Okay, truth in blogging. I have had three beers, two vodkas, and it's Sunday evening, early. I am also right now working on a little snifter of Kahlua. What’s more, I’m writing this post early because on Wednesday I will be quite busy getting ready for our trip to Chicago. I hope the story is coherent.
If you remember, a while ago Mark entered a chili cook-off at a local bar. He lost. The chili cook-off was phase one of a greater cook-off involving a rib cook-off, and a wings cook-off. The bar, Sidelines in Wilton Manors, recognizing a truly gifted chef, decided that despite losing, Mark’s chili deserved a second chance. So this past weekend Mark threw himself into recreating his losing chili for Sunday’s grand finale.
The last time Mark had entered the contest he depended on me to tell him if his chili was good. Honestly, I loved it. Unfortunately for Mark I have a very fragile palate when it comes to spices. Paprika will burn a hole in my stomach. So this time around after Mark fed me a few spoonfuls of his chili, and I pronounced it to be the most fantastic shit I had ever eaten, Mark dumped a pile of minced jalapenos into the pot. This apparently did the trick. Mark came in second. Now it might seem like a bad thing to come in second, but he was competing with other genres of bar food. They had ribs, chicken wings, and chili all competing head to head with each other, and lets face it, ribs trump chili.
So while the judges were tasting and voting on the best food entered in the contest, I was killing time at the bar. Damn they took their time about it. Exactly three beers, and two vodkas of time. So what about the Kahlua that I’m working on now you ask? That’s what Mark won. A lovely basket of vodka, Kahlua, whiskey, and a bottle of ‘table wine’, whatever the hell that is. Oh, and they also threw in a five pound bag of peanuts. I'm very happy that Mark won something, and not just because it was a basket full of liquor.
I'm getting sleepy now. I think I'll go take a nap, even though Sixty Minutes isn’t even on yet.
How exciting, Mark has made another shopping trip to the Nearly Rotten Store. I'm not sure if that's the real name of the place, but that's what I call it. The Nearly Rotten Store is a farm stand where Mark picks up cheap produce. Calling it a farm stand is a stretch because the produce in the place hasn't been near a farm for over a month. The cherries that Mark has brought home, while appearing to be luscious, deep red, and ripe, are an illusion. When you bite into them they are mealy and sour. The grapes are no better, soft and squishy, with the flavor of a bums armpit. At least the bananas are ripe and sweet, the only problem is, if I don't eat the entire dozen today, by tomorrow morning they'll be nothing more than a brown pile of goo.
This is one of Mark's biggest failings, shopping for bargains that aren't really bargains. I've explained over and over to him that if you buy the nearly rotten produce, you don't really save because I end up throwing most of it away. This goes right along with his other habit of bringing home utterly useless crap, that we would, and could, never use.
"But it was fifty percent off. I only spent twenty dollars on it.", is the common story. The fact that he could have saved twenty dollars more if he didn't buy the talking toilet paper roll in the first place just doesn't sink in.
I'm sure there are hungry people around the world who would love to have all the rotten produce sitting in our kitchen. I wish they could all come by today and dig in, help themselves to the cherries, grapes, and bananas. In fact, right now, there are five quarts of blackberries sitting in there that need to be eaten before they turn into compost. I will try to eat as much of this stuff as I can, I hate to waste it. Besides, I've found that there is an added benefit to eating overly ripe produce. It keeps me very regular.
As our impending road trip to Chicago draws closer I am filled with foreboding. If the hour Mark and I spent together this morning is any indication, things are going to be rough. It started when I told Mark that we needed to go to the Home Depot and get keys made for the pet sitters. That little trip soon ballooned into a stop at the butcher, and a visit to a friend's house in Hollywood. One minute into the trip Mark points out that, "The brakes are making a squealing noise."
"Really? I thought that was you.", I wise cracked back.
I turned down the radio and listened.
'Squeeeeeeeeealllllllll', It was definitely making a noise, except it wasn't the brakes.
"That's a belt, probably the one that goes to the alternator."
"What's an alternator?"
"Doesn't matter, when did this start?"
"Two days ago."
As the odor of coolant filled the car, and steam billowed from under the hood, I instructed Mark to drive to the mechanic immediately.
