Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for April, 2012

One-ten

Posted by ilbebe on April 29, 2012

The Song of the Modern Poor is not always one of love.

When I was nine I had oral surgery that was intended to remove an extra canine tooth, but upon knocking me out and cutting me open, the surgeon determined that taking out the tooth at that point would do more harm than good. Still, after the surgery, I got braces for the first time. They were only on my four upper front teeth, and meant to put those teeth in a position where they would be unaffected by the superfluous tooth. Two years later, after the braces had done their work, they were removed and I had the wonky tooth removed. Being that it was my second round of surgery, I knew what to expect- I knew I would wake up groggy and disoriented, knew there were a few days of an applesauce diet in my future. What I didn’t know was that somehow I had developed an uncommon threshold dosage for the drugs intended to knock me out.

 

I was on the operating table, and after the nurse put the first needle in, the local anesthetic in my lower arm that would numb it up for the knock-out needle, she sweetly told me that I was just going to fall asleep and wake up all-better and gave me the second needle. But I didn’t go out. A brief pow-wow was held to figure out what to do, and it was determined that they would just give me more. For the second round, the nurse made a point of dramatically showing me the gigantic needle she was going to stab me with, presumably as some sort of additional ploy to get me to pass out in fear. That didn’t faze me, and so as I faded to black, the last thing I remembered was her glaring at me, waiting for me to go under. Professional.

 

How is this experience symptomatic of being poor? Most poor people’s only experience with “oral surgery” is euphemistic; it translates to “bar fight”, or “car accident”, or “meth”; most poor people don’t get the dental care they deserve. But that experience with the needle helped me understand Ham On Rye. The line “Were they insane? Didn’t they know I could hear them?” resonated me with me, and reminded me of the steely look the nurse leveled on me while she waited for me to be unconscious. I know that obviously you have to being doing okay to afford elective surgery for your kids, but the connection I’m drawing here is between being poor and being helpless. The Fear.
Growing up in New Hampshire, my family was rarely in want, but we were pretty poor. Luckily, the town had a great little library, completely free and open on Saturdays, and when I was six I checked out a book about money. It was a kid’s book about different monies of the world throughout history, mostly pictures, and it was pornography for a kid like me who never had more than a dollar at a time. Throughout my childhood, I constantly asked my parents if there was anything I could do around the house for grit, and the answer was always no. Well, sometimes the answer was There’s Definitely Something You Could Do, But Don’t Think There’s Any Money Involved.
For whatever reason, I misplaced the book, and when it was due a month later, the town librarian asked me where it was. The cycle of shame began. Initially it was in equal parts about the late fine; the sting to my pride that resulted from losing something; and finally, the shame of thinking that the librarian thought I was keeping the book because I liked looking at the money so much. The librarian was friends with my mom, and a week after the librarian’s initial notice, my mom was asking me where the book was on a near-daily basis. I hated not having an answer for either of them, and though I can’t say that the missing book kept me away from the library, it did have me hanging my head when I approached the desk to check things out. It was awful.
When I found the book nearly a year later, I was reluctant at first to say anything for fear of how huge the fine would be. The late fines were clearly posted on an index card that sat by the desk; they were something on the order of one day five cents two days ten cents and so forth. You can do the math the same way I did and understand that my young self was reasonably afraid of a twenty-dollar fine. But after a few days of hand-wringing I brought it back and was massively relieved when the librarian said she was pleased that I had finally found the book, and that she respected me for it. “Wasn’t expecting to see that one again!” She could have been talking about me, if she had any way of knowing how close the missing book had come on many occasions from keeping me away from what I loved most; the library.
She said How About We Call The Fine A Dollar, and while parting with the dollar was heartbreaking, I appreciated the mercy I had been shown. The weight off of my shoulders was immense, and every once in a while I would look at that book on the shelf and feel its totemic pull- Check Me Out Again, Check Me Out! But I had learned an early, if slightly warped and entirely self-inflicted lesson about how my unhealthy lust for cash had cost me dearly. A corollary notion was my growing hatred of not having the cash to begin with- The self-hatred which plagues the poor.
It wasn’t until I was 30, however, that I began to really understand the high cost of having no dough. A simple example which illustrates how things cost more when you have less money is to look at me walking a mile and a half down Claremont Avenue to get the cheapest cigs in town. When you buy two packs at the place I go, you save a dollar. But if it’s going to be three more days until your next dole, and spending money on cigs is already reckless, you act rationally and buy just one. Then the strain of financial worry runs you through the pack in less than your hoped-for three days, and you find yourself walking back to the store to buy another pack. You have not saved a dollar. Deal with it, poory. Get a job.
Another way to look at the cost money trouble wreaks upon the soul is to consider the abominable amount of Simpler Times beer I drank during the first nine months of last year. Simpler Times is gross, but it sells for $2.99 a six-pack at Trader Joe’s. After tax and the can deposit, eighteen cans of beer cost me $10.74. There were times I paid with exact change. A further depressing thing about Simpler Times, and Trader Joe’s beer selection in general, is that they don’t refrigerate it in the store, so I would walk home and put the beer in the freezer. Then I’d set an alarm for ninety minutes later, when it would be cold enough to not quite enjoy, but stomach. Now sure, I could have been drinking less, or planning ahead more, but when you are looking at someone who is in mild agony standing in front of the freezer deciding whether to a lukewarm beer that’s only been cooling down for an hour is drinkable, you are looking at the disgrace of The Year Without A Nap. You are looking at the vice that results from the self-hatred that plagues those in not need, but want.
I refer to 2011 as The Year Without A Nap because for the first nine months of it, until I went camping with friends and pulled my head out of my ass, I was sleeping about ten or twelve hours a day, generally between 5AM and 5PM. Pathetic. There were many occasions where I found myself running to Trader Joe’s before it closed at nine because I couldn’t justify the additional expense of getting cold Pabst at Safeway at the outrageous price of $10 a twelve-pack. Call it a first-world problem or whatever trendy phrase you like, but this was and is a waste of a life. When I first started working for Wicked, I was losing sleep waiting for credit card payments to clear so I could immediately re-spend the money on things like food, and BART tickets, and yes, beer. Now, collecting unemployment and suffering through rejection after rejection in my job search, I had realized that the easiest way to get ahead financially when you were of limited means was to stay at home at do practically nothing. I died in an armchair, watching baseball and playing a mindless online game called Mahjong Safari. Repeat: I spent hours and hours playing a fucking online matching game.
Enough. This poor motherfucker’s back, and feeling very different about being of the lower class. I should’ve listened earlier, Bobby- When you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Enough.
-Noon, 4/29/12, my pal Phil’s apartment, Union Street, Brooklyn, NY. Cheshire Cat fading in.

