Sunday, January 25, 2004

Kitchen Table Communist

So I have this Communist lapel pin.
Big deal.

I was supposed to throw it in the deepest, darkest hole that I could find when I became a 'Comrade-at-Arms' in the Royal Canadian Legion, but I couldn't bring myself to the task. So I left it on my lapel; as an appeasement to my Legion regulation book, I placed the Legion's lapel pin above the Communist one on my lapel.

One day, while waiting for the Kitchener Express Greyhound I found myself desperately in need of a sandwich. Many Torontonians will be familiar with "The Kitchen Table", a handy convenience/grocery/deli store, and have likely used one in the past to buy an apple.
While I was browsing the sandwich meats, the gal behind the counter said something quickly, and in a pretty thick eastern European accent.
I begged her pardon.
She repeated:

A- "Is that your pin?"
B- (pause)"My which?"
A- "Your pin."(pointing at the lapel of my jacket which the Communist trinket was affixed to)"Is that yours?"
B- (pause)"Who wants to know?"
A- "Where did you get it?"
B- "A friend brought it back from Moscow."
A- "It is always nice to meet people who share my interests."

I selected my meat and bread, hoping that my new Communist comrade might help crush Capitalism by giving me the sandwich for free. She did not.

I gave her a knowing wink as I left.

The sandwich was poorly made.

For the first time I felt very pleased that America had won the Cold War.

Near-Murder on the Toronto Express

Barely more than a year and a half ago my weekly ritual included taking a Greyhound Express bus from the Kitchener Terminal bound for Toronto to attend a fruitless audition, only to grab the milk run back home to Kitchener. Upon my arrival in Kitchener (after diverting excursions to Guelph and Cambridge) I'd be dumped back into the loving arms of Grand River Transit, who's unadvertised motto is "You'll get there when you get there!".

The sum total of the year I spent 'in transit' sucking air through a wound in my chest left by the casting agents' knives is but one memory. And some mild food poisoning from a "delicious home-made burger" I ate in blind faith at 'Kramden's Kafe' in the K-town Terminal.

A bus leaving Kitchener during rush hour is not unlike a sausage J. M. Schneider sent from the same city a century ago, only the bus is stuffed with humanity and not pig's lips and assholes. And for some reason I had a knack for always scoring a pair of seats to myself. There was something about me I could never put my finger on, but people just didn't seem to like the look of me. Maybe I looked like a 'talker', or a 'farter', or one of those guys described by neighbours as 'nice, quiet, always helped with the snow shoveling' just after an arrest for serial murder--I don't know--but the fact of the matter is, no one ever sat with me.
Until one day.
The day that had been coming down the pipe for a long time.

The aisle seat beside me was the last free seat on the bus (as usual), when I noticed a wayward soul, three sheets to the wind and a few bricks short of a load, heaving himself down the aisle towards me.
He clutched each seatback that he passed as if it was the only thing holding him from spinning off the planet. I, rightly, recognized his condition as 'Captain Morgan's sea legs'; an opinion I had drawn based on one waft of his breath I caught while he huffed and puffed his way towards the vacant seat.

He looked like the Big Bad Wolf's alcoholic father, who never asked to see report cards, and inevitably drove his son to eat little pigs while they huddled defiantly in their homes that cholesterol and sodium built.

On the seat beside me was my egg salad sandwich, basking in the late autumn sun reclined in a quiet and reflectful repose. Either it had accepted that I was going to eat it, or was naively looking forward to the wonders of the Big Smoke. Whichever the truth, my sandwich would go down a dark path that afternoon; a dark, denim crag, dusty and ill-kept. And only my hand would live to tell the tale.

When I realised that my egg salad sandwich was about to be sat on, there was only enough time for my hand to reach for it. The press of soft, cold egg salad put into sharp contrast the hot softness of A's posterior.

B- Hey!. . .That's my sandwich you just sat on!
(I was on my cellphone at the time to my darling one and only)
A- (no real change is posture)
B- You're sitting on my hand and my sandwich!!
A- (standing, barely) What the fuck!

And so ended our first round. No apology. No condolences. No more edible food.
My only consolation was the sweet voice of my true love on the line.