After dropping the car off, we walked over to the supermarket to pick up some lunch. While Mark ordered a sandwich at the deli counter, I wandered over to a display of wine on sale for $4.49. Cheap chardonnay, my favorite (the cheap part, not the chardonnay part), so I grabbed one. The only problem was when I got to the checkout, the cashier rang it up at $5.99. Word for word, this is what happened.
Me, "No, that's the wrong price."
Cashier, "Gibberish, blah, blah, blah."
Cashier, "Gibberish, blah, blah, blah."
Me, "Are you speaking English?"
That last comment was followed by a very nasty stare from the cashier, so I told her to just take the wine off the order. Meanwhile, Mark had scampered off into the bowels of the store as I shouted across the checkout lines for him to come back.
But he just kept going. I paid for the sandwich minus the wine, and then went outside to wait for him. When he finally came out of the store, he drops a dollar fifty into my hand.
"I got the manager to give you back the overcharge for the wine."
"But I didn't get the wine. I had her take it off the bill."
I probably should have returned the money, but no, Mark shoved it back in his pocket and we walked off across the parking lot. We'll just call it a translation surcharge.
They want to tear down the hippie church on the corner, and build a large, five story gay party resort in our residential neighborhood. I'm all for a gay bar within stumbling distance of my home. But a huge noisy resort? No thanks.
One of my earliest memories in life is being pushed along by my mom in an old canvas baby buggy. I found it quite a pleasant experience, riding along wedged between a couple of bags of groceries while sucking in fresh air scented with musty canvas. Life was good that first year. I had my own form of personal transport, I had my mom to wait on me day and night, and I could piss in my pants without getting yelled at. The only thing that could ruin an outing in the old buggy was when my whiny older sister would tire out, and then mom would jam her in next to me.
The allure of the automobile might stem from those days. I know I couldn't wait until I turned sixteen and got my license. For forty years after that occasion I spent at least half of my life behind the wheel. That's why it was so hard for me to give it up when my doctor told me I was too damn blind to be driving.
"If you have a bad accident and I'm subpoenaed Alan, I'll have to tell them, that guy can't see shit."
So I quit driving.
Now, after more than five years I've got used to it. I don't get the urge to jump in the car and take off. Instead I now have Mark to haul my ass around town, and despite what you're thinking I don't sit in the back like Miss Daisy and nag him. I do that from the front passenger seat.
Yesterday we had to take the car in to have it checked out before our big trip up north, and I have discovered just how much I have adapted to this set up. Without the car available for Mark, I was miserable. Not because he couldn't drive me here and there. No, I was miserable because I was stuck at home with him all day. I assume he was also miserable, he couldn't get to the mall.
I walked Chandler yesterday like I always do. He managed to catch and flatten a lizard, he greeted and sniffed the ass of at least three other dogs, and finally he made his way to his favorite patch of grass down by the church where he took his customary dump. It is a routine that we go through three times a day, seven days a week. It is what my little pup lives for, so it was quite a shock when I read the Fort Lauderdale newspaper later in the day. It seems that Chandler's favorite pooping grounds are going to be bulldozed, and a gigantic gay resort hotel is to be built on the site. From a church to a gay resort, with a nightclub, movie theater, and restaurants. Just five houses down from me, a thumping, crowded, party place instead of a nice, sedate church.
So now I have to become 'Cranky Old Man'. When I was younger I always wondered who the hell these old farts were who had so much time on their hands that they could be out there bitching about every fun thing we had. Now I am that old fart. First I fired off an email to the mayor, and all the city council members, protesting the den of evil, drunken, youngsters that was being planned for my block. This was followed by another email to every member of the Eastside Neighbors Association. As an added element, I made sure I brought up the impending party palace construction to everyone I encountered on Chandler's walk this morning.
Sometimes being the cranky old man is lonely. You are mocked, and scorned. You are looked down upon by the folks whose fun you are trying to stifle. Not this time. Everyone agrees with me. In fact the wheels have already been put in motion to quash this abomination. I don't think a huge, noisy, gay resort has much of a chance of being built down our street. For that Chandler can thank me. His little spot where he has been pooping his entire life will be saved.... or maybe not.
When I named my yard cats Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears, it was supposed to be sort of tongue in cheek. I didn't expect the little kitties to actually go out carousing at night, get high on catnip, and behave like little sluts. Apparently I was wrong. It seems that little Lindsey has gone and got herself pregnant. When Abandoned Pet Rescue gave me the two darlings, I was assured that they were both spayed, and had all their shots. Somewhere, somebody made a mistake because this past week my friend Russell congratulated me on becoming a daddy. He pointed out the swollen belly on Lindsey, and her ripening nipples, "She's pregnant Alan. You're going to be a daddy."