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

The Love Song of the Modern Poor

Posted by ilbebe on April 20, 2012

The Love Song of the Modern Poor is an angry one

Full of Rage

 

This rage is precipitated on the basis of being denied.

Do the poor not deserve love?

Obviously they cannot afford the current standard of love.

Thus,

their love must be cheap-

Is it worth anything at all?

 

The Love Song of the Modern Poor is the most brilliant ever known.

If you can’t understand that,

go buy something for yourself

with your cash,

if indeed you behave like a poor person-

despite your wealth-

and still carry it-

 

like a sack of bones

on your way

to your own funeral

where poor people will show up

and cry

because you were human

too-

 

Please have wine at your funeral.

The poor do not discriminate when it comes to free wine.

Provide whatever sort of wine you like.

 

When the poor leave your funeral, they will go to the next one.

They will jump the fare gate, or walk, but rest-

eternally assured!-

they will get there.

 

Along the way, they will sing The Love Song of the Modern Poor

While your body turns into coal.

 

The Love Song of the Modern Poor

has no set lyrics,

no syllables,

no tune.

 

It lives in your heart when you are hungry.

Sing it before you die.

 

-8:34PM 4/20/12, Flagstaff, AZ. Furiously in love with being alive…

Posted in The Americaphiles | 1 Comment »

One-oh-eight

Posted by ilbebe on April 12, 2012

So in response to a rather trenchant article my ex B posted this morning, I wrote the following response:

Yup. Two days in a row I have spent the last dollar in my wallet on booze. A social few at the bar and then a pint of Ancient Age. Last night I was feeling “lazy” and didn’t want to walk the extra ten blocks each way from where I was in downtown Oakland to a liquor store that sells the AA pints for five bucks, so I coughed up the “spare”  two quarters, two nickels, and four dimes I had in my pocket on top of the five that was my sole remaining paper money at a more proximate retail establishment. I figure that this essentially amounted to paying a trivial and self-imposed “luxury tax” on the pint, for the convenience of saving myself the walk. But why? Is my time still valuable? It would seem not, going into my nineteenth month of unemployment. And you know, I spent most of last year wondering whether I was worthless or not, and it sucked. But amen. FUCK IT. Well put, B.

