Subtleties

September 22, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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I remember it like it was only 19 years ago…
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. There wasn’t much lightning, but it was raining pissbuckets in the early Fall. It got dark early, so by 8:30 pm, I was several hours into a wet, uncomfortable, and hard-to-see night delivering pizza.
I never thought of myself as a moody person. But sometimes, it just really gets me. I’m in the store, and I run out with a pizza bag. I get rained on. Again. I get the bag in the car and get in, and then I tried to read the smudged writing on the ticket by the fading interior car light.
It had started off warm enough, but the sun gave way to clouds in time to blur the line between light and sunset. But still, it was warm enough that running the defroster to keep the windows clear made me sweat a little. My uniform is clinging to me, and I don’t want to think about what is going on with my underwear, which are soaked and stuck to my body like a leech.
I have to run the defroster with the heat and also have the window cracked for the breeze, so I’m getting rained on while I’m in the car. It’s dark, and the all the car lights and streetlights have halos of glare around them, making it hard to see. It’s been like this all night.
As it was earlier in the evening, when it was raining *really* hard. I was standing at a customer’s door. Not under a porch. Not even under an eave. The eave stuck out about 18 inches, just enough for the water overflowing from the gutter to pour directly on me. Why even bother? I’ve been wet before. I’ll be wet again, even more. The night is young.
The customer opens the door, and seems to be surprised. “Wow, it’s really coming down!”
What’s beyond sarcasm? I answered in a deadpan, “I didn’t really notice.” As I opened the insulated pizza bag (designed to keep the pizza safe and hot and fresh!), water poured out of it. I gave them the pizza. They handed me a check, which I knew would be moist now and illegible later. I glanced at the amount. Whaddaya know! The exact amount. Luckily, they closed the door before I could grunt and walk away.
If I’m not doing this for my health, why am I doing it?
After several hours of getting rained on outside and water dripping on me inside and several little aggravations compounding on my soul, my temper started to wear thin and my normally cheery disposition gave way to a grim determination to make it through the night without strangling someone. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and watch TV alone, in the dark, with–for once–no one around. I’m not fun to be around when I’m like this. Hopefully–if I got home late enough–the wife and kids would be asleep, and I could have some alone time to contemplate my fate and really hone my brooding.
****
So here I am in front of this customer’s house, the customer in question. I paused before getting out, waiting for a brief respite from the heavy downpour. If I timed it right, it would lighten up from torrential to merely spiteful. As I did, I took in the view of the house from the streetlight and the occasional flicker of lightning. No porch light.
There was a beat up van on the cracked and uneven driveway. A broken window in the garage door. The foliage–or the remnants thereof–told a tale of lackluster yard care. At least there was a porch. Under it, in the high corners, cobwebs accented the peeling paint and dirty windows. The only thing missing was last year’s Christmas lights–that’s when you know you’ve got a winner. I made my way to the door.
Generally, I never used the doorbell. In this middle-class neighborhood (my neighborhood!) of 30-plus year old homes, I don’t expect doorbells to work. Instead, I knocked. I always knocked.
I stood and looked around, the pizza slowly weighing my arm down. I shifted it to the other hand, and knocked again, louder. Did I hear something inside? I waited for a ten-count (“One, large pepperoni, two, large pepperoni–”) and then knocked again. This time I was sure I heard something. A ruckus.
Could you describe the ruckus?
Well, no, not really. I don’t have a frame of reference for it. A rolling, maybe? Then a thud, and a dragging? What the hell is going on in there?
I was certain from my judgment of the condition of the house that I wasn’t going to get a tip. But here and now, at least I wasn’t getting wet, so we’re tied at one and one. Can I at least get out of here without wasting too much of my precious time? I waited less time–a five count–before knocking again. I punctuated it with a ringing of the doorbell. This time I heard some vague noise, and then a distant voice said, “Just a minute!”
Houston, we have contact. Terrific. Okay, I’ll wait. I shifted the pizza again back to the other arm. Resigned though I was, I grew impatient. I was about to knock again when I heard the voice say, “Be right there!”
What the hell is he doing in there, hiding hookers and drugs?
Geez. As the minutes have ticked past, I felt the weight of the evening on me. The rain. The crappy tips. The aggravation and discomfort. And now the time wasted here, keeping me from making money. How’s about a little sympathy here, huh?
Finally the door opens. I look straight ahead, and immediately I’m forced to look down at the floor. On the floor, looking up at me, is a man. A black man. With no legs. Behind him, a wheelchair. He’s smiling. He looks up with bright, cheery eyes and greets me. “Howya doin this evening, brother?”
Stunned, I force an answer, trying not to stare. “Uhm…just fine. How about yourself?”
“I’m great. Doing wonderful. Happy with what The Lord has blessed me with!”
“Okay–”
“What do I owe ya?”
I told him the price, and he handed me some money. I watched with real intent all the detail that was involved in him handling a normal daily activity, and I studied the look on his face. For him, everything required effort. Everything was a battle of his wits and determination against the world, and he tackled it cheerfully, with no complaints. I gave him the pizza, and he grabbed it awkwardly while he held onto the door frame with his other hand. Then he set it down, and I saw him scoot it across the floor with his body while he walked with his hands. The question to this day still plagues me: why was he out of his chair?
He turned to me and said, “Bless you, brother! You have good evening. Take care.” He closed the door.
I looked at the money he had given me. A buck and the change is my tip. This was the early 90s, so it’s not that bad. But he had given me more than just a tip. As I walked back to my car, I felt a wry expression come over my face, matching my new mood and my personal revelation. I looked up at the sky, squinting as the light rain pelted my face and hit my eyes. I said to God, “You don’t do subtle, do you?” As if to answer me, the rain increased once more. I walked to my car and smiled, no longer worried about the rain or the discomfort I felt. I had just had things placed in proper perspective for me. I was still wet. I’ve been wet before. God willing, I’ll be wet again.

