Saturday, March 27, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Dave sits in his beat up 1968 Cougar and inhaling a deep drag from his cigarette as he watches the good workers of Skinner Cutlery enter the building for the morning shift.
A petite woman wearing a heavy coat walks to the entrance.
"She's a looker," Dave nods.
"That little stick?" Answers Bret, sitting next to Dave in the front seat.
"Nice little body," Dave enthuses.
"Look at her."
They stare at her, a tiny bundle of red cloth as she hugs herself against the wind, and disappears behind the large glass door.
"Wouldn't touch that," said Bret.
Dave takes another drag and blows it out the window.
"Nice entrance for a shit-hole," Bret says.
"Never know it was such a shit-hole by the look of those doors."
"Nice doors," says Dave, a touch of sarcasm in his tone.
Bret rolls up his window, staring at the front doors. "Big fucking doors made of glass. How thick you think those things are, two inches at least? Like a freaking blast door, only glass. What the hell is that supposed to mean? I mean, they make steel cutlery in there; People sweating their asses off behind two ton presses. Lucky they don't lose a finger after a week, grease coming out of their pores with the sweat. Zits springing up all over their greasy little worker faces, sweating oil."
"They should wash their fucking hands and faces more often." Dave threw the butt out the window. “I wash my hands all day long in that place.”
"Nobody says you have to stay."
"That's right. Nobody says I have to stay.”
Bret smiles and says, "But then she'd never let you leave the job, would she, the wife? I mean, how'd you live, then, huh? Where'd the money come from? No money coming in. You sitting around the house all day breathing in the stink of diapers and cat piss. Watching, The Price Is Right and Hogan's Heroes re-runs."
"Got rid of the cats."
"You'd go bonkers in a week."
"I'd last about two weeks then I'd have to kill somebody."
Bret whistles and smiles. "Look at that one. Bingham's secretary isn't she? Oh my, oh my."
A shapely woman in a black dress and heels walks by the car and into the building.
"Gina Collins. Saw here at the Christmas party. Had a lot to drink, too," Dave says.
Bret smiles. "Ain't nobody gonna mess with her. A real woman, that one. Nobody gonna mess with her. She carries herself right, doesn’t she? See the way she walks?”
They stare at her as she disappears behind the glass doors.
“She carries herself like a woman aught to, right? Nice piece of ass, too,” Bret says.
Dave sighs and looks at his watch.
"Time to go?" Asks Bret.
"So what do you think she'd do if you left?"
"Your wife. What would she do if you just up and quit? Walked out on the job?"
"How the fuck should I know?"
"You know she'd have a bird."
"What the fuck does that mean, 'have a bird', anyway? Who the hell has a bird? What does that mean? She's gonna shit out a bird?"
"She'd have the law after you for it, wouldn't she?"
"Why? It's not against the law."
"Abandonment is. Child abandonment."
"I don't know what the fuck you’re talking about. Just shut up."
Dave lights another cigarette. They stare at a few people bunched together as they walk into the building.
"Look at the fat fuck, Freddy."
"What about him?"
"He's a disgusting pig, that's what."
A heavy set man hovers at the edge of the crowd as they talk and laugh.
"What he ever do to you?"
"I have to look at him, don't I? I can smell that fat fuck from here."
Dave looks at Bret and they burst out laughing.
"You're real benevolent piece of work, aren't you? You're a real sweet guy, Bret."
"Yeah, I'm the American freaking, Gandhi."
"Smelling people from the car. You're a fucking super hero, too. A real useful super power, you've got there."
"That's right. I'm ‘fat fuck smeller guy’. I can smell 'em a mile away."
"Wonderful power. Any others? Any more wonderful super powers? Smell farts from behind walls or something?"
"Anything having to do with smells, I can do it."
Bret points to a small woman carrying a bag.
"See that woman? She just farted about ten minutes ago and I can still smell it!"
"Shut up!” Dave laughs.
Dave throws the second butt out the window and checks his watch again.
"Would you ever do it, though?" Bret asked.
"Walk. Just walk right out."
"On my wife or the job?"
"The whole thing. Would you?"
Dave thinks a minute. A bell rings from the cutlery plant and they get out of the car and walk toward the building.
"You wouldn't have the balls. I bet when you were a kid this is exactly what you wanted to do, right? Work in a shit-hole making piece work for the rest of your life."