You can find Britney’s article here: http://reallyhardtime.tumblr.com/post/20952697881/the-yolo-generation

ARE YOU READY FOR THE COLBERT BUMP, BRITNEY?? Well, I apologize, but I can’t give that to you; only Colbert can. Perhaps he someday will! I can only give you the ilbebe bump, but the way that phrase sorta sounds like “baby bump”, could work in conjunction with our culture’s obsession with celebrity pregnancy gossip, I could see it actually catching on, YOLO-style. BOO-YAH. I just put so many excellent searchable terms into that paragraph just to troll for cheap page views. At last, selling out, and for free no less. GENIUS AT WORK ALERT!

I hate myself. Oh, no, wait. I used to. Now I don’t. Not anymore.

You think life is bullshit? Try adopting my philosophy: So what if it is? FUCK IT. You’ll be astonished how much better your life gets after shifting your outlook closer to being in accordance with my view, and how much more enjoyable every little thing becomes as well.

This leads me to what I really want to talk about: The bizarre ways we are desensitized to real tragedy in these modern times. For example, forgive me if I sound like a jerk for saying this, but somewhere in the world, right now, somewhere in the world, there’s probably an emaciated kid dying of hunger or thirst. No matter what you think of both governmental and non-governmental efforts to eradicate problems like world hunger over the past century, no matter how skeptical you are when you see feed the children commercials when yr sad late at night and feeling like a hater, and you think, Pffff, I Bet They Spend All That Money On Themselves, so what if they do? Maybe they don’t! Would it really kill you, if you had five bucks to spare, to give it to someone who at least says they’re trying to do good things, even if maybe they’re not going to follow through?

On the flipside, shit.  It’s been two months now, and people are still crying over Whitney Houston. And I’m sure some people took ten bucks they could have given to a County Food Bank and bought a souvenir hat from some dude on Mission because “It’s hilarious.” Is it really? Maybe it is. FUCK IT.

The message, I hope, is clear. FUCK IT!! That is not meant to be construed as a negative stance. It is just a way of looking at things that makes me laugh more often and let go of petty bullshit quite a bit more easily than I did when I was all high-strung and hung up on what other people were “doing to piss me off”. FUCK THAT.

Ecstatic Peace!

-7:47PM 4/12/12 – home, on the couch, Wheel of Fortune (Why not? FFUUCCKK IITT!!), collecting coincidences like small change and changing small things into massive ones…

Posted in The Americaphiles | 1 Comment »

One-oh-seven

Posted by ilbebe on April 10, 2012

So I went and saw Jeff Mangum last night. It was about as pleasant a concert experience as I ever could have imagined, and I had a natural ball. The audience (mostly white. men bearded and flannel wearing. women very, very cute. everyone singing along. okay. maybe not everyone. but most. some fist pumping unironically. beautiful. my kind of crowd. come back soon Jeff!) was preternaturally well-behaved. I wonder if it’s because, like myself, everyone there was just amazed they were actually getting to see their favorite musician. I am not talking out of my ass when I state that LOTS of people LOVE Neutral Milk Hotel and the music of Jeff Mangum and Co. Maybe not billions, maybe not even a million, but damn plenty enough to sell out the Fox two night in a row. (That’s right! You’re playing again tonight! Maybe I’ll head downtown and see if I can weasel my way into round two…) The vibe in the room was among the most positive I’ve been involved in. Everyone was smiling. Jeff was smiling. And he killed it. I fucking love that guy. Maybe he’ll be out on OG Plaza around quitting time this afternoon. It’s raining…

