Monday, November 29, 2010
Instead, Lester, Anna, and I go to the mall which opens at midnight to observe people and give awards, not to consumers and customers, but to the workers. Every year, we walk around the mall, making giant circles, carefully studying the workers so that we can accurately judge who deserves our coveted titles.
The Best Greeter Award: Did not go to one of the young, attractive, and trendy greeters, but to the middle-aged, motherly woman who welcomed us as if she was inviting us into her home. Except her home was not full of a big, yummy dinner, but full of shirts at half price. Anna was so impressed with her that she bought a shirt.
Most Patient Worker: This one was hard to determine, until we got tired from walking and sat on a bench to rest. From here we could see the woman who was working the carousel give a private ride to a kid while his parents stood nearby with huge bags in their hands. I guess this was his reward for being forced to stay up late and go shopping with his parents. After the ride, the worker went to her small enclosed booth where she sat on a stool, her head bobbing almost instantly. After a few minutes of struggling, her chin rested on her neck indefinitely. Indefinitely only lasted a few seconds though because another set of parents knocked on her window to give their child a private ride. This process repeated at least three more times, before we left to resume our mission. Each time she had just fallen asleep when another caring father or mother knocked on her window.
Most Out of Place Person (specially created in honor of the recipient, a special occasion because this is the first time ever that a non-worker has ever received an award, although I don't think he could be classified as a customer either): In the display window at American Eagle, along with the hip, pale manikins striking inhuman poses, a poorly dressed, peach live man was sitting in the corner reading a textbook, which looked like it was about the anatomy of the human heart. Why he chose this place to catch up on some studying, we will never know, but it was awesome.
All in all, it was a wonderful holiday! Next year we plan to create a lot more categories and Lester can actually make cool trophies to hand out to the winners.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
As he hobbled after me, I could not help but think he was a pirate, especially since he wore a blue bandanna over his head and also wore a gray beard. I had to stifle the great desire of asking him if he was a pirate and instead said, "Here's our parrots. As you can see, we have a great range from the smaller tropical birds of South America to the larger parrots of India. All it really depends on, is how big you want em and how much you're willing to pay." "Well, how much are they?" He even sounded like a pirate! "Their prices are marked just below their cages." He stooped down so his old eyes could get a closer look and I thought about mentioning to my manager that we ought to make the font of those prices larger since old people buy a lot of pets. "Skulls and smoke!" he shouted. "I can't afford any of these!" I couldn't take it any longer and asked him, "What do you do for a living?" He smiled a me and answered, "I'm an actor. There isn't much of a market out there for one-legged actors, 'sides for pirate flicks. I ain't had any luck so far so I thought I'd buy a parrot to show them producers I'm serious and have done my homework. There's a casting call tomorrow and I have to get that part. I'll try anything. I can't afford a prosthetic leg until I get my breakthrough, but I can't be anything except a pirate until I get that prosthetic." "How much does a prosthetic leg cost?" "Eight thousand big ones." "How much have you got so far?" "Fifteen bucks. Not even enough for a parrot. Can you offer any sort of discount?" I felt sorry for the man, and in awe because he is the closest man to a pirate I've ever seen in my life. "I'm sorry, I can't. But there are a lot of pigeons around my home and if you come over tonight, I can help you catch one. It's not a parrot, but its something. I'm sure the producers would be impressed seeing that you have pigeon-wrangling skills." He looked at me for a few seconds as if wondering if he should believe me. "Sure." I gave him my address and told him to meet me at six o'clock. I figured it would best to sneak up on the pigeons while they were preoccupied with dinner. I know it takes a lot to distract me while I am eating. After work, I eagerly anticipated the pirate's arrival. I would have called Lester or Anna, but I knew they were both working late. When the pirate never showed, I could think of only two reasons why: either he lost his other leg in a freak-water-sprinkler accident or he, like the rest of our world, is prejudiced against pigeons. Why aren't they sold in pet stores? With so much new free time, I wrote this for all the pigeons out there:
In the smallest alleyway of this particular industrial capital, light was absent. The cobblestone street was sided by two large, abandoned, concrete blocks of buildings. The roofs were caved in and over half of the apartment’s doors were stolen. The alleyway was old and had never been restored or even repaired. The stones of the street were spread too far apart and it caused any automobile to shake wildly as it crossed. The stones were every shade of brown and gray, a mismatched stretch of road. They had been laid before any living human in the city had been born and had served as a well-traveled road connecting the southern part of the city to the north in its glory days. Now it was nothing.
