Flaming Rummy Punch

January 23, 2007 - Leave a Response

Flaming Rummy Punch

Not a story to make beer connoisseurs salivate, this took place in ’77 before I was aware of microbrews. San Francisco’s Anchor Steam was the best locally, and Indio or Noche Buena were the best Mexican imports. My bent was 16 Oz Shlitz beer in bottle, or at times, Malt Duck, an acquired taste that I picked up from listening to a radio ad. This rare instance of an ad got me to try and appreciate malt liquor mixed with fortified wine in a 8 Oz bottle.

I was hanging out late at night in the Marina District of SF on Octavia St. near the corner of Lombard after picking up my choice beverage at the liquor store at Franklin. This liquor store served cabbies, GIs from the Presidio, and commuters headed out the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin. As a high spot of urban culture it would have been a really stupid place to uncap the bottle in my brown bag as cops checked here every 20 minutes for underage drinkers. I was 22 but why ask for getting arrested? Not feeling like heading into my Cow Hollow Apartment, I never-the-less walked back toward it while carousing the inhabitants of the area. I picked the secluded spot under a willow in front of an old carriage house on Octavia as it had a view of the parking lot of a Jack In The Box.

Convenience store chains and fast food outlets were uncommon in San Francisco at this time. Diane Feinstein had yet to sell the city’s culture to the highest bidders yet Lombard had always catered to the motorized crowd due to its egress to the Golden Gate Bridge. As you’d expect, the girls at Jack In The Box were a giggly conservative lot and I had the pleasure of feeling superior in my artist long hair guise as I swilled my alcohol and saw them stuff their faces with empty calories.

With a slight buzz on I left the shadows and walked over to the garbage can in the parking lot to do the considerate thing by tossing my garbage. I was startled to be addressed by a scruffy guy who hurried over from the direction of the dumpster by the store. He was asking me something in a guttural voice I couldn’t make out. I figured he was there to spare change the customers and I wasn’t interested.

“I haven’t got any money,” I lied.

“Can you help me! I ain’t got no hands an I …,” I didn’t make this out and told him he’d better ask somebody in a car.

“No, no, why don’t you listen. I wanna’ drink like you,” he indicated my bag in the trash and then stuck his stumps out at me, “Just listen to me and take a minute. I need yer’ help.”

I could make out about 60% of what he hissed through his missing teeth in that maw in his ugly dwarfish face. I pointed to the bag and told him he was out of luck ‘cause that bottle was empty.

“I don’t need yer’ money, I get S.S.I. for these. Here, here in my pocket get it out.”

I reached in his pocket, and pulling out a fresh pint of Royal Gate vodka I broke the seal unscrewing the cap.

“Yeah, here, give it here,” he ordered but as I was about to tell him I couldn’t hand it to a guy with two stumps, he pinched the bottle out of my hand with his stump and elbow, hoisted it to his mouth and dribbled down his chin as he chugged the entire bottle. Burping loudly he chucked the flask into the trash. I was impressed that he could hold a bottle like that and drink and let it show when I asked him, “ Don’t you worry the cops might see you drinking in public? You got quite a thirst there.”

“They won’t serve no Injuns in bars. What am I gonna’ do? Cops don’t bother me. They call MAP on me is all and I already been there this week or last week or something, I forget.”

Now he looked like a short Mexican or Latino in a trench coat to me, but maybe he had Native American blood too. I demonstrated my wealth of street knowledge I had gained from working at the Haight Ashbury Switchboard and dropped the address of Mobile Assistance Patrol as over on Harrison Street.

“They always trin’ steal my check,” he scowled, “Hey, can you help me get a smoke, be a nice feller, eh?” he indicated his breast pocket with his gray stubbled chin. I was hoping he was talking tobacco and not pot as I had the feeling of being watched already by the Jack employees. I got his pack of Luckys out of his coat and lit one up sticking it between his lips. He puffed away with the same relish he demonstrated downing the vodka. He squinted at me through red rheumy eyes irritated by the smoke and then grunted to let me know to pull out the cig. He spat and let the butt burn a bit.

“Name’s Pete, Injun’ Pete,” he cracked a slight smile.

“I’m Paris and I gotta’ go. You want the rest of this?”

He clenched the cigarette between his teeth and tried to talk but I couldn’t make it out. It sounded like he was calling me a fairy for having long hair. I exited across Lombard and heard him angrily hollering something.

