June 2, 2009

-image-el dukay

You know, the last few days, old customers of mine from little Boheme just keep running through my head in an endless loop. So many I need to write about, but I just haven’t really allowed myself to think about them all for over a year now. I guess I’ve just tucked Boheme away, feeling like a failure, feeling ashamed, not allowing myself to look at the other side of the coin — at things I actually did accomplish or learn. The business went belly up so, in my head, I label the whole experience a washout. I’m very apocalyptic in my thinking. But, through Boheme, I encountered so many amazing, real, funny, and, yes, frequently flat-out demented people, and all of that — the entire frenetic grab-bag — needs to be reprogrammed in my mind as a unique kind of treasure. Because, really, it is. I’m trying to gain a little perspective, rather than just bashing myself about the head for it all, and honestly, the people I met and still know from little Boheme have left real lasting imprints on my heart and mind. It’s not fair to lock them away, like I do so often with things. It’s time to unlock, let them free, acknowledge their impact, good or bad, even.

So, today, I’m thinking about El Dukay.

El Dukay was not a customer at Boheme. Oh, no. He was much more than that. He was my savior, no two ways about it. He serviced my espresso machine; he serviced my grinders; he serviced my water heater. He did everything. Once, he even showed me how “he” made a cappuccino, we debated about that for at least an hour, and, well, I still think I’m right on that one, which is neither here nor there. His last name was Duke, so I called him El Dukay and he seemed to revel in having a “title,” puffed out his skinny chest just a little more. Just knowing El Dukay was around made me feel much more secure about things. Come what may, I knew I could call him and say, “Wah! Help! I don’t know what’s wrong!” and that man would come running. There was no coffee-related emergency he couldn’t fix and there was no coffee-related emergency he would ever really charge me for, either. Or if he did charge me, it was always some ridiculously low figure. I’d protest and say, “Come on, El Dukay. You have to charge me for REAL.”

“Oh, well, I’ll just overcharge you next time, okay? Come on, pony up the ten bucks.”

For, you know, keeping my espresso machine from blowing up.

El Dukay was not handsome. Far from it. He was goofy-looking. He was skinny, tall, perhaps balding but he always wore a baseball cap so I never knew for sure. Tufts of red hair curled out from under his cap. His eyes were always huge, as if perpetually surprised. His face was pale and freckled in a Howdy Doody way but his smile, his laugh, were completely ingratiating. Kind of left a girl a little defenseless. And he was goofy looking, I tell you! Thing is, he was just one of those men whose sheer force of personality made him so much more attractive. The whole was definitely greater than the sum of the parts with that one. He always reminded of The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz and I love The Scarecrow. Whenever something broke down, I was almost happy because that meant El Dukay would be coming and hilarity would ensue. I mean, he and I could banter for hours like warring siblings. Actually, we did banter for hours like warring siblings, because, well, he was basically impossible in your typical big brother way, and desperately needed my nosy goody-goody intervention in his life.

Because, you see, El Dukay lived his life like Hugh Hefner.

Almost immediately upon meeting him, I discovered my skinny scarecrow was a playah. A 56-year-old playah. He knew I was married and rolled his eyes at the very idea. Not that I couldn’t be married, no, but just that marriage in general made him roll his eyes. Actually, he rolled his eyes quite a lot and I would imitate him rolling his eyes and he’d just roll his eyes some more.

So no. No marriage for this scarecrow playah. And what kind of sucker was I, anyway? Married? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

He would date multiple girls at once. And when I say “girls,” I mean girls. Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-five years old. If a woman was over thirty, ugh, he’d roll his eyes, wrinkle his nose. Blech. Disgust.

My Beloved would say, “El Dukay has a crush on you.”

And I’d say, “Ha. I’m too old for that man. Just ask him.”

He’d tell me, a great impish gleam in those green eyes, about taking these girls home to his hot tub, his “spa.” He’d speak in worshipful tones about his personal massage table in his “massage suite” at home. He’d start to tell me about things that happened after the “spa” and after the massage table and I’d hold up my hand, roll my eyes, and bark, “STOP!”

And he would. He’d stop. He just liked to see me blush.

Despite this, El Dukay was a truly decent fellow. He was not a pervert, even though I accused him of being one every time I saw him. Yes, he was a satyr and, yes, his whole life was one long Dionysian revel, but, still, he was the nicest sugar daddy a twenty-something girl could hope to have.