This morning started about two hours ago for me. I woke up dreaming about Anne Frank (for reasons which should be obvious to the informed reader; but to clarify for NeoAmericaphiles, Jeff Mangum writes songs about Anne Frank and they are fucking amazing. Check em out! That’s an order. I can’t tell you what to do. Anne Frank is alive in the warm edge of the blanket closest to your eyes in the morning. Anne Frank is alive in quality coffee. I cannot possibly tell you what In The Aeroplane Over The Sea means to me. May it suffice to say that I just simply wouldn’t be the same person I am if that album didn’t exist or I never heard it for the first time on a rainy night in November 2000. The eleventh if I’m not mistaken. KV Day. Interesting. Stephanie put on Two-Headed Boy at a party at JennyChristinaMaryDiana’s house. ((Other people had more unkind nicknames for their place, but I’m making  a concerted effort these days not to waste anyone’s time being petty. Seriously. If you don’t like someone or something, go for the throat or let it go. It makes sense if you think about it)) Thanks, Stephanie! Love ya. See ya soon, probably the Tenth of May! ((Exactly one month?? How strange I should be thinking about such a topic, or that we are anything at all…) Coming in on the 51 Cardinal Westbound, gets in downtown around ten AM or so. I’ll call you before then.

Now, thinking about all my good old friends, and listening to Tigermilk, I gotta ruminate on the first time I saw Belle and Sebastian. It was at the Greek in Berkeley, August 2003. Good tunes, good times. Some wimp name Oberst opened up, and we fucked up and missed almost all of his set. When we walked in, he was crying into the microphone. WTF? I realized then and there that I couldn’t compete with the emerging trend of being aggressively emo. It was unsurprising to me the following month when the fucker started dating the love of my life, Winona Ryder. Sigh. Steph cried during ‘Expectations’. Good rhymes, good cries. Great crimes of the heart. Greatness.

If you are ever feeling blue, or malevolent, write a song about your dream of horses. Don’t do it. That is my message to you today. Don’t you break your heart. Torrey Pines, motherfuckers. Check it out, I mean this: look up, on youtube or wherever, “your heart breaks torrey pines”. Get it off your fucking chest.

I’ll see you downtown.

-12:05PM 4/10/12,home, sitting on the couch looking at the rips in my jeans, in my life, liking them, “Electronic Renaissance” becoming electoral reconnaissance…

Posted in The Americaphiles | 1 Comment »

One-oh-six

Posted by ilbebe on April 5, 2012

“Standing on the corner/ of Fifty-Second and Telly/ I feel so safe/ On the lawn in front of the library”

Adapted from Rancid. Kudos, acknowledgments, etc.

I have no brother biologically, so of course I have no gay brother to take the heat off of my ass when I find myself in the state that I am in. One step backwards, and beyond!

Here’s the particulars of my life, 9:26PM 4/5/12:

I woke up this morning thinking, this is funny. I thought I was going to wake up in bed with my girlfriend at her place, but I seem to be alone and at my place. Then I remembered that I abruptly left her place and broke up with her last night. Huh.

I turned my laptop on and made the mature decision to skip jerking off in favor of checking my bank account immediately to see if my unemployment payment had come in. This was a rather crucial thing for me, since my roommates and I were mailing our rent in today. I logged in to my online banking account to check the balance in my checking. Two cents.

Fuck. Did I mention I broke up with my girlfriend last night? I owe her a hundred dollars. Fuck.

So I went down to the corner laundromat to wash my clothes, and spent three and a half precious bucks for the privilege. Then I walked across Forest to the coffee shop and got some coffee, also hoping I could score some good conversation there and get my head straight. The older you get, break-ups get worse and worse. You start to think that what your seventeen year-old virgin ass was thinking might be have some truth to it; you are ultimately unlovable.

At the corner coffee shop, the owner Sheesh told me a bummer-ass story about how while I was out of town over the weekend, enjoying my broke, unemployed ass in a different state, his lady had been in a car accident in the intersection right outside the shop. She was fine, physically, but the guy who hit her, who was drunk, had successfully fled the scene, and their was significant financial worry on Sheesh and his lady’s part. This put a very sobering chill on my own financial worries. When my laundry was done, I walked home and put it away, then checked the mail. The sole piece of mail was addressed to me, from the unemployment bureau. It was a notice that seemed to say that they had reconsidered my benefits and decided to give me about twenty percent of what I was getting before. This seemed to ensure that even if I did get paid tomorrow, it wouldn’t even be enough to pay all my other bills, let alone cover the rent that was in a check I wrote today for my landlord, who is a really decent guy who I really don’t want to give worry to. Fuck.

So, fuck, why not do what I was planning to do anyway. Gotta do something. I picked up my guitar and headed to the BART station to busk.