Well no I'm not. No way am I going to bring more kittens into the world when we have dozens at the shelter, not to mention the hundred plus full grown cats there. Lindsey was going to have to go to the kitty-cat abortion clinic. Even though I really didn't want to, I knew that It was necessary. As we were driving over there, I was envisioning a line of cats marching around the place with little protest signs, 'Stop the killing' and 'kitty murderer'. I was afraid the leader of the cat church would condemn me for sins against feline-kind. None of that happened. In fact nobody was at all upset at the shelter when I told them I was getting Lindsey an abortion. I guess when you have to clean out dozens of litter boxes a day, kitten prevention is a good thing.
I can't imagine how hard that decision would be for a human to make about a human pregnancy. As it was, I felt guilty for terminating a few kittens. Lindsey is back home now, kitten-less, and properly spayed. She was greeted by Britney with a nuzzle, and a good sniffing. I've given strict instructions to the both of them, keep your legs together, and no more flashing the neighborhood toms.
Mark has been in a state of excitement since he came home late the other night. He has always told me that his grandmother was Seminole Indian, which would make him one quarter Native American. While off drinking with some of his little buddies this past weekend, one of them who works at the Hard Rock Casino asked Mark, "So how much money do you get from the tribe?"
"Nothing, why would I get money from the Seminole Tribe?"
"They own the Hard Rock Cafe, and make millions off the casino. Each member of the tribe gets ten thousand dollars a month, and you only have to be one quarter Seminole to get in on that. You would be eligible.”
So for three days Mark has been trying to contact his older sister to query her about grandma. Meanwhile as he waited to hear back from her, he has been making plans despite my cautions about the old counting your chickens’ thing.
"I'm getting a new car, we can fix up this dump, we'll buy a nice summer place in Chicago......", and on and on.
This morning his sister finally called back. The news wasn't good for Mark. It seems grandma was only one-half Seminole. The other half was French, and the last thing I heard on the subject as Mark wandered off into the bedroom was, "Damn, screwed by the white man again."
I have never been to a Chuck E. Cheese, but in my imagination I see an insane asylum filled with crazed, pizza stained midgets, dressed as kids. It seems that only in a place of such bedlam could a mother, either intentionally, or by mistake, lose a kid.
My mom and dad had eleven children. Eleven curious, energetic little rug rats, and they never, ever, lost one of us. They dragged us through the zoo, visited various museums with their horde, and even took us to amusement parks without the single loss of a child. Even if my parents had wanted to lose us it would have been difficult. This is because at an early age we were left to our own devices to amuse ourselves, which included wandering alone through the woods, and exploring our town on bicycles without adult intervention. No matter how far we ranged we always knew how to make it back home. There were certainly times when mom and dad needed to escape from the madness of living in a world of screaming kids, and shitty diapers, but they would either find somebody to watch us or send us to grandma's house. Besides, they couldn't have lost me on purpose if they wanted to, I had memorized our phone number and address early on.
I don't know what's up with all these Chuck E. Cheese incidents. Maybe those goofy moms 'forgetting' their kids at Chuck E. Cheese should take a queue from Sarah Palin. Write their name, address, and phone number on the kids hand before you take them out.
Miami Beach was electric with excitement this past weekend because something we had all been looking forward to had finally arrived. No, not that swollen headed, man-child, Lebron James. The Antiques Roadshow was here, and Mark and I were going. Earlier this year we had scored the coveted tickets on line, and for months Mark and I have been debating about which pieces of crap would be schlepped on down to Miami Beach. As of the morning of the show we had still not decided exactly what to take. In fact, the morning of the show Mark and I were sleeping in late after a Friday night of drinking. It was one hour before the designated time on the ticket when Mark piped up, "Aren't we supposed to go to the Antiques Roadshow today?" I immediately jumped out of bed, let the dog out, took a shower, and then ran around the house plucking some old paintings off the wall.
"We're taking these."
"Fine" said Mark, "I'm taking this old lunch box."
