photo by doc baldy
The anonymous invitation to a surprise birthday party came in on my walkie-talkie. The instructions were to stand at the corner of 46th and Hazel at 2200 hours wearing a tartan kilt and sporting a poppy in my left lapel. Dubious, but sporting and with a heart for any fate I took the challenge.
Sure enough at 10pm prompt, this black SUV drove up and two guys in Donald Rumsfeld masks hopped out, put a black hood over my head and shoved me into the back of the vehicle. We drove around randomly for what seemed hours, but I was alert enough to keep track of each twist and turn and determined when we stopped that we were at a location deep in the heart of West Philadelphia -- the scary part.
I was escorted up the stairs into what smelled like an old opium warehouse, and my hood was removed. The darkness was practically total, although occasionally the baleful light of somebody's cellphone cast an eerie glint into the murk. Once my naked hands were lapped by the monstrous slobbering tongue of what appeared to be by its dimensions a spectral hound. Or maybe it was some crusty punk chick.
At any rate we did not have long to wait. Suddenly the lights went on and to joyous shouts of "Incoming!" a burst of party balloons and fire crackers exploded. Mr. Forrest, the guest of honor, dropped to the floor in an instant, rolled under the table and tossed a grenade. Fortunately it was only a smoke grenade, not one of the lethal sort, and after a good bit of coughing, hacking and vomiting the party was in full swing -- "wilding", as I believe the term is.
Oddly enough, although the gathered throng -- I would estimate fifty or so -- were for the most part on the south side of age 30, and many had multiple piercings of tongues, nipples and pudenda, and bizarre asymmetrical haircuts, the conversation, such as it was, was remarkably pedestrian. Cats, the care and feeding of, geckos, giant flying cockroaches, dogs I once knew who were schizophrenic and had to be treated with massive doses of thorazine and atypical antipsychotics, and, of course, real estate.
I must have dozed off for a bit, for when I awoke I was perched on the edge of an old clawfoot bathtub out under the stars, filled with what I at took first to be lotus blossoms but which on closer inspection proved to be a fetid algae. The tub itself was fed by an old-fashioned shower nozzle spraying what I judged by a quick taste to be Old Bombay Gin, but on second testing to be an exotic Japanese sake. Disported about me all over the weedy lawn were men, women and dogs in various states of undress and assorted intricately involved couplings. Cassidy's head popped up from beneath some busty woman's thighs and he yelled, "Get over here Bender!" but it seemed to me at that point that discretion was the better part of valor and I retired to the kitchen.
Amazingly enough, the counter was strewn with little slips of paper, apparently ripped from the "Philadelphia Operation Town Watch" memo pad. They were covered with hieroglyphics which I at first took to be samples of the ancient Indus script. On closer examination, however, they appeared to be a very intricate list of instructions for party preparations:
"Please slice rolls for sandwiches."
"Can drape curtain on table to make more 'festive.' "
"All decos are in my cabinet."
"Please put candles on cake."
My heart melted. Wanton and depraved although these kiddies were, they were touchingly well organized. Much as we were back in the day, I mused as I slipped out of the abandoned warehouse and found myself to my surprise on the corner of 46th and Hazel.
Yes, the kids are alright! I thought as I tottered my way home. Just as I was turning onto Cedar Avenue the sirens started blaring and half the squad cars from the 18th District came barreling down the Avenue. I peeked from behind a mulberry tree in time to see a full-fledged SWAT team debouching onto Hazel. Cobra helicopters circled overhead, their monster spotlights probing the darkness.
"Holy crap!" I thought to myself. "They've been raided. Good thing I left when I did. After all, I've got to be in church tomorrow at 9am sharp, and how would it look to the Deacons if they had to come down and bail me out from the Roundhouse?"
Funny you should mention, even hypothetically, the problem of someone leaving a bathtub on your porch. Some years ago I was plagued with this very problem -- seemed like every other day somebody would leave a baby clawfoot in a basket on my porch, ring the bell and run.
