Friday, September 24, 2004


"I need a favor," Marcus said.

"Not a chance," I said.

"That house you're renting with Joe H. It has three bedrooms, doesn't it?" Marcus asked.

"I never noticed," I said.

"Well, the thing is, we hired a new soundman for the band, and he needs a place to stay."

"Why would you hire a homeless soundman?" I asked.

"He's not homeless," Marcus said. "It's just that he's from up north and he'd have to move down here to work for us."

"Why didn't you get a local guy?" I asked.

"This guy has a lot of equipment, plus he was the only one to answer our ad," Marcus said.

"I don't think I want any soundmen in the house," I said. "They're a weird bunch, in general."

"This guy can pay; he'll even give you a couple of months in advance. That's how desperate he is," Marcus said.

"When can he move in?" I asked.


I was working days and going to school four night a week. On Saturdays I tried to catch up with everything and get a little rest. FW was agitating to get married, even though I suspected her of cheating on me while I was listening to lectures on Max Weber or writing papers on the dramatic structures of Restoration comedies. I thought I was at a low point.

Then Bugel started dropping in on Sundays. At first it was to watch the football game, then it became both games. Then it was both games and 60 Minutes.

"What's with that new roommate of yours?" Bugel asked. "Is he gay or what?"

"I don't know," I said. "I hardly ever see him."

"He must be gay," Bugel said. "He never watches football with us."

"He usually drives up on Sundays and visits his family," I said.

"Doesn't that sound pretty gay to you?" Bugel asked.

"I never really thought about it," I said.

"These chips and pretzels aren't doing it," Bugle said. "Don't you have any real food? And we're going to need some more beers too."

I cleaned up the snack mess and went out to the kitchen. I put a frozen pizza in the oven and grabbed two beers. When I got back Bugle was coming down the stairs.

"I proved it," he said. "He is gay."

"How did you do that?" I asked.

"I searched his room," Bugel said. "I found a whole stash of hard core porn that he'd left out in the bottom of his closet, hidden under some clothes, way in the back."

"Gay porn?" I asked.

"No, regular," Bugel said.

"So how does that prove he's gay?" I asked.

"It not only proves he's gay, it proves he's in the closet too, and probably because of your intolerance," Bugel said. "He can't get gay porn because he's afraid you or Joe will snoop around and find it. So he gets regular, but he looks at the guys and not the girls, and he knows if you find it you can't prove anything."

"You should have been a detective, instead of a toilet maker," I said.

"I'm a ceramics technician, and mold former," Bugle corrected. "With full union benefits."


I ran into Marcus at a local diner. He was eating a big plate of french fries swimming in brown gravy.

"I hear you're living with a gay guy," Marcus said. "Anything you want to tell me?"

"You'll be the first to know," I said. "And how do you know he's gay?"

"He told me," Marcus said. "He trusts me."

"Gay and stupid," I said. "Not a great combination in these circles."

"He asked to keep it confidential," Marcus said. "I told him I would, just in case I could get anything else out of him."

"Did it work?" I asked.

"Yes," Marcus said. "He told me he had feelings for me."

"It's not enough you have to have all the girls after you? I asked. "Do you really need the boys too?"

"It's not my fault," Marcus said. "He wants me. What can I do?"

"I would almost believe you," I said, "but I know he really has his eye on someone else. He's been following Joe around like a puppy dog, laughing at his jokes, fetching him beers, carrying his equipment. He even cooked dinner for the two of them the other night. It's not a pretty scene."

"What are you going to do about it?" Marcus asked.

"I ought to wring your neck for instigating this mess," I said. "That's what I should do."

Marcus laughed.

"But what are you going to do about it?" he asked again.

"I may as well get married," I said. "It can't be any more aggravating than what I put up with from those two and with Bugel hanging around all the time."

"That's the spirit," Marcus said. "And who will it be? FW? Or the new one that you think no one knows about?"

"I haven't decided," I said. "I'll probably just flip a coin. But either way, you're not invited."

