September 04, 2010

September 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 9

Welcome to the 9th issue of the 9th volume of Truckin'

1. Punta del Mota by Paul McGuire
The last time I was in South America, I had gotten involved in a bar fight in Argentina and a cab driver accused me of being a CIA agent. I left with mixed feelings and wasn't that excited to return to South America for another assignment... More

2. Meeting the X-Men by Brad Willis
Culver Stockton—Culley to his couple of friends—squinted. He poked at a liver spot on the back of his hand. He sighed and looked sad. The old hand shook as it pulled the bourbon up to the crooked mouth. When the smell hit his nose, Culver's eyes exploded with recognition... More

3. The Find, Part One by Mark Verve
The moonless night had created an all consuming darkness. The only light for miles around came from my headlights. I was speeding down Highway 82 trying to make the border before sunrise... More

4. The IT Component by Sigge S. Amdal
The first thought of any man in Jacob's positions is senseless violence. But violent crimes have a perpetrator, and it is finally he that ends up as the victim in a state where criminal prosecution was highly prioritized. No. Violence was not the answer. The answer was elegance... More

5. Rodney Dangerfield Explains A Schmear by Wolynski
He rummaged some more and found what looked like half a pound of flour and poured it onto the table. Suddenly the doorbell rang and Rodney shuffled off to take the delivery. When he opened the door, the ensuing breeze made the cocaine swirl all over the room. I got covered in a thin film like some devilish dandruff... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

The September issue features the debut of Wolynski, who shares a tale about Rodney Dangerfield. The issue is anchored by a sensational contribution from Brad Willis. Mark Verve returns with the first of a two part series, and everyone's favorite Norwegian scribe returns. Oh, and let's not forget that I whipped up a tale about my last trip to South America.

The scribes at Truckin' write for the pure love of self-expression, which is a fancy way of saying that they write for free. I encourage you to spread the word about your favorite stories. The writers, myself included, certainly appreciate your assistance. Good karma will be coming your way for any help you can provide.

If anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list or writing for a future issue, then please contact us.

I can never thank the writers for taking a tremendous and courageous leap of faith with me. Thanks for the inspiration.

Lastly, thanks to the readers. The written word is slowly dying off, but you are keeping the spirit alive month after month with your unwavering support.

Be good,

"You cannot be a good writer of serious fiction if you are not depressed." - Kurt Vonnegut

Punta del Mota

By Paul McGuire © 2010

The last time I was in South America, I had gotten involved in a bar fight in Argentina and a cab driver accused me of being a CIA agent. I left with mixed feelings and wasn't that excited to return to South America for another assignment.

I groggily wandered through Montevideo airport behind a gleeful group of Uruguayan high school girls who shared the same flight from Miami. They were ending their summer vacation after a trip to Disney World and dragged souvenir bags of Disney schwag with them into the brightly lit immigration hall.

My vacation had also come to an end. Vacation is just another term for the luxury time in between my freelance writing assignments. I had not collected a paycheck in months and sunk into my couch, weighed down by a minor depressive funk without a creative project to get me out of bed in the mornings. I was marinating in my own malaise and numbed the pain by self-medicating with California's finest medicinal marijuana. After seven weeks of world class weed smoking, I had one foot stuck in a bong and the other one was trying to keep up with my girlfriend as I followed her through the immigration hall in a Xanax-induced haze.

I'm always confronted with slow people in front of me whenever I get into a line. The immigration line at Montevideo airport was no exception. I waited...and waited...and waited. Two immigration agents methodically quizzed all of the new arrivals as everyone who disembarked my flight waited for one of two booths to open up. I wondered if the Uruguayans gatekeepers were going to give me guff? Or if they were going to make things simple and just open up my passport to a random page and stamp it?

I sprinted to an open booth and barely said, "Hola" before the girl behind the glass window punched down on her stamp on my tattered passport.

