The Head Went Down . . .

I was Ubering Asheville one night when I picked up this couple downtown. They wanted to go all the way to Black Mountain which is about a 20 minute ride. We talked for the first couple minutes but then it got quiet. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw the woman slip out of her shoulder strap and her head went down. The man’s head was thrown back, in shadow. Uh oh . . . what’s this? My knuckles turn white as I grip the steering wheel, my ears perked up, listening to every little tiny microscopic sound . . . clothing ruffling, a foot moving, an arm shifting . . . . an exhale. Is that a normal exhale? Did. . . did he just let out a sigh? Wait. . . . Is she going down on him in my car? In the car I drive my daughter in? Uh . . . should I say something? Am I going to have to ask them to stop? or am I going to have to face the fact that I’m a big fucking pussy who is too scared to ask them to stop? I keep anticipating hearing something more informative. Something wet. Fuck! NOOOOOOOOO!!! I imagine myself asking them to stop. What then? Do I kick them out of my car or keep driving? We get off at our exit and pull into downtown Black Mountain as I hear the man waking up his wife. She’d just been sleeping with her head in his lap.

No More Chocolate Chip Bagels aka Man’s Inhumanity To Man

Back when I was working at Bruegger’s Bagels, I was working the line, taking orders when a nervous-looking, wild-haired lady with too many knit scarves around her neck asked for a chocolate chip bagel. The basket was empty & we were out of the dough till next truck delivery. I apologized to her and asked if there was anything else I could get for her. She said “No more chocolate chip bagels?!?!?! Are you SERIOUS?!” Her voice started to tremble. “Can you look in the back? Please? This is OUTRAGEOUS!!!! I drove all the way out here from Weaverville! How can that be?” Real tears are streaming down her cheeks. She is actually CRYING over a chocolate chip bagel.

“I’m really so so sorry, mam. We’re out of the dough till Thursday. Can I get you anything else?”  Mind you, the Chocolate chip bagels were the most disgusting, dense, wrinkly, perpetually wet & uncooked-looking bagel monstrosities we’d ever had.

Lady: “How can you do this to me?! Oh my god! Oh my god . . . . This isn’t happening. This is just insane! No chocolate chip bagels?! What kind of business is this? I . . . I  hope you go OUT of business!” She’s choking up and really sobbing now but shuffling slowly towards the coffee & registers. At this point, my coworkers are slipping back into the kitchen to laugh as I’m moving along towards the registers with her as it appears she’s still interested in cup of coffee. She shakily gestures towards a cup size & coffee, still sobbing and counting out her change on the counter. I pour a cup, pass it over as she scoops up her change again and THROWS it at my face. My only reaction is to help collect her change again. Still sobbing, she THROWS it at me a second time, then she takes her coffee and leaves. “Thank you!” I say. Honestly, I LOVED customers like that. I don’t know what was going on with her. Maybe she forgot to take her meds but there has got to be a story to that kind of behavior. There’s no way you can take it personally or get all riled up about it.

How To remove a 300 lb Crackhead From Your Doorstep

Late early 2000s, Kansas City, 9am. Nice sunny Sunday! I got dressed, grabbed my keys and got ready to head out of my apartment. While opening the front door, I could feel something heavy was pressing against it from the other side, in the stairwell. Before I had time to even think about it, a massive head fell over my threshold and looked angrily, & upside-down into my eyes. His head had been comfortably propped against my door till I opened it. This is what happens when I leave my downstairs door unlocked.  A very large (we’re talking over 6’4″, 300lbs), muscular, and kind of mean looking man lay there in my stairwell, his arms folded and tucked in his armpits, legs nearly reaching my neighbor’s door. . .  laying there like a GIANT 300 lb baby.  I knew who he was. I never knew his name but he was a local crackhead and thief who used to buy crack from a former downstairs neighbor of mine, until he broke into his apartment & stole his refrigerator, probably carrying it away over his shoulder. He looked up at me and said in a thunderous voice, “I’ll leave when I’m LEAVING!”, rolled over, and went back to sleep. I shut my door. Now my door felt quite paper thin and insubstantial as a barrier. He could shatter it into toothpicks just by leaning against it. I had a back door but it opened to a 12-15 foot drop. There were no stairs. I thought about hanging & dropping but what if I wanted to come back home & he was still there?  How was I going to get out of there? Sure, he’s a trespassing crackhead AND burglar and PROBABLY a really dangerous person but I don’t want to involve the police because he’s like a neighbor. Everyone seems to know him . . . that and he could come back and kill me at any time. I go to my CDs and look for something abrasive & annoying. Not difficult considering almost all of my music is abrasive & annoying. TAGC’s Meontological Research Recordings? No, possibly interesting. Maybe something Germanic. Einsturzende Neubauten? No, possibly dance-able. Thomas Koner? Lustmord? No, too gentle. Maybe even soothing when muffled through a door & wall. Coil? SPK? Throbbing Gristle? Laibach? Something with lots of treble and no beat. Hmmmm. . . . Diamanda Galas! I put on Diamanda Galas’s Wild Women With Steak Knives from her Litanies Of Satan, pump up the volume and looky looky who is getting up on his big boy feet and leaving my building! He didn’t even stay for the good part. Sir! Come back! It takes a while to build up! Wait for it. . . . wait for it. . . .