One Fine Morning At The Bank

September 15, 2010 at 11:21 PM | Posted in Journal, The Corporate World | Leave a comment

The man is walking around the office with a sense of both urgency and self-importance. Obviously, he’s a Loan Officer. They are the Gods. The Rain-Makers. The ones upon whom Our Existence is dependent.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does a Loan Officer become self-involved, narcissistic, and egocentric after a period of time in the job, or do you have to be that way to begin with to even want the job?
Nonetheless, all of them are like that, to some degree. Really, all they are is super-salesmen. But man, do they pull down some cash. And the business they bring in gives all of jobs, so–
Back to the guy. I sit right next to the consumer loan department. It was early in the morning–before eight am. I show up early so I can leave early, and also to minimized my contact with–well, people like him. The consumer department works fairly closely with the mortgage department–customers get home equity loans tacked on to their mortgage, and so forth–so they have to deal with the loan officers. It wasn’t eight am yet, and no one was in the consumer department yet, and this guy was dancing like he had to pee.
Out of desperation, he comes to me, the Peon of Last Resort. He says to me, “No one is here yet in consumer. Do you know of anyone else that can help me?”
He’s talking to the wrong asshole. “Hmmm. Ginny, maybe?”
“No, she sent me over here.” That was smart. Who can I pass him off to? Finally he gets what–for him–passes as a bright idea. As he sets a packet on someone’s desk and writes a note, he tells me, “Whoever comes in first in this department, have them come and get me. I have a meeting about to start. But tell them to go ahead and interrupt me, and come and get me as soon as they get here. I have a meeting in my office at 8 o’clock, but this is important.”
I said, “No problem.” Except one, and I paused. I mean, I had a guess, but I wanted to make sure. Quite innocently I asked him asked, “And you are…?”
He looked at me in disbelief for a moment–surely I knew. Was I joking? He’s the King of the World! He’s the fucking James Cameron of our office. I just looked at him. He said, “Brad,” and I nodded my acknowledgment, and repeated his name to myself to help me remember it. He slunk away, disheartened. Nothing puts a turd in someone’s cereal bowl like some peon not knowing who they are when EVERYONE is supposed to know who they are.
Maybe…maybe I knew, and maybe I didn’t. But now that the story is getting around, it’s best if I maintain my ignorance. For all practical purposes, I couldn’t pick any one of the them out of a line-up. Too bad they all know who I am.