I cleared immigration and walked over to the money exchange window for the customary raping of the gringos. I only changed $200, a hundred bucks each for my girlfriend and myself. I knew better than to get a few grand in the local currency, because after all, greenbacks were still royally accepted in South America. Uruguay was one of the few places were the U.S. dollar had totally bottomed out.

For a couple of months a year, Punta del Este is a resort town packed with wealthy Argentinians and Brazilians vacationing at their palatial summer homes. We arrived at end of the holiday season, and almost everyone had gone home. The entire town of Punta del Este was in the process of shutting down. Our hotel, located next to a church in a tiny beach-side resort of Punta del Este, had two swinging front doors that opened up into a large foyer with a couple of couches. A small bar with four empty stools flanked the left side of the lobby with the front desk in the back. The counter top was peppered with a hundred old photographs underneath a top layer of glass. Almost 90% of the photos contained the same person -- a portly gentleman with a wide warm smile and a cartoon-like mustache.

"The owner," said the clerk, who noticed that I was intrigued by the collection of photos.

The funny-mustached hotel owner posed with a variety of people, presumably other guests and travelers who visited his establishment. The oldest photos, with the corners curled back, turned different shades of orange. The owner sported significantly much darker and fuller hair in the orange-tinted photos. The most recent photos featured the owner as a balding guy, thirty pounds heavier, with a subtle grey mustache. Over the decades, the mustache lost it's bold color and its panache. It also lacked the vibrant character of the 1970s version. That was a perfect metaphor for the hotel.

Thirty years earlier, the hotel might have been a cool place to party, but in 2010, it was an overpriced dump. Our room cost $140 USD a night, rather expensive even for Punta del Este considering it was the end of the summer season. I was not paying the tab for our room, but my client handled that, and for the price I expected something a notch better than Uruguay's version of a Super 8. The moment I opened the door to our room, we were greeted by pungent smell -- a combination of industrial cleaning flowery that unsuccessfully masked the predominant odor of vomit. I walked into the bathroom to an unwelcoming sight: crack on the walls, mildew stains on the ceiling of the shower, and only one towel for the two of us. But hey, at least it had a bidet. We'd have to share a towel, but our assholes would be clean just in case we ran out of toilet paper.

My girlfriend inspected the minibar that contained a couple of warm local beers, a bottle of water, and two Sprites. I turned on the TV and the reception was below average, but the hotel's dish captured over 70 channels including random U.S. stations. I searched for sports channels on the rare chance that I'd catch the Olympics. It was technically the end of summer in South America, but the Winter Olympics were in full swing in Vancouver, Canada. After flipping through forty channels, I came across the local ESPN channel that aired the Olympics with commentators discussing the intricacies about the biathlon in Spanish. Then again, my Spanish was horrible and they could have been making fun of the retarded Scandis who came up with a sport that incorporated long-distance skiing and lying in the snow on your stomach to shoot things.

I drank too much my first night in Uruguay. That always happens no matter what country I visit, when I'm unable to find weed in the first 24 hours. I woke up hungover, ate a Tylenol with codeine to reduce the throbbing headache, and downed a bottle of water from the minibar. The hotel served a free breakfast in a small dining room adjacent to the lobby. I stumbled in the room in search of something to soak up the booze before my first day back to work. A couple of my South American colleagues were slumped over one table in the corner and sipping coffee while nursing their hangovers. Both were family men and took advantage of the time away from the wife and kids, and they also got snookered with me until the wee hours. It's never easy to stop binge drinking when you're doing it on the company dime.

I grabbed two croissants from a banquet table filled with breads, cheese, and cereal. I scooped up three spoons worth of scrambled eggs with bacon bits. The glasses at the buffet were tiny, like the size of double shot glasses, which posed a huge burden to someone like me who was dehydrated. All I wanted to do was chug a couple of gallons of water, but had to hold the pitcher in one hand and fill the minuscule glass, shoot the water like it was tequila, then refill the glass and repeat the process. An elderly French couple stood behind me in astonishment and scorned my gauche buffet habits. They must have thought that I was an insane and boorish American -- which to their credit, is highly accurate.

