tiny sliver of the reality-basis
Saturday, June 23 2007
setting: Wyndmoor, Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Yesterday via email I'd learned that Sally had been quilled yet again by a porcupine, perhaps disproving the idea I'd once had that she had learned her lesson from an earlier incidence. So today Sally would be spending some hours at the vet getting a couple dozen quills removed from her face and the roof of her mouth. She evidenlty likes her food spicy.
This morning I rode with John into downtown Philadelphia. The original plan was to go to a diner, but we ended up at a small sandwich shop where we got hoagies filled with Italian-style tuna and pickled hot peppers. John says he likes the place because "it smells a little like shit but the food tastes so good." On the way to find a suitable outdoor place to eat these sandwiches, we ducked into a brand new tea room because I had to piss. I made a beeline for the men's room but of course the door was locked and this slowed us down enough for the cute Asian girls behind the counter to ask us if they could help us. We ended up blowing $5 on tea before I gained access to the pisser key. Despite the expense, John repeatedly wondered aloud about the feasibility of their business model (as well as those of the two other tea rooms we passed along the way).
After eating our sandwiches on a park bench (but not the one next to a trash can), John drove us to a building salvage yard, one of those places full of tile, vintage bathtubs, ceiling fans, marble slabs, mirrors, and the odd intact staircase. This place even featured a mound of black soil flaked with tiny human artifacts, probably a midden scraped from the site of a future loft apartment (and archæological palimpsest). Unfortunately (or fortunately) there was nothing there that I had an urge to buy.
Later in the afternoon John went running while I took a nap. I was staying in a room belonging to John's housemate, one of his old college friends named Pincus who was elsewhere for the weekend. Though Pincus is a grown-ass man, I half-expected to find girlie pics and rock and roll posters in his room. Instead, all he had was a computer and a captionless picture of him with a blond woman. His existence there was clearly temporary. Whenever I lay on the bed, I didn't unmake it but instead climbed under a loose blanket bearing the logo of the Philadelphia Eagles. Go Eagles.
After John got back, he and I ran a series of errands involving borrowing a larger vehicle from his younger brother (two of John's four siblings live nearby), retrieving a painting from a friend, and eating pizza. The place from which we retrieved the painting was the suburban residence of a former colleague whom I had actually met last time I visited John. In the entry for that occasion I'd referred to him as Suspicious Simon, and that had been a relatively bad day in his relationship with John, because John had just played a prank on him, putting a PostItTM note bearing the words "Someone here thinks you're a doosh [sic] bag" over the optical part of Simon's mouse. That night Suspicious Simon had hosted a small wine and marijuana party at his house (the same house we went to today) and I'd been witness to an entertaining evening of him being a paranoid jackass.
Evidently Suspicious Simon is something of a fountain of unusual behavior, because when we pulled into his driveway this afternoon we saw a brand new black Dodge Charger parked there bearing temporary Delaware dealer plates. Dodge Chargers, for those who don't know, are contemporary full-sized muscle cars. They have fierce grills, deep engine compartments, hypermasculine body shape, and, in this case, gleaming eighteen inch chrome wheels. "Who would buy a car like that?" John wondered aloud. Like most college-educated 30-somethings, he couldn't think of anyone in his demographic who would willing take ownership of an American car unless paid to do so. It turned out that Suspicious Simon had bought the Charger as a replacement for his aging Toyota Camry (which would have required $4000 worth of work to pass an inspection). He proceeded to spend the rest of the time we were there justifying his car purchase, obviously aware of our skepticism. It gets 27 miles to the gallon. It's based on a Mercedes design, so it's not even really American. That sort of thing. He actually took us for a drive around the block, accelerating like a sixteen year old on one straight-of-way posted with a 35 mph speed limit. But he'd forgotten to unlock his emergency brake, which started making a terrible squeaking after about a mile of aggressive driving. Interestingly, though, Simon never became testy no matter what we said to him (even when we subtly needled him). John attributed Simon's unusual calm to the probability that he hadn't smoked any marijuana yet today.
This evening John hatched a plan to meet up with one of his co-workers ("A totally insane guy - you'll be able to tell the moment you meet him!") and maybe see a Japanimation movie. That wasn't going to work with my neurology so John suggested drinking a few beers at a Belgian bar called Bridgid's instead.
I didn't find John's friend to be even slightly insane. Instead, he seemed a little overly-formal in that vaguely gay/metrosexual way that creative types can be. I asked him what he did for a living, what his skills were, and he said that he was a marketing strategist. When he and John talked business, it was as if their conversation was being spoken in a foreign language, and I say this as someone who used to communicate well with marketing types. Their jargon was dense with undefined acronyms, "NDA" being the only one I knew. At some point a tiny sliver of the reality-basis of what they were talking about slipped out seemingly as if by accident, like a forbidden glimse of thigh. It somehow involved formaldahyde (the chemical) and the idea of stressing the advantages of it being absent from a product.
John ended up buying a series of beers that tasted nothing at all like beer. One tasted like flowers, another like a dissolving urinal biscuit, and a third was indistinguishable from a heavy vinegar. As we drank, we regaled John's friend and the very-Irish-looking bartender with the tale of the time our Los Angeles place was visited by the FBI.
After we dropped John's friend off, I said, "He didn't seem crazy at all." "That was probably the least crazy I've ever seen him," John replied. He then told me about this wacky Star-Wars-based mythology the friend had unironically developed and about the time he presented John with a lightsaber as a token of his appreciation for an occasion of Jeddiesque support.
My foot on John's front stoop.
A creepy marionette in downtown Philadelphia.
A façade in Philadelphia is preserved while the building behind it is demolished.
A beautiful old hotel being made into expensive lofts in a seedy Philly neighborhood. John expects the adjacent methadone clinic will have to be closed first.
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