I saw ’em when they opened for Douchebag!
October 5, 2022 Comments Off on I saw ’em when they opened for Douchebag!
In small towns everyone knows everyone else and in the process confirms the essential quality that people are lonely, that they accept others’ oddities, and that they love to gossip. It doesn’t matter where you are in a small town. All these qualities are always on display.
At the Dollar General, for example, where there is always a line, people not only talk to the person in line next to them, but they comment on and join conversations they aren’t initially part of, like the lady who was complaining to the cashier about the hot weather, only to be interrupted by a customer four people behind her who reminisced about the week in 2015 when it was 117 degrees.
The post office is a guaranteed place for human contact but not on Mondays because everyone is so hung hover. It’s not until Tuesday that they can get showered and dressed up to go collect the Social Security check from the PO box.
Yesterday I was there to box up and mail some items I’d sold on eBay. On the way there I got passed by Billy Badass, a local guy in his 60’s who looks like he’s a hundred. He rides a Harley; he and his buddy tried to throw me out of a campground last year when I had evacuated during a fire. He was dressed up in his baddest Harley rider outfit and with the tattoos and long hair and pristine torn up clothes he looked like he was headed straight for a rumble of the Hell’s Angels instead of where he was really going, which was the post office.
I got there and was trying to figure out which box to use when he walked over from the PO boxes, looked around bewildered, and shouted, “Oh, fuck!”, slapped his leg, and stormed out. No one else seemed to notice or care.
Then a guy came up to the counter. “Hey,” he said to the clerk.
“I sent a package outta here about a month ago and I lost my receipt and it didn’t get delivered so now I’m wondering how to find it.”
“Did you pay with a credit card?”
“I don’t know.” He looked as confused as if the clerk had asked him the distance from Earth to Andromeda in centimeters.
“Well go home and see if it’s on your credit card statement then bring it back.” I thought the clerk was going to say that they could trace it from the credit card, but no. “I’ll look at the date and maybe we can figure out which package it was.” That’s when I realized they send so few things in a day that merely knowing the date would narrow it down to a dozen or so items.
“Okay,” the guy said and shuffled out but he didn’t look like he’d coming back with a credit card.
Another guy walked in and paid for sending a package, swiping his card. “Whoa!” he said. “What’s that?”
“It’s a new option for cash back. Just hit ‘No’ because we don’t have any cash.”
“Only about forty bucks or so.”
“You need more?”
“I got a couple thousand dollars at home in quarters and dollar bills. I save it up all year for Christmas gifts for my grandkids and my annual trip to Vegas.”
I easily imagined the breakdown of kid gifts vs. Vegas money, and it wasn’t in favor of the kids.
He continued. “I’ll bring you as much as you need and you can buy it from me.”
“Okay, let’s start with a couple hundred.”
I wondered if this was how other departments of the federal government supplied their till, just buying cash from the random customer who saves his quarters in a jar. If they do, it’s a heckuva way to pay for an F-38.
Then I overheard two people meet in the lobby. “Hi there, Susan!”
“Hi, Sam!” And without a single word of other greeting, she launched into “I’m so glad the boys are back in school!”
“Yeah, the homeschooling wasn’t working out.” This guy didn’t look like he could spell “school” much less administer one at home. Bloodshot with black rings of death under his eyes, sallow skin, thinning hair, fraying life, I see it everywhere, all the time.
“They need to be around other people and learn to share so they don’t fight all the time,” she continued.
“They are hellions. Don’t matter how much I whip ’em.”
“You know it got so bad that after you’d drop ’em off I’d have to threaten to turn off the TV if they didn’t quit fighting.”
“That’s about the only thing gets their attention.”
“Well I’m glad Daisy Mae’s out of jail and they are back in school.”
“Me, too. I hope she stays sober. Me, too!” he laughed.
She guffawed with him. “We could all use a little sobriety.” And I’m sure that’s all anyone was getting, and they appeared to be getting it at the post office, but I was pretty sure that it would vanish once they’d returned to their respective bottles of cheap vodka.
But the best interchange was between a guy who was leaving and a guy who was coming in wearing a t-shirt stretched across his enormous belly that must have been donned with the help of a spatula and stick of butter. Guy One stopped in his tracks. “Dude!” he said. “I haven’t seen one of those t-shirts in years!”
Dude snorted with satisfaction and pride. “Yeah!” he said.
“I saw ’em in ’92 at the Palladium when they opened for Douchebag! It was fuckin’ awesome!” I couldn’t hear the name of the band they opened for; it wasn’t actually “Douchebag.” I don’t think.
“I was so fuckin’ bummed when they broke up. Best band ever. I saw ’em twice at the Forum when they opened for Venom.” He chortled. “That was a blast, all right.”
I glanced at the guy’s giant gut, which was turned towards me. It had a skull with an axe through it and a faded logo that said “Slayer.” Of course. After the Beatles, the most popular band in rock history. And before I could even wonder who keeps t-shirts from 1992, especially ones that were probably too small even then, they began the one-upsmanship of who had seen Slayer more times than the other, and where.
The extraordinary relish with which they reminisced confirmed that time had stood still. Those days spent following Slayer, a band noted for lyrics eulogizing the Holocaust and Josef Mengele, were life’s high point and emotionally these guys were stuck in amber. I figured that the t-shirt probably was a good idea, as without it there would be hardly any memories of an evening spent drowning in drugs and alcohol and a brain-killing racket consisting of three badly played chords and a vocal accompaniment that sounded like a piano falling through a plate glass window.
The more they talked the more excited they got until the excitement, combined with having to stand on twiggy legs supporting massive stomachs hiding swollen feet they couldn’t see brought the conversation to an end. I followed them out, realizing that in twenty minutes I’d been the only person who’d simply gone in, boxed up his shit, paid, and left.
Who’s the weirdo?