Dave looks at Bret.
"You trying to piss me off?"
"I'm just asking a question. Would you ever walk?"
Dave stops outside the factory door and takes a deep breath. He looks into the lobby and back to Bret. "I love my wife and kids. The only way I'd walk is if I won the lottery or something. If inherited a lot of money. Then I'd walk in a heartbeat. But that would never happen."
“What if I told you you’ve already won the lottery?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said, you’ve already won. Just by you being born you won the biggest lottery of all. You beat out those thousands of other little bastards and got inside that fucking egg and you struggled for life and came out your mother and took your first breath…and here you are.”
Dave pulls the handle on the huge glass door and walks inside. He turns and sees Bret staring in through the glass.
Dave waves at Bret to come in. He points to his watch and waves Bret in. “Come on.”
Bret backs away from the factory door and bundles himself against the cold wind.
Bret punches his card in the time clock and turns to look at Dave, but he is gone. Bret is alone in the lobby. The sound of huge presses churning echo down the hall. Bret looks at his watch, at his grease stained fingernails, his worn steel toed boots. A bell rings from inside the work floor. Bret turns and walks through the inner doors of the factory floor. The bright hard sounds of the presses clank in familiar rhythmic staccato and echo in his head as he finds his work station and stands at his place.
Posted by Chuckh at 12:09 PM
Monday, March 15, 2010
Brown Stone Diary
September 23, 1983
I am standing on dark brown linoleum, my foot narrowly escaping a cockroach as it scurries under the day bed. The room is dark, tall, with ten-foot ceilings. The beige paint is chipping out in large, continent shaped patches, little South Americas, Africa hanging by a thread. Shelves line the walls above the sofa. Good, a book case. The day bed comes with the room. A bent screen is jammed into the open window and I can hear traffic noise, but at least it’s on the ground floor. I look over at my potential roommate, Jim. He is upbeat, about thirty five, good looking; almost game show host-like in his mannerisms and enthusiasm.
What the hell, “I’ll take it,” I say.
Three hundred and fifty a month, how can you go wrong? A bedroom with a private entrance connected to a small hall and bath. And the rooms are big, if not crumbling out of themselves. I convince myself that with a little bit of paint, it’ll be like new.
“Good!” he says, “Let’s get a drink.”
We wander across Second Avenue and up the hill to the Bull’s Eye tavern. They know Jim there and he seems to be well liked this game show host roommate of mine. And why not, he’s athletic, got a great smile, dimpled chin, and full shock of hair. We sit in front of a couple of drafts and he casually asks, “By the way, you know I’m gay, right?”
A little twinge hits my stomach. Is he looking at my crotch? Why isn’t he effeminate? I never would have guessed he’s gay. Does he have orgies in his room? I look at the bartender. Now they think I’m gay, right? “Well, I’m not gay,” I say.
Oh, he assures me, I don’t flaunt it. I don’t care for fems, he says. Besides, this is strictly a business deal. Rent for a room. It wasn’t in the ad, but I don’t really care, “Sure, sure. No problem.”
After I pile in my few meager possessions, bags of cloths and my desk from home, I encamp on the day bed. First nights are always the hardest. Cramped and lonely in my little burrow, I learn not to be afraid of things that crawl in the dark and scatter when the lights come on. Lying in the blackened room, they crawl casually across my arm, and I fling the insects onto the wall or floor. I reach up with the side of my fist and pound them into submission, letting them fall where they may.
At four AM, the heavy cruisers arrive. I hear then scuttling and munching on God knows what. The armored division attacks my front. I brush my arm and a heavy thud hits the floor. That was no small insect. I turn the lights on. The floor and walls are alive with brown exoskeletons scattering in all directions.
September 24, 1983
My second evening is less strained. I take comfort in my newly purchased roach motels and poison traps. Already, there are fewer insects to be seen. Suddenly, I hear something at the window. A dark bare arm slowly reaches in through the curtains, fingers outstretched, reaching, ready to grasp. I yell, “Hey!” The arm jerks to attention and recoils as if wound back onto a human fishing reel. I close the window and lock the doors, unsettled, I’m feeling lost in the whirr of the city.
