“Hey kid, sorry about taking your popcorn,” I offered to the wide eyed little old man still looking at the trading cards.
“Awwh, that’s OK mister. She sure is a pistol,” he surprised me and then upped the anti by continuing on with, “Hey, how about you repay me by buyin’ me one of these cards?” He looking up at me like a droopy hound dog who has been around this place longer than dirt.
“What?” I exclaimed in surprise.
“Yah. Yah. He burst. Look, see, I’ve been payin’ down on this Ted Williams card for a couple years now. All I need is another twenty-two bucks and it mine. Sweet Ted. Mister did you know he is last guy to hit over .400 ?”
“We’ll yah, of course I do. Everyone knows that, ya little squirt. Is that why you want the card,” I asked both of us now eating the popcorn like we were at the movies watching a Godzilla double feature.
“No, I want the card cuz he is coming back and I want to get him to autograph it for me. Wouldn’t that be something! I’d be rich if I could get his autograph on his card,” he said, clearly having worked his investment out; calculated the appreciation.
“You mean, you think Ted is coming back?” I asked getting real thirsty and starting to wonder how close we were to the cry of “Play Ball” .
“Well yah, of course. He’s all frozen proper like out there in the desert or dessert, Alcor is the place; it’s only a few miles from my grandparents place. Googled it. Anyway, Ted and his head are just waiting and when he is ready, he is coming back and I’ll be right there when he walks out of the facility, flashes blazing like the fourth of July, me calm like. I will I’ll be there. And I’ll get him to sign the card. So mister, can you help me get the card? Step up man, I won’t tell your wife about this Vi dame,” he added, as if he was plopping down a weird bruised cherry atop a sundae just served up.
“Kid….why I….well, you are impressive. I’d be delighted to help you get this card,” I decided. “Hey Vi,” I yelled across the store, “can you give us a hand and get this kid his card. I somehow think you know him. Put the balance on my tab, I gotta run. I can hear the crowd.”
I could still smell the ocean through the exhaust of the idling limos and sidewalk sausage grilling on Yawkey. The game was scheduled to start at 7:05 PM, I made it there at 6:55. Traffic was the usual mess but me and the Indian nabbed a sweet commercial space gone civilian, over by the museum. Nice walk over too. From the look of the brooding sky and humid late June breeze blowing in over the Fenway, I was probably looking at a rain-delayed start….
I wandered into the store after having my ticket scanned at a gate A turnstyle, this time their wanding didn’t bleep my ankles…. When I was a kid I never entered on the Yawkey side of the park; the best I could ever do was the Landsdown side entrance— bleacher seats, sunburn and segregated park access.
“Can I help you with anthing, Sir?” offered the leggy women in the striking outfit. Her voice was sweet but sonorous like a really fine very dry mead; behind the glass display counters filled with baseball ephemera I noticed her curious heels and Redsox colors.
“Ahh, you know how it goes, just lookin’, but thanks doll,” I growled, softly.
“You know, I hear that hundreds of times a day but….” pausing as she turned her sculpted back to me, fixing a slightly bent Boston Braves hat, her lowrise mini revealing a New York Yankees tattoo, the one with the bat, nestled in the small of her back, “you Sir, actually seem to mean it,” she continued turning her head, looking over her left shoulder, dark eyes locked on my eyes, which were unfortunately locked on her tattoo, like Manny on a piece of center plate cheese. Stand tall and watch it soar.
Deciding I had the time and no better way to recover from my guilty gaze, I mildly screamed like a hormonal teenager: “She has a Yankees tattoo! She has a Yankees tattoo!” pointing and grimacing at her, here amidst the merchandising realm of all that is Redsox.
Impressed, the Yankee Babe smiled, waved to the few people who bothered to look her way and stepped toward me leaning over the glass, presenting me with a pair of fuzzy baseball dice. “Ding Ding, you win! That sure is funny way to tell a lady you like her new tattoo,” she smoldered sweetly tilting her head and her long black and red hair flouncing about her shoulder.