"Have a french fry," Marcus said. "They're tremendous here."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


We were tailgating before the Big Monday Night Game. Our hosts were grilling shrimp and steak, along with the usual burgers and dogs. In addition to the full cooler of beer, a guy had set up a little martini bar on a card table, and was mixing away.

"This is a pretty good deal," I said.

"You're not kidding," Buck said. "These people really know how to put on a spread. Who are they again?"

"I'm not exactly sure what the connection is," I said. "Friends of somebody. Probably JA's. He invited us."

"So, did you have any trouble getting out?" Buck asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"MB gave me a bunch of guff," Buck said.

"But you have season tickets," I said. "Why would she be surprised that you are going to the game?"

"I had the business buy the tickets," Buck said. "I told MB that I would probably be giving them away to clients, not going myself. And then she got a little mad because she asked me to run a few errands this afternoon, which I blew off. She didn't understand why I had to hurry to leave six hours before the game."

"We had a little logistics problem," I said. "It's Back to School night and LZ had to scramble for a babysitter, but it was no big deal."

"Funny you should mention that," Buck said. "I forgot to tell you, not only is MB made at me, but so is my girlfriend. It's Back to School night at her kid's school too. First, she's mad at her husband because he's down here at the game, instead of supporting their kid's education. Then she called me to come over since he would be out late. When I told her I was going to the game too, she freaked."

"Things are pretty complicated in your neck of the woods, aren't they?" I asked.

"Same old, same old," said Buck. "I get by as best I can."

"It's getting time to go in," I said. "Let's hit it."

"Should we chip in for this food?" Buck asked.

"Heck no," I said. "We were invited. It would be an insult to offer these guys money. You don't want to impugn their hospitality, do you?

"Not me," Buck said. "I was brought up better than that."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


"Daddy, I really want to go to that restaurant badly," T1 said.

"It's in Chicago," I said.

"Can we go there?" T1 asked.

"No, it's too far," I said.

"They have good desserts," T2 said. "We saw them on television."

"We are not taking a plane ride to Chicago to eat dessert," I said. "It's out of the question."

"They have other regular food too," T1 said.

"I like plane rides," T2 said. "Don't you remember?"

"Of course I remember," I said. "But we are not going to Chicago for desserts or for regular food and that's final. Now good night."

I walked down the stairs to a chorus of screams and wails.


"What's going on? LZ asked.

They wanted to watch The Fairly Odd Parents," I said, "but I couldn't bear it. I told them they could only stay up if we watched something else. I thought The FoodChannel would be all right."

I'll never understand," LZ said, why you insist on getting them all worked up just before bedtime. Don't you know it's a school night?"

Monday, September 13, 2004


I heard the phone ringing as I walked into the house.

"It's a man," T1 said. "He wants to talk to you."

"It's me," Jurvoz said.

"Your call is important to me," I said. "How can I help you?"

"You think you're a lot funnier than you really are," Jurvoz said. "Now, listen, did you hear about that new restaurant in CollegeTown? All they serve is tapas. It's a tapas restaurant."

"Sounds great," I said. "Maybe we should go there sometime."

"I've got a better idea," Jurvoz said.

"Really?" I asked. "What is that?"

"We should have our own tapas party." Jurvoz said. "You can go online and get the menu from the restaurant. Then figure out the ingredients and buy what we need. I'll do all the cooking."

"I would do it," I said. "But you know LZ. She's allegic."

"You can't be allergic to tapas" Jurvoz said. "It's impossible."

"Just looking at them, she blows right up, gets all red, can't catch her breath. It's terrible"

"Not from tapas," Jurvoz said. "You must be thinking of something else."

"Oh, I know what I'm of thinking of," I said. "And she's very allergic."

"Maybe another cookout," Jurvoz said. "An off-season bash would be good."

"I'll have to get back to you on that," I said. "My grill is in the shop."


"Call the kids," I told LZ. "I've got an idea for where we should go tonight."

Friday, September 10, 2004


LZ called just before I was leaving work. "Can you stop at the MegaFoodGiant on your way home and pick up a box of BetterBurgers? They're on a big sale."

