Friday, January 29, 2010

"Might've Been Colgate" - Early January, 2009

They gathered around a table in the nurses' room at the retirement home for a send off meal consisting of sandwiches from The Bread Basket, Michigan's premier deli. Poppie barely touched his food, which was rare when it came to Corned Beef. A month shy of his 97th birthday, he swore that he'd already eaten dinner. This was clearly not true being that his grandson, Jared, had been at his side since 4pm and witnessed no such business. Poppie, who'd been telling stories on loop for years now, every once in a while curiously shared a story with which nobody was familiar. These were moments to be cherished, like a rare meteor shower, regardless of whether they were valid or mere products of his dementia. Today featured one such moment. It was about his sole experience playing in an organized football game.
"I'll never forget it, boy," he said. "I can't remember what team it was for - might've been Colgate."
"What position did you play?" Jared asked.
"Cornerback, maybe."
"Did you win?"
"Who can remember?"
When Jared relayed the story to his aunt and mother over dinner, they dismissed it as rubbish. "Eat your sandwich, Poppie!" they ordered.
"I told you - I already ate dinner" he exclaimed.
"No you didn't," everyone rejoined in chorus, then burst out laughing.
"I paid for that, you know," Jared's mother reminded him. She was happy to remind people when she was paying.
Jared was moving to NYC in two days for a film internship with GreeneStreet. Metro Detroit had proven to be a creative vacuum. His mother and father made no big deal of the move. It was his aunt's idea to treat the dinner as a sendoff. She even bought a cake of which Jared only ate a meager slice.
At some point the family contracted the sillies, all except for Jared and Poppie, who looked on with blank expressions. The family giggled contagiously and hysterically. That's how it usually went: everyone except for one person (and Poppie) would be on funny pills; and most times, that one person was either Jared or his mother. They took turns. Jared prayed that it spoke to no greater similarity of character. That's not to say other family members couldn't be the non-laughers. Everyone played the role once in a while. They were a family of opportunists and
shifting alliances. Not that it was impossible for everyone to be in on the laughter - those were the good times. Even Poppie could be susceptible to the chuckles, though it remained a mystery what he was actually laughing about. But most of the time there had to be someone remaining
sober; someone not laughing, to keep the situation in check, reality anchored, if reality meant being unhappy or unamused.
Jared's father asked him if he would write about this incident after the fact, like he did many things. Jared said no.

A few days later, Jared was in New York. He'd arranged an apartment living with a friend of a friend in Clinton Hill. Her name was Emma.
"Why did your former roomie move out?" he asked her while sharing their first subway together.
"Umm. Hmm," she stammered. "She got mugged on our stoop. I wasn't trying to keep it from you. I figured it just wasn't, er, necessary for me to bring up. And that I'd tell you about it if you ever asked, which you just did, sooner than I expected. I hope you don't feel cheated. The rent is $650. You can't beat $650." She smiled impishly with a shade of nervousness.
For the first week, Jared made it a point to sprint the distance between the subway and his apartment. That went on until the discomfort of running in dilapidated hi-tops proved too great. While it lasted, it was good for burning off beer calories, and inducing nausea.

In their third week of living together, Emma sent Jared this email:

Subject: Roommate bonding appointment scheduling

Hello good sir,
Instead of perpetually saying no I'm not free to your wonderfully kind offers and/or spending vast amounts of time roaming the night when I say I'll be home early...
I wish to propose times when I am free. To take the guesswork, spontaneity, and maybe hopefully not the fun, out of our hanging out. Cuz spontaneity,while enticing, is hit or miss. in this case, miss.
Would you ever be free/ interested in a breakfast date at Outpost (the wonderful coffee shop down the street)? They have terrific food and coffee and I'd like to share my love of the place.
How about Tuesday morning, the 19th? like... 9am...earlier later... depending when you have to get to ur internship?
Then laundry, we will do that too. it has been a long time for me... but i go home to CT often and do a bit then, so don't judge me too harshly.
anyway, thanks for coming to live with me. there are three free shelves in the medicine cabinet if you need them. and let me know if you want me to clear out one of the standing shelves in the bathroom.


They went on to share a wonderful breakfast together at a quaint little cafe mere steps from their brownstone, ironically named "Outpost", being that its clientele was mostly white in a predominantly black neighborhood.
As January neared its end, Jared felt satisfied with his first month in NYC. He had gotten to cover some scripts at work, drive around his boss' 7-series BMW (mostly to find alternative parking during street cleaning), answer the phone once to find James Gandolfini on the other end,
and ogle the models coming into audition for casting agencies sharing office space with GreeneStreet. He earned some cash doing data entry for and serving as a production assistant on an intimate shoot with JP Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon. There was even a gig in the works shooting a music video about wine for a friend of a friend. Socially, he had reconnected with old friends and given bar trivia the ole college try, several times, without great success.
There was still the issue of why he continued to pee jet yellow despite drinking adequate amounts of water. Getting healthy amounts of fruits and veggies was also proving a challenge. And well, laundry, of course.
All in all, there was a palpable taste of promise in the air.

1 comment:

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