The Haunting, The Spirit, And The Flesh

September 7, 2010 at 10:06 PM | Posted in Journal | 3 Comments
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It appears quite often in my dreams. It’s a part of who I am, and how I was made. I don’t get the occasion to drive by it very often…which is good. It’s different now. Someone else owns it. It’s belonged to someone else longer–I have to admit–than it ever was mine. Still, I drive by and see it, and I feel like I’ve been betrayed by a lover. It was mine, dammit! It…it was mine…

All in the space of three seconds that it took me to drive by my childhood home, I had those thoughts, while taking in the details. The barn is gone now. It was a shiny kit barn that my dad had built, and I remember I helped, as a preteen. Maybe that explains why it didn’t make it through the years. It started to lean, then lean more, like a horse on its reins, leaning away from its owner and trying to break free, and follow the wind.
Curiously, the pony shed still stands. A mere six foot on each side forming a cube, with posts as a frame and rusted tin sheet metal covering it. It peeked from the tall weeds to tell me it was still there, and it remembers.
The garage is gone, replaced by another. The ghost of the old one is still there, and I can see its image shimmering in the light and shadow of the new one. Ha–“new one.” This one has been here for twenty years or more now. But the old one was there longer, and maintains a lasting legacy in the collective memory of the land. It was a simple structure, with a regular garage door in the front and a people door on the side. For a long while it housed Dad’s antique car, until the collector in him forced it out to make room for excessive miscellany. The car moved first to the side of the garage, then to the barn. When we first moved there, the outhouse still stood. I was young, and don’t remember its random disappearance into the ether. Eventually, Dad put up a large pole, and we had a streetlight in our yard.
Directly behind the house was the wash house. I don’t know what its original purpose was, or why it was called that. I remember it was filled with all random collectible stuff. One summer my friends and I “cleaned it up”–and tossed most of the stuff into the garage. Not in any order, not stacked neatly, and not taking care of fragile items. Children are one of the single most destructive forces in the universe.
But it was cleaned out, and now we had a club house. Even my parents could use it now as well, and saw how it had a purpose. We had two deep freezers in it, to store random sides of beef and also the catch from my brother’s hunting and fishing expeditions. There was also a wood-burning stove, and a chimney. In the winter, it was a cozy, rustic place to be.
The wash house was directly behind the main house, and there was only three feet between them. There had been more, but Dad had added a room on to the house. A room and a back porch. Why is this so familiar to me still? I can feel myself walking through their bedroom to the back door, and going onto the porch.
Just beyond the porch was the cistern. We had a cistern and well, and so I know the difference. The well was full of…well…well-water. Water from under the ground. The cistern collected run-off from the gutters and downspouts in a complex and ultimately unreliable system. We used the water from the cistern to feed the animals: the ponies, when we had them, and generally a variety of dogs.
The well was not deep, but deeper than the cistern. Both were four or five feet in diameter and brick-lined, going down into the abyss of the earth–perhaps twenty feet. Water from the well was pumped into the house into the basement, and thence to our water system. We had a twenty-gallon tank, I reckon, and when we used down to a certain level, it would automatically pump.
Of course, the well collected run-off from the rain also, just not intentionally. But somehow it got in there…and when it first went in, I guess dripping or pouring in from the top, it would stir the water up, along with the mud at the bottom.
So you didn’t want to run too much water when it was raining, or the water would come through the faucets muddy. To this day, I’m automatically leery of turning on a faucet when there is a storm.
