Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Curious Business of the Pants

It was not my intention to go into the Pants Business, but this is how it happened in my dream.

I was out of work and walking down a street in Berkeley, CA., Telegraph Avenue. This is a section of Berkeley very near the University and thick with small shops of all kinds. I was holding a towel tightly around my waist because I was missing my trousers.

I looked first in one shop, then in another, looking at all the carrying bags for computers, pens and pencils, and other objects. I then went on to look at shoes. It was just at that moment that I ran into my old friend from the car business, Bill Albertson. Bill was one of my dearest friends from the days when we sold together on showroom floors. He was a loving, religious sort of person, a good friend, father, and husband. We had travelled together to Hawaii with our wives, having won a contest. Bill died of cancer very young.

Blalbertson, as we called him for short, looked great in a 3 piece suit. I asked him what he was doing these days, and he led me into a store front which turned out to be a warehouse inside. Bill said he had gone into the Pants Business, and asked me to join him. And, this is how we got the pants.

From a rack in the largely empty warehouse Bill took a gun, a very large Revolutionary War musket. We walked out into the street. Bill pointed the rifle skyward, and took aim. He then began to chant in a sing-song voice, and I knew that this chant must be done just exactly right. When he had completed the chant 3 times, Bill fired the rifle.

There fluttered down from about the third floor level a single pair of white chino trousers which eventually landed in the street. We retrieved the trousers. They were just what I needed. Then we made our way back to the warehouse, our aim fittingly accomplished.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Delivery to Mrs. P.

When I was 5 and my brother was 8 years old, my parents bought a corner grocery store in South West Philadelphia and moved us from our idyllic boyhood home in Allentown, Pa., over the strong objections of my brother and myself. When we saw our new house, we had a case of "Hate at First Sight". Despite our cries of, "Please don't move here!!", we were bundled from the family Nash and deposited into our quarters above and behind the corner store, a location that would become the setting for my boyhood dramas along with free lessons about religious and racial differences.

The business was destined to fail, doomed by the emergence of supermarkets. My father tried a number of occupations from insurance salesman to department store manager. My mother minded the store and the family until until she was released into her previously set- aside singing career by our subsequent move to Northeast Philadelphia.

One of the jobs that came with the store was "delivery boy". Our local customers called in grocery orders which my a brother and I delivered for whatever tips were forthcoming. A quarter was top dollar for a tip, dimes OK, nickels on the cheap side. One consistent quarter tipper was Mrs. P, who lived a short distance from the store. Mrs. P's orders usually consisted of one highly deliverable box full of groceries.

My first Winter time delivery to Mrs. P. required putting on thick socks, snow boots with buckles, trousers tucked in, a warm sweater or series of shirts, a bulky jacket, earmuffs and a woolen hat or a hat with built-in earmuffs, a scarf, gloves or mittens also clipped to the sleeves of the jacket. Upon reaching Mrs P’s house in all this paraphernalia, it was necessary to climb the porch stairs covered in snow, balance the box against the doorway, and ring the doorbell.

When Mrs P opened the door, the smell that wafted from the interior of her row house was like a sledge hammer to the olfactory nerves. One barely stood one’s ground in the head-wind of that odiferous onslaught! A delivery to Mrs. P.’s house was not for the faint of heart or breath. It required a few seconds to compose oneself, regain the ability to breathe, reacquaint oneself with sensation in the legs, and recover from the shock, all the while maintaining a pleasant aspect for our customer. Taking all of this in stride out of an 8 year-old’s loyalty to our father (whose leadership, strength of character, and ability to be pleasant to customers were obvious), I would plunge ahead into the house.

I had to traverse the complete interior of the house from front door to the very back where the kitchen was located while the strength of the odor increased exponentially with each step forward. As if pressing against a tangible weight, I moved my sodden snow boots ever forward into the darkening gloom of the household, through room after room until I entered the kitchen where I finally beheld in the dim light the source of that unbelievable stench.