"Je suis le junkie," I wanted to tell them.

Every morning for week, my colleagues and I ate the breakfast buffet with horrible hangovers before we impatiently waited for our shuttle driver. He was always thirty minutes late and never offered up an apology for his tardiness, yet happily pointed out the lavish summer homes of famous people like Eva Peron, Julio Iglesias, Diego Maradona, and George Bush. Even though he drove us the same route every morning, he always slowed down to point out the exact location of the mansion where "George Bush conducted bi-annual secret meetings that outlined the New World Order."

I didn't like the shuttle driver because he had been promising me a marijuana connection, which never came through. Trying to score weed in South America proved harder than you would think. Everyone has cocaine, even the nuns at the church next door to us had oodles of it to sell, but that's not my drug of choice. I was desperately seeking out the local produce -- which in Uruguay is ditch weed grown outdoors and nothing remotely similar to the genetically engineered potent crops that I was used to smoking in California. Marijuana is not a cash crop with very little demand for marijuana when compared to the high-octane buzz of cocaine. Plus, it didn't help my cause that it the end of the summer and all the local dealers were out of weed supplies. Meanwhile, in a cruel and twist bit of irony, I had to constantly pass up on the frantic fire sale of cocaine. End of the summer. All supplies must go.

I was about to give up when one of my herb-friendly colleagues found a source -- a bartender at a local Italian restaurant. He had a couple of chunks of ditch weed that looked like little black bars of soap. It was the best that we could find after three desperate days of asking everyone in town if they had weed. The bartender handed over the rest of his stash, but he felt bad about the quality so he didn't charge us. We thanked him because we were potheads and happy to get anything.

Our collective happiness disappeared after it took us over an hour to pry open the chunk that was several inches thick. We barely procured enough shake for two party joints after an excruciating process that entailed removing stems and seeds that made up 90% of the condensed chunk. We were better off smoking actual dirt, but smoked both joints even though we knew it would probably make us sick. Within minutes, we all got pulsating headaches from the ditch weed. I hadn't smoked weed that bad since an assignment in Bahamas, mainly because I foolishly allowed a Swedish cokehead do a pot deal for me with a sketchy cabbie on Paradise Island. Rookie mistake in the Bahamas. I made another big rookie mistake in Uruguay. The pursuit of herbal pleasure led us down the wrong path. I angrily flushed the leftover chunk.

I gave up and cracked open a warm beer. I took a long sip and nervously counted the hours until my next fix -- only 65 more hours to go until my flight touched down at LAX. It was going to be a long three days.

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas. He is originally from New York City and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Meeting the X-Men

By Brad Willis © 2010

Culver Stockton held his cigarette between his middle and ring fingers. It trembled until the snake of ash fell off the end and onto the ripped black vinyl seat. Culver didn't notice—didn't brush it off the seat or even move his thin legs to the side. Instead he sucked hard on the butt, let his eyes narrow, and then pointed at nothing with the smoldering end.

"Vietnam," he said, and waited for one of the three men in the booth to say anything. None of them did. They each grabbed for their sweating bottles of Bud and took a drink simultaneously. If there had been an Olympic event built around synchronized consumption, these three men would have taken the gold.

"No? Not fucking veterans, are ya?" Culver said and used his index finger to snub the cigarette into pile of butts in the plastic ashtray. "Well, fuck yeah. That's what I say. Can't trust a man who lets himself get humiliated and then kills to make up for it. Fuck that."

Another cigarette. More trembling. This time in the corner of Culver's mouth.

"Drugs then." Culver was pointing again, this time with the whole cigarette, a barfly baton conducting one of the motliest orchestras Greene County had ever assembled. "Meth heads. Tweakers. Speed freaks. You're truckers, whore fuckers, over-the-road bastards of the asphalt. Fucking drugs, man. Right on."

