Ordering in that state is never an easy thing to do, but the waitress took some kindness to us. That, more than anything, was what I remember so fondly about my time in Northern California. The kindness people took on you and the way they opened their hearts and lives without a concern for what you’d give back. Well, not everyone. Not the vampires – they were interested in immortality and really have a grand time with life – but not everyone was a vampire or freak. Most were just hard working people looking to just “be”. These days, in New York, where everyone is driving in their own lanes on the sidewalk and moving at the pace of a heart attack, I can’t imagine feeling like that. I can’t imagine the life of not wanting to set an accomplishment each day before the door closes behind me.
I remember sitting in that Denny’s now – not all of the memory, but the part of it where I felt safe. Safe in the warmth of being inside, and safe in the feeling of being with friends that I loved. It is a pleasure I think only of youth. Perhaps we are all trying to recapture that in some way with tight grips on nostalgia and ironic t shirts, but it’s impossible. Those are just reflections we are holding up.
Everyone else ordered something like a grilled cheese sandwich or a cup of hot chocolate, but I threw down with a grand slam or something like that. I remember thinking how funny it would be to order something baseball related after the amazing game we’d just played on the beach outside, but that was quickly erased by the reality of a plate full of eggs and sausage coming down in front of me. Douglas took a small bit off the corner of his grilled cheese, put it down, and just started free styling right there. It wasn’t loud, but it was attention grabbing. Some of the little kids around us started listening and smiling, and the parents seemed interested, but that all changed pretty quick.
See, when Douglas starting rapping, thought at first it would seem like an Alice in Wonderland chant, he would eventually get extremely sexual in nature, making words twist in the same shape as the contortions of the body parts he was describing. The faces of the parents turned sour, but none of us wanted to stop Douglas as these were the first words he was speaking all night. The rest of the waitress’ around us were thinking about their evening tips flying away, while the one who had taken care of us was now whispering something to the line cook – a giant man whose body looked like it was in constant competition with his t shirt.
The cook came out from behind the counter and walked up to us holding his spatula. Douglas would not let his flow be interrupted, but gave way when the metal hit the table and the chef’s eyes looked bold at us. Anything could have happened at that moment, which was exciting in it’s own right. I remember thinking that this evening was turning into something epic, but when I tried to write any of it down, nothing came from the pen. It’s only years later that I can remember.
The cook stood up, his muscles now turning to a comic book level of big. He started rapping – I don’t remember exactly what he said – nobody was paying attention to the words at the start, only the actions, but we soon realized it was all about being in prison and what he went through. I remember the last line of the rap went something like:
“…And I stick it between your legs like mayonnaise.”
He twirled his spatula and walked back to the kitchen. We were silent again – Not sure anything else was said for the remainder of the meal. We all aged a bit there. The look into the future of manhood and a portal into a life that went terribly wrong. Strange how, when you have the time to experience the world, people present themselves to you and show you the different paths that can be taken.
We eventually paid, cleaned ourselves off, and headed back to the car to drive into the city and get some rest. Everyone was tired, but Crazy Leon had checked out. He didn’t even attempt to drive, just put the keys on top of the car, headed to the back seat and passed out. There was a huge smile on his face – such a look of satisfaction. Douglas shook his head “No” and went into the backseat with him.
Madison and I looked at each other.
“I’m not really the best candidate for this one,” I said. “I’m not seeing right.”
“I’ve got no license,” Madison said. “So, considering the state everyone is in, while you may not be in the best shape when talking about the rest of the world, for this moment, you’re the one.”
He tossed me the keys and got into the passenger’s seat.
Getting in and turning on the ignition was a task in itself. Once I got the car started, and took a few breaths, the silence of the outside coupled with the noise from the engine did nothing but heighten my nerves. The tape player had been overworked and had our Leaders of the New School stuck inside. I had to have something playing in the background. Madison must have seen my face and concern, and he reacted in a way that only a brother who understands you can.
“Well welcome back friends,” he started in. “What a game we have underway. It’s the bottom of the 5th and the action has been non-stop. Herz has been pitching an amazing game so far despite a rocky start, he’s hung in their and limited the damage. He’s facing the heart of their line-up now and they already seen him twice. The bull pen has been heavily worked, so it’s up to him. Let’s see how he works it. Goodman’s first up and he’s hungry for a hit. Been struggling all year, so facing the curves and sliders of this young pitcher is going to be tough.”
The car pulled away and damn if Madison didn’t keep going all the way back to the city. He announced the entire game as colors of the coast showed themselves. Watching the sun come up listening the the greatest ball game of all time being announced right next to me was a memory that will be immortal to me until my last breath.
He dipped into the city as it was coming alive, but the game was ending for us. Getting over a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth, Madison rushed the mound and the crowd went wild as we pulled up in front of someone’s house in the city. The car stopped, the game ended, and we all passed out, safe at home.