Category Archives: True Stories

It’s the little things that aren’t big

Recently I have been noticing, more than usual, the little things.

For example, this morning I was drinking a bottle of iced tea. When it was down to about a third full, I took it up to the drinking fountain and filled it up with water. Just shake it, and it’s a full bottle of iced tea! Just like Mom used to make.

A few hours later, on my break, I sat down with a small carton of chocolate milk, and as I drank it, I could feel the cold liquid against my internal organs as it ran down through my esophagus. Heebie-jeebies!

This afternoon, I checked some books out to a man who then put his library card back in his wallet. He then went to put his wallet in his hip pocket, but he somehow missed and sent the wallet flying several feet to his left. Somehow my mind added a slide whistle sound effect as it happened. Zweeooweep! I laughed so abruptly that I shot a snot onto my shirt.

It’s the little things that aren’t big.

What do you do?

It was late last night, probably two in the morning, and I was headed to my van for to drive out for to socialize, the standard of practice for happening bachelors and critters of the night like myself. However, a young black woman, thin, not unattractive, possibly thirty, approached me and roused me from my self-amused stupor. It took me a while to figure out what it was she wanted. I live in the type of neighborhood where accosting strangers for money/cigarettes/the time is not an infrequent practice, so it took me a second to register that she was saying something different. The key words were “bleeding” and “hospital”. She slowed down enough for me to understand the whole story: she was three months into an at-risk pregnancy, she found herself bleeding, she needed a ride to the hospital or money for a cab RIGHT AWAY.

It was the “money for a cab” bit that made me think she was lying. I thought I’d call her bluff and offer her a ride to the hospital. I asked her what hospital her doctor was at, and she gave the name of a hospital down on the south side. A lengthy drive, to be sure. Not really convenient for someone who lives in Rogers Park, but you never know who needs to go where due to all this HMO nonsense. So the ride was out.

She started giving me all sorts of contact information – home phone, work phone, addresses, her doctor’s name – I got a pad of paper out of my bag and she scrawled all these things onto it. This made me think her problem was genuine, so I gave her some money for a cab. It wasn’t enough, she said, so I gave her a little bit more. I offered to give her a lift to a cab-filled street nearby, but she said she’d better run home and call a cab. I wished her luck, and she hugged me and thanked me for “not being prejudiced”.

Am I prejudiced?

I was not alone on the street that night; despite the late hour, all manner of folk were still milling about – why would she come to me, in particular? Do my white skin and boyish, non-macho gait paint me as an easy rube? Or did she simply think I would be the most likely passerby to be compassionate and help her? Does being suspicious of her story make me a racist? If a white woman came up and told the same story, would I be more likely to believe her with fewer questions? I honestly don’t know. Then again, it’s not as if I were not easily convinced – convinced, at least, to err on the side of caution. If she’s lying, what do I lose? A few bucks. A few hours’ worth of pay. If she’s telling the truth, I don’t want to stand between her and medical attention.

Was I taken advantage of? Did I do the right thing? In a few days, I’ll try to contact her – she said she would pay me back, should I demand this of her? Or would it de-value my act of charity, if it can even be considered that?

I’m drinking a White Russian right now. I dislike Black Russians. Does that mean anything? Yes – it means I adore delicious cream.

Indemependence Day

Ah, the fourth of July. It’s that time of the year when we have barbecues, light things on fire, blow stuff up, and tell our British friends to GET THE FUCK OUT. If you know anyone who’s British, and living in America, you be sure to tell ‘em we don’t need ‘em and we don’t want ‘em. Tossers, all.

Last night I hiked over to the beach. I live two blocks away from Lake Michigan, and I work even nearer to the lake than that, but I visit the shore infrequently. It’s mostly become part of the scenery. But hearing various pops and explosions last night that did not sound like the usual .22 caliber gunshots, I decided to turn off my television, which had been tuned to the live downtown fireworks display on the local FOX affiliate, and venture out. As I neared the beach two teenagers blasted past me on their bikes, nearly running me over. They were screaming at the top of their lungs. The first one was yelling, “HAR! HAR! HAR! HAR!” The second was yelling, “Buh-BUH! Buh-BUH!” Kids today. Heh. After emerging from my temporary hiding spot, I wandered out to the middle of the beach. Right overhead some half-assed fireworks fizzled and pooped out. The crowds were clumped at the south end of the beach, along the pier. To the south I could see the fireworks downtown, illuminating the nearby buildings. They were small in the distance, and I couldn’t hear them, but they were clearly visible. To the north there were more fireworks going, not quite as far away, and slightly audible. I stood there in a large open area in the middle of the beach, facing the lake, turning my head to the left and to the right to look at the two displays. The display to the north lit up the clouds around it, revealing the walls of the sky. The half-assed fireworks launched from my own beach gave way to the three-quarters-assed variety, and soon I was looking at pyrotechnics occurring at three distinct locations. It was so quiet that as I turned my head about, I could hear the fluid inside my skull rush around. The whole experience was quite meditative.

