Saturday, April 16, 2011

Waddling Around Stumptown: The Concrete Beneath My Feet

"Hey, Jack, what's your whistle whistlin' for today?" "IPA, Bar-Am. Can't argue with the way Dixie gets trilled with that, now can you?" "Well, I could, but I'm not gonna. I've got other drinks to make and brews to pour. Here's yours." I settled onto a stool and took a load off my barking dogs. It was a spring day in Stumptown, which lately differs from a winter day in that trees are blooming and yard art, in the form of a bowling-ball-beauty, is starting to make an appearance. But that's about the end of it. It may be spring on the daily minder and they may have set the clocks ahead, but it's been cold and wet. Gives a body a chill to the bone only a cold IPA can cure.

Bar-Am was killing time, filing her nails with an emery board and chewing on a toothpick, so I thought I'd tell her what I'd been thinking about. You see, I've been waddling all over Stumptown for a good time now--looking here and there and generally taking in the sights. But, without ever thinking about what I was walking on. Concrete, that's what. And some of it's been there for a Century and more. "So, Bar-Am, I'm on shank's mare, looking down to see what I can see, see? And I start wondering..." She shifts the pick from left to right and back again, sticks the emery board in the hip pocket of her jeans, leans forward on the bar on her elbows, puts her chin in her hands and says, "Do tell me, Jack. I'm all ears." And a pair of rolling eyes, I notice.

"Well first I was wondering about all the sidewalk contractors. Jeeze Louise there was a lot of them and they put their names right in the concrete along with the date." "Hmmm. I wish someone would order some drinks." "And in a few places, when they re-did the sidewalks, they took a piece with the old contractor's name and put it into the new sidewalk. I think that's nice when they do that--preserving the history, you know." I noticed Bar-Am poured herself a drink--had the look of a double brown whiskey on the rocks. She downed it. "Here's the one on my corner. I think it's Cochran Constrco, 10 2 29--just three weeks before the big market crash."

Just as Bar-Am was reaching to pour herself another, my blower--that portable one I carry in my pocket--sparked. "Yallow, D'Mestiere Investigations where "Your Trouble is No Trouble at All". "Jackie-boy, shut up. You are driving Bar-Am to drink and if you weren't on the first floor, she'd be crawling out the window to jump." I looked at her and she gave me the up and down. "Professor Bolelyn, wha, I mean, why, er..." "Shut up. Close your trap. I have a room full of technicians here at the control center of Boleyn's-Eye-View (® Boleyn Enterprises) satellite surveillance system and they are threatening to strike. No one wants to hear about concrete. By the way, you were caught on the Reflecto-Cam (® Boleyn Enterprises) earlier, near some very fattening locales...Is that raisin bread?"

"Well, Professor, I beg to differ. And I got a lot more to say about it. See, I've been developing this whole theory about the topology of concrete and why it breaks in some places and doesn't in others and I'm correlating breakage with the date of the pour and the contractor and..." "SHUT UP, JACK. This is sick. You are sick. Too much time on the streets. Perhaps Fiora is right and you should get a machine in your basement and watch old movies on VCR--yes, I know that Fiora retains the only VCR extant in the Northern Hemisphere for entertainment in the gym she envisions in the basement..." 'And then I've noticed, Professor...and Bar-Am... that there seem to be different approaches to dealing with concrete issues--har, get it, concrete issues. Down south of Broadway, they seem to patch whereas up here in our neck of the woods, they seem to replace. Now isn't that interesting?" "Bar-AM, I don't think it's safe to run that knife over your wrists like that.

Anyway, then I got to thinking about the similarities between walking on sidewalks and flying in airplanes." "They aren't similar, Jack." She spit the pick into the sink, picked up three olives out of the bin on the bar, juggled them for a few seconds, and then caught them in turn in her mouth. "They're as similar as beer and..." "Rocks." "Thanks, Professor. Beer and rocks." "No listen, here's 'Good afternoon, we're expecting a smooth flight today so I'll turn the seat belt sign off...'" I heard a groan over the phone. "Jack. Jack, you have to listen." Professor Boleyn's voice had dropped an octave, the way it always did when he was going into counseling mode. "And here's an air pocket. And light chop." "Jack. Jackie-boy. All this walking has worn holes in the bottom of your feet and your brains are draining right out on the floor!" "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS AND FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS TIGHT--THIS IS GOING TO BE ROUGH ONE!"

I heard Bar-Am's blower spark. "Yep, yep, can do. WILCO." I love it when she talks radio talk--hey, it is the Radio Room! "Jack, great story. Here's one on the house." She slid a glass in front of me. It was neon green and had a few vapors coming off of it, but it smelled good. "It's a specialty." I drank it down. A warm glow came over me. "Jackie-boy, are you there?" "Sure, Professor. Remember, I was telling you about waddling today and how I went to some new territory, out of my zone of operations, and how I saw some neon signs and a sign for a chicken cart with chicken that bites, but chickens don't bite, they peck..." "He should yammer like this for about 20 minutes and then be back to normal, Bar-Am. Send him home and tell him to take tomorrow off from walking. Oh, and if he tell you any stories about seeing coyotes in the city or starting a new business, it's just the potion talking." "ROGER. BAR-AM OUT."

No comments: