now, that’s why I was in a Room. On account of that. And, of course, for me and others voting for the Rooms in the first place. It was a good idea, from the start. And sittin’ here I think it’s a good idea even now.
Markus B. Willingham, the first conservative black president, come up with the idea and, besides two or three other things, he ran on it. It was “The centerpiece of his campaign”. I read that and heard on T.V.. And just about everybody votes for him. As soon as the window thing got ironed out, that is. Cause most people, even some liberals, got tired of paying so much for keepin’ a man in jail when he done wrong. Everybody is up in arms when it comes to takin’ around $200,00øø a year to keep a criminal locked up. So the liberals are going, “We can’t just kill ‘em.” and the conservatives say, “Why not?” and President Willingham, before he was President, comes up with the idea about the Rooms and everyone goes, “Hey! That’s a dandy idea! Let’s vote for this guy! That is we can get us a window in each one.” So we, almost everybody, all voted for him on his “centerpiece” alone.
My Room is painted white (like all the others) and there’s a tree outside of the window. Only I don’t look out. The limbs and leaves make nice dark sharp shadows across the wall with the door, it being later in the day and all. I can see the wind blowing without looking.
The button is red. It’s in the middle of the table in front of the only chair, which I’m sittin’ in now.
First of all, Mindy was a nice girl. She’s pretty as hell, with all that dark hair and green eyes you wanted to spend a good long while in and that cute upturned nose. I still don’t know why she wanted to go out with me. I mean I’m OK lookin’. I’d been out on a few dates. But mostly plain or fat girls (or plain fat ones, too) only asked me out.
A lot of the guys I went to school with or worked with got asked out a lot more. Most didn’t, though. I’d bet a bunch of those guys were just braggin’ and didn’t get asked out much at all. I remember this one time in the boys locker room after gym Mike Kovacs told us all that he’d asked this girl out. He wouldn’t say who it was and we all figured he didn’t, that he was just talkin’ dirty to make us think he was a big stud. I knew he’d done no such thing ‘cause he was just as scared as any of us with getting our ass in a sling from sexually harassing a girl by asking.
I guess some guys got away with it. But what happened if the girl said “NO.” and reported you for harassment. I mean even if a guy got some girls to say “Yes.” all it takes is one time to get the Big H. And man then you were through. No guy wanted the Big H on their record. People look at those things you know.
I didn’t ask Mindy out. I was up for the rape thing. Well, at least I’m not a virgin anymore.
I look around my Room and I’m damn proud I voted for President Willingham and his good idea here. When they first made the Rooms there weren’t no red buttons. They just put a .22 or a .45 or a 9mm or .38 or such on the table and left you at it in the Room for the two hour period. Only then it was a half hour and after awhile they realized that wasn’t long enough to stew so some one came up with five hours. But then some prison rights group said that anything over three hours they had to serve a meal and a lot of waiters or waitresses got shot ‘cause the prisoners were freaking out, even with the windows. So they changed it to two hours and still they got a lot of rooms shot up with bullets or guards shot, checkin’ up on the prisoners after two hours. So they loaded the guns with only one bullet, which they should have done in the first place. Still too many dead or wounded guards so they switched to the red buttons instead.
The red button, when it’s pushed, fills the whole room with a gas that kills the guy who pushes it. The guard union and OSSHA made sure they put in detectors and a system to tell anyone outside the room not to come in until the gas is gone and it’s safe to get the guy or woman out. They also thought to put deactivators on the doors so the gas wouldn’t come out when the door was open so they prisoner couldn’t try to take out a few with him when he went. OSSHA and the unions hadn’t lost a guard yet.
I don’t know when they got the Room so it was used on rapists and such. Originally it was just for murders and three-strikes-and-your-out dudes. But pretty soon they got down to any violent crime and assaults and armed robbery. I bet before long they’ll be putting harassers in here, too.
They don’t play music in here. They just let you think. If you don’t push the button, you just go to jail. Nothing else. No one forces you to push the red thing. There was talk about making the prisoners spend two hours a year in the Room, but that got watered down to two hours spent before each of your parole board hearings. I think that’s fair. Parole board hearings costing $25,000øø and all.
Mindy and I went out on our second date to this India restaurant called the Blue Gangies. We ordered the combination dinner for two since neither of us knew what Alu Chole, and the like, was (I still don’t know except it tasted fine). And then afterwards she asked me into her car (mine was too small, I guess) and we kissed and she did a lot of other stuff to me that felt real good and I did a lot of stuff to her, when she asked me too, that I figured felt good for her ‘cause she was making sounds like those women in the movies do.
She asked me over to her apartment and into her bedroom and out of my clothes and into her bed and into her body. She kept askin’ and I kept saying yes. I knew the right way to do things ‘cause of sex education in school. I’d just never done it before. There’s a lot more 24 year old virgins than you’d ever think.
I thought it was all good. In the morning she made me breakfast and looked at me over the eggs with a way that made me think I was king. Them green eyes can do it with that nose crinkling up so sweet when she was smiling at me. If she had asked me to marry her there I would have done it on the spot with any online pastor or priest or judge we could have down loaded from the web.
They don’t have a clock here in the Room. Even when they changed to gas they didn’t put them back in. The clocks seemed to be one of the popular things to shoot up, even when they changed to one bullet. A group of criminal psychologists said not to put the clocks back in. They really never gave a reason, that I know of. The wall with the door is turning the best shade of yellow and the shadows are even sharper from the tree. I know it getting later towards evening. The red button looks kind of orange colored when I lean to one side in the only chair so the sun can hit it.
The trial was real weird. She went on about that second date in detail, when she got call to testify. And all of it was right. She told of the Blue Gangies and the Alu Chole and her car and so on. Her attorney showed the condom I’d used, in a plastic bag, as exhibit “A” and the DNA on my sperm as exhibit “B” and had a DNA expert testify that is was mine.
It all came down to her saying it was rape. It didn’t matter how much my attorney got her to say she had asked me to do everything I’d done. It all came down to the law. All sex is rape when the women says it is.
She didn’t even have to sniffle much (I felt bad for every tear from her lovely eyes. I couldn’t show it though. My lawyer said that would look bad.) Everyone in the court, (except my sister) the judge, everyone were bored. They’d seen this kind of case
before. They don’t even make head lines any more nor even do they send any reporters cover them.
My sister leaned over the rail behind me and hissed, “How could you!”. No one else said much to me.
So I’m spending my two hours in this Room and then I could go to jail for four years.
The red button is for the criminals that feel remorse. It’s a good idea. Tears in her green eyes and my sister’s hiss “How could you!”. I sit in the only chair, lean, reach for the orange colored thing and look at the golden wall with the shadows of the tree.
The Door Man
When People ask me what I do, I tell them that I’m a wash room attendant. This conjures up pictures of me handing towels and soap to rich men in a john. It’s a lot better then telling them what I really do. I’m a women’s rest room door man.
Some of the people I know say that must be a good way to meet women. And yeah I guess it is. But when I open the door for a woman she isn’t thinking about meeting a single man. What I’m saying is that the women I’m meeting have other uses for their genitals right then.
It’s an embarrassing job. I try real hard not to imagine some of the good looking women, I see, taking their hose and panties off in just a few seconds after I open the door for them.
They might just be washing their hands or adjusting their make-up. Who knows.
I’m not a pervert. It’s just that the job gets to you, you know?
But that’s just during the week. That’s not who I really am. It’s on the weekends that I become who I am. On the weekends I play golf.
About eleven on Saturday Chucky shows up. Right on time. I grab my full stick bag, head out the door and put them in the spacious back seat of Chucky’s flat black ‘69 Cadilac.
Chucky’s real name is Charles Winston Henderson III, but don’t ever call him that. On weekends, like this one, it’s Wedge. Me, my name is James Llyod (not Jimmy, not Jim and not Jimbo). But the moment I get into the Caddy I am Snake.
Chucky lights his Macanudo as I close the backseat door. I slide into the open front door and into the passenger seat. He gives me his serious sly look and puffs out, “Snake, you set?”
“I am way set, Wredge.” and reach for his cutter, on the dash, to cut my first Hoya De Monterrey of the day.
“Well let’s hit the links! Where we going?”
I reach into full glove box full of golf course brochures, even though I know exactly which one I want. I shuffle through them and finally come up with the one for Hazel Grove. “This one.”
Chucky glances at it, “Nice and close. Good, we’ll get a quick start.” He pulls out from the curb and we hit the streets.
About five minutes later we’re driving by the front of the club house. Of all the courses we play, I like Hazel Grove’s club house the best. Wonder what it looks like inside?
We get off Washington and head west on Cedar Parkway. The car gets parked half way down the side of the fourth hole’s fairway. A perfect lie. “It’s a short par three, Wedge.”, I say as I start to open the door. He knows this, but I say it anyway.
From the back seat I pull out my empty playing bag, study the field and decide – five iron, seven iron and putter. Chucky goes for his putter too and then his four and nine. I’m not so crazy about his choices. It’s definitely a five/seven/putter kind of hole, if I’ve ever seen one. But than, he’s a little more aggressive than me.
Driver drives first. That’s the rule. You won’t find it in any book. We made it up.
Chucky puts his Tidaless on the tee and addresses the ball. His first swing is good. It’s about two thirds of the way down the fairway. Close to 170 yards.
“Not bad, not bad. Good start.” I suspected that he had been practicing during the week. We usually start out real slow and bad. Shanking or slicing a few until we hit a zone. The first couple holes are really for practice, even though we still score ‘em. I tee off with my five and wonder of wonders I’m still in it with my Spalding Sure Flight #1 landing at 155 yards.
We walk down the fairway to our balls. The grass is soft. Not the best I’ve felt, by far. They’d never get a major tournament here. But, you could tell there was a little pride to the course. The ruff had a good mow and the greens, though bunkerless, looked just fine from afar. We’d find if they were true or not when we got to this one. I pulled out my seven and looped a good one onto the green. Not as close to the pin as I’d like, but what the hell.
Chucky did just as good with his nine shot. Although it only got him on the green’s edge ruff. I knew he should have taken an eight or a seven with him, but you try telling him that.
I two putted it for a nice bogey and Chucky double bogeyed it. And we headed back to the Cadilac.
Since no one was around, we took our time and replaced our clubs in our full bags with a good order to it. I took the keys from Chucky and got behind the wheel. “Where to, Wedge?”
He didn’t even consult the brochures, He just looked straight ahead and blurted out, “Bridgeworks!”. I guess he was a little pissed off because I had one upped him on the first. It might become a long day.
We drove in silence. Birdgeworks, Bridgeworks, I’m thinking. It had been a while since we had played there. I’m rolling the course around in my head. Two holes reachable – the eleventh and the sixteenth. Both hard. Both beautiful. Like beauty is a hazard. But these holes can take your breath away. I was banking he was thinking of the eleventh. “The eleventh?”, I asked a few minutes of driving.
“No. The seventh.”, He hissed.
“Damn!” I had forgotten that one. We’d only risked it once. I tried not to let it show how much this disturbed me, so I made my tone conversation like, “So, you like those long fives today?”
“Yeah, I know.” He’d guessed it.
I didn’t like it at all. You drive up to the seventh like you don’t even know there’s a course there. It just opens up. A small wayside rest and between the pines there’s 579 yards to the pin. I mean a ranger comes by and you got a 500 or more yard run to the car. And even though rangers are usually old guys, you can still run into a young one or one in shape and you’re out of luck. Don’t ever show your face there again ever.
Hey, I might just be a door man, but I plan to move up and I don’t need no past history.
Also the adrenaline rush messes with your game, you know.
“I don’t like this.” I said leaning into the back door picking out my five clubs.
He tucked a one wood into his playing bag, just like I had, and said back, “Let the big dogs eat.”
A soft drizzle started. This was perfect weather. Most golfers want a nice sunny, light wind, not too hot, not too cold kind of day. Hey, I’d want that too. But, that’s not the kind of game we play.
The seventh at Bridgeworks isn’t just 579 yards. It has a vicious dog-leg to the left and you can’t even see the pin. Also the pines are way too thick on retreat. But, passenger chooses. Always.
The hole went O.K.. Chucky ended up four over par for the two holes and two behind me. He was mad. I don’t want to talk about it.
“Where we going?”, he sneered. I needed a little goodwill. “The twelfth at Elmwood.” It’s his favorite hole. It’s only a par three, but has this edge of a lake between the box and the pin. I hate that lake.
“Elmwood! You hate Elmwood! That par three drives you crazy!”
“Yeah, well, it’s close.”, I made it sound like there wasn’t any argument to my logic. After all it was close.