There, in the dim light of the farthest room in the house was a large cage and in that cage was a monkey, the source of the smell. Graciously, I exchanged small talk with Mrs. P., as my father would do with all the customers of our grocery store. Small talk, I say, not smell talk, a subject to be avoided like Bubonic Plague (which I might have caught). And after discussing the weather, the state of Mrs. P’s daughters or whatever (smell wipes clean all memory of conversation), I would beat a casual retreat as if nothing were amiss, and be rewarded with a quarter at the front door along with the sure knowledge that there would be an argument about which brother would brave the next delivery to Mrs. P.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alien Abduction

My cat’s recent visit to the vet provides the setting for the classic alien abduction story. Just look at the event from his point of view.

You are sleeping peacefully in your bed when you are unexpectedly lifted bodily into the air by a force you cannot resist. As you slowly begin to come out of your sleep you realize that you are being placed into a confining area barely larger than your body with only small holes you can look out of to see what’s going on.

You resist. You stretch your limbs out to stop it from happening, but you can’t. You catch a glimpse of your captors on your way into the box. These cannot be the people you know and trust. These uncaring things, immune to your distress, must have replaced them. All this is so disconcerting that you have no way to interpret what is happening to you except that you have absolutely no control over it. Despite your vocalizations and protests and cries for help, your will is completely ignored. You have no dignity, no status as a sentient being whatever.

Your confining cubicle is then  lifted into some vehicle of advanced technological design which takes you away from your home. All of the surroundings, though you can’t see them well, smell unfamiliar. You are filled with fear and foreboding. You try to communicate with your captors again, try to convince them to stop this, but it’s useless. No one is listening.

Your cubicle is moved again into a different area. You hear the complaints and cries of fear from captives of your species and other species as well. As your own vocalizations increase to express your mounting terror, the cubicle is moved again. You are released into a new area which you have never seen before except in some memory that seems like a bad dream. You always wished that you would never see this place again. You are placed on a cold metal table. You are subjected to the unavoidable anal probe. Someone looks into your facial cavities. Your ears are drilled into by itchy devices, your mouth is forced open. Your teeth and gums are probed. Then some other stranger comes and whisks you off to another area where needles are stuck into your body that carry strange fluids, and you have no idea what is in them.

When you are finally returned to your home, those around you behave as if nothing has happened, that this is a normal day. Your recovery from this ordeal may require 16 to 20 hours of sleep, and later it all seems like a bad dream.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kill the Messenger


    Once upon a time in the City, riding in the heart of the financial district, traffic was bumper to bumper. It moved not at all. The river of metal and glass, pumping out gas, noise, dirt and grit, was completely stalled, and for untold blocks an army of endless red lights held time frozen.

    Enter the  bicycle messenger. My delivery was on the 12th floor. As I reached my destination, I made a mental note of the position of the car caught in traffic directly in front of the door, along with the consternation on the face of the driver. Entering the building, I made my way up the elevator. I completed the delivery on the 12th floor, had the paperwork signed, and called in for my next destination. I came back down to the street, and there it was, the same car stuck in the same place for about 20 minutes. It hadn’t moved at all. The driver was giving me looks that could kill the messenger. 
    All business, I mounted my heavy-metal steed and moved between the lanes directly beside his car, and then, it happened!  The Road Rage of the Messenger. The friendly messenger became the Messenger of Doom. A hot and dirty body, a mind overwhelmed by noise and pollution, the end of compassion, and too many Bugs Bunny Warner Brothers cartoons had come together in my mind. I puckered up my lips, leaned over, and made a huge kissing noise in the unfortunate drivers’ window,  like Bugs Bunny kissing Elmer Fudd on the head before escaping his fwustwated fuwy.   The enraged driver rolled down his window to reply to this insult, but I dug out between the lanes leaving the poor man stuck were he was. He may be there yet, even though this was 42 years ago.

