Tag Archives: monday

Lunchtime

The mid-March weather was crisp and cool, but the sun was shining strong enough that you could get away with a light jacket, so I put on my favorite armor, a grey Dickies Eisenhower that I got back in my punk rock days, before I sold out and became a poorly paid private investigator. I had dressed it up with patches of all the founding fathers — Black Flag, Minor Threat, Op Ivy, Aus-Rotten though I never even listened to that shit, DK, and of course the presidential crest of Johnny, Joey, DeeDee, and Tommy. It was a nice reminder of where I’d come from — maybe how far I’d come since then — and also made me look tough when I was working a case.

The changing seasons also did a number on my bad knee, so I grabbed the shillelagh that I used for a walking stick. It was my da’s from his time with the Irish Guard. He’d tried to train me in bataireacht when I was younger, but when you’re twelve years old there are few things sound as lame as ancient Irish stick fighting. I realized that he would’ve retired this year if he were still alive. I wondered how that worked for the Good People on account of they didn’t really age.

The air outside smelled like shit and sodium and made me strangely nostalgic for The Short Bus, the old tour van that we had when I was playing in The Invisibles. It was actually a converted Type A school bus, so the name was still accurate, if terribly offensive. That old clunker ran on diesel, but for just a few hundred bucks, we made it work with old recycled cooking oil that we got from Chinese restaurants. That’s how I knew Yan, the guy who owned the building where my office and ran the restaurant downstairs. Apparently waste disposal costs a lot of money when you’re frying up that much pickled dog meat or whatever, so we did him a favor and took it off his hands for free. We were kind of a Lifetime-esque hardcore time, and of course we were all vegans at the time. We thought we were stickin’ it to the man and fighting back against oil corporations. Of course, none of us seemed to mind that we were using animal fat to run our van. Or that we were making fun of kids with special needs.

Looking back, that was a very dark time in my life.

I headed east up Essex Street towards the Common, past the cracking roads and crumbling buildings that stood adjacent to the luxury condos that had spread like a virus through the heart of downtown Boston. Gentrification was a weird and wicked beast. I saw Eunice at the intersection of Chauncy and Harrison and waved. She responded with a tiny nod. “Eunice” was just the name I’d given to the little Korean lady with the shopping cart full of empties that she pushed around the city. Her and I had established a kind of repartee over the years, so I felt like she deserved a name. After all, I was one of her biggest donors, and she seemed to recognize me every time I found her scrounging through the recycling bin outside my apartment at four in the fucking morning. Our friendship never developed any further than these subtle acknowledgements, but I was okay with that.

That Was The Homophobic Girl I Poured A Beer On And Then Got Her Kicked Out Of The Bar That Was

I recently attended a bachelor party in a strange dystopian place that was not unlike a Terry Gilliam movie, and while I’m not legally allowed to speak of many details, there is one anecdote that I feel obligated to share.

At this point in the evening, we were, of course, terribly inebriated and acting generally inappropriate in public, as these things tend to go. For what it’s worth, this was fairly common in our chosen destination, and with the exception of one horrified mother, most people seemed to be entertained by our behavior. We met a group of girls, one of whom was celebrating her birthday. They appeared to share our debaucherous attitude, and agreed to pose for a photograph with the Man Of Honor.

Naturally, I decided to photobomb their picture with the Bachelor, because alcohol. Another friend in our group joined me in the fun, and we posed behind the group of girls with me kissing him on the cheek and both of us giving big goofy thumbs-up because that would obviously be hilarious (alcohol). One of the girls saw this, and with her face scrunched up in absolute disgust, she yelled: “Ew, you two are gay?!”

“Don’t worry, we can crop the faggots out of the photo,” replied the birthday girl. (The “faggot” and “gay” comments may have been reversed, depending on which witness you ask from our group)

Needless to say, I did not respond well to this girl’s comment. These girls definitely knew that we were with the Bachelor Party, and that there were much, much, much more offensive things happening nearby than two dudes messing with their friend’s photo.

Unfortunately, I was too shocked in the moment to say or do anything witty (a rare thing for me, I know). But as the evening wore on, I filled with rage every time I saw them (and then naturally forgot about it whenever they were out of sight and continued to have fun).

Some time later, we were deciding to leave, and after a brief conference with some of the guys I was with, we all agreed that it would be a fantastic idea for me to pour a beer on her head. We staged an elaborate domino train alibi, whereby one of the guys would bump into me on his way out, and I would trip and bump into another one of our guys, and then fall back and pour beer on the girl.

Long story short, I am the most amazing actor ever after I’ve been drinking for 15 hours straight because I was not very subtle in my beer pouring. After the planned bumps, I lumbered towards her with one conspicuously lethargic drunken elephant step and dumped the beer, but not before she had a chance to grab a glass with about an inch of water in it and throw it at me in response.

Unfortunately, she missed, instead hitting one of my other friends, at which point security promptly arrived and told the girl and her friends that they had to leave. “That faggot dumped a beer on me!” she screamed at the security guard, very clearly soaked from the beer that I had in fact poured on her. “I got pushed,” I said with a shrug, although it was probably more of a slur. But somehow it convinced him of my innocence, and the security guard brought the police over and they escorted the girls from the premises and in conclusion it was the best night ever and totally made up for the fact that I lost waaaaaaaaaaay more money that weekend than I wanted to.

John Kelley’s Wake

Back in the main room of the pub they were playing “Auld Triangle” on the speakers — The Pogues version, as if there were any other. It was sundown, and in the distance you could just make out a halo around the crown of the Prudential Center. Spires of frosted orange sunlight shone through the bay windows at the far end of the bar, the silhouettes of panes framing all the faces that turned out to say farewell. I wasn’t in much of a mood for talking — Irish funerals also make for massive social events — but looking out at the crowd that had gathered at the bar, it was nice to see the diversity of lives that John had touched over his however-many years.

Before the sun had set, it had been one of those beautifully grey New England days that bugged my knee, so I’d been using my da’s old shillelagh as a crutch to help me walk. A few folks tried to offer me their stools to get me off my feet but I ignored them, not wanting to deal with all the small-talk conversation that would surely come along with it. The more funerals you find yourself at, the less inclined you are to go through that same dance every time:

“What’s good, brotha?”

“Ah, ya know, hangin’ in there. How ya been?”

“Good, good, yeah. Besides, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“Fuckin’ shame, y’know?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I think he woulda liked this though. It’s a nice way to honor him.”

And so on ’til you puke. “No, he wouldn’t fuckin’ like it,” I always wanted to say, “‘Cause he’d still be fuckin’ dead, and having the corpse of the recently deceased prance around the funeral would really do a number on his loved ones, don’t you think?”

But instead the conversation shifts to some nostalgia, as if you and who you’re talking to have any kind of bond worth catching up on, besides being spat out on the Earth by your mams in or around the same zip code. Of course, it’d be rude to say, “I don’t care where you’re living now, I haven’t seen old-so-and-so, and I don’t care that she’s fat but since you asked I think it’s pretty fuckin’ rude of you to say so won’t you kindly piss off so I can grab another drink and drown the pain.”

It would take me at least another dozen pints until I got that honest.

The Parking Space Saver Vigilante

The narrow city streets were choked off even thinner by the slick, craggy piles of snow browning at the edges, and he stalked along each cowpath like a jungle cat in heat. The streetlights shined down halos on each haphazard parking job that lined the one-way road, and he had trained his eyes to catch the absence of luster from an automobile carcass. And sure enough, he saw a vacant space amongst the parallels. A ten-foot-long box of dugout powder that revealed the slush-streaked pavement underneath. And in the middle of the space sat a wobbling chair with chipping white paint that exposed the weathered wood beneath it.

His eyes hadn’t always been so astute, of course. There was a time when he accepted such strange winter furnishings. But that age of innocence had long been ripped away, ever since that fateful evening when his father had used his mother’s antique rocking chair, the one that had been built by her grandfather as a gift when she was born, to mark his own shoveled-out space while he went off to gamble at the pub. The vigilante was eight years old then, and he had been at the neighbors’ house at the time while mother attended night class at the community college. By the time that father had returned from the bar, he had forgotten about the rocking chair waiting in his space, and he accidentally backed into it with his car. For the most part, the chair remained intact, but the wood had been irreparably warped by the extreme colds of the evening, cracking the grain. It was utterly ruined.

Mother was furious when she came home. She and father spent all night screaming at each other while the young not-yet-vigilante tried to sleep in the next room.

“I busted my god damn ass shoveling out that spot, and I deserve to use it!” father shouted. And mother screamed back “There’s not even any snow left on the ground! You can’t just save your spot indefinitely! And why the hell would you use an antique, handmade rocking chair?!”

It was then that the boy became the vigilante, for he understood that mother and father would have stayed together, if not for that parking space saver. He blamed that folksy practice on his shattered childhood, and committed himself to the cause: as long as he lived, no shoveled parking space would be saved by a furniture marker. He knew that it was too late for him to save his own youth, but he refused to allow that same pain to befall any others.

And so he slinked forward on the balls of his feet, circling around his wood-chair prey, waiting for the moment to strike. When the coast was clear, and all other cars and pedestrians had passed, he lunged forward and ripped the tattered furniture from its asphalt resting place. He gripped its back with both hands, and with a bellowing cry from deep within his gut, he whipped the chair into the nearest snowbank. He watched with satisfaction as its four legs sank into the sleet pile, as little chunks of ice were disturbed from their slumber and fell like boulders from the mount, exploding when they hit the pavement.

The wintery shrapnel littered the previously vacant space, twinkling underneath the streetlights, and the vigilante knew that justice had been served.

