4/30/14

Jack, The Brothel and The Ukrainian Models

I work for a tour company here in San Francisco as a guide. Aside from giving walking tours once or twice a week, I ride around on a bus with an assigned driver and point out the sights to visitors riding with us.


The other day one of the bosses called me up from his home, and asked me to meet him out at the bus yard. This was a highly unusual request for two reasons..

  1. Usually just drivers, upper management and support staff such as mechanics and cleaners hang-out at the bus yard. We guides check-in down at the touristy area where we meet our bus for the day to start the tours.
  2. I have an immediate supervisor and usually anything they want me to know is passed down through him. The guy I'm talking about is second-in-command right under the General Manager, and I seldom see him.

I'll call this guy "Jack," since this is a public blog and I still work for the company, and want to continue working.

So Jack calls me up and says, "Hey Dave, get down to the yard as soon as you can, I have a special assignment for you."

I'M A TOUR GUIDE, what kind of assignment could he have at the bus yard, which is in an industrial part of town several miles from all the tourists? But I went because, you know, he's the boss.

When I got there he handed me the keys to one of the buses and told me what I was going to be doing.

"You're going to drive me around town on some errands."

I had to object. I reminded him I was a guide, not a chauffeur, and I didn't even have a bus driving license. I didn't feel too confident about weaving one of those monsters through San Francisco traffic but he told me not to worry about it, that I wouldn't get in trouble and that the company would cover the cost of any tickets or accidents that might occur.

So off we went, on "errands." I couldn't help but think of the approximately thirty drivers employed with the company who not only have daily experience handling these large buses but actual licences too, but I was just following orders.

The first place we went was to the home of a friend of his named Roger. Jack had me park the bus and insisted that I accompany him inside for "support." AH! Now it was becoming clear why he wanted me along instead of an ordinary driver. I was to be "SUPPORT."

I had no idea what that meant.

I shook hands with Roger when Jack introduced us and then had a seat on the sofa. Roger seemed to be busy cleaning and he excused himself, saying he'd be back in a few minutes with a couple of beers and we could talk over whatever it was Jack was there to see him about.

Jack and I sat in silence, so I surveyed the house. It was a rather ordinary abode -- nothing special -- but I was distracted by all the pretty young girls sitting around who kept glancing at us and chatting in what sounded like Russian to me. But I could never tell the difference between Russian and Ukrainian.

Jack finally spoke to me after a long, awkward silence to explain that Roger was going to be subletting his house out to about twenty Ukrainian models and their manager who were in San Francisco on assignment to do a big photo-shoot of some kind. He was busily cleaning the place because they'd just arrived and were all waiting for him to turn it over to them.

Well, that made perfect sense.

I sighed with relief to find out that we hadn't stumbled into a brothel and that the pretty girls -- most of whom were blonde -- weren't high-end hookers. Models certainly wouldn't be a problem, so I thought I'd be sociable and engage the one sitting nearest me in conversation. She'd been eyeing me all along and smiling a bit.

"So, do you speak English?"

BIG SMILE. "Ya, I do!"

"How do you like San Francisco?"

"I like very much! Is even better now!"


Then she stood up and stepped over to me, sliding up next to me on the sofa, leaning over and blowing in my ear. She whispered something in Ukrainian and I'm pretty sure she wasn't asking me about my favorite fruit.

"Uh, JACK.." I croaked a little and started to sweat.

This made me damned uncomfortable, so thank God Roger returned at that moment and handed me a beer. He glanced at the young lady with a look that said business first, frivolity later, so she pouted and moved on. Then he handed Jack a beer and plopped himself down on the coffee table directly in front of us.

"Okay Jack ol' buddy, what's on your mind?"

I noticed a few beads of sweat form on Jack's forehead and he kind of fidgeted as he seemed to look for the right words to say. Oh God, the model thing was just a cover story! It WAS a brothel, and Jack is somehow involved! Or maybe Roger was a loan-shark and Jack owed him more than he could pay.

OR DRUGS! JACK WAS THERE FOR A DRUG DEAL! OH MY GOD WHY DID HE HAVE TO GET ME INVOLVED IN THIS! WHY???

Jack cleared his throat. "Well Roger, um.. you see.. you know I'm a manager with a big tour company and, well, things haven't been going so well in the business.."

Fuck, I knew it! Roger WAS a goddamned loan-shark, only Jack wasn't there to plead his case about any money he owed, he was there to borrow! DAMMIT! WHY GET ME INVOLVED!!! WHY??

Roger took a swig of his beer and then looked like anything but a loan-shark. He looked compassionate. He leaned forward and stared Jack right in the eye.

"Jack, we've been buddies since high-school, you introduced me to Teri, you're the godfather of our kids for crying-out-loud, there's nothing you can't ask of me. Out with it man, c'mon!"

Jack looked like he was going to cry. "Aw man, you're awesome, Roger.. it's just that we've fallen behind on bills and all I need is for you to float me like a hundred bucks for groceries until payday. Not for me, you know, but for Sharon and the kids."

Geez, I thought managers in our company made some pretty decent coin, but what do I know? Roger sprung up and grabbed his wallet. "Are you kidding me buddy? That's IT? I thought you were going to ask to live here for a while or some shit. That'd be a problem, as you see.."

He swept his arm around to indicate the gaggle of Ukrainian models who sat in silence to eavesdrop on the whole exchange. That's when I noticed that the one who'd came onto me earlier was missing.

Roger dug through his wallet and pulled out a couple of C-notes. "Here Jack, take a couple hundred, and don't worry about paying me back man, I love you guys.. anything for Sharon and the kids, y'know?"

Jack gratefully accepted and the two men embraced in a somewhat awkward man-hug that one witnesses on occasion between two straight males who've known each other for ages. We bade Roger farewell and gave the smiling girls a wave as we bounced out the front door. I asked Jack where we were going next.

"The grocery store Dave, of course! I need to stock-up before the kids get home from school."

We made it as far as the front porch and then stood in dumbfounded silence. The bus was gone.

It had been stolen.

The woman who was in charge of the Ukrainian models came out and stood beside us with a slight grin, her arms folded as she clucked her tongue a little and shook her head. Then she looked at me.

"Sir, you neever cross Ukrainian voman.. Alaina take your bus, she drife avay and you neever see bus again! She drife bus off ze gold breedge into ze San Franceesco Bay."

I turned slowly to look at Jack, who turned slowly to look at me. We both very likely had the same look of horror on our faces, which is the last thing I remember before waking up.

It was the weirdest damned dream I'd had in a long time.

I was down at the office less than two hours later to clock-in and start my tour, and I was very thankful that Jack -- as in the real Jack -- wasn't down there on some company business that morning.

I think it's going to be awhile before I can face him.

4/27/14

Donald Sterling On Basketball, The Lakers And Those Itty-Bitty Finger Sandwiches

Pics of lingerie models also help a blog
 get juice, especially if one uses the
 keyword "lingerie models."
Lingerie models lingerie models
 lingerie models..
I had this brilliant idea a few days ago, which is unusual for me, so I've been looking for a good opportunity to implement it. That opportunity came yesterday.

Here's the idea: I decided that a good way to help this blog get some juice would be to watch the hashtagged "trending topics" on Facebook and Twitter, and if a subject should come up that I feel I can write about, I'd do just that and then promote my post by hashtagging it with the hashtag that caught my attention in the first place.

This would work as long as I "strike while the iron is hot." I'd have to write about something that's a trending topic and then publicize it while it's still a trending topic, which means I'd have to respond within about 12 hours, unless the topic is that missing Malaysian airliner, in which case I apparently have through the rest of 2014.

Yesterday a "trending topic" caught my eye and I decided to write about it. Here's the topic..

NBA investigating if Clippers owner Donald Sterling made racist comments.

I decided to tackle this particular subject because not only have I met the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling, but I used to hang out with him. So I have an opportunity -- nay, a duty -- to provide a scathing first-hand report and really dish the dirt on Mr. Sterling.

I was employed for a couple of years as a "manager-on-duty" at the Palm Springs Hilton Resort down in Palm Springs, where Mr. Sterling was a frequent guest. He dropped in often and could usually be found in the hotel bar at his favorite table, watching sports on the big-screen TV. Sometimes it'd be a Clippers game, so we'd all hush and try not to distract him.

Regarding the trending topic of the past few days, he allegedly made some racist remarks to his girlfriend about black people and it got caught on tape and publicized. People, some of whom happen to be big-shots in the NBA and some athletes, have called for everything from a public apology to his resignation. I'll do my part by giving you a few personal observations about the man before I go hashtag the hell out of it on Facebook and Twitter.

First of all, please keep in mind that he took frequent trips to Palm Springs and would show up every other weekend, so I had a LOT of conversations with him, which usually went something like this..