Apparently word had gotten around that I had a pair of mature clawfoot bathtubs in my household, of the mating age, and in rut, and the University City list population, being too fastidious to just dump their own junk in the Bowl and thereby hamper the off-leash dog races and midnight rooster fights, supposed that I and my parentally disposed clawfoots would deal lovingly with their illicit bathtub offspring. I mean, at the time, this was back before legal bathtub abortion had been approved by the Supreme Court, there was somewhat of a glut of unwanted clawfoot babies in the hood; nobody in particular was interested in adopting them, and tubicide being not considered an option by the genteel neighbors, what to do?
Well after I had accumulated a houseful of these darling baby clawfoots, being knee deep in them, and them clamoring constantly to feed them or change their nappies, I got fed up. So first I called up the local Libertarian Society Disposal Service, axed them could they come around and take some o these bathtubs off my hands? The guy who answered the phone was apparently blitzed on poppers, he just kept laughing hysterically and asking me "How many Libertarians does it take to change a lightbulb?" No help, really, but I was intrigued and finally asked "OK, how many?" to which he replied "You know how to change a lightbulb, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow." Which made no sense whatsoever.
So I called UCD, they said they couldn't help, John Fenton was on extended leave in the Bahamas, called DHS Foster Care, no help, yadda yadda yadda. Finally I just loaded up all them clawfoot babies in my woodie and took em down to the Schuylkill and pushed them overboard. Once they were in the water they swam surprisingly well, and, chortling with delight pushed on upstream, capsizing several Penn rowing crews as they went.
Back home, I put a big sign on my porch reading "Beware of Rottweiler: This Means You!!" Put it right up beside the big placard saying "NO ELVIS WATCHPEOPLE!!" Should of done it long before, because from that point to this day I have no longer been troubled with unsolicited bathtubs on my veranda.
Nothing to relate about white cats in West University City Village, BUT I did have a rabies scare with my pet 6-clawfoot tub the other day. As I mentioned, Gott(ie) is quite obviously pubescent now, the hormones are raging, and last night the expected happened. Gott(ie) sashayed down the steps, busted out the door, and apparently got it on with the fecund neighborhood nightlife.
Not only that, but according to witnesses, was seen getting into a fuel-injected Stingray driven by a smooth-looking, fast-talking urban ferret who promised to take them for a little ride up in the Bronx. Gott(ie) has never been out of the house much less the neighborhood so I can see how he/she might fall for a fast line promising some exotic entertainment. (Could I have been a better owner? Maybe. Maybe shown Animal Kingdom videos on Friday nights with Val and Herman, provided some mealy-worm snacks? Alas, I may not ever have the second chance to know.)
So this morning, walking down Baltimore looking for roosters, I saw there had been a minor explosion at the Malinese gas station. The owner was hopping mad. "Some ferret dude in a fuel-injected Stingray pulls in, man. He proceed to exit his vehicle and pump him some vitrol. Only too late I did notice he was gabbering away on his Nokia X-9000 GNP mighty fine cell phone. The device, she blows up. And this in spite of the fact that I had practically *littered* my humble gas station with hand lettered signs warning 'Je vous priez, no pumpez-pas le petrol avec votre telephone-du-cel dans le position sweetch-on!!' And these carefully hand-lettered signs, zey were in seex languages, mon vieux! Mon dieu! On turne en ronde, merde! On turne en ronde, merde! On turne en ronde, merde!"
Well, he said he saw the occupants du vehicle commandeer a couple bikes and head south on Baltimore Avenue. I slipped a couple guppies in his hand and said, "You mean 'east', right?" He replied, Oh-la-la, bien sur, merde. I don't know what they put in my breakfast martini. Je vous remercie mille-fois", stuffing the bills in his shirt. I walked down Baltimore as fast as I could to the VHUP ER and asked if they had had any ferrets or 6-clawed tubbies come in that morning.
"Funny you should ask," the nurse responded. "We don't often get a duo like that. We were going to check em out for rabies, but the ferret was in a hurry. He was talking like a dime a dozen, and that tub didn't look like he was wrapped too tight either. So we shot em up with some Thorazine and kissed the ouchie, and they hightailed it out. Got into some antique vehicle and roared off down Spruce St."