As time went on, I couldn’t keep track of his girls by name and, frankly, neither could he. I felt like Lucy Ricardo on that candy factory assembly line. I literally could not keep up. The girls! There were always more and more and more of them rushing by faster and faster and faster. In frustration, I simply began to label them Spa Girl 1, Spa Girl 2, Spa Girl 37, etc., ad nauseum, and our conversations would go like this:

“So how many Spa Girls are there now? Tell me the truth.”

“Well, uhm, there’s three.”

“Only three? Wow, you’re slipping, old man. You disappoint me. Okay. So we have Spa Girl 1, Spa Girl 2, and Spa Girl 3?

“Uh-huh.”

“You know, seriously, what is wrong with you? Do they know about each other? Do you tell them?

“No.”

“You’re a disaster.”

Laughing. “No, I’m not!

“No. You are, Rico Suave. Okay. How old is the oldest one again?”

“Twenty-six.”

“And — let’s review, again. You’re what? 93?”

Eye roll. “I’m 56.”

Eye roll. “Same thing.”

“And I’m going to Italy soon with one of them. One of them gets to be Italian Spa Girl!

“Which one?”

“I haven’t decided.”

“I don’t even want to know what’s involved in that selection process.”

“Well ….”

“No, you perv. Shut up.”

“You married people.”

“Look, I’m sorry you’re defective — that you’re missing the commitment gene.”

“Ohh, I’m definitely not defective …..”

“Oh, hahaha, Hef. Mazeltov on all your working parts.”

“Just thought I’d clarify.”

“You know who’s a nice man?”

“Who?”

“Your brother, that’s who.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah. He came out one day when you couldn’t make it and we talked all about your illness and how happily married he is.”

“Now that’s an illness.”

I’m telling you, we’d go on like this for hours. He’d stay, long past completing my repair, bantering like this with me, wasting time.

Finally, I’d say, “Don’t you need to go make money? I mean, you don’t charge me anything. How are you gonna afford to have ‘Italian Spa Girl’?”

“Oh. Don’t worry about me. Now, I’ll be gone to Italy for two weeks. Try not to break anything, okay?”

“Ha. I’ll just call the nice brother if I do.”

Two weeks later, my phone rang.

“Tracey, it’s El Dukay.”

“Hahaha. Hey, Hef. Are you back from Italy?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“How was it? How was ‘Italian Spa Girl’?”

Silence.

“Dukay?”

“Oh, Gawwwd.”

“What?”

“It was awwwful.”

“Hahahaha. I knew it, you dummy. What happened?”

“She drove me crazy.”

“Hahahahaha. I don’t feel sorry for you, but please continue.”

“Tracey …. I took her clothes shopping.”

“Most girls would like that.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“So?”

“Ughhhh ….. none of the Italian clothes fit her.”

“Oh, oops.”

“And she had this huge hissy fit right in the middle of the store.”

God forgive me, but I was howling at El Dukay’s pain. Crying tears of laughter at the anguish and horror in my scarecrow playah’s voice.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not.”

“No, I’m not.”

“It was horrible. She was freaking out. I couldn’t calm her down. She just kept wailing, ‘I’m fat in Italy, I’m fat in Italy!'”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

“You’re mean.”

“I know.”

“I finally dragged her out of there and took her shoes shopping instead. I mean, how fat can feet be?”

“I … don’t know. Uhm, so how was the rest of the trip?”

“Torture. I couldn’t wait to bring her home.”

Still laughing. “Sorry, Dukay.”

“I kept thinking to myself, ‘Maybe Tracey was right. Maybe she’s right about everything.'”

“Well, obviously, I am.”

“Maybe. Maybe you are after all.”

Ah, El Dukay. My skinny scarecrow playah. Yes, I’m thinking of you today.

Actually, now that I think of it, I need to send you a harassing email, you pervert.

February 19, 2008

-image-the feng shui lady

She came rushing in on the second to last day of Boheme. This tiny little lady with Peter Pan hair, raspberry lips, and a bandana tied in a jaunty knot around her neck. I’d seen her around before, once or twice. She’d talk a lot; never buy a lot.

“Oooh! You’ve rearranged in here — gimme a small coffee, hon — really, wow! Oooh! It’s so much more feng shui!”

She smiled a raspberry smile. Very feng shui.

“Oh,” I looked around, “yeah.”