ME - "Evening Mr. Sterling, nice to see you again."
STERLING - "Thanks Dave, good to be here."
ME - "Richard taking good care of you tonight sir?"
(Richard was the long-time bartender who worked evenings; he was on-duty every time Sterling showed up).
STERLING - "Damned straight! Mind asking him to bring me a refill? And we could use some more popcorn and finger sandwiches too."
(Most of the time he had guests with him. I never knew who they were).
ME - "No problem sir, back in a sec.."

I'd pass the request to Richard, and Sterling would have drinks refreshed and a replenished popcorn bowl along with finger sandwiches on his table within a couple of minutes.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling, sporting the effects of a
few too many finger-sandwiches
I realize I'm stirring up quite the hornet's nest here, but at the risk of litigation from Sterling's camp I need to press on and dig even deeper, as I have intel that's sure to fan the flames of this smoldering controversy, so here goes..

There was an overnight desk clerk employed at the time who I'll call Charles, which isn't his real name, but I don't want him suing me later. It's going to be bad enough when Sterling's army of lawyers read the account I'm about to give. I really should just purchase a one-way ticket to Mexico within ten minutes of hitting the "POST" button.

You see, Charles is black. And he was on duty late one night as Donald Sterling arrived alone and checked-in. Sterling usually arrived earlier in the evenings but he explained that he'd gotten tied-up in a business meeting down in LA, and then he thanked Charles for holding the room for him. I happened to be helping Charles with something at the front desk the moment Sterling arrived, so I witnessed this entire exchange.

What Charles said next resulted in a shocking and entirely detestable reply from Sterling that disgusted me so much I remember it to this day. Charles said, "Oh, you know we'll always hold your room for you sir! So the Clippers haven't been doing so well this year, eh? Think you guys will start gaining some ground during the next few weeks?"

Sterling's reply angered and upset me so badly I fought back tears..

He said, "I certainly hope so Charles! Say, do you play basketball yourself? You seem pretty athletic.."

Charles didn't seem to notice the obvious slam that Sterling had just thrown at him, or he was too big of a man to take issue with it. His reply was this..

"Oh, I played on the varsity team in high school but was never really good enough to get serious about it. But I still get down to LA when the Clippers are home, which goes for the Lakers too.. sorry to bring THEM up!"

Charles then awkwardly laughed.

Sterling cracked a big grin and said, "Oh hell that's okay, they're a good team and well worth watching, I catch their games myself from your hotel bar whenever I'm here."

THEN STERLING LAUGHED TOO, AND IT WASN'T EVEN AWKWARD!

Charles had apparently caught on and had had enough of this abuse. He quickly changed the subject with a clever retort..

"Okay sir, here's your card-key and of course you know that if you need anything just call down, as Dave and I are on duty all night tonight. Welcome back!"

Then Sterling actually took the key, thanked both of us and WENT UP TO HIS ROOM.

I'm still reeling from the impact.

DAMN, I forgot to mention that he did indeed call down for something about a half-hour into his visit. It was so late the restaurant and bar were closed and all of the other staff had gone home, so I personally went to the wine cellar and grabbed a bottle of vintage whatever-the-hell-he-wanted and personally delivered it to his room. Then he tipped me.

I don't think I'll ever recover.

#DonaldSterlingStaysAtHotels
#DonaldSterlingWatchesBasketballOnTV
#DonaldSterlingTipsPrettyDamnedWell
#DonaldSterlingWasLateThatNightDueToABusinessMeeting
#DonaldSterlingWatchesLakersGames
#CharlesRealNameIsJames
#JamesPlaysPickUpGamesWithHisFriendsOnDaysOff
#DonaldSterlingDoesNot
#NowImGoingToPostThisAndHashtagTheHellOutOfIt

4/26/14

Those Pesky Alien Implants

I met some aliens once. They were nice.

I don't mean the kind who sneak over the border and wash dishes, I mean the kind that land in spaceships and look like ET. Spielberg had something there, ya know.

Way back in '76 or thereabouts I drove up into the mountains for an overnight camping trip with my pal Bryan. Lest you think I'm really old, let me say I'd just started driving that year and was just finishing high-school. So I'm only kind of old, okay?

Thank you.

Bryan and I hadn't really put a lot of planning into this beyond throwing a couple of sleeping bags into the back of my dad's '67 Dodge pick-up and snagging a six-pack of beer along the way. I don't recall how we got a hold of it, being underage, but we always managed somehow. But rest assured that's all we had. We didn't have any weed (called it pot back then) or any other illicit substance, so what we saw later on in the night really happened, or so we think. But who really knows?

We found this little logged-out clearing at the end of an isolated dirt road up in Northern California by "Stumpy Meadows Lake." The name of this place has been a total mystery to me for all these years, until I just now checked on Yelp and came across the following entry from a recent visitor..
Once you get there you really understand why it's called Stumpy Meadows. Theres stumps everywhere! I found it charming.
I think they called it that back in my day too but there weren't as many stumps, there were trees instead. I like trees better but hey, the place gets four-stars across the board on Yelp, so it must not be too bad. Also, I don't think anyone giving it such a high rating has ever had a night up there like Bryan and I had.

We settled down in our little clearing and laid-out in the truck bed on our backs, staring up at the brilliant night sky philosophizing about things that teen-aged boys tend to philosophize about, like girls and beer and how far away do you think that star is, and girls. At some point we fell asleep.

The little bastards woke me up first, just by standing around and staring at us. I'm kind of sensitive to being watched while I sleep (*chills*) and I have a sort of sixth-sense about it, so I opened my eyes and looked around, fully expecting to see some hikers or other campers. What I saw instead kind of startled me.

They were just like all the stories you've heard; five feet tall, enormous heads teetering at the end of spindly necks and the biggest eyes you'll ever see. Their graceful, slender fingers draped over the edge of the pick-up truck bed as if they were hanging on or lifting themselves up for a better look at us.

I jabbed Bryan as he snored next to me and he awoke with a "Hey man!" that quickly turned into awe-struck silence as he took in the sight around us, and then his silence abruptly became a scream. Yes, my pal screamed like a little girl but I can't fault him for that because it's exactly what I was trying to do but I was too frozen in terror.

And with that, the five or six mysterious visitors scampered off with a whoosh. When later comparing notes in hushed tones, we both noticed that they didn't seem to make much sound as they ran off through the woods, and that struck us as a very curious thing. We'd seen deer run off from campsites many times and even those graceful critters tend to trample brush and noisily snap branches and twigs in their desperate hurry to get away. But not these guys.

We also realized that we hadn't noticed the pulsating, glowing light emanating from the trees as they ran in that direction. It occurred to us that we were too busy scrambling into the truck cab and getting it started so that we could get the hell out of there, as we were pretty certain they'd ran back to their whatever-it-was to obtain weapons and rope.

We were also both screaming like little girls now, so if these guys come forward someday and disclose themselves, and I get a chance to meet them at an autograph signing or if they're the guards at the internment camp I'm incarcerated in, I'm going to really be embarrassed.

We didn't tell anyone about this at first, but after "ET" came out I told a lot of people because suddenly it was cool. A few of these people posited the theory that they weren't just standing around the truck for a few moments while checking us out, but were actually putting us back. "Did you have any missing time?" they'd ask. "Of course I did," I'd reply. "I was asleep." Then they'd urge me to check myself for implants.

So there you have it, that's why this post is called "Those Pesky Alien Implants." It's because I might still have some and I blame them for every goofy thing I think and do, but not really, because hey, really?

Bryan and I lost touch until a few years ago when we hooked-up again and talked over this story in the company of our respective wives and a pitcher of much better beer than we had in the truck that night. He confirms the whole thing and remembers it exactly as I've told it here, which is encouraging because he's anything but a tin-foil hat kind of guy.

He drives an interstate delivery truck for a major company and owns a race-car that he runs on tracks in California. You think other truck-drivers and racing people are going to let him get away with talking about something like this? I expect he doesn't.

Me, on the other hand, I AM a tin-foil hat kind of guy.

So welcome to my blog.

"I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth."
~Stephen Hawking



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4/23/14

Life In The Hotel Ramshackle

I wrote this about three years ago, after Dorian and I had been in San Francisco for a little over a year. I had a very crappy part-time job and was still receiving unemployment, so life was such as this..


We live in a hotel on Market Street here in San Francisco.

It could be worse. I’ve seen some of the hotels in the Tenderloin district, where welcome mats are made out of poo and even the roaches have tiny little guns.

One time I was riding a bus that stopped in front of one of the Tenderloin’s finest establishments, the “Hotel Cesspool,” and there was an old man in a wheelchair with a lady helping him. They didn’t appear as if they wanted to board the bus so the driver started to close the door, but the lady yelled at him..