I dropped my case, and started my first song of the afternoon- “Half It Ain’t Me”. Two minutes later, some BART maintenance dudes started up a wood chipper about fifty feet away from me to grind up the rogue limbs they’d taken off of some trees in the front landscaping earlier. Shit. An hour and a half later, though, I had made two and a half dollars, and talked to this rad guy named Jack who was

a)the original bass player from seminal East Bay band Fifteen, and

b)a recent survivor of OPEN HEART SURGERY

ZWAH? He gave me two of the two-and-a-half dollars I made. That guy fucking rules. Also, a girl rolled up and gave me thirty cents for a cigarette, and then half a loaf of bread after I played Sloop John B for her. It was a fun-ass early afternoon. I played through damn near every song in my current “repertoire”, and I had fun. FUN. I’m having fun now, I thought, leaving the BART station. I love feeling this way.

Then I went back to the coffee shop, thinking I could part with one of the dollars I had just made on another cup of coffee at Sheesh’s. Sheesh told me that in the two hours since I’d left, he’d seen a dog get run over in the same intersection outside where some drunk asshole hit his sweet lady’s car a few days ago. The dog was okay though; an open wound that was bleeding became evident after they tracked it down, but the reason they had to track it down was that even though it was hit by a car going fast!!, it got up and ran away under it’s own power. Shock power!

So the dog was okay, but I felt weird all over again. I remembered that I had a new ex-girlfriend that I owed a text to, a text that would simply assuage her fears regarding my well-being. As I said, I left her place pretty abruptly and under false pretense last night; given my history of borderline behavior,  I have to respect her fear and concern. So I sent the text, had a couple cups of coffee, and played a few songs inside the cafe for Sheesh and the other people there. I felt better by the time I left, and Sheesh put the coffee on the house in exchange for my performance.

I went home and checked my email. Unexpectedly, an item I had been selling on eBay had sold, so I snapped into action to get it packaged up and in the mail, which involved a trip to the library to print a shipping label for the shit on the cheap, like fifteen-cents-style.

I knew the label I printed out was short of the total postage required for a package of its weight, so I stood around the post office for twenty minutes in line (complete with crying baby in the lobby) so I could get the shit weighed and pay the difference. I was hoping the difference would be like a buck, buck-fifty, but no, of course it was $5.55. No joke. God dammit. $5.55 is exactly what I’m going to spend on BART tomorrow, going to first the A’s 2012 home opener against Seattle and then SF for my twin sisters’ 28th birthday party. This after walking from my house in Rockridge down to Shawn and Jess’ place in Chinatown because I don’t wanna spend another $1.75 (which I don’t have anyway) on a BART ride down to their place. I’d actually rather walk the 3.2 miles. I might find some change on the ground!

After the postal experience, I went to see my pal the Dub at her nearby work. She not only bummed me a smoke and heard me out on my financial predicament; in parting, she gave me the rest of her pack of Camels (Camels! The Sweet Life! Oh, Dub, We Had Some Good Times. I Am So Glad We’re Still Friends. I Love You.) and some past-sell-by-date chicken sausage links and a little similarly-unsalable piece of fancy cheese. Life = good.

Later, walking down to meet some friends at an art studio where there were installing a wacky surreal landscape of bright, triangular, multi-colored pieces of cardboard that, to me, approximates a mountainous array in your acid dreams, I took stock of the moolah I had at my disposal. Counting the change in my pocket but my not my super-oh-shit two dollar bill, I had $5.80. I thought, five-eighty. East into the Dark Heart. Fuck Yeah, Oakland. Oakland, Yr My Home.

Then I thought about the state that I am in.

I’m alive. That’s what I had to text the girl I broke up with yesterday to make her feel okay. It’s true. The rest of the facts concerning my present state or the overall arch of my existence are up for debate at some degree or another. The one indisputable fact is that I am alive, and if there was a second indisputable fact, I’d say that it is that the sun also rises.

May this be a clumsy segue into saying

My Heart Goes Out To Those Lost In Oakland This Week.