    One day I was heading for home on my bike in  rush hour traffic. As usual, I had  only a few inches to spare by the curb of a very busy multi-lane one way street. Cars beside me were dangerously close. My attention was challenged by the need to stay out of traffic while balancing on a narrow strip of gutter.  And then, it happened! Horns were blaring, drivers were snarling, but my tiredness, frustration, and frazzled nerves overcame common sense and even self-preservation. In a gesture of reality-negating bravura, I rode away from the curb and out in front of a lane of the on-rushing river of metal and glass. Surprising even myself, I began to  weave back and forth in front of traffic in the lane, making everyone back up behind me unless they were willing to kill the messenger. I had practiced this weaving S-shaped curve riding my bike when I was 10 years old. Fortunately, self-preservation gained the upper hand over bravura, and I went back to my curb hugging ways.

III. Bicycle Messenger Dream

    I’m climbing a hill in downtown San Francisco on my 50’s bicycle. It has a heavy steel frame and balloon tires (like the one Sammy rode, my boyhood friend and natural leader of the neighborhood boys. I finally beat Sammy at something by defeating him in a bicycle race on my lightweight German bicycle. Because of this I still love German music, but back to my dream). The messenger service bike has rusted chrome handlebars. (I never would have tolerated this as a boy. Mine shone like mirrors!) It has an extra wide seat, a useless feature since, at this point in my life, I weigh in at 128 pounds. With an eighty pound weight in the front basket, the bike is going to throw me over those rusted handlebars if I hit a curb too hard.

    I’m straining, standing up on the pedals, pushing with all my might climbing the hill. I lean further forward, getting closer and closer to the street. At one point, my weight and strength, the weight of the bike and the load, and the steepness of the grade all reach equilibrium. My forward motion stops. I fall. The bike crashes down beside me. I Iie there dazed, looking up at San Francisco sky.

     I’ve been at the job for some months now, and I have these dreams. The job allows me to retain full Hippie regalia, long hair, bell bottoms, sneakers, head band. There is no dress code. There are no drug tests. There is just bicycle, traffic, smog, noise, dirt, and deliveries.
    The traffic is intense for everyone. Traffic cops direct their on-coming traffic directly at us. “Hit him”, they say, gesturing at us. Motorists are irritated with us, this wandering Hippie tribe of the downtown mounted on old heavy-metal steeds, negotiating the congestion, slipping through lanes and up onto sidewalks to make deliveries. Drivers feel that somehow we are winning the traffic wars that they lost long ago, and they can stop driving the City only in their dreams.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beauty Pageant Winners

Winner of the early hominid beauty contest who hates people.

Miss Anne Thrope

Married winner of the Beverage Industry beauty pageant and a large river.


Winner of the fast food beauty pageant and a failed police action.

Miss Take Out

Sexually ambiguous winner of the one pan cooking contest.

Miss Stir Fry

Winner of the Charles Darwin Evolutionary Biology beauty contest.

Miss Sing Link

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Oboe Reed Makers' Lament.

You make them
While you're talking on the phone

You make them
When you think you're all alone

You make them
While you're driving in your car

You make them
When you don't know where you are

Now I would not
Go and bite the hand that feeds

Everybody must make reeds!

You make them
While you're entering a room

You make them
While you're visiting Grant's Tomb

You make them
When you're sitting on the pot
And when you have a cold
And when you're hot

You make them
While you're chewing up your food
You're hoping that just one of them is good!

You're angry as
You throw them at the wall

You realize
They're too long
Or they're too small

You think
You have some kind of a disease

But everybody must make reeds!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why So Much? Why So Much?

    The thing about being a car salesman is, you have to get  to the negotiation. “The car  is already sold”,  my trainers would say, “They didn’t come here to buy a loaf of bread.”

    “ Why So Much?” The question is both accusation and  opening gambit. I can tell it’s going to be a long and hard negotiation. Maybe we’ll have fists banging on desks,  pleading  family members, theatrical facial expressions and body language. To the person who asks this question, negotiation is a religion, a way of life, and the success of the  negotiation can be measured  by how much physical and emotional energy is expended. The negotiation must take several hours, perhaps all day, and exhaustion is just as  important as the  financial outcome. Woe to the salesman who takes up the challenge of, “Why So Much?”, something that questions the very foundation our system.