“HEY! What you doing? We wants on da bus! OPEN DA DOOR!!!”

The driver opened the door and engaged the automatic ramp. It takes a minute to fold out and lower to the sidewalk, so the lady dashed over to a corner behind the bus stop, whipped out a crack pipe and blazed a bit. She finished just in time to get on the bus with her charge and push his chair into position. She was suddenly in a VERY good mood.

“We on da bus now! Thank you driver! We goin’ up to Fulton! Das, FULTON! Driver, you let us off at FULTON okay? FULLLLLLLTONNNNNN!!!!”

The driver grunted his acknowledgment and off we went.

I’ve been to some nice places around here too, like a condo over on the Embarcadero that’s owned by some hot Asian chick, and I walk by The Four Seasons a few blocks down from us almost every day. The Four Seasons has doormen who are immaculately dressed and polite. They smile and nod, with their hands folded in front of them and sense of duty clearly on display.

Across from The Four Seasons is The Ritz Carlton, with even better looking doormen who are nicer and better dressed. Not far from that is the Millenium Tower, where it costs about a thousand dollars every time you flush your toilet when you have a suite up in that building. It’s so tall and the view is so great that penthouse residents can just barely see their modesty, even if they have extremely powerful telescopes.

The doormen at The Millenium Tower aren't even human. They're real, bonafide angels who did so well they got a promotion.

Dorian and I are at an in-between place right now, The Hotel Ramshackle. That’s not its real name. It was built ages ago, and has shared bathrooms and showers. Yes, we don't have an actual bathroom right in our apartment. We're working toward that goal someday, but for now we shuffle down the hall and back.

The management team of Frank and Shirley (not their real names) is pretty top-notch. They do a good job of keeping miscreants and scofflaws out of the building. The bathrooms and showers are locked in case the miscreants and scofflaws actually get in and want to relieve themselves, then practice hygiene. So we have to take a key when going to the bathroom.

One time a miscreant got in who proved to be a scofflaw too, and BOY! That was fun. Frank threw him out while Shirley yelled, which is what each of them are best at.

Our neighborhood is the Civic Center, which is a cross between the Tenderloin and The Financial District, with a little more leaning to the Tenderloin. We have our share of “colorful characters,” of which I’m one. But a lot of them are more colorful than me, if by “colorful” we're implying that they're out of their minds on drugs, alcohol or both.

A guy the other night started yelling about something or other, then kicked all the trash cans over so that trash spewed out onto Market Street, creating a big mess. A cop saw it and made him clean it up. It was hilarious. The cop got some back-up because I guess the guy was a dangerous scofflaw, so the scenario I watched from my second floor perch was six big SFPD officers all standing around looking burly with their thumbs hitched into their belts while a drunk guy picked up trash.

I really need to get a decent camera.

During the day we get the vintage MUNI F-cars going by every ten minutes, all-day-long. They rattle and clink down the track, taking about ten times as long to reach the Castro district as the MUNI trains that whoosh underneath of them, which in turn are put to shame by the BART trains that REALLY whoosh underneath THEM.

That’s right, we have a vintage streetcar on the surface and under it, a train track that you can’t see and under that, a rail for an even faster train that you really can’t see.

There is a tree outside our window that's rooted firmly into the sidewalk. Hopefully it will bloom soon, and shower pretty little blossoms on the passers-by below.

We have a lot of sirens attached to emergency vehicles which go by all day long and several times during the night, since this is a main corridor to and from the hospital. We have a lot of street people, fights, yelling and the occasional crashing sound of something being destroyed. Once in a while we’ll hear tires skid followed by that dreaded crunch of metal, and the yelling that follows.

It’s one big cacophony of swirling energy, that only slows at night but never ceases.

Frank and Shirley try their best, but there are fights in our building too. Not often though. Someone likes to throw trash out a window above us onto the street below. There are bugs, and we’ve decided to domesticate them since we can’t seem to eradicate them. We give them names just before we squash them. “Hey Lance!” ~SQUOOSH~

We live over a newly opened dollar store called “Dollar King,” which has a banner strung under our window. My desk is right over the word “KING,” so if you stand across the street and look over, you see me sitting here typing in the window with a huge banner under me that has the word KING on it. It’s quite flattering.

We’ve lived in nicer places. Quieter places. More expensive places without so much excitement. But for now, and just for now, we’d not be anywhere else.

4/22/14

The Tour From HELL!!!


You may or may not know, depending on if you've read my about page or know me personally or are a psychic, that I am a tour guide who rides around on buses all day giving tours to visitors here in San Francisco.

It's always fun to visit sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what tourists have been saying about us. Sometimes my name will even come up, as in this real review on Trip Advisor..

“Fun-packed tour” 5 of 5 stars 
"Highly recommend this tour to see the sights of SF. Even better if you get Dave as your live tour guide - he provided a fun-packed commentary which had us laughing all the way round for 3 hours. The driver was also good. The 48hr ticket is great value for money and we learnt a lot about this fab city that we wouldn't have got from a guidebook." ~ Kateb901, Warwickshire

Thank you Kateb901 of Warwickshire! I'll have to visit Warwickshire someday, despite the scary name.

What I find interesting about these reviews is that we seldom see three-star reviews where someone found the tour to be "okay." They either give it four or five stars, or they hate it so much they give it one star and call it something like "The Tour From HELL." They usually exaggerate quite a bit and the only reason they give one star is because the system requires it. I'm sure if they were allowed to take away stars they would, and then they'd sharpen them and throw them back at us after first tying us to wild boars.

"THE TOUR FROM HELL!!!!!!" 1 of 5 stars, begrudgingly given 
"This tour is HORRIBLE, don't do it!!!! The guides are mean and covered in donkey snot, plus they seem to know very little about San Francisco. The one we had talked endlessly about his favorite gum and then looked at my daughter funny. He was rude to my Aunt Mabel and she didn't even take the tour, she was back in Saginaw!!! 
The driver was worse, because he wasn't even human, he was a demon spawned from the mouth of Hades so he was on-fire the whole time like Nicholas Cage in "Ghost Rider" except he wasn't battling bad guys as an ironic superhero. Instead he drove us backward over the Golden Gate Bridge while singing the theme song to "Gilligan's Island" but in a screechy, metallic voice reminiscent of Alice Cooper on meth. Also, he looked at my daughter funny. 
Both the guide and driver spent the majority of the tour hustling us for tips and when we were back in our hotel room later that night they showed up in my dreams and continued hustling for tips, but now they looked like Steve Buscemi and were licking maple syrup off my boobs. The guide said if we didn't tip him he'd send Bruno and "Tiny" to Saginaw to break Aunt Mabel's thumbs. 
This company says their buses always come around every fifteen minutes but we waited two and a half days in the pouring rain on a perfectly nice afternoon, while other tour companies passed us every seventeen seconds. Their tour guides all looked like either George Clooney or Scarlett Johansson, and they'd wave at us as they went by and quickly give us the history of The Palace of Fine Arts and it's contribution to San Francisco's economic and artistic development. Their buses are made of real gold and the Clooney/Johansson guides flung Ghirardelli Chocolates at us. 
When we called the office of our tour company to complain about the donkey-snot guides and the driver being on fire, like, all the time, we found out the manager-in-charge only speaks in tongues and he couldn't give refunds because they'd already spent the money on a pizza for the upcoming employee party. The pizza has pineapple, anchovies and cocaine on it (yes, on the same pizza!) Then he looked at my daughter funny.
All in all I'd say don't take this tour! Also if you're walking through Union Square and one of their buses passes you, run as fast as you can back to your hotel and shower for a couple of hours, being sure to scrub real hard with Brillo pads and bleach. Then take a tour offered by any of the competing companies because their guides will rub your feet while singing you French Lullabies."
 ~ SadSallyInSaginaw

This is the "bitch eating crackers" syndrome every time. An Internet meme that's been circulating, it basically says that when you hate someone (or something), they can't do anything right.



Generally speaking, people who post these reviews took the tour on busy days and either couldn't get a good seat, were spoken to tersely by an employee or a guide made a stupid joke. Sometimes all of those things may happen to a person, but really, we only have one driver who is the spawn of hell and the buses can't go in reverse clear across The Golden Gate Bridge because the transmissions would disintegrate. Also, the competition's buses are only gold-PLATED, not solid gold. Again, transmissions would disintegrate.

But it's still fun to read these for the entertainment value. That's what happens when you have a medium where any goofball can write anything and have it read by potentially hundreds if not thousands of people.

Currently this blog is read by ones, twos or possibly even fours of people, but this goofball will keep on writing anyway. Vive la Internet!

