August 11, 2020No Comments

Trash Bags for the Rain

I spent my 30th birthday alone in Mexico City. There was nothing sad about the celebration, I was nearly finished with my graduate degree and simply wanted a break from Columbus, Ohio. Mexico City was the cheapest international flight I could find.

I stayed in a tiny hostel in Roma Norte, a touristy neighborhood in the center of Mexico City, close to many museums and a long walk from Zocalo, the famous plaza. The hostel was quaint, but like any good hostel, it’s not the building that makes a wonderful hostel experience, but the people.

I had the bottom bunk in a room of eight and once the awkward introductions wore off, everyone began to enjoy each other’s company. As a confession, I believe one of the many reasons I enjoy international travel is because people find my rural Americanness and slight southern twang to be charming. Whereas in many parts of the US, it can be seen as somehow less intelligent or conservative.

On the night of my thirtieth, I went to a simple Mexican restaurant in Roma Norte called La Zaranda. I ate tacos and drank mezcal, simple and wonderful. After dinner I returned to my hostel and was enthusiastically greeted by my temporary flatmates, all wishing me a happy birthday and Feliz cumpleaños.

Many in the group wanted to drink that night, so I decided to tag along. There were too many of us to sit at a nice cocktail bar so we tried a local club. The short bouncer at the door searched the ladies’ bags and found an EpiPen. He wasn’t sure what it was, perhaps some crazy foreign narcotic, and wouldn’t let her enter. After a small tussle with the bouncer, we went our separate ways.

I had found a local mariachi bar next to a whiskey bar near my hostel and made my way over there. Another American tagged along with me and we were seated in a very casual restaurant with amazing music. The fellow wasn’t into it as much as I was and kept complaining the entire night. Eventually, I told him to leave if he wanted to, he was ruining my night. I’m very much ok with spending the night alone and entertaining myself. He left and we never spoke again.

After the mariachi bar, It was nearing closing time for most places, so I decided to head back toward my hostel, stopping at nearly every taco stand along the way. The vendors raised their eyebrows at me when I ordered a single taco in broken Spanish. I assured them, one is enough. I’ll most likely stop at every stand as I make my way back, which I did.

I sat on a bucket at the last taco stand a block away from my hostel. The man to my right spoke a little English and asked where I was from, making casual conversation. I told him I was in town for my birthday and enjoying the city. He bought me a couple of chorizo tacos as we continued chatting.

I casually mentioned it would be nice to have a beer to wash this wonderful late-night meal down. The man asked how much money I had on me. It was the end of the night and I had maybe a hundred pesos (five dollars) left. He turns to a man leaning against a bicycle behind him and whistles. It had begun to drizzle and the bicycle man was wearing a trashbag for a shirt.

Trash Bag man walked his bike over to us and the two men chatted in very quick Spanish. The man sitting next to me said to give him the money and he’ll get the drinks. I handed over my cash, thinking I wouldn’t see it or the beers that night.

We continued to chat and eat our tacos. The chorizo was especially good.

About twenty minutes after the bicycle gentleman left, he came back with an ice-cold six-pack and tried to give me twenty pesos in change. I cracked open a can, offered the rest to the people around me, and gave the change back to the trash bag bicycle man.

It was a lovely birthday.

August 8, 2020No Comments

Classic Rock

Clark taught me to make pizza. He was the shift manager at the local pizza shop I worked at the summer before my senior year of high school. The pizza parlor was nice enough, big enough to house a children’s birthday party but it only had one arcade machine. The floor usually needed mopping and the bathrooms usually needed cleaning. Neither of which was my job.

I worked on the pizza line, creating pies using the legal limit of pepperoni (eight for a medium, twelve for a large) so the owner wouldn’t explode. Clark always snuck a few extra.

I had just passed my driver’s test. I drove a Geo Tracker with no air conditioning. It did have a CD player though. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I was never allowed to listen to rock-n-roll. I was too afraid to play it in front of my parents.

Clark grew up in the 70's and 80's. He had the psychedelic stare where he would look at the wall and not move. Too much LSD the previous decades I suppose. Clark was a shift manager so he was in charge of the satellite radio. This usually meant Classic Rewind, the classic rock station.

Clark could name every song, Pink Floyd to Black Sabbath. He knew it all. Somehow listening to these old rockers made sprinkling cheese and burning my fingers a little more bearable. The only time he seemed annoyed with me was when I asked if the song playing was Bon Jovi.

"Bruce, are you kidding me? This is Led Zeppelin" he scoffed.

I was ashamed.

Saturday nights were the busy ones. The owner would work a shift from time to time, mostly to prove that he was still in charge, not because he wanted to help. He was running the dough machine and an order rang up for a large and a medium pepperoni and mushroom. He ran the dough through the machine and I cut it to size, a medium ten-inch pizza.

“What the fuck are you doing? Are you fucking stupid? Did you hear me say cut that into a large?”

“There wasn't enough dough for a large! It barely fit a medium!” I retorted.

“Don't you fucking talk back to me. You listen to me you little piece of shit. I said to cut it to a large.”

“Knock it off Ed, It's not a big deal Jesus, just run some more dough,” Clark said as he came to my defense.

He gave me a wink and turned on the radio.

I took a week off from the restaurant for high school football training camp. It wasn't uncommon for Clark and me not to share a shift for a week or two, the schedules were random and often made by someone who just smoked their third bowl.

Going on the fourth week without sharing a shift with Clark, I was getting bored with the country music station and asked where he had been, usually, he works the late shift.

“Clark’s dead” Rusty the shift manager said bluntly.

“What?” I said, absolutely shocked.

“He hung himself three weeks ago.”

Rusty went back to work, shaking his head like I was insane. I stared at the dough hook as it spun the soggy mass of flour around in circles again and again slowly getting fed up with the honky-tonk blasting through the place.

I grabbed the remote that Rusty kept near the cash register and changed the station to Classic Rewind. No one said a thing.

©2021 Bruce Evans