The middle of the alleyway had sunken deeper then the rest of the street and a large, brown puddle had formed from that morning’s rain shower. Automobiles passing sent a splash of mud onto the already-mud-caked buildings on either side. The moon had already risen and no such automobile had passed in hours.
A one-legged pigeon was fluttering his way across the great city in search of food. As it flew above the alleyway it spotted a small white mass lying next to the puddle and swooped down for a closer investigation. The pigeon was mostly grey, besides its mudded wing tips and foot. The peculiar thing about pigeons is their turquoise necks and the neck on this particular pigeon was fantastic, as if it shined of real emerald in its purest state; such a small area of beauty considering the domineering grayness of the city bird.
The bird landed on its one foot next to the strange white mass which is commonly referred to by human beings as chewing gum. The pigeon strained to peck the sticky, white mass flattened into a crack between two stones. The one-legged bird hopped around the white mass in an effort to find a better angle at which to receive the prize it sought. Fully concentrating on the white mass, the pigeon’s foot landed and stuck in a crack and when it tried to hop free the pigeon stumbled into the muddy puddle.
The one-legged pigeon immediately panicked and, using its instincts to ensure survival, it flapped its wings wildly, trying to take flight. The wet wings could not function as they were supposed to and the pigeon only rolled around in the dirty water, sending sprays of water in all directions. There was nothing it could do, but nature taught it to struggle anyway; to never give up. The one-legged pigeon thrashed about in the brown water with no thought of any other plan of escape. It simply flapped its wings harder with more veracity, never slowing down. Hope left the situation as the bright lights of an automobile flooded the dark alleyway where the one-legged pigeon fought for life.
Hope returned in the form of a small, speckled hand that clasped the pigeon around the neck and pulled it out of the wet pit of doom. The old grandmother, with a green scarf tied around her head that hid what was left of her thin, white hair, flattened herself against the dried mud plastered wall of one the buildings and the red automobile roared past, splashing grandmother and bird with a new coat of mud. The grandmother, with only three teeth and a noticeably large wart on her chin, kissed the grateful one-legged pigeon’s turquoise neck.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Although, admittedly, that guy was weird, he wasn't as strange as the person who walked through the glass sliding doors yesterday. He seemed normal enough at first, in khakis and a buttoned-up blue shirt, but when he got closer his eyes just seemed to bore into mine and I tried to look busy stocking cat-nip. This facade did not work. He strolled right up and planted himself right next to me.
"Hey," he said. "I'm looking for a pet."
I didn't turn my head, but replied, "What kind of pet?"
I had hoped he would have just said iguanas and I could have said aisle two and he would have walked away forever, but he didn't. "That's my problem. I don't know yet." I finished stacking the last can of cat nip, turned to him, but did not smile. "Perhaps you'd like to know why I want a pet in the first place?" he offered.
Remembering my manager's words I said, "Yes, I would absolutely love to know so that I can better assist you in finding the pet that best suits you." Then I smiled. "Here at PetSmart, we want to put you in a good humor. That's why we sell so many spider monkeys!"
He didn't seem amused. In fact, he seemed kind of agitated this entire time, as if he was as sick of having to deal with people as I was. Because of this, I resolved to actually help this man out. "Tell me what you are looking for in a pet."
"I'm looking for a pet who can deal with living with a man who is going to live the rest of his life, serving penance in solitude. I need a pet who deals well with someone who is lonely."
At this, I took interest and offered him the best of my knowledge. "Well, sir, it really depends on what kind of loneliness you want to be cured from. If you need to feel like you are needed, buy a hamster. If you need to feel like you are fun to be around, go for a dog. If you need to feel like you are serving someone, buy a cat. If you need to feel like you have someone listening to you, buy a fish because sounds travels faster through water and they'll be able to hear you much better. If you need to feel like someone wants to talk to you, you can't go wrong with a parakeet."
"No, no. I don't want to be cured from my loneliness! I welcome it. I deserve it. What I need is a pet to take all of my- all of my-" At this point he was sweating excessively even though it's not hot by any means in PetSmart. He looked as though he was about to faint, but composed himself. "I need a pet who I can project every thing wrong I ever did on, so I don't do that anymore . . . to my girlfriends." He sighed as if he knew I could never understand.
I didn't understand, but since I wanted him out of my life as soon as possible, I folded my arms, contorted my lips, and stared up at the ceiling for a few moments so he'd think I was deep in thought.