4/19/14

Craig, The Mumbling Maniac

A few years ago Dorian and I lived in Palm Springs, and we liked to go to a particular coffee-house downtown.

I remember going there with her one time and ordering an iced mocha, then I grabbed a chair on the outdoor patio to watch fine young ladies people shuffle by while she selected a cozy corner inside to plug her Macbook in and get some work done.

But in spite of so many fine young ladies people parading, I couldn't help but notice that the older lady seated about five feet away from me had a little dog, which was a Maltese or something, and it was all fluffy and white and cute, as those little dogs are, but that's not why I noticed it..

I noticed it because she had it all dressed up. It wasn't all foo-foo like, with a sweater and stuff like that which would have just been animal cruelty in that heat, but instead she had.. are you ready for this? No kidding, sit down..

She had a tiny little saddle on it.

And seated on the the tiny little saddle was a tiny little Mexican wearing a tiny sombrero.

But that wasn't all.. really!

The fluffy white dog was wearing a matching sombrero, and.. I'm not kidding here.. sunglasses. Yeah. They were strapped around the dog's head, and the little shit made absolutely no effort to pull off the shades, sombrero, saddle or the tiny Mexican, who I think was made out of a stuffed brown sock with dinky black buttons for eyes and a handlebar mustache that had been applied with black permanent marker.

I was kind of surprised at the fluffy little dog's easy-going attitude, because I used to have larger, real dogs who didn't like me putting sunglasses on them so they'd paw them off right away. I can't imagine what they would have done with a tiny Mexican, but I know the tiny Mexican wouldn't have cared for it one little bit.

Of course, this whole get-up on the very patient and possibly stoned little Maltese doggie was an absolute hit with anyone who walked by, particularly if they had small children with them or if they'd been drinking, and a handful of people just had to stop and get a picture. I would have gotten a picture to post here but I didn't have a camera, so you'll just have to rely on the brilliantly executed word-pictures that I paint with such flourish.

The lady kept telling everyone the dog's name, which I've forgotten, so when there was a break in the humanity parade I took the opportunity to quench my curiosity and ask her the name of the little Mexican who was riding the dog. She looked at me like I must be freakin' CRAZY, because after all.. WHAT KIND OF SANE PERSON WOULD NAME A LITTLE SOCK PUPPET, HUH?

So she just kind of shrugged and condescendingly answered, "I don't really know, we haven't named him." As she stooped down to adjust the dog's sombrero I said, "Well how about Dave? That's my name.. we could call it DAVE."

She didn't even look up. "Sure, Craig will be fine.. whatever you say."

With the sombrero adjusted, saddle pulled tight and leash all leashed up, she gathered her things along with her precarious puppy and shuffled off to parts unknown without so much as an adios to "Craig, the mumbling maniac with the iced mocha."

I have to admit though, that she inspired me! But sadly I must report that just like my former dogs, cats don't care for saddles and sock-puppets being strapped onto their backs either. Darned good thing the ER is a 24-hour operation.


4/17/14

The Hungry Lie

Two things.. 

We live near a few stripclubs in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, and I got a new Droid phone about a week ago.

Yesterday, Dorian and I went out for the day. I decided to take lots of pictures because I like this phone and the pics it takes on the HDR setting, so I thought I'd start off with a poster for a club near us while I was waiting for her to come down..


As you can see, it features an attractive blonde lady who evidently dances at the club. I wouldn't know, as I've never been in, but I've seen most of the girls who work there hanging around the front door on busier evenings and I don't recall seeing her. Hmm, I wonder why?

Well, it turns out that my Google Goggles app on the new phone was set to automatically search for matches to identify a building, landmark or person whenever I took a new photo. I'm still getting used to the thing, so it kind of surprised me when Google Goggles sprang into action after I took the pic, and it showed me this..



Let's see my photo again, cropped and with the colors adjusted..



Yep, that's definitely the same lady! The magazine, Stiletto, says her name is Claudia Carroll. Notice that someone even went so far as to replace her earring shown on the STILETTO cover with a different one. Ironically, a crucifix.

I wonder if Claudia KNOWS she's a dancer at the HUNGRY I in North Beach, San Francisco, and as such, she's one of "The Best Girls in Town?"

Probably not.

I wonder if Stiletto Magazine KNOWS this club is using a photo from one of their covers?

Probably not.

I wonder if I am EVER going into The Hungry I?

Definitely NOT.

NOTE - My not frequenting these clubs has nothing to do with them using models who are not actually employed there, but rather that I'm just not interested in them. I detest all of the noise and trouble because of these clubs here in North Beach, but they keep the rent low on our place. Everything in life is a trade-off.

4/15/14

ACME PSYCH EVALUATION SERVICES and YOU

An old but still relevant post, unfortunately, from 2010..

Shortly after having been laid-off by the hotel that once employed me,  I dropped by the human resources department because I don’t have a printer, and the lady who runs the joint was nice enough to let me print out résumés.

She’s an awesome lady.

She’s kind of old fashioned in that she doesn’t use any of the newfangled wizardry to screen job applicants that so many companies are using these days, such as those little psych tests that make statements like “I am never late for work!” and you have to choose from multiple selections as to whether you strongly agree, agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree.

She and I strongly agree that those tests are utter crap.

She reminds me of the old days of job hunting, when you’d go in nicely dressed and hand them a résumé if you had one, but if not that’s okay, you could just fill out an application.

Then they’d have someone talk to you and then maybe that someone’s boss, and then they’d excuse you from the room for a few minutes while they talked it over. Then they'd come back out and thank you for coming in and tell you they’d keep your application on file, which meant you didn’t get the job, or they’d shake your hand and say “welcome aboard.”

She reminds me of that because that’s how it worked when I was originally hired by her and the big boss at the hotel.

If you apply online these days, there are all kinds of fun things to fill out. They may call and want to talk to you (but probably not), in which case you go there and they’ll ask you questions before thanking you for coming in. They won’t say “welcome aboard” though, because they don’t do that anymore, so you really won’t know right away if you got the job.

No, they need to look everything over first, and call all of your previous employers after they’ve checked the score from the psych test.

Then they need to Google your name and look over your LinkedIn, Facebook, Blog (Lord help me!) and any other online social activity you may have going, because they can never be too careful these days and they need to know for certain what kind of person you are. You could possibly be a bank robber, which would certainly be found out when they stumble across your blog on bank robbing tips.

A couple of days ago I was filling out an online application and I got to the dreaded psych test section. I’d never applied to that company before, but the computer said..
“We use ACME SERVICES for our evaluation and it appears that you have already completed this test. ACME firmly believes that people do not change very much over a long period of time, therefore we shall apply the results of your previous evaluation to this application.”



WHOA, wait.. what?

You’re going to use my answers from when I took it before? I don’t even remember what I said, let alone what company I applied for at the time, or even when it was that I applied!

If this is how we’re going to do it now, then why not just establish some kind of HUGE DATABASE that can have everything included? It can be the ultimate in shared information, which will save companies on labor-hours because all the HR people will need to do is consult this one database online for about ten minutes for each applicant! Can you imagine how much time would be saved if they don’t have to call all of the previous employers? It will all be right there in front of them..
“Rhodester worked for us from (date) until (date), and no, we would not hire him again because he’s a complete idiot. He smells funny too.”
Of course there would just be one standard psych evaluation that each citizen has to take only one time, and the results would be cemented in the database for, oh.. ten years or more. Hell, let’s make it twenty! And forever more it'd be available to all potential employers to access online at anytime.

I recommend ACME.

Best of all – and this is my favorite part – we can eliminate those pesky interviews! Not completely of course, because there has to be someone who will initially interview me in person and then put a video of it in the database with their notations..
“I interviewed Rhodester at 2:00pm on Wednesday, July 14th. He was five minutes late, he had a spot on his tie and he appeared kind of fidgety, but he seemed to have sufficient experience to fill the position we were hiring for. Unfortunately I was not compelled to offer him employment and I recommend that he be removed from consideration with your company too, because he made a wisecrack about my shoes that I didn’t appreciate. He also smelled funny.”
Yes, we have definitely ushered in a new age of technology, where information is shared at lightning speed and made available to anyone. Thanks to GPS and Google Maps, you can also find anyone no matter where they are, so it won’t take more than a few keystrokes to locate me as I wait in line for a ladle of soup with a sermon down at the mission.

Doggone it, they WERE funny looking shoes.
______________________________________

UPDATE - email received from the nice hotel HR lady today..

Hey Dave,
Swell observations–and I’m honored to have inspired you.
Rhodester has a witty and engaging style:

Strongly Agree X
Agree
Neutral
Disagree
Strongly Disagree

HAHA! Ain’t she sweet?

