Monday, May 26, 2008

Coworkers: Part 28 - Snowball

    I had to interview for weekend Classical help. Not that I needed help, but Dallas said we should have coverage for nights and Sundays. The Boss didn't want to deal with applicants, since most classical types were muffins. He gave me Mike's old list of questions, and said it would help weed prospects. Any of you could have answered these questions: Who wrote 1812 Overture? Who wrote Carmina Burana? Who wrote Rhapsody In Blue?
    After the first headless cork, I devised my own questions.
    My smile was friendly, but my test was totally contemptuous. The Boss walked by once, dropped his jaw at the exchange.
    "Who wrote Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite?"
    "Uhhh ... pass."
    "Alright, do you know who composed Pachelbel's Canon In D?"
    "Can we come back to that one?"
    "No problem. Who wrote Handel's Water Music?"
    "Hmmm ... pass."
    The guy wore striped pants, checkered sport coat, his hair was glued in place with pressed rat oil.

    Then came Roland. Didn't even question him. Guy had a thorough knowledge of classical. Blonde. Fluffy turtleneck sweater. Soft hands. Pompous, irritating. Mensa underachiever. Told The Boss he'd be the same as Jeri Jo. That the crew would hate him.
    Roland was hired, and immediately began annoying everyone.
    "Hey, could you get that door?"
    "What do you mean? Get the door what? A cookie? Or is the door actually some felon door? Did it steal a doorknob?"
    "Hold the fucking door, loser!"
    "Fucking door? Is the door trying to create baby doors? I don't see any other doors. Or is it asexual?"

    Stupid twat.
    Dan was especially good at leading Roland into his shit bucket questions. But ... that's Dan. Most of the crew shunned Roland. Rob, Stacey, and Todd, predictably enough, simply wanted Roland stabbed.
    Preferably up the ass.

    We'd won $300 for a District wide Blur contest. Blew it all on a big party at Pat's shack. I rolled in early to see the lads, Chris & Joe, check how Jesse was doing, then split.
    Everyone else soaked up beer and tequila, reefer, Ecstasy, and LSD until they were blotto. By morning, most coworkers would awake next to dried vomit or semen.
    Roland, somewhat stupidly, attended as well.
    Lo, the temptation of free food.
    "Oooh ... a sheepdog," he saw Pat's dog in the backyard. "What's its name?"
Robster answered in a heartbeat.
    "Really? For a sheepdog?" He turned to Todd.
    "Right on, man. Snowball," Todd didn't miss a beat.
    "C'mere, Snowball," Roland walked outside, and began scampering on all fours. "Snowball - Snowball - Snowball."
    Everyone inside broke up. Roland was the ignorant butt of a cruel in-store joke.
    If one of the girls went out the night before, someone might ask how many snowball moments she enjoyed.
    "Go fuck yourself," was the usual response. Or the Gilda classic, "I don't know. How many times did you solo snowball your own cob last night, dickface?"
    Robster had picked up the snowball jargon at some club and dumped it in the store. According to our underground prowler, snowballing was hot in the club world. Sharing semen from mouth to mouth. Rectal semen.
    "Snowball! Come here, boy!"
    Course we've all razzed Rob for the clubs he frequented.
    "Oh, Snowball."
    Meanwhile, Roland, Mr Mensa, supercilious and argumentative, chased the sheepdog on all fours.
    What if someone said the pooch's name was Fisting?
    "Oh, Fisting."
    Armpits drenched, gold rimmed glasses steamed over, he strutted towards the back door. Einstein trapped in the monkey cage. Why was everyone laughing? Remedial school dropouts. Slipped in dog shit.
    "Just what is so funny? I demand to know. Snowball, that's NOT the dog's name, is it?"
    Sorry, dude. And someone explained.
    "But," he tensed up, "I'm no homosexual. I'm not gay."
    I heard it was Todd who tilted his head and said, straight faced, "Not yet."
    Roland left the party. Quit the store.
    Someone said he enlisted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Coworkers: Part 29 - Toad