Then came Cambridge.

B- (after several heavy, and obvious, inhales) You gonna talk on that fucking phone all the way to Toronto?!
A- So what if I am?
B- 'Cause I didn't buy a ticket to listen to you talk all the way to Toronto.
A- Then don't listen--it's rude, anyway.
B- You're the fucking rude one!
A- You're the one that sat on my fucking sandwich without even a word of apology!
B- I had a ticket to that fucking seat, not your sandwich!
A- Yes he did! You didn't even ask for his ticket before you sat on him!

This drew snickers from the surrounding audience. We were getting heated, A and I, and loud. And decidedly less PG than a Greyhound should be.

B- Do you want to get off this fucking bus and settle this?! You little fuck?
A- (to phone) I have to get off the phone and deal with this asshole. Good bye.

These were, in my own sweet's mind, the last words that she would ever hear me say. Nowhere near as gallant as Todd M. Beamer's "Let's roll!" call to arms on September 11th, or Henry the Fifth's "Once more into the breach", but I'm no more an American hero than Ronald McDonald, and no more a King of England than Elton John is the Queen.
It was the best that I could do.

After A's charming 'call to arms', I told him that I'd really rather not have anything more to do with him. This prompted a one-sided staring contest, which is, obviously, not as effective as a two-sided one.
When I asked him to stop looking at me, A replied:
"No man tells me where to look!"

The only suitable reply was:
"I must be pretty damn handsome if you can't take your eyes off me."

More snickers from the peanut gallery.

We spent the remaining 45 minutes trying not to look at each other, or let our coat sleeves touch. I desperately wanted to let one of those baby-killing farts loose on him, but hadn't ate the right ingredients earlier for that kind of olfactory symphony of flavours.
If only he hadn't sat on my egg salad sandwich.

When we arrived at Toronto, he deboarded and disappeared into the cityscape, leaving me short one sensational fight sequence, but with my full compliment of teeth.
My one and only 'Casablanca' moment.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Shovel for hire.

Today, in the bitter cold, a homeless man made an interesting proposition to me.

Coming out of a store, into the bitter cold, I was met by what appeared to be a smile with two walleyes perched on top. The smile looked like a fairy's white bedsheets hung out to dry in the breeze, the way they wobbed about in A's mouth. A few of the sheets had blown away in the wind.

A- "Need some shoveling done?"
B- (trying to choose an eye to address)"Um. . .no. This isn't my store."
A- "Got a house?"
B- "Yep."
A- "I'll follow you home and shovel your walk there."
B- "I don't think that mom will let me keep you."
A- "What?"
B- "No thanks."

That's all we need at home; we already have two cats.

The Parthian Shot

A good friend of mine and I were walking home the other night by way of Don Jail Road, for the scenery I suppose, and witnessed what was likely the end result of months and months of build up.

A sole corrections officer, Officer A we'll call him, was leaving the facility by way of the front door. It was late. Officer A was the type of guy that would not, if this was a porn movie, be the lead. No, he would be the character actor who provides comic relief. The type that usually has an underwhelming man Johnson--a flower wilting in the shadow of his enormity--who wears glasses and ends up putting the handcuffs on himself instead of the well-hung crook. . .who then later must be subdued by a large-breasted corrections officer (we'll call her Officer D) who. . .well, you get the idea.


So Officer A rolled himself down the ramp at the Don Jail, stopping halfway to stoop and scoop up two handfuls of snow. Surveying the side of the jail, he then appeared to bob his head, as some first graders do when counting how many brownies are left if there were a dozen and the puppy got on the counter and ate three, and threw his carefully-packed snowball at the blacked-out, barred window his head had bobbed its way to.

Noticing us noticing him, he got nervously on his way. I think that he felt a need to explain.

But he didn't. We understood perfectly.
Some convicts can be real jerks.

I would suggest to him, though, that he go home and put a snowball in his freezer (where mom won't throw it out) and wait until June when Johnny Badness gets released. Think of the surprise to be hit by a snowball then!

Of course, there is a certain safety in throwing a snowball at a man behind a blacked-out barred window.