Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Mobbed Up - Part 1

As you know, I’ve now reached the point at which I think I may well have earned the last dollar I may ever earn as an actual employee. Because I eat well and exercise diligently and have both an irrepressibly positive outlook and a small army of close friends, though, I may live 20 more years. So it occurred to me that I’d better think of another way to earn a few bucks.

My first idea, of course, was the sale of some of my organs. I seemed to remember years ago reading about someone who made a bundle selling his kidneys on eBay, but they’ve apparently cracked down in the interim, because my little advertisement hadn’t been up for five minutes before I received an email telling me that I should stop trying to friend people I don’t actually know. Or maybe that message was from the good folks at Facebook. In any event, my advertisement never appeared on line, and I had to come up with an alternative idea.

I decided to get mobbed up, to see if organized crime was hiring in my neck of the woods. As you can well imagine, though, there’s no listing in the local phonebook for neither Cosa Nostra, Our Thing, or even the Mexican Mafia. Nor, to my knowledge, is there even a corner on which streetwalkers stand, with some difficulty, in impractical footwear and scandalous attire.

I remember that in the old days, the mob was said to control the country’s jukeboxes. Damned, though, if I could find a single jukebox on all of Maine Street, or on Vermonte Street, just to its north, or Newe Hampshire Street, on its other side. And you’re quite right to wonder if I’m ever going to stop telling that particular joke, which in turn was inspired by the sublime Nick Lowe’s entitling a late-70s EP of his Bowi in response to David Bowie entitling his famous album Low. The closest I came to a jukebox was a couple of teenagers with iPods, but they both assured me that they’d programmed them themselves, without any help from racketeer-influenced crime organizations.

Then, just by chance, I happened to need to use the restroom, and quickly, just as I passed the Yankee Clipper Diner on the southwest corner of Maine and Fishkill Avenue. I had never been in because the idea of spending $14.95 for a main course at a diner goes against my grain. I ducked in, prepared to buy some chewing gum or something if they waved a Restrooms for Customers Only sign at me, attended to my urgent personal business, and was delighted to notice that they have a jukebox — one loaded, as luck would have it, with recordings by Al Martino, Al di Meola, Tony Bennett, Connie Francis, Frank Sinatra, The Four Seasons, the Young Rascals, Luciano Pavarotti, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, and other notable Italian or Italian-American singers. I sat down and ordered a cup of coffee. My server, who I think was Puerto Rican, and who had a grapefruit's complexion, said, “Oh, a whole cup of coffee? Can I bring you a glass of tap water with that?” I could understand his disappointment; the tip he was going to get on my order was hardly enough to warrant his limping (an old soccer injury, I guessed) across the restaurant to where the java was percolating, but it wasn’t I who’d neglected to institute a minimum-order policy in the restaurant.

A swarthy Middle Easterner who introduced himself as “the boss” came over and asked why I was busting their balls. I couldn’t place his accent, but I recognized the ball-busting thing from The Sopranos and other programs about blue collar life on the East Coast. He had some sort of small jewel in one of his two front teeth. I assured him it wasn’t my intention to cause trouble, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. He said he was lucky he didn’t throw the coffee in my goddamned face, and said I had to a count of 10 before he got the baseball bat he kept in the kitchen and beat me senseless. It occurred to me to try to ascertain how quickly he intended to count, but something told me that wasn’t such a good idea. I got up and said, “Thanks so much for your hospitality.” He frowned and said, “But we ain’t been hospital, or whatever the word is.” I told him I’d been speaking ironically, and got out unscalded and unbludgeoned, if only barely.

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