Unhappy Old Years

12:00am, 1 January 2014

“Well…bye guys,” said 2013 as she waved her nonliteral appendage weakly. “It was fun while it lasted.” But she knew that no one was listening. They were all too busy cheering and kissing and clinking their glasses and singing some vague semblance of “Auld Lange Syne.” 2013 thought about the way they used to sing that song for her. Or at least, that one time they sang it for her, anyway. But now she was that old acquaintance, forgotten just as swiftly as she came.

The party would roar on into the wee hours of the morning, but 2013 skipped out early without so much as saying her goodbyes. Everyone looked like they were having so much fun, and 2013 didn’t want to disturb them. Everyone was happy with 2014, this cool new year that had replaced her in their lives, just like she had done with 2012. As she walked down the street towards the Island of Old Years Past, she wondered if all the years went through this same feeling of dejection, or replacement, of ennui and emptiness. Even though she knew that it was nothing personal, she still wondered if 2012 had held his grunge, if he would scorn her when she arrived.

2013 stopped and looked back at the triple decker home where the party raged on. “I thought the ending would be bigger,” she said with a whimper. “That I’d go out with a bang, some explosive last hurrah, just like how it started. You were all making Top 10 lists and looking back with such fond memories and recounting all our times together, I guess I thought…I really thought it meant something.” She picked up a metaphorical stone from the sidewalk and threw it at the window of the house, sending it shattering into allegorical shards. “I hope that you look back fondly on our time together. And if you ever need me again, you know where to find me,” she said. And with that, she kept on walking forward out of time to her own entropic heatdeath.

Then she heard a familiar voice say, “Well see? It’s not so bad, huh?” She looked up and saw 2012 standing before her, holding two glasses of champagne. He extended one towards her and said, “No hard feelings, kid. C’mon. Everybody’s waiting. And when you’re here out of time, the party never stops.” She would have smiled, if years could do such a thing. So instead she took a sip and joined the rest of the past forever.

Self-Checkout

It feels like forever while I wait for the guy buying three different kinds of organic peppers and one vine tomato to figure out how to punch in the produce code into the keypad and realize that he’s not supposed to weigh all four fucking fruits together at the same time and then I still have to watch him struggle with swiping his god damn credit card and screwing up the system that I start to consider running for office entirely on a political platform that pledges to require  all potential Self-Checkout users at the grocery store to be licensed before they can be let loose in the lines.

When he’s finally finished fucking up my evening, I step up to the machine and swipe my savings card on the score. “He-lloThome.Well-comeback.,” intones a clunky mechanical voice that vaguely resembles some concept of femininity. “How-was-the__Elli-osPiz-za__that.You.pur-chasedAt__two. Twenty-Seven. Aye-Em___To-Day?”

“Uh, fine. Thanks. Yeah.” I say. I glance around quickly to make sure no one in the line is listening to this dumb machine reminding me of last night’s regrettable drunken purchase. Although perhaps it’s not fair to say that it’s “regrettable” being that, well, I don’t actually have much recollection of it.

I scan my carton of coconut milk across the machine and wait while the dumb thing prompts me to, “Please.place-your__Coconut. Milk.___on-the-belt.” like it does every time, as if I hadn’t figured it out myself by now.

But this time, it keeps talking. “I-see.That.You.have-purchased__Coconut. Milk.__My_records.show.that-you-like.to-buy____Garelick-Farms_Whole.Milk.__Is-this.cor-rect? Please-press__*Yes*-or__*No*.” I press the little green button on the touchscreen and I can hear the people in line behind me shift their weight and sigh.

“Are-you.Di-e-ting_Thome?” the machine asks.

“No!” I say, perhaps a bit louder and more emphatic than I should have when speaking to a machine in public. I laugh nervously then turn to the little old woman behind me and say, “I’m actually just, I’m making sorbet at home tonight, for my girlfriend, so, ya know, the, um, the coconut milk is — ”

“¿Que?” she says, which is how I know she hates me.

The machine interrupts again. “Please-press__*Enter*__if.You-would.like-this.Ma-chine-to.keep-track-of-your.di-et-and-off-er-sug.Ges-tions. Press__*Exit*__if-this-is-a.one-time-pur.chase.” I poke my finger at the red button on the touch screen, then keep stabbing with my finger in angry little bursts like a drunken wasp.

“Thank-you.For.cancel-ing-your.Or-der.Please-have.A-good-day.Thome.” the machine says. I can feel the angry eyes behind me burning holes into my neck. I glance around to see if any of the staff is nearby. It turns out the coast is clear, and my coconut milk is already sitting at the other end of the conveyor belt. I smile at the little old Hispanic lady behind me, then dart down the aisle, grab my milk and make a run for it.

I’m Just Saying

as opposed to talking, speaking, verbally
expressing myself, articulating, perhaps
enunciating, or maybe even communicating;
I’m just saying. Words have power when
they’re stated, spoken, told, disclosed, but
those linguistic weapons are swiftly disarmed
if we simply say that our saying is “just,”
because just makes us blameless and right.