4/13/14

Jingle All The Way

Our old pal Jonathan Farwell, shown here as Captain Walker
Keel from an early Star Trek TNG episode.
I was once involved in a theatrical production of the William Nicholson play “Shadowlands,” about the later life of theologian and author CS Lewis.

It’s the same play that was adapted into a feature length film with Anthony Hopkins in the lead role, but actor Jonathan Farwell played the part of Lewis in our production.I played one of Lewis’ buddies, Alan Gregg.

One night we were all standing around waiting for a touching scene to end that had Jonathan on stage with his leading lady, Deb Note (who actually became Deb Note-Farwell at the end of the run, as they were married in the theater on closing night after the final performance.)

We were standing there quietly in the dark stage wing but one of the older gents, Grant, had his hand in his pocket and he kept jingling something that sounded like change.

"jingle-jingle-jingle”

Grant was about eighty-years-old and hard-of-hearing, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one contemplating saying something to him. We were all kind of giving each other looks as it went on..

“jingle-jingle-jingle”

We took turns glancing down and watching Grant fiddle in his pocket until the stage manager, Liz, finally came back and spoke in a hushed but urgent tone that made it quite clear we weren’t the only ones who could hear it.

“Do one of you guys have change in your pocket?” she asked. “We keep hearing a jingling sound and you can hear it out in the first few rows, it’s VERY distracting!”

Nobody wanted to rat Grant out. He was a sweetheart who put a lot into his performances and everyone liked him. Plus, his health hadn’t been so great and we all saw how much he struggled; we had a soft-spot for old Grant.

“No, none of us have any change or anything, really!”

We all denied it and no-one looked at Grant.

“Well then, let’s see your hands.. everyone pull your hands out of your pockets right now and show me they’re empty!”

We could all hear Jonathan and Deb on stage saying their lines in low, hushed tones. It was an emotional scene and we knew the audience would be hanging on every word.

It was going to end and go dark in about two minutes, then we’d shuffle out there and the lights would come up on the next scene, which would be the bunch of us talking as we sat around a table. Liz examined our open palms and made sure no-one was holding anything, then she instructed us all to keep our hands out of our pockets for the next two minutes until the scene ended.

But sure enough, as soon as she left, Grant’s hands went right back into his pockets and the jingling resumed..

“jingle-jingle-jingle”

As much as I loved Grant I just had to ask. It wasn’t my place to make him stop and I didn’t want to be the stage manager, so I just framed it as a question..

“Hey Grant” I whispered, “are you absolutely certain you don’t have any change in your pockets? I mean, we can all hear the jingling that Liz was talking about.”

“Oh for Cryin’ out loud!” Grant looked indignant as he pulled his hand out and held the offending matter in front of me. “For the last time, I don’t have any goddamn change in my pocket.. all I've got here are my car keys!”

I can’t stress how difficult it was for all of us to keep looking solemn throughout our next scene, given that the one which Jonathan and Deb had just completed was her character’s death scene. It wasn’t easy.




4/12/14

Hardtack and Wooden Buckets

The ship I was on in the US Navy.
Photo by some guy in a helicopter.
People nowadays find it difficult to believe that I was ever in the US Navy.

Yes, long ago I painted a ship, and then chipped the paint off the ship and repainted it. That’s what you do in the Navy when you’re in long enough. They like to repaint their ships every couple of weeks or so to keep them looking spiffy.

I hadn’t thought of my Navy years until I started watching this mini-series called “Carrier,” which is about aircraft carriers and stuff, but mostly just aircraft carriers, and mostly just one named the USS Nimitz. While watching this series I noticed that a lot of things have changed since I was in but some things are the same.

Young sailors still whine and complain, and get way too drunk when they get a bit of shore leave. They do a pretty good job for the most part, but occasionally blow it over something stupid like drugs or alcohol, which gets them restricted, fined, busted down in rank and, if the offense is bad enough, tossed in the brig and/or kicked out of the Navy.

Two things have changed drastically though, and that would be two things they apparently now have on ships that they didn’t have in my day, both of which I’d think would be nothing but major distractions..

Those two things are women and the Internet.

I got out in 1981, and I can't imagine being at sea with either of those. First of all, the women..

Boys like girls, mostly. Some of them like other boys, but that’s a whole different ballgame. Girls like boys too, mostly, and I just can’t see them all cramped up together in shipboard spaces for months on end. It’s bad enough when guys and girls work together in a standard office environment. We have to have law firms that do sexual harassment seminars and there are always little dramas that take place.

Now imagine that aboard a big, floating tub of steel and testosterone which everyone is trapped on for weeks, or sometimes, even months. I just can’t imagine it because in my day, if a young woman were to come aboard the ship we wouldn’t get anything done, especially if we’d been at sea for a long time. If we were told to go polish that brass, chip the paint off that bulkhead and scrub that toilet, we’d get it all mixed up and scrub the brass while chipping toilets and polishing bulkheads.

We’d be useless.

I know how much I sound like an old-fogey chauvinistic pig here, but I’m really not. I’m all for women on ships, but I just think the Navy went about it all wrong. They have separate sleeping and showering facilities, so why not just separate ships?

They could have let women do sea duty, but just put them all on “girl ships.” Can you imagine an aircraft carrier crewed entirely by women, from the toilet scrubbing, brass polishing seagirls all the way up to the Naval Aviators and the Captain? If they got lost, they’d never be afraid to pull into some foreign port and ask for directions.

The other thing we didn’t have in my day is the Internet. I’m watching this series, and young sailors -- men and women -- sheesh! -- check their email and, get this, make PHONE CALLS HOME from the middle of the ocean!

Back in my day, and I realize I’m saying that a lot here, we didn’t have shipboard phones and we definitely didn’t have email.

Okay, we had these “red phones” that were for some kind of secret communication that the Captain and his high-falutin’ cohorts would use to talk about secret business like where the ship is going to next and who it should shoot at when it gets there.

But in this series, sailors are calling home and talking to their girlfriends and boyfriends from a freakin’ public phone in a passageway on board the ship. We had this special room called the “radio shack,” only it didn’t have any smarmy salesmen wearing white shirts with cheesy ties who’d try to sell you a satellite TV system or cell phone when you only came in to get a pack of batteries.

We didn’t know who was in this radio shack because it was all secretive and hush-hush, and it had a big combination lock on the door. We’d occasionally see some dweeby looking “radioman” (do they call them “radioperson” nowadays?) going into the radio shack and if we were walking by at that moment, he’d hunch over and punch in the super-secret code so that we couldn’t see what it was, because if a non-dweeb ever entered the radio shack they’d have to kill him (presumably by stabbing him to death with ball-point pens.)

My point about dweeb radiomen and the radio shack is that it was the extent of communication with the outside world at the time. No phone calls from passageways and no email from a computer terminal. If you got any kind of message from the outside world in electronic form, it was a big friggin’ deal. You’d be polishing or scrubbing something and a very pale, ghostly looking radioman, thin as a rail and grinning slightly, would approach you with a missive in hand that was printed on, get this.. paper!

You’d tremble as you signed for it and then you’d open it carefully because it either meant your wife or girlfriend just had a baby or your grandfather had died. Some people had that all happen at once.

But the point is, there was none of this nonsense about making phone calls to loved ones or girlfriends while you were three thousand miles out at sea. We’d occasionally get mail from a helicopter that came over from the aircraft carrier and dropped a whole bunch of canvas bags on the deck. They’d get taken below and sorted out, then later we’d all get letters (on paper!) from our girlfriends, none of which were newer than three weeks old.

We stopped in the port town Mombasa one time, which is on the African coast, so that the ship could top off and get an oil change and local natives could sell overpriced wooden giraffes to the sailors. I went to go find a “telephone exchange” because I wanted to call my mom, who lived in northern California. I think this was in 1979.

There was one in downtown Mombasa so I walked in and approached the clerk. When I told her I wanted to call the states she had me fill out a little form giving my mom’s number, and then fork over forty bucks and have a seat. There was this bank of about twenty phones all along the wall and each had a number on it. It took about ten minutes to get through and when they did, the clerk called my name and told me to pick up phone number four. I did so, and there was mom’s voice on the other end, a world away, yet so close I could tell she had a few tears.

She was glad to hear from me, since I’d been out of touch for about two months. There’s a scene in the fifth episode of “Carrier” where a young sailor gets aggravated because his girlfriend doesn’t answer the email he'd sent her six days earlier. “You should be emailing me everyday!” he says, IN THE PHONE CALL HE PLACES TO HER SO THAT HE CAN CHEW HER OUT FOR NOT ANSWERING EMAIL.

OMG, really?

The Internet on board Navy ships must be a horrible distraction, just like the women.

