Monthly Archives: April 2009

Marblecake

Doesn’t have a point of view.
Knows not where he’s going to.
Isn’t he a bit like you…
And me. – Beatles ‘Nowhere Man’

I decided to call up Earl at the pawn shop. He always knows low level players, but the rumor is he moves a little weight himself. The rumor isn’t true, well… it probably isn’t true, but he has held a few items he knew not to sell in the past.

“You carry that cheap little thing in your pants with the clip in and one day you are going to get a bad surprise young man.”

I rearrange my pocket so the butt of the pistol isn’t sticking out again and shrug off my windbreaker. It’s always too hot in here, too close. It smells like fried chicken and old farts. Earl shifts his fat body over the stool he’s been tormenting for the past two decades. I listen to the cheap metal creak and groan, and wait for him to settle. It’s like talking to a four hundred pound cat, if you start anything while he’s still up and around you’re just going to have to repeat it.

Once the creaks stop and there’s a beat where we’re both just waiting to see if the chair collapses, he looks at me appraisingly.

“Well I assume that from your demeanor and the tin courage in your pocket that this is not a social call. If you are planning to rob me you should know that you are on camera and I am not the sort of man who calls the authorities. Plus I know your auntie and she would just be devastated if they had to clean you up out of her basement. We go to church together, you know.”

I arrange the pictures in a fan before dropping them on the counter with a small sigh. When I was twelve, this kind of talk amused me, when i was fifteen, it scared me. Now I just know that he’s a fat blowhard with a gambling problem and a tumbler which is more whiskey than coke sweating it out on a coaster near the register. The sort of melodramatic asshole who won’t even give you a break when you helped him get his niece out of a bad spot.

“Ahhh, it is to be an information gathering meeting. How delightful. How may I be of assistance?”

“Do you know this man?”

“The line goes ‘Do you know this boy?’. That film is certainly no Zhivago but if you are to make cinematic allusions in my shop I would appreciate some effort.”

“Listen, do you know this dude or not?”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, my dear boy. Of course I know him, he pawns a guitar case or a TV here from time to time.”

Which makes sense. You don’t want to have your stash all in one place, especially when you’re the delivery man. You’ve always got to have a few local places you can go and pick up a little extra if business is booming. Earl isn’t the sort of guy to hold out on that, he knows I’m no police, and I’m not out to steal anything, so he’s probably telling the truth. The whole truth? Probably not.

“You seen him lately?”

“Last Tuesday he was in here picking up a few items he had pawned a month or so ago. I seem to recall he was very much in a hurry, and chose to take all of his belongings back quite suddenly. He loaded it into his caravan and drove off into the sunset without so much as a thank you or a how-do-you-do.”

“So just about a week ago.”

“As it is now Wodin’s Day, yes, that would be accurate.”

I bite back a retort. I can’t give him that satisfaction, otherwise I’ll be in a bad mood all day. I gather up my pictures and stick them back in my pocket. I know that I’m only gonna get one question here, and the favor I’m cashing in is not that big. I have to use it like a chess piece.

“You know how I could get in touch with his boss?”

“That’s funny, Robert. Quite funny.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I’m losing my temper now. The gun won’t work this time, Earl will just pull the trigger on the sawed off under the case and before I can even get this gun out of my pocket, I’ll be trying to plug the buckshot holes in my legs and waiting for the ambulance while he quietly chuckles and drinks his soda.

“Why, his boss was just in here yesterday morning, bright and early, asking how a person could get in touch with you.”

“Wait, wait… What did this guy look like?”

“I am not at liberty to talk about my other business partners, but I will tell you that he told me to give you a message when I saw you next.”

And what was that message?

“‘You have one week.’ He seemed quite insistent. I will not go into details, but if you owe this man something you should pay it. He is not the type to extend credit nor renegotiate terms.”

A drop of sweat drips into my asscrack and I can feel the inverted triangle of sweat slicking my shirt to my shoulders. I start back toward the door, glaring at Earl’s beatific, gigantic baby face as he eyeballs me like a particularly interesting insect. I’m getting nothing out of this one, looks like.

“Is that not the answer you wanted to hear, Robert?” a chuckle and the groan of metal as he gets up to wander over to his drink.

I put my hand on the pushbar and turn around. Distracted.

“Your aunt is a good friend of mine, Robert. She is a good woman and she would be most despondent for some reason if you were to get yourself killed.”

“Thanks, yeah Earl, that’s great, that makes me feel much better.”

I punch the door and I’m halfway out the door when he clears his throat. I pause.

“You should go talk to her.”