The bottles came off the table and the men held their tongues. Another drink, another stab with the cigarette.

"No, that's not it either," Culver said and let his eyes drop to the table.

The bar was a Quonset hut with smoke-blackened carpet, a jukebox that played the Outlaws, and a waitress who divided her stomach with a pinch of Levi denim. It was her arrival that snapped Culver from his concentration. She sat down three more beers and an Old Crow for the old man. She didn't say anything and then walked away.

"Fupper," Culver whispered. "Fat Upper Pussy." He pointed at the woman's bulge below the waist. "It's the beer. And the fried mushrooms, I think. Still, sorta sexy, don't you think??

This time the men didn't drink their beer. They said nothing. The small one checked his watch.

Culver Stockton—Culley to his couple of friends—squinted. He poked at a liver spot on the back of his hand. He sighed and looked sad. The old hand shook as it pulled the bourbon up to the crooked mouth. When the smell hit his nose, Culver's eyes exploded with recognition.

"Bikers!" he shouted. He knocked the ashtray across the table. It came to rest against the big one's belly.

None of the men spoke, but it was understood that Culver had finally hit his mark.

"So, where are you colors? What? Hell's Angels? Warlocks? What?"

The men didn't look at each other. The medium one — the only one who had given his name, Laurence — finished his beer. "Was the Angels, but Harvey didn't make it because his mom's a Mexican. So, we all went Mongols. Then they found out Harvey's dad was a Jew—'

"And a fucking Fed," said the little one.

"And a fucking Fed," Laurence nodded. "So, we left. We're sort of on our own now."

"We're The X-Men," said the big one, who Culley just assumed was Harvey.

"That hasn't been decided," the little one screamed. "You don't decide Harvey. You aren't the decider."

"So," continued Laurence, "we'd appreciate if you don't use phrases like Spic, Taco Jockey, Hymie—"

"Cholo is fine," Harvey said.

"Cholo is fine," Laurence said.

"You aren't the decider!" the little one screamed. "Just because you want to be Thor doesn't mean we all have to be X-Men. I mean, who the fuck am I going to be?"

"Thor was Marvel comics," Harvey whispered.

"Sammy," Laurence began.

"Fucking Samuel," the little one said. "If I'm going to call you Laurence, Larry, you're damned well going to call me Samuel. Fucking X-Men."

Samuel turned to Culver. "We're not the X-Men. If you have to call us something, we've been trying out the Knights."

Laurence leaned in. "That's Knights with a K, not an N."

Harvey snorted, "You don't have to explain X-Men. You don't have to say, ‘That's with an X and not a Q'."

"Harvey, if you say X-Men one more fucking time, you're out of the fucking Knights!" Samuel stood up and looked across the table.

"X," Harvey said.

Laurence stopped him.

"Mr. Stockton, we're just here to help. You told Mr. Weinstein that you needed our help, and we're here."

Culver Stockton lit another cigarette off his last and shook his head.

"I was sort of expecting some fucked up truckers with an amphetamine problem," Culver said.

"I snort crank on Saturdays," Samuel said, and sat down.

"That do?" Laurence said.

Culver studied them and inhaled deeply on his smoke. "I guess it will have to."

The four men looked at each other across the table like a spider web of tired stares.

Culver pointed his cigarette at each of them one at a time and then said quietly, "You boys ever buried a body?"

Brad Willis is a writer from Greenville, SC.

The IT Component

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2010

Per 120 Faculty Staff Member there was one IT support staff and his name was Jacob. Jacob learned the ins and outs of the Faculty business over the years, never once questioning his late night turn-ins and unpaid overtime. He raised questions only when the summer holidays were up, and he didn't receive his salary, because that was company rules. Except he was employed on an hour-basis and did not receive the summer compensation that everyone else did.

Nine sorry summers later he was fully employed but his responsibilities had only grown. There were 40 new members of staff now, and still only a single person to deal with the daily EXTREMELY IMPORTANT crisis that Jacob had to deal with. The crisis themselves were mostly harmless, futile and unnecessary; as is all human crisis at the tertiary level of society. Though over the course of the last decade he had learned that personality goes a long way, and there some personalities that were simply satanic.

Jacob came in at 9:30 on Tuesday 13, July 2010, having taken the bus from his home. It was damp outside. Jacob didn't particularly like the damp weather, nor did his hemorrhoids. He finished his cigarette outside the gate, greeting several co-workers getting in their last efforts before their vacations. An obnoxious lady in red who would work herself up over the least slight malfunction, delay or her own user errors came by smiling. It was a smile worthy to punch teeth less, Jacob thought. His hand trembled.

"You're not on holiday?" she requested.

"No. Never. There is no holiday in IT," he said.

It was fairly true. He was going to work all summer. This Tuesday he was continuing the re-installation of a Windows work station which the user had conveniently left behind for him to 'clean up' during the summer holiday, as well as check in on a time-consuming digital recovery case that he'd been busy with for the last six days.

He hated it, he hated her, and he hated the way she made him feel.

In every request to him so far the lady in red would presuppose and project an error or major shortcoming of him unto her own situation. He had re-installed her computer from scratch half a year ago, so it was only to be expected that he was to blame for everything that could possibly go wrong with the computer. "Everything's changed!" was her recurring mantra every time she had a problem or even just a question. Ignorance had nothing to do with it. And neither did reason, as Jacob's full backups of her user settings and files showed that not only were her configuration identical to her prior installation, they were unchanged. PEBKAC.

To make matters worse, the Faculty had bought the computer for her, just to shut her up. It was that or shell out the 20K she claimed to have lost in luggage going to a conference.. This meant that though Jacob was not supposed to be supporting home computers, the Faculty had just made him her personal assistant.

And she took full advantage.

A few weeks prior when she had been struggling to get a wireless connection at her home and after going through the usual checklist he simply told her to unplug the router and bring it to work. The router was a good one, he had a similar himself, so it wouldn't be the DHCP server shutting her out as common in cheaper models. No. After having talked to two of her ex-lovers it turned out she had not used the right key. He looked over the troubleshooting e-mail he'd shot her on the first encounter with the problem, and there it was; "Step 1. Verify that the wireless key is correct."

The situation topped when she sent her an SMS text-message in CAPS saying that:
He had written three drafts telling her to suck cock until self-suffocation, which was probably not far away from the truth anyway, until he wrote a calm, step-by-step troubleshooting. It took him a quarter of an hour to assemble the self-control to do so.

Then two minutes later he received this message:
All of this and more rushed in front of him as the lady in red was chit-chatting away. Finally she left him to continue her so-called research, a lavish lifestyle funded by tax-dollars, yielding little tangible results. Jacob on the other hand was well into himself, absent-mindedly entering the elevator and then his office. He didn't even open his e-mail. He was thinking about revenge.

The first thought of any man in Jacob's positions is senseless violence. But violent crimes have a perpetrator, and it is finally he that ends up as the victim in a state where criminal prosecution was highly prioritized. No. Violence was not the answer. The answer was elegance.

He logged into his backups and started collecting evidence. There was plenty of it. As a Faculty employee he was strictly forbidden to shed any information to the outside, but only insofar it wasn't constituting a breach of law or the ethical guidelines of scientific research. The Faculty was more important than any one of its researchers, at least that's what the board thought. He put all of his collected pictures and documents in a USB drive and a letter to the media stating the significance of the material. He made sure to send it from a post pox in an unmarked envelope.