September 30, 1983
I wouldn’t say Jim is a health nut, but he sure does like to run. Right up to Central Park and back every day. Lifts weights in the kitchen, too. Breathes real loud and strong to get that energy flowing. One, two, three twist and turn, up and down, deep knee bends, come on, one and two, his thick boozy breath billowing into all corners of the room, like a steam bath in there when he gets going. It’s tough to swallow my scrambled eggs with all that going on. Amazing how he can stay up until three a.m. sucking up all that booze and pop right back up the next morning… two, three, and here we go and one. Shouldn’t complain, though. It’s tough to find a first floor apartment this cheap on the Upper East Side.
October 2, 1983
I’m waiting tables while I take classes in acting: Shakespeare, scene study, auditioning technique. I have a long way to go. Feel lost in a sea of false hope and groundless optimism leading nowhere. Auditions go badly. I’ve met a few girls in acting class. Made a few friends. I am building a life, my own life, while learning to be a good waiter.
Jan 7, 1984
Jim throws me a surprise party for my thirtieth birthday. Friends from work, some of his friends, they all chip in, buy me a mattress for the wooden frame that I had made from cut pine and bolts. Fits real nice. Damn nice of these guys, friends of Jim’s, mostly, acquaintances of mine. Damn nice.
We finished the evening with another bottle of wine. A girl from the tavern offers herself to me as a present. Can’t complain about that. Damned nice of her. Damned nice. Six months is a long time. Later, we talk on the stoop in front of her apartment until 3 a.m. I’ll have to avoid her for a while. Don’t want to give the wrong impression.
Jan 25, 1984
I come home unexpectedly and my private entrance is locked. I pound on the door, hear shuffling noises in the room and creaking from my desk chair. Jim calls for me to wait a minute. Finally, after several minutes, he unlocks the door. I hear them as they scurry into his side of the apartment, Jim and his secret guest. Later I learn he was glad I had arrived when I did, not knowing what the strange man might have done, Jim being naked and tied up in my favorite chair.
February 25, 1984
Jim has decided to kill himself. Seems he’s unhappy with his life. The booze and the cocaine, the anonymous sex, have all taken their toll. AIDS has crept into the picture. A nurse friend told us about hygiene and the treatment for the afflicted. She scared me half to death and I went out and bought some liquid soap for the bath. No more sharing bar soap for this kid. Jim was greatly offended by the soap, but I told him we always used the liquid at home, I’m just homesick for it. I know Jim doesn’t have AIDS. I think.
February 28, 1984
Three AM. Jim is weepy. He staggers into my room, wakes me up, and tells me he wants to kill himself. I ask him how and he tells me to mind my own business, but if I must know, he has a hoard of pills. I tell Shirley, our mutual friend from the Bull’s Eye and she comes over to search his room while he’s gone out. She finds pills, but there isn’t enough to kill him, just maybe make him sleep for a day or two.
March 3, 1984
I feel terrible about Jim. I confide in a friend at work. He tells me there is nothing for it, he had a roommate that killed himself and he was just a selfish prick, tells me people who off themselves are all selfish pricks. I worry anyway, thinking how unfair it all is.
March 5, 1984
Pills gone, Jim has decided to kill himself the slowest way possible. He stays up all night snorting cocaine, and drinking with his new buddies, the drug dealers. They play cards until morning light; argue about nonsense, thinking they are being clever when they are repetitive and shallow. They offer Jim money for my room; have them move in, me out. Jim turns them down, but likes to tell me about the offers anyway. I find a .22 caliber bullet on the kitchen floor.
Jim comes from a big, Irish Catholic family in the mid-west somewhere. His sister talks to me on the phone, thinks I’m his lover. She wants to know if he’s really all right. I lie; tell her he’s just fine. She seems relieved. What can she do anyway, I think. It’s not like she’s going to come rescue him. Yeah, he’s fine. Well, take care of him, she says. I don’t bother to tell her, he’s just my roommate and I try to avoid him as much as possible.
March 25, 1984
I am finally alone in the apartment! Some much needed alone time! My resentment toward Jim has peaked and I sing aloud, “Ding dong, the master baiter’s gone!” to the tune of “Ding dong the Witch is Dead,” while I make popcorn. I dance with delight at my free evening at home. Jim suddenly emerges from his closet. He’s been hiding behind his wardrobe and wants to spring out and surprise me. Now he wants to know what I meant by “The master baiter” crack. He pulls out his stash of gay porno mags, stained with some odd smelling oils, and asks me if this is to what I am referring. I don’t know what to say. The greasy stained magazines flop around in his hands. I look at the greasy bottle of corn oil I used to make the popcorn. Was that a pubic hair stuck to the label?