The seasons changed, I got a job that had me travel about SF on flex-time, and having just finished such a day I was waiting to catch the 33 Ashbury back to the Haight from 18th St. and Mission. I was leaning against the wall of The Town Pump Saloon and could hear the fights inside. A very drunk man with a torn shirt that exposed his tattoos on his brown muscled arms, stumbled out of the bar, pushed through the crowd at the bus stop and headed up a flight of stairs to an apartment three of four doors away. Ten minutes later he came out looking even drunker holding a knife and swearing in Spanish. His knife was shockingly violent looking. It was a chrome-plated pair of brass knuckles with a six inch blade sticking out the side. The Latino was trying to fold the blade in but either he was too drunk or the knife was for a lefty because all he did was gash his hand on the blade and leave a bright crimson trail behind him. He looked at me quizzically and then swore at his hand and rushed back into the bar. That was my cue to skip across the street and get a requisite bottle of Shlitz. I knew the cops would show up but would be too busy for a misdemeanor and I had time since it wasn’t uncommon for the 33 to take a half hour to an hour to show up. After 3 minutes I’m back from the Mom and Pop grocery waiting again when who do I see running across 18th St. toward me looking very worried, but Injun Pete. The crowd of mostly older Latinas have walked up 18th St. since the knife guy passed by, so I was alone with Pete. He was flapping his stumps on his corduroy jacket like a bird and yelling in panic. I couldn’t make out what he yelled and I doubted he recognized me, but he directed my attention to a bad smell coming from him—the smell of burning cloth. Sure enough I could see smoke billowing out of his coat and he started dancing in a circle. I found smoke coming out of a corner of his coat and poured some of my beer on it. Then I realized the fire was inside his pocket and poured more of my beer in there. I reached in and pulled out some smoldering stuffing and a charred cigarette butt.

“Thank you! Whoa! I fell asleep over by that place back there and next thing I’m waking up on fire! I ain’t got no hands to put it out you see,” Pete was much less cocky and very appreciative as he held up his stumps.

“Don’t thank me, thank the beer I didn’t get to drink that saved you. How did you lose your hands anyway?”

“It was a long time ago an I was shiften’ around riding rails. I tried to catch a freighter and tripped and the train run over my hands. I been on S.S.I. ever since.”

“Damn Pete, that is a sad story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a limb, let alone both hands run over by a train! Opps, speaking of jumping on a ride, here comes the bus finally. See you.”

“Hey, how do you know my name? I thought I’d buy you a drink. I owe you one.”

But I left Pete standing there with his stumps and stories and soggy jacket and rode off on Muni into the Frisco night never to see him again.


Buck Naked And The Bare Bottom Boys

December 10, 2006 - One Response

I wrote this many years after the murder of the lead singer of the above mentioned band. Sometime in the early hours of the morning he was shot in Panhandle Park. This is not an accurate story as Buck was walking his dog in the park but the speculative fiction comes under the mindset of the lead characters.

Richard Kaderli

Incident In Panhandle Park

The fog choked the cypress and eucalyptus into letting their perfumes blend with mud and dogshit. It kept the temperature just above fifty and meant no windchill factor there in the shotgun gap to the Pacific that always bent to the ocean breeze. “Panhandle” seemed like yet another satirical jibe at Pappy Raingauge Greenwater’s struggle for peace and survival. Was no money to be made panhandling here. Never had been with all the people just walking their dogs; mostly Yuppies running or jogging.

“Wish my damn hands would hold still while I try to roll a cigarette,” thought Pappy. “Demons, let go of my fingers!”

Since Pappy had his tobacco out on the park bench it was only a matter of minutes before a fellow misbegotten came toadying up to him , schlepping a bedroll and black garbage bag with recyclables. He didn’t say anything to Pappy, he just had a hangdog look and motioned like a cerebral palsy victim for Pappy to scoot over and let him roll, seeing how Pappy wasn’t getting the job done. With alacrity born of addiction the bearded scraggly-haired gray man rolled two cigarettes. As he finished these his request for a third for later was rebuffed. The matches glowed brightly as the daylight barely illuminated the fog between the trees. The two bums puffed without words, the hum of traffic on Fell and Oak filled the scene with the occasional car horn punctuation, and before long they heard a voice cursing and growling.

“Fucking bastards. Dogshit, all this crap!”