My Good Samaritan Deed For The Day: Drive a Random Crackhead all over Creation So He Can Sell His Stolen Sh*t and Check Out Hookers

Late one night, over 20 years ago, as I was getting in my car to drive home, I noticed I was being approached by this skinny older guy who was desperately trying to make eye contact with me while rapidly approaching with an enormous duffel bag slung over his shoulder, like Santa Claus. I stopped to hear what he was going to ask me . . . . and also because I knew I couldn’t get in my car fast enough without looking like a complete dick. He said his car was nearby and he needed a jump. He asked if I could please please PLEASE find it in my heart to help him out. He’s a Christian, praise Jesus and he not out to hurt NO-BODY.  I thought, sure . . . why not? He said his car was parked a block away and said we’d need to drive to it. Sure, Okay, I thought. He assured me he was not a criminal and he even offered to let me search his bag and pat him down to make sure he didn’t have any weapons. I said “oh, no. . . that’s okay, I believe you” but he held his bag open, so I glanced in and saw a bunch of CB radios. Like 15 to 20 CB radios. It was a like a 4ft tall army duffel bag full of radios and it weighed a ton. He threw them in the back of the car, and sat down in the front and I started driving towards 42nd & Main street. He said take a right on Main, I did. I’m lookin around for a car on the side of the road but there’s nothing and he’s sittin back, eyes closed, sayin “it’s just a little further. Just keeeeeeep on goin.”  One block, two blocks, three blocks, ten and soon fifteen blocks. I ask “where’s your car, exactly?” and he says “just a little further, man . . . I swear!” That’s cool. He probably exaggerated how close his car was, just to get me to help him. Just a little white lie. I can empathize. At this point, we’re approaching downtown and he says “Hold on a sec, take a right here. . .  I wanna see if my sister’s workin.” I’m thinkin “Oh great, maybe she’ll help him from here.” I see there’s nothing but prostitutes walking up and down the street and he’s eyeballing each and every one, muttering “Niiiiiiiiice . . .  niiiiice. . . . Oooooh . . . Oooh, DAMN!.”  I realize if I get pulled over by the police with him in the car, it would probably not look good and I would not sound credible in disassociating myself from him. I tell him we really need to find his car because I gotta feed my cats and I don’t want to be out all night. He says “oh yeah, sure, we almost there… take a left over hee’r and just keeeeep goin”. Pretty soon we’ve passed downtown and we’re crossing the river. At this point, I realize we’re not really looking for his car and I’m wondering why I’m still driving this guy? Maybe I should put an end to this. . . but I’m also wondering how far is this guy is going to push it? How far will we go? I know I can’t just pull over on a bridge and let him out. After a few more minutes, we wind up stopping in a really sketchy, run-down, white-trash neighborhood on the other side of the river somewhere. . . I have no clue where, and he says “Now I’m gonn go knock on this door ova’h here but PLEASE god ALMIGHTY, don’t leave me here! I’m beggin you! . . . Man, I’m SERIOUS. I don’t wanna be alone out here, black man in THIS neighberhood” but a part of me is thinking this might be a good chance to ditch him. He gets out and leaves his bag in my car as if he knows I won’t drive off with it or throw it out and drive off (and I wouldn’t, because that would be mean). He runs to the door, knocks, & talks to some fat, slovenly, half-asleep looking dude in a wife-beater and then comes back to the car and says we need to pull around to this trucking yard where the truckers are sleeping in their cabs. Then he’s running back and forth, knocking on truck cabs, trying to sell these CB radios to sleeping truckers. I’m just watching from the car, wondering if he’s a regular character in their lives or just some random weirdo they’ve never seen before, waking them up in the middle of the night with a bag of presumably stolen radios (can I even assume they’re stolen?). He comes back to the car with his bag and says we can head back. After passing through downtown, he holds a lighter up to a small metal tube and proceeds to smoke something that is completely smokeless & odorless but turns to me and assures me ” ‘isss  . . .juss . . . tobacco. I swear.”  I somehow doubt that. After a few puffs, he says I can let him out by the OSCO in mid-town and he asks if I can loan him $25, as if we will see each other the next day and he’ll give me my money back. I tell him I don’t have any money. He asks if he “can have just 15, man . . . jist. . .jist TEN. Ten dollars, man!” What a bargain! Apparently $10 is all he needs. I say sorry and he says “FIVE. FIVE dollars and I’ll be ON MY WAY.” So I guess it’s not even a “loan” now? I say “Sorry man, I’m like seriously broke” and he says “come on, now . . . help a brother out!”  Here’s where it gets really embarrassing. I actually give him $5, after driving him ALL over town . . . I paid the crackhead to get out of my car and he leaves without another word.  In fact, I actually saw him the very next day on the street and he asked me for money again, without any recognition of me or memory of our precious time together. Did he even remember it happened? Did he even have thoughts about it? or did he just have an objective and I was a thing that might help him towards it? Well anyways, that’s how stupid I am.

