Just a Bunch of Guys

The drunk with the car antenna hanging out of his pocket had lost his audience in the parking lot. He looked at everyone around him, saw me and started walking in my direction. He found a new target at the last moment, and veered toward the guy standing behind me.

He introduced himself. “I’m Erik Estrada with the California Highway Patrol. Do you have any warrants?”

The guy behind me wasn’t interested in this game. He darted his eyes away, and let out an irritated laugh. “No. No warrants,” he told him. But he turned away, toward another group of guys to discourage any further interrogation.

“I don’t like the way you look. I’m going to have to haul you away to San Francisco.” He took a step closer and talked into his collar, “Estrada, here. TCP/IP, over. Ten-Four.”

The guy behind him, decided he’d humor him a little bit longer, “Okay. You’ve got me. I have a warrant.”

“Alright then. Hey, I’ll let you off easy if you give me a drag of your cigarette.”

“No, man.” He still wouldn’t look at him.

“Come on?” Estrada moved a step back, shifting himself into a friendlier position. He broke character — pulled the car antenna out of his pocket.

“No!”

Estrada turned back toward the parking lot and walked away.

“Fuck off, asshole,” The guy behind me grumbled loudly enough for the other guy to hear.

The antenna guy turned around and walked back over to him. “Hey. Don’t say that. I’m a nice guy. I want to be your friend.”

“Get lost.”

“Come on, man. Give me a cigarette. I’m not doing anything wrong.”

“Fuck. I’m sick of fucks like you.” He whipped off his belt and swung it around over his head. Then he backed up, leaving a belts length between him and the antenna guy, and snapped the belt at the antenna guy, looking him in the eye for the first time.

I moved to another line.

The two of them made a few more verbal rounds, before both had decided that he’d made his point. Erik Estrada left. Now first in line, I stepped back up to the window and ordered. Before taking my money, the guy who took my order rolled his eyes at the combatants and yelled a few insults in their direction.

A few guys had wandered over to talk to the guy with the belt. He was still giving it a few experimental snaps.

One of the new guys asked him, “What’s wrong with you? What do you think you’re going to do with that?”

“I know how to handle myself. I’ve used this before.” He made a few more experimental snaps.

A trio of guys in mullet wigs who I’d run seen earlier nodded hello to me and got into line behind the guy with the belt.

I walked away carrying my grease burger and chocolate grease-shake.

November 2004 Print Calendar

The November Print Calendar is ready. Download it, print it, and hang it in your cubicle at work. It’s guaranteed to impress and confuse your coworkers. The calendar is available in the usual formats: Letter size for North America, A4 format for the rest of the world.

Craft idea for the month of November:
Make your own A4 paper by trimming sheets of legal paper down to 210×297 milimeters. Don’t worry if you’re slightly off. The ISO specs allow for a variance of ±2mm for both the length and width.

Alternately, make your own letter size paper by trimming A3 format pages down to 8 1/2 x 11 inches. There is no room for error. If the page isn’t precisely 8 1/2 x 11 inches, it’s not letter size paper.

Now reconfigure your printer to recognize the new page size and load it with your new paper.

[Note to self: None of that was funny.]

Welcome to your calendar — featuring the return of the pre-printed pinhole. Both files are 135 kb PDFs:
Letter Size
A4 Format

Technology

The power in my building went out late this morning while I was eating my breakfast cereal and idly browsing the internets. The inventory of affected appliances and utilities is different than the list of things affected by a power outage when I was a kid.

The new laptop switched to battery power as soon as the lights and the radio flickered out; and because the phone line is unaffected, I still have internet access. (Six months ago, my desktop computer would’ve gone down when the power went out. But it probably would’ve crashed even if the power was on.) I say that the phone line is unaffected (as it would have been when I was little) but the cordless phone doesn’t work because its base relies on house power. The cell phone would be a backup, but it doesn’t get service inside the apartment, and besides, it’s battery hasn’t been holding a charge for the last few days. The heat is still on — my building is heated by a gas furnace. The electric heating system would’ve gone out when I was a kid. The water heater is also gas powered, so I was able to shower. Back in Eastern Washington, that would have been a cold shower. When I was little and the power went out for more than a few hours, the water pressure would have eventually slowed to a trickle because the pump on the community well would have lost power. (Am I remembering that right, Mom? I may be thinking of when the pipes froze.)

The kicker is, that I have an electric stove and I can’t boil water for tea. As with the phone, I would have been less affected by this in Grandview. We had the same dependency on electricity for the stove, but I didn’t have the dependency on caffeine.

Update: I went over to Vivace for tea, and when I came home a few hours later, the lights were on and so was the stove. I guess I had put the kettle on. The kettle was bone dry and the cap had melted and sealed over the spout. Hurray for not starting fires!

Go

Snakehead fish?

I plan. I work on getting big projects and simple projects to a starting point, but I just haven’t taken the last steps to get any of them started. I’ve been pretty busy, particularly for someone who hasn’t been getting anything done. It’s hard to fail when you never start.

Cellar Door

The blinds on the window in front of me are drawn down to eye level. I pull them up and watch four planes drift in four directions across the gray-blue sky. An orange sunset fades into a dim brown horizon. The planes cross each others’ paths and slip away behind buildings. The street light across from me is swaying. The movement decreases steadily into a slight vibration, and just when the lamp post becomes still, its light switches itself on.

Saying Hello

A baby has been left alone in a shopping cart near the store’s entrance for a little too long. He’s moaning sadly to himself, not yet crying. I give him a little encouraging smile, and he quickly reassembles his composure. He looks back at me with a business-like expression on his face and waves hello. His waving gesture is oddly practiced and deliberate. He resumes moaning and begins rocking forward and back after I walk past him.

Rock

We were going back to Samantha’s apartment to sweep the glass screen door off of the carpet, but we stopped for donuts first. I recognized the two old men at the little table in the front of the donut shop. I’d seen them there before. That makes them regulars, and if I can recognize a regular, it’s possible that I’m a regular too. I ordered an apple fritter and Samantha chose two small donuts — one with chocolate frosting. The woman behind the counter assembled our order and the men at the table talked about meteors.

The more talkative man was telling the quiet man, “Scientists have samples of meteorites that fell through the atmosphere. They were red hot while they were falling, but they cooled down after they landed. You know there are two kinds of meteorites. There’s the rocky kind, of course.” A motorcycle with a loud vibrating engine went by and the old man was distracted. “I hate them motorcycles — always weaving in and out of traffic on the highway.” He didn’t get around to describing the second variety of meteorite.

Maybe someone didn’t throw a rock through Samantha’s screen door last night at three in the morning. Maybe the perfectly spherical rock-ball fell from the sky from an unlikely angle.

We took a taxi back to my apartment last night — after we were jolted out of bed by the crashing sound, after hesitating at the bedroom door because we didn’t know what or who was on the other side, after the police completed their two minute investigation, and after the neighbor’s friend told us his tires had been slashed. I looked at Samantha in the backseat of the cab and she was completely calm. I told her, “You’re such a rock, under pressure.” I didn’t even recognize the pun.