A shopping-cart-pushing wastrel appeared at the edge of the fog and a loud crash followed as a steel park garbage barrel was dumped to the ground. He scattered the contents of wrappers and plastic on the ground until he spotted a few beer cans which he picked up by fingers poking through tattered knit gloves. “How am I supposed to get to the recyclables when people cover ‘em with these bags of dogshit? I’d like to kill them goddamn Yuppie dog lovers!”

“Isis take it easy with that dog crap. You’re getting it all over the foot path and the grass ‘cause its coming out of the bags. You are really making a lot of fucking litter for everybody. Bad karma bro.” The ragged recycler had slung on his bed roll and continued off, schlepping his clattering bag after reprimanding the intruding homeless man.

“Fuck you. Hey fuck you. I’m gonna’ slice up some mutt right in front of a jogger pretty soon ‘cause I have crap all over my hands and I’m gonna’ spread that shit on their dead dog. You’re wrong about karma, man. Those suits and joggers are gonna get what comes around.”

With this outburst Pappy had risen from the bench and stepped a few feet toward the offender. He pulled a pistol out from under his shawl that covered the front of his distinctly drab army coat.

“Now let’s hear about you stabbing a dog. I hear that you hurt an animal in my park and I will use this next time. Isis, you are shit to begin with. The Buddha tells me that people gotta’ go or the animals will suffer. I am their redeemer made person. You just get down that trail with your cart.” And with this threat he let out a grizzly roar.

“Pappy, I didn’t hurt no pooch. I ain’t even got a knife, just this poker. I don’t care what you fucking say. This is the People’s Park. I saw Janis sing here, man. I got more right than you to go through this garbage can if I want. You better not show that gun to me again or I will have my ol’ lady tell the pigs you’re totin’ that.”

Pappy in fact didn’t want to shoot because he only had a few bullets. He’d gotten the gun from Maurice who then on the run, had to hitch north out Park Presidio Blvd. to dodge the SFPD. Maurice told him it would just be a couple weeks before he’d come back through on his way heading south. He’d never said it’d still have to have bullets. It had seemed like Providence which Pappy Raingauge Greenwater ‘s waking dreams had told him finally would come. For he was “The One”; he had a mighty destiny. He would use the piece to scare away these Napa refugees but he would never waste a bullet on one–especially that asshole, Isis.

“You been ‘Fifty-One Fiftied’ your last time if I catch you or hear of you cutting a dog or any of friends of St. Francis of Assisi. Naper, the jail, no place will save you, ‘cause I can go there too and kill you. Your old lady, yeah you probably straighten her out, heh, heh, stick her,” Pappy jested and thought of the Old English 800 pint she had swiped from him last month and of the two fresh cans waiting for him across Fell Street.

Isis turned away shaking his head and heaved his steel shopping cart toward Baker St. He made a point of not looking back at Pappy as though he was an already forgotten nuisance rather than a hair-trigger death threat.

The night was old and the moon was hidden and the leaves came tumblin’ down as Chuck Fenster, (his stage name) rolled out of the van. “Chuck Fenster and his Plumbers’ Hellers” read the logo on the rear panel of the van. A pipe wrench across a plunger, like crossed swords, was the design inside the logo. Had he known Max was going to need the van to drive back to Moira’s (his girlfriend) flat, he’d have dropped by home first for some blow and head. All the other girlfriends staying at the house were their groupies. Chuck wore a green backpack over his leather flight jacket, a purple bandanna over his hair and Doc Martin’s on his feet. Nobody would recognize him, even if there was anybody up at 5:45 AM, which there wasn’t. They’d think he was any other x-gener rather than his rock god self (or godhead toward which he ascended).

Aw well, he had a joint of top-end sens in his pocket and he’d toked a little rock after the Hotel Utah gig. He’d kicked ass at that show but it sure as hell didn’t pay the bills that were piling up for the new Graphic Equalizer and studio time. The band’s expenses were shared so he was always down to his last Ben Franklin every week, hence his goal to promote C.F.P.H. by postering so early in the morning. Helps if you don’t crash the night before too. Well, Max was going to have to go over the route again tonight with the other hundred flyers. And once they had the money from the Covered Wagon and DNA Lounge gigs, the band wouldn’t be hanging their own posters anymore.

“This is why this time is the right time!” Chuck grinned as he swung north to cover the poles in front of The Vis and crisscrossed the street to tape the poles all the way down to Fell St. Not having to dodge cars made it easy, and the poles’ over-stuffed Philly Blunt condition looked so defenseless at dawn. They were the prisoners waiting to be shot.