"I have just the thing!" I said abruptly and turned on my heels with a squeak of my sneakers. He followed me to the back and I brought him to a cage. "Ferrets are good-natured and mischievous, a good combination to take anything you might throw at them."
He stared at the cage for a moment and pointed at a gray one. "I'll take that one."
I smiled, said "Perfect," picked up some food on the way to the check-out and had him out of there within minutes. I didn't want anyone else to have to deal with him and was satisfied with having made a sale. Before he left, he shook my hand real hard and looked me in the eyes so that I had to look away. "Thank you so much," he said gruffly. "You don't know what you've done here, son (He didn't look much older than me!). You've just saved a lot of women a lot of hurt." And then he was gone, with the ring of a bell.
I took a look at the signature on his receipt because I thought I might see his name on America's Most Wanted soon and I've always wanted to call in to something like that. It read: John Melmoth. I'll remember that.
When I called Lester and told him the story, I asked, "So why did he want a pet? I never quite understood what he was saying."
"I think it is some religious thing," Lester answered. "They always seem to get ya feeling guilty over something."
"Yeah," I said. "That's true."
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Lester had approached me soon after prom. He was the most nervous I had ever seen him. He just stood silently for awhile, using barely audible grunts to respond to a funny story I was telling. Afterward, he didn't laugh, but just said, "Listen, Ray," I want to ask Emma out. Is that okay with you?"
I don't think he heard a word of my funny story.
When we finally arrived at the venue, passed through line, and got frisked by security, we tried to push through the crowds to get to a good place to see. I watched Lester, holding Emma's hand, pushing himself through and I just stopped, letting them disappear into the mass of bodies. "What are you doing?" Anna screamed in my ear so I could hear above the music.
"I'm claustrophobic," I answered. "I don't think they even noticed they lost us."
Anna looked at me funny for a second, then yelled, "Come on."
I followed her out, through the back of the crowd, where I could actually breathe and she led us upstairs to some hip, modern couches that weren't comfortable, but sure did look cool. She sat down and I sat next to her.
From here, we couldn't see the band, but we could hear them pretty well. Also, there wasn't a whole bunch of ecstatic fans jumping up and down, sending that sweat smell into the air, and trying to sing along. I never understood why they did that. I thought people went to concerts to hear the band sing. If they wanted to sing, they could do that in the shower for free. Some people just got a lot of money to waste, I guess.
At first we just sat and listened. We let the sounds invade us. We even closed our eyes a little, but maybe that's just because we were tired from the long drive.
After awhile, Anna started to ask me a lot of questions that normally I wouldn't want to answer, but because of the way she asked them, I did. She let me tell her my stories and changed her facial expressions which meant she must have really been listening. She even touched my back for a few seconds when I was telling her a sad one.
After the concert and a whole lot of craning of the neck to see through the crowd, we found Lester and Emma. "Wasn't that amazing?" Lester asked. "What they did with those lights, those visuals were just awesome. Really made the show spectacular." I looked at Anna and she looked at me. "Where did you guys go, anyway?"
"Upstairs," Anna answered.
"We didn't get to see a single thing," I said.
"Are you kidding?" Emma asked.
We shook our heads.
"We must have really missed out," Anna said. But I didn't feel like I missed out and I could tell by the way Anna looked and the way that she said that, that she didn't really feel like she missed out either. So I smiled.
Late into the night, after we had dropped off the girls, Lester pulled into my driveway and turned off his car. I felt a bit uncomfortable and thought maybe he was going to try and kiss me, but instead he said, "Emma broke up with me. Says I talk too much and don't listen enough."
I didn't know what to say, which was fine because he just continued. "I thought I was in love, but I must have been mistaken. Love always hopes, but after she told me that I lost my hope in her. So, I guess I lost my love as well."
I thought about how it might have been different if I had dated Emma instead of Lester. I imagined myself being a good listener and that we could talk for hours without running out of things we wanted to tell to each other. I thought about how in time, I would ask Emma out myself and realize this dream, but quickly vowed to myself not to. I mean, come on, this is Lester we're talking about.
Monday, November 8, 2010
"You have to do this," Anna agreed.
Lester kept his head down. He kept his head down so we wouldn't see that he was smiling too. Even he couldn't deny we had to do this.
He took his hands out of his jean pockets, wrapped them around his teenage-sized chest, rocked back on his brown shoes and shoved his hands back into his pockets. "Alright," he finally said, looking up. "But if we're gonna do this right we're gonna need screwdrivers."