Driver drives first. He laid up just before the water, like he always does. I set up with my 2 1/4 driving iron and hit right on the green.
I can tell you he was real silent on the boat ride over.
He finished with his normal six iron and putter and I birdied.
We went on like that. Him playing real good; me playing just a bit better. We were playing the best golf of our lives. And I hope he was as miserable as I was.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember when we started to play. We were driving past a course, Greenlake Community, and Chucky says out of the blue, “Hey why don’t we do that?” I look at him like yeah, sure, “For one thing it costs too much, you idiot.” “Naah, not the playing. The whacking. How much would it cost to get a couple of clubs at K-Mart and some practice balls and go to some park somewhere and swing around some?” What he said made sense. We weren’t doing anything, except driving around on our weekends off anyway.
So that’s how I got my 2 1/4 iron (a pro-in-training guy, I know, looked it over and said it was about that). It’s a Magnitude Dunlop graphite with a black shaft. I wish I could afford the whole set of them. K-mart had it at clearance for $22.99. I guess for it’s odd size. Chucky got a nice Wilson Staff 1 wood for $44.99. And we went out to a park and sucked real bad. Chopping up a lot of turf.
They’re still the best clubs in our bags. The rest we got at a thrift store in the poor part of town.
I guess the bug first caught us when we figured we were good enough to go to a driving range and hit a bucket of live balls. Nothing like the satisfying vibration up the shaft and into your hands when you hit a real ball real far. Both of us were amazed at how good we were, but than we had been hitting practice balls for about five weeks.
Chucky was grinning at me as we walked back to the parking lot, “Let’s do a real course!” I laughed back, “With what? Practice balls? I guess we got to make another trip to K-Mar-” He held out two balls he had pocketed from his bucket at the range.
And so began our life of crime.
I can tell you that first hole was way too much of a rush. Everything wrong happened that could. It was Power’s Community Golf Course. The grass was a little better than the parks we had been swinging at. But not by much. We wouldn’t even consider playing a crummy course, like that, now. We plunked right down on the one hole when we thought no one was looking. Chucky had said, “Look, what’s to stop us from walking right on. We do the hole and walk away, right? No one cares.”
So there we are, our T-shirts and cutoffs still all sweaty from the driving range, no tees, no bags and not knowing a damn thing. Anyone seeing us could tell, without even thinking, that we didn’t belong in such a civilized place as a golf course is.
Chucky teed up first and maybe his heart was racing as much as mine because he sliced deep into the rough and only got a fifty foot piece of it, at that. “Shit!”, he roared. I laided my ball on the grass and went to wind up. “Hey! What are you guys doing?” came from the club house. My club came down and divited deep into the ground and the ball squirted out only ten yards.
Without thinking, I spun around screaming, “Damn! What the hell, you ruined my shot!” and Chucky and I were face to face with a polo shirted mob rolling off the practice green.
“Who are you two?”, the leader of the group demanded.
“Ahh…Just some guys.”, I said back. I couldn’t think of anything else right then.
“Well, why don’t wee go to the club house and see if “just some guys” is written on the sign in sheet.”
“Let’s don’t. Run, James!” and Chucky led the way. The car was parked way at the end of the lot. It was a scary run with lots of obstacles. We barely got back onto the street.
“MAN, OH, MAN!!!”, Chucky laughed in relief.
“Well, we won’t do that again.”, I stated flatly.
“No we won’t. We got to figure out what we did wrong, so we can get back on the grass.”
“Oh, we’re gonna play. We’re gonna play because they don’t want us to. And we’re going to play because we can’t afford it. We’re going to steal their game from them.” And with that I knew we would do it again. When Chucky makes up his mind to do something, it’s made up. And sometimes, like then, when he makes his mind up, it’s so strong it almost feels like he makes your mind up too.
So we came up with rules. No using our real names on the course. No cursing. Proper attire. Carry golf bags. No holes close to the club house. Stealth.
Those rules we followed to the letter. It required another trip to K-Mart for the polyester outfits and spikeless shoes (We play on a lot of different surfaces in a day. you
got to respect them all.). Later we added driver drives first and passenger chooses. But those have nothing to do with real golf. Someday I might even play real golf.
But that was then. Now we were extremely angry with each other. In the beginning we were held to each other and what we were doing by the illicitness of the event of what we were doing. The thrill of taking what was not ours. Now here we were being pulled apart by the competition of our game.
I didn’t like it. Even though I was winning.
I drove towards Chucky’s choice of the 16th at Brook Green. I was a little surprised that he would choose it. It was the last place we got kicked off by a ranger. One of only four times since we got good at spotting the game, thank you. They got a good one there. A late twenties guy that takes his charge seriously.
I’m not even sure how the kid knew what we were. Hell, we’ve been talking to rangers on the courses we play for months before that. Some of them even know us by sight and just pass us by with a “Not too bad of golf weather, huh?” or such.
Things got worse (or better if you were keeping score – which I wasn’t. Or I didn’t want to, that is.”) on the next three holes. I pared all three and Wedge bogeyed, pared and doubled. Between holes we drove in silence. I could hear Chucky’s Macanudo crackle and hiss with each of his frustrated deep drags.
For our seventh hole I was banking on the 14th of Glen Allen Hill. We had never played it. They had just opened the course half way through last season with a LPGA tourney. We liked what we saw on T.V., but decided to let the excitement go down for the course before we risked it.
Right then, though, I didn’t care about the special feeling of getting on new grass. What I was thinking about was that it was 45 miles to the southwest of us where the weather was coming from. It was going to take us an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to get there. If the real weather got there first we could proclaim a rain-out and stalemate this whole thing.
I couldn’t play to lose, but I could make sure that we couldn’t play at all. There was just no way he could catch up. Neither one of us had ever pared three holes in a role before. Our type of golf just doesn’t allow it. The long drives in the car between holes keep you out of getting into any kind of groove.
That’s when the blow up came.
“Good, new meat!”, Chucky said puffing smoke out of the corner of his mouth from behind the wheel as we pulled away from the Columbus Private Club and towards the interstate, “We can hit Overlook on the way.”
“What?”, I was shocked.
“I said, we can do the Overlook on the way over to Glen Allen. You got something against the eighth at Overlook, or what, Snake?”
“You know what I got against it.”, He looked at me like he didn’t have a clue.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You always play that one good. You always bogie or double that one. Hell, today you should be able to bird a short five like that.” He was right, of course, but that wasn’t the point.
I reached for my unlit cigar from the Caddy’s cavernous ashtray and fumble to relight it. I blew out hot smoke. “Man, it’s all wrong! Driver drives! Rider chooses! Fuck, you know that!”
Chucky did something then that had never happened before. He slammed on the brakes and just about threw me into the dashboard. “THE HELL IF I’M GOING TO DRIVE AN HOUR AND A HALF JUST TO PLAY ONE HOLE!!!”
“IT’S NOT AN HOUR AND A HALF! IT’S A HOUR TOPS!!!”, I screamed back, as I righted myself back to a sitting position, “AND IT’S MY FUCKING HOLE TO CHOOSE – NOT YOURS!!!”
“LOOK!”, then Chucky switched down to that dangerous calculating calm I’ve seen him in only a few times before, “It’s going to take at least a half hour to figure out the lie of a new hole – where to park, the line of retreat, wait for bushers to finish play and club selection. You can’t just go in there naked on a new 450 yarder like that.”
“It’s 445 yards.”, I slunk down in the passenger seat.
“WHOOPY FUCKING DEAL! SO I’M FIVE FUCKING YARDS OFF!!!”, he slammed the steering wheel, “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!!!!”
“WELL, I GIVE A SHIT!! RULES ARE RULES!! WE PLAY MY HOLE, THEN WE PLAY YOURS!!!!”, I just stared ahead out the front windows. The lightness of the rain wasn’t making me any happier.
Chucky put the car into gear. I knew what that meant; he had made up his mind. “I’m driving. Fuck the rules. After all, we made them up and we can unmake them up.” I let it go. When he gets this way, you have to.
We finished the round off. We didn’t talk much, except things of how best to approach the 14th at Glen Allen and me choosing our last hole at Crab Cove. Usually we talk about all kinds of things. Like people we went to Lincoln High with and what they were up to or where they had disappeared to. Or our hopes and dreams. Or our plans for a cemetery/golf course with those flat memorial stones, so the grounds keepers could mow over them and the strange ball hops they would cause and what kinds of people would want to be buried there and who would we like to design the course and what the club house/memorial chapel should look like. Things like that.
The rain started to thicken when we got on the green of the Glen Allen hole, just about when I thought it would. If only we had gotten there first and were still talking, I could have stalled, hemmed and hawed. There would have been no way we could have gotten to those last two holes.
But, we were playing in silence and efficiently time wise. I picked the Crab Cove fourth because it was a rinky dink par three that we always finished in three and it was raining so hard I just wanted the round over. I finished ten over par and Chucky must have been more that twenty. But we didn’t discus it.
It kept raining all the way through Sunday, so we didn’t get to play the weekend’s back nine. Thank God. I didn’t want to see Chucky for like a really long time. I tried reading some golf magazines and watch the PGA TPC at Sawgrass on T.V.. I couldn’t concentrate on that either, though. The game had soured for me.
A strange thing happened at work the next day. I was opening the rest room door for Mrs. Weller, one of the nicer older rich ladies I help, and she stops and studies me close and says, “James, I didn’t know you were a member at Brook Green Country Club.“
“I’m not, Mrs. Weller.”, I answered. Like I could afford that.
“Well, wasn’t that you I saw playing out there last Saturday?”, she asked, kind of confused.
“Just the 16th, mam. Just the 16th.”, I answered, trying to sound nonchalant. I made a mental note to tell Wedge we would have to avoid the Brook for a few months.
This is the life of Whitecrow.
Whitecrow stands, arms crossed across the chest, in the white man’s bank. He dreams of the sundance. He dreams of being lifted by the wires attached to the bones threaded through the skin of his chest.
He dreams of the pain, of the waiting for the hours to pass and for the sun to rise. For the pain to end. Drawn up and drawn down.
How horrible to make something like that illegal. Anyone who went through that would be able to face anything. Is that so horrible?
What is the white man’s law? Anyway?
Whitecrow wonders; who was the last to dance the sundance? Who was the last? Who was the last Crow man?
Did the crow even do the sundance? Or is this something Whitecrow made up?
Whitecrow can not sale. He doesn’t understand why people would want to buy what the white man has to sale. And, most of all, he doesn’t understand why some one would need to be sold what they want. Whitecrow buys what he wants. He needs no one to tell him what he needs.
Whitecrow was not always Whitecrow. He was three years old when they moved to the Crow reservation. “Home Missions” the Baptists called it. Now they take a Crow to their colleges and their seminaries and have him be Baptist pastor. No little white kids living in the house where Whitecrow once lived.
Whitecrow thinks, what a horrible thing to do to a child: What a wonderful thing to do to a child.
Whitecrow stands in the white man’s bank in Seattle. This is not his place. Guarding the white man’s money and the people that take in and give out the white man’s money. Why is he here?
Whitecrow is one of the ones who live on the horizon. But how to see the horizon with all these mountains about?
He does not like their fish.
These Indians here are not his own.
Whitecrow thinks of the potlatch. He has read of the potlatches once held by the Indians here. He has read that one great family would honor another great family by holding a potlatch and giving away all that they had. The white man made a law to stop potlatches. They saw it as a family moving themselves into poverty overnight.
Whitecrow knows this must have confused the white man. There was nothing like this in their world. “Why?” was their question. They did not think to answer the question by thinking.
Where the white man saw poverty; the Indian saw great riches, rich enough to give away in honor of another. Whitecrow sees the making of the potlatch illegal as wrong; there is nothing to replace it. How do you replace something with nothing?
These are not his Indians, but he sees the sadness of their loss. How does one replace what is lost? How does one zoo the owl? Whitecrow would rather see a stuffed owl than one in a zoo.
The sundance, the potlatch, the owl.
I am Whitecrow. Let me cry my tears over that, allow me that much. My skin does not show. I fit in nowhere. I have no tribe. I am white.
What a wondrous thing to do to a child: What a horrible thing to do to a child. I live with this for my life.
The Great American
First of all the old man was dead. Second of all no one liked the old man.
But, maybe I ought to introduce myself first. My name is James. Not Jim, not Jimbo and not Jimmy. It’s James. I don’t answer to nothing else. I work the deli/meat section at Dennuchi’s Market. We’re on the Lake. Across the street from the water here in Seattle. A little neighborhood joint.
