Uptown Rantz

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Parker and Surfer Girl

“Mid-day masturbation and random trips to Target.”

That’s how Parker described his daily life to me in a recent text. Since his divorce five months ago, he’s moved into the bottom apartment of a south Minneapolis duplex. He was initially excited about the pretty 20-something blonde living above him, whom he described as a surfer girl who looks like she smells like cocoa butter. He then concluded that she sees him as the old divorced dude, which means he hit on her and she felt creeped out by it.

Since I moved to Austin, he’s talked a lot about coming down for a visit. But I know he goes days without leaving his apartment, so any enthusiasm and initiative he shows for it is fleeting at best. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing him on my recent trip back to Minneapolis. It didn’t feel like I was visiting him, though. It felt more like I was checking up on him on a bitterly cold Saturday.

I met Parker when I was in fourth grade and he was in sixth grade. He was the kid seeking shelter from the cold during recess by leaning against the 4-story brick elementary school. His winter coat looked worn, thin and so small that the sleeves were almost halfway up his forearms. He didn’t have a stocking cap or gloves, so he kept himself semi-warm by holding onto a Zippo lighter inside his pants pockets and lighting it every few seconds for a burst of warmth. Our school uniform required dress pants with slant pockets, which allowed just enough room for his makeshift pocket furnace.

Parker has been in and out work, like Cheney, but unlike Cheney in that he does not think that he as any discernible talent. After greeting me semi-enthusiastically, Parker disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared holding two bottles of Heineken.

He was wearing red flannel pajama pants, a blue t-shirt and no socks. His blonde hair looked like it has every day since I’ve known him – like Calvin’s from Calvin and Hobbes. He had that look of someone who hadn’t left his home in days because there was no need to. His apartment felt and smelled warm. I was still living in central air when I left Austin.

The walls of his apartment were bare. The one piece of furniture was a satellite chair facing the television in the corner of the living room. The small circular ottoman serves as his desk and dining room table. I’ve never known Parker to play guitar, but there was a small practice amp leaning against the wall. I didn’t bother asking him about it.

“Beer?” He extended one toward me as I set my coat and scarf on the floor and looked for a place to sit. Even though he saw me looking around for a chair, he never offered me one. It looked more like he was squatting there as opposed to living there.

“I do not miss this fuckin’ cold, man,” I said shaking my head and taking a seat on the windowpane.

“I bet. How’s Austin?” Parker sat back down on the satellite chair. It made a loud creaking noise that sounded like it was about to break. He pointed the remote control towards the TV.

“It’s warm and starting to feel like home,” I looked around to notice the envelopes from the state unemployment office. Parker has been living off unemployment and the occasional temp gig.

It’s early Saturday evening, and I could hear the muffled, excited telephone conversation of the surfer girl in the above apartment as she shuffled around in stocking feet on her hardwood floors. Plans were being made and outfits were getting picked out. At that age, Saturday nights mean excitement, opportunity, memories, selfies and sometimes regret.

I was sitting on the windowpane behind Parker’s satellite chair, which was facing the television, which never stayed on one channel for more than ten minutes of the two hours that I was there. He commented that it feels weird watching the television that he and his ex-wife picked out together. None of our conversation was face-to-face. If he wanted to talk, I would have listened.

Parker was happily and busily married when I was under my post-Amanda dark cloud. Everyone goes through an isolated pajama pants period, but Parker’s seems debilitating. I fought mine with working out, writing and saying “yes” to almost anything in order to create opportunities and step outside my mind, because thoughts and imagination can be awful enemies at a time like that.

“Your ex-wife is likely taking this just as hard as you, you know.” His ex-wife’s name is Carrie, but I never knew her that well, so I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning her by name.

Parker heard my attempt at consolation, but he didn’t acknowledge it. Not even a shoulder shrug. I later realized that by saying that, I was disclosing that his life doesn’t look all that great right now.

I felt bad for him then I began to feel guilty, I guess, because I didn’t want to be at Parker’s anymore. He’s one of my oldest friends but all I could picture is me back at my hotel or in my Austin apartment – lying diagonally on the bed reading a Henry Rollins book while listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue. It seemed like he didn’t want company.

The shuffling stocking feet of surfer girl had now become the clicking of high heels on hardwood. Her hair and face are probably done, Facebook status updated, Tweets have been tweeted and iPhone fully charged. Her voice will be hoarse in the morning after an evening of shouting over club music.

I know Parker’s divorce broke him emotionally and financially. It’s easy to spot someone who’s underneath a cloud of depression when you’ve been there before yourself. The cloud covers you like Deon Sanders in his prime covering a receiver. No matter where you go, it’s there – swatting hope away from your hands and then shoulder tackling you out of bounds just for good measure. Eventually, you just give up and watch the game…watch life from the sidelines.

From my windowpane seat I saw a taxi pull up in front of the duplex. The upstairs door slammed shut followed by two clicks of a turnkey lock. Surfer girl high heeled her way down the narrow staircase. Her steps were slow and deliberate, so I could tell she was steadying herself with the guardrail. She scurried to the taxi wearing a tan overcoat over a black dress with black stockings. There was just enough daylight left that I could see her puffs of breath in the freezing air.