“Yeaaah. Nice.” Then she got down to business. “Okay. So now what you need to do for prosperity energy is hang a big –”

A small giggle escaped me. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t so much what she was saying as it was the timing. I was closing tomorrow.

“No — I’m being totally serious here.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that we’re closing tomorrow.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean, tomorrow is our last day here.”

“No.”

“Yeah, it’s true. Just not really working out here.”

“Oh, no. Well, you know … I know things. I see things. And you know what I see? You’re going to be very successful. I just see it.”

She stared at me, eyes bright with conviction. It was an uncomfortable stare. For me, not her, obviously.

“Oh. Okay. Uh, well, good.”

“Yes.”

I didn’t know what to say to her.

“Well, thank you.”

“Yes. Oh, you’re welcome.”

She took her small coffee and practically floated to the back patio, overjoyed with her searing psychic moment. I — the sure-to-be-successful one — watched her for a second, sighed, and started another brew of coffee.

September 27, 2007

-image-riding the tide of insanity

The last few weeks have been especially stressful. We’ve seen the rise of my Inner Shaniqua. And now there’s the emergence of MB’s Lurking Hobo.

Out of the blue, as we’re driving in the car tonight … his face is set, his eyes forward, determined, as he mutters:

HE: I’m totally gonna take a d*mp in the ice machine.
ME: You are NOT gonna take a d*mp in the ice machine. Who has access to the ice machine? Everyone would know you took the d*mp in the ice machine.
HE: (without missing a beat) I’m gonna pee on the floor in the bathroom.
ME: (trying to soothe) Okay …. okay.

Sometimes you just gotta understand what your man needs, you know?

September 26, 2007

-image-color food

So I’m still hazy but not feverish. Thanks for the well wishes.

This weekend is the end of B*heme.

MB is working late and I’m sitting here having anxiety and eating orange food. Pretty much only orange food: Cheetos and tomato soup and Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

And will you think less of me if I tell you that they all go in the same bowl?

And will you think less of me if I tell you I’ll be watching the second installment of “Kid Nation” * — which I actually think is brilliant — whilst eating my MacCheetoToms?

I still have more to say about B*heme. But not now, not tonight. I need to try to relax.

So. Let’s see. You could tell me something weird that YOU eat.

(And how do I make mine because it sound so delicious, you ask? Well, take mac and plop in bowl. Splash bit of tomato soup on top, like sauce. Add crumbled Cheetos topping. Brush teeth immediately after. This is just how I do it because I know if I accidentally see my cheesy orange tongue later, I will scream. But that’s just me.)

*Okay. Wait. The little kid Jimmy, who was all homesick last week, sobbing, “I’m only 8 years old! I miss my mom and dad!”? Fuggedaboudit. And the 12-year-old girl from Boston who tried to comfort him saying — with her thick Boston accent, “Well, I know how much you miss them. But can you let me kinda stand in for your mahm and dad for a little while? I’d like to do that for you.”? Oh, I was gone. Bawling. So touching. WATCH the show. Don’t just write it off because of the controversy surrounding it. I think it’s going to become more substantive than people realize.

Okay. Wait again. The debate on “Kid Nation” amongst the 40 kids right now is “Will we kill a chicken?” A bunch of kids were all upset and then this no-nonsense black kid, about 11 years old, stands up and says, “How many of you eat chicken at home?”

Most kids raise their hands.

So the kid says, channeling his inner Shaniqua, “Okay. So what’s different now? Are y’all in love with the chickens or something?”

Another kid, clearly a poet, says into the camera, “As Shakespeare said, ‘To kill or not to kill?'”

I love these kids, this whole show.

September 25, 2007

-image-master of the house

You know you’re really done with your coffeehouse and its people when you go out to lunch (last week before your general malaisia struck) and the waiter, who was really the best, most hoppin’ waiter you’ve had in a long long time, brings you an extra unrequested basket of fresh zucchini bread and you ooh and ahh and make a fuss and you take it home in a neat little box and then — you SELL IT AT YOUR COFFEEHOUSE THE NEXT DAY FOR A BUCK FIFTY A SLICE.

Later you realize …. but not until after you sell the last slice, strangely …. that you have now become Thenardier.