After an agonizingly slow ride down to Miami Beach with Mark at the wheel, we managed to get to the convention center where the nice man at the door informed us that we were late, and then pointed us towards 'the line'. Now the fact that we needed a ticket to get in sort of sent the message to me that this would be a somewhat restricted event. Turns out it was restricted to only six thousand participants, of which I was number six thousand. After getting in line and making acquaintances with the folks around me, I settled into a routine of shuffling my treasures along two feet every few minutes as we slowly snaked our way towards the main room and the Keno brothers. Two hours later we were ushered through the doors, and shown the end of another line. "The wait time for painting appraisals is between two and three hours." the nice lady informed me. Turning to Mark, she said "Sir, you can go get your Rocket Man lunch box appraised over in that line. It only has a fifteen minute wait."
Thirty minutes later a smiling Mark came skipping back to my stationary spot in line, with a big smile on his face.
"This is great! Dennis gave this lunch box to me for free, and it's worth a hundred and fifty dollars!"
"That's nice.", I sneered.
At this point all the schlepping and jostling apparently was causing my antique paintings to start falling apart. As bits and pieces of antique backing paper crumbled to the floor, and glass started slipping from the disjointed frame, I hit my limit.
"Screw this. These things can't be worth that much, and my damn feet are killing me. Let's go."
Without missing a beat Mark's face lit up "Great, can we go shopping over on Lincoln Road now?"
When I was a little kid, my mom would always comb my hair before I went off to school. She would drag me into the bathroom, and there she would take a rat-tailed comb, dip it into a jar of green goo, and then run it through my hair. With great care she would move most of the hair to one side, and then take the rest and comb it down the other side of the line of demarcation, also called the 'part'. Mom would then take another load of green goo, and comb a huge crest of hair off of my forehead, going up and over like a giant wave breaking towards the back of my head. This was called a pompadour. Within fifteen minutes the glop in my hair would dry, and my hair would be frozen in that shape as if it had looked into the face of Medusa.
Every once in a while Mark reminds me that we grew up in different worlds. In the idyllic yet isolated world of the suburbs, I was happily unaware of many things that a child in the Bronx might know of. This afternoon Mark and I were watching the news on a local television station, and I noted that the black news anchor looked somehow dated. Kind of like a young Sammy Davis Jr.
"His hair is conked."
"His hair is what?"
"Conch, like the shell fish from Key West?"
"No, conked. c-o-n-k-e-d, conked. That's what we called hair like that back in the Bronx. Conked."
As I slowly recovered from my hysterical laughter, I asked Mark how the hell did they get conked as a word for a black guy with a plastic hair helmet.
"I don't know, it's just what it's called."
That's when I remembered my hair back in first grade. It seems that if I had been living in the Bronx in 1955, my hair would have been considered conked. My mom conked my hair. I can't wait for my next lesson in black Bronx culture.
Why is it that when I walk into the Gap, I can never tell if I'm in the men's section or the women's section. Honestly, I'll be looking at some really nice shirts, and Mark will come up behind me and tell me,
"You're in the women's department."
"I know, I was just looking at the material.", I lie.
It used to be that the dead give away for the women's clothing section were the zippers on the side of the pants, and the frilly shirts. Now the ladies have the zippers in front, and the guys shirts are as, or more colorful than the blouses over on the other side of the store.
Saturday Mark helped me go clothes shopping. I hate shopping for clothes. It just points out how much fatter I am as I move up a waist size every year, and besides, I have no idea whatsoever what the hell is in style for old farts like me. I don't want to look like some desperate old fool trying to be young, yet I don't want to be pegged as 'that old guy over there'. It's a delicate balance, especially in a gay bar. One pair of banana yellow, polyester slacks, and you are relegated to the wrinkle room (slang for a gay bar old men hang out in).
My first requirement when shopping for clothing is that it fits me comfortably, while Mark is all about style. One of the things we went shopping for was some underwear. I was down to five pair, three if you don't count the ones with holes, and I was starting to cheat on the sixth day. So here I was at the Gap watching as Mark pranced towards me holding packages of what looked like women's panties in one hand, and some boxer shorts in the other hand. The emo boy, girlie underpants were out immediately, and as for the boxer shorts, I don't do Gap boxers. As I explained to Mark, I have purchased boxers at the Gap before, and I have found that the barn door construction is poorly executed. The cow is constantly getting out, and I end up having to adjust things all the time. I need a barn door with positive closure. It keeps people from thinking your some kind of pervert.