Dennuchi is the old man’s name. No one calls him Mr. Dennuchi. We call him the old man even to his face. He likes it. It’s about the only thing he likes. He doesn’t like anything else. Maybe that’s why we all hate him. But (and a big but) we like working at his store. And besides he hasn’t been downstairs in years. Except for the stock room.
I take the part back about the old man not liking anything else but getting called “the old man”. He likes or liked (since he’s dead) hanging out in the stock room and looking at the stock. It was kinda creapy. He would stand there for hours just looking at the boxes of stock. What’s creapy about that is he doesn’t or didn’t (since he’s dead) even do the ordering. Johny, the wine guy, has been doing the ordering for decades.
I don’t know Johny, the wine guy’s, last name. I don’t think anyone does. He’s always called Johny, the wine guy. Even the customers call him that. I’ve only been working here for nine years. I never thought to ask.
A few years back Johny, the wine guy, went to a champagne tasting down at the center. Even though the old man is stingy or was (since he’s dead) he didn’t hesitate to pay the hundred bucks entry fee to get Johny, the wine guy, into the event. The old man knows or knew (since he’s dead) that Johny, the wine guy, brings in more than half of what the store takes in and if Johny, the wine guy, can get the edge on champagne (like he has on wine) then even more will come in. It worked, of course. Johny, the wine guy, has a distinct palet and a great talent. He only needs to taste something once and he can tell anyone what it goes best with. Other than tasting, he never drinks. He gives Claire (who is a lush, first cashier and produce department manager here at Dennuchi’s) the rest of the bottle when some thing new comes in, just so he can have that one taste. Claire loves it when the first wines of the year appear.
Johny’s no flashy salesman. But, he sales product. “By trust. I sale product by trust and honesty. Always be honest.”, he always tells us, “You have got to get the customer to trust you.“ And the customers do trust him. They come from miles around to buy wine and now champagne from Johny, the wine guy.
I only mention the champagne tasting because I got a look at the list of who attended in “Seattle This Month” magazine. I became a little curious about Johny, the wine guy’s, last name. I scanned through the attendees and read, “Johny, the wine guy – Dennuchi’s Market, Seattle”. He didn’t even tell the event people what his last name is. So who am I to ask.
Another thing I’ve never asked him is how a black guy from Raineer Avenue ever got so cultured on wine and food. He’s not even gay or nothing.
But, jumping back to me and what I do at Dennuchi’s and why I like working here. About seven years ago the old man had a store meeting. Those meetings are kind of infuriating. He calls or called (since he’s dead) these store meetings about an hour before closing time and no one could ever guess what they are about. I mean, since he never comes downstairs (except for the stock room) what can he know about what’s going on in the store. He’s always in the stock room when we show up for work (our lockers are there) and so he knows we show up on time (he fires people who don’t show up on time, without a good excuse). But other than that he doesn’t really see what we do all day. So how could he call a store meeting for something he doesn’t know that we are or aren’t doing?
This paticular meeting was about me and my department. He jabs his finger at me and says, “Deli sales is down! Do something creative, James.”, then he waves his finger at everyone else, “And the rest of yous help him figure out what to do. Or else I fire James and then I’ll start thinking about who else to fire! Got me! Capeech!!!” and with that he left for his apartment upstairs. This is how his store meetings always go or went (since he’s dead) no guidance, just threats.
Always ending with the ‘Capeech’! I don’t even know how to spell ‘Capeech’.
No wonder everyone hates the old man. Or hated him, since he’s dead. Come to think of it, we hate him even now that he’s dead. He might have been a little too Italian.
Back to the meeting. “Oh, crap! Oh, crap! I need this job. In my country…”, This was stated, worriedly, by Bobo, the second cashier and stock boy. Bobo is an oddity. He often starts sentences with “In my country…”, but then never tells you what that country is. Everyone has asked, even the customers, and he always proudly states, “I’m an American now! Land of opportunity.”
I guess we’re all odd balls at the market. I’m not exactly normal myself.
So Bobo says, “In my country nobody will hire you if they know you have been fired. Ever!”
“Relax, Bobo. I’ve been fired plenty of times.”, Claire said.
“Why does that not suprize me?”, Johny, the wine guy, stated in his cultured voice. I know he listens to opera in the evenings after work. I like opera arias, but hate opera. So I never go. Johny, the wine guy has season tickets to the Seattle Opera. I went once with him. The arias were great, but the rest of the show was lame. I never went again. And once again I really have to wonder about Johny, the wine guy. Where did a black guy who graduated from Garfield High, down in the projects, ever get the love for opera? At least he’s not a cliche, him being not gay and all. I guess he’s a little more diverse than the rest of us.
“Hey, you!”, Claire exclaims.
“I’m only saying-”, Johny, the wine guy, started to answer.
“Now’s not the time for that. “, Claire cut him off, “We got to help James now.”
“Yes. You are right, Claire, now is not the time for petty bickering. But what are we to do?” For the first time ever, that I can recall, Johny, the wine guy, didn’t have a solution. Every meeting before he always came up with a solution to any problem the old man laid on us. But not now.
The fear started to grow in Claire’s eyes, “I don’t know niether”
“Either.”, Johny, the wine guy, corrected, out of habit.
“Oh, no! This is deep crap! Deep crap!”, Bobo was beside himself.
“James?”, Johny, the wine guy, looked at me enquiringly.
“I don’t know neither either.”, Johny, the wine guy, knew I was playing with the language and didn’t even start to correct me. Claire and Bobo didn’t notice. Her being a lush and him being an immigrant and such. Then something hit me. I needed to get drunk. By this time of the day the state liquor stores were all closed. So no help there. “Johny, the wine guy, I need some good champagne. A couple of bottles should do it. Big bottles. Maybe three.”
“I don’t think this is a time to celebrate, James. You see, James, champagne is for special occasions. Perhaps your custumary Black Label lager or Papst Blue Ribbon is more the thing for you right-”
“Stow the wine talk, the wine guy!”, I snapped at him. “I need to get drunk and I need to get drunk fast and hard. So you got my fix or what?”
“Now see here, a fine champagne is not for a person who desires to get drunk out of pitty for himself!” This was going to be tougher than I thought. He had champagne ethics. Like the father of the girl champagne: No one gets to grope the virgin bride without marrying her.
“I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for the store. I need to think. Maybe the champagne bubbles will bubble my brain. Like Lawerance Welk…you know…champagne-band-or…You know.” I did tell you I wasn’t quite normal.
“We’re in deep crap, deep crap.”, Bobo murmered.
“You could come to my place. I’ve got a few almost full bottles of champagne.”, Claire said.
“We all know what that would lead to, Claire.“, I looked her in the eyes.
“Just what, in the hell, are you insinuating?”, ‘Insinsuating’ was an unexpected big word for her. I didn’t even know she knew it. Maybe she heard it in a late night movie or maybe Johny, the wine guy, had said it around her and she picked it up.
‘I’m just saying I need to think alone at my place. I can’t think alone at your place with you there.”
“Oh! O.K..” Fast forgiving. Claire has her good points.
Johny, the wine guy, was studying me. Something must have clicked in his brain from something I said. “James, I am almost inclined to do what you want, But, I don’t think champage will do it alone.“
“I’ll take some viatimum B-6 as soon as I get home. That will give me some vivid dreams.”
“Perhaps, perhaps…”, He trailed off. I think the B-6 thing sewed the deal with him. I could see he was calculating (or how ever he does his talent) on what champagne would go best with vitamum B-6 and vivid dreams. “I think I have just the thing for your occasion, if I might call it that,. A Chateu-De-Le-Flute (don’t let the name alarm you) 1993. As you know the ‘93’s have a much more efervesant-”
“Just let me have the vino. Don’t sale it. I’m not a customer.”
“Hey, I have dibs on free bottles.”, Claire chimed in.
“Not this time, Claire. James needs this. The ‘93 Chateu is special. The ‘93 has to work. The ’93 will save us all.”, Johny, the wine guy, flatly told her.
“Oh, right. I forgot. He needs to think – alone. I guess it’s O.K. this time”, Looking back I can never figure out whether she meant me getting the champagne or being alone.
Anyway, fueled with B-6 and three bottles of ‘93 champagne, that night, I dreamt of the Great American Sandwhich. The next day I honed my idea on the crystalized knife edge of the most vicious stabing hangover headache. Deli sales soared. The old man didn’t fire me. Claire, Bobo and Johny, the wine guy, kept their jobs. Seattle Weekly, the Times and the PI did write ups on Dennuchi’s. “Local Boy Does Good”. “Best Sandwhich In Town”. “Never Know What To Expect, But It’s Great”. That kind of thing.
I try to be humble.
Here’s how The Great American works. Let’s say an uninitiated customer comes in and orders a “ham and swiss on rye with yellow mustard” I say to him, “That’s not how this works. See the sign?”, I then point at the sign that says ‘I only make The Great American Sandwhich. Don’t ask me for anything else.’ Then I says, “Right now you’re asking for something else. We got to start over. We have to build this thing together. ”
“O.K.. I’ll start over, since you didn’t get it the first time, I want a ham and swiss of rye with yellow mustard.’
“No you don’t”
“That’s just what you think you want.”
“No, that’s what I want!”
“Trust me, you don’t.”
“Better trust him, mister. You don’t know what you want.”, This said by an inniated customer behind him..
‘Well! What do I want?” Our uninniated customer is perturbed and slightly exasperated.
“Don’t worry. We’re going to find out. Let’s start with the condements. Yellow mustard, right?”
“Uhm. right. Yellow mustard…and ham and swiss.“
“Forget the meat and cheese for now. We have more important things to consider. We have to do this backwards.”
“Forget the meat and cheese!-More important-Backwards!-What the hell-I read this place made a great sandwhich! Listen! What’s more important to a sandwhich than meat and cheese?” With the questions come the education.
“The bread, sir, The bread.”
“What about the bread”
“You wanted rye?”
“And you wanted yellow mustard?”
“Do they go together?”
“Think, man! Yellow mustard is sour. Rye bread is sour. A sour and a sour won’t work. Any meat and any cheese on it would be lost. I could make you a mustard sandwhich on rye, if you want. But, I don’t think you would want that.”
“I don’t want that!”
“I didn’t think you did. Now let’s work together”
“Work with him,”, Once again from the inntiated customer in line behind our uninniated customer.
“O.K., I’m in your hands. I don’t see where you’re going with this, but I’m in you’re hands.”
“Neither you nor I know where we’re going with The Great American until we get there together.”
“This is so weird. You mean you don’t even know what you’re doing?”
“I haven’t a clue, sir. So far all I know is yellow mustard and no rye bread…and sour dough is out, too.”
“This is really too much for me. I think I’m going to leave. Maybe there’s a McDonalds near by.”
“Not for about thirty blocks, sir. And I wish you would stay. The Great American is the best sandwhich you’re ever going to have. It will have everything you want right now.”
“Trust him. It’s the best, ever.”, from our inntiated customer, who is sounding more and more like a greek play chorus. But then the inniated always do. The inniated know that their taste changes from day to day and relie on me to interpert these changes. They delight in these changes. I don’t play them like an organ. We play the organ together. Weirdest sandwhich I ever made – creamy peanut butter, finally chopped sweet pickle on pumpernickel. Think about that. Imagine the taste and the texture. Roll it around for awhile. Get your tongue into it. It works. On a certain day it would be the best sandwhich you ever have had. This is how it happens. The Great American might not what you expect, but it’s always everything you ever wanted.
“I wish you would stay. The Great American is only here. Work with me. Trust me. Please.” I always try to say this in a flat sort of way, but some how I always get choked up. Passion is contageous.
“O. – K..”, Jerk, sink in the hook, this fish is ready to real.
“Yellow mustard and we were dicussing bread. White?”, I ask.
“I don’t like white bread! Am I allowed to say that?”, He looks sheepishly around.
“Freedom of speech is required. How about white bread toasted?”
“Yeh, I like that?”
“Butter or no butter?”
“No butter.”, Now he’s got it. Rapid fire. I ask the questions. He gives the fast answers.
“Swiss. Uh, if I may?”
“You may. Tomatoe?”
“No tomatoe!”, he states with confidance.
“Is there something wrong? I really don’t like tomatoes.” At this point I was trying to stear him into a simple BLT with swiss and yellow mustard (it has it’s virtues. Plus I got a long hungry line behind him.).
“No, Nothing wrong. Lettuce?”
“Oh, yes, lettuce!”
“Complex, complex…Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“Is that good?”