“Well, actually…. Viv, I don’t like your tattoo. Nope not one bit….well may….nah, I don’t really care for tattoos. Especially ones located their…. Girlfriend, that is just too obvious,” I tisk-tisked looking her straight in the chest with my tongue hanging slightly out of my mouth, my finger wagging like a Crazy Cat tail on a neon lit dinner wall clock.
“Oh, right. I understand. Your one of them classy Joes,” she says as she sticks out her unusually long and expressive tongue, curls the tip and strings the fuzzy baseballs dice from her pearl tongue piercing! Shocking me into biting my own tongue, in a sort of complex, weird involuntary gag reflex, something out of a Jerry Lewis movie, I trip over the carpet and stumble like a hobo into a oblivious and passing group of shoppers.
“Damn it Viv,” springing up and pressing my manicured finger tips against the glass counter for grounding, “what in the hell are you doing with the beyond-yesterday primitivistic shite?” I asked in an confused huff, straightening my tie and mammoth bone cufflinks.
“Well big boy, gimme a chance and let’s find out together,” she pauses a beat then bumps out in front a tick with: “You ain’t seen but half of it, and…. you clearly,” adjusting my tie with her long painted yet strangely dry hands “don’t know how I operate.” Leaning back slightly on her heels against the counter, arms akimbo, legs visibly flexed beneath silken whipped cream white sanitary stockings rising out of red leather stirrups chemically welded then punched into what could have only been marine brass three pronged five inch spike heels. She’s been busy I thought. The bite of those things would put the spike of any cleat to shame. They looked like something that leapt out of a crackersjackers Helmut Newton attired baseball shoot. How do you walk in those things….
“Wow, I did not think you were going in that direction, ever going to ever, do that,” I said looking at some old trading cards under glass while pinching my tongue between my left thumb and pinkie ringed finger “thaths jus godstha hurt, babe,” I symphathisized sloppily my hair falling across my cocker spaniel eyes as I looked over at Viv.
“Yah, I’m full of surprises and empty of inhibition…. Hey, I never thought you’d get that freakish implant either Coop. So you goin’ to the game, you meeting Braid?” she asked relaxed, front fading, wiping the spiddle off of my lower lip scar with my silked cotton bandana, her eyes wide.
“Yah, should be if he shows, have….”
Interrupting she spurted out, “He’ll be there, he wouldn’t miss it…. I mean. Hey is Cocoa with you….Coop, I been hearing some stuff about a package, a blimp, some stuff….,” looking around the store at the cameras and flow of fans she lowered her voice to lipglossed whisper, “He’ll be in his usual spot in front of the mural down third base side. He’ll have his tooth on so….”
Interrupting and taking back my bandana, “Great, that’ll be swell then. I really need to talk with him.” I was hoping this gesture would confuse things and avoid the momentum I could feel building toward the latenight rendezvous with Viv that she and maybe even I would regret, quickly asking “so is the Japanese stuff still selling or what?” emphasizing the what with a hardness.
“Oh, yah I guess,” she said “the Japanese who show up here actually buy the regular stuff, it’s the college kids that tend to buy the Japanese language stuff,” voiced musically as she brushed off her leather skirt, “kids love different stuff, exciting stuff,” extending and splaying her fingers, red nails glinting, pressing down on her skirt with her palms arching, pulling up just enough to reveal her white stockings corseted and terminated with alloyed steampunkish garters, “So how about after we meet….”
“Yes. Absolutely.” I found myself blurting out, between hand fulls of popcorn from the clueless kid standing beside me, he drooling, over a 1950-ish Ted Williams Topps, me over the peek I got through the glass counter at Viv’s gams and wares.
“The usual place?” she asked also taking some popcorn from the kids carton nibbling on a puff as though she were Harry Bailey’s new wife standing aside the steam rising locomative just having arrived in Bedford Falls.