"Dude," I said. "I can get us some."
Anna laughed. "You guys are so sweet! Emma's a lucky girl."
During our preparations and plannings Lester and I talked extravagantly about our undying love and devotion for the once and forever, delicate Emma. We didn't realize that really only one of us could have her; we had always done everything together and shared everything we owned. I would wear his caps as if they were mine and he would tell my jokes as if they were his. This never bothered us.
"Her eyes, they are like little pools of arctic water just before turning to ice."
"Yeah," he said.
"And her smile, it is both the best and the worst part of her. Best because she uses it to laugh when I say something funny. Worst because she only laughs when I'm not trying to be funny. What do you think about her?" I asked.
"I like the way her nose wrinkles up sometimes."
On the afternoon of our mission, we tasked Anna with the part of getting Emma to the table in the cafeteria that Lester and I were sitting at, side-by-side, nonchalantly eating our apples and ham sandwiches. Anna performed like a natural, easily approaching Emma as if she was just asking a question about geometry and laughing about who-knows-what. That's one of the greatest things about Anna: she knows how to talk to everyone whether old or small, disabled or arrogant. I can't do that.
Anna led Emma to our table, "Want to eat with us?" She asked casually.
"Sure! We're not interrupting anything, are we, guys?" Emma said in her unusual, but somehow sweet, little voice.
"No, please..." Lester said, making a wide gesture with his hand to the two chairs across from us.
Emma was a tad hard to talk to at first, but after awhile we were all laughing and I felt like the time was right so I nodded at Lester and said, "I gotta go to the bathroom."
Lester cleared his throat and stared at Emma in a way that probably weirded her out. "Yeah, me too."
"Alright, let's go!" I said as we jumped up, leaving Emma staring after us. As soon as we exited the double-doors, we ran down the echoing linoleum hallway to the locker room where Lester opened one of the lockers, pulled out two, identical, pink roses and handed one to me. I disappeared while Lester stuffed the rose into his coat, adding two screwdrivers to his large pockets.
He stood for a moment, peering inside the empty locker, but not really looking into it, zipped up his jacket and ran back to the cafeteria. Before he could stop himself, shift his weight or even just swallow the pool of saliva formed at the back of his throat, he darted to the table, faced Emma and stammered, "Will you go out with me?"
Emma blinked. "Out?"
"I mean like outside."
"Oh, umm, yeah. Sure."
She stood up and followed Lester out into the hallway. Fearing that she would see him as a pyscho, Lester said, "I just wanted to show you something." A quick glance from Emma made him feel like he had probably just made it worse so he quickened his pace to arrive at their destination sooner.
Leading her outdoors, Lester abruptly spun around to face the confused Emma. Finally gulping that pool of saliva, he knelt on one knee, romantically, just above a sewage grate. "Emma," he said, unzipping his jacket with as suave as a gesture as he could muster, "well, I wanted to know if you would want to go to prom with me?" And he pulled out the pink rose, now with a broken stem.
Before she could answer, there was a TAP TAP TAP.
"What is that?" Emma asked.
"I don't know, but..." TAP TAP TAP. "It seems to be coming from down there," he said, pointing to the sewer grate. "Let's find out!" he said, maybe a little too enthusiastically, while pulling out the screwdrivers. He handed one to her. "Looks like we'll have to open this." He dropped to his knees and without knowing what else to do, Emma dropped down beside him. Together, they shoved the screwdrivers under the grate and pried it open.
From the hole, I emerged, holding the identical pink rose and dropping to a knee in front of Emma. "Emma, will you go to the prom with me?"
Lester knelt down by my side. "Now, wait a minute. Emma, will you go with me?"
"Uh, Lester, what are you doing? I'm asking her that."
"What? But I asked first."
If Emma was confused before, she was utterly lost at this point.
"Well," I said. "Will you go to the prom with both of us?"
"Ha. Well... yes!"
Sometimes we make mistakes, but one thing can be sure about Lester and I: in the end we always stick together.
I will try to update as much as possible, but I can't guarantee any sort of regularity. I don't own my own personal computer so when I want to post I have to use a computer at the public library. And frankly (pun to follow) I easily get distracted by reading Frank O'Hara's poetry, listening to homeless people tell me about their past lives they've lived in various reincarnations, and making fun of Kurt Vonnegut's novels.