“The Nightbreak shit is getting covered! Look at those graphics—suck man. These flyers musta gone up last night. Whadda buncha assholes and weirdos.” Nightbreak featured Goth Rock and other cliché groups whom long ago Chuck had decided took themselves too seriously.

The traffic was moving on Fell but he was still able to get four corners at Broderick, at Oak too. He walked Fell’s south side all the way to Stanyan and then came down Oak’s north side to Masonic. The monotony of stapling telephone poles had used up the final vestiges of a buzz from his earlier crack high. In the center of the park he leaned against a cypress and refilled his Arrow T-50 staple gun with half inch leg staples. Taking the joint from his jacket pocket, he lit it, inhaling the smoke in long draws. Catching the buzz, he definitely did not feel like heading uphill to Haight Street, so he wandered east through the middle of the Panhandle watching the gray light begin to play on the trees, and sang out the words to his biggest hit the night before.
“I want you to love me. Oh yeah. I want you to kiss me. Oh yeah. Whoa baby, I’m so glad you’re mine.”

He ended this rendition with a wet smack like he always did while holding the plunger that covered his genitals and leaning over the stage like he was offering it to be pulled off. Only he was glad it didn’t come off as it was all he was dressed in besides his plumbers hat. The Plumbers’ Hellers all got to wear unzipped overalls but it was Chuck that drew the crowds with his naked antics and raunchy lyrics. You couldn’t say he was derivative or took himself overly serious. But they were gathering more fans and garnering more media exposure. He’d be a big star soon and then drop the nudist image.

He noticed some street people arguing and dragging their bags like they always did. He sat down on a green wooden park bench and checked his backpack with an air of diffidence to ward off any requests for spare change. Noticing some pigeons that were early risers going for the contents of a spilled garbage can, he lifted his staple gun like he was hunting and yelled “Bang!” The white plumed bird rose, then landed a bit farther to his left. Laughing he stood on the park bench and shot the staple gun at the flock of birds as fast as he could while imagining squeezing off a clip of an Uzi. They reacted individually by running out of range after a staple bounced off their folded wing. The remaining few were ravenous and unaware of Chuck’s threat. So enwrapped in his fantasy was he that the old homeless man walk up to him unnoticed.

“That’s enough!” shouted the grizzled bearded old coot.

The weed sharpened Chuck’s sense of smell so that he was doubly offended by the wino’s piss-sour smell as well as his affront. Immediately he noticed that the guy had his hand in his army coat. That didn’t make sense unless he was packing and Chuck’s pot-addled reasoning told him the hour was too early for violent urban dangers more characteristic of after-dark.

“Who do you think you are? You know who I am? Get the fuck away from me unless you’re gonna pull something?” Chuck shouted menacingly raising a boot to aim at Pappy’s head, an easy target from up on the bench.

“I am Shiva Incarnate and Protector of the Park’s People. You hurt my birds,” and with that Pappy brought out the pistol firing twice at near point blank range. The first shot went straight into Chuck’s groin which hit him like a ballbusting kick and he counter balanced by falling forward. Pappy’s second shot went into his left eye exiting out the back of his skull taking off the bandanna as well. He clanked to the asphalt path with his staple gun. He didn’t even groan but just lay quietly still.

Pappy picked up the green poster bag, checking it for money. The twenties in the front pocket nearly flew up like frightened pigeons from his shaking hands as he looked and rezipped it. Yanking out the forty lavender fliers, he spilled them over Chuck’s body, and then stuffed in the Glock 9 mm among the packs of staples and masking tape. He fled from the scene of Chuck covered in papers announcing his name, The Covered Wagon, and Dollar Beer Night.

It was sixteen ounce Old English beer that figured at the center of Pappy’s mental focus. He thought, “After I pick up those cans from under the stairs across Fell I’ll keep on heading toward Market. Crazy Mike will split a twenty for me to stay in his room at the Civic Center Hotel over the weekend. I gotta move fast or the pigs will catch me. Out of the Haight they won’t notice me. It’s a week before the end of the month so Crazy Mike will need the cash.

Buddha, is that you? Are you the devil?”

Pappy’s heart nearly stopped until he recognized that the eyes belonged to a brown cat sitting on top of a stack of recycling bins next to his stairs. This was another sign, a shriving from Saint Francis for shooting that punk. The beer was his sacred reward and he spilled a tiny libation, making an offering when he recovered it.