They must control access to it somehow, because I know that if I’m sitting here all intent on writing a blog post, working on my book and then applying for two or three jobs after first tweaking my resume, that all it takes is for one Tweeter to post a link to “Cooking with Carmen Electra!” and I’m GONE for the next hour, learning how to make California Omelets while wearing a bikini.

Despite the changes that the US Navy hath wrought, “Carrier” is a fascinating series. It’s not very political, it just shows life on board a floating steel city, the sole purpose of which is to launch airplanes that fly away and bomb the crap out of things. Some of the sailors understand what they’re doing out there, but many don’t. Most of them are actually pretty dumb.

I can say that because I was one of them.

It shows how hard they all work but I can’t help but think that they’re all a bit spoiled now that they have girls and the Internet. We worked hard and we didn’t have girls and the Internet, but I guess that a sailor from Admiral Hornblower’s day would say that I was spoiled too, what with my engines and helicopters and health and warm food and showers.

He’d probably grumble about all of that through his rotten teeth while biting into a piece of hardtack and pissing in a wooden bucket. It’s amazing how much things change and yet remain the same, isn’t it?

4/11/14

Me and Joss

The LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD Series

Joss Whedon – Photo by Gage Skidmore
SUNNYDALE, 2003

Working as an extra in film and TV is really easy to do, more so than people would think. You pretty much just need to live in the the Los Angeles area, have reliable transportation, and be breathing. Gender, age, looks, talent (or lack thereof), and skill doesn’t matter, just cough up twenty-five bucks for the “photo fee” at Central Casting and you’re in.

NOTE: That’s what it was then. I have no idea what it is now.

As a Central Casting client, you’d check the hotline whenever you wanted to work to see if there was anything coming up in the next few days that fit you. They put all the casting calls on voicemail and, if there was a job description that sounded right for you, you’d call up the agent handling it.

This is how the call sounded on the hotline on that day in mid-2003:
BEEP.. “Hey guys, this is Allan and we’re casting townsfolk for the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that will be shooting on Wednesday. I need every ethnicity from black to white, Asian and so on, plus a variety of types from long-haired to buzzed military looks. This is a big call, guys, so ring me up at 6159 and book quickly, this one’s going to go fast.”
I hung up and dialed the line for agents, then hit 6-1-5-9. Then I did it again. Then again. The hard part about getting these gigs was getting through to the agent because they’d only put a call on the hotline during the time they’re booking it, then they’d take it off as soon as they filled up the slots.

If you were serious about working as an extra and getting daily gigs, you sometimes had to check the hotline up to ten times a day and then try for an hour or more to get through to the booking agent for the gig. If you managed that, it was a pretty sure bet you’d get it as long as you were responding to your type.

The Buffy call that day was a no-brainer since he needed all types, but it was often very specific and, if you were calling on something that didn’t fit you, they’d just sort of laugh and hang up. Not cool. I got through to Allan and he booked me, then gave me the “info number” to call later for details. That’s right, a third phone call. At least at this stage you’ve got the gig and you’re going to work, you’re just calling to find out exactly when and where.

I arrived at a little studio lot in Santa Monica on Wednesday morning that I’d never been to because they only shot Buffy there, and I hadn’t worked on the show before. I was lucky to get in on the last episode.

Allan had needed all of those types because we would be townsfolk fleeing Sunnydale before it imploded and got sucked down into the hellmouth. I followed the show at the time and had no idea that the entire town of Sunnydale was contained on a lot in Santa Monica, with bookstores, surf-shops, and condos right across the street – just on the other side of the large green fence. I bet those people never knew they were next to Sunnydale that whole time, with its vampires and monsters running amok at all hours.

The production assistant in charge of extras got me set up, along with the hundred or so others, and told me that when they started rolling I would stroll casually down the middle of the street while carrying a suitcase which had been given to me earlier by the prop master.

They mixed it up and gave a lot of people bedrolls, backpacks, and bundles of household goods (I remember one girl who had a birdcage with fake parakeets in it.) but I got a neatly packed suitcase. I guess I just looked orderly or something.

I’d been shown my “starting point” and told to wait there until they were rolling. It was about twenty feet from the director’s hutch, which is a temporary kiosk they always set up on shoots that can be easily moved throughout the day, containing all the monitoring gear and a canopy overhead to keep the sun off. There were also a gaggle of actor’s and producer’s chairs, the canvas kind you see with the names on them.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Head, Nicholas Brendon, and Alyson Hannigan all had name chairs in the area and the actors themselves started showing up after a while and cutting up with each other and the crew. There was a palatable excitement among them on that particular day that wasn’t normally present on TV shoots. They all knew it was (nearing*) the last day of a series they’d been working on for years and, for most of them, it had defined their career.

Actors, crew, and other extras milled around me as I stood on that Sunnydale sidewalk and took it all in. I noticed that the guy standing next to me seemed to be feeling as I was. He watched all of the commotion with a little grin on his face while looking very glad to be there.

“Nice day to be shooting outdoors, huh? Of course, not unusual for LA, haha!”

I was making small talk. I’d made quite a few friends on sets in my three years of doing extra work and there were as many as ten people I knew well at this particular shoot, but they’d all been assigned to stand in different areas. This guy was the only one in talking distance and I’d never seen him before.

“Yeah, that’s LA for ya!” he said. “The weather makes it really nice for shooting almost any time of the year.”

So here we were talking about the weather, and now it was time to move on to talking about “the biz.” Like I said, small talk. If you didn’t know someone on a set you’d usually talk about the weather, the entertainment business, and your career.

“So, have you worked this show before?”

He looked at me and nodded. “Yeah, you could say that.” His semi-smile mixed with a knowing glance was a giveaway that I wasn’t talking to another extra, which the director confirmed a moment later when he looked in our direction.

“Hey Joss! We’re just about ready, good to see you!”

Joss Whedon turned to me and said, “Nice talking to you, uh..”

I forgot my name for a second. Oh yeah, I got it..

“D-Dave,” I stammered.

“Dave, right.. well have fun today!”

“Thanks man, you too.”

I ended up in that final episode, but barely. A wistful-looking Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) walks against the crowd’s exodus and, at one point, I walk past her. That’s it. Just me and my neatly packed suitcase bidding Buffy adieu, for a split-second in time. Maybe a hundred frames of film at the most.

But I remember it well, and I remember Joss and his smile – both of which have since gone on to lots of other cool, magical things. Me, I’m sitting here in a cheap hotel room in San Francisco, writing about it. Someday I’ll unpack that suitcase and make a life.

Me walking by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the episode.
_______________________________

* HEY DAVE,

The evacuation of Sunnydale because of the widening hellmouth takes place in episode #19 of the seventh season (Empty Places) and not the final episode, #22 (Chosen) as you’ve suggested. What do you have to say for yourself?

~ a Buffy fan

Dear Buffy fan,

I’ve forgotten what I had for breakfast this morning. I think it was pancakes. In my defense, they frequently shoot things out of sequence and that may very well have been the final scene shot for that entire series (although I’m guessing), because I do remember that being mentioned.

I saw the exodus scene some time later but didn’t remember what episode it was in so I just assumed it was the final one.

Thanks for letting me know, Sarah.

~ Dave
_______________________________

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4/10/14

Dimestore Dispatcher

At Hollywood & Highland we kept our dispatch log on a computer. I’d sit there in the surveillance room and talk to security officers on the radio while watching a large monitor in front of me that was fed by 82 cameras around the property.

I had a switching console, so that I could call up any camera feed I wanted too, and a “camera officer” sat nearby at a similar monitor and switching console.

As I kept the dispatch log, I’d make entries like this..

0700 – Ofc Bollomy reports code 4 north restrooms level 3.
0715 – McCarthy Construction commenced work on grand stairway, informed dispatch that portions of stairway to be inaccessible to public through remainder of the work day.


April 25th of 2002 was a slow day, so I decided to keep myself entertained by typing the security log up a little differently. I called it..

If a dimestore novelist worked part-time as a security dispatcher.




The shift started at 0600. At 0615, I’d gotten out of briefing and settled into the dispatch chair. Thus our story begins..

0615 – Twenty one uniformed security officers and their pint-sized sergeant sat in hushed silence as Craig Delanoy strode into the room. The blue of their uniforms matched the blue mood that swept over them as Delanoy spoke swiftly yet eloquently of terrorist threats and the need for officers to be alert.

Tossing out a final warning as nonchalantly as one tosses a quarter to a grateful panhandler, Delanoy left the room, his words lingering in the air like so much air freshener that had been in the can too long.

0630 – Officer Gregg reluctantly surrendered the dispatch console to Corporal Rhodes. A bit of idle chit-chat provided a thin veil for the deeply passionate feelings Graham harbored when it came to the throne of electronic endeavor and his longing to return to that throne once night should fall again.

