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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Regular column of true life stories returns!

= Diner Tale #5 =

A friend and I went to a diner the other night and found the place quite crowded.

“Smoking or non-smoking?” the hostess asked, and when we chose ‘smoking’ she said it would be about ten minutes.

“Great,” I replied, “that gives us just enough time to go outside and have a cigarette.”

When finally seated, I realized I was quite famished. So I ordered a milk shake and the pot roast dinner.

“Do you want the mashed potatoes with that?” the waitress asked.

Of course I did. Pot roast without mashed potatoes is like peanut butter without jelly. It’s like diamonds without pearls. It’s like Republicans without Democrats. It just don’t work.

When the meal came, I dug into the shake with my spoon and ate the hell out of that pot roast. But, as the meal wore on, I noticed there weren’t a lot of potatoes in the gravy. That’s when it hit me – oh my god! – I never got the mashed potatoes.

Just then, the waitress stopped by to see how things were going. I said, “It’s good, but there aren’t too many potatoes in with this roast. Shouldn’t there be some mashed on the side?”

The waitress was apologetic and said she had been mistaken, the mashed potatoes didn’t come with the pot roast meal.

I then said something so completely charming that she agreed to bring me mashed potatoes at no charge. I’d tell you what I said but if I did that then everybody would be getting free mashed potatoes and it would be Ireland in the late 1840s all over again.

When she brought me the bowl of spuds, I was chock full of milk shake and that tasty roasted confection and felt too full to eat mashed potatoes. But, at that point I felt obligated so, spoonful by heavy spoonful, I slowly emptied the whole bowl.

Yes, once again, I had been hoist by my own petard.

Now you might think this was a tale about dining or about my love of mashed potatoes. But, really, I’ve been waiting – literally for years – to use the phrase hoist by my own petard in a story so, when the opportunity finally arose, I had no choice but to take it.

= What Time Is It? =

I finally got around to buying myself a pocket watch. It is gold with a gold chain. The case (or cover) is black enamel with a golden train engine mounted in the center.

Now, no matter where I am, if anybody asks me for the time I can pull out my trusty pocket watch and tell them, for example, “it’s 10am” or “almost 7pm” or whatever the current time may be. After which I always add, “…and the trains are running on time.”

I almost bought a silver pocket watch instead. It was engraved with the phrase, “World’s #1 Grandpa”.

I don’t have any kids much less grandchildren, but thought it a worthy goal.

Obviously, it would be a long-term goal.

But then I got to thinking, “Do I want the course of my life dictated by a time piece?”

Not only would I first have to become a grandfather, I would then have to work really hard to be the world’s number one grandpa. Who has time for that?

But it would’ve made one hell of a conversation piece.

So, instead, I have to be content in the knowledge that the trains are running on time. If the small part I play helps to keep them on-schedule that’s satisfaction enough for me.

= Death & Coffee =

Nick the Barista works at the coffeehouse I regularly frequent. He only lives a few blocks away himself and, every so often, his Chihuahua, Sammy, gets out of the backyard and ends up wandering over to the coffeehouse. Sammy has to cut through a few back alleys and cross one major intersection to get there, but always seems to find his way. He knows to look both ways before using the crosswalk.

Well, until that last time.

There I was waiting for the “Walk” signal at the crosswalk, dreaming of a damn fine cup of joe, when I noticed Sammy sprawled out in the middle of said crosswalk.

His eyes were bugged out and his head was bloody. He was perfectly still which, if you know Chihuahuas, isn’t natural.

As I crossed the street I confirmed that Sammy was, indeed, dead. So then I had to go to the coffeehouse and tell Nick, “I’d like a large PoMo and, while we’re on the subject, your dog is dead.”

Those weren’t my exact words. If memory serves I was a bit more tactful, but you get the idea.

So I, and a few others, found a cardboard box and, with Nick in tow, scooped up Sammy’s remains before heading to the backyard for a decent burial.

With shovels in hand we began digging a hole in Nick’s backyard. While we were doing this, his other dog – a Labrador retriever (whose name I did not catch) - kept running up to us with ball in mouth. He would drop it at our feet and jump around until somebody stopped digging long enough to throw the ball.

This dog was in total denial and trying to cope the best way he knew how. Finally, after like the tenth time he did this, I took the ball and said, “Have a little respect. And while you’re at it, let this be a lesson to you: Look both ways before crossing the street.”

He cocked his head and wandered off.

Until that night, I never realized how hard it was to dig a Chihuahua-sized hole in the ground and commented on that fact. At which point somebody else replied, “You think this is hard? Try burying a dead hooker!”

