Sunday, February 28, 2010

Street Training Shorts one: Kin

Veteran public servant Florence Baxter, 57, sits with rookie Jasper Cornwallis, 33, in Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment on their meal break. Jasper eats trail mix he brought from home while Florence eats a chicken sandwich she just purchased from the counter.

Florence: I normally don’t buy food on the breaks, I bring it from home just like you, but today I decided to splurge.
Jasper: I gotcha.
Florence: I’m what you would call frugal.
Jasper: Well I’ll be damned. We’re kin. I’m you ugly southern cousin “cheap”. I usually wait for my fat sister “big spender” to come down from the holler to pay for my vittles.
Florence: Wait, what?
Jasper: I was kidding.
Florence: Huh?
Jasper: We’re really not kin.
Florence: I don’t get it.
Jasper: See, we have that in common, too.


Hen's Teeth Marks part two: First Dance

So the cutting of hair continues. In the background there are the sounds of a child’s intermittent screams over a soft rock soundtrack. The child, lets call him kid, is going through the traumatic experience of his first haircut. I really don’t care for his problems. I’m not a monster. It’s not because he got the last apron with the penguins playing volleyball though I don’t understand why children get first dibs on that kind of stuff. It is because poop happens and sometimes you have to work it out yourself.
It was the summer between eighth and ninth grade. It was the summer before freshman year of high school. I was in a transition. I was leaner, meaner, and I had contact lenses. In other words, I was a sex machine. Art camp awaited me across the bay. Everybody knew it wasn’t about art. For the teachers who were mildly successful artists it was about making a little extra money for pot. For the teachers who were artists before their time it was about making money to pay rent until there time came and they could afford pot. For me as a student it was about getting out of the house for two weeks. I didn’t know what pot was yet. Other students said they would stay here forever if they had their mom’s cooking at mealtime. I told them I didn’t need anything extra to stay there forever. They wouldn’t had looked at me so confused if they had actually tried my mom’s “cooking”. All the talk was about the dance at the end of the first week. We couldn’t wait. All the guys talked about whose throat their tongues were going to be down while I was just thinking about getting my tongue on the spread of sugar laden deserts and pastries that were promised to be on tables outside the dance. No euphemism intended. I’m talking about eating food. Given my eighth grade swing and misses I figured I was going nowhere with the ladies, especially on the western shore. Aim low, at least you’ll eat was my motto but at the dance, as it turned out, aiming low just made me not see a girl approach. She was from the part of the camp. She a lip that looked like it wanted to be cleft but at the last minute decided not to be. She had skin like a Hummel porcelain angel and a head of hair as red as the fires of hell. I’d make comments about her body but she was fourteen at the time so those records are sealed. I’d also tell you her name but I really can’t remember that so she will be known as “the girl”. The girl asked me to dance and as I do whenever asked a surprising question I agreed. We talked about ourselves as people do when they are trying to move rhythmically while kind of touching each other. My hands on her hips her hands on my shoulders. We were together the entire dance. She told me how she hated her stepmother and how she liked the camp. I was thinking of dead dogs to try and avoid an erection that would make the night more uncomfortable than it already was. In later years I learned by way of a few films that sometimes an erection makes things more comfortable. Anyway if you are waiting hear the juicy details there are none. I guess if you pluck a wallflower from its wall it is destined to die. I made no brash romantic moves and hence there were no brash romantic occurrences. Just two white people trying to dance. Probably two young people caught in the grip of “What are we supposed to do” without any answers. There was at least one person in that grip. We said good bye and I walked back to the dorm remembering our light fandango and thinking of how incredible she smelled as I heard my stomach growl...
“Wow, what was that,” Bridget exclaimed. “Oh sorry, it was my stomach. I forgot to eat earlier.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hen's Teeth Marks part one: First Crush

