Life expectancy

This Canter’s Rueben ought to make up for all the vegetarian meals I usually eat. I suppose the pickle is the vegan part. And there’s enough oil in these onion rings for a whole weekend of orgies. Slippin’ and a slidin’, gotta wash my hands. The pickle just squirted all across the table, iPad, and me. Eek. Pickle piddle everywhere. The Russian dressing is this wanton creamy stuff that must be fatal in large doses. I can’t possibly eat the other half of this sandwich. It’s perfectly decadent what you can have delivered to your door in Hollywood during a lockdown. When do the dancing midgets get here?

Stationery

Stationery stores. I miss stationery stores. All kinds of things to write with and write on and to send writing to each other. Tough wooden things and cold shiny metallic things and onion skin paper so fragile if you even looked at it you had to buy it. And pens, all kinds of pens, back when pens exhibited alpha male masculinity, heavy and thick and ridiculous and they gleamed like armor in the sun. A whole sort of civilization disappeared when stationery stores disappeared. I live in the new civilization and I’m typing in it now, pecking on this ridiculous keyboard, and I can’t for the life of me remember what onion skin paper was for. Nor can I get my mind around the idea that a ball point pen once cost more to someone in 1946 than we spend for an iPad now.

Chinese toilet paper

Chinese bathroom tissue arrived in the mail today, a memory of a more desperate time. It came air mail all the way from, well I can’t read Chinese but it was from far, far away. It cost ten times as much as the Chinese bathroom tissue—that sounds so much nicer than toilet paper—that suddenly appeared at a supermarket two miles from here a day or two later, and not only were those rolls bulkier, even manlier than their petite cousins, but they smelled like lavender. Yes, lavender. They were piled in immense pyramids like the skulls outside the breached walls of Samarkand, and the bouquet of lavender clung to everything like mustard gas, not that we cared. It was toilet paper, at last, like manna from heaven and three bucks a twelve roll package. We stood six feet apart beaming and squeezing the whipple out of them. Once home I clove apart the packages and piled the contents neatly in the linen closet, filling every cranny with ramparts of plush three ply lavender. I forgot all about the solid gold T.P. wending it’s metaphorical way from China down the spice road through Samarkand, Tashkent, Merv and along the shores of the Caspian Sea, through the Mediterranean to Cadiz where it was loaded onto a galleon and set sailing before favorable winds to American shores and eventually handed to me by a postman here in Silver Lake. Did you order toilet paper he asked through his mask. I nodded. He handed me the package. It seemed lighter than air. I tore open the plastic and out spilled twelve little rolls of bathroom tissue. They were almost toylike. The feeling of falling in love with you they read. A miniature roll of toilet paper making love to me. Never had wiping my ass seemed so romantic.

End times

Just spent nearly $300 at Ralphs. Hot damn. The only things they were out of was toilet paper and cans of cat food. What an odd looking panic that must have been.

We have toilet paper and don’t have cats.

There was a noticeable lack of old people with shopping carts in a store that is normally swarming with them, though perhaps swarming ain’t quite the word. Creeping. Creeping with old people with shopping carts, of which there were few, so things moved speedily. Few old people, I mean, there were lots of shopping carts.

But I digress.

Now we’re gonna go out to eat. Don’t know when we’ll do it again. Nobody over sixty knows when we’ll ever to be able to do anything outside again. It’s now the exciting world of online deliveries for us.

I haven’t felt anything like this since I was a kid in the depths of the Cold War and sirens would go off and you’d think it was the end of the world.

Unfinished alphabet

(This must twenty years old. I believe it’s from an collection of all my stuff in a Word document and arranged alphabetically. These were on each letter’s title page. Alas, the Word doc proved unworkable and the alphabet unfinished.)

A

Pronounced uh. Schwa. Sometimes it seems half the vowel sounds in English are pronounced in  a schwa. There’s  reasons. Slow linguistic reasons. Gradual things like how the earth slides off the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, slowly carrying rich people with it. Ha.

B

They dance, bees. They find pollen and they dance. I love them for that dance, all those lady bees dancing. I like dancing lady anything. Cowgirls slowdancing with oilmen in a honky tonk.  A beautiful black girl dancing to a good band.  A salsera’s  mathematical perfection. The pure sex of a samba line. One of the girls came by my table and put her spangled tits in my face. She danced and they shook violently from side to side. Then she laughed at my eyeballs following them back and forth. She laughed and kissed me and let me be.   

C

Like see. But it’s usually k. Cat. Cab. Can.  It’s not a sybillant., that c, most of the time. There are maybe fifteen sybillants. Most are s’s. A few z’s. No c’s. But see we say. A B See. Go figure.

D

I worked with a lady named Dee.  She had a baby in some guy’s car.  Women think of that cute baby. Men think of that poor car.