Tonight I hosted a barbecue. At no time did I hear the fluid rushing around in my head, but I heard teenagers outside (possibly the ones from earlier) lighting what was apparently a thirty pound package of firecrackers all at once. I predict that there will be more pops and explosions before I go to bed tonight, and not just because my face broke out earlier. Which it did. Pop-POP!

Jacob’s bladder

Every Monday night, or every other Monday night, I throw some pants on and head out to Simon’s, a fine drinking establishment here in the city. This is a tale relating one such adventure, namely the one that occurred tonight.

It all started when I decided to go to Simon’s tonight. I threw on some pants, and some shoes and socks for good measure, and readied myself for an evening of imbibing sweet hooch. As I opened the door to leave, I noticed that my bedroom light was still on. A conscientious conservationist, I reached over to turn the light off, and as I did so, my cat — who lives a horrible life here and (when he is not biting my feet) attempts to bolt at every opportunity, no matter how slight — made a mad dash for the partially open door.

“Oh, no, Snotpockets,” I said. “You’re not going anywhere, buster.” I reached down with my arm to block his path. As I did so, I bashed the top of my head full force against the door jamb.

I stumbled backwards. The cat looked at me with concern, or perhaps schadenfreude. I slammed the door shut and stumbled a few more feet backwards. I walked around in a circle for thirty seconds and then went to the mirror to see if I was bleeding, or possibly seeing any new colors. After determining that the damage was purely internal, I made my way to the train station.

I sat on the platform, waiting for the southbound train. Soon, a train appeared in the distance, then came closer, then approached the station… then blazed right by it without slowing down. “What the fuck?” the waiting crowd said in unison. When the next northbound train arrived, there was a difficult-to-hear announcement coming from within. The announcement repeated. The third time, the announcement came from outside the train: no southbound trains are going to stop at this station. If you want to go south, you have to go north first.

Having hit my head, I found this to be entirely reasonable, even though I ended up waiting at the station for over half an hour.

Soon, I was at Simon’s. I drank two glasses of beer and swore a lot. Nothing out of the ordinary for me.

I took the train home. Oddly, I did not have to go south before I went north. Coming down the stairs from the platform, I followed a very tall black man with very large white sneakers, and for some reason this was notable enough for me to remember. As I passed through the alley on the way back to my apartment, the very same man was standing there, against the wall, having a pee. He had obviously ducked into the alley, thinking no one would see him, well unaware of my regular use of the alley as a handy shortcut. Realizing this, I felt bad that I had intruded upon his peespace, and so, after walking wordlessly past him, I loudly broke wind multiple times, as if to say, “This is an alley where people should be comfortable with their bodily functions. This is an alley where people should be comfortable being people.” He shook himself out in silent approval.

And this is unrelated, but at the library today, a woman called in to address concerns she had over some “overnude notices” she had received in the mail. She hesitated briefly after she said the words in her haughty tone, but did not correct herself. I have laughed each time I have thought about it since. Does that make me immature?

An interesting conversation

I’m in a foul mood right now. It’s a Saturday night kind of foul mood. I’m just sitting on my duff at the south end of my couch staring at my laptop, with my cat by my side and a big bottle of (root) beer on the table. My life is completely static. Every weekend is the same. Today I changed the pace a bit by tidying up my place a bit and organizing all my papers, but I was disappointed when I realized that no catharsis would come of it. I want to be “on the move”. Damn it, I want an itinerary. Perhaps tomorrow after work I’ll stop by Big Lots and see if I can’t pick one up.

Anyway, early this afternoon I’m gabbing away on the phone, just a-shootin’ the shit with my friend Mandy, when suddenly I get another call. We’re at the end of the conversation, so we say bye and I switch over. The following is a transcript of the conversation to the best of my memory:

Me: Hello?

Some Guy: Waaazzzzzzzzuuuuuuupp!!

Me: Uh…

Some Guy: Waaaazzzzzzzuuuuuupppp!!

Me: Who are you and what do you want?

Some Guy: You know who this is. Just listen very carefully… Waaaaaazzzzzzzuuuuuuppppppp!

Me: You’re going to have to give me another hint, I’m afraid. This “waaazzuup” business is not doing it for me.

Some Guy: Come on. You know who this is, just guess. None of this hint bullshit. Guess.

Me: Dad?