Not a week later Jacob stopped outside the kiosk by the bus stop and had a look at the headlines: International Faculty Researcher caught exploiting young respondents! The article had a slightly-blurred picture of the lady in red, details of the evidence collected and cries of moral outrage from various committees and University professors. The Lady in Red would never work again.

Don't ever fuck with your IT support.

Sincerely yours,

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

The Find, Part One

By Mark Verve © 2010

The moonless night had created an all consuming darkness. The only light for miles around came from my headlights. I was speeding down Highway 82 trying to make the border before sunrise. I knew from experience that shortly afterward it could take more than an hour to get across. I was making my monthly trip to Mexico to get my sister Lisa's meds at a discount pharmacy in Nogales. It's a pleasant trip in the relative cool of the night and I had done it every month for the past two years.

In the daylight this area was a desolate uninhabited desert. Tonight it was so dark that my entire world existed in the fifty yards in front of the car. As I rounded a corner my headlights suddenly illuminated a cloud of dust leading into the dark. I slowed and squinted to get a better view. As I got closer I saw a sedan perhaps fifty feet off the road in a ditch. It appeared to have missed the turn, rolled, and stopped propped up on its side against a boulder. I pulled over and stopped with my headlights pointed at the wreck. I turned on the brights. People fell asleep at the wheel all the time out here. I had a sense of foreboding.

I'm not much of a hero but I knew I had to see if anyone needed help. As I approached I could see that the car was resting on the drivers side. It was an erie scene with long shadows thrown by the lights. Oddly the radio was blasting mariachi music through some tinny sounding speakers. Cautiously I approached and saw that the trunk had popped open and I smelled gas. Moving forward I was alarmed to see an arm sticking out from underneath the wreckage. I looked through the windshield and saw a man twisted and pinned in a grotesque pose half in and half out of the drivers side door. He was face down in the sand and lay motionless not making a sound. I checked his neck for a pulse and found none.

I looked around the area to see if anyone else had been ejected. Apparently he had been alone. I took out my cell to see if there was coverage intending to dial 911. Just then I noticed a carry on size bag laying about fifteen feet from the car. Half of it was illuminated by my headlights. It had been torn open in one corner and was covered in sand and dust. I walked over to it as I waited for my phone to power up. Reaching down I saw what appeared to be neat bundles of money spilling from the hole. I opened the zippered compartment and found that it was filled with those neat bundles. I shut off the phone.

The first thing I thought was drug money. Thinking about it later, it was the only logical conclusion. You read stories all the time about the money that flows back into Mexico. They say it's easily hundreds of millions per month. For a split second I hesitated. Then I gathered up the loose bundles and stuffed them back into the hole. I picked up the bag by its side handle and turned towards my car. It was blinding looking into the glare as I hurried back to the car. I had done the guy a favor by looking to help. Now he was doing me a favor. As I passed by the wreck I noticed four pieces of luggage laying in the ditch near the opened trunk. They looked to be part of a matched set. I quickly moved them into my car two at a time and shut the hatch. Judging by their weight they too were full of paper.

My mind was racing with thoughts of the wreck, the dead man, and the cash. I figured it had been about five minutes since I'd stopped. No other cars had passed but suddenly a sense of urgency swept over me to leave the area. The wreck would be found soon enough and I didn't want to be part of the accident investigation. I quickly made a U turn, stepped on the gas and headed back home. Just then a car rounded the corner. It was a white 1970's Pontiac Trans Am with the hood scoop. I noticed it had the T-tops removed and the occupants were wearing cowboy hats. Here come the next good Samaritans I thought. I wondered if they could have seen me make the U-turn. You can imagine the sense of relief as I got up to speed. It was so real that I physically shuddered for a split second. I rolled up the windows and put on the air adjusting the vents to cool my face. I drove the speed limit for the rest of the way home.