Officer Mitch Dakin took his station at the surveillance monitor, a sense of urgency buzzing around him like a cloud of angry mosquitoes, needling him to do better, do BETTER, and not let Delanoy down. Not again. Not ever.

Craig Delanoy’s words of exhortation during the morning briefing had made a deep impact on Dakin, who strove to be just like Delanoy someday and was even now reminiscent of him in his youth, a daring young man full of promise and not lacking when it comes to matters of the heart and soul.

0632 – Who would think that an entire golf cart could turn up missing? Yet the half-hour mark found Officer Ernie Valdez standing forlornly in the cavernous depths of the parking structure, calling on his radio in a hollow voice as he described to Rhodes how empty the space looked where once stood a a shiny, beautiful golf cart.

Rhodes was no fool, and he could sense the layer of fear wedged into Valdez’s thick, Hispanic dialect. Fear that the cart would never be found, and that he would be relegated to some far-flung boundary of the complex for the remainder of his watch to idly pass the time by counting passers-by and tossing inane greetings at them as one tosses baseballs at lead bottles with the hope of winning a stuffed panda at the county fair.

Corporal Rhodes acted swiftly, dispatching his full compliment of roving security officers in search of the wayward cart. Time dripped by like molasses to the forlorn Valdez, who was elated when he heard the happy voice of Officer Chessley Schmidt pierce the darkness and call out that the cart had been found in the valet area of the parking structure.

To Valdez, Schmidt had become a hero in one fleeting moment. Never mind that Schmidt was a hero already, beloved by all who call upon his services to witness how quickly he brings each task to fruition with a relish. To Valdez, Schmidt was now his personal hero, and no one else’s.

0647 – Escalators are mere machines. Soulless contraptions that don’t care one little bit whether you go up or down. Escalator #25 is no exception, and it sits in a funk.. A non-moving, gloomy little escalator funk. Fortunately, Corporal Hernandez is the funk remover, and is on his way with the de-funking key.

0652 – While on his way to cheer up Escalator #25, Corporal Hernandez noticed that Elevator #8 appeared to be in a funk also. But upon closer inspection it was revealed that some miscreant had maliciously engaged the fire-switch on poor old Elevator #8, causing it to sit just where it is, pondering whether or not it would ever slide its smooth walls up and down that silky shaft once again. This would be a job for Ted from Fujitech, a man known not only for his ragged sense of humor and wonderful wit, but also for his fanciful head full of elevator whimsy.

0654 – Corporal Hernandez flashed fondly back on that day in fifth grade when he had handed the report in to Mrs. White and she smiled like a Cheshire cat, praising him for the hard work he’d obviously poured into such a fascinating piece. Who knew that the Louisiana purchase could ever be made to seem so alive, so vibrant? It was just a boring old piece of American historicity in most minds, but not after Danny Hernandez had tackled it with his pen.

Mrs. White was not one known to graciously dole out grades that matter, but she slapped a triumphant A-PLUS on Danny’s paper that day, sealing in him a desire to perform above and beyond the call of the daily grind. As he inserted his key into the little slot at the base of Escalator #25 and it roared to life, he grinned like a very special breed of Cheshire cat, certain within himself that he’d earned yet another in a life-long string of A’s with the accomplishment of this task.

At this point the watch commander walked into dispatch and looked over my shoulder.

“Rhodes, what are you doing?”

“I’m composing the dispatch log as if I were a dime-store novelist working here part-time.”

“You won’t be working here at all if you don’t knock it off.”

I printed a copy of what I had so far, then went back and rewrote the entries in the usual format.

Work. They just don’t let you have any fun.

4/6/14

Aunt Bee got me a Starbucks card!

The late, great Francis Bavier, aka "Aunt Bee"
Photo from Wikipedia
I once worked as a security dispatcher at the Hollywood & Highland complex right there on Hollywood Boulevard.

I was cooped up all day in a camera surveillance room in the security office and our receptionist was a lady named Addie, who we used to call “Aunt Bee” due to her unfortunate resemblance to the character from the Andy Griffith show, played by the late Francis Bavier.

I say “unfortunate” because Addie was approximately 35 years old, and it’s probably not the most desirable thing for a woman of that age to be compared to Aunt Bee, but hey, she brought it on herself with the hair-do she wore.

Addie herself didn’t bear an exact resemblance; it was more like she was the Aunt Bee type. She wore a security uniform because she was technically a security officer, but in that respect she was more like Barney Fife. She was also Latina, so picture an Aunt Bee/Barney Fife type Latina woman of about 35, and you’ve got Addie. Not too many of those out there.

Even though she was a security officer, they assigned her to the reception desk because they had reservations about putting her out into the complex where she’d have to deal with the riff raff. I’m sure they thought that if she were sent to disburse a group of gang members who were loitering, that instead of approaching with her hand on her mace, she’d be carrying a picnic basket of fried chicken with sweet tater pie for dessert.

She’d probably scold them for loitering and then give them a little lecture about how they should be in school. Then, after they’d finished their fried chicken and sweet tater pie, they’d slit her throat.

Addie wasn’t the shiniest bullet in Barney’s shirt pocket either, which is probably why she let us call her Aunt Bee in the first place. The real Aunt Bee could probably whip her in an IQ test, if you can imagine that, so I myself had reservations about having her assigned to the reception desk. But it was better than having her out among the thieves and gang members, and she was a nice lady.

One time she offered to get me something at the nearby Starbucks. She was going down there on her break and while asking me to cover the phones for her, she offered to buy me a coffee, which was her routine. She was always offering to do something nice for someone, which is another way that she was just like that beloved matronly icon of Mayberry.

I politely declined and thanked her for the offer because my own break was coming up shortly, and I was planning to head down there myself. When she returned to the office about fifteen minutes later she popped into the camera room to let me know she was back, and to give me a nice little Starbucks gift card that she’d picked up.

“David,” she said, “it’s nearing Christmas and when I saw this card I thought of you because you’re always so nice, and it’s such a pretty card, I thought you’d like the design on it.”

It WAS a nice gift card! It was one of the holiday designs with holly and ivy on it, so I thanked her very much and tucked it into my shirt pocket for use on my upcoming break. About a half-hour later I’d placed my order for a grande cappuccino and handed the card to the young lady behind the counter, all the while thinking of how sweet it was of Addie to treat me like this.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the card is empty.”

“Huh? It can’t be.. our receptionist was just down here less than an hour ago and she got it for me.”

“I’m sorry, but there’s no money on it.. it’s an empty card.”

I paid cash for my cappuccino and stopped at the reception desk on my way back into the office.

“Addie, uh.. thanks again for the card.”

“Oh, David, you’re so welcome! It’s such a pretty card, I just knew you’d love it!”

“I do, Addie, I do! Hey did you know that you can put cash on those? Like a gift card.. did you know that?”

Her mouth fell open and she looked at me like I’d just told her that Opie had robbed a liquor store.

“NO! Really? I just saw it in a little stack by the register so I grabbed it for you. Gosh I should have done that! That would have made for an even better Christmas gift!”

I smiled and patted her arm.

“That’s okay, Addie, don’t worry about it.. maybe next time.. I’ll just keep it right here in my wallet so that it’ll always remind me of you.”

I returned to the camera room having learned a small lesson on the value of the meaning behind gifts. It’s not just a cliché that it’s the thought that counts, so I want every single one of my readers to head down to the nearest Starbucks and grab one of those little gift cards that you’ll find by the register.

Be sure and pick the nicest one and just slip it right into your pocket! It’s on me, and you deserve it for being such a faithful reader.

You’re welcome.



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4/5/14

Chip and Joanie: A Mail-Order Love Affair

Evidently you can now order a Russian bride online.

The girls in the pictures are pretty but I’m skeptical, because I ordered a Russian bride years ago and Nastya showed up.

She was a little older than I’d anticipated. Maybe about 50 and missing a few teeth. I was only 20 at the time, so I just put her to work doing laundry and scrubbing the bathroom. Granted, I was hoping for someone along the lines of Mila Kunis, but Nastya was really grateful to be in the USA, plus she made the most delicious gurkins, borsch, and pelmeni this side of the iron curtain.

I’ve only known of one person, besides me, who actually had a mail-order bride. His name was Chip. I’d imagine it still is, but I haven’t spoken to him in years. If you find me online, Chip, then hey! How are ya?

Chip married this girl named Joanie. I think that was her name – probably still is – hey Joanie! – and the interesting thing about them is they got married the day after she stepped off the plane to meet him for the first time.

Chip was a Navy guy stationed in Adak, which is a very remote island in Alaska. I understand there’s not a lot up there and if you’re a Navy person you pretty much have to stick to what’s on the base.

