Sunday, January 31, 2010
Romano is a black man whiter than me; the kind of black man who plays squash. And this Sunday night, wrapping up a weekend of ceaseless bourbons on the rocks, he was playing Scrabble with me at Carly Rae’s when a fellow slid in looking markedly out of place, even among we of the Unshaven and Drunk.
The interloper wore a Pacers jersey that draped well below his crotch, above overly-long jean shorts, and he approached Romano and me at the table without hesitation.
“Man, you gotta cell phone?” he asked me. His bottom lip was twice the size of his top one, but I couldn’t tell whether he’d been busted in the chops or he’d gone around his whole life looking that way.
“Yeah, I’ve got one,” I told him. There was a time not many years before when I would have continued to hand it over to him under the friendly assumption he needed to use it in a bad way, but this time I continued with a battery of questions instead. “Why do you ask?”
“Can I make a call to this number?” he sputtered, pulling out a crinkled Post-It note with a series of characters scrawled on it in pencil. The paper was so emaciated it reminded me of many times in elementary school when I’d have a woefully runny nose and instead of skeeching every last of the teacher’s Kleenex from her desk, I’d crumple lined paper repeatedly into a makeshift tissue, worn thin enough to fold over my nose and blow—but resilient enough to actually catch snot and not embarrass myself. That process took some patience and a measure of rhinocranial discipline in light of that crazy nasal drip that can stream forever when you’re a snot-nosed punk with bad allergies. I recalled all this looking at this vagabond’s Post-It note in his chalky hand. …The writing on it looked more like a bank account number than seven digits and a prefix, and it looked like it had resided in his pocket for months.
“You need to use my phone to call that number?”
“Who are you calling? I’ll need to know first.”
“Cool! Where do you work?”
“I cut hair. Professionally,” he claimed.
“But where is it located, the place where you cut hair professionally?”
“At the—I need to call my boss so he can take me to his car—my boss’s car is right over on Brook.”
I kept grinning at him. “I’m unclear… You need to get your boss to pick you up in his car, to take you to get his own car?”
“He got a truck, also.”
“But Brook Street is a block away. Can’t you just walk there? It’s a beautiful night out.” I paused and, noting the glint of sweat on his forehead—or was that just grease?—I added, “Okay a bit warm maybe, but still nice for September.”
He pressed on, gripping the note now with both hands in front of him, his thumbs on top. “I just need to call my boss so I can cut his hair tonight.”
“I see,” I said shaking my head. “I understand the urgent need for haircuts at 10pm on a Sunday.” I really did. …I looked at Romano and then back at the guy. Romano threw in, “Can’t you use the restaurant’s phone? They probably have a phone here you can use.”
He repeated, “Man, I just need to call my boss so I can get his car and cut his hair.”
“What’s wrong with your boss’s car? The one on Brook?”
“It’s out of gas.”
“Dude,” I said excitedly. “I’ve got just what you need! I’ve got two gallons of gas in my car. In a plastic gas can—I keep it for just such occasions in my trunk, and you can have it!”
His face sagged.
“Seriously!” I nudged him on the arm. “My car’s just outside. I’ll take you to go get it right now. Come on!”
This was all true, because I did have two gallons of gas for such occasions, and by all appearances what he really needed was some gasoline to pour into his boss’s fuel hatch. In fact, this was the second can of gas I kept stored in my trunk in a year. Just months before this night, I’d given a ride to an entreating black woman and her venerable, cane-toting, sweet-old harmless and clueless grandfather several blocks to their supposed rendezvous point with [Someone?], and when she asked for a couple of dollars to get gas for her [Someone’s?] car parked across the street, I told her, then just as excitedly as now, that I could do her one better. I dug in my trunk and extracted a new plastic gas can with two gallons of unleaded in it, handed it to her, and drove off wishing them well. In my rearview, I could see the woman turn to her hapless grandpa and ask, “What the hell I gonna do with this thang?” Petrol is, after all, what she’d asked for.