“Plenty good. Now the meat What shall we have with the meat?” I’m looking around at my selections. Normally I would think turkey. But today the turkey is too alkaline. What with the lettuce and the swiss it’s going to dry the mouth. Can’t have that. Maybe the-
“How about ham?”, He’s interrupting my thought process.
“You don’t get to decide on the meat, sir. This is where the trust begins.” Don’t let him distract me. I’m almost there.
“I don’t get to decide?” The weeping in his tone must be ignored at all costs.
“Shut up. This is when the magic happens. Let him work”, hisses the chorus.
Proshuto, no. Corned beef, not quite. Close, but doesn’t answer agianst the lettuce. If only he had waited for kraut! Here it is. Here it is! Will he accept it? “Sir, I am thinking roast beef with a smear of cream cheese on the bottum slice of toast.”
“What? That’s not a sanwhich! No one has ever heard of a roast beef sanwhich with lettuce, yellow mustard, swiss and cream cheese on white bread toast before!”
“Yes, but the combination. Think of it. Imagine it. Role it around your mouth some. Dream, sir DREAM! Dwell on the sweatness of the cream cheese on the bottum slice of toast combined with the sour of the mustard on the top slice of toast. They are apart, but yet together in the whole. Suckle the rarity of beef and swiss married at last. This is never suppose to happen. The crispness of the letuce juxtaposed against the all too familiarity of white bread toast. Sublime, but yet extreme. Each taste and texture working to a climax. Your mouth will explode!”
“It’ too strange!”
“I’ll make the sanwhich and cut off a sample and if you don’t want it, I know what I’m having for lunch.” On my part this is a last resort. But, not a bad gamble for me. Only once have I had to eat a refused sandwhich. A strange combination with headchease, feta and red bell pepper. I could only choke down half. I thought I was having an off day. Then Johny, the wine guy, came by and upon tasting the other half, declared, “This should be accompanied by the 2004 Sutterhome chardonnay. Yes, I know. You’re shocked by putting a chardonnay against headcheese, my friend. You must have expected a deep rich crisp red wine. Hungarian bull’s blood? Or perhaps a German Rhineland red? Contrary to popular belief the Rhine is not all about whites. But, you see, the feta appears to take the darkness from the headcheese and the red bell overcomes and lifts it’s dryness. Where did you come up with this combination? Have you been reading Saveur magazine of late? I must have that chardonnay right now with this delightful sandwhich creation. I know this breaks with my habit of not drinking during working hours. But, it must be done!”, With that he stood up and headed towards the front of the store saying, “Claire, have you seen my cork screw?”
Back to my new customer. “A sample won’t hurt”
“A sample. But, then I’m not coming back here. You’ve wasted my time.”
I feverishly assembled the sandwhich, Not for the first time that I wanted the customer to turn their nose up and walk away at tasting the sandwich. This would have made a great lunch. I sliced the completed creation in half and then cut off a hunk and handed it over.
“This is,…This is,…I’m speachless – You’re a genious!”
“Thank you, sir. It’s been a pleasure. Pay up front. Next.”
“No, no, you don’t understand. I’m coming back tomorrow and I’m going to tell everyone I know about this experiance.”
“Well, I’ll see you then” Another satisfied.
To save some time I then offer the new creation to the entire waiting que. Open an express line for the takers. Most everyone know’s, “I’ll have what he’s having” is no way to order a sandwhich. Some people have limited time and this streamlines things a bit. Also it’s tradition. And besides I got a whole subset of orderers who lurck and snatch up what ever sounds good.
So that’s how the Great American Sandwhich works.
Enough with the sandwhiches already. Where was I? OH, yes, the old man was dead.
It was about an hour and 1/2 before closing I’m breaking down the meat saw, cleaning the slicer and doing my ussual end of the day stuff. Johny, the wine guy, comes out of the stock room door. He’s looking white with shock (well, for him, kind of a dark tan). His eyes don’t look like he’s seeing anything.
“Johny?”, I call to him.
He just stands there looking at nothing.
“Hey, Johny.” Still just standing there. His black Dennuchi’s Market apron looks tighter than ussual on him. “Johny, the wine guy?’
He finally recognizes his name and looks at me dazed like, “James, the old man…the old man ..he’s…”
“Did he fire you?…Hell, Johny, the wine guy, you bring in more than half what this store takes in. That’s insane! I’m going right up there and talk some sense into him.”, I pushed past Johny, the wine guy, “Where is he? His office?”
“Yes, the office. – I think.” John, the wine guy, was way out of it.
I stormed up the stairs and flung open the door to the office and pretty much screaming, “LISTEN HERE, YOU OLD FUC…” . But there wasn’t any reason to say anymore. He was sprawled in his office chair (Johny must have turned him around. Because the old man was facing the door), his neck at a not quite right angle and his head flung back. Stroke? Heart attack? I didn’t know. Something fast had made him dead.
I reached for the desk phone and started dialing 911 and then just stopped. I placed the receiver back into the cradle and fell into the only other chair in the office. “It all ends here. It all ends here.”, I thought. The store would close or be sold. Johny, the wine guy, would get snagged up by some big chain store. Probably have to wear a plastic name tag stating his last name. Losing his individuality. Claire was more fragil than she knew. She’d get drunk for awhile. I calculated she must have about two or three months worth of almost full bottles of wine and champagne at her place. She’d let the rent go unpaid and be homeless about the time the vino dried up. Bobo? He’d do O.K.. His sunny helpful way would get him another meanial job somewhere else.
And me? What about me?
Oh, I’d get another deli job. I had enough press writeups. Everyone wants a horse that wins. But, no one would give me free rien. No one would ever understand me. They would throw me on a racetrack, thinking I was some thoruoghbred. A little money maker. Something with a jokey to bet on. Round and round. Nothing but the dirt and the lines of the track. The plight of the race horse. Never realizing I was a throw back. Not to be controlled. Like those wild pintos on some island off the east coast. Running fast in the knee high grass. All bets off. Jokeying for possition within the herd. Nobody wins. Everybody wins. The herd and the individual. And both are equally celebrated, revered and charished for how hard they ran.
Yeh, I could fake it for awhile at the new deli job. Give them what they want. Even if they don’t know what they want. They – the owners, the customers, the managers. Everybody. It would all be formula and form. Orderly and ordered. The customer is always right. Even when they’re dead wrong. No dreams, no talent, no tastebuds and no imagination required. Assembly on the assembly line. Interaction with the customer is minamal. A brief sugestion (“Have you considered a smear of sourcream and alfa sprouts on the top. I insist.”) not allowed. No more drawing the customer out and taking them to the extreme edge. At what point does the customer cease to be a customer and becomes just another sandwhich eater? Where’s the passion? If the eyes don’t bulge, if the mouth doesn’t water, if the tongue doesn’t sing in a rhapsidy of unexpected pleasure? What is the reason of it all? I ask of you; No! I demand of you (for I am a demanding sort and never appologize for it.) – What is the reason of it all? Eating just to fill the gullet? And filling the gullet for a swift, short time just to eat again? Nothing new, everything all the same. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow! Fill er’ up! Food is fuel. And only fuel.
The Great American. You start out with nothing, Somewhere along the line it’s becomes something. Even though it’s open ended and can become anything, it always becomes something great. It always becomes what you want, even though it isn’t what you knew you wanted at very the beginning. Freedom is always like that; you don’t know where it’s going to lead.
The Great American sandwich? It would be lost forever.
I lightly kicked the base of the swivel chair so the old man turned to face me. His head dropped down to his chest. I looked straight at his now drooping head. “I hated you when you were alive.”, I said in the quite of the office, “I hate you even more now that you’re dead. You never knew what Johny, the wine guy, does. You just saw the money on the books. You never knew what I do. Or Bobo or Claire. At least you didn’t get in our way. At least you let the poneys run. Even though you never appriciated them.”
I slowly stood and walked to the door leaving and turned one last time, “Who needs you, old man! Who ever needed you?”
When I got back downstairs Johny, the wine guy, was right where I left him. “How long have I been gone?”, I asked myself. I’d never known Johny, the wine guy, to stand around doing nothing for so long before. Islses 4 and 5 (which is a miss nommer since we only have 4 islses with 5 being a made up area beside the magazine rack and not really a full islse) were always properly faced and dusted. Isles 4 and 5 are vino terratory.
“Johny, the wine guy, the old man is dead.”, I said just behind his shoulder. He didn’t move or respond. So I came around in front of him to face him. “Johny, the wine guy,”, I repeated, “The old man is dead.”
“Yes, James. The old man is dead.”, still he just stood there.
Unless I got him moving, it looked like he was never going to move ever again. “Johny, the wine guy, you probably have customers.”
“The customers?”, finally he turned his head, which was a relief to me about then. I was beginning to think his neck had become fused together or something. He turned to look towards islses 4 and 5. “The customers relie upon me. They have occaisions, dinners, wine tastings, cheese platters, artichock dips and such. They have choices to make. They need my help, my guidance…”
‘Yes they do Johny, the wine guy. You must to go to them.”
“I must go to them.” and he turned to leave for his section.
“Oh, and Johny, the wine guy, when you get up front tell Claire and Bobo that the old man has called a store meeting.”
He stopped not turning, “Why would I do that, James?”
“So we can tell them that the old man is dead.”
“But, the old man hasn’t called a meeting.”
“Yes I know he hasn’t. Since he’s dead.”
“But, how can the old man call for a store meeting when he’s dead, James?”
“Well, techniqully he can’t. But, we can’t just tell Claire and Bobo that he’s dead right at the cash registers. They’d make an embarrasing scene. You know them. We’ve got to get the store closed first. The old man wouldn’t want no scenes. Just tell them.”
“I can’t tell them.’
“It would be a lie, James. Bobo and Claire trust me. Trust is all we have.”
“Good. All right. I’ll tell them about the meeting myself.”
“That would be best. We can’t tell them the old man is dead on the sales floor. They would make a scene. The old man wouldn’t have wanted that.”
“No he wouldn’t. And Johny, the wine guy. don’t tell the customers, even if they ask about him.”
“The customers?”, he laughed, “I don’t think narey a customer has seen the old man since the mid 1980s. Even then he infrequently came down to the sales floor. No customer has ever asked about him for more than thirty years. You see, James, the customers hated him. That’s why he stayed upstairs. He knew it was he that was effecting sales and he wouldn’t have it. The old man was a grocier. The last of a dieing breed. You saw him in the stock room. He loved it back there. He would watch the tide of the stock rise and fall. The trucks unloaded at high tide and the tide receded as the product sold. You saw an old man looking at an empty backroom full of boxes. I saw the old man watching the sea. A sea of change. Everything is always changing and shifting.”, he paused, “I won’t lie to any customer. But than any reason to lie to them about the old man won’t arise. They hated him as much as I did.” and then he strowled off to islses 4 and 5 as if he had never been frozen in place.
We gathered in the storeroom and pulled out the four plastic lawn chairs (the old man never had time to sit durring meetings. He just said his peice and left). Claire and Bobo looked at the stairs leading to office and the old man’s apartment, waiting for the meeting to start.
“Uhm, the old man-”, I started.
Claire cut me off, “Yeh, where is the old man? I got male friend coming over to my apartment in a few minutes. This one dosen’t like to wait.”
“Yes, well, this might take longer then a few minutes. You, see, the old man – “
“How come you know that this will take longer that a few minutes, James?”, Bobo cut me off, “Have you been talking to the old man? Is he going to fire me? I do my work. In my country if you do your work no one fired you! I know the old man hates me, but still that is no reason to fire some one who does his own work! Is he going to fire me?”
“He’s not going to fire you, Bobo.”
“So, you’ve been talking to him. Is he going to fire Claire, then?”
“Fired! You could have at least told me! JAMES?”, Claire exploded.
“No one’s getting fired, O.K.! The old man is -”
“Why does he suddleny talk to you and no one else? In my country a man says what he says and doesn’t use front man! Are you trying to form a union here. Because the old man wouldn’t like that. ‘NO UNION SHOP IN MY STORE! CAPEECH?”, Bobo did a fair imataion of the old man.
“No one’s forming a union and I haven’t been talking to the old man! got it?”
“James, why don’t you just tell them?”, The voice of sanity from Johny, the wine guy.
“Because they won’t shut up!”
“True. I’ll tell them. The old man died sometime late this evening”, His cultured voice had the measured tone of a mortition. Which is the way it should sound talking about the old man (since he’s dead).
“What?-”, Claire sounded as if no one had ever died on her before. And I meant the ‘died on her before’ literally not figuratively. 911 had been to her apartment a few times too many.