As I drove I tried to make sense what just happened and how to proceed. Everyone has had the fantasy of finding a bag of cash that fell out of a armored truck. This was different though because the cash was not going to be missed by any authorities. I needed time to think it through. As daylight approached I phoned my sister and told her I had car trouble and would be home soon. I couldn't tell her about the find just yet. She was emotionally unstable and would be too overwhelmed by such news. For now I'd spare her this burden. I knew she'd be leaving for work at seven. I killed some time with breakfast at the local diner and headed home. Her car was gone so I pulled into the garage and closed the door.

Relief and excitement descended because now it was just me and the suitcases safely at home. I brought them up to the master and put them in the sitting area. For some reason I looked through the blinds and shut them. After our parents died my sister didn't want to sleep in the room they had occupied so I took it. They had been her rock. I assumed that role when I moved back to Bisbee from Southern California after the tragedy. She rarely entered the room and never ventured in alone. The secret would be safe here. I turned my attention to the bags. The luggage was Skyway brand with the soft sided black nylon design. It consisted of two large suitcase size bags, one medium size, and two carry on pieces. They all had a fine coating of sandy dust ground into the fabric.

I unzipped each bag and found they all were stuffed with the bundles of money. I unloaded them and counted it. There were four hundred and fifty bundles composed of one hundred dollar bills for a total of ten thousand per bundle. I grabbed my calculator and totaled it up to four and a half million. Fingers shaking I punched it in again with the same result. For some reason I stood up with both arms in the air and said Yes! I followed with an abbreviated happy dance and collapsed back into the chair and let out a long sigh. That feeling of elation had caught me by surprise and I wondered if that was what greed feels like. I noticed the cash gave off a strong odor of money that virtually filled the room. I examined several of the bundles closely. They were used bills neatly banded together. Each band had a red stamp of a happy face on it. The owners of that brand would not be happy about this loss.

For a while I just stared at the sight of stacks of money. It must have been a full ten minutes that I just sat there. It was an overwhelming visual and seemed surreal. But yet there it my bedroom. It was a sight that few people have ever enjoyed and I took it all in. Then I carefully placed the bundles back into the luggage. I rolled them into the walk-in behind a row of shirts. The room still smelled of money. For some reason I peeked through the blinds again. I had broken out into a slight sweat. The past four hours had changed everything. I had to figure out how to deal with it.

Mark Verve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and writes for relaxation. He trades the stock markets for a living and plays poker for aggravation.

Rodney Dangerfield Explains A Schmear

By Wolynski © 2010

In the 80's I knew Rodney Dangerfield to say hello. He used to come in to the comedy club "Catch A Rising Star" on the upper east side to try out new material and was very genial towards all the comics.

At the time I worked out of a photography studio in the east 70's - a magnificent, dilapidated warehouse overlooking the East River transformed into the best space in Manhattan by the great artist Rene Miville.

One day I finished early and was walking towards the subway around 1 p.m, when I bumped into Rodney carrying loads of plastic shopping bags. He said hello, don't I know you from the club, I live around the corner and I need some help making sandwiches for the boys. He saw I was hesitant and assured me his Jamaican maid was there. So I said O.K. and he gave me half his load.

Rodney lived in a high rise overlooking the river, two apartments knocked into one. The place, although furnished, was a little bleak, as if the owner didn't care. Rodney showed me into the kitchen where the maid was bustling and Keno the dog was yapping. He changed into his customary bathrobe, we both sat down at the banquette and emptied the shopping bags, a crapload of day-old bagels and cream cheese. Rodney explained he's going on tour with the boys the following day and needs to make sandwiches. I stared at him in disbelief. He was at the height of his career, just having done Easy Money and Back To School - I kept thinking, why not call Bloomingdale's and order two food hampers? He's a fucking multimillionaire. Still, I was game - this might be a fun afternoon making sandwiches with the funniest man in America.