2 Craigslist Dates


I arrive at the bar early. Melissa, the hot lesbian bartender who I wish wasn’t lesbian, is working so I talk to her and don’t have to needlessly fiddle with my cell phone to pass the time.  I’m long past the point in life where I get nervous on dates.  This is just something to do on a Tuesday night.  I’m on my second Heineken and The Vapor’s Turning Japanese is coming through the speakers…I still maintain it’s one of the coolest songs ever recorded.

I immediately recognize her from the cell phone picture she emailed me.  She looks exactly like the grainy image – even grainier in person.  I wasn’t expecting much because she described herself as out of shape. Seeing her in person, she’s in-shape…just in the shape of a bowling pin.  On the phone earlier that day, she told me she wasn’t going to dress up and I would be seeing her on her “off day.” Nice.

She’s short, frumpy and I’m fairly certain she represents the lollipop guild. But conversation is easy, even flirtatious…thank you Heineken. On the phone, she told me she had huge nipples, which sounded kind of erotic at the time. Now, it just makes me reply “no” when she asked if I was going to eat.  I’m familiar with the menu so when she orders the calzone, I know it says to allow thirty minutes for cooking. She goes to the bathroom and I order a Jag Bomb from Melissa who now more than ever, I wish wasn’t lesbian…Melissa’s one of those girls who always smells like she just applied lotion to her body.

She returns and mentions that she’s writing a book about her adventures in dating; this is the second time she mentions this and the second time I have to bite the inside of my mouth to refrain from laughing at the fact that her source material will maybe, just maybe, be enough for a short story.  And that’s if she uses lots of run-on sentences like the one you just read.

With each successive Heineken I quickly drink, I somehow think it will make her teeth straighter, her stomach flatter, her hairstyle more contempo, her clothes nicer and make-up would magically appear on her face.  Before I know it, I’m half in the bag and we’re making out in her car in front of my building. Guess it worked…thank you Jag bomb. I’m now avoiding her calls and emails. I’ve also removed her from Yahoo Messenger.

DATE #2 – Two days later.

She described herself as blonde, six feet tall and “fairly smoking.” She also mentioned that she loved wearing heels. So I knew that at an average 5’11”, she would tower over me by at least 2-3 inches.  She walks in and is indeed very blonde, tall and hot in the way a second grader would think his teacher is hot. I say this mainly because she reminds me of Mrs. Lange at C.C. Lee Elementary – long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, which made her facial features seem angular and rather plain. Dressed in all black, she’s not much of a head turner but is leggy, athletic looking and her black skirt hugs her hips well. The black knee-high boots are also a nice touch. At least this one knows Prada and doesn’t think Jimmy Choo is Chinese take-out.

We’re seated at the bar. Me – rather relaxed… leaning back in my barstool, facing her with my legs uncrossed.  Her – facing me, arms and legs crossed with her coat resting on her lap…pretty much every sign that she’s turned off and probably regrets not wearing a watch so she could glance at it and bail after downing one drink. But we’re seated near the door on a chilly night so her body language is no doubt due to the frequent bursts of cold air from the entering, rather young crowd.

“Are you cold?” I ask, hoping for something in the affirmative.

“No.” Fitting.


Cue the crickets chirping in the background and the tumbleweed rolling across the dusty floor. Suddenly, I shiver from the chilly air. And why didn’t I wear a watch? We finish our first beers at the same time and slide our empty bottles toward the bartender. Her empty Blue Moon bottle is easily two inches taller than my empty Heineken bottle.  Fitting.

Halfway through the evening I ask her if she ever wears her hair down. She replies that she does on occasion, but it hadn’t been cut in awhile. Reaching behind her head, she unties the ponytail. Cue the slow-motion and the choir of heavenly angels singing, “Halleluiah.” Cut to me with the cartoon jaw hitting the floor and eyes bulging from head. Her angular and plain facial features suddenly become soft and delicate. The wavy blonde locks frame her face perfectly and sweep down to her breasts, which I now notice for the first time. Now I’m sitting with a hotter and younger Ann Coultier – equally as articulate and educated minus the steady stream of bullshit spewing from her gorgeous mouth.

Conversation is easy for the next four and a half hours. She drinks two Blue Moons, a glass of water and an Italian soda. I stop counting my intake after Heineken number four.  Her body language eventually loosens.  She pulls her barstool closer to me and rests her feet on the bottom rung of my barstool. I do the same with my feet.  She tells me about her experiments with pot, coke and acid with a famous local writer’s daughter – they were childhood friends. She spends holidays alone because she’s not close with her parents. And she says her first date test is whether she could envision herself making out with the guy. I toy with asking her whether I pass the test, but why ruin a pleasant evening?

Throughout the night, I give her two chances to leave after my two trips to the bathroom. I figure if she wants an out, she can take it and the night is still young enough for me to go to Seven Corners and go shot for shot with someone.

“Don’t let me keep you if you’re tired,” I say.

“No, I’m having a nice time. Why would I want to leave?”

“Well, I’ll feel bad if you get a parking ticket.”

“Don’t. It’s not your fault that we’re having a nice conversation.”

As the night is winding down, I realize I’m doing what I always do. I ask all the questions leaving her to reveal pretty much everything she wants to reveal.  She has zero time to ask me anything.  She’ll realize that we spent four and a half hours talking and she knows absolutely nothing about me.

We park in different directions and hug goodbye.  I tell her to call me if she wants to go out again. She walks to her car. I walk to mine.

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