‘We…”, Bobo looked furitively up the stairs, ‘In my country we must bury him before the sun sets.” Vampires? Zombies? Religious reasons? Just where, the hell, did he come from? Now was not the time to ask…again.
‘The sun has already set, Bobo.”
“Deep crap, deep crap.“
“Has anyone call 911?”, Claire rocked back and forth looking at her shoes or the floor.
“I…completely forgot. I was so stunned. I am so deeply sorry, all.”, stated Johny, the wine guy.
“You didn’t, James?”, Claire was shocked. In her world everyone called 911 and they got rid of the body. Let some one else handle the problems of life and death. Out of sight, out of mind. ‘Out of mind’ after the crying was through, that is. In this modern world we don’t make any decisions about life and we, sure as hell, don’t make any decisions about death. We just cry. That’s what we’ve become, a nation of mourners.
“No. I didn’t call 911.’
“It wasn’t my decision to make.”
“But,…when some one… dead…”, gesturing up the stairway, “…911…it’s the way we’ve all been told to…”, Claire is so programmed. So programmed, if she died tonight she would be the first to dial 911, if she could.
“I know that’s what we’ve all been told to do, but why and when?”
“In my country – ‘
“In your country you do what the dead man wanted! Which is bury him before the sun sets.”
“You’re an American now. We’re all Americans! Let’s act like ones… for once. On Little House On The Prairie when some one died they woul – “
“What is this ‘little house’?”
“A TV show from the seventies, Bobo. You know… Micheal Landon,…Laura Engles Wilder,…Mary and that woman that played Ma…Little House On The…They had this…You know, Walnut Grove…Only I’ve lived in Minnesota and it’s not like…It’s flat there…On TV they showed moutains…I mean it’s really flat there…It’s a praire after all…TV is a lie…table top flat…except for the creek…My fifth grade teacher…Mrs, Powell…No relation to ‘Powers’ of Powers Lake…Kids before us would write to Laura…She read the books to the class…only the Engles moved more than they did on the TV…Come to think, on TV they only moved once…That’s what was good about the books…movement, change…next horizon…”, I was losing the thread.
“What are you getting at, James?”, asked Claire.
“I…I don’t know.“
“If I might venture, I think our earsntwhile friend is saying, back durring the time of the Wilders the bereaved took matters in their own hands. The constable was not nessesarly called when one died of natural causes. Due to the lack of a mortition or the prohibitive cost the family was forced to clean and dress the corpse, make the coffin, arrange the service with the minister and even dig the grave themselves.” Johny, the wine guy, said.
“OOOOOOO! I’m not going to wash him and dress him! Count me out!”, exclaimed Claire.
‘Are you proposing that we bury him ourselves, James?”, asked Johny, the wine guy.
“No, that would leave evidence.”
“Evidence of what? We didn’t kill the old man. Why would any one say we did a crime?”, Bobo was confussed.
“There’s laws in this country about tampering with a dead body, Bobo.”
“Oh. I did not know this.”
“If we don’t bury ‘im, what do we do with ‘im?”, asked Claire.
“Yes, James, what shall we do?”
“I don’t know, Johny , the wine guy.”
“In my country-”, started Bobo.
“Yes?”, we all asked back desperate for ideas.
“There is a web site with directions about how to butcher a human body.”
“That’s disgusting!”, stated Claire.
“Apply stated, Claire. Very disgusting.”, said Johny, the wine guy.
“What kind of person would even think of that?”, I asked. I was also thinking, “Just what the hell kind of country do you come from, Bobo?” But, I didn’t ask that not wanting to offend him.
“He is a great humorist and very thorough. In his research he dicussed this with 61 different butchers and meat finishers. Which parts are best smoked. Which make good sausages. Which to grill. What must be pickled.” He looked around at us see if we would get the joke, I think. “In my coutry this is great parody. Perhaps here in America, you have much different feelings about death.”
“Yeh, much different.”, of course now I was getting ideas, “I’d like to see that web site.”
“James, you aren’t seriously thinking of…,well,…butchering the old man?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of an appropiate wine for the occasion, Johny, the wine guy.”
“I can think of quite a few – The Salmon Bay 2004 Merlot comes to mind, a heady little local vintage. The distinct bouquet would take your mind off of the scent of death and the… Finally a reason for merlot!’, he said triumphently, “But, that’s not the point.”
“The point is the problem. How to get rid of the old man’s body.”
“But, he has family! They’ll need closure!”
“Trust me, Claire, he doesn’t.”, Johny, the wine guy, flatly stated, “I was hired in 1974 as stock boy (a different time from now, thank God) he made narey a reference to any sort of family.”
“Family? I don’t think he was even born! He came fully formed from the head of Zues.”
“Are you from Greece, Bobo?”, I asked always wondered where he came from.
“No. I’m an American now!” Well, that narrowed it down some. “In my country I studied Greek mythology in secondary school.”
“What’s ‘secondary school’ ?”
“It’s high school, Claire.”
“Oh, than I went to secondary school too.” The ball was on the tee. For a sure hole in one all I had to do was swing away. I bit my tongue. I needed her vote. Jokes would have to wait.
“As did I. Garfield, as you know. I have fond memory’s of Ezil’s Chicken when the cullanary delights of the school cafeteria where not paletable to my palet. On a side point a fascinating German white, of the time, a ‘74 Black Tower, would have gone very well with Ezil’s offerings. That fried bird would have sored to new heights! Sadly I was too young to drink.”, [by now do I really have to write who said this?], “But, back to the old man. James, what is the reasoning behind your wish to give the old man such a ignaminiously fasion to the end to his days?”
Claire was baffled, “Johny , the wine guy, what do you mean by ‘ignaminiously’?”
“Butchery, Claire, butchery.”, he saveured the words. Tasted them. I almost expected Claire to demand an almost full bottle of the leftover words. A 2007 Johny, The Wine Guy, Cabronet Savaugh - with hints of blackberries, wild cherries, sandlewood, mind you tart, but not too dry, an excelent accuplement to -, ”James? Just what are your thoughts on the matter of ‘taking care’ of the old man?”
“Huh? I was thinking…Oh, yeah – Lamont’s! Dannuchi’s will end up like Lamont’s.”
“Lamont’s on Eastlake….yes….small selection, excellent choices. But, sadly, now that HE’s taken over and switched the phlilsophy to highlight such things as Earnst & Jullio Gal – (But, mustn’t speach ill of the dead – even though they live on through their nightmare koolaid juice) – wine sales must have risen for, shall we say, the lower crust of the Eastlake Neighborhood. One step above Thunderbird or, dare it pass my lips, Boone’s Farm! Deplorable, deplorable decay! ‘Best Sanwhich In town’ HE didn’t even paint that over on the sign under the word ‘Lamont’s’! Even though everyone knows the best sandwich in town is three blocks west. Mr. Lamont should regret the day he retired and sold out to HIM! And then HE turns around and sales half of his parking lot so they can build a Starbucks. Just what the neighborhood needs, a morning coffee chaser to releave the hangover from cheap wine.” [Once again you already know who said this. Long ago I had given up questioning how a Garfield going, Ezil’s Chicken eating, black man could have ever become such a cultured wine snob. Diversity! Diversity? He’s just a little more diverse than the rest of us. Still, he was right about the sandwiches. I probably drove Lamont into retirement.]
“Shame about Lamont’s. In his day he used to have the best sanwhich in town.”, Claire just had to say something. “Towards the end he was slipping. He had good prices on wine, though.” Have I said Claire means well?
“Lamont’s? It is still open. What is the problem? I see it from the bus every morning when I come to work. It never closed.”
“That’s one of their tricks, bobo, THEY just take over. The store never closes. Hell, I know a gyro joint in the U – Disrtict that has had five changes in ownership in the last nine years. They never close. But, I show up and I don’t recognize anyone working there anymore. That’s how THEY do it. THEY just sale the keys.”
“Who are these THEY you speak of?”
“Um…Errr…Foreigners?”, I hadn’t really defined it for myself and I knew the instant I uttered this there was going to be hell to pay.
“I find this remark offensive. I will not talk to you. I wish to speak to only Johny, the wine guy. He is more diverse than you are!”
Hell to pay! Hell to pay! Big crap! Big crap!
“You must understand, Bobo, James is white and I am starting to think he is conservative (but, at least not one of those Klu Klux Klan conservative democrates). At least what he should have said was “People from other cultures with their foreign ways” or better yet “People who do not respect ‘a slice of Americana’.”. Yes, that would be more apt ‘People who do not understand ‘a slice of Americana’. Nicely put, if I do say so myself. You see, this market is ‘a slice of Americana’. Lamont’s used to be and is now not. The big chain grocery stores are not. The independent markets are ‘a slice of Americana’! This is not to say that foreigners can not run a good market. An excellent example is “University Produce”, up on 45th. For years a Pakastinian owned that market, with great success. Then he sold it to an asian man (no problems with asians), who changed it into an asian market. This would have not been a problem in a diverse city such as this, except for one thing; he didn’t consider the customer. He didn’t change the name of the store, not a problem if one continues the tradition of the store. But, the hallmark of the name “University Produce” is produce. Failure to deliver upon the name (i.e,. ‘produce’) is suicide in business. The produce section, one of the best in Seattle, went down the tubes (if I may use the venatcular). The wine and beer selection also was degraded to the most common denominator. The deli was not about salads, (think the hallmark ‘Produce’, remember?) soup and sandwhichs. It became the cliche terriaki. I have no problem with terriaki, but does it match the name of the store? No, it does not! Change the name if you desire to sale budget produce! Take the word ‘deli’ off of the sign and repalce it with ‘terriaki’ (and by the way, it was dissasterous terriaki. Must have been of a clan of non-Japanese ‘asians’)! Another thing you do not ever do, is to fire the staff wholesale! The customer wants some reasurance of continuity when ownership changes hands. He or she does not want to come in one day knowing all the help and then the next day seeing all the help has changed. Changed, mind you, to the exact ethiniticity or the new owner of the store. One day you’re in a devirse market, next day you are in an asian market. The slice of Americana is lost forever! It has become ‘a slice of Asiancana’ (if there is such a phase)! Give the customer what they expect or you’re finished! After the asian buy out of University Produce it closed in less than one year.”
“Eight months. The time was eight months. It’s still closed after four years. A prime spot for a market too.”, I paused and looked to Bobo, “Bobo, I apologize. I meant to say what he said. He talks better than me. There are people that come here and than there are people that just move here…”
“I can see what you mean now, James. I am not one of these foriegners who have moved here to make America like my country. I moved here to become an American. I moved here to live here; to change myself, not the country. You are forgiven.”
“Thank you, Bobo. I didn’t mean to offend. Hell, you’re the best bag boy west of the Mississppi.”
“How far is this Mississippi?”
“I came from Minnesota, so it’s about 16 hundred miles.”
“So I am one great bag boy!”
“The best, man. A good bag boy interacts with customer. You do that. You’re the best.”
“Thanks. That means alot.”
“Only eight months? University Produce. I didn’t realize the time was so short.’, said Johny, the wine guy, ”A prime location, yes, in the heart of the U – District. Three blocks to the nearest chainstore,”, Johny, the wine guy, sneered. “and about fifthteen blocks to the nearest Hole Foods (as I call them). At least Hole Foods acts like they are an independent and they are responsive to the customer. But, still a chain. I could work there. But, I would hate myself.” I had forgotten all about Whole Foods as conserned with Johny, the wine guy’s, future employment possiblities.
“I could, maybe, work there too. But, on the other hand I say ‘no’ to the customer quite alot. Not sure if that would cut it there. I might have to study their deli department.”
“They sale pizza in their deli.”
“Pizza belongs in a parlour, not a deli.“
“Pannisis, all the rage. Death of the sandwhich. Focaitia has it’s place. But, forcing it on people as the only bread option is wrong. The bread must match the condiment, the veggies, the cheese, the meat – the inspiration. No chance of shoyu-maonaise ever getting on focaciata! The Haiwian’s need their comfort condement, too. Which reminds me, a couple of weeks ago this Haiwian comes to my counter. He asks for a simple baloney, ketchup, with american cheese on white. I took one look at him and knew that wasn’t what he wanted. I ended up making him a loco moco on wheat toast. Wheat toast! Would you beleive it? I had the whole thing – a smear of white rice (mind you, just a smear), hamburger patty, fried egg, covered with beef gravey, but on wheat toast! It was genious! Loco moto on wheat! Imagine it. Saveur it. Get your tongue around it. It works! The thing is, it has to be wheat toast or the whole thing falls apart. White toast seems like the natural, but it isn’t. White rice with white bread is lost. Wheat is the answer! Wheat augements the rice, lifts it up, puts it in it’s proper place. Extreme in control! Six people order it on the express line I openned for the new creation. Haiwian dude comes back everyday to get it (Haiwian’s are big on same ole’ same ole’). I morphed it up some by adding some arrugala as a bed, just to get a brassicas involved. Plus arrugla punched it up a notch (should have tought of it when he first came in). Another satisfied!”