“Thanks for the advice, fat man.”

“No, no, I honestly believe you should go talk to her about your situation.”

He must have sensed my anger peaking because I didn’t have to prompt him again.

“Ricky’s wife is in the choir at our church.”

The door is jingling behind me as I turn to head for the house, and I hear Earl say “And now YOU owe ME one, dear boy.”

The Cost

If it cost me these eight years to get where I am now, then it was worth it. It was worth every night of loneliness, it was worth every moment of awkwardness.

I finally feel that I have come into my own.

Scott Adams talked about “being good at being 42” on his blog, and I can certainly understand what he meant. I think I was a really poor 20 year old. I certainly didn’t do well into my mid 20’s, and only in my late 20’s did I feel like I was making sense, like I had become comfortable in my own skin and was beginning to enjoy the act of being. Now at 30, I feel more comfortable with myself than ever, and like I’m making progress. Each day feels a little closer to a life well lived. There are problems, of course, there are struggles. There are times when I’m lazy and don’t take care of myself. But I no longer feel like I’m permanently mired in some cultural wasteland that I can’t decipher. I feel normal, though outside opinions on that are still mixed. I feel like I have a social life, I feel like I have options. I feel like, despite my failures, I am still moving forward – My life is converging around me.

So thank you, Portland. Thank you OurPDX, and thank you Legion of Tech. Thank you DIYStories and thank you Backfence. And thank you Twitter. And thank you Google Talk and AIM and Diaryland and WordPress and thank you, all of you, who are part of my life. You don’t know how much you mean to me, each and every one of you.

Rutknuckle

I was gonna try to play it off like I wasn’t proud of it, but while I was describing a scene in which a sleeping Jarvitron flashed his genitalia at innocent strangers while sleeping on a couch, I described it as my “rutknuckle” which just tickled me pink.

Carry on.

California is sexier at night

I brought this up before, but it’s something that suck with me. Whenever the sun was up, I was assaulted by the mundane, homogeneous light-brush-and-subdivision clusterfuck that is middle California. But when the sun went down and all I could see was the bright lights, I could imagine a movie set perfect vacation home, complete with hottub and white-felt-pool table. My minds eye could see the nipped and tucked children of privilege, preparing themselves for excess. I imagined hot cars simmering under neon lights and fogged windows, the jangling noise of the club only occasionally punctuated by squeaking suspension. In my mind, we drove on a nonstop Sunset Strip, the junkies and the whores and the flickering yellow lights of a twenty four hour store selling vice were just out of my sight. Just beyond the shadow of the freeway. Just beyond my reach.

My literary niche

Thanks to Jason, I just found my literary niche. I’m going to write Harlequin romance, but instead of being the typical oiled-adonis-fucks-heroine story, it’s just going to be realistic, awkward exchanges where people get mixed signals and stop talking just because they can’t decide whether or not to go forward. The story of the woman on the beach who finds herself in the thrall of an elaborate fantasy about what she realizes now is a fifteen year old boy she saw playing football, or the two coworkers who almost but don’t quite seal the deal at an office party and then start avoiding each other out of mutual embarrassment and shame (This one has a title already : Coworker Conundrum – From the Working Relationships collection).

There will be stories about people who can’t screw up the nerve to say something to a person in a bar, or that chance parking lot moment where you can’t tell if they’re waving at you or not so you just kind of half wave and then leave when you can’t see if they respond. The story about when you interpret something as having innuendo, and respond with an equally charged comment, only to realize you completely misheard the other person. The story of the long, painful distance romance that a young man has for a cashier at a book store, so he’s accumulated an entire shelf of books he doesn’t want to read just so he can talk to her sometimes. The story of a gay guy who won’t acknowledge it and spends all his time trying to figure out how to “roughhouse” with his guy friends without seeming creepy. A pair of haunted-by-the-constant-flow-of-time fifty somethings who are trying desperately to bring the spark back into their lives by experimenting with drugs and having awkward, depressing sex on the couch. Short stories about a guy with an erection he’s trying to hide during a meeting at work, hoping it will subside before it’s time to get up and leave. A secretary whose vibrator falls out of her bag in the car and she realizes anybody who walked into the front door of her office could have looked down and seen the comically oversized pink device on her passenger seat, next to an empty starbucks cup and a package of mint gum. The story of two young people who can’t quite remember if they had drunk sex on Labor Day, so they are always trying to prompt the other to tell them when the “first time” was. The gut churning moment that a couple who lives in a condo realize that everything you say in the bedroom can be heard, clear as day, in the living room of the next unit over.

This… this I can do.