Rodney handed me a knife, sat down next to me and we started slicing the bagels. He told me the story of his life - he was born Jacob Cohen, but changed it to Jack Roy, because he got tired of paying speeding tickets - cops were kinder to gentiles. At 40 he was $40,000 in debt, no prospects, two kids, an alcoholic wife who eventually killed herself. Rodney left comedy a while and opened an aluminum siding business with Robert Ludlum, who went on to write The Bourne Ultimatum. Suddenly he stopped and inspected my pile of day-old bagels.

"Too much cream cheese - a schmear, do I have tell you what a schmear is, what kind of Jew are you?"

Schmear means "cheap" in Yiddish, Rodney? Right, young lady, enough lip out of you. A schmear is a smear.

He made me re-do my bagels, removing excess cream cheese and from that moment on kept slapping my wrist whenever I exceeded his idea of a schmear. Schmear, a schmear of cream cheese! Those poor boys on the bus, I kept thinking. Rodney can't afford cream cheese?

At some point I had to use the bathroom. It was shelf upon shelf upon shelf of hotel shampoos, moisturizers and bath robes. Rodney said when he was broke no one gave him anything, but now everything is free.

We finished the bagels while Rodney told me how Jack Benny said he needed to find a hook and thus "I ain't go no respect" was born.

Rodney decided we needed a treat after our hard work and we went into the living room, the windows wide open onto the river. He rummaged in a closet and took out what looked like a pound of flour wrapped in plastic. No, this is the shit stuff. He rummaged some more and found what looked like half a pound of flour and poured it onto the table. Suddenly the doorbell rang and Rodney shuffled off to take the delivery. When he opened the door, the ensuing breeze made the cocaine swirl all over the room. I got covered in a thin film like some devilish dandruff.

I'm amazed Rodney lived as long as he did. He did line after line to my two. I finally bid him goodbye and decided to walk a block and then another and another. I walked 60 blocks all the way home and at 1 a.m. I did 70 sit-ups. If cocaine were always this good, heck, I'd be an addict.

A few days later I ran into Rodney at "Catch." He invited me to the Green Kitchen, a diner next door and promptly pointed to the tuna sandwich, the cheapest thing on the menu. If I were a shoe salesman, he said, you wouldn't be having dinner with me. You wouldn't be a shoe salesman, Rodney, you'd own the shoe store. Good answer, kid, good answer.

Rodney took my phone number and a few days later left a message on my machine. My upstairs neighbor was there when I played them back. Your friend does a good impression of Rodney, he said.

Rodney invited me to a gig at Westbury on Long Island. I arrived at his building. Dennis Blair, the opening act and his wife Peggy were already there. Rodney came downstairs with an alarming amount of plastic shopping bags.

His act was brilliant - some of it looked off the cuff, but later backstage he showed me the script to that show - it was 100% prepared. Rodney changed into his bathrobe and guests started arriving backstage. A sumptuous spread of cold cuts and salads was laid out, as befitting a super star. Rodney picked up a shopping bag, took out a roll of Reynolds wrap and saran wrap, handed them to me, pointed at the food and said, "Kid, start wrapping." Just as the guests were digging in, I started wrapping.

On the way back to Manhattan, Rodney lit up a joint in the limo. Rain was coming down on the Long Island Expressway, a downpour. Suddenly Rodney dropped the roach and started frantically searching. He made the limo pull up on the shoulder, we all piled out and the chauffeur looked for the roach with a flashlight. We were all soaked to the skin by the time he found it.

Later Rodney and I discussed his cheapness. He said most of his life he was so broke that now he can't spend anything.

A couple of weeks later, I bumped into Rodney on my way from the studio. Hey, kid, what are you doing? Come to the health club with me, we'll go swimming. We went to the health club and he got me a bathing suit. An afternoon with Rodney in the health club... almost as funny as the sandwiches.
When I was born I was so ugly, the doctor slapped my mother.

My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.

I told my psychiatrist everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous - everyone hasn't met me yet.

Wolynski is a comic and photographer living in Las Vegas.