“I doudt the deli department at Hole Foods even knows what brassicas are.”
“Hey! Don’t knock brassicas! If the Haiwian guy had orderd his baloney, american and kectup, on white with kholorabi; I’m making it for him. That combo’s just too much to miss. Surfs up there, man! But, he didn’t. So I steered him to what I knew he would love.”
“‘Benevolent facisism.’, I believe, that’s what that’s called, James.”
“I call it ‘helping the customer to see what they REALLY want’. But, I guess wine sales are some how different”?”, I knew that he knew he did the same thing. With liquid or solid we played the same exact game.
“Touche.”, he acknowleged, “We do both have our unigue talents.”
“Can we cut with the pissing contest?,” Claire demanded, “Yeh, you make great sandwiches. Yeh, you know wine. But, what does this all have to do with the store? With the old man? With us?”
“Claire, always to get to the root of the thing!”, extolled Johny, the wine guy, [I always wanted to use the word ‘extolled’ in a sentence. Now that I’ve had my chance, I have other things to live for.]. “But, first things first. I would pair a wine choice of a Da Vinci Chianti 2005 with James’s creation of a baloney, american cheese, kholarbi, ketchup on white bread sandwhich. Without the kholaribi it ‘would all fall apart’, as James would say, and would not merrit the Da Vinci. I had hoped in my life to never consider american cheese, white bread, baloney and ketchup as a culinary experience ever requiring my attention. [once again – black guy, Rainier Ave., not gay – where does he…? I’m speachless.]. That chianti would answer well. Oh, my GOD! Soon I’ll be recommending the correct white for a Dick’s deluxe . It’s the tartarsauce, you see? The tartarsauce demands a white. Most would say a red, up against a burger, and ignore the tartar. This would go also for the Big Mac. How low have I stooped?”
“Pretty low.”, I said, “But, just be satisfied with the Da Vinci. I’ve drunk the Da Vinci. It would go great with a Big Mac with kholorabi on it. The brassica’s are the red meat of the vegitable community. They deserve a red and an Itailian choice is inspired.’
“One must always respect the brassicas. You are right James! They do so much with so little. Brocolli or caulaflower? White or red? The color complement depends upon their sulfer content and not upon their color. I had never thought of this that way before. The balance of an occasion changes with the brassica served! Astonishing! We must alert our vender! They must know of this. But, let’s not tell McDonald’s, though. They might start selling McChianti. Oh, the horror.”
“Perhaps McDonald’s Europe. But, we’re safe here. No alachol for McDonald’s here. No chianti, no kholorabi. Not that they would ever have thought of that. McDonalds is not big on brassicas. Come to think of it, no one but me is big on brassicas. Sliced broccalli (yes. it can be sliced) and ham, on sourdough. That’s mine! Uh, huh.! I’m the man.! Some guys think cheese sauce always with broccalli. I say NO! Let the broccalli sing, don’t cover it up. Never apologize for a brassica.”
‘Chianti would answer, but not the Da Vinci. A ham and broccolli on sourdough must request the Gabbiano 2005. Broccolli has a significantly lower sulpher level than kholorabi and that matches the lower sulpher accompianant of the Gaddiano over the Da Vinci. Think of the acidity of the sour dough, the earthyness of the broccolli, the guilty holsumeness of the ham, the combina-”
“What is this”, interrupted Claire, “The sandwich and wine hour? What are we doing with the old man?”
“I thought that was settled.”, I really thought that was settled.
“How?”, all three of them asked.
“Well, I’ll butcher him. With help from Bobo’s web site, we’ll cure his meat into a type of ham. We’ll slowly dohl out his orgrans and ground bones to Boris Passtenak, Jr’s hogs. Other stuff for sausages. Hair’s a problem. Better to shave and burn it. We have to treat the blood carefully. I can drain it, but what to do with it?”
‘I can think of some complimentrary reds. We must mix the blood to form a house red (using a house white as a ruse). I don’t think any market has ever had a house wine. Another first, although very gruesome. Still it could be done.”
“I could whip up a chili, too. Soups are still the deli’s weak spot. The pre-packaged ones aren’t cutting it.”, I added.
“Chili gives me some options. Once again, may I say, merlot. Blood would mix well with merlot and merlot matches chili. Yet another reason for merlot!”
“Remind me to never eat here again! And always make sure about the wine I get. You guys are disgusting! We can’t do that with the old man! Who decided this? What about calling 911?”, Claire again., “Who’s going to do the books and sign the checks? Did you think of that, you big evil dumbies?”
“Claire, I’ve been forging the old man’s signature for decades.”, Johny, the wine guy, said, “Always for the good of the store, mind you. Never to line my own threadbare pockets. I’m proud of that. There is so much greed in the world. Greed does not buy a $400.00 case of wine and sell it. I do and I have.”
“But, the books. She has a point. None of us here knows about finances. I guess we were beat before we even started. I don’t know nothing about no books. That’s it then…I guess the old man did more than what I gave him credit for. Me being an artist and such I completely forgot about bookwork. The feds and the state will completely sniff us out. So, …that’s it then. I’ll make the phone call to 911 and then-”, Bobo cut me off.
“In my country…”
‘Yes, Bobo?” The rest of us said in unison.
“…I was a registered CPA.”
“Bobo!”, Johny, the wine guy, exclaimed admiringly, “Today you seem to have all the answers.”
Bobo just gleamed. Claire, sitting next to him, leaned her head into his shoulder in the most non-sluttist fashion she could ever possibly acheive.
About six months later I was at the deli counter handling the noon rush. The new office building up the street on Eastlake had just oppened up. More customers came with word of mouth. I was introducing a newby to my way of doing thiings.
“This is not what I wanted to order!”, She was almost crying, “And this is not how I expect to be treated when I come to a place for lunch!”
“There, there.”, I said in my most cairing manner, “You have to think of my feelings too.”, I hate playing the ‘feelings’ card, but this was becoming a hard sell. I could do without the selfish criers.
“Your feelings?”, She was in a dazed shock. This had never happened to her before.
“Yes. I, too, have dreams and desires. I don’t make sandwiches. I paint. This counter is my pallet. The bread is my canvis. Would you ask a Monet or a De Soto or an Edward Hopper to paint the same eight or a dozen paintings over and over again? Nothing created. Nothing new. Repitition would be the only perfection. No suprises. A good slogan for a hotel chain, but not for the life of an artist. I have taken my art and have made this sandwich just for you. You have inspired me. Not some limited printed menu. You have. I have drawn out your most inner desires and this… this is the outcome.” My hands hovered above the crusty sourdough bread of the sandwich resting on the old school wax paper, waiting – no demanding – to be wrapped, then taken, then unwrapped and then eatened.
“But, I don’t like liverwurst! I hate liverwurst!”, Tantrums do begin.
“Madam, you have never tasted liverwurst as it is being presented today! Almost no one likes liverwurst! It has been forced on them! It hasn’t been presented to them. You were abused by liverwurst! Rapped by liverwurst! Some cruel older adult in your youth shoved it down your throat! An outrage! An outrage! There are prison cells for such child abusers!”, I softened my tone, “Your young innocent tongue was not ready for the complexity of what it then recieved. So much in the world is like that. Bliss should not be shared with the young before they can fully understand it. It is a crime otherwise. I mourn your youth.”, The dance was almost finished. Her spellbound eyes had softened their bitterness. “You have to trust me. Trust is all we have between us. I will cut a small slice for you to taste and you must taste it. For me?”
“For you, but-”, I looked up from my knife and she saw my eyes pleading, “-only a small slice.”
Her eyes were closed. Her face was screwed up in a grimace. The sliver of sandwich like a small dagger poised to stab between her drawn lips. Then the deed was done. Her eyes barely openning as if from a dream. The two customers behind her, having seen this before, reached to support her by her elbows as her knees went weak and gave way “Oh…My…God!”
“So,”, I then returned to my professional voice. I have found it best to preserve a professional wall with the customer at times like these. “Shall I wrap it up for you?”
“Oh! Yes, do that.” Her hair disheveled. Her close to retirement age eyes opened young again. “How can I ever thank you?”
“Don’t forget to pay the cashier up front.”
“But this is the best sandwich I have ever tasted.”
“Yes, mam. It’s the imported French butter that does it. The creamieness and the high salt content of this butter enfolds the liverwurst to an almost potay level. The terragon opens it up. Enfolds and opens. Terragon is a hard spice to master. It must be discaplined or it will have it’s head and dominate all. I must not forget the sourdough. The tang of the bread lifts the earthyness of the other parts until it threatens to touch the sky. But the earthyness of the liverwurst holds it with gravity. Up, down, sideways and every dirrection held it their extremes. A thing of beauty. I must remember to make it for my lunch tomorrow. Have a good day. Next”
I cut her off. “Mam, there is a small park across the street. A pleasent view of Lake Union and her houseboats. It also has a few ceramic tiled, high backed, benches which provide a certain measure of privacy for one in your condition.”
“Thank you.”, and she was gone.
“Next. Why, hello Paul. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you where there. I must have been engrossed.”
“It appears you were. I brought something for you.”, He slid a butcher paper wrapped bundle across the glass deli counther top.
“What’s this?”, I unwrapped the paper and stopped. Inside was a french bagette with stuff in it. “No, no, no. You don’t bring a sandwich to a deli! Let alone, my deli! What were you thinking?”, I chuckled.
“I wanted you to see it. It’s different.”
“You’re a good customer, Paul. So, I’ll look. But, this really breaks so many unwritten rules that I’m going to have to write more rules on my board so that there is no repeat of….WOE! This is amazing!”, I had openned the sandwhich. “Would you look at this? Ham, no cheese, slivers of carrot and equal slivers of cuccumber. The sweetness of the carrots, the water from the cuccumber it almost bastes the ham. Yet at the same time the light crunch of the vegetables adding such texture. This is a perfect sandwhich. And this is high quality bread. I can’t get bagettes like this.”
“They know how to bake.”
“Who knows how to bake?”
“The Vietmanese. They learned durring the french occupation of their country. This is one of the classical Vietanese sandwhiches. Bon Mi. Take a bite, James.”
“I don’t need too. I already have. I can taste every suppleness of-”, he cut me off.
“Take a bite!”
“O.K.”, I bit into the thing. The bread was beautiful. It had the crust, just the right hardness, and the stretch (from high glutten content) that I was used to in Minneapolis. Most bread in Seattle has too hard of crust and the lightness of cake inside. I’m no baker, but I’m thinking they’re affraid of glutten around here. The cool crispness of the veggy came up as I chewed through the bread. And then the taste hit me. There was something I didn’t see in the sandwhich. I couldn’t imagine anyone would destroy such a sandwhich like that. I tasted – “Rancide fish! What the hell?”
“Just what I thought. Why would they do that? They killed the perfect sandwhich!”
“Killed the perfect sandwhich.”, I murmered and repeated. “Killed the perfect sandwhich.”
“You see, the Vietamnese use fermented fish sauce like we use ketchup. I couldn’t even taste the ham. Now I want you to recreate the taste of this sandwich. The taste of the sandwhich I dreamed of!”, Paul said it with such passion I could not refuse, “I know this breaks every rule in your book, but no one else will do it for me. It’s always ‘We don’t do that here. Just what you see on the menu.’ The customer is always right, unlessin’ he wants something different. I think that’s wrong. They don’t see that this is the perfect sandwhich. It takes a great man to see greatness. Will you make this sandwhich for me? Will you make my dream? I humbly implore you, sir.”
“I will make the perfect sandwhich. It will be different. I have no good bagettes. I can not juelian. I will do a rustic cut…wait”, just then Johny, the wine guy, was walking by the counter to the back room. I grabed him by the arm, “Johny, the wine guy, I am no chef. Do you know how to juelian?”
“But, of course, James. I will do it for you now and teach you later. What is this?”. opening the Vietamese sandwhich. He raised it to his nose and took a sniff. “Feu! Sometimes the stench of deversity is a little too much to handle, what with an unseemly scent like this. Gone is the perfict sandwhich. Destruction by fish sauce. No wine would sufice, except to numb the pain. Why did you make this sandwhich in the first place?”