I’m at the Hair Cuttery. It seems my hair is “too bohemian” for the streets and community service work. Old man Patterson is a ball buster. As Bridget backs my head into the washtub I’m slapped with the knowledge that my hair is going to keep growing and I’m going to have to do this again in the future, then again, then again. Let just say until the end of time, my time at least. I don’t know why she has to wash it because I did shower before I showed up. I guess its standard operating procedure. There’s nothing much more I can do but look up at Bridget as she washes my hair but there’s nothing wrong with that. She has the most gorgeous red hair. It seems red hair has made its way into my life a few times. Actually all my love landmarks, or hen’s teeth marks as I call them, have happened around the follicles of red haired maidens. I grin at Bridget and she’s working for a tip so she smiles back the kind of smile that makes a man dream.
I was in sixth grade just realizing the differences between boys and girls. My realization was aided by the well worn book “The Facts of Love” my mom had on the shelf. Well worn because my older brother must have had the same realizations with this book earlier in his life. The emotional and hormonal feelings were awakened by those graphite drawings of what those other people who played with dolls looked like under their summer clothes. What did I do? To steal a phrase from Hannibal Lecter I began to covet. What did I covet? I coveted what I see every day. I coveted Mary Sullivan. Mary was my first major crush. She had blazing red hair. The kind of hair you’d think you could roast marshmallows over. Yes, she was a year older than I but I felt I was mature for my age. I had seen the drawings in “The Facts of Love” and hadn’t really played with my Castle Greyskull in weeks, I mean really played with it with commitment. I had farted around with it on Tuesday but that didn’t count and that was only to get an idea of what to do with the castle Mary and I would build for ourselves after the wedding. Maybe we might have kids but we would take a little time just to walk around the castle naked for a few years at least. Just in the castle. It would be silly for me to be naked while I was playing defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. I would have my uniform on then. I was an overweight child, which may help in my professional football career but may not help in the wooing of the fair Miss Sullivan. I hatched a plan that would be the envy of any coveter. Step One: Crash diet. Step Two: Walk up and down the street for exercise. This gives me a visual presence plus it spreads my musk chemically telling all other coveters, “Hands off! She’s for the fat kid in the Ocean Pacific shirt.” Step Three: Book Sir Rod, the Rod Stewart cover band, for the wedding. Well the pounds were coming off that summer between seventh and eight grade and some how my musk had drawn Mary out to participate in the walks with me. We’d talk a lot and she probably knows what we were talking about but god knows I didn’t. I was too busy in the back of my mind picking out wallpaper for the drawing room of our castle, but as the summer went on I started to hear her longing for her first year of high school to start. She would talk about all the cute boys that would be there and I realized that I had lost her. Actually I never had her. It was a one year age difference but that’s the longest year when you are in middle school and she’s in high school. I lost my taste for any preditorial coveting that summer. I decided that I would live the rest of my life as if on a sled letting wind and gravity guide my way leaving me with little responsibility for outcomes. The emotional welfare system I guess. I lost a lot of weight that summer but I think the biggest weight I let go was the towering down payment on that castle. That would have killed me with just my part time salary at Movie Time Video. I mean… ”Is this good?,” Bridget said. “David, is this okay?” “You can take a little more off. You know, one time I actually had a mullet,” I replied. She laughed, “I bet you had all the ladies.” “Not a one,” I said grinning, “Not a one.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oh Sherry.

I decide to pick up a scratch off ticket on the way to work partly inspired by Lucky’s gambling habit plus I am feeling a little lucky myself today. The ticket is a can’t lose. It is called “Lucky Cherries”. For those of you who are versed in my history you know that as a youth I used to play accordion for spare change at a brothel named “Lucky Sherry’s”. Sherry was an ugly broad but a remarkable lay that would let kids entertain her customers in the waiting area when there was bad reception on her television. That spare change aided my fun dip habit in getting out of control until rehab and methadone gave me my life back. The scratch off ticket was a bust. “Lucky Sherry’s” might have given me carpal tunnel, aka accordion wrist, but the name similarity didn’t give me any luck.
So I get to work and find that my luck might have come around. As a training exercise we are assigned a partner and are to go on a scavenger hunt in a district in the city. I get Chuck as my partner or shall I say, Chuck gets me. Chuck is a large black man who no doubt spends his days kicking ass and some how I’m sure he carves out time to take names as well. This just means if on this scavenge we encounter any street toughs or surly shop keeps that Chuck will have no kwalms with dispatching them quickly with the business end of a tire iron. We hit the south west streets like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As I fumble in my pocket for my cell phone Chuck Cassidy asks me if I’m “scratchin’ my balls”. I tell him it’s “winter itch”. Because I don’t want to pay for heat in my own apartment I go to bars to take an available unsavory lass back to her place. All it costs me is a little dignity, an ounce of my seed, and sometimes living space for some microbial squatters in my unmanscaped shrubs. These squatters cause the itch. Chuck stares me down and says, “Seriously?” I grin and reply, “Chuck, look at me. Do I look like a man who would have had the look or the skills to work the business end of any woman’s reproductive system since the last winter Olympics?” “The bobsleds weren’t the only thing not sliding through the tubes these last four years.” Chuck laughs and we move on. We’re Cassidy and the Kid again. We complete the hunt with only a few hitches. We are brothers. I have found my place in the group. We make it back to base as we left, a team. I cherish my luck.
All trainees sit reporting the findings of our scavenge. Chuck and I are both for one and one for both. At least I thought we were. We got to number fifteen: a flier from a museum or historical attraction. Chuck lets out a laugh. My accordion wrists start to ache. My teammate regales the class on how I suggested we get a flier from what I thought was a museum across the street but what was actually City Hall. A bellowing laugh came from all students. The teacher exclaimed that I would need a “little extra help.” I clawed my way out of resource in kindergarden only now to be once again considered “slow”. Chuck was no brother. He was just another person using me as a springboard to complete his vault on the horse and get his medal. Just like Sherry using me and my fun dip habit so she wouldn’t have to pay for cable. I should have realized on Saturday, March 18th, 1980 at “Luck Sherry’s” that luck never existed as I sang and played my last song with my aching wrists and my aching heart. “But I want to let go/ You’ll go on hurtin’ me/ You’d be better off alone/ If I’m not who you’d thought I’d be…Oh Sherry.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Public Urination