You know ……. (sing it with me, y’all)

Food beyond compare
Food beyond belief
Mix it in a mincer
And pretend it’s beef
Kidney of a horse
Liver of a cat
Filling up the sausages
With this and that

Bread you got for free
Bread now in plain view
Stuff it in a basket
And pretend it’s new
Did you make this, ma’am?
Why, who wants to know?
Here you need another one
Now OFF YOU GO!

You know …… uhm, like that.

September 23, 2007

-image-open arms

I leave the radio on at B*heme, just tuned to a generic, inoffensive pop music station. You must have background music at a coffeehouse or the silence is deafening and encourages more random intolerable babbling.

So this long-haired dude came into B*heme today. We must have been in a momentary time warp because Journey’s schmaltzy “Open Arms” was playing on the radio. The dude ordered an iced Americano and chatted with MB while I made the drink. Moments later, when I handed him the drink, he paused, listened to the song and said, “Man. I feel like I should make out with my coffee or something.”

And we just died laughing as he smiled and walked out to the sidewalk.

September 20, 2007

-image-crashing

I think the day-to-day drain of Boheme may very possibly be causing the erosion of my entire personality. Like the tectonic plates of my character are shifting and crashing and forming a whole new continent of me. A very inhospitable one. Or a penal colony, like Australia.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Since we opened, the sidewalk seats and tables have been popular flop spots for various and sundry unsavories. There’s no railing out there to set the tables apart from the general flow of foot traffic. (Well, there was one, illegally, for about 2 weeks. Thank you, Baby Button Eyes. Another story.) This means that any Hobo Joe, exhausted from all his napping and drinking and hallucinating, has been able to squat his moldy bum on my chairs and plop his shopping bag of hand-me-downs on my tables.

In the beginning, I was a bit intimidated. I mean, they were large. They were insane and mumbly. They were catastrophically grubby. And they’d park there, in my chairs, buying nothing from me, of course, because they were already sipping loudly on their well-worn bottles of VitaminWater filled with suspicious amber liquid. If I let them, they’d lounge there all day. I soon discovered I was in danger of owning a hobo coffeehouse. A coffeehouse that screamed, “Tired of sleeping in Cardboard Canyon? Sleep here instead!”

I decided I didn’t want that.

So I began to clean house.

“Can I get you a coffee?” I’d say. Uhm, hint hint.

Sometimes they’d scrounge enough mud-caked coins from their pockets to buy a small coffee and go back to the business of sitting. But at least they’d paid for the squat.

Other times, they’d say, “Uhh, no.”

And I’d reply, “I’m sorry. These seats are for customers only” while staring steadily at them until they left.

As time went on, this became my routine. Subtly offer them coffee, apologize firmly about the seating, stare til they left. It worked okay.

Most of the time.

About a month ago, a man flopped himself down in one of the sidewalk chairs. He didn’t look blatantly homeless, but he wasn’t entirely clean either. He wore a dress shirt and khaki pants that looked like they’d been worn for a few days. Wrinkly. Damp. There was just an overall lack of freshness, I guess. A plastic grocery bag sat in his lap. A cell phone was stuck to his ear. One hand dug in the bag. The other held the phone. I wasn’t sure what was going on, really, I just knew he’d been sitting there for a while now.

So I approached and did my routine. The offer. The apology. The steady stare.

He just stared back at me. I stood my ground.

Finally, belligerently, “What? Do you think I’m homeless or something?”

I paused to think. Honestly, I still wasn’t sure.

“No,” I said, “I think you’re sitting in my chair and you need to buy something or go.”

He didn’t budge. A few more words into his cell phone.

I was done with him. “Hit the bricks, dude. NNNOW!”

His eyes rolled up and over to the side as he threw me a slanty dirty look. He got up, very slowly — for effect, I could tell — threw me another look, and shuffled off down the sidewalk.

At that moment, the plates shifted inside me. I felt it. It made me reckless.

A week after that, while on my cell phone with My Beloved, I started my routine with two mangy looking dudes in wifebeater t-shirts whose arms were blue-green from tattoos. They were exchanging money. What was going on? Was this a drug deal? Who cared, dammit! They weren’t buying any coffee! They weren’t gonna sit in my chairs!

After they refused the subtle offer, I announced loudly, “Well, then you need to leave.”

“We’re just hanging out,” one said.

“What’s going on?” MB said inside the cell phone.

“Not at my tables, you’re not. Hit the bricks.”

Hit the bricks was all the rage with me.

“Tray …. what the hell is going on?” MB’s voice rising. “Do I need to come over there?”