"Was the ferret carrying a cell-phone, by any chance?" I inquired. "Yeah, he was," says the nurse. "Looked like one of them fine new Nokia X-9000 GNPs. I always notice a man who's carrying the latest in technology fashion."
"Say no more!" I yelled over my back and took off in hot pursuit. Alas I fear they had a fair lead on me and I soon pooped out. Also ran into Judy, who wasted my time asking if I thought her mango turquoise nail polish wasn't the most tubular thing, and blah blah blah, should she take that new Chancellor's job, etc. Anyhow, my only hope is that Gott(ie) might have the sense to wrest the Nokia X-9000 GNP away from that one hip ferret and call home. And if anybody runs into these wild and crazy dudes, have the sense to take precautions before approaching.
In a message dated 2/4/2005 9:37:11 PM Eastern Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
What is the matter with people?
Excellent question. The other night I was coming home from a long night of boozing, despite which my senses were keenly alert, fine-tuned to an A-sharp, sharp as a razor, likely due to the large quantities of methamphetamine which I had been imbibing along with my Old Overholt 40s down at the Conrad Grebel Bar and Grille. I maneuvered my Volva Sedan down 48th Street like the Millennium Falcon through the guts of the Death Star, neatly avoiding the pitbulls and Great Danes doing their business in the snowbanks. Arriving at my accustomed parking place I gently descended from hyperspace into a low hover when I perceived that some irksome neighborhood hooligan had staked out my personal space with several garbage cans, a vintage clawfoot bathtub, and what appeared to be an ancient Macintosh computer.
Needless to say I was enraged. I had spent the previous weekend shovelling out my personal space after the worst blizzard of the season and my back was still aching from the effort. What to do?
I considered dialing 911 on my cellular phone, or perhaps the Friends of Clark Park, or even my good friend Shaka Zulu the mayor. But I quickly reconsidered. From previous experience I knew the police would take several months to respond, the FOCP was locked in an interminable battle over the issue of constructing a gigantic private bathhouse in the Park, and the Mayor, an Adventist, was likely preparing his Sunday School lesson for the following day of worship.
Against my better judgement, I whipped out my trusty Bulgarian Shipka 88 submachine gun and blasted away until the loathsome debris was pulverized to smithereens and my personal parking space was clear. I was performing the elegant horizontal parallel parking maneuver known in some circles as the Bavarian Cakewalk, in others as the Viennese Oyster, when suddenly an elderly woman of a certain age hove into view driving a fire-engine-red '87 Camarro with Jersey tags and darted lickedy split into my space.
"Hell's bells, lady!" I ejaculated, but she merely looked at me smugly, got out of her vehicle, locked the door and began to totter down the street.
"Yo old woman!" I shouted after her, in a fine frenzy. "Have you taken leave of your senses? Are you not aware that I have spent several years cultivating this parking space with finely manicured bonsai trees at the curbside, fine herbs in the summer, which I take great pains to water and prune, and that I have just finished excavating it from the great blizzard? Bloody hell, woman, and forsooth! Shall I not blow you away from the face of the earth with my trusty Bulgarian Shipka???"
Unfazed the elderly damozel pointed to a sign on the dashboard of her car. Emblazoned in large purple letters was the word "Clergy."
"I'm on a mission from God," she said in a calm and dignified voice. "I have prepared a bomb which will blow the Presbyterians to kingdom come, and I am now on my way to plant it smackdab in the midst of the presbytery before the vicar comes by to dust down the church in preparation for this weekend's worship."
"Oh well, then by all means proceed," I said, mollified, for I knew that the foul plague of Calvinism which had spread its stench over the neighborhood was becoming too hot to handle. "Prithee, may I assist you in any way?"
"I'll be quite alright, young man," she said. "And judging from your boozy breath and general air of dishevelment, what you need now is a nice cup of hot chocolate and then to bed."
She's probably right, I reflected. I plopped the Volva down on the nearest available snowbank and headed for bed, suddenly exhausted by the events of the evening and an outsurge of adrenalin which left me weak, craving and wanting to holler for mama.