Thursday, July 14, 2005

Gregory's Rib Shack has Closed

I had heard rumors that it had closed. But, I live 400 miles away so I could not exactly go knock on the door. I emailed Phil Hey and asked him. He said that James had just gotten tired and wanted to go back to Seattle. He fed a lot of people in the over 11 years that he was open. I will miss the pulled pork and cole slaw sandwich that he called the Little Pig Sandwich. My son Damien really liked the Gregory the Great burger. I will always remember the good times that I had there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Little Freddy and The Laughing Bush

It is a green house now.
It use to be a red house,
when I was a kid.
It has a big front porch.
Kind of a long house.
Not all that wide.
I think they call it craftsman style.
It is in the middle of the block,
on the west side of Jackson Street.

It had a nice backyard.
Great for playing catch.
But no good for
for playing a real ball game.
But we use to hang out there alot
until I was about twelve.
That is when the family moved away.
They were getting successful.
They had joined the Country Club.
Had to leave the old neighborhood.
They were great people.
I was sad when they left.

A few years before they left
something happened to me.
It happened right there.
Right behind the red house.
I told you it was green now, right?

On the north side of the yard,
there was a tall redwood fence.
It had to be painted every year.
The weather was very rough.

On the west side of the yard,
there was a row of cottonwood trees.
They cut the tops off every year.
The power lines were very close.

On the east side of the yard,
there was the back of the house.
The kitchen door was always open.
and we always ran in and out.

On the south side of the yard,
there was a row of thorn bushes.
They were always being trimmed.
They grew very fast.

This is where it happened.
It happened on the south side of the yard.
It happened on the same dirt we are on now.
It happened under the same sky that is up there now
Maybe the planets and stars
have moved a little.
But not that much.

It was late afternoon.
It was in the fall.
The dads were still at work.
Some of the moms were at work.
Some were cooking dinner.
Well, we were all kids
and we were playing.
It was some kind of tag.
Some kind of pushing tag.

First you push.
Then you get pushed.
Lots of running.
Lots of yelling.
Lots of pushing.
Some kind of pushing tag.

So somebody pushes me.
I don't remember who.
I begin to fall.
Very slowly.
Very slowly into the thorn bushes.
The nicely trimmed thorn bushes.
The ones on the south side of the yard.
In back of the red house.
It is a green house now.

I can't see the kids running.
I can't hear the kids yelling.
I can't see the kids pushing.

But I am spinning.
Going round and round.
Maybe somewhere inside of me.
Maybe somewhere outsde of me.
Maybe nowhere.
Maybe everywhere.
It is real quiet.
It is just me I guess.
I didn't know what was going on.

Then I can hear the laughing.
Everyone was laughing.
But the sound was far away.

Then I could see the kids.
They were all smiling.
But they were far away.

And I felt warm inside.
And I felt happy inside.
And I could feel myself
coming closer to them.
And I was thinking
that laughing was great.
And igniting laughter was going to be my job here.
Even if I was the only one laughing.
The laughing was louder.
The faces were right above me.
I was lying on the ground.
I was under the thorn bush.

Jimmy held out his hand.
And he pulled me up.
And everybody said
that I was great
at falling down.
And everybody was happy.

Right by the nicely trimmed thorn bushes.
Right there on the south side of the yard.
In back of the red house.
The one that is green now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Eight Bucks

Every year down by the Missouri River
There was a carnival.
And every year we went.
We would take the special bus.
And I got to ride the rides.
The ferris wheel.
The bumper cars.
The merry-go-round.
The tilt-a-whirl.
Until I started feeling dizzy.
Then I would ride some more.

And every year we ate.
The cotten candy.
The hotdogs.
The caramel corn.
The rootbeer float.
Until I started feeling sick.
Then I would eat some more.

And every year we played the games.
The coin toss.
The free throw game.
The ring toss.
The milk bottle game.
Until I lost all my money.
Then my mom would say "No more!"

And we would take the special bus home.
Just a great night of decadance for a little kid.
One to be repeated year after year.

Until one year.
The carnival was down by the Missouri River.
We took the special bus.
I rode the ferris wheel.
I rode the bumper cars.
I rode the merry-go-round.
I rode the tilt-a-whirl.
I felt dizzy.
Then I rode some more.

I ate the cotten candy.
I ate the hotdogs.
I ate the caramel corn.
I had a rootbeer float.
I felt sick.
Then I ate some more.