= Heavenly Bus Ride =

The last time I rode the public bus, there was an elderly woman in a wheelchair parked near the rear. As the bus zoomed along, she shouted out, “Bus driver, what time will we stop on Buckeye Road?”

“We’re scheduled to stop at 2:10pm, ma’am, but we’re running about five minutes late.”

“What time?”

“About 2:15pm, ma’am, we’re a little behind schedule.”

“What? What did you say?”

At this point, the driver pulled over and said in a louder voice, “About 2:15! That’s when we’ll get to your stop.”

“What? I can’t hear you. What did the driver say?” she answered.

Another passenger then yelled, “He said 2:15, he’s going to be about five minutes late.”

“Better make that ten minutes now,” I dryly added.

As the driver began his journey again, the woman then started reciting a poem to the person sitting nearest her. I don’t know if she wrote it. I hope so, because I’d hate to think it was something that had actually been published. It began…

If there’s stairs to heaven
Please God lead the way
If there’s stairs to heaven
With thee I’ll climb that day

She seemed quite pleased with herself after the recital. My first thought was that she had better hope to hell there’s an elevator because no wheelchair is going to make it up a flight of stairs. And then what’s God going to do when she shows up? Heal her? That’s not His job, that’s Jesus’ job and he’s about 2000 years out of practice.

In the end it may not matter because, if there’s any justice in the universe whatsoever, reciting bad poetry should be grounds enough for eternal damnation.

= The Chair Experiment =

I was at a local coffeehouse poetry reading when I noticed a woman sitting in one of the two “comfy” chairs in the corner. On the chair with her was a backpack.

After a while, she got up to get a refill and before she returned this drunk homeless guy wandered in and planted himself in the “comfy” chair. He then proceeded to pass out and remained there for a few hours.

At closing time, the woman who had left the chair and was now sitting at a nearby table got up. When she lifted her backpack the floor was all wet underneath. Apparently, she had a large water bottle in the pack and it wasn’t properly sealed. As we discovered this, the homeless guy awoke and went outside. I looked at the “comfy” chair and saw it, too, was soaking wet.

So, as a goof, I went up to the front counter and told the young barista working there, “I don’t know exactly what happened, but one of your comfy chairs is soaking wet. I know that homeless guy was sitting there but I’m not saying he wet the chair. All I’m saying is it’s all wet and you might want to check it out. You know, just in case.”

Then I left.

When I returned the next afternoon, I saw the comfy chair out by the dumpster. When I went inside, the co-workers were talking amongst themselves saying, “I can’t believe that guy peed in the chair! What’s this world coming to, anyway?”

I piped in with, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t. In fact, I think somebody just spilled water on it. Didn’t you check the chair out before you tossed it?”

No, they hadn’t. Even though you can smell urine from like a mile way, these youngsters apparently held their collective breath before they even got in the vicinity of the chair then carried it out to the dumpster as fast as they could. After all, some homeless bum was sitting in it so it must be urine, right?

Ah, the gullibility of youth.

When I admitted I was just goofing on them, one young lady – all of 21 – shockingly asked, “You were goofing on me?”

It is sometimes fun to goof. It is even more fun when a person’s own prejudices and preconceived notions about others all but assure the goof will be successful.

Since the wind was whipping outside and storm clouds were gathering above, I suggested they might want to think about bringing the chair back in before it began to rain.

“If that chair gets rained on, it’ll be ruined,” I said, “and, at that point, I might as well go out there and pee on it myself.”

For the record, I came thisclose to being banned from the coffeehouse for “inappropriate goofing” or some such. Also for the record: On the night of the incident in question, the homeless guy was banned – for urinating in the chair. Apparently, one of the staff went outside and read him the riot act then told him to never come back. He denied doing it but nobody believed him.

I felt kind of bad for the guy when I heard that. He just wanted a warm place to sleep it off, and then all this happened.

= Poetic Shopper =

Joe-Joe the Poet called me one day and asked if I wanted to come over to visit. So I went over to his place and what a sight it was: Papers piled everywhere, intermixed with empty pizza boxes, half-eaten plates of by now unidentifiable food, at least a half dozen ashtrays filled to overflowing, and other bits of life’s flotsam strewn about the studio apartment.

Before I go any further, there are a few things you need to know about Joe-Joe:

He’s manic-depressive.

He’s missing his right leg from the knee down and wears a prosthetic.

He’s a damn good poet.

As it turns out, Joe-Joe was in a manic stage so he started reading me poetry, playing his guitar, smoking a cigarette, offering to make coffee, talking about that time he got banned from an open mike reading for being drunk and throwing a chair at a poet on stage he felt sucked, showing me his medication supply, and trying to fix his broken skateboard – all at the same time.

