Archive for the ‘1st person creative’ Category

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East Camino Revisited

December 12, 2009

It’s somewhere between Saturday and Sunday,
I’m in my 20’s, barely sober and freezing. I can smell the cold, mixed with sage and eucalyptus.

Winter comes sooner at elevation, my companion and I are under dressed because it’s hot downtown.

The cloud cover that lay at our feet like spilled mercury is holding down the warm air as well as blocking out the city lights.
The hood of the car is an island of warmth in the black sea of space. I don’t know her name, she was in the wedding.

I don’t remember there ever being this many stars.
Their numbers are staggering.

They dance and sparkle all around, all the brighter for the crisp fall air.
What seems to be a whisp of cloud above us is in fact the milky way.

There are so many stars we can’t pick out constellations.
Our eyes track a satellite pass until we lose it in the blinding glare of Saturn.

Her silky voice breaks the silence, “Tell me again why you left?”

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Retail.

December 12, 2009

Here’s a good example.

One recent morning, before we were actually open, before my steaming hot tall mocha with whipped cream was settled on the counter to cool while I counted out the bank, the phone rang.

I answered, realizing the mistake even before the handset reached my ear, knowing the risk of answering an open line without savoring the first cup of the day. The woman on the other end wanted to know if she could return a set of luggage she had bought “a couple of years ago.”

I could tell by her tone that I didn’t even want to know exactly how many years we were talking about. I had a Kreskin moment, a vision of dusty and cobwebbed deluxe rolling carriers in a half-lit spot within a sea of closet darkness, and asked her if she had purchased an extended service plan with her luggage.      Without the ESP there is a one year warranty. She indicated that she had not, so I asked what the problem seemed to be with the bags. Maybe there was another way we could help her.

“Well, I’ve had these bags for, like, two years now, and I really don’t use them. I don’t have anywhere to go.”

The voice didn’t seem that old, didn’t sound particularly….. well, particular. I had no idea how this person could have found themselves with a complete set of luggage and nowhere to go. “Well…”

“Look, I want my money back. I don’t need these suitcases and I want a refund, okay?”

I was tempted to make a clever remark that would contrast the logic she was using and a Salvador Dali painting.

I couldn’t think of one.

I gave her the phone number for our corporate headquarters and continued with the opening of the store.

A few hours later the tall mocha was reduced to a tall empty coffee cup with a thin residue of dried melted whipped cream around the rim.

I was contemplating the possibility of another mocha when another woman with a suitcase issue walked in.

She was about five-one, brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, 100 pounds, mid thirties or so. She was dressed buisness casual, black skirt, white blouse, Serengetti sunglasses, diamond studs in her earlobes.

The bag she brought in was a model number KT303 twenty-two inch standard rolling carrier that looked like it had been hit with a truck immediately before it was dropped from a great height.

Now granted, they call the line Ballistic Luggage, but really, there are limits. I couldn’t help but wonder how this petit woman had managed to so violently murder ber baggage. The collapsing handle was torqued out of shape, and the hard plastic cap that the handle recesses into had a large chunk sheared off of it. This is the same ABS plastic that is used in stuff like bullet proof vests. A vest uses thicker plates of it, but you get the idea. This is as tough a suitcase as you’ll ever need, and part of it had been ripped clean off. The corners were scuffed down to the reinforcement material. This bag had given its all.

She claimed it was defective.

I said. “Ma’am, which part of this bag exactly is defective?”

“WELL, LOOK at it. It’s totally worn out.”

“Yes, I’d say it is, but warranties don’t cover abuse.”

“What makes you think it’s been abused?”

Crazy people tend to gravitate to me.

I dated a psych major once, she told me that people under stress often are helped by having a fantasy world they can escape to. When things are too rough, they daydream about their “happy place.” Prisoners of war often spoke of this type of technique in dealing with torture. She said her happy place was a quiet house with a deck, high on a bluff overlooking the ocean. She told me about it over a tall latte.