    “Why So Much?” From the customer’s point of view, the question must be asked with a look that shows both insult and  amazement. It’s important that the face and body language express both emotions at the same time. Just seeing the price causes almost unbearable

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The 4th of Blog

I heard that String Theory actually began as 5 different theories. Later, they were unified into one theory called M theory.

Of course I found some iterations of M theory as well.

1. M&M Theory: This theory hits the sweet spot in quantum mechanics.
2. S&M Theory: You must wear protective garments to do the math.
3. Anti-M Theory: This is utilized by physicists who want to go home to Kansas through a worm hole.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jewish Haiku

I believe I've remembered the Jewish Haiku, 5,4,5 syllable pattern

Is one Nobel prize
Too much to ask
After all I've done?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday the 3rd of Blog

My local restaurant decided to stop charging corkage in an effort to attract more business. But, like the banks, they needed to add some other charges in an effort to raise revenue.

These are just some of the charges:

If you bring your own take-out bag, they charge baggage.
If they must call you a cab, they charge cabbage.
If you bring a place for your baby, they charge cribbage.
If they wind up helping you to carry your things, they charge luggage.
Now, if you become too tipsy to handle your own bill, they must charge manage.
Finally, if they feed you on the local golf course, they charge sand wedge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I want Six Mens on Coffee

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. A single light bulb sways overhead and creates  yellow glare. Smoke fills the room  from Swisher Sweets cigars lit over dominos games in the basement.  Hippies, freaks, and men from every country on planet Earth mill in front of the barred job window at the Ship Painters and Scalers Union, like sharks waiting to feed. The Union Hall is in Lusk Alley, San Francisco, South of Market Street. Lena’s soul food restaurant is around the corner. My friend has a thing for Lena. 

We press together tighter in  front of the job window.  On the wall,  the pegboard with our  numbers awaits  the beginning of the job calling ceremony. Javouis Robbins, known to one and all as “Jiveass”, sits on a beat up office chair behind the window, like an executive in a down-and- out company that can’t afford furniture. The ever present fedora over his bald spot keeps the yellow light from bouncing off his head.  He starts to call  numbers for the day’s jobs.  “I want six mens on Coffee”, he intones, his voice musical, lyrical. The next ten seconds are crucial if I’m going  to work today.

“Thirtysixfotynine!”, yells Jiveass, running the numbers together at the speed of light. The music is gone. “Twenysenfifyfo!”  Believe me, this is not a guy who took elocution lessons. I get less than  a second to translate what he said, and  yell “here!”, “hay”, or some other identifying sound 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Monday, the 1st of Blog

When I was a boy in Junior High School (grades 7-9), Home Room was the gathering place for the beginning of the school day. My Home Room was presided over by the tyrant known as Miss McMenamin. The woman's iron-handed rule included unique penalties for offending her. If a student's behavior did not meet Miss McMenamin's standards, the student was required assume "the position" in the aisle on hands and knees between the neat rows of old fashioned wooden school desks. Then, facing the tyrant at the front of the room, they would bow, arms in the air, and then forehead to the floor, over and over, while chanting repeatedly, " I'm so sorry Miss McMenamin, I'm so sorry Miss McMenamin, I'm so sorry Miss Mcmenamin." Fifty to one hundred repetitions were required depending upon the infraction.

One member of our class, I'll call him Freddie, was so constituted that the very act of breathing looked, on his face and in his demeanor, like an act of mischief or insubordination or both. Needless to say, Freddie spent every waking hour in Home Room on the floor doing penance before Miss McMenamin. Now, I am told, that if this were to occur in school, the student would have to be wearing a helmet, knee pads, special gloves, and even then the lawsuit would be gargantuan.

I'm so sorry, Miss McMenamin!