I lost at the coin toss.
I lost at the free throw game.
I lost at the ring toss game.
I lost at the milk bottle game.
I lost all my money.
Then the Carney said that he would give me a free game.
And my mom said yes.
And I threw that ball hard
And I knocked all the bottles down.
And I asked for my prize.
And the Carney said free games are just practice.
No prizes.

The Carney asked me how much I had lost at his booth.
I said a buck.
He said if I paid him another buck for three games
and I just won one game he would give me five bucks.
In those days my allowance was a quarter a week
So I could win twenty weeks allowance just by knocking down
three milk bottles.
My mom fronted me the buck.
I threw the ball hard.
I knocked one bottle down.
The next time I missed everything.
The Carney said he thought I could do it on the last throw.
I took careful aim.
I threw hard.
I missed.

Well the Carney started to like me.
And kept giving me free practice games.
And I was getting in some solid throws.
And he kept offering me special deals.
And my mom kept fronting me money.
And I kept missing.
And then my mom said "No more!"

We took the special bus home.
We did not talk on the bus.
My friend, the Carney had my eight bucks.
One buck that was mine.
And seven bucks my mom had fronted me.
Eight bucks.

Thirtytwo weeks allowance.
I don't know if I ever paid it all back.
But I think the Carney liked me.

We did not go to the carnival the next year.
I did not ride the rides.
I did not eat the food.
I did not play the games.
We did not ride the special bus.
We did not not talk about it.
But I think the Carney missed me.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Three Days in the Brickyards

One time I got mad at my boss at the retread shop.
It was 1968 and some of the guys liked George Wallace.
George was running for President of the United States.
He had been the Governor of Alabama.
They said that they liked him because he was gonna stop
all that racial integration and all those protesting hippies.
Somebody had to, they said.
You guys are nuts, I said.
Well my hair was getting a little long by then
and I was feeling more and more uncomfortable
hearing their crazy talk during breaks.

So, I went out to the brickyards.
They are in those hills south of town.
On the other side of the railroad tracks.
I did not have a car in those days.
I got a ride with this guy I knew.
They hired me on the spot.

They called me a picker.
My job was to pick up bricks one in each hand.
Then stack them on a pallet.
After an hour my arms were killing me.
Bricks are not so heavy one at a time.
But after awhile the muscles just want to give out.

Bricks are made of water and clay.
They got the clay from the hills behind the plant.
They are called loess hills.
Loess hills are some kind of rare type of hill.
Now clay is just dried up ocean.
Full of dried up clams and fish.
Full of dried up plants.
Full of dried up time.

Now they mix the clay with water.
Then they pour it into a mold.
Then it is fired in a kiln.
Then it comes out.
Then we would pick it.
Then it would dry in the back somewhere.
Then they would ship it somewhere for a building.
Then the salesman would get a bonus.
Then the owners would...
Well I don't know exactly what they would do.
I only worked there three days.

My picker crew was the fastest crew there.
They said that I slowed them down.
They knew that I was new.
There were three brothers
that kept to themselves.
Two guys on work release
from the county jail.
And one guy that lived in an old boxcar outback.
The bosses knew he lived there.
He had a still where he made his own booze.
Well these guys could all work
maybe twice as fast as me.

On the night of the third day at the brickyards,
my old boss at the retread shop
calls me on the phone.
He says that he wants me back.
Offers me a twentyfive cent an hour raise.
Sounding good.
I tell him no.
But inside I am thinking
that I could be making a buck fifty an hour.
Holy Shit! I'd be rich!
Then he says he was sorry about
all the wierd political talk
about Wallace and such.
Well I said that I was glad that he was sorry
and that he had seen the error of his ways.
He probably still voted for Wallace
or maybe Nixon.

The final part of the offer was this.
I would be running the tire mold room
from four in the afternoon
till one in the morning.
I would be alone from five o'clock on.
I accepted the offer.

See I could walk to the retread shop
in fifteen minutes.

The brickyards were always hot.
The heat from the kiln.
The summer sun.
I lost five pounds in three days.

The mold room at the retread shop was hot.
A fourhundred and fifty square foot room.
There were seven passenger tire molds
and four truck tire molds.
Each of them hot enough to melt the rubber strips
that were glued to the old tire casings
that were in the molds
that would inprint
the new tread design.
Each mold took five minutes to change.
The truck molds maybe a little longer.
Sometimes a tire would explode.
And I would get behind.

But at one I was done.
And on Friday nights
Billy the Fox would drive by
and pick me up
and hand me an ice cold beer.

And once in awhile I would think about
how I sold myself for
a twentyfive cent an hour raise.