There was no way I was going to replace that KT303. My guess was either the baggage handlers had done an impromptu stress test (as they are sometimes wont to do) or she had some kind of bizzare accident. If she broke it, too bad, if the airline broke it, it was up to her to file a claim with them. From her reaction when I politely explained these facts to her I started to wonder if maybe she hadn’t been bored one day and sat around gnawing on it for a few hours. She wanted satisfaction, but all I would give her was the phone number of our district manager. Based on the beating that bag had taken, even Mick Jagger wasn’t goin’ to get no satisfaction. When she finally left it was definitely time to jet down to grab a cup of french roast.

Standing in line, I decided that if my happy place had a cliff in it, I should probably jump, or at least throw someone over. I think that’s how you really know you’ve lost it, when your happy place has a dead body at the base of it.

If I had to pick a happy place, it would probably be a coffee shop. Most people I know in customer service and/or retail sales drink a lot of coffee. We eat junk food, drink coffee, take a lot of vitamins, more coffee. We bitch about the customer, the corporate reps, and especially the payscale, usually over a cup of coffee.

Sometimes I think it’s all an evil plot thought up by Juan Valdez. Sure, he seems like some harmless old guy leading his burro up the mountain to hand pick each bean when it’s at the peak of flavor, but what if he really works for human resources?

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That Time in I.V.

December 12, 2009

Everyone has at least one story, I have maybe a dozen or so, although they all seem to start with “that night at Carrows in Goleta”.

Writing them down is a good way to keep track of them, and it keeps me from talking to myself. Besides, it’s funny how people, me included, look back on an event and make historical changes.

For example, one night in a previous life I nudged my `72 Chevy Nova against a payphone in Isla Vista. This friend of mine, we’ll call him Chuck, because he is one of my closest friends in the whole world and that’s his name, was on that payphone being verbally assaulted by his girlfriend. I don’t remember which girlfriend… or maybe I do.

Either way, in my humble opinion at the time, an opinion shared by Will, who was there, unless he needs me to testify that he was somewhere else, Chuck was in the process of “turning traitor for a piece of tail.”

I forget what pressing guy-type buisness we were supposed to be attending to. We were probably going to hang out at Carrows or crash some bitchin’ party in Montecito. The point was that Chuck was holding us up.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been so ticked if he wasn’t standing there babbling random apologies into the phone. Philosophical note; show some backbone. A man should at least have the nerve to inquire as to the nature of his supposed offence before apologizing. I digress.

There’s Chuck, hunched down into the phone, trying to have a private conversation with us two minions mocking him at every oppertunity while he is desperately trying to salvage a relationship that was ultimately doomed. It might have been Will who offered the first idle threat to rip out the phone. It might have been me. I really don’t remember.

I do remember that it was an idle threat. We’re laughing and talking about hitching a rope up to the phone booth and the Nova. I opened the trunk to look for rope, knowing full well that all I would find was a two gallon gas can and a 9/16 wrench.

Maybe it was the sound the trunk made as I slammed it home. Maybe it was sleep deprivation psychosis. This was a point in my life when I was holding down three jobs and trying to get an Associates Degree in History. Advisory note; stupid idea on both counts.

Anyway, suddenly I had a geat idea. I wanted to see the look on Chucks face as it occurred to him that we weren’t bluffing.

I fired up the Nova, which at the time was primer grey except where it was grass green. The `72 Nova wasn’t the prettiest car ever to roll out of Detroit, and mine had no exhaust system from about the front seat back. Just starting it up was threatening. The car alarms it set off didn’t add to it’s subtlety, either.

Will jumped in the passenger side and I did what any self respecting gearhead in a piece of shit Nova would do, I slammed it into reverse and floored it.

There is a very distinctive odor to burning bias ply rubber that is best appreciated when it is accompanied by the throaty roar of a smallblock V-8. The car was completely enveloped in blue-white smoke, although in truth I think it was more from burning oil than rubber.