…Our flailing con-artist this time persisted: “Yeah, but I need to call my boss first!”
His story by now was so overtly fishy that I expected a seal to sidle up, bark, and clap his rudders. The usual human part of me felt a little bad for giving this guy a hard time, but what really came to the fore of my mind was genuine curiosity.
I continued my grilling. “You’re going to collect his car and then go to his business to cut his hair?”
I smiled. “What business does he own? I mean where is it?”
“Aw,” he slid back his red baseball cap (on backward) and scratched the top of his cornrows. “Uh, the Rudyard Kipling. Over on Oak.”
“Sweet! A barber who owns a bar, too? He owns the Rud?”
The Rud was an historic bulwark for local performing artists, a tavern that served unique dishes and an eccentric scene for bands, poets and authors, filmmakers. I’d had many good nights there, and our interloper sensed it. With a kind of affected pride, he boasted, “I dug the foundation for that place, man.”
Romano and I traded glances. Romano pushed up his glasses, folded his hands, and said, “That must have been like 70 or 80 years ago.”
“Wait,” I said, cocking one brow toward the poor bastard. “You’re older than you actually look, right?”
He smiled timidly, “Awm, how old do you think I am?” His bottom lip glistened like a bloated pink slug.
I gauged he looked about 35 plus 8 years or so of fairly rough street living, so he discernibly looked about 43… in Street Years. But I told him, “You look about 35,” and quickly asked, “So you’re going to the Rudyard Kipling: What’s your boss’s name?”
“Uh, Rudy. Rudy Kipling.”
So now the jig was up, and after Romano and I laughed very hard for a full minute and explained that Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in the late nineteenth century, the guy excused himself in a polite tone. “Just forget about it,” he said, and floated toward the door. He didn’t have it in him to be nasty, and perhaps he would have been a far better con-thief/cell phone snatcher-pawner if he were. I hoped any sting of embarrassment or failure he felt dissipated as soon as he hit the sidewalk. Shit, if the guy had simply asked for money, I would have slapped cash in his paw and wished him luck. Every panhandler and rustler should know this about me by now; I should wear a sign. But some—homeless or not—feel they need to play games.
“That was fun,” Romano said.
And then I scorched him in Scrabble, all the while begging him to make up words, for his sake, to give him some extra scoring leverage. If they sounded good, they’d be permissible. For instance, WQERTBY would not slide, but GOPEN—why not? It doesn’t violate accepted rules of English morphology. We could call it Crabble™, and he would get bonus points if he could furnish a definition.
go-pen intransitive verb (2008) : imperative compound of go + open : <Gopen the fridge and fetch me a beer, beeotch!>
…Romano refused, insisting to play by the rules and lose with dignity. He bought us another bourbon with a splash of water.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
When Janine Sumner was surprised by the surprise appearance of her long-lost childhood friend Brenda, she stood up in elation with open arms, crying, “Oh my gosh! You look fantastic!” Without saying as much, Janine was commenting on the weight loss that Brenda had achieved, reducing herself from a porcine 240lbs to a reasonable buck-and-a-half. I inferred this from Janine’s tone of voice, and it didn’t matter to me how fat Brenda was, or how unfat she became. What bothered me most was the ambivalence of that godless salutation with which she greeted her summer camp buddy from days gone by.
Being a devout Rational Humanist, I had to investigate.
“Oh my gosh?” OMG. WTF? What prohibits sane, hardworking Americans from saying, “Oh my God!” ?
When they’re having sex, do they scream, “Oh, gosh, oh gosh yeah! I’m coming, oh my gosh!” Dr. Steven Fobbs of the University of Sacramento says no.
“People don’t want to use the lord’s name in vain,” he said. “Sometimes though, in heated moments, they bust out a ‘goddamn’ here or a ‘god-fucking-dammit’ there. In modern colloquial use, it’s a privilege of the English language. When some Christians are really angry, for instance, they are prone to forget their spiritual precepts.”