What the fuck. A small, private, religiously-affiliated professional school in a forgotten little pocket of town exists to serve an oft-overlooked-if-not-outright-forgotten class of people: Recent Immigrants. Many of whom do not speak English. For a tragedy like this to happen to happen to some people who really could use a break instead of a heartbreak is fucking heartbreaking to anyone who has a heart. Even though it occasionally appears otherwise, I have a heart. I’d like to think I have a big one, one I am in daily communication with, one I don’t mind crushing with cigarette smoke given the anguish it disperses my way whenever people I’ve never met get gunned down by a tragically misguided soul who felt like he had run out of other options. What the fuck. I thought life was good. What of the seven lost on April Second at Oikos University? This past Sunday was for jokes, and palms, and next Sunday is for a merciful Christ. So what happened on Monday? Jesus wept. Jesus walks, but if He’s anything like me (who is just me, lower-case me, don’t for a second think I haven’t wondered what it felt like up there on that cross, but don’t for less than a second think that I know my life has not really been that bad) – he weeps damn near every day. The sorrows of this world, the glory…

One day in New York City baby

A girl fell from the sky

From the top of  a burning apartment building

Fourteen stories high

And when her spirit left her body…

10:13PM 4/5/12, home, on the couch, “Ghost”, fear, freedom, joy, completion…

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »

One-oh-five

Posted by ilbebe on April 4, 2012

“Making life-size models of the Velvet Underground in clay”

Expectations, man. They’ll ruin you if you don’t see them for what they are.

My expectations upon starting my pizza delivery job in April 2007 were pretty positive, especially when contrasted with the extreme acrimony I was feeling towards my prior employment . When I started at the pizza place, it had been three weeks since being canned from my law office file clerk job over complications (rage incidents) stemming from my difficulty in settling a state disability claim that concerned my recent 5150, an event which was directly tied to being worked to death. Pizza delivery, based on the impressions I’d gathered about it from both popular culture and a few people I knew who had done the job, seemed like just the trade to remedy my ill-will towards the world of gainful employment.

The few people I knew at the time who had plied the noble waters of pizza delivery had all been in Humboldt County; I am pleased to report that they upheld every stereotype you might harbor regarding both on-the-job weed usage and the amount of weed they received in tips. When I saw the delivery position advertised on Craigslist during the second week of my post-mental-breakdown job search, I stared at the listing for a minute before even clicking on it for more details. “Has it really come to this?” I asked myself, unsure what taking a job so traditionally maligned by “decent” members of society meant to my present state, or my future.  Then I thought of Laura, one of the drivers I knew back in Arcata. Upon  finding out that she was doing delivery, I had asked her how she liked it. “Oh man,” she said, a far-off expression crossing her face, “It’s……………great.”

“Great, huh? What makes it great”

“Well……….I get a lot of tips in weed. And I can smoke through my whole shift. And free pizza!”

Sold. A few days after seeing the posting, I was hired, and the hiring experience was delightfully similar to the last time I’d been hired at a pizza place:

Mike, the manager: So, Landon, was it? You want the job?

Me: Yes!

Mike: All right, when can you start?

Me: Well, whenever. I’m not working anywhere else.

Mike: Oh, that’s great! Most of our drivers have two jobs. How’s your availability?

Me: Wide open. I’ll take whatever.

Mike: Great. I think for the first while I’ll only be able to give you three or four shifts a week, but you’ll probably be able to get close to full-time hours- if you want them- within a month or so. There’s a few guys that might be leaving soon…

[Here he was referring to, as he said, a few different people, but mainly one guy, C, who had been, at the time I was hired, fired or quit and re-hired something like four times already. C was nuts, and kind of  a dick, but I deeply respected the maverick sensibilities he possessed that allowed him to so cavalierly walk away from some a killer gig. Just  a side note.]

Me: Yeah, whatever’s available is fine with me. I should tell you, though, I’ve never done delivery before. I mean, I’ve worked in a couple different pizza places, but I’ve never done delivery.

Mike: Ah, don’t worry, you’ll do fine. I mean, are you okay with math?

Me:  Sure, yeah.

Mike: You’ll do fine then. It’s…really easy. So anyway, can you start on Saturday?

[This was Thursday afternoon]

Me: Um…No, actually. I’m supposed to go out to my Mom’s that day for some family thing. It’ll probably just be an afternoon thing, but her house is way out in the burbs, like an hour away. Sorry.

Mike: Ah, don’t worry about it. You’re from around here then?

Me: Yeah, well, like the farthest eastern edge of the suburbs, but yeah, Bay Area.

Mike: Right on, I’m from Massachusetts.

Me: Oh, no shit? I lived in New Hampshire til I was ten.

Mike: Huh, no shit? Well, all right, could you come in on Monday afternoon for a short shift?

Me: Sure.

Mike: All right then. If you wanna come in before then to fill out the paperwork, feel free. If not, you can just do it on Monday.