This was in the basement, and the basement was small. It was about one-fourth the size of the house. Dad cleaned it up really well and there was nothing down there but the furnace and the water pump, and his wine that he made. He wanted me to play down there.
Ha! Not on your life! It was clean, and fairly well lit, but the light would shimmer in time with activity from the floor above. And it smelled like dirt. Fresh dirt. Like a grave. It smelled that way because the brick walls of the basement had openings that went under the rest of the house. It was essentially a crawlspace…into the deepest, darkest, scariest part of a 150 year old house. No, I did not want to take the rickety, creaky, narrow and steep steps that were almost a ladder down to the basement to play.
The house was old, and you could tell from the layout. On the main floor were three big rooms and a bathroom, and the stairs going up. Seventeen steps to go up–the ceilings on the main floor were ten or eleven feet high. When we first moved in, Mom and Dad had the upstairs, and my sister as an infant slept up there. Carl and I shared a room in the downstairs.
Then the remodel came. We actually moved out–moved to a town closer to the city–while work was being done. Dad hired a local handyman to do much of it. But he built the room addition himself. I think that came first. That became their bedroom. It was off the back of the house, from the kitchen, and looked completely out of place on this majestic brick building.
The room that had been mine and my brother’s became the bathroom and laundry room. Where the bathroom had been became a hallway–which I imagine was it’s original purpose. By this time my brother had moved out, and the upstairs was mine and my sister’s…
Except I don’t believe she ever slept up there. It was one big room, with the stairs on one end, and window, and a window on the other. Eventually he did build a wall with a doorway, but I never got a door. Unfinished projects are the story of my life.
As in a typical story and a half house, the walls were slanted. On the side they went up about three and half feet, then turned inward at a sharp 45 degree angle, and then flattened out in the middle for about four feet of ceiling space, not much more than seven feet. On either side of the room were the doors–those dreaded doors–that led to the attic crawl space and have contributed to most of the nightmares I’ve experienced in my life. I always kept heavy furniture of some kind against them. Always.
The walls were a slatted wood covering, and until we moved in had never been painted. The original wood, from a hundred and fifty years ago, with square-cut nails in it. And the wood was so hard–cured, I suppose–that we could barely drive a nail in it. I surely could not put a tack in it, to put posters up. I had to use tape. Lots of tape.
The window by the stairs held the air conditioner. I usually set a fan on a chair to blow it into my room. The window in my room overlooked the driveway and the well and the big pecan tree.
That tree is now gone.
It must have been at least a hundred years old. Maybe older, with all it had experienced. Often, my friends and I would open the window and shoot at birds and squirrels in that tree with my pellet gun. Early on, Dad had made a tire swing and hung it there. It was a fixture for 20 years, long after we stopped swinging on it.
That window was above the side door to the house, and the only one we used. There was a front door. No one used the front door. In the typical German style of that era, the front door was tall *and* there was a transom. It matched the front windows of the house, also very tall.
The house was very solid. Brick, through and through. The walls on the main floor were a little over a foot thick–three or four layers of brick. I do recall staying upstairs in my room during a tornado. That house is not coming down.
And as it was solid, and my parents’ room was an addition, I could actually play my stereo pretty loud before they would even hear it in their room. As an older teen, I could more or less come and go as I wanted, and they rarely knew. It was a comfortable, cozy home. With the kitchen remodeled with the latest style and technology from the 1970s, we had the perfect eclectic mix of modern and antique.
The shape of a home…plays a part in the shaping of a family.