  Thursday. We were supposed to be processing the shipment, but most people were working on their promo lists. John and Layla would be pulling tomorrow. Everyone was there so precious little was getting accomplished. Joao's massive list, of course, was already in.
  I was returning from the Ridglea Library. Squashed on the pavement behind the beauty shop, was the dried flattened husk of a toad. I carried it to the store backroom. (Well, I'd already had my ice cream.) Greg immediately suggested we add it to Joao's promo bag tomorrow. Joao's #1 pick was Frogstomp, he clearly wanted that.
   Dan found an empty CD case and pressed the flattened toad into it, then bonded it on the Frogstomp case.
  Two days afterwards, Joao had mulled over his 100 CDs, mostly crap to resell. Greedy bastard. Even better, he had initially overlooked the "limited edition" CD of Frogstomp with lifelike amphibian. Yet there it was. His #1 pick.
   Hell, yeah!
   He was thrilled. Everyone congratulated the lucky stiff.
  Six months later, I was chatting with Roy, Joao's brother, and he mentioned the Frogstomp CD. Seemed the label had used shoddy plastic, and something was starting to smell funny. Joao had moved it to his closet, and now his clothes had this funky odor ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Customers: Part 07 - Dingo

  "Aww, hell, it's Dingo."
  "Who?" Joe looked past me at the guy entering the store.
  "Dingo," I replied. "The Dingo Warrior. He's a wrestler." I made quote marks in the air.
   Joe's eyes lit up. I forgot he was a huge wrestling fan. Pat had raised both her sons poorly in that regard.
   "Dingo is an Australian wrestler," I continued. I slapped my cheek. "He's about as Australian as my ass."
   We had two wrestling regulars. Dingo and General Von Kessler. I had helped the General a couple of times. He was an old guy, late 50s, bald, stocky, built like a bread loaf. He had come in one night with the missus, a daughter, and a grandson, about 16. He wanted new entrance music. He hummed what the gym currently aired, sounded like Sousa.
   "Von Kessler," I began, "are you like ... Nazi wrestler?"
  "Ya," he beamed.
   His wife carried a small photo album and opened it up. There he was, overweight old guy wearing trunks. Arms extended, holding flag aloft, the red field and black swastika of the National Socialist Party. The Nazis.
   "Are you, uhh, the villain?"
  "Ya vol!" he smiled again.
   I picked out two el cheapo cassettes of Orff and Wagner. Led them to the front playstack, put headphones on him, then played two store CDs.
  "These are perfect!"
   Advised him to stick with O Fortuna and Ride Of The Valkyries.    The grandson grasped my intentions and said he could make his grandpa a cassette mix.
   Month or so later, I saw the grandkid. Said the music was massive. The crowd HATED The General and booed loudly.
  "And ... " the kid shook his fists, "he won his match! Grandpa never wins, but he won that one."