Some Guy: Dad?! [laughs] No, I ain’t your dad! Come on! You know me! I’m your friend.

Me: Are you a friend from Chicago?

Some Guy: Yeah! No more hints. I know who you are!

Me: Who do you think I am?

Some Guy: That doesn’t matter! You’re guessing who I am.

Me: Well, I have no idea.

Some Guy: Did you go to Harvard?

Me: No, I went to Northwestern.

Some Guy: I went to Harvard. I couldn’t go to Northwestern because it was too stupid. So I went to Harvard where all the actual smart people go.

Me: Oh, yeah? What was your major?

Some Guy: Criminal justice.

Me: That’s an undergrad major?

Some Guy: Yeah, and after I graduated, I went to law school to become a big fancy lawyer.

Me: And are you now a big fancy lawyer?

Some Guy: Nah, I dropped out. Now I’m just a big fat cop!

Me: That’s too bad.


Some Guy: Hey, are you gay?

Me: Not to my knowledge. Why do you ask?

Some Guy: Not to your knowledge? [laughs] I’m gay. Do you have a problem with faggots?

Me: Not at all.

Some Guy: I have a problem with faggots.

Me: And you’re gay?

Some Guy: Yes.

Me: That must put you in quite a bind.

Some Guy: Tell me about it.


Some Guy: Hey, is this [reads my phone number]?

Me: Yup.

Some Guy: Do you have a roommate or anything?

Me: Nope. I live alone.

Some Guy: I see. Thanks for your time. [hangs up]

There was an earthquake in Seattle today. Not a cultural earthquake, like when Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit it big, but an actual, geological, seismological earthquake. It’s official: the west coast is dropping off into the ocean. Once the tectonic plates stop shifting, Los Angeles and San Francisco will be one giant city, but Oakland, oddly, will have become part of Japan. Tectonic plates are a funny thing. I did an oral presentation on them in English class in seventh grade. (The assignment was give an oral presentation on a topic of our choosing, and I flipped through our encyclopedias until I found something interesting.) I believe I prepared a visual aid which featured little pieces of cardboard sliding around on other pieces of cardboard. It was very intricate and fascinating and proved to my classmates that I was wise beyond my years. However, my grade was marked down somewhat for peppering my speech with too many “um”s, “uh”s, “like”s, “okay”s, “y’know”s, and “well, shit”s.

Years later, that teacher was moving onto the empty lot in my neighborhood where my parents always took the dog to poop. It was my mom, I think, that had walked ol’ Homer the basset hound to the lot, and was waiting for him to squat in his comical dog fashion, when my (long-since former) teacher drove by, apparently doing some sort of “drive-by”, and warned my mom not to have our dog poop there anymore. Well, can’t say I blame her. I think that one summer, possibly right after seventh grade, I mowed this teacher’s lawn once or twice, probably with some other classmates. She was an interesting lady. She was like sixty and she regularly rode a hog. She is largely responsible for my impeccable grammar and spelling, about which I remain mildly obsessive-compulsive to this day. It was also her class in which I first discovered my incredibly short attention span and utter lack of patience. Also I discovered my classmate Pam, who had big boobs. Couldn’t find any pair bigger in Honors classes, no ma’am. Kickstarted me into puberty, she did.

Ah, but that year it was Erin with whom I shared my first kiss. She was not yet womanly in body, but she was womanly in spirit. Well, not really. But we did share one very romantic day at King’s Island (back before it was rechristened “Paramount’s King’s Island” or so I recall), and on the ride home we held hands and she rested her head on my shoulder, and that entire trip was the longest sustained case of butterflies I had ever had, only interrupted every few miles or so by the driver, who was the mother of one of our friends who was also in the car, who would yell “Hand check!” and make everyone hold their hands up. This was probably more of a protection for her own daughter, who had a boy there herself, but we all played along. Another time I went along with her to a youth group meeting at her church, where we watched some movie about the Rapture (possibly called “The Rapture”), which featured the song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”, notable because I heard it covered several years later by some purported “Christian pop music” act. I can say that that is the only date I’ve ever been on which resulted in the fear of God. (As opposed to the fear of the girl’s parents… that came much, much later.) Ah, Erin… she moved away at the end of that year. I have no idea now where she is or who she has become, or if she ever got the braces off, or if she’s realized she looked much cuter with her glasses on than with her contacts in. Perhaps she is married now, as all of my past girlfriends, with one notable exception, have tied the knot with some guy or another, and why should she be different?

I think Pam is married now also. Last time I saw her, her boobs were still fairly large, but as I had grown a foot taller and dozens of pounds heavier, and had a modicum of “experience”, they no longer seemed all that impressive. Truly, there is no going back.