April 23, 1984
Jim’s friend Rico, the drug dealer from Brazil, and his heroin-addicted girl friend, Sheila, need a place to stay. Jim lets them put a mattress on the kitchen floor. Jim is very helpful like that. Rico gets a lot of phone calls to make to his drug-dealing friends. They come to the door and he leaves with them. Sal, from New Jersey, came by the other day and he seemed quite angry about something. Sorry I answered the door, really. But Rico and Sal went for a walk and worked it out. Afterward, Rico bought a bunch of shrimp and cooked them in water and beer. He insisted I eat with him. They tasted pretty good once I realized they weren’t poisoned.
May 3, 1984
Rico’s girlfriend, Sheila, is feeling pretty sick. They sit in the bathtub together for hours sometimes; they take the phone in there and make business calls. I hear that Rico has offered Jim lots of money for my room, but Jim says not to worry, he wouldn’t kick me out. Although, he hints, the extra money would be nice.
The landlady came down and asked me for the rent today. Seems she hasn’t seen any money for a few months. I told her I just give my money to Jim. It’s his place. He pays the rent. (I guess not.) I haven’t seen Jim for a while to talk to him about it.
May 27, 1984
Rico and Sheila finally move out. Am seeing less and less of Jim, now. He lost his job at the good restaurant and now he ‘s working for a not-so-nice place on the West side. Makes less money. I have been talking to the landlady about letting me move into an empty apartment upstairs.
June 15, 1984
I finally have my own place. Up five floors, but it’s worth it. Two bedrooms, kitchen and a bath! Jim knocked on the door the other day, but I pretended I wasn’t home. He scares me now. Not like the person I met at all. That far away look in his eyes makes me think he is the loneliest person on Earth. But I’ve made up my mind I can’t help him. I need to live my own life.
July 2, 1984
They came and took Jim home today. His sister and brother bought him a ticket and he’s gone. I don’t even know who’s in the apartment downstairs now. Some creepy guy he had move in a while ago. Poor Jim, all he wanted to do was be an actor.
Posted by Chuckh at 12:01 PM
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I don't usually post about films but I was shocked when Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress. I think she was a bit too, judging by her reaction. Anyway, she is a lovely woman and a good actor. Sometimes I think it is harder for a woman with such a bright, cheery face to be taken seriously as an actor. So, I was shocked when they call ed her name. I didn't see the film she won it for. It seemed from the ads to be a formulaic tear jerking sports movie, not my cup of tea. A film I did see recently that I liked very much was, Elegy, with Sir Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. That was a very deep, moving film for me. I think when you get to be a certain age, as the protagonist was in this film, you look at life differently. You start to see the end coming. Old age creeping in, and death around the corner. You start to look at back at ten twenty years ago and realize how quickly time, and life, moves you further and further, like a never ending conveyer and you have no choice but to ride it into the dark at the end of the line. This film made me think of these things and of how the Kingsley character perceived himself in the world. We leave things behind as we go; we leave the things that meant something at the time, energies used in things that seem unimportant now, especially, wasting time drinking and partying. Thinking you will find that one or two people that would be just fascinating and perhaps change you life. You get to a certain age and the ache of things lost, opportunity not taken advantage of, doors left closed, and these things leave a dull ache in the back of your mind, thinking about how your life could have gone, how it could have been changed by this event or that, by taking advantage of a certain situation you may have perceived you had. But you are living the life you deserve at some point. Not deserve as in, "I don't deserve this cancer," but deserve as in "You reap what you sew." The trick is to never stop sewing the seeds, for they will spring forth at any age, however little time you may have left to enjoy them. And I’m not complaining about my life. It is full of joy and happiness as well as the regret and the sorrow. I saw my father looking at his life as he aged, I saw the on switch turned "off" when he found out he had cancer and little time left. He was ready to check out that day, not wanting, I think, to wait in line at the end of the trail to face the eternal question...what is there after this thing we call life? Or simply finding it too hard to say goodbye to all that you hold so dear…
Posted by Chuckh at 10:23 PM