I didn’t answer him. The plates were crashing and I was proclaiming all over the place.

“I AM ON THE PHONE WITH THE COPS AND YOU NEED TO LEAVE NNNOWWWW!”

“F*cking A, lady.”

“Honey, honey … stop … what … I’m coming there right now!”

The dudes stood up. They were very tall and very tattoed and I was going to be killed.

“J*sus Chr*st!” They stared down at me. I stared at them and I know I looked insane. I don’t know how I know. Except that they walked away and I ran inside, shaking, MB yelling at me inside the cell phone.

And with each incident, somehow, the geography of who I was was changing, the crust was stretching. I felt strong. I felt insane. I kinda liked it.

Then today.

The deadly lunchtime lull. A nicely dressed businessman pulled up a chair outside while I watched him from my perch inside, sized him up. Head tilted to the side. Cell phone smushed against his shoulder. Talking. Legal pad folder open on the table. I waited and timed him. Gave him 10 minutes or so.

Then I approached with the routine. I was so tired of doing this.

“Can I get you a coffee or something?” He was still on the phone.

And he didn’t acknowledge me. Didn’t even look at me. Raised his free hand, dangled the fingers, and shooed me away. Dismissed me entirely.

And in the two seconds that followed, I felt it again. This time, the continents collided, exploded. The massive continent of the one me against the massive continent of … my inner Shaniqua. I have no idea where she came from. I only know she suddenly stormed front and center and she was big and black and mouthy. In an instant, I was a giant, kick-ass black woman. Oh, no. He di’int just do dat.

“Then you need to GO.” He kept talking on his phone. Didn’t look at me. Shooed me away. AGAIN.

Shaniqua roared out of me. She grabbed his opened folder, closed it, and walked away with it, plopping it forcefully on an outside table at the deli next door. As she walked past him back into B*home, she yelled:

“YOU NEED TO GO. I AM DONE WITH YOU.”

Once inside, I started shaking. I saw him hang up his phone. Here he comes. He was raging at me.

“THAT WAS SO RUDE! I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU DID THAT! ESPECIALLY SINCE WE DID AN EDITORIAL ON THIS PLACE ABOUT TWO MONTHS AGO! I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU!”

I had no idea who “we” was. And I knew “this place” meant the wine lounge, not little B*heme. Shaniqua wasn’t done.

“SPEAKING OF RUDE, SIR. YOU DON’T GET TO COME HERE AND COP A SQUAT IN ONE OF MY CHAIRS, ORDER NOTHING, AND THEN DISMISS ME AS IF I’M LESS THAN HUMAN! I’M NOT TAKING THAT KIND OF CRAP FROM ANYONE! AND YOUR “EDITORIAL”? IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. YOU NEED TO HIT THE ROAD NOW!”

My voice … where was it coming from? Shaniqua was loud, man. He stomped away, but I knew he couldn’t really do it. I knew he’d come right back. Here he comes again.

“YOU KNOW WHAT? I KNOW PEOPLE. YOU JUST PISSED OFF THE WRONG PERSON! IT’S NOT LIKE I’M HOMELESS OR SOMETHING –”

Shaniqua interrupted.

“IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU BEING HOMELESS. HOMELESS PEOPLE COME AND TRY TO SIT FOR FREE AND RIGHT NOW THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND THE HOMELESS PEOPLE IS THAT YOU’RE BETTER DRESSED. NO. THIS HAS TO DO WITH YOUR PRESUMPTION AND YOUR TOTAL COMPLETE RUDENESS AND YOU NEED TO GO!”

“WELL, YOU PISSED OFF THE WRONG PERSON! THE WRONG PERSON!”

Finally, he stomped off for good. I stood shaking for several minutes until Shaniqua subsided a bit. I grabbed my phone and called MB.

“Well … guess what I just did?” I said, quavery voiced.

And MB talked softly to me for a long time until the plates stopped rumbling and all was quiet inside.

September 19, 2007

-image-the thing is ….

The thing is ….

I may just be temperamentally unsuited to be a coffeehouse mistress. At least the kind I have to be at little B*heme. This is one of the things I’ve learned. Quite arduously and repeatedly, I might add, lo! these many months. And this is likely to be one of those rambling, sweet-Jesus-what-the-heck-is-she-talking-about posts. Sigh. I’m trying, peeps. I’m just worn down to a nub right now. Forgive me.