"You know I hate that place," I said. "I can never find anything."

"If you can't find them, just ask," LZ said. "That's why they have Customer Service."

"OK," I said.

I wandered around the MegaFoodGiant's frozen food section until I was. At that point I gave in and went to Customer Service. A blue-haired lady and I get there at the same time. There was no one else in line. I gallantly let her approach first.

"Can I help you?" the Customer Service girl asked.

Blue Hair one was rummaging through her purse. Finally she produced two overstuffed envelopes. They were overstuffed with lottery pick sheets, lists of numbers on white paper, and regular lottery tickets. She dumped the tickets on the desk.

"First, I'll need you to run these and see if there's any winners. They checked them at the office, and I checked my own, but I just want to be sure."

"No problem!" said Customer Service Girl.

That took a while.

"Now I need 50 of the Pick3 and 50 of the Pick4. The numbers are on these sheets."

She dropped two scrabbly pieces of paper on the counter.

"Fine!" said Customer Service Girl.

I was getting a little desperate. I wanted to leave and go look for the burgers again on my own, but I knew it would be futile. In addition, there was a line growing behind me and I didn't want to lose my place. So I waited.

"And here's our cards for the SuperSuperMillions game," Blue Hair said. "There's 200 altogether. I'm buying for the whole office."

"Great!" said customer service girl.

Time and space began to blur around the edges. On reflection, I believe I had entered a sort of fugue state at this point. I could hear words, but they had ceased to make sense.

"Now I need some scratchies. What games do you have back there?"

"We have Harvest Madness, Bouncing Balls, Election Explosion, and Football Kickoff."

"Is that all?"

"That's just the ones on the bottom shelf. Let me get a stool and read the ones up top for you."

"Do you think you could hurry?" Blue Hair asked. "I've got to get home."

"We also have some leftover OlympicsRules, some BackTo SchoolBucks, SoccerSlam, MovieMoolah...."

"Don't you have the Halloween ones yet?" Blue Hair asked. "I bought some GreedyGhoulies and JackpotJackO'Lanterns yesterday at the UltraBiggerMarket."

"Ours haven't come in yet," said customer service girl.

"This store is terrible." said Blue Hair. "By the time you get them, all the big prizes will be gone."

She scooped up her last batch of tickets and stalked off.

"Sir, sir. If you want help you'll have to step up. You're keeping people waiting."

I stepped up.

"Can you tell me where to find the BetterBurgers that are on sale?"

"BetterBurgers aren't on sale this week," she said. "Next!"

"Excuse me," I said. "It's right here in the circular."

She gave me a sharp look.

"That must be last week's. Next!"

"Excuse me," I said. "Look at the date. This is the current circular."

She grabbed the circular from my hand and puzzled it is if it were an ancient hieroglyph.

"The date is right there," I said. "Right at the top."

She slammed the circular down.

"Did you look where the frozen hamburgers are? In the frozen meat section?"

"Yes, I did," I said.

"There's a big cooler in the aisle with the sale meats," she said. "Did you look there?"

"Yes," I said. "I did."

"We are all out," she said.

"But the sale just started," I said. "How can you be all out?"

"The sale has been going on all week, sir," she said.

It's only Monday," I said. "Don't the sales start on Sunday?"

She got a little louder. "I said we are all out. Next!"

"Wait a second," I said.

There was a lot of grumbling in the line behind me. "Hey buddy," someone yelled. "Move along. Give the girl a break."

A young man, maybe nineteen, approached.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"Who are you?" I asked.

He pointed to a plastic nametag tacked onto his shirt pocket: Art F - Asst Mgr.

"Kick him out," someone yelled.

"I just want to know where I can find the BetterBurgers that are on sale," I said.

"They haven't come in yet," he said.

"She says they've sold out and you say they haven't come in," I said. "Which is it?"

"Maybe we do have some," he said. "Follow me."

We worked our way back to aisle with the sale meat cooler. Art pointed to the cooler.

"They're in there," he said.

