Sunday, June 04, 2006

Not Much Between Despair And Ecstasy

It's Sunday and I am re-redding my hair. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, is determinedly catnapping on a carpeted pedestal plainly designed for a smaller kitty. Outside, the air fades to blue with early evening and intermittent rain. It's wet out there but not like yesterday. Trout and I went to a funeral service as grown women and turned into those people. You know, those people, the friends the family doesn't understand.

The tribe to which I belong traces its origins to the music and art scene New Brunswick, based around certain bars, most of which are no longer standing. The characters are colorful and wounded, many destroyed by heroin, alcoholism and AIDS, but many more turn up in droves at the weddings and funerals of those more and less fortunate than themselves. I know many of them by face, most by their first names and precious few last names. I knew one of my closer friends only by his nickname for six years but I always knew what he drank and when he was playing guitar.

I knew the deceased as Freddy and never knew his last name. He was the singer and driving force behind the trashy and fabulous Mad Daddys, with a stage persona named Stinky Sonobuoni. Many nights, the band played in New Brunswick bars, and many times, the tribe showed up to see Stinky turn in fucking great sets for crowds that always begged for more. I respect that in a fellow tribesman. Last week, Freddy died after a long fight with cancer; I ache for his wife, his parents and his closest friends. I really do. That's why when Trout and I showed up at the funeral home and the crowd poured out into the hallway, silent and still, we did our level best to even breathe quietly to hear the speakers inside the viewing room. Some voices were low and indistinguishable but the people inside laughed crisply. Some voices were perfectly audible, and outside, we laughed, too. I looked around the hall and said, "I've ended up under a bar somewhere with about half these people." Every eye was red and everyone was laughing. Freddy really lived, the only tragedy was that he hadn't lived longer, and each story was about traveling with the band, dancing, singing somewhere unlikely and buying leopard print underwear. Everyone had a story about leopard print underwear. The funeral service developed a motif.

The final speaker was clergy of some kind and this guy had never met Freddy. Didn't know a thing about him. Spoke about a flock of sheep and parsed his own sentences. Spoke about meadows and still water in the 23rd Psalm. I started to smile. When he spoke about irrigation, even Trout started smiling. After a few minutes, I laughed out loud. One of the guys against the back wall blurted, "Man, that guy rambles." Suddenly, it was all over out in the hallway. The disreputable friends were laughing and talking and nobody heard another word from inside. I said to Trout, "At my funeral, none of this grim crap. Everyone should talk about fucking."

The funeral director offered us a room dozens of us could be disreputable in but almost nobody took him up on it, preferring to mill about under an awning outside. The rain had stopped temporarily. When crowds of old ladies filed out, we went back inside the viewing room. Trout and Freddy's wife go back to the late seventies New Brunswick punk band XEX, when Freddy's wife was known as Thumbelina Gugliemo. Thumbelina, Trout says, was the first person Trout ever knew who decorated her Christmas tree with blinky lights and empty White Castle boxes.

I admire that in a person. I really do. The widow is thrilled to see Trout. She's happy to see me, too, but she's thrilled to see Trout. Trout and I leave the funeral home and feel we've gotten off easy somehow, though Trout is a little wilted and sad. In Highland Park, she pulls over the Volkswagen and parks. We bolt for my sisters' toy store, where we inch around the room, squealing with glee, set off by our discovery of a book: Who Moved My Cheese? Trout perks up. My six-year-old nephew Tippecanoe is talking to customers like the toy store's maitre d'. On our way out, we meet his older sister Lois on her way in. The rain has stopped. In other news, our New Mexico correspondent starts a new job:
I've been up since the coyotes started started their insane laughter about five this morning, half nervously and half gleefully anticipating my first day as an honest-to-Jesus car salesman, taking "ups," people who wander onto the lot. I'm still weak on product knowledge, but I wasn't hired to be a mechanic. The job is about rapport, and I can do rapport. My manager told me that at this point in my career I don't have to do any hardball negotiating, which was the thing I was most dubious about in taking the job at all. He says my part is to find them the car they want and get them to my desk, or "in the box," and he'll take over while I watch and learn. I've spent the last couple of days out on the lot, making sure no one is close by, then practicing my pitch out loud. I've sold myself one of everything on the lot, and I already have a car, so obviously I have great promise. I still feel like someone else, like an actor, but that's no surprise, it runs in the family, my dad being a porn star. I don't even have to take off my pants. Except if it's absolutely necessary to make the sale. Still, I've got to tell you, the boost this whole thing has been to my confidence, even if I never sell a car, has been vast.

I'll make time later this week to sketch in my colleagues for you in more detail. They're primarily younger than me, the usual mix down here of white, Indian, and Spanish, and to fit in at all I've had to get used to calling everyone "brother" and "dog," or, in Spanish, "perro." Because they're young they've all seen that Adam Sandler movie where his character's name is Bobby, so of course that's become my name. We were a bunch of us riding in a van to pick up cars from another lot, and Dave the used car manager heard Me and My Bobby McGee on the radio and suddenly sang along "Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee!" Steve my manager at first tried to remain professional and call me John, but yesterday he slipped and called me Bobby. It's official now. I put it on the order form for my business cards.

It's getting to be showtime. I've got to floss my teeth and buff my shoes and look one more time over my flash cards of the prices of the various models of Hondas, Subarus, and VWs. I have a guy from the real estate office where I worked who I hope will be in to let me take him out to test drive an Element. I don't even care if he buys it. When he walks onto the lot and asks for Bobby, my dick will feel about two feet long.

Wish me, you know.

I love you, princess.

He calls me "princess." Wanna make something of it? Finally, Garnier has a new dye color: Hot Tamale. Yep. It's a hair color almost guaranteed to be visible from space - or under the bar.


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