Just at the apropriate moment, either because I couldn’t see or we had backed into the building, I let up off the gas just long enough to find a forward gear. Will was giggling like a crazed loon, I was laughing like someone who had no buisness as a designated driver and through the smoke and grime on the windsheild I could see the shock on Chucks face….

Okay, he just looked kind of annoyed. The same look a sane person might give a room mate who is playing music too loud when they’re trying to read. He didn’t really seem at all scared until the Nova caught traction and started to gain some momentum.

I think I’m obligated to explain that the payphone we were at is in the parking lot of the mexican restaurant that is now a burger king behind the apartments I lived in before it became a sorority house. Oh shit, I’m old.

Anyway, the parking lot is tiny. The car’s bumper –  front bumper, that might be important, had been touching the phone booth when we first parked there. It’s probably where we got the idea, and now maybe ten feet away is about a ton of Michigan steel with the throttle wide open. Only qualified teenagers should ever think of this maneuver, and nobody should do it, ever, for any reason.

So that 350 is screaming at about 5500 rpms and the Nova inches forward, then jumps. I was on the brakes before it got two feet, but you have to remember there was only ten feet or so to play with. Chuck dropped the phone and jumped to the side, a true credit to his intelligence. I look my foot off the brake and let the car idle back up to the phone.

By this point, Chuck, Will and Myself are all laughing rather uncontrollably.

Chuck picked the handset back up and tried to give us the one more minute routine.

I started to add RPMs until the rear end was just about to slip traction again.

Chuck’s looking back and forth between me and the phone, “Yeah, I gotta go. ALRIGHT! GUYS, KNOCK IT OFF!! Sorry, yeah I know I gotta go….”

And we left.

Occasionally, someone will ask me what Chuck and/or Will are up to, and I tend to give whatever answer works for the occasion.

Once in awhile, the person will give a short laugh and say, “Remember that time you tried to kill him in Isla Vista.”

I guess that’s why I started to write. I needed an alibi, or at least a good defense strategy. I’ve been playing a lot of phone tag with Chuck lately. If we ever do get a chance to have a beer, I think I’d better give him a draft of this to see if he remembers it any different.

Then again, his memory can’t be any better than mine.

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Saturday in L.A.

December 12, 2009

Entranced by the innocent act of a woman putting her clothes on…

I’m just about out.

Just at that point between awake and asleep when noting seems real and everything is clear, I’m brought back into focus by the silky smoothness of her voice, “take a shower… I’m not sending you back to your wife smelling like sex.”

Slowly, grudgingly, I sit up and stretch – probably a mistake as I catch my own reflection in the mirrored closet doors. I can’t help noticing that I’m not in nearly the shape I was in my 20’s. Growing up will do that to you.

I wonder who makes those doors.
They’re in every corporate condo in North America.
I’m starting to hate those doors.

My companion seems to be considering me, a lazy half smile on her face, smooth amber skin gleaming in the low light, a mischievous gleam in her dark eyes. Based on my own reflection, I still can’t help but wonder what she sees that is so appealing.

But I won’t complain.
Not ever.

I lean in and kiss her, gently at first, then with more emphasis.

She gives a little appreciative moan and leans into it. After a long, delicious moment, she takes my face in her hand and gazes deep into my eyes, “shower.”

I obey the command.

As the hot water pours over me, filling the room with steam, I have a moment to think. I’ve left the bathroom door open, and through the gap in the shower curtain I see the reflection of my companion getting dressed in those damn doors.

The black silk of her panties slides easily along the curve of her thighs and buttocks, and she deftly adjusts the fit with her index fingers. Even over the cascading water I hear the soft sound of denim and appreciate the small, single hip motion she uses to get her jeans on.

Jeans and a white silk t-shirt, no make up, black hair pulled behind her ears as she looks for – something – my keys maybe, no – cigarettes, of course. A lousy habit to be sure, but she is quite simply the single most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my entire life.