“OK.” I agreed, “But, I, we, will be there no earlier than midnight, Viv.”
“Swell, Coop. Your a genius in research. We’ll have a real nice, or maybe not so nice,” snapping her fingers “morning. Hopefully you’ll get to the bottom of this mystery,” she smiled glancing down her hips as she starts to rock down the aisle, nibbling popcorn, backward glancing, trailing the long column of glass counters, her triple spiked heels clicking and softly grinding on the concrete floor, a raggtimey dub, nails scratching randomly at the vintage repro apparel, mannequin, old man, hangers tinkling, counterpoint mixed laughter and chatter, a cheer….the bustle of this dame, my partner, amidst this hardball emporium.
“Well. So….what was that?” wondered Cocoa aloud, the sun marking stark shadows across the deck. Uncle Ank, off in the distance playing catch with the dog in between his pruning of the apple trees.
I fiddled with the cart, making sure that it had re-cued. It was a rather long recording for a cart, clocking in at about six minutes. “Hearing that was a disorienting blast from my past,” I offered as an answer wondering how old the recording had to have been.
“So, do you know this RockRock person? And what does the photo have to do with this….” asked Cocoa.
“Well, sort of, ” interrupting so as not to get sucked down the rabbit hole of the photo “Ya see, back in the day I worked a few non-commercial stations; in New York, Boston and Middle America. This guy sounds pretty familiar but the degredation of the tape is muckin’ with my memory, it’s throwing me off a bit. It could have been a very good friend of mine using an alias. And the tape warble is weird, too….Ya know, the whole alias alternate name thing that is the norm these days with so many folk in the online world was pretty much confined to terrestrial broadcast radio back then. Of course way back to the dawn of broadcast radio there were stage names and ghost writers but with radio, the first mass electronic media, fake names or alias were really something different. The alive quality, the live broadcast nature of the medium coupled with the intimacy of the audio-in-the-ear of the listener really shifted persona-frontin’ to a whole new realm….”
“Mr. Radio Historia-Phila-Dr.-Ya-Know, could you just answer the question! Who is this guy?” huffed Cocoa, her shades hanging low on her nose, eyes and super long lashes blinking expectantly and tiredly.
“Oh, yah. Right. I’m not sure….”
“Blaaaah! Ok. So, do you have any idea….Wait check that question. How about, will you be able to figure out who and what and why this recording was dropped here? I mean it was literally airmailed. And was that an Eno track followed by Firesign?”
“What? Well, maybe. I’m sorry but I kinda spaced out there. Hey could you cover up so we can really give it another listen,” I said as I reminded myself to focus on the musical content a bit more, as I pushed the forward arrow, wondering how I was going to explain all of this.
“Wow, that asparagus is deeevine.” marveled Cocoa.
“Yes, indeed.” Worth the wait, I agreed, as I finished my second cup of French roast.
“Ok, so can we NOW, open that package that has been staring at me this whole dang breakfast?”
“Yup, here it goes.” At this point Orphy, the nude cat who runs the joint, sauntered out of the sun room over to our umbrella, hopped up on the pine bookcase and surveyed the impending opening.
As I lifted the box, I was again surprised by the heft of the piece. My stainless penknife was needed to cut through the kraft gum tape and jute cordage. The smell of machine oil started to prick my nostril while reminding me that the helicopter kit install was falling way behind schedule…. I unstuffed the top layer of what was a combination of quarter inch reel-to-reel audio tape, stale smartfood popcorn and, and….well, I guess you would call it shredded early 80’s vinyl album art with a sprinkling of AP wire feed dated the first of April 1985. “Weaahrd.” I found myself say, in perfect Boston dialect, as I held the vintage packin’ mix in my still pine-gummy fingers, looking questioningly at Cocoa.
“So, Coop is that it? Just a strange mix of shredded stuff?” she asked while wrapping Orphy’s prehensile-like tale around her long tanned ankle.