I had an immediate warm feeling for Mass Mike. After drinking wine all Saturday afternoon at my Mom’s house and impressing her with my rapid acquisition of  a new job, I thought it would be a good idea to swing by the shop and take care of that paperwork.

Mike seemed really excited when he saw me walk in; apparently someone had called in sick and he thought I was there for a shift. He was duly disappointed when I begged off drunk, but this moment became another crucial element of my deep and profound admiration for Mass Mike: He doesn’t care that I’m drunk. He needs another driver. This guy takes care of biz. I like this guy.

I showed up to my first shift on Monday morning at eleven. Working with me that morning were Luis, the other manager; Gloria, the cook; and Jorge, the driver whose imminent transfer to another store was the reason for the vacancy I was filling. Luis showed me more about where things were around the shop while Gloria made the first order of the day. Right as Jorge left to take it, the phone rang, and another order came in. This was to be just about as pleasant of  a first order as I can imagine.

First, it was an address very close to the store. Needless to say, there is a premium on deliveries closer to the store since they take less time to make and thus cost the driver less in gas. Furthermore, on a busy night or any night where multiple drivers are working, the more quickly any delivery can be made results in a further benefit of potentially being back to the shop more frequently than other drivers, and winning the lion’s share of the deliveries. This is the cynical reality of the competitive nature of the job, but on that first day, I was an innocent, and my first delivery was sublime.

I pulled up to a house on Hillegass Street in Elmwood and parked in front of a nice old wooden house with a fairly large front yard. I walked through the gate just as an older woman walked around from the side yard. “Oh yay!” she called out, “Children! Pizza’s here!” This was followed by a delightful crowd of four or five kids running around from the side yard yelling “PIZZA!”

And I was tipped three bucks!

THEN, on my second fucking delivery, I went to the Dreyer’s Ice Cream corporate headquarters to bring some 9 to 5 shithead his lunch, and that asshole stiffed me. As with the arch differences between my prior file clerk gig and this new one, the contrast between the first two deliveries could not have been more striking. I hoped I would get one more delivery before my abbreviated training shift was over, just to get the bad taste of the khaki shithead out of my mind. I was not to be disappointed.

Upon returning to the shop, I parked in the back and watched as a black Town Car pulled in behind me. Intrigued, I took my sweet time getting out of my car so I could see whoever was going to get in or out of the incongruous luxury car. The driver hopped out, and ran around to open the rear passenger door. A man got out. It was Danny Glover.

I walked into the shop a little perplexed. My confusion over what I had witnessed in the parking lot proved to be very brief, as Jorge immediately called me over to where he was filling up dressing cups. “Hey, you see? Danny Glover?”

“Yeah, yeah I did! What’s that all about?”

“He has an office upstairs.”

“Huh.”

Jorge took the next order, and then I had my final run of the day to an address on San Pablo in Berkeley near the outer fringe of our delivery area. I pulled up outside of a strange lot that looked commercial that had foliage and ivy all over the parking lot. I was sorta startled halfway to the front door to be stopped by a security guard, who asked me what I was doing. This was merely the first of many stupefyingly obvious questions I would be asked during my tenure in the Solemn Brotherhood of Pizza Deliverymen. After explaining the intent of my visit to the premises he was guarding, he radioed to another security guard posted at the front door. Having gained clearance from the second, the first let me walk another ten feet up to the front door to wait while he called someone inside to let them know that their pizza had arrived.

All became illuminated a minute later when a dude wearing all black opened the door and released a lovely draft of weed smoke into my life. He was glad to see me.

“Hey man, whadda I owe ya?”

“(Whatever he owed me)”

“Right on.”

Somehow I was prompted to inform him that we also sold cookies, which he was thrilled to hear. My personal testimony regarding the cookie’s tastiness (“Oh, I had one an hour ago- SO GOOD!) made his red eyes wide. He tipped me three bucks, and wished me a great day.

When I got back to the shop, Jorge was about to leave on an order going straight back to the weed dispensary I had just come from with every cookie we had in the shop. Luis explained that the dude had called back almost immediately after talking to me.

“I ask him how many he wants, he says he wants thirty cookies. I tell him I don’t think we have that many, he says give me everything you have.”

May it suffice to say that the day ended on a high note.

-1:34AM 4/4/12, high, celebrating the two years anniversary of the Easter Emancipation…

Posted in The Americaphiles | Leave a Comment »