Murderers!!! I am Not Simone Choule!!!!

Years ago, when I lived in my run-down Kansas City apartment, I had these two cats, Fen & Spooky. When they wanted out, I had to not only open my apartment door, but I had to go down a flight of stairs & open another door. Fen, as cats are prone to do, would remain happily indoors all day until I was happily asleep at which point he would howl and howl and knock small things off of shelves until I let him out. So it was, in the dead of the night, that I was groggily heading back up my stairs after letting him out when I shot a glance out my stairwell window. I happened to look out this window at the precise moment some woman was making her way past the stairway window of the apartment building across the street from me. Our eyes met . . . . mine sleepily, hers wide with horror as her jaw dropped, a cup fell out of her hand and she dashed down the hall, knocking on doors in what appeared to be an absolute panic.  Now, all of the sudden, I’m feeling like a criminal for looking out my own window. Did she think I was spying? Were my pants off? Am I covered in blood? Noooo, so I skulk back inside my apartment . . .  but I REALLY want to see what, if anything, is going on over there! . . . . is she still knocking on doors? Are the police being called? WTF? But I certainly don’t want to be all obvious about it so I make sure all my lights are back out. I very sneakily peer through my blinds only to see a crowd of people, in their night clothes, has now gathered before that stairway window, peering eagerly towards my apartment building and the second my fingers began to part those blinds, their heads all collectively turned from my stairwell to me as they all began to point and excitedly mouth “THERE!!!!”. Flashback of the scream in the end of Invasion of The Body Snatchers. At this point, I am hoping and praying I shut & locked my downstairs door because clearly, I can’t go out of my apartment ever again!

If you didn’t get the Simone Choule reference, then watch Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976). Also, you need to appreciate the amazing atmosphere of it’s Philippe Sarde soundtrack. Do this, please.

Shouldn’t You Be Avoiding The Light of Day, Kind Razor-Toothed Gentleman?

On a beautiful, sunny day in Kansas City, I was waiting to catch a bus heading downtown; the only one at the stop, when a kindly, dapper looking, older gentleman in a light brown suit , bowtie & cane walked up and stopped to wait for the bus along-side me. Just as the bus was pulling in, I glanced over towards him and as I did so, he tipped his hat to me and smiled, revealing a mouthful of razor sharp teeth filed to points. I decided I’d rather walk.

Shouldn’t he be avoiding sunlight and public transportation?  . . . I never imagine people with filed-down SHARK teeth getting old but I suppose it happens.

Jeepers Creepers: The Horror On Locust Street

The other day (over 20 years ago), when I was living KC, Missouri, I had a shitty little apartment in a run-down, midtown, 4-unit, 2 story, half stucco/half brick building bounded by an abandoned house, a vacant lot, a twin building (wrapped ENTIRELY in tar paper & inhabited by an old hermit) and across the street was a large 4 or 5 story apartment building. For the most part, I was the only tenant in my building apart from an older Billy D Williams type gentleman who kept an apartment across the hall as his own little secret love-pad, away from his wife.

Unbeknownst to me, as far as any of the neighbors knew, my building was entirely uninhabited. Occasionally, vagrants would move into the stairwell or use it for a toilet if I failed to lock my downstairs door. Squatters would hide-out in the downstairs apartments until discovered. Neighborhood children would dare each other to approach my building. They’d push each other towards the front door, which I often left open for my cats, and then run away screaming. One afternoon, I heard several boys playing on the downstairs porch, near the front door, when one of them shouted to the other “No!!!! Don’t go in THERE!!!! JEEPERS CREEPERS lives THERE!!!!”