"No," I said. "There are no BetterBurgers in there. It's just GoodBurgers and BestBurgers. That's not what I want."

"This really isn't my department," Art said. "I'm technically in non-foods. Let me see if I can find an assistant meat manager to explain this to you."

Art wandered off.

I waited for a few minutes, then started to leave myself, but I heard Art calling from the end of the aisle.

"I just found out," he said. "They'll be here tomorrow, or Thursday at the latest."

"OK," I said. "Can I get a rain check?"

"Of course," Art said. "Just go back to Customer Service and get a form. After you fill it out take it back to the meat section and the assistant manager will initial it, then take it back to Customer Service and have them stamp it for you."

"Maybe I could get a whole bunch of those forms and grill them up for dinner. What do you think?" I asked Art.

"Sir, if you are going to continue to be unreasonable I'm going to have to ask you to leave the premises of the MegaFoodGiant immediately," Art said.

"OK, then," I said. "See you Thursday."


LZ was waiting for me at the door. Her face fell when she saw that I was empty-handed.

"Where were you?" she asked. "You're almost an hour late and I see you forgot to stop for the burgers."

"Maybe we should all go out tonight," I said.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


"Whatever happened to Big Fat Obnoxious Guy?" LZ asked. "You haven't mentioned him in a while."

"I guess he's gone," I said. "It's been over a year since I've seen him."


So, as these things happen, I ran into him just a few days later. Seem he's got himself a Subworld franchise in Toms River, NJ. The Subworld building is new and clean, but it fronts a blighted strip mall in a blighted area. Business can't be that good.

There was a big sign out front: Now Open For Breakfast.

I walked in but there was no one around. I waited a minute and finally, BFOG emerged from the back of the store.

"What is it?" he asked.

"I'll have a coffee," I said.

He exhaled. He gave me a disgusted look. "Just coffee?"

"Just coffee," I said.

He walked back to the storage area. I could hear him banging around, but I couldn't see what was going on. He came back a few minutes later.

"What size?"

"What do you have?" I asked.

"We have small," he said. "And we have large."

"I'll have a large," I said.

He filled a large cup about three quarters full and set it down on the counter in front of me. I could tell he was spoiling for a fight, hoping I would say something about my less than full cup.

I couldn't do a thing. I didn't have the energy for a fight until I'd had my coffee, and if I did drink the coffee, I'd have destroyed the evidence.

"That's $1.06," BFOG said.

I didn't have any change, so I gave him two singles. He gave me another look, worse that all the others put together, as he carefully counted out the change and slammed it down on the counter.

I walked over to the prep area. There was sugar and stirrers and lids, but no milk or cream. I looked back to the counter, but BFOG was gone.

"Yo," I yelled.

"What is it now?" he yelled from the back.

"Do you have milk for the coffee?" I asked.

"Jesus. It's in the cold case with the sodas, practically right in front of you."

I walked over. There was a half gallon jug of whole milk and one of lowfat. Both were well past their expiration dates.

"Yo," I yelled again.

I heard a crash in the back and some curses. "My God. What do you want now?"

"Your milk is expired. I don't want expired milk, " I said.

"That's all the milk we have," he yelled back. "Take it or leave it."

I left it. I walked out with my unfull cup of black coffee and headed to my car. I got in and sat there for a minute, then I got out and walked back into the Subworld. BFOG was still in the back.

"Listen," I said. "This is not my fault. What did you think, that I would buy a million dollars worth of breakfast sandwiches and save your franchise? You make decisions, you make choices, you end up in a certain place. Maybe it was stupidity on your part. Maybe you were led on. Who knows. Imperfect information leads to imperfect results. Right now it's not pretty for you, but it's like that for a lot of people all over. No use begrudging me a cup of coffee."


"Did he say anything?" LZ asked.

"Not a word. Never even came back out to the counter," I said.

"Could you tell me," LZ asked, "what on earth you were doing in New Jersey? In Toms River?"

"No, I can't, " I said.


More questions.

1. When is a river not a river?
2. Why would it matter?
2a. And to whom?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?