“I didn’t. Paul brought it in. He wants me to recreate it without the fish sauce.”, I whispered. I turned my back to the confusion and mumbling in the deli line. This was taking too long and they knew it. The customers would suffer the new customers (with relish). But this was unheard of. A seasoned customer does not slow down the line.
He openned the sandwhich, “Ham? I see what you’re about here, James! Give me a cucmber and a carrot and let’s get chopping. The old man would have aproved.” Mandolin and cleaver and he was at it.
I turned to Paul, “Like I said it will be different. I see a flat sandwhich instead of a roll. I have a good quality Italian loaf to slice and a fine domestic Parma ham for the meat.”
“Parma is a city in Italy. They make a world famous ham. The ham I have is not from Italy, but it is cured in the tradition of the ham of Parma. It is just a little over six mounths old. It has been made from…Um, Italian meat. So what I am saying is that we will take what the French can do via the Vietmanese and then switch it to what the Italians could do via the Americans. Globalism at it’s finest.’
‘‘Do it. I want it!”
I sliced the Italian bread and ran the ham through the meat slicer. I grabed at Johny’s, the wine guy, carrots and cucumbers and arranged them on top of the ham. I laid down a peice of wax paper on the top of the counter and put the sandwhich on it.
Paul grabed it and took a big bite. “That does it! That’s what I wanted! So simple, so right1 I can taste the ham! OH it’s basted. With the carrots. With the cucunber. I taste it all! Three points of light against the french bread. Oh Lord, the perfect sandwhich!”, He almost fainted.
“Glad you liked it. Express line.! Does anyone want this sandwhich?”, They all did. I knew they would.
“Excuse me, Paul?”, It was Johny, the wine guy. (“Oh, God’, I thought, ‘He hasn’t gained scrupples. It was going so well.”) “I know this is unheard of in the deli business, but I know of an excellent wine that would accopliment that sandwhich quite well. In fact they were made for each other.”
“Ooh, I don’t ussualy don’t drink this early in the day, but what the hell. What is it?”
“It’s a lovely Italian bulls blood. I know what you’re thinking, only the Hungarians make bulls blood. But it turns out the Italians make their own version and it’s very fine.”, To me he whispered, “I gave up with merlot, James. It was not rich enough…for the old man.”
And so we sold the heck out of the perfect sandwhich and the ‘Italian bull’s blood’.. The only thing I was worried about is that I might run out of our Parma ham.
The business continued to grow. Perhaps the old man would have been proud of us. But, he would have never told us so. Oh, well eveyone hated the old man. But, not anymore. Since he’s dead.
The Ballard Bowl
All I wanted was an order of fish and chips with an extra side of tarter sauce. I just wanted the fish to go. So I could park somewhere, that looked good to me, and eat in the car.
As I finished ordering and paid the counter man two retired couples entered the small fish bar’s tiny dining area for lunch. They were the kind of people who you could want for your well dressed parents or grandparents if you were younger than me.
The taller of the two men took charge in ordering at the fish bar. “4 fish and chips and 4 chowders.” I remember I was struck by how tall he was for his age. He had to be 6’4”, about an inch or two taller than me. I wondered if he had had a hard time finding clothes to fit when he was younger when being so tall was rare. Also he had all his hair and it was a thick silver mane.
The counter man asks, “red or white chowder?”
“Sally, red or white chowder?”, he turns to ask a woman who appeared to be his friend’s wife.
“Red, thank you.”, Sally responds. She has shoulder length blondish brown hair pulled softly straight back with the brown silk of a hair ribbon.
“Bob, red or white chowder?”, the tall man asks his friend.
“Red or white…well I don’t like red. So I guess white.”, Bob answers like he doesn’t want chowder at all and why can’t I just go home. Bob definitely is older than his friend or maybe just because his hair is thin and wiry and his back is bent makes him look older.
“Honey,”, the tall man turns to the woman who appears to be his wife, “Red or white chowder?”
“What?”, She’s been talking to Sally about gardening and specifically the plants just out side of the entrance to the little fish and chips stand and how they fit in so quaintly with the totem pole which is the name to the place – Totem Pole Fish and Chips.
“Did you want red or white chowder to go with you fish and chips, Betty, my dear?”, The tall man is so upbeat, he doesn’t even skip a beat or bite back at her for not
listening to what, it seems to me, is the primary reason for them coming here. Which is to order the meal so that they can socialize while eating it. I got the impression his wife, Betty, could keep asking, “What.” over and over again and he would keep responding in the same tone all day long, right along with her.
“I don’t want fish and chips. I want clam strips and chips, Mel.” This she just states as a fact. No whining or nothing like that. No unsaid language messages like, “You
know I don’t want fish! Why the hell did you order me fish Damnit!!!” No stupid
Panicking like some one is going to force her to eat fish. No mass paranoia appeal – the whole world is out to get me including you ordering me fish.
“O.K., dear.”, Mel says and turns to the counter man, “That will be three fish and chips, an order of clam strips and chips, one red clam chowder and….” , and then he remembers he didn’t get an answer from Betty about the chowder, “Betty?” She’s back to the plant talk with Sally and doesn’t hear him until about the third ‘Betty’ and when Sally tells her that Mel is trying to talk to her. “Betty, was that red or white chowder?”
“Was that what? I didn’t say anything about chowder.” Once again there is no malice in her words.
Mel is satisfied and turns back to the counter man, “That will be three orders of fish and chips, one order of clam strips and chips, one red clam chowder and two white clam chowders.”
“I would like white clam chowder.”, Betty pipes up.
“Make that one red clam chowder and three white clam chowders with the three orders of fish and chips and the one order of clam strips and chips.”, Mel reiterates to the counter man.
I’m thinking, “Well, I’m glad that’s over.” But to my horror the counter man asks, “Did you want the chowders in the cup size or the Ballard Bowl size?” Oh, God! I try to keep my face immobilized, even though no one is looking at me. I really want to lay my head down on the table I’m sitting at.
“Sally?”, Mel turns to his friends wife, “Will that be a cup or a Ballard Bowl of red chowder for you?”
“I don’t know.”, Sally answers, “What’s a Ballard Bowl?”
The counter man lifts up a round loaf of sour dough bread for them to inspect, “It’s a sour dough bread loaf that we hollow out to make a bowl to serve the chowder in.”
“A sour dough bowl, you don’t say.”, Mel was delighted. I, on the other hand, was thinking, “How touristry for a none to touristry place like the Totem Pole. Some one ought to alert San Francisco so they can sue.”
“Oooh, I’ll have that with the red chowder in it.”, exclaimed Sally.
“How about you, Bob? Do you want your chowder in the cup or a Ballard Bowl?”
“What the hell is a Ballard Bowl?”, Bob demanded. He didn’t act hard of hearing and no one treated him like he was, so I was wondering where he had been for the last two minutes.
“Its a sour dough bread loaf that they hollow out to make a bowl and serve the chowder in.”, Mel explained, like he was a life long expert.
“Is it bigger or smaller or the same size as a cup size of chowder?”, Bob demanded again. I was starting to like Bob; he was beginning to look like he had a crotchety kind of character.
“That’s a good question, Bob.”, Mel said to his friend and turned to the counter man and asked, “How do the sizes of your cup of chowder and the Ballard Bowl compare? I mean is a cup less than the Ballard Bowl, or is a cup more than the Ballard Bowl, or is the Ballard Bowl a sour dough bread bowl with the same amount of chowder as a cup of chowder?” Mel, Mel, Mel, we couldn’t have used a better economy of words in your question.
“The Ballard Bowl has twice as much chowder as the cup size.”, the counter man answered none emotionally.
“That sounds good. Well, Bob, what’s it going to be the cup or the Ballard Bowl.?”, Mel’s enthusiasm is contagious.
“God! I can’t eat that much clam chowder and the fish too!”, Bob states.
“How about you, honey?”, Mel asked his wife.
“What?”, she had been pushing two, of the dining areas six, small tables together. She’s only about six feet away from the ongoing conversation rearranging the chairs to make a seating arrangement for four and missing everything.
“Did you want a cup size of chowder or the Ballard Bowl?”, Mel clarified for his wife.
“What’s a Ballard Bowl?”
“It’s a sour dough bread loaf that they hollow out to make a bowl to serve the chowder in.”
“Oh, how charming.”, Betty is charmed by it, hesitates and asks, “Does it have more clam chowder than the cup or does it have less chowder than the cup or does it have the same amount of chowder as the cup, except that they serve it in a bread bowl?”
“Good question, Betty. They tell me it has twice as much chowder as their cup size.”
“Oh. I wonder how much chowder that is?”, Betty looks confused. Strangely, to me, she doesn’t look worried or defensive about being confused. She doesn’t look stupid. I’ve noticed that moderate to really intelligent people often have two or more emotions on their faces at the same time. Less smart people either are more honest or not bright enough to think of more than one emotion at a time.
“Yes, how much chowder is that, young man?”, Mel asks the counter person.
“The cup size is a about a cup and the Ballard Bowl is about two cups.”, he doesn’t even pause to think about the answer. Obviously he’s had this question before.
“Is that a measuring cup kind of size you’re talking about?”, Betty wants a confirmation.
The counter man is unfazed, “Yes. A measuring cup size.”, he nods.
“Boy, just the Ballard Bowl alone sounds like quite a meal.”, Mel states. His singular dimensional good natured act is starting to wear on me. I was seriously considering going over there and slapping him across the face. Not a hard slap, just something to intrude on his body space and to sting just a little. But I was pretty sure he would say in the same good natured tone, “Now why did you do that, son?”
“It’s not a meal. Its just soup.”, Bob cuts in.
“Well, Bob, you’ve got the bowl too, remember, and you can eat it as well.”, Mel says to his friend. I wondered if since they first became friends did Bob become bitter or did Mel become brain damaged or were they always this way? Mel then turns back to his wife, “So, Betty, did you want the cup or the Ballard Bowl?”
“That would be a lot to eat along with the fish and chips.”, Betty muses a little worry crosses her face. And once again she only shows one emotion.
“You getting the clam strips and chips, my dear.”, Mel reminds her.
“Oh, yes!”, Betty brightens, “Then I shall have the Ballard Bowl!”
“Right. Now, Bob, you didn’t want the Ballard Bowl, You just wanted a cup size.”
Bob shakes his head, “That’s too much chowder for me.”
“So you don’t want chowder?”, Mel asks.
“I want chowder. I just don’t want the Ballard Bowl thing.”, Bob snaps back.
“O.K.. One cup of white for you.” Mel is like Betty; he shows only one emotion at a time. Except, unlike Betty, its just the same damn emotion over and over again all the time. Even though Bob has confused him, Mel just goes on in his good natured emotional state. Mel turns to his friends wife, “Sally, you wanted the Ballard Bowl. Didn’t you?”
“Well….”, Sally hesitates, “…only if it comes in red. Do they put the red chowder in it or do they only serve the white chowder in the sour dough bread bowl. Because I’ll have a cup if they only do it only with the white. Although if they only serve the white chowder in the Ballard Bowl, some one should tell them to serve red chowder in them also. Because I can imagine the red chowder tasting quite good in a sour dough bread loaf hollowed out to become a bowl. But, than, white chowder is so much more popular than red chowder. So maybe they only serve the white in it. Find out if it comes in red, please, Mel.”
“O.K., Sally.”, Mel turns back to the counter man, “Do you serve only your white chowder in the Ballard Bowl or can you get the red chowder only in the cup size?”
“We serve both our white and red chowders in both the cup size and the Ballard Bowl size, sir.”, the counter man answers flatly. I’m trying to figure the counter man out, right about then. He’s neither excited or bored with his work. He’s not exasperated or amused by Mel, Bob, Sally and Betty. He doesn’t look like he cares if they ever get their order solidified or not. Yet, when I came in he was efficiently finishing up a take out order, looking like he cared about the quality of his food and apologized for the delay when he took my order. And now here he is with a look of neither impatience nor patience.
“Then, I would like the red chowder in the Ballard Bowl.”, Sally smiled.
“Well, then, young man – That’s three orders of fish and chips, one order of clam strips and chips, one cup of white clam chowder, one Ballard Bowl with red clam chowder and two white clam chowders in the Ballard Bowl.”, Mel ordered.
“You know,”, Betty said, “I think I would like the red chowder instead and in the cup size. Because the Ballard Bowl does sound like a lot of chowder and I would never be able to eat the bowl too and finish my clam strips and chips.”
“O.K.. Then change that order to three fish and chips, one order of clam strips and chips, one cup of white clam chowder, one cup of red clam chowder, one Ballard Bowl of the red clam chowder and one white clam chowder in the Ballard Bowl.”, Mel finished triumphantly. It was obvious he was in love with the words “Ballard Bowl”.