Indeed. Fobbs is an ordained Catholic minister and professor of theology. Curious about this phenomenon, and steeped in his own conviction about addressing his savior Christ our lord almighty, he hired a statistician to conduct a quantitative longitudinal study on who uses the G Word and who doesn’t.
“Not surprisingly,” said Fobbs, “people who attend church regularly are inclined to say ‘Oh my gosh’ rather than ‘Oh my God’.” In fact, data shows that in a comparison of churchgoers to non-churchgoers and other heathens, church people say ‘Gosh’ nine times more often than non-churchgoers, who actually go ahead and call God by His name.
“But,” Fobbs added, “secular people, too, avoid using the G Word. I met a closet-Buddhist who respectfully would say 'gosh' instead of 'God' …even though Buddhists don’t believe in divinity.”
Since the late 1980s, God-fearing souls—church or no church—have been using the term ‘G.D.’ instead of ‘goddamn.’ Shortly before my high school graduation, I crossed the line according to a friend of mine who warned me to “Never say G.D.” This was in spite of the fact that she was a prostitute and occasional attendant of satanic rituals in the Long Beach area, just south of Los Angeles.
Some G-Word fearers have taken it a step further by condensing the word “gosh” to the capital letter ‘G.’
When another friend, for instance, witnessed formerly fat-ass Brenda’s new body debut, she echoed Janine’s hackneyed salutation, but with the milder, “Oh… My… G.”
The question of why a person does or doesn’t use the G Word remains speculative—a matter for a different psychological study altogether.
I looked into it by contacting Dr. James Brisko of Worcester State College in Massachusetts. With two government-funded clinical trials under his belt on why people say stupid shit, Brisko’s findings presented interesting results.
“Part of it has to do with superstition, " he said. "There is a fear that a Higher Power will rain fire upon the heads of babes in retribution if they fuck with His name.”
In spite of morality being a nebulous, seemingly immeasurable phenomenon, Brisko’s qualitative studies concluded that “people who refuse to say the word ‘God’ are more morally equipped to face the world every day—in spite of their transgressions and flaws—than those who use the Lord’s name in vain.”
When asked for criteria used to define “morally equipped,” Brisko provided examples.
“The measures we used,” he said, “began with examining offensive language. We posed subjects with things like, you know, if your team was in the Super Bowl and lost by a Hail Mary touchdown pass in the third sudden-death overtime, after you’ve witnessed your friends eat $90 worth of finger-foods and spill five quarts of beer on your new carpet, what would be the first thing to come out of your mouth?”
Other scenarios ranged from profanities evoked from hammering one’s own thumb while missing the head of a nail to losing $500 on a single, impulsive bet in roulette.
Further, Brisko found that the personal histories of his two study groups’ subjects revealed significant differences in patterns of behavior. The ‘Gosh’ sample self-reported random acts of kindness, charitable contributions, church attendance, abstinence from substance use, refraining from cheating on their lovers, and insistence to give the last parachute to the retard instead of the CEO in a flaming plane that was going down.
“Such behaviors occur with far less frequency among those who don’t hesitate to say ‘Oh my God, or goddamnit, or ‘God, you suck!’,” said Brisko.
While many dimensions of Brisko’s research proved inconclusive, I asked for a unifying characteristic of both religious people and irreligious people who refuse to say the simple and innocuous word ‘God’.”
“Well,” he said after a thoughtful pause, “they’re a bunch of fucking pussies.”
Note: Brenda’s figure is pretty hot now; unfortunately, she remains a Butterface.
Friday, January 1, 2010
I love irony, and sometimes I invite delusion. So since all my ideas are good ones, and I need a refinery for the crude pulp racing through my corpus collosum, I feel this blog name is fitting.
Stop me if you think I've gone way too far, because surely I will.
Copyright © 2010-2014 by Waarlowe