So Chip had this friend who was also a Navy guy, who had this sister back home – that’d be Joanie – and Chip sees a picture of the guy’s sister one day and asks if he can write to her.

“Why not?” says the guy, being the really upstanding fellow that he is, so he phones home and asks his sister if she wouldn’t mind having a pen-pal named Chip. I realize “pen-pal” is a somewhat archaic term these days, but this happened in the eighties, so these people didn’t even have email!

*GASP!*

So Chip writes to Joanie, and she writes back, and they swap pics, and they get all goo goo over each other and the next thing I know, they’ve set a wedding date and Joanie is going to fly there and marry him, then live on the base with him in ADAK, ALASKA.

I don’t know where she was flying from, but it must have been pretty awful.

You’d also think that such an arrangement wouldn’t be very successful. You’d think they should probably hang out with each other first and see what all their quirks were and try each other on to see if they fit.

But the problem was that Joanie couldn’t come up and stay on the base unless she was legally married to him. So even if they did just want to hang out for a while, he couldn’t get away because he was on a tour of duty and she couldn’t visit for any decent amount of time because she was a civilian.

So they just got hitched as soon as she unpacked her bags.

Now here’s the exciting part of the story.. it worked! I mean they didn’t get divorced a year later or whatever; they actually had FOUR KIDS when I last talked to Chip, which was in 1999 or something, and it seemed as though they were as happy as can be.

I’ve never met Joanie because Chip and I were roomies in San Diego before he got transferred to Adak, and we just kept in touch for a long time, so I never saw him in person after that or met the missus and the kids. But I saw pics of Joanie, and even though I don’t have any now (which would just be weird, if you really think about it) I can tell you she didn’t look a thing like Nastya.

I remember that Joanie was a pretty brunette, and probably still is.

The moral of the story, I think, is that you can hit the jackpot by taking a chance like the chance Chip took with Joanie, or more appropriately, Joanie took by flying out to marry his dumb butt before she’d even met him.

After all, he was a lonely sailor stationed in the middle of an island made entirely out of ice who was in love with a picture of a pretty girl. So yeah, I guess the chance was more on her part. But anyway, I’m saying that not everything is a rip-off waiting to happen and that if you just take the plunge, maybe it’ll work out rather nicely for you.

I’m not necessarily talking about anything in particular. Apply it to whatever you’re facing today; job, home stuff, relationship or whatever.. just take the plunge.

If you get Nastya, then at least you’ll have a clean bathroom, fresh clothes, and some yummy gurkins for supper tonight.



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4/3/14

The Best Girls In Town!

Last year Dorian and I moved into a single-room apartment over a strip-club purported to have "The Best Girls In Town!" I don't know if they really do, as I've never been inside the place, but from what I see of the girls who hang-out around the door I'm tempted to chalk it up to advertising.

Mind you, this is based solely on physical appearance because it's a strip-club, so I don't feel too shallow in that assessment. I can't vouch for any of the young ladies' intellect or character.

There are two less-than-pleasant things about living over a strip-club; the noise and the doormen who stand in front and drum up business with the help of some of the aforementioned young ladies. A part of their job is to call out to passers-by and lure them in with creative catch-phrases such as, "Hey, where YOU going?" "Want some female company?" "Lap-dances are half-off tonight!" and my favorite, "Come on in, I won't tell!"

That last one gets me because I wonder who they're not going to tell if I should come in, and it also implies that I should be ashamed to do so and should wear big-ass shades and skulk in with my collar pulled up around my face as high as I could get it, so as not to be seen by whomever.

The truth is, I have no interest in these places. I couldn't care less if anyone I knew were to see me going in because I don't have a moral issue with them, and I support their right to function as a business. I do kind of wish one of them wasn't located right under us, but they were here first and it keeps the rent low. Like, WAY LOW.

This is in the North Beach section of San Francisco, which is full of groovy art, tasty cafes and great literature, all in a five-block radius. As I type I have one of the best bookstores in town, City Lights, and a genuine Banksy within view across the street, not to mention five great restaurants that I can see from my window.

A genuine Banksy in New york City. This isn't the one across the street.
The strip-clubs have been a part of the 'hood for years, starting with The Condor on the corner of Broadway and Columbus, which was the first topless club to operate in the US. But a one-bedroom apartment around here generally rents for around $3500.00 a month (if you can get it), so we feel lucky to be smack-dab in the middle of such a vibrant neighborhood even if we have to put up with certain things that make it less than ideal.

For example, I can tell you that in the club beneath of us the DJ plays the same number at almost the same time most nights a week, and when he does, he announces that someone named Ashley is hitting the stage. I'm sure they have other songs and dancers but for some reason we always hear this particular intro..
"Okay, let's give it up for ASHLEEEE!!!" *cheers and applause* THUMP-THUMP-THUMP "Gosh, is it 9:30 ALREADY?"
Ashley must really be something, but I'll never know because, as most of the doormen and seasoned girls have figured out, I live here and I'm simply not going to come in, like ever, so they've given up on me. I've made friends with a few and we've had some nice sidewalk chats about things having nothing to do with the clubs.

It's the newer ones who try to reign me in, like the girl I'd never seen before standing in front of the club around the corner as I came home from Walgreens a while ago.

"Hey there, how are you tonight? Come on in and get some action!"

I was carrying a Walgreens bag brimming with frozen food in one hand and a newspaper and my front door keys in the other, so I must have looked like I was cruising for pussy.

I can't really fault them because I know it's in their job description to hit-up anyone walking by the place, and their managers tend to lean on them heavily if they don't pull the customers in. But I sometimes wish they were a little more discerning, since I'll be trudging home from work on some evenings wearing my uniform with my duffel bag slung over my shoulder as I carry a bag full of groceries, and I'll get..

"Hey come on in for a lap dance on your way home, it'll spice up your evening!"

"No thanks, I have ice cream in here, and also.. fuck off."

Okay I've never really said that, because again, I understand it's their job. They're not too different from our tour company salespeople down at the wharf who hand out flyers and drum up tour guests. But the tour company salespeople notice after a while who works at the McDonald's or the souvenir shop down the street, so they don't say things to them like, "Take a tour, it's a beautiful day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge!" They know these people couldn't possibly get on one of our buses to cross the bridge and be back before the end of their lunch break.

They also know how to take NO for an answer, whereas some of the strip-club girls look like they're going to shoot themselves if you pass on coming in for a lap-dance. The other night I was invited into the club under us by an especially statuesque girl in fishnet stockings, and when I politely declined she said, "Wait, you're telling me you DON'T want to come in and watch exotic women dance topless for you?" She looked like I'd just fed chocolate to a puppy after first dipping it in arsenic, which may have been a genuine reaction but was probably part of the act.

"No, I don't." I said. "I want to get an iced-tea from the liquor store and then return upstairs to have dinner with my wife while we watch Arrow." "Suit yourself," she said.

Thank you, I will.

I don't think I mentioned that there are approximately eight of these clubs within a three-block radius. That's a guess, but there sure are a lot, including the well-known ones like Larry Flint's Hustler Club, The Penthouse Gentlemen's Club and The Condor, which is the club that made history.

There are a handful of smaller ones too, including the one beneath us. One of the independents around the corner has a new doorman who hasn't given up on me yet; he invited Dorian and I to both come in for a lap-dance, saying, "It'll spice up your romance!" I told him I'd much rather see him give us the lap-dance, but at our apartment around the corner when he's off duty. He laughed and said he'd think about it. Thankfully he didn't show-up, but it gets to a point where it's kind of fun to mess with them after awhile.

I'm pretty sure that if they thought I was bat-shit crazy then they wouldn't want me in their club and would stop asking, so maybe next time I'm hustled I should bark like a dog as loud as I can and pee on the door, but the problem is, there are new doormen and girls all the time. The conclusion I draw from this is it must be a really shitty job and I don't really want to be an asshole who messes with people who have a shitty job, since I've had shitty jobs in the past and they're not much fun. So I'll refrain from being faux-crazy and continue to either just politely decline invitations or ignore them altogether when I pass.

Maybe I'll have a little fun with it once in awhile.

Aside from all of their aggressive hustling, there is truth in the advertisement on the outside of the club underneath of us. I know they think they're talking about the girls who work inside when they shout out "THE BEST GIRLS IN TOWN!" to the neighborhood, but really, the best girl in town is above the sign, not below it. I've lived with her for twenty four years..


Tonight I'm going to have dinner with that girl and we'll watch something silly on TV, after which we'll discuss a few things about life before going to bed. It will cost me almost nothing compared to what an evening down in the club would, and I'll be much more content in the end.

The best part of the deal is that it was entirely my own idea. Not one person stood outside our door and suggested that I come in to do it!



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