Sunday, May 22, 2005

I wanted to go look at new Nissans, but this pooch at the entrance seemed a little too enthusiastic to see me...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mail is Exciting

Last Monday, one of my customer service reps took a call from a lady who wanted us to mail a hundred thousand pieces. She said she was doing that many a week. She sent a sample over and it was a very nice four color process mailpiece illustrating a large line of very expensive purses. The likes of Prada, Coach, Gucci and Luis Vuitton.

The next morning, a truck came in with her material but the driver announced that it was collect. My dock guy asked him who it was for and he said he couldn’t tell us. He asked the driver to show him what it looked like so he could know who to call. The driver refused. Then the driver walked to the back of his van, opened the door slightly and started talking on his cell phone. He seemed really nervous and the dock guy wondered if he was actually talking to somebody.

Eventually he determined that it was for the aforementioned lady that had called in the day before. We told the driver we wouldn’t pay for it and called the lady who said, “no problem, I’ll be right over to pay him for it!”

Five minutes later she wheels into the parking lot, pops out of her Ford Expedition and trots up to the loading dock, check in hand.

But, as she hands the driver the check, the back doors of the van burst open and a barrage of men in dark suits explodes onto the pavement throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her. All this as five more non-descript government cars come roaring up and our parking lot and dock area fills with FBI agents and Postal Inspectors.

They spent the next hour clad in latex gloves and methodically taking everything in her car out of her car and photographing it all. They towed her car away and she left in the back seat of one of the sedans with a lady agent.

I guess that means she won’t be a customer after all…

Sunday, May 15, 2005

You Suck!

Do you sometimes find that you have an expectation of something that turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy? The lines get blurred and it’s hard to tell if things turned out the way they did because you were right or because you were itching for a fight.

Growing up in central Arkansas, most of us were weaned on “Tex-Mex” style Mexican food. Brownings, Casa Bonita, Pancho’s Villa and of course Mexico Chiquito all served the ubiquitous cheddar cheese and hamburger meat style Mexican food that I’m certain cannot be found in any part of Mexico.

And, these days, it’s getting hard to find around here. Sometime around twenty years ago, the so-called “authentic” Mexican restaurants started coming in. I’ll admit, I found it a refreshing change, being my nature to embrace change, especially in couisine.

But, with the possible exception of La Hacienda on Cantrell Road, all of the Mexican restaurants in this area serve white cheese, runny beans, margarita style food that tastes the same no matter which one you go to.

And I find myself longing for the old fashioned Tex-Mex of my youth. Comfort food of sorts. Trouble is, there are very few of those places left. Brownings is way over in Little Rock, and you know how us Dog Town denizens loathe to go there unless it’s to work.

And that leaves Mexico Chiquito. The old dame of Tex-Mex in this area. But the problem is, ever since a guy named Haney bought it off of the family, it has had the worst service of any restaurant (dare I say?) in the world. Well, actually the KFC and Taco Bell franchises he owns suffer from the same malaise.

I have dealt with these establishments for enough years to recognize that he obviously doesn’t waste any time or money on training. I’ll give them one thing – they are all rude. All of them. And since there are KFC’s and Taco Bells all over the world, I don’t go to the ones he owns. It’s not worth the aggravation.

But every once in a while, I just have that comfort food craving for Mexico Chiquito food. Yes, that has gone downhill quite a bit too, but it’s still a decent representation of the genre. I’d go a lot more if not for the sheer piss-you-off factor. Let’s face it, all of Haney’s restaurants suck. Hell, the nicest one he owned, the one in Lakewood Village, was closed down for health code violations that were so blatant and bad they ended up tearing the entire structure down (did they haul it to a toxic waste dump?) and building an entirely different restaurant on the site. One that Haney doesn’t own, I suspect.

I succumbed, once again tonight, and went to the drive through in Levy. They do a volume business, I’ll grant them that, and after a fifteen minute wait in line, I placed my order at the sign. The voice on the speaker staticked out an unintelligible dollar amount.

Having been through the aggravation of getting to the window and finding my order incomplete and being told I didn’t order certain things, I asked the clerk to read me back my order. Sigh, unintelligible remark in a sarcastic tone of voice, a lightening quick recitation (also unintelligible) of my order and I pulled forward.

The girl at the window scowled at me and demanded an unintelligible sum of money which I asked her to repeat. She shouted it out to me with a glare and I handed her the money. I could see her staring at the cash register through the closed glass window and she seemed puzzled. Window slides open and she demands, “how much did I tell you?”

“Seventeen dollars and seventy three cents,” I replied. “Well, it’s 17.83,” she snapped back. I handed her another dime.