E

In high school I had a friend with a beautiful blue Thunder.bird. One the big ones you could fit four or five strapping teens in. The letters  on the license place said THE. It was The The. We’d drive around in The The and talk about girls and rock’n’roll. We’d go to concerts at the Long Beach Arena. Blue Oyster Cult. Deep Purple. We’d go to the Wilshire Theatre in old downtown Fullerton and watch Stones movies. Sometimes we’d take Kevin Ames. Really weird kid Kevin Ames. Tall, blonde, kinda off.  But fun off. We went to the Wilshire to see a zombie movie and Kevin walked through the theatre like a Thing. He walked like a thing into the old people’s hotel next door. That was gofno. If something was cool he’d say gofno. Two long O’s there, gofno. We’d say that’s cool. He’d say gofno. Just “gofno”. If something was uncool we’d say that’s fucked up.  But Kevin Ames would say eeeeeeeeeeeee.  

F

When I see the letter F I think of fucking. Must be a man thing.

G

Gee. When I was in high school, someone told me that there was a butter in India called gee. With a hard G. Gee. Not jee. It’s a rancid butter. They eat rancid butter? No, they wear it. Wear it? Not really wear it, just smear it all over. Why? Funerals or something. Oh.  It’s called jee? Like the letter? No gee, like the sound of the letter. Jee is like a jay. But why is it spelled gee? The butter? No the letter. They spell it gee. Who does? I dunno, spellers. Gee? Not jee? Yes. But that’s so confusing. Gee whiz.

H

Some people in England don’t even bother with their aitches. It is just barely the, that aitch. Just an exhalation pushed against the roof of the mouth.

 

This seat taken?

(Written maybe fifteen years ago.)

The bar was all bad lighting and red vinyl and drinkers who knew their booze. The bartendress would whip up concoctions no one had ever hard of for some odd drunk. I strode in and heard the tinkle of a jazz piano. saw plenty of empty stools and one lady, a redhead looking sad, completely miserable, and silent. She nursed a beer. I pulled up right next to her. This seat taken? I actually said that. She rolled her eyes and shrugged. I sat down. Began with uninvited small talk. No response. More small talk. A joke. Nothing. But I kept at it, and after ten minutes she began nodding to my questions. A crack of a smile to a stupid joke. I mentioned dinner. Nothing. Can I buy you dinner? Still nothing. I worked on that angle for a while. Finally she nodded a maybe. Bartendress brought menus. Anything you want, lobster, anything. She looked, finally after some encouragement ordered an entree. I ordered an appetizer. It was her favorite, a shrimp cocktail, and when it came, she selected a shrimp from the serving dish, dunked it in the cocktail sauce, and nibbled at it. She smiled and said that piano player is really good. He was, and that married fight was over.

Pissing in the sink

So today a lady friend sends me an article about peeing in the sink and why it’s the green thing to do. I bet you never knew you were helping the environment when you piss in the sink, she texted. But I don’t piss in the sink, I replied. Sure you do, she said, you told me about it. But I do not piss in the sink, I said. Why not, she said, you’re tall enough.

All my life people have assumed I piss in the sink. Female people, anyway. With male people it’s never come up. But inevitably at some point, usually at work, a lady would ask me about peeing in the sink. I would say I don’t pee in the sink. Sure, she’d say.

Story telling in a time of factoids

The internet is really ruining the art of storytelling. The fact that you can now google any facts you want to know means you no longer need to have faith in a story teller’s narrative. A story teller is constantly being corrected and updated on the facts of his story. All the pretty narrative, the carefully woven lattice of plot and descriptions and observations, it comes apart under a deluge of facts that really have nothing to do with the story at all. I have pulled so many pieces this way. You can’t write non-fiction based on a lie. Story telling gets blown away in the wind, and all we’re left with is factoids.

Angie

Back about 1981 a woman with a fraffully English accent left a message on our answering machine saying Hello, this is Angie and told us what was happening at the Brave Dog that weekend. The Brave Dog was a crazily hip and completely illegal nightspot for weirdos in Little Tokyo. It’s a subway station now. Who’s Angie? my wife asked. Somebody said it was Angie Bowie. David Bowie’s ex? Calling us? For a second I thought we’d made it. She must be calling everybody on the Brave Dog list, my wife said. Maybe it’s her job. I pictured David Bowie’s ex in some weird outfit and crazy make up and huge platinum hair, pressing all these 213 numbers with endless fingernails. I could almost feel the ennui. She used to hang with the Beatles. Now she was calling us. It was too ridiculous. It couldn’t possibly be Angie Bowie. It must be some other Angie. That was forty years ago almost. I wouldn’t be so easily thrilled now anyway. Too long in Hollywood. This town is full of exes. But I’ve always wondered who that Angie was, not that I thought about it much. But I’m retired now, and have more time to think.