“Yes, sir, will there be anything to drink?”, the counter man asked undauntedly. I’m thinking, oh fuck, here we go again!
“What does everyone one to drink?”, Mel turns to Sally, Bob and Betty and spreads his arms out to embrace their drink wishes.
“Coffee.”, says Bob.
“Small diet Coke.”, says Sally.
“I’ll just have water.”, says Betty.
“And I’ll have a glass of your ice tea.”, says Mel to the counter man and I am pleasantly stunned. They do pretty good when they know what they want and there’s no real choice involved.
“That will be $42.73.”, The counter man says to Mel who pays up.
Bob makes a play for his wallet, but I think it’s just for show. Mel waves him off. “You got the last one, buddy. This one is on me.” and Mel pays the counter man.
“Thank you, sir.”, the counter man says in bored pleasantry. I had been thinking of something to say to him, when I picked up my order, like, “Don’t you want to say to some people, “Just order the food! No need to make a big production out of it!” Then I thought that that would be a bad idea. His whole attitude, as he turned to drop the fish, clam strips and chips into the fryer, seemed so unaffected by what had just transpired. I didn’t see him knowing who I was referring to or maybe not welcoming the comment at all if he did.
“Single order fish and chips.”, the counter man called out as he bagged up my order.
“Here.”, I called back and stood. Mel turned like it was one of his orders and then realized, maybe for the first time, that he and his three friends weren’t the only ones in the joint.
As I was leaving, he sat down and was starting to lift the edge of one of the two tables Betty had pushed together, he was saying to his friend, “Now, Bob, I think you’ll find this interesting. This is how the locks between the sound and Lake Union work. See a boat comes from the ocean at sea level…”, Mel slides his hand across the lower table towards the table with its edge on it, “…and it’s lifted to the level of Lake Union, which is higher.”
“Why’s it higher?”. Bob asked like he knew Mel didn’t know the answer. And I left real quick.
I drove the car down under the Ballard Bridge and to the water’s edge. Ducks were near by for any food left overs I might not feel like eating. The fish and chips were good. Although they had tried doing something fancy with the tarter sauce. Like maybe adding tarragon or something.
As I ate I got to thinking what I would have done if I were Mel. I would have handled it differently. I would have lined them all up; Sally, Bob and Betty. Then I would have snapped my fingers in their faces, to get their communal attention and I would have gone, “Come on, people! Let’s concentrate! I’m not some go between! Let’s all figure out what we want and go for it! Stop all this gucking and snorting like worn out plumbing and order, ORDER, ORDER!!! Bring order out of chaos, my friends, ORDER OUT OF CHAOS!!!!!”
That would do it. Efficiency is paramount! Brevity is the source of whit. Make haste, not waste. And so on.
On the other hand, what is wrong with me? Why does everything with me have to be efficient? Why is everything to get to the goal? Why is it all a race? Was it something with my generation and us being hooked on television? Is it the espresso? Am I taking the wrong vitamin mix?
Do I deserve to get older? Do I deserve to be loved, ever? Why does everyone I’m with have to do things my way in the proper time frame or I get perturbed?
Could I ever be in love like Mel loves those three people? Could I ever be in love with some one and just take them as they come?
Killing Colds And Flus
For hundreds of years the people of India have used a warm nasal salt bath, called the nettie, to stop the chills from the cold virus. They have found that if you perform the nettie during the first four hours of a cold the symptoms of a cold will last less than 24 hours. They don’t know why.
During research, on an unrelated subject, I found out about the potassium/ sodium pumps. The P/S pumps shuttle sodium and potassium into and out of the cells of the body. During this action water comes along for the ride. So the P/S pumps water balance the cell’s inter-cellular water against the extra-cellular water.
I believe that the cold virus hyper fires the P/S pumps in the potassium direction. The chills are actually the feeling of water running in and out of the cells. When the nettie is performed sodium levels in the body rise and the pumps must go in the other direction (pumping water out of the cells). This overcomes the potassium hyper fire and returns the pumps to a slower, normal speed.
I have used the nettie for a few colds and have been pleased with it. Performing it stops the chills almost instantly. Now I no longer use the nettie. I just take the amount of salt you would have from a fast food salt packet, put it on my palm and lick the salt off. Just the taste alone does the trick.
One time I got the chills and did the nettie. The chills subsided for 45 minutes and then the cills returned. I knew I had the flu. I was surprised that the chills returned. This was the first time I had used the nettie to fight the flu. I thought, for a few hours, about why the nettie had only cut the chills temporally. I knew there are also calcium/magnesium pumps in the cells. These C/M pumps also have water balancing action, but in a limited way as compared to the P/S pumps. I decided to try the nettie again and to chew a 600 mg calcium tablet.
For some reason I had a bottle of calcium tablets in the car. I’m trying to remember why. I think it was for relaxing pulled muscles. Calcium works for that too.
Within in 15 minutes after taking the calcium and salt the chills stopped and did not return. My fever broke about 20 hours later. Also the fever was only less than two degrees above normal. The only other symptom I had was some slight muscle aches which I took care of with a phosphorus supplement. In less than 30 hours I was symptom free. Since I became an adult the flu has always stuck with me for two weeks. 30 hours is nothing compared to two weeks.
After that, whenever I get a chill, I always lick the salt and chewed the 600 mg calcium together. I have not had a cold or flu since July of 2003. I did have two things we call here in Seattle “the crud”. The crud seems to use fat as fuel instead of ATP.
I knew that both the P/S pumps and the C/M pumps create ATP (adenosine triphosphate) when they turn. ATP is one type of energy the body creates. The thyroid gland also creates ATP and regulates it. When the flu virus hyper fires these pumps in the potassium and magnesium direction ATP is created and this ATP stimulates the thyroid gland to keep up with ATP production.
The chills are one of the most ignored symptoms of the flu. And yet the chills are the first symptom of the flu virus.
I theorize that after flu viruses attach themselves to cells they do only one thing. They send out one powerful burst of electricity into the body. This burst causes the P/S and C/M pumps to start their pumping action rapidly in the magnesium and potassium direction. Water rushes into and then out of the cells repeatedly and this action causes increased amounts of ATP to be created. The flu viruses acquire energy from the increased ATP levels.
The intensity of the burst of energy is not limited to the single cell that an individual virus is attached too. It has a cascading effect that travels from cell to cell through out the body. ATP increase in one cell stimulates ATP release in the cells beside it.
The virus wants only one thing: energy (ATP) to feed off of to stay alive. When an individual virus reaches a cell and implants itself into the cell membrane it has only enough energy for one burst of electricity. It feeds off ATP to recharge it’s energy to get enough excess energy to give another burst later (a day or more down the line).
So it’s action is – discharge (burst of electricity), recharge, discharge, recharge and so on. This is why the chills of the flu seem to come and go during the duration of the flu.
The cold virus stimulates only the P/S pumps. It achieves this in a slightly different manner (which I won’t go into now because an explanation would take us into a whole different direction of thought). With only the P/S pumps spinning less ATP is created then with the flu virus. And the less amount of ATP created from the cold virus is not enough to stimulate the thyroid gland to the extent that the flu virus can achieve.
The incubation period must be considered here. Perhaps the virus enters the body with limited energy and charges off of the body’s natural release of ATP to charge and create it’s burst (or discharge). The cold and flu viruses have an incubation period of 1 to 4 days. Hepatitis can have a incubation period of a month or more. The aids virus can remain dormant for years. I believe that the cold and flu virus require more energy to stay alive than viruses with a longer incubation period. This could be why the cold and flu have short term duration in the body.
The body may only be able to create anti bodies after the virus charges and releases it’s energy. During the incubation period the body does not know that it has acquired a virus until a burst occurs and it can react to this burst.
This is speculation about the incubation period, though.
So the c/m and p/s pumps are stimulated to turn wildly by the virus burst. This causes the chills as a symptom and increases ATP production. This increase in ATP stimulates the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland regulates heart rate, body temperature and the action of just about every organ in the body.
With the increase of heart rate more blood and extra-cellular fluid is pumped to the kidneys. The kidneys respond to this increase by indiscriminately dumping water to the bladder and colon. Electrolytes are lost. Glucose is lost. Dehydration begins through increased urination and diarrhea. Both of these weaken the white blood cells.
Also the increased heart rate partially (along with the thyroid stimulating mucus membranes) cause the throbbing headaches associated with some flus. The mucus membranes cause sinus pressure adding to the headache pain.
The increase in temperature (fever) may be directly caused by the thyroid gland’s regulation of body temperature or it may be caused by the friction of increased amount of blood flow. Possibly it’s both that causes the fever. At this point I will fly in the face of the conventional wisdom by stating that fevers are not an attempt by the body to kill the virus. If it were why are doctors concerned about getting the fever to break as soon as possible and why do most colds not have a fever involved.
The fever, through sweating, also has the affect of electrolyte loss, dehydration and weakening of the white blood cells.
As ATP levels rise the thyroid gland sends signals to the parathyroid gland to release some adrenaline. This adrenaline release goes to where it thinks it is needed; the digestive tract. Nausea is the result, due to the spasms in the entire digestive.
Phosphorus and magnesium are lost when ATP is created because they make up ATP. Phosphorus and magnesium (along with potassium) allow our muscles to relax after a contracting. With less of these two we receive muscle pain (not unlike suffers from fibromyalgia). Since the kidneys and colon are overworked the reabsorption of these two important electrolytes doses not occur as it would normally (as well as potassium which is lost during any diuretic state).
In conclusion – There will never be a cure to the common cold and flu. Scientists have calculated that there are over 200 types of cold viruses. Flu viruses, as we know, mutate from year to year. But if the release of ATP is curtailed or stopped the virus dies from lack of food (ATP).
The chills as a symptom and an indicator of ATP release can help us determine that the c/m and s/p pumps have returned to normal when sodium and calcium levels in the body are increased. Increase of sodium and calcium levels will always achieve this outcome.
With diminished over production of ATP the thyroid gland will not be stimulated to cause increased heart rate, increased body temperature, increased electrolyte loss and dehydration. The white cell count will not diminish and the body will have an increased edge in fighting the virus.
I believe this technique will work for anything that causes the chills as a symptom, including intestinal bacterial infections, SARs and AIDs (although if the HCO3/H or calcium, etc. channels might be stimulated by the aids virus. More work would need to be done to curtail these.). Even if this technique does not fully work for these, it will not harm the sufferer. Also it only costs less than 10 cents (retail) for the victim and only one dose per episode is required.
On global economic level of lost wages, lost production, hospitalization, treatment, drug costs, R and D costs, distribution of drugs, allocations of resources (monetarily and personnel wise), etc., are beyond calculation. If only cold and flu are thrown out of the mix, the increase of resources to fight other diseases is staggering.
Most importantly it’s almost idiot proof. It can be dumbed down to one sentence. “At the first sign of the chills chew some calcium, lick some salt, the chills will go away and your body can fight the virus better.”
Anyone anywhere in the world could save themselves, without even knowing what virus they had.
There are people who either don’t feel the chills or don’t communicate that they have the chills. Small children, the elderly and anybody who lets the chills go on for more than four hours. Only people who recognize the chills and know about salt and calcium can save themselves.
About The Author
James Wallace lives and works in Seattle. He orders clam chowder at least once a month with various seafood entrees. Once he even ordered it with a hamburger and fries at the, now closed, Rim Rock Steak House. It was a good house made chowder. Everyone should have ordered it.
Professionally James Wallace works as a security officer, writer and health advocate (whatever the heck that means) in North Seattle. Currently he is writing a book about weight loss and schizophrenia. Oh Yes, there is a connection! It’s not just in your mind! Everyone is getting fatter and crazier!
James Wallace wants people to be slimmer and saner.
In his next book James Wallace will attempt to save the world. And he’ll continue to eat clam chowder while doing it.
On a jump start to “saving the world”; there are no such things a lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance, for the most part. Go down to the health store, buy some digestive enzymes with lactase and glutenase and you too can eat clam chowder again.
If you take digestive enzymes for 3 to 6 months, with every meal, your body will start producing digestive enzymes on it’s own.
You were made to eat clam chowder.
Restoring your production of digestive enzymes will allow you to eat clam chowder.
Eating clam chowder is your God given right. Even in the twin cities.
This book is A collection of short (and sometimes too long) stories. Most are fiction, one is autobiographical (the title story) and one is a non-fiction piece about an awesome cold and flu cure I came up with a few years ago. I haven't had a cold or the f;lu since July of 2003.