So I make it to the training office in my early fashion and take out my copy of the daily Metro to wander through until I hit the crossword. I am stopped at page four thanking god that I did not put down the deposit for that trip to next years Carnival yet. The article title stabbed me in the heart, “Public Urination Now Banned at Carnival.” Seriously? What, am I supposed use one of those filthy Brazilian toilets? No way el capitan. I think of how that kind of banter would kill at the quarry but in the river of political correctness of public service I would have to keep the stakes and matches out of the room as I commenced said banter.
Soon enough the corner “oreo cookie” is formed. No, this isn’t as a veiled reference to some kind of race bending three way. It is a mildly racist description of the seating arrangement at the corner of the table. It is I, white as the driven snow, who sits between Ahab and Lucky, both sons of Africa. They are both the nicest guys you’d ever meet. Both are men of faith and strict moral fiber. My own soul sitting between them mirrors the crotchety old man who beats your first puppy to death with a rusty shovel while humming the riffs from AC/DC’s “Whole-lot of Rosie”. I suspect they still talk to me knowing that they will not have to see me for any kind of eternity because in my afterlife I will be traveling south to a place far more tropical in temperature. Yes, its pity.
The members of the cookie start in with the small talk. It seems that when Lucky and I get out in the field on the night shift the woman who will manage us is kind of a ball buster. We start to mock Florence Crabtree, our soon to be manager’s, by the book attitude. The mocking escalates to Ahab referring to Florence as Hitler. Now this is a field I can play on. It was impossible that my father’s extensive knowledge of the Third Reich couldn’t have trickled down at least a little bit to me as did his knowledge of the filthy humor of Red Foxx. I played hard on this field. I flailed trying to grab anybody I could to circle the bowl with me with my exclamations of Achtung. I even referred to Lucky and I’s plight as unser kampf, our struggle. It was a good time and I finally belonged. It was like I was back at the quarry again.
Sometimes some genies need to stay in the bottle as some people need to stay in the bible. Later in the day in a moment of humorous fervor Lucky reveals to old man Patterson that we were referring to Florence as our “gestapo dictator”. Lucky did this over my multiple low growls of the word “nein”. After being dressed down by Patterson Lucky turns to me and asks, “What is nine?” I reply that it is two things. It is the German word for “no” and it is the number of fingers Great Uncle Horace Cornwallis was left with because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut either. I hope lucky can hold his bladder because I’m sure public urination isn’t allow for us in hell either.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bad love metaphors

Jasper Cornwallis is working for the weekend. At least I should have been. I don’t mean working as working at my job. I mean working as the band Loverboy laid it out in the song “Working for the Weekend”. Now that I have a job the weekend is mine. Back in the day of freelance stone masonry every day was kind mine. You may get called down to the quarry but you didn’t “have” to go. It was a freedom that had the days running together to the point I didn’t know what day it actually was. Now that the weekdays belong to Mr. Charlie I know exactly what days Saturday and Sunday are and now that there is regular bread coming in the weekend is the time where I need to be baking it. I need to cast my line into the city and seeing what takes the bait. I’ve never been a competent fisherman though. Hell, I have trouble getting in the boat. I wait on sure for a wave to hit me and drag me out to sea. It’s happened before and when I am thrown back onto the shore I can say it’s the “will of the water” and has nothing to do with me. I can always stay on dry land and do my “Upper Body Yoga…for Beginners”. I’ll fall all over my self, sweat like a toilet, curse like a sailor, and have my face contort into the strangest expressions making it practically just like the act of love making on my end. I can complete the circle with the ultimate “love methadone”, masturbation. It’s the all the pleasure of the sexual act without the guilt of poor performance and the disappointed partner. So it’s Valentine’s eve and I am a lonely man screaming hackneyed shtick at the Sea of Love. I’ve swam in the sea before and I can’t say I’ve regretted it. I’ve had that warm feeling and whether it was love or bad seafood isn’t my call to make but there are always worse things than being alone. There are things you get from being alone that you can’t get any other way. I’ve gotten my share. So tonight I’ve put on my water wings and sit here typing this next to my space heater. It’s a Honeywell and I’ve named her Claire.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Call Me Jasper