But I’m not kidding when I call it “little B*heme.” Just to go through some logistics here: My primary coffeehouse area is 276 square feet. I have 2 tables in this area that seat 2 people each. My front doors are always open — literally — so I’m a kind of indoor/outdoor coffeehouse. The sidewalk area has 3 tables, seating, oh, about 10-12 people. In the very back of the building is the private bamboo patio. That seats about 25-30. To get there, you have to walk through the wine lounge. People go back there, they like it there, but the main action, so to speak, is up front.

And this is bad.

Because somehow, over the last several months, I have managed to open a gaping Pandora’s box of conversation and I just cannot get. it. to. SHUT.

No. I’m a prisoner in my own space. There is literally nowhere to hide. I can’t leave the area unattended; I’m by myself most of the time. Just to use the bathroom only a few feet away, I must lock up the register, run — quick like a bunny, and pee faster than anyone in the world has ever peed. Even that boy in third grade who peed so fast and deadly during the class spelling bee that we spellers didn’t know until the floor got slick under the soles of our wallabees. Poor kid. He peed a puddle AND he couldn’t spell Caesar.

So — as I was saying somewhere back there, ahem — when solo customers come in and sit in this teensy area, I am naked, exposed, a captive audience to whatever it is they feel they simply MUST talk about. Right then and there. For hours on end. Ad infinitum. I’m not kidding. There are probably at least a dozen customers who come in regularly who make my heart sink like a stone when I see them because I know they will stay and stay and stay and staaaaay, like the worst zit you’ve ever begged God to be rid of. They will come in and set up camp and part of their camp is somehow me — conversation with me — because, apparently, in the beginning I seemed friendly and open and conversationally accommodating. None of which I actually AM. No. I am snarky and closed and conversationally intolerant. But, through the magic of improvisational theater, I have managed to create a credible character — coincidentally also named Tracey — who likes nothing more than people who drone on endlessly about nothing. Tell her what’s on your shopping list? She is agape. Lecture her about the films of Luis Bunuel? She will sit and take notes. Share about how you ripped a really good one and stunk up your house for hours and hours? Why, that’s Tracey’s most favorite thing to hear! Please tell her more, Mr. Fudgypants! Seriously, it is the single greatest acting job of my life and I have performed it 6 days a week, 9 hours a day, for 7 months now. Talk about yer Long Day’s Journey into Night. Except without the blessed haze of morphine addiction. And without a thundering ovation. And without a damn-ass boquet of smelly roses.

Look. It’s not that I hate these people, although I realize it sounds like I do. It’s just … they quite literally exhaust me. I go home at the end of the day and I’m not physically tired; I am emotionally worn down. Shredded. I’m not an extrovert. I can seem pretty gregarious, but to do so, I must really work at it. When I discovered theater as a kid, I was the shyest girl in school. One of those painfully shy, perpetually red-faced types. Acting brought me out of that shell but it didn’t take the shell away. I like my shell. I need my shell. I like to decide when I come out of it and when I go back inside and regroup. Recoup. But I don’t have that luxury at B*heme. It’s like every day I’m hosting a party where someone else has chosen the guest list. I’m always anxious about who’s gonna show up next. I’m always anxious about having to be “on.” I’m always anxious about how long certain people, who have serious misapprehensions about my charms, will stay. The anxiety makes me cranky. And, you know, when these customers show up, they’re not coming for conversation, even though I’ve called it that. To me conversation means give and take and, honestly, there ain’t none of that going on. Nope. They come to talk at me and to hear themselves talk. It is almost completely one-sided. A kind of monologue … written by a playwright of dubious distinction.

Unfortunately, most of the time there’s no deterrent for this batch of talkers. I mean, I could be in deep shackle to a conversation, see another customer approaching, and think, Aha! Salvation is at hand! Their mere presence will break the conversational shackles! It will! It must! Nope. It doesn’t. The talker just continues to talk at me as if the new person isn’t there because — I don’t know — they’re OCD or something or I’ve become their listening ear, their shrink, their priest. I mean, what to do when your ears are sprinters and their mouths are marathoners? I don’t know. Slit your wrists or something? Seriously. I could slit my wrists in front of them — because of them — and they would not miss a beat blabbing on about how to make salmon cakes with crackers. Then they would blab through my tearjerking memorial service and haunt my grave, blabbing, blabbing, eternally from 6 feet above me. I am dead. You have killed me. Please please pleeeease shut up.