   Anyway ... back to the other wrestler. I went over to see if Mister Dingo needed assistance. He usually bought dance nonsense, the kind of drivel I had a guilty taste for. Except I'd never play Black Box for my ringside entrance music. What a maroon. I'm sure that scared the shit out of Kevin and Kerry Von Erich.
   "Hey, Dingo. You finding everything alright?"
  "You got CeCe Peniston?"
   What a dick. Underneath that shaggy blonde hair was a thick skull and a soft brain.
   Back at the register, Joe started asking questions. Sports reporter questions. Couldn't tell if they were real or satirical. I didn't relate with Joe as well as I did with younger brother, Chris.
  "Hello, mate, how you doing?" Joe asked.
  "Doing great."
   "Worthy, said you're the Dingo Warrior."
   "I am. Dingo, the wild dog of Australia," he puffed his chest.
  "And you say mate?"
   "No. Of course not, that sounds stupid."
   "But you're Australian," Joe persisted. "I thought you all said mate."
   "Mate? Look, I'm the Dingo Warrior, not the Pirate Warrior," he corrected my coworker.
  "When you're in the ring ... is that stuff real?"
   "How can you ask that? Look at these scars!" Held out his forearms.
   Looked like welding scars and bad sunburn to me. I peered inside his bag. What else had he bought? Deee-Lite. Jeez. I could wrestle that guy. Hell, Sweeney could whip his ass.
  "Hey! Good talking with you," Dingo made to leave. "And I'll see you ... ringside." He punched the air and strutted out.
   "So, you ready to be a wrestling star?" I kidded Joe.
  "I don't know who that guy was, but he wasn't Dingo," Joe shook his head.
   "He's not the Dingo Warrior?" I exclaimed. "But he's always said he was!"
  "Naw, he's a fake. Too old, too short, too fat. Listens to shit, too."

BONUS: a New Generation

The Real Dingo Warrior (back in the day ...)


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Coworkers: Part 30 - Visiting Mouse Lair‏

   The last time I attended an official office party, I was released the next day.
   That's so vague. I was fired.
   I could have offered the lame excuse that the punch was spiked. Or that I thought it was reefer, when it was Thai sticks. Or that I hadn't been that out of control. Fact was, I didn't know. I couldn't remember.
   My brain was an ash cloud.
   That was years ago. I was younger. Reckless.
   Ever since, I wasn't one to party, hang, or chill with coworkers. I lunched with everyone, never cared where we went. Correction, I adamantly refused to dine at the nearby Chinese food poisoner. Poodle with noodle, you like, indeed. Most of us drove to Mexican cafes or burger joints. Given the choice, I opted for Kincaid's, in a class by itself. I could always get Pat or Greg to accompany me.
   Yet going clubbing or parties? No. I saw coworkers eight hours a day. More than enough. Listened daily to tales of hangovers, drugged amnesia, bed bouncing. Experiences fresh to them, reruns for me. After hours would offer the same, louder. Plus, I was about ten years older. Old guy at the club. Most of my coworkers still kept that hopeful optimism consistent with young people. I was terribly cynical, and had been so since I was thirteen. So, I politely declined or simply ignored requests for after hours activities which my colleagues graciously, consistently, invited me to.
   That meant I tried not to visit homes or apartments, either.
   At least I tried not to ...

   "Do me a favor and run this by Pat's house on your way home."
   The Boss waved some papers at me.
   I stood next to my box, looking for some notes. I would be clocking out in fifteen minutes.
   "What do you have?" I asked.
   "Insurance forms. They have to be signed today and sent off tonight. John will swing by her house at 7:00 and pick them up."
   Why couldn't she just drive herself, I wondered. I took the forms without a word.
   "What's her address?"
   He told me. Pat lived one block off my route home. No problem.

   " ... the kitchen, don't look. I still have dishes. The room needs repainting."
   Pat was giving me the obligatory tour of the casa.
   " ... Dining area ... "
   Everything looked nice. Orderly. Pat did well with her budget, and with two sons.
   " ... and The Magic Kingdom."
   What on God's earth ...
   An entire room had been devoted to Mickey Mouse. Posters, framed pictures. Dolls, inflatable stand-ups, cardboard stand-ups, statues. Several sets of mouse ears for humans to wear. I couldn't help myself,
   "Do you make guys wear the ears to enhance the romance?"
   "Stop it."
   There was more. A Mickey wigwam, big enough for three children, a mouse rocket ship, rocking chair, clock. Three clocks. Three Mickey Mouse clocks.
   "So, you got any Minnie Mouse items with this -- "
   "I don't care for Minnie," Pat interrupted. "She's not ... my favorite."
   How could such a mouse fan not like Minnie? I'm sure Pat had her reasons.
   Certainly not competition. I mean ... for a shrill voiced, big eared, cartoon figure?
   "Hmm, how about Morty? Mickey's so-called nephew," I made quote marks in the air.
   "Stop it."
   Pat may have had a lot of "favorites," dead musicians, select coworkers, but one favorite towered above all others. The cartoon rodent.
   The Magic Kingdom was beyond belief. Jeez, forget the Magic. This was Mouse Lair. Curtains, wallpaper, throw rugs, pillows. Books, comic books, magazines. Trash can, fake phone, pails, lunchboxes, silverware. A music player.
   "Don't tell me, this plays -- "
   Great. Now the Mouse Lair echoed with annoying children. Singing Disneyland crapola. Piercing rugrats were hard to tune out. Pat turned the volume louder. I thought she was getting even for a lot of my bad behavior. Women never forget anything.
   "Is that a Mickey Mouse ashtray?"
   Pat nodded.
   "Do you have a Mickey condom dispenser?"
   "Stop it."
   "What is that, a dollhouse?"
   "No!" Pat reached inside the four foot house and withdrew some figures. "It's a puppet theater!"
   "No way!" I laughed out loud. That had to be one of the funniest things I'd ever seen.
   "And do you still have puppet shows with them?"
   Pat blushed and dropped her head.
   "Yeah, get that video cam going and Mickey recites Hamlet. Or Dashiell Hammett! Mickey, Rat Detective. Or Westerns. Mickey On the Mesquite. Naw, that sounds like barbeque. Sure you don't have a Minnie Mouse for the saloon scene?"
   "Well, when cowpokes ride into town, they're usually thirsty and -- "
   "Stop! Out! I don't want to think -- "
   "But where do you think Morty came from?"
   "I'm not listening." And she began singing the Mickey Mouse theme. Loud. Pat sang a trifle off key, and she was louder than those damn kids, still squealing from that jambox.

   I was promptly ushered out of the Mouse Lair, then bum rushed to the exit. So if there were any extras in the fridge, I missed them.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coworkers: Part 31 - Hey, Where's My Wine?

   This wasn't a request. This wasn't a suggestion. This was a command from the Bromeroids. My presence in Dallas was mandatory. No excuse, aside from death, would be accepted. EMI was throwing a gala listening premier for Paul McCartney. I had to attend. All Classical managers had to attend. No exceptions. McCartney had written some classical songfest for Liverpool, and Capitol was trying to create buzz, get all us section managers fired up.
   Hold me back.
   I was also urged, strongly urged, to bring a guest.
   Zelda was less than thrilled.
   Until I told her the event was going to be fully catered.
   "How fully catered?" she queried.
   "I phoned Charlie, head classical guy in Dallas, and he said full wine bar."
   "We're going!"

   This was supposedly huge. No idea how huge. Hell, maybe Sir Paul would be there. Should I take my Beatles CD's? Should I grab my lone McCartney CD? Reality asserted itself. No way, Sir Paul McCartney was flying into Big-D to snack on nibbles and wish a bunch of flunkies and clerks a jolly hello.
   Zelda selected a dark posh frock, I put on a shirt and tie.
   Stuck my lone McCartney CD, Ram, into Zelda's purse.
   What a loser.