She never said thank you when she handed me the sack of food and closed the window. I checked it over quickly and found everything in order for a change.

Bitch probably spit in it.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Fo’ Shizzle…

Being a perennial late bloomer, I’m always the last to hear about the latest fad. I’m told break dancing is a big deal these days. Imagine my surprise when I discovered blogging some months back.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was familiar with email, and I have known for several years that the internet was a place to buy and sell at auction and to find porn. But a place where you can write whatever your heart desires and people read it? I’m grateful to both of you for reading this, really.

I discovered blogging quite by accident, actually, by doing a google search and getting referred to a blog. I thought, “hmmm, that’s crazy” and bookmarked it to check back later and see what this guy was up to.

I lurked surreptitiously for a few weeks before I decided to check out what it takes to get your own blog. I followed the Blogger links, took a few strokes and created this site which I have been infrequently updating, receiving encouragement from a couple of fainéant fans bystanders leaving comments.

Since this has become a part of my life now, I decided some time back to try and connect with my blogfather, Nixon, and arrange a meeting in real life. This, I accomplished on Friday.

So, we decided by email to meet on neutral territory and went to eat Vietnamese food over in Little Rock. Nixon was fairly easy to recognize even though he tried to throw me off by shaving his beard that morning, so he really didn’t look so much like the photo on his website.

We had an excellent and healthy lunch of spring rolls, lemongrass chicken and Tom Rim (hot and spicy shrimp). All washed down with copious amounts of iced tea and hot green tea. We were lucky enough to have the cute Mongolian girl wait on us instead of the dumpy Fuzhou waitress that brought my appetizer for dessert last week.

All in all a good lunch, getting to know someone personally who you only know through the written word. We joked that we didn’t have anything to say since we both read about each other on our blogs. But somehow we did and the conversation was good.

So, Nixon, glad to know ya! And you, yes that other reader lurking out there, if you’re ever in town, my hizzle is yo’ hizzle.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Southern Comfort

I guess just about every southern boy feels like it’s his patriotic duty to drink Southern Comfort at some point in his young life. That sickly sweet concoction with the friendly label that's hard to resist. I guess that’s why Rob knows so many folks with a Southern Comfort story to tell. And, as he points out, most of them don’t involve repeat performances.

Do you think it’s really possible for a company to stay in business by only supplying the once in a lifetime alcohol experience from hell to teenagers?

I’m no different. Hell, I probably wore a Confederate kepi when I drank that shit, not to mention yelling a few “yee-haws” and a couple of “git nekkids” for good measure. I chose for my comfort experience a new years eve somewhere in the mid seventies.

It was cold, of course, and my pard Bill and I drove over in my 1967 Chevy van. Him with his conservative case of beer (dumbass) and me with my fifth of Southern Comfort. I certainly felt like he was passing up a chance to have some real fun. Definitely not the sophisticated redneck I imagined myself.

The party was in the upstairs rec room of an apartment complex. I remember it had a huge deck outside and there was a live band playing in front of the large stone fireplace. Things started out normal with the usual hammering back slugs from the bottle, taunting Bill into trying a shot here and there and hitting on girls.

The band was loud and we didn’t really know anybody. I don’t think we were actually invited, but there we were and we were ready to partay.

In those days Bill was wont to get in fights, or at least get them started. I don’t believe he actually enjoyed the fighting part but rather the stirring folks up to the point they lost control of themselves. I think he still likes that, to this day. I don’t really remember if he got the fight started at this party, but I’ll be willing to give credit where it’s due.

Regardless, a fight broke out over near the kitchen area and spread pretty quickly to at least a quarter of the room. I backed into a corner to watch the excitement and make sure my half bottle of SC didn’t get broken. I was feeling pretty warm and my wishes to my fellow man were all of the happy sort. I dangled my feet off of a table and took a few more swigs.

There was a kid I went to school with that was the epitome of pacifism. Never said a cross word to anyone in his life and would never raise a hand in anger. He came staggering over to my table with blood all over his face and down the front of his shirt.

“What the hell happened to you?” I asked.

“Shit, man,” he replied, “I came out of the bathroom and was in the middle of the biggest fucking fight I ever saw in my life!” Wrong place, wrong time, I guess.

The band was feverishly packing their equipment up and trying to get it to safety.

And, I was beginning to feel somewhat un-well. I slid out the door onto the deck. I’m still trying to finish the Southern Comfort but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to swallow. My stomach is starting to quiver and an earthquake began somewhere in my lower intestine. Volcanic action and tidal waves combined to heave me over the railing, craning my neck out and spewing caustic, alcoholic vomit all over the cars parked below in the lot.