And so it is, and so it was. We moved out in 1984. I don’t know if it was because I had flunked out of college–I’m sure it played a part. Mom and Dad might have been on the verge of a divorce. If we wanted to stay, she would move back to the city. I remember her asking if I had to live here or could I live in town.
I didn’t realize the serious implications that it held…but I knew something was up. I said, “I can go anywhere.”
And we did.
We moved. We moved to town. Moved to the suburbs. First we moved to a big townhouse while they looked for houses, then they bought a house, and we moved there. And that’s the house I have now.
But a part of me has never left my house in the country. I never felt a closer connection to the earth than I did there. And that’s an odd thing to feel and I don’t know why I feel it. But the ground was near to me. The dirt was alive and made itself known to me there.
Here, I feel like I rest atop the asphalt.
And my spirit, when I sleep, travels back there. It’s not about my childhood, not always. Just my connection to the gestalt that formed the maps in my mind. How I think, how I act and react, how I feel…
I can trace back to there, the home of my spirit.

Movin On Up

September 4, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Listen, boys and girls–if anyone is out there–we need to talk.

I feel like I am the lasts one here on MSN spaces, and I also feel like I am talking to myself most of the time.  I made the decision to move my blog to a new site.
I wish I could afford to get a domain name, and keep it.  In fact, I think I did do that at one time.  Where oh where did it go?
But I made a blog on WordPress.  It’s easier to manage, they don’t change shit on me without giving me a choice, and it’s easier to leave a comment on.  Plus, I might actually get some traffic and readers there.  Who knows.
I’m going to keep this one up as long as they will let me–maybe I have o visit once in a while to keep it–so that you will have access to all the hilarious antics that are the archives.  In the meantime, come follow me on wordpress at:

oldestgenxer.wordpress.com

Peace out.

Why I Does What I Does…

September 4, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Posted in Journal, Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Why I deliver pizza part time:
Last night wasn’t typical, of course. But I’ve had some nights just as good. Last night I was scheduled for three-hours, from 5pm to 8pm—prime dinner rush.
It was threatening to rain, and I did get sprinkled on a bit, but nothing big. But we were busy, and I ended up working until 830 basically.
We were busy, but there were lulls, or spaces, where I waiting for a delivery. Also, our area is big and unwieldy, so sometimes it can take a long time to get from one end to the other, especially with suburban rush hour traffic and construction always going on. So even though I worked 3 and a half hours, and in other places I could have taken more deliveries, I took 14. That’s about 4 per hour, which is really not a bad average.
So, 14 deliveries. I get the pies in the car, I drive around, I listen to the radio, I go up to the door, give them the food and take the money, and go back to my car, and drive away. I’m not sure if you can really call it “work.”
I made 65 bucks in cash. Fourteen of that is the dollar per run I get from the company to cover gas. And then I get paid by the hour—minimum wage, which is currently 7.25
Ready for some math?
Sixty five divided by 3.5 is 18.57. Add the minimum wage to that. I made 25.82 per hour last night.
Now, the problem is, I can’t do that for 40 hours a week. First of all, they don’t need me for 40 hours. They are busy for about three hours a day, around dinner, every day. I work about 3 or 4 days per week, anywhere from 10 to 15 hours.
And that money I made is not average or typical; it’s the high of the high-low. What’s low? Several nights I have worked 3 hours and made in the neighborhood of 25 bucks in cash. Now, that still gives me about 14 bucks per hour….but your gas is included in that number.
All in all it’s a good job—if you can take it. If you’re tough enough. What does that mean?
Well, even though it is easy, and often I hesitate to call it work—you have to have a little something on the ball do it.
You have to be able to read directions and follow a map. I’m going to say it right here, right now, to your face: GPS is for pussies. If you can’t read a map you’re goddamn lower primate. And, while I do intend to get a mapbook and put it in my car in case I need it, what I have been doing so far is reading the map on the wall at the store, remembering where I’m going, and then leaving with nothing written down.
Yeah, I’m that good.
In fact, last night one of the runs I took was actually four runs: a four-stop. They routed well, and although I am still somewhat new to this area, two of the streets I had been to before, and all of them were in the same general area.
And this goes to the difference in how people read a map. If you need “directions,” like turn left here, turn right here, go two blocks—“ that’s not reading a map. That’s reading directions. What if you had the four stops I had, and didn’t know the area? You’re going to need a page of written directions. Do you have time for that?
No, you really don’t.
You look at the map, and first you see where the streets are that you need. Then, you look for main roads, and roads that are familiar to you. Then you try to string them together, what you are familiar with and the new stuff. But not with directions. Visualize the map. See the map in your head. All of the these streets you get to from McClay. You know how to get to McClay. Don’t worry about that. Get to McClay. First street on that side, then wind a bit, and there’s a court. Come back out and continue onward. Turn just past the light, and remember a street name—your street is off of that. Find your way out. Go back to the light, and head up. This is more complicated, but you remember what the map looks like in your head. You go in, you come out. Head back. Take that main drag back to the other main street, and turn up it. There’s a court off of it somewhere….there it is. Found it. Now come back.
Instead of countless directions, I remembered what the map looked like, and two street names to look for that I had to turn onto. Much, much simpler. I made the round trip in traffic in about 25 minutes. No wrong turns, no delays.
And this is why I’m better than you at reading a map, and why GPS is for pussies.

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