I couldn't sit there for half an hour watching my garments whirl in circles. So I bought some spare time with a handful of quarters, walked out of the "Launder-O-Mat" into the drizzling rain, and slid into my pickup.
As I was pulling out of the space, not really knowing where I could go for 30 minutes, my passenger-side window was accosted by what, in my mind, looked like a troll. I could see a tuft of orange hair, and knobby knuckles rapped at the glass. Then a pair of glasses, each lens the size of an ashtray, peeked up over the window, and lips painted to match the hair started yammering.
My first inclination -- Uh-oh! I've run over an old woman's foot. Step on the gas and get the hell out of here! -- was replaced with Be nice. Open the door.
I popped the latch and squinted out into the gray sprinkling. "Uh, can I help you?"
"Yes. You drive to me now to Louisiana," the puppet-head of the ancient woman said into the pickup's cab.
"Louisiana?" I asked incredulously. "I'm sorry, I can't take you to..." Be nice. "You mean Louisiana Street?"
"Yes," she answered. "Louisiana Street and University. I live there. My apartment there."
"Please. No bus run today. You take. Yes?"
Be nice. It's raining, and it's really not that far. "All right. I'll take you there."
The lumpy oldster crawled onto the seat and positioned herself facing front with her feet just inches from the floorboard.
"Please to be turning left here and right on University," she demanded. "You know language?"
"I know English -- barely," I said, ashamed of my American heritage, which requires just one dictionary for the rest of my life.
"I know three language." Now she's just bragging, I thought. "You like to learn language?" she asked. "I teach you Russian. I am teacher in Russia."
You probably taught Marx's elementary class, didn't you? Damnit! Be nice!"Yeah, Russian would be cool," I said. "I'm traveling to Europe later this year, but I don't know if I'll go to Russia."
"Please to turn right here. And stop. I am red apartment on left. I have nice granddaughter your age. If you like, you come over, I teach you Russian, we watch TV shows from Russia, and maybe later, you marry granddaughter."
"What? I'm sorry," I stammered. "What was that last part?"
"Watch Russian TV shows."
"After that!" I yelled, dropping the nice act and relying on my instincts that basically say, "Beware! Trust no one! They'll stick you with a knife and leave you in a ditch!"
"Is this your phone?" she asked, grabbing my silver cellular. She nimbly pushed a couple buttons and said, "Okay, I have your number now. I call you," and with that she slammed the door. I looked at my phone; she had, in fact, found the screen that displayed my number.
Holy hooligan! Did I just get married? Do I have to get married, now? Is she connected to the little old lady Russian mafia? Will she slash my tires with a crochet hook? The questions blurred into one dazzling neon sign over my head that shown brightly: "STOP BEING NICE!"
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, February 3
Less Than Zero (1987)
BRAVO 42, 2:30 p.m.
One night, I was in a shack made of loose plywood and stacks of spare tires, buying crystal meth from a Mexican man holding a giant machete. I was thinking, "Well, at least I'm not selling myself for coke like Robert Downey, Jr., in Less Than Zero."
NBC 7/39, News at 5:00 p.m.
My friend Barb was on the news once. She taped it and later forced all her friends to watch. We sat in front of the screen, and the smiling woman with mathematically perfect teeth announced, "Now, a shocking story on the hidden dangers in your neighborhood!" I was intrigued. I hadn't watched the news in a long time, and I wondered what could possibly be so hazardous -- in my own community, no less! The story, Barb's interview, was on potholes. Potholes. Pot-fucking-holes. The lurking peril in every street, parish, and back yard of San Diego was potholes. That spinning noise you hear is coming from Pulitzer's grave.
Friday, February 4
DSC 35, 6:00 p.m.
This show could be cool. It could drop into your front room and slap you twice in the face. Whap. Whap. "Look! Look at this cool shit we made. A custom lowrider, a chopper, a drag racer." Instead, it just limps around and offers to turn your toaster into a pooper scooper and your Miata into a walkie-talkie.
Saturday, February 5
New Yankee Workshop
PBS 11, 3:00 p.m.
The equipment on this show is staggering. Is the target audience woodworking enthusiasts or rebel billionaires? The required hardware is more expensive than buying every piece of furniture they make. Sure, if I had a Reverse-grip Mortimer Monkey-handled Motherfucker and attachable Shopvac, I could do all the cool stuff that Norm does. Who am I kidding? I can barely tie my shoes.
Sunday, February 6
FOX 6, 3:00 p.m.
Super Bowl XIXXIXXIPPI:
New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles
In January of 1993 a coalition of women's groups called a press conference and announced they held evidence of increased spousal abuse on Super Bowl Sunday. The next day Lenore Walker, pushing her book The Battered Woman, appeared on Good Morning America and claimed to have a ten-year study documenting a sharp rise in cases of violence against women during the Super Bowl. The New York Times and Boston Globe quickly followed suit and dubbed the occasion "Abuse Bowl." Women were encouraged to leave the house and seek safety in preparation for the upcoming event.
It's a lie. Ken Ringle of the Washington Post fact-checked the story and found it to be a fabrication from start-to-finish. Pulitzer hits 3000 RPMs.
Monday, February 7
UPN 13, 5:30 p.m.
When I was a kid, my mother and uncle could barely stand to be in the same room. Thanksgiving was a prime opportunity to air their grievances. When the shouting back and forth devolved into the vilest name-calling, my grandmother threw a vicious karate kick into the table to make a bang and get everyone's attention. The well-worn pull-out leaf fell through in the middle and dumped the turkey onto the kitchen tiles. I am, to say the least, sadly disappointed in Family Feud.
COURT 44, 10:00 p.m.
Oh, what a load of malarkey. "I see a dead body, a shallow grave, a wooded area." Huh? I go on the assumption that if one were to hide a body, it would not be behind the couch or on a crowded city street. You want to impress me? Find the Cheeto I dropped in my lap that mysteriously disappeared when I stood up. Or explain why, out of numerous holes and nooks in my body, all the lint produced by my clothing is magically trapped by my belly button. Riddle me that, Batman.
WB 5, 9:00 p.m.
I have a sixth-grade sense of humor. I cannot, with a straight face, say the title of this show. I have no idea what it's about. For all I know it showcases talented chemists with displaced father figures.
Tuesday, February 8
SPIKE 45, 9:00 p.m.
In Kickboxer, Hollywood establishes European dominance over Asia once and for all. Future-governor Van Damme is called upon to reprise his role as the yowling, stretching, flexing, Aryan Asswhipper. In a baffling turn of events, Mr. Van Damme protects the life of his Mexican brother and professional kickboxer, Dennis Alexio. It doesn't get better than this, folks.
According to Jim
ABC 10, 9:00 p.m.
ABC should just be ashamed. Has Jim Belushi ever convinced a single soul that he is anything more than John's brother? The premise of this situation comedy is that slovenly men can bed a fox like Courtney Thorne-Smith, giving hope to unmotivated, untalented, fat losers everywhere.