Four or five heaves and I felt like a nap was in order. I curled up in the corner of the deck, my breath steaming clouds into the cold air, clutching myself and shivering, I went to sleep. I don’t know what time it was, but Bill came out and woke me up and said it was time to leave. I pulled myself to my feet and staggered down the stairs to the van and climbed into the driver’s seat. Somehow at this point, I wasn’t so worried about making sure I got the rest of my Southern Comfort to take with me.

I reached in my jeans pocket and pulled out my key ring and it came apart and sprayed keys all over the floor board on the drivers’ side. I fished around on the floor, dizzy and green around the lips and after an eternity found the ignition key and stuck it into the slot in the dashboard.

That is the last thing I remember of that night. My next memory was being shaken awake in the dark to Bill’s voice saying, “come on, man, it’s time to go in.” I was laying in the back of my van looking out the open side door. I moaned and lay back down. After a minute I heard Bill say, “fuckit, I’m going to bed.” And the door slammed. I closed my eyes and slipped into a coma until morning.

I've never drank Southern Comfort again, but I can still tell you exactly what it tastes like...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Mama’s Nasty Poodle

Bitterman gets all nostalgic recounting youthful indiscretions at the drive-in movies. And really, by the time I was old enough to go to them in my own car, I had lost interest in doing so. There were so many more private places to take dates and ingest substances.

But I do have fond memories of the drive-in theatres. They were destinations on weekend nights for families as well as amorous teens and all of them around here had playgrounds up by the concession stand in the early sixties.

Dad made the rounds of all of the drive-ins around Little Rock and I’m sure he was getting mom all bothered whilst we were playing dive bomber on the swing sets. Somehow we weren’t all that interested in seeing Liz Taylor as Cleopatra, though I admit I was pretty mesmerized by the bastinado scene in Lawrence of Arabia.

The Razorback was down on the river and had mosquitoes the size of small birds along with a railroad track that ran right down the edge of the drive-in. If memory serves me, I think they paused the movie when trains went through. I seem to remember that it was a twin screen drive-in with a screen at each end and you could switch movies if you were on foot and didn’t like the one you started with.

And, we always had to hoof it over to the exit gate to marvel at the one-way spikes that kept you from sneaking in the wrong way with your headlights off. There were always stories whispered at school about the friend of a friend’s older brother who tried it.

The Twin City was over in Dog Town (there’s a Kohl’s there now).

Why is it that businesses on the north side of the river always used the name Twin City, but you never see any mention of another city when you’re in Little Rock? We didn’t go there much because of the provincial thing. Folks in Little Rock don’t go north of the river for anything, and vice versa.

The Asher was closest to home and probably where we spent the most time.

About the time I was twelve or thirteen, they started having X rated movies at the Asher. I think they got away with it because the back of the screen faced the highway and the screen itself faced out over the parking lot into a cow pasture that belonged to Coleman Dairy. Which, of course, was this city boy’s introduction to hanging out in cow pastures. If you were brave enough, you would slip through the fence and turn the closest speaker up so you could hear.

This area was prone to being patrolled by the security guards from the movies, however, and sometimes you had to be nimble on your feet to thread your way out of the field without getting caught or cowshit on your shoes. Eventually, we met a guy that worked at West’s Department Store that pointed out to us that you could see the movie just fine from the back door of the store and he would even set a few chairs out there in the alley for us to sit in.

When the guards patrolled along the fence and shined their flashlights on us then, we could thumb our noses with impunity because we were guests of West’s Department Stores. Somehow that was more fun than actually seeing a fourteen foot penis penetrate a Volkswagen sized vagina.

But for pure educational purposes, nothing was better than sitting down with a cold beer and a joint and watching the slide shows over at the Whittaker’s.

Mike worked at a major film processing center here in town, ColorPrint. And he processed slides on the night shift.

Back in those days, film processors wouldn’t print photos of a racy nature. Once they developed the negatives and realized what they were, they would send the negatives back with no prints. The laws were pretty strict, I guess.

But folks in the know realized that slide film develops into positives, albeit ones that have great color definition and clarity of detail. And, what are they going to do once they’re processed?

Well, mount them in the cardboard holders, put them in your envelope and send them to you. Oh, after duping off a set for the operator to take home for his pleasure. Mike had a dresser drawer full of these things. When Frank Zappa sang about your mama’s nasty poodle, I saw the pictures he was referring to.

Now that would have looked cool fourteen feet high on the screen at the Asher Drive-In.