   I was Cowtown's sole Classical manager. There were guys from Houston, Waco, San Antonio, Austin. Classical experts, all. Roomful of fishbait was more like it. Capitol reps from field staff to Regional clustered about. No music played, which I thought an oversight. There was a TV monitor over in the corner, switched off. I later found out some middle management curb stop assumed Sir Paul would offer a live feed. I did the math, 7:00 PM in Texas, 3:00 AM in Britain. I schmoozed and made new contacts. You never knew when one of these guys might prove useful. Snag a promo copy of a hard-to-find New Release, or sport tickets to see Big Paul himself.
   Found Charlie from Dallas. He manned the flagship Mockingbird location, and was also head Classical buyer for the chain itself. Charlie was a quiet individual, ever patient with my mindless questions or mispronounciations of all those European artistes.
   "Always the most important thing at any function," Charlie smiled, "is to get your promos before they're all gone."
   He led me to a stack of McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. Not the whole set, only a single CD with four excerpts. Useless, I decided. There was also a sample disc of current CEMA acts. I grabbed that, too. I would just add both to the promo pile back at Camp Bowie. We might play the Oratorio ... maybe ... I doubted it.
   Found Mark, from CEMA, and we chatted about the imminent Beach Boys boxset.
   "Maybe I can find you something," he hinted.
   Meanwhile, Zelda was getting bored. The music business did not remotely interest her. More disturbingly, she had appropriated a bottle of Chardonnay. She stood off in a corner with bottle, glass and a cracker. There were perhaps 4-5 women at the event, not counting EMI personnel and catering staff. With Zelda was another abandoned female, sipping from a glass of Champagne and a glass of red. Both were laughing merrily. I smelled trouble down the line.
   I fetched Zelda just as the other woman's date retrieved her. We found a table and food was brought. Candlelit dinner. Skewered shrimp, Thai chicken, ribs. Salad, veggies, desserts. The whole package. Also another bottle of wine. Cabernet. Zelda had lost her Chardonnay, but she had drunk most of the bottle. She grabbed the Cabernet and filled our glasses.
   Food was fine. Not top tier restaurant, but very good. As events went, this was exceptional. EMI had outdone themselves for this promotion. Most listening parties offered lukewarm beer and stale pretzels. Glenn from HQ walked by and nodded. I nodded back. My presence was noted, I'd represented Camp Bowie and Cowtown. Good enough for me. Finish dinner and blow.
   By now, Zelda was freestylin' about alloting glasses from that Cabernet. "One for you and three for me. Be nice to me, and then we'll see. Yes, indeed."
   I suspected that "Yes, indeed" was redundant but Zelda was a published poet. Besides, she was enjoying herself.
   "Hi, you two enjoying yourselves?"
   Karn, District Manger sat down at our table. A year before, another Karn had been District Manager. No relation.
   "Can't complain," I replied. "Seems ... kinda over the top, though."
   "I think Capitol executives have hopes for the McCartney Oratorio, and misconceptions about Classical managers."
   "Ha ha. Smoking jackets and tweed."
   "Tweed, indeed." Zelda added the poet's touch.
   Karn blinked, I smiled.
   "Well, I'd better mingle," he said diplomatically. "I'll see you later. Nice meeting you."
   He left.
   "You, you, the moon is blue, and the sea is blue."
   "Come on, Princess, let's get home and you can write all these lines down."
   "Downtown, things will be great when you're," Zelda began singing. "Downtown, don't wait a minute -- Hey! Where's my wine?"
   I looked across the table. That Cabernet bottle was there just a minute ago.
   "Where's my wine?" Zelda repeated.
   "Maybe on the floor?" I suggested. "Next to you?" I knew that was absurd.
   Zelda studied the floor. "Nope. I think ... I think your little friend stole our bottle."
   "Karn. Karn the Bastard. He took it. That bottle was half full. I wasn't finished with it. We were taking it home."
   "Hmm." I was already standing, and surveyed the room. Karn was across the way, slowly rising from another table. I observed as he deftly confiscated their bottle as well. I would later hear from Dan, Rob and others that someone had a tiny problem.
   "Where is he? Where's Karn the Bastard? Where's my wine? I want my bottle."
   I knew from the beginning there was going to be trouble.
   "C'mon, let's split."
   "Where's my wine? Where's Karn?"
   We departed without incident.
   Liverpool Oratorio sold reasonably well. Didn't scale the mainstream charts, but our store shifted several boxes worth.
   Day later ... week later ... month later ... probably until forever ... Zelda continued to refer to the booze bandit as Karn the Bastard.