There are times when one of these people is hanging around, where I act aloof, uninterested, brusque even. Then I pull up a stool and try to hide behind my mammoth espresso machine. But it’s not long before I hear a voice, wheedling, “Traaaaaacey, aren’t you gonna come talk to me? Come onnnnn.” This happens more times than I can count, no matter how many signals I put out that “the doctor is OUT.” And I cannot do it anymore. I’m simply not suited to it. I’m exhausted. I feel trapped. I AM trapped. I’m not extroverted enough to make it work and B*heme isn’t busy enough to make such endless conversations impossible.

I’m tired of feeling that gray sinking doom when I see certain people lumbering up the sidewalk.

And I’m tired of feeling guilty about the gray sinking doom. You know?

So really …. well, that’s the thing.

September 18, 2007

-image-how to make your local coffee mistress implode — landlord version

~ To start, and to get off on just the right foot, be sure to have baby button eyes. Never cover them with sunglasses to keep freakage at a minimum.

~ Before your Local Coffee Mistress (LCM) moves in, call an electrician to add the 220 line she needs in her space. Work that she did agree to pay for.

~ But don’t give her a chance to find her own contractor.

~ Don’t give her an estimate.

~ Just have the work done without her knowledge.

~ When the job is done, present her with a random “bill” that you typed up on your computer informing her it cost $1500.

~ Refuse to provide a copy of the actual invoice from the actual — and, of course, legitimate — contractor you employed.

~ Hang c*otch “art” in a common room.

~ Don’t listen when business people and moms attending a “Mother’s Day event,” and little old ladies from The Salvation Army are flabbergasted and complain.

~ Insist that gaye pryde posters be hung on doorways in your LCM’s space, posters that your LCM’s gaye customers complained about.

~ Hang gaye beefcake posters in a common public hallway.

~ Say “but a portion of the proceeds goes to help a charity for gaye men with AIDS.”

(An aside from me. Okay. So let’s hang huge posters to tempt their lust. Then maybe they’ll go and get themselves sick. But at least as they’re sick and dying, we can feel good that they’ll need all this money we raised from selling these supersexy posters. Hey! How ’bout after this, we host a kegger here at the beer and wine lounge for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving! I just think it’s insulting — to gay people.)

~ Enter your LCM’s shop at any time during her business day — especially if customers are around — to discuss what you call important business issues and she calls harassment.

~ Show up with bills for completely made-up things.

~ Pester her for a photocopy of her driver’s license even after she’s
told you she had an identity theft FROM HER DRIVER’S LICENSE.

~ When asked the reason why it’s needed, tell 3 different stories on 3 separate occasions.

~ About a week later, enter her business space in illegal possession of a Notary Public’s Journal.

~ Hand the journal to your LCM, opened, and demand she write personal information in it — driver’s license, Social Security number. Stuff she said she wasn’t going to give you without verification of why it’s needed.

~ Leave it there for her to fill out.

~ Bitch at her when you find she hasn’t cooperated … again. Damn her!

(Note to Baby Button Eyes: You cannot walk around with those journals. You are not a notary. It is illegal. Oh, and even if you are a notary, you can’t notarize your own transaction. Or whatever the heck that even was.)

~ Tell her, in this same conversation, “This isn’t working for meeee. Maybe you need to look for another space.”

~ Back down seconds later when your LCM stares you down and says, “Okay. When do you want us out?”

(More to come on HTMYLCMI — Landlord Version …. oh, yessss …. and stay tuned for HTMYLCMI — Customer Version.)

-image-buster and simba

Some days at B*heme ain’t all bad. Today, two giant dogs fell in love with me. And I with them. In honor of our love, I kept clicking away, taking crappy cell phone photos. It’s a gift. Still …. Meet Buster and Simba, 2-year-old, 150-pound Great Danes:

Simba in the front. Buster next to him. Staring at the traffic. To be fair, the traffic mesmerized them just as much as I did.
buster-simba2.jpg

Even enormous canines like Diedrich coffee:
buster.jpg

“Oh, Tracey, min elskede ….. here, let me please to kiss you …. pay no attention to deh spittle on deh nose …. may I please to sit in your lap?”
buster2.jpg

Which he really did try to do. I just couldn’t get a picture of it. I was too busy being crushed under the weight of a giant, lovesick, caffeinated dog.

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