That brings me to the point of this post. I happen to read, listen, and view much of the literature, music, and film of the present age and of the recent past. That is what I do. I don't see much beauty anywhere else nowadays. And I happen to know which ones are good and which ones are just pure rubbish. So, I hope to sometimes post blogs providing criticism and praise to everyone's favorite mediums of art, as well as exposing my own writings. I might not always explain too much which ones are worth your time, but you just got to trust me.
For instance, in case you don't know there are two music artists named Kanye West and Sufjan Stevens who have absolutely nothing in common, but someone decided to create a mix between two of their songs. Sufjan talks about zombies all the time and Kanye is scared because he hasn't talked to God in a long time. What do those have in common?! Give it a listen and you'll see what I mean. Lester once tried to argue with me about why he thinks those two songs "really do work well together, both musically and thematically if you just-" but I retorted by asking, "Do you really think Regis Filbin ever trembles with the nervous thought of being, at last, forgotten about?" He just got real quiet. I think he learned his lesson. Don't mess with Ray when it comes to music, literature, or film because he will always win!
I will post the stories I gave to Lester and Anna soon. Stand by!
Monday, November 1, 2010
My 24th birthday was this past October 21st. I had heard it was customary in some weird country like Bulgaria, that when it is someone's birthday, they invite all their friends over and cook a feast for their guests with a dessert and all, not to mention give each guest a parting gift! I thought that sounded like a good idea so I invited Lester and Anna over, made Kraft macaroni-and-cheese and chocolate milkshakes in my MagicBullet, and wrote them each a personalized story of my own creation.
I read them aloud while we sat around my kitchen table and they laughed and slapped me on the back and told me I should write more often. I laughed a lot too and thought about how long it had been since I laughed that hard. I couldn't think of a time. Maybe I will post the stories I wrote for Lester and Anna sometime, but Lester and Anna wanted to keep them. I spilled macaroni on them and told them I would print out fresh copies the next time I went to the library, but Anna said, "No, I want to keep this one. It has more character." I think Lester agreed because he took his orange-cheese-smeared story too.
I told Lester and Anna not to buy me any presents because I was trying to mimic the culture of Bulgaria or wherever, but they surprised me by pulling their money together and buying me Elliott Smith's "From a Basement on the Hill" in vinyl. I don't have a record player, but so far I have liked looking at Elliott being so sad on his stoop when I listen to his music. They didn't just buy me his album because he happened to have committed suicide on my birthday or because I have thought of doing the same thing a couple of times before, but because I am a recent fan of Elliott Smith.
Last Christmas my sister and brother-in-law clearly didn't know what to buy me for Christmas so they settled for a gray T-shirt with a bunch of white sheep on the front facing left and one black sheep in the middle facing right. I didn't think it was fair to buy both my sister and brother-in-law presents when they only gave me one between the two of them, so I decided to buy only my sister a present. I've known her longer. I wanted to buy her a copy of Troll 2, but Anna told me I had better get her a gift basket of lotions and other stuff I don't care about already assembled and wrapped from Bath & Body Works. I asked her if the black sheep was supposed to symbolize me. She just said, "I thought you'd like it. You're always doing and saying crazy things. You like to be different. So I thought of you." I think she really just thinks that I am an outcast of society with nowhere to fit, but as Lester told me, "Sometimes you just gotta just trust your family. Even if she did mean it like that, you still got to say 'thanks' as if it was the best present in the world." I'm not sure if I agree, but if I can't trust Lester, I can't trust anybody.
I wore the shirt once before I lost it at the laundromat. Somebody somewhere found that black sheep shirt in their pile of clean laundry when they got home. I hope they don't think God is trying to tell them something. When I got home myself, I found a T-shirt with some design of a weird black silhouette, a white circle with a blue edge around it, and "elliott smith" written in white cursive on the front. Since I don't have too many clothes, I started wearing my new T-shirt and figured I better buy some of his CDs and become a fan of him. I was tired of being scorned by strangers when they'd walk by and say, "I love Elliott Smith too!" and I'd reply, "I have no idea who he is."
To this day, whenever I am wearing my Elliott Smith T-shirt around my sister I remember Lester's words and tell her "Thank you." Sometimes she gives me a weird look because I say this at random times, often in the middle of something she is saying. I don't mean to, but it is hard for me to listen when she talks to me sometimes. And when I look down and see my Elliott Smith T-shirt, I remember I only got it because I lost the T-shirt she gave me at that laundromat and I blurt out "thank you" for seemingly no reason. But it is for a reason. It's a thank you for the T-shirt that I lost, and the T-shirt that I gained, and for introducing me to the music of Elliott Smith.