Helpful Jeff

If I had drinks-mixing skills: a) People at parties who don’t know how to mix drinks might ask me for help. b) I might end up volunteer my services anytime I detected a hint of hesitation on the part of a drink-seeker and people would be put off by my eager-to-please attitude.

So, ignorance is bliss I guess.

Slide Shows

Robert tracks me down at a cafe. “Doc Holliday sent me some more artwork. And I wanted you to see it.”

I get him a cup of coffee and bring it over to the table. He pulls a big manila envelope out of his bag and hands it to me. I empty its content out in front of me. A couple of dozen slides fall out.

I hold one up. The words “Greece” and “Hellas” (in Cyrillic letters) are stamped into the little white frame. It looks like it came from an educational filmstrip or some other commercially available slide show. I hold it up to a light so that I can make out the picture. It’s an image of a Greek ruin.

We go through the little pile one slide at a time. I look at the slide and describe it to him, then pass it along to Robert.

“Oh, that’s Greece? Interesting!” He squints carefully through the little window, letting it soak in. I’m not sure how much of the picture he can make out. (The word “Greece” will enter his vocabulary for a few days. “I was talking to this Greek guy . . .”)

There are a few more slides from the Greece series and there’s a batch of photos from Mt. Vesuvius, the captions printed on the frames are in Italian.

I come across the first personal slide in the collection and hold it up to the light, “This is a man. Who is this?”

“I don’t know.”

I look again and try to guess when the picture was taken based on the man’s clothes. Then I notice the fish. One would think that I’d notice the two foot long fish that he was holding out beside him in the classic, I caught this fish pose.

There were a few more images of the fisherman and his family and a batch of tourist photos – from Copenhagen according to the handwritten caption on the frames.

Robert will produce another pile of slides every day until his supply is exhausted. Though the subjects of the slides are limited to the Greece, Mt. Vesuvius, fisherman, and Copenhagen sets, each day’s show will be different.


A man in a trenchcoat stands in a doorway holding copies of The Watchtower and Awake out in front of him like they were shields.

A young man with a stylish haircut strolls along offering tiny pamphlets to everyone he meets. He rattles off nonsense words in a sermon’s cadence, “Jolly-rolly Jeedee, peaches-leaches Jeebuz.”

A stern-looking man in a windbreaker holds out a booklet with a picture of the cross on it.

I encounter all these people before I reach the end of one city-block. I’m smiling by the time I reach the end of the block and see a second man distributing copies of The Watchtower. I shake my head and exclaim, “Geez!”

From behind me, the man in the windbreaker overhears and responds, “Exactly!”

I turn to look at him and he takes a tentative step toward me.

I laugh, assuming he’s misunderstood, and I explain, “Not ‘Jesus’! ‘Geez!'” then add, “Though ‘Jesus!’ might apply to.”

We’re grinning at each other – one of us more maniacally then the other. The light changes in my favor and I walk into the crosswalk.

It takes all kinds.

I’m sitting at a coffee shop reading. A couple of seats over, a man sits down next to a cute twentyish girl. He is probably fifteen years older than her:

“Do you mind if I sit here?”
“I had trouble finding a place to park.”
“I’m from the East Coast.”
“Your haircut is very stylish.”
“So you like to party!”
“There’s a nice little vegetarian restaurant over there on Olive, called The Green Cat Cafe. Would you like to go over there and sit with me for awhile?”
“Where do you work?”
“I could go over and have lunch there.”
“Would I be able to get, maybe, baked beans in a flour tortilla, like a burrito, with guacamole.”
“But you’d be my server. So that would be okay!”
“I’m a very good tipper.”
“Would you be able to tell if a guy sitting next to you were rich?”
“You live with your dad? I’ll bet he makes sure he meets all the guys you date.”
“Well, time for me to go.”

My eavesdropping was obviously detected, he pointed over at me and said, “He looks like a nice guy . . . Well?”

I look up from my book. “Yeah. I’m okay.”

As soon as he’s gone, she turns to me and says, “Can you believe that?”

“Yeah. He was really something.”

I’m sure he could picture what we were saying about him after he left. And for some reason now, I’m imagining that he liked being the subject of that type of disbelief.


When I was a kid, we had a globe with a textured surface. I liked China, its texture was different from the rest of the globe – kind of wrinkly. There was also a relief map of Washington State that I used to study. I’d run my hand over the mountain ranges and the more subtle elevation changes in the east. I’d take the map off the wall and look at the backside – a white plastic field with a reversed impression of Washington on it, filled with craters.

The Olympic Peninsula was interesting. To me, it seemed like the United States’ main distinguishing characteristic. A birthmark. If you were drawing the United States in a game of Pictionary, you could draw the rest of the country in any shape you wanted and as long as you got the Olympic Peninsula in the upper left-hand corner alright, you were okay. Make it a little too big, and you’ve got Washington state instead.

I guess that Florida, Maine, and the little hook on the Texas/Mexico border are pretty distinctive too. I was too Northwest-centric to notice though.

On clear days the entire Olympic Mountain range is visible across the Sound. I can remember their shapes from looking at the relief map when I was a kid. I imagine that I can visualize the whole shape of the peninsula, though I only see the mountains’ profiles.