Call me Jasper. Captain Ahab is the name I have given to my neighbor at the public servant training sessions. He is a fifty-two year old African American man who is gregarious and astounding in his kindness. I like Ahab. We embody a yin-yang. The Captain served his country for many years in the Navy. I have spent many years looking for loop holes in tax laws and oversleeping on election day. Ahab is a devout Christian who counsels youths at his church on Wednesdays. On the few days I attended church the only God that was on my mind was Ronald McDonald and his sausage egg and cheese sandwich that was promised for my attendance. As for taking time out of my schedule for youths, I once woke up hung over in a puddle of my own urine on a friend’s kitchen floor when I was supposed to be babysitting. Last but not least, Captain Ahab has been married to the love of his life for nineteen years bringing up three children together. Jasper Cornwallis can’t keep a member of the opposite sex’s interest through a moon cycle and has sent many potential children down the swirl of a flushed bowl in wads of tissue.
Ahab and I have become friends mainly because our proximity in the training room. Our only similarity is the fact that we are the only two who bring our lunches to eat on site. Its funny how an off the cuff line in a conversation about the benefits of a job that has you basically exercising while working took the friendship to a new level.. My line, “Then when you get home you can tell your old lady to get you a beer ‘cause you is tired,” opened a door. This aeemingly innocuous string of words brought forth the nineteen year heart wrenching love story of the captain and his “old lady”. Let’s call this “old lady” Doris for the story. Ahab tells how he shows up to a friend’s wedding in the ultimate panty peeler, his navy uniform. I mean what woman hasn’t moistened her underthings while watching “An Officer and a Gentleman.” That uniform has probably even gotten Captain Crunch into a few poop decks for god’s sake. Anyway, Ahab didn’t use his uniform for peeling panties. Instead he used it peel back the layers of Doris’s heart. Before she left the wedding she slid over a paper on which was her name, Doris for the sake of this story, and her phone number, 867-5309 for the sake of this story. They date for weeks and then Ahab is called back to the sea. Then months down the line when stationed in Germany Ahab receives his Dear John letter, Dear Ahab letter for the sake of this story. Doris writes how she can’t keep up this long distance relationship and that it is tearing her up inside. Ahab then tells me how when he finished the letter, his sauerkraut, and went to do the only thing he could do. He divorced his first love, the sea, and went back to America and the loving arms of his Doris.
I pick up the conversation as if it is a one act play.
Act I

Ahab and Jasper sit in community center conference room. Ahab with coffee and an unfinished peanut butter sandwich. Jasper with tea and the remains of CVS trail mix.

Jasper: (amazed by Ahab’s story) Wow.
Ahab: Do you ever think you’ll get married, Jasper?
Jasper: Weirder things have happened I guess but I ain’t holding my breath It’s not like I don’t like cake or getting drunk in front of family but I could give you the numbers to my three ex-girlfriends and they could tell you how uncomfortable I am to be around for extended periods of time.
Ahab: Oh, but you want to get married though, right?,
Jasper: I might want the complete dvd set of “Gilligan’s Island” but I’m not going to pay for it.
Ahab: Don’t you want a warm woman lying next to you on those cold nights?
Jasper: I’ll pay for a space heater.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It begins...or ends. The cards aren't really clear on this one.

I’ve decided to kwit wasting my life, at least for forty hours a week. “Public” is never seen next to my name unless it has the addendum “drunkenness”. My only connection with the word servant is between me, Madam Cassandra, and her cat-o-nine tails I affectionately call “Thankyoumadammayihaveanother” or “Ouchie” for short. These two words can be combined to describe a person much like “he” and “man” or even “kweer” and “bait”. One Halloween in fifth grade I was described as both of these much like on Ground Hogs Day in 28th grade I earned the description “public servant”. Public service is fertile soil for drama and if you don’t believe me rent Police Academy: Citizens on Patrol, watch it, then call me to tell me how right I am as you are washing your soiled trousers. I being a man of letters I thought I would document this journey with varied ham handed use of twenty-five of them. It will be a cold day in hell before I recognize the letter “q” in a word. Names will be changed to protect the innocent, guilty, and me, Jasper Cornwallis a trained stone mason down on his luck. Other things besides names have been altered as well. I never could afford Madam Cassandra.