Suddenly he stopped and said he wanted to go to the grocery store to get a soda and a pack of cigarettes. So he put on his prosthetic leg and off we went.

The store was only a couple of blocks away so we walked there and, once inside, Joe-Joe rushed through the aisles hurly-burly until he saw something in the discount bin. It was a “coaster gun” which, as one might well imagine, is a gun-shaped dispenser that holds ten coasters – you know, the kind you set your drink on so as no to leave stains. When the trigger is pulled, it shoots out a coaster.

“I have to get this,” Joe-Joe excitedly muttered.

He also picked up a can of cola and a pack of Marlboros. As we stepped outside, the security guard at the door took one look at us and said, “Hey, Joe. I see you have both your legs today.”

Joe-Joe didn’t answer and, honestly, I didn’t know what to say to that.

About halfway back, Joe-Joe set his can of soda on the sidewalk and continued walking, saying he had changed his mind about wanting one. Once back at the apartment complex, we passed a woman sitting on the stairs near Joe-Joe’s door. He looked at her and asked if she wanted a cigarette. When she said “Sure!” he gave her the whole pack.

Once inside, Joe-Joe played with the coaster gun for a bit, saying, “At least that trip wasn’t a total waste.”

He smiled when he said that.

Then he invited me to go down the block to the Mexican food restaurant, where he’d buy me dinner.

Not wanting to ruin his manic high, I agreed. People in the grip of mania love to spend money and who am I to argue with that?

= Girl A & Girl B =

Here’s the God’s honest truth...

I was dating Girlfriend A for about a month. Then she disappeared for almost a week, seemingly avoiding me. She finally called and broke up with me by phone. It was a very touching way to go about it. She said she had issues, most of which were about sex. She said the medication she was on had killed her sex drive and thought it best we no longer be together because, as she put it, “If I can’t be with you one-hundred percent, I’d rather not be with you at all.”

In my world, these are exactly the kinds of issues two people should discuss if they’re a couple. In her world, I guess it’s better to have hot sex then just beat yourself up over it later. Apparently, this was an ongoing internal struggle, which is why she ran so “hot” and “cold” sex-wise. This led to her feeling she wasn’t “pretty enough” or “smart enough” or “talented enough” to be with me. Not that she ever mentioned any of this in any detail, not counting randomly vague allusions a few times, until that break-up phone call.

But, hey, at least I’m not bitter.

“What about your stuff?” I asked, as a number of her belongings were still at my place. “I’ll come by and get them soon,” she promised. After about a week, I put what she had left – a few books, some shoes, a pair of under panties, and her drawing pad – in a bag and left it in the corner of my bedroom.

Enter Girl B – whom, in short order, started sleeping over. During those nights, my cat – who gets into everything – was locked out of the bedroom.

One afternoon a couple of weeks later, Girl B and I returned from the store and I noticed a pair of under panties on the bedroom floor.

“Hey,” I said, “your under panties are on the floor.”

“Those aren’t mine!” she replied.

She then demanded to know whom I had had over in the last couple of nights, because those under panties hadn’t been there before. I explained about the ex-girlfriend and how I hadn’t spoken with her since that phone call and, as far as I could figure, my cat - who gets into everything - must have pulled those under panties out of the bag and dragged them to where they were found.

I even offered to call the ex- so she could verify the truth, but Girl B said, “I don’t want to talk to her, because if I did all I’d want to ask her is why she wears such goddamn ugly underwear.”

As crazy as my explanation sounded it was the truth and, eventually, Girl B believed me. I don’t know why she did, but I didn’t ask because some things are better left alone.

Not only that, but she stuck around long enough to become Girlfriend B. This has left me in an uncharacteristically good mood which, quite frankly, can be maddening at times.

She has a beauty and grace that is almost painful to look at sometimes. Her eyes smile but can just as easily bite.

= Blog Will Eat Itself =

A number of old links (on left side of screen) have been deleted and new ones added. Please check them out.

Curiously, there is now a weblog called The World According to Pete, According to Me, on which some chick has taken it upon herself to comment and riff on whatever it is I might be talking about.

I’ve become a cottage industry of sorts without even trying. I blame the Internet.

I don’t know if I should be amused, angry, or simply track her down and ask her to marry me.

(See “PeteAccordingToMe” link to take a gander.)


(That’s all folks… More RANDOM BITS later… Want to post comments? Click on highlighted time listing below any post, then click on individual "Post a Comment" under each post to add.)

posted by Pete 1:47 AM
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