I reached back in the box and touched a cool piece of metal. Rectangular, of sort, with, wait….some plastic feeling stuff and a cord of some type stretching back into the box; I lifted the old piece of what I now knew to be radio broadcasting equipment out onto the polished concrete deck table.
“Finally. There it is. Now, what is that Coop?” said Cocoa genuinely interested in the beat-up piece of gear.
“Well, that my lovely is a honest to goodness radio cart machine.” I said as I continued to pull the power cord from the box.
“Right, Mr. Radio Dinosaur. What is a cart machine.”
As I reached a snag in pulling the cord out of the box I explained: “A cart machine is a specialized auto-cue quarter inch tape playing machine commonly used in radio broadcasting through the dawn of Computer, digital playing mechanisms. Commonly thought of as a simple 8 track player like device it was actually far more specialized and rugged. The computer pretty much replaced most of the cart machines in radio by the time I started to ween myself from broadcasting. Like many of the displacements that digital technology effected, the cart machine was seen as not “good enough” and way too prone to malfunction comparatively….”
“Woe, Spock. That is quite enough. Fine. I get it. So who and why would someone send you this thing?”
“Well, I was known, by some folk, to have an uncommon love for the things. In fact I use to reinstall the machines in studios, surreptitiously, generally during an overnight shift, after the “official” engineer mothballed the cart machine from the studio.
“Ok, so Coop, honey. Why would someone send you one?”
“Just look at this thing, it weighs about ten pounds. It has real plastic buttons and it smells like a cybernetic dinosaur, nice oil. I bet this is pure Marvelous oil…. In some ways these machines remind me of my old 3G iPhone….”
“Coop, look, my power points are getting burnt out here with all the UV today. I just need to know if you need any help with anything else. I’m about done hearing about the cart machine as it will be a while until you clue me into what led, caused or who did this parachute drop thing. You can unravel your package yourself…. Unravel your package. Hey, actually I think your own package may be getting burned out here too, your Kimono is a bit loose, hon.”
“Would you look at the heads on this deck, they are in good shape. I wonder….” as I talked to myself Cocoa, lifted the cat off her lap, stood up in her hip-first-swivel-floating way and I looked up at her exclaiming: “Wabi-sabi! Wabi-sabi!”
“This is wabi-sabi?” Cocoa questioned, floating her arms over her head, chest and points following slowly and perfectly.
“No, this machine, it is wabi-sabi.” I said as I watched Cocoa coninue to lift and reach for the sky, now on her powerful, perfectly balanced tip-toes, tan and sparkling tourquoise nails and pads, buoyant on the teak decking.
“Wabi-sabi, wabi-sabi. Coop why don’t you stand up and reach up like me and let me check out your rear end?”
“Umm, OK…. Why? I didn’t fall that hard really….Hey, this cart machine is actually attached to a battery powered supply already, and here is a cartridge.”
“Great!” said Cocoa winking and slapping me to attention, “Stick it in.”
As I stepped out on the deck the morning sun greeted me with a warm slap on the face. It was goin’ to be a hot one today; we should go to the shore, check out the harbor and see how the tourist trade is shaping up for this season…
“Hey, so here is your package.” Cocoa said as she pointed to the unassuming but very carefully wrapped brown paper package.
The package had been taped and wrapped in the style of Hollywood noir set piece: brown kraft paper, thick jute tie-material, serious tan kraft paper taping, the kind dispensed from a heavy single purpose commercial grade dispenser, found in the bowels of a Manhattan skyscraper publishing house, the one sitting in the shadow of the Chrysler building.
I picked up the package and marveled at its surprising weight and was shocked to see that it had an appendage. On the bottom of the package there was a fine filament-like cord, almost invisible extending from inside the package. As I began to pull on the lose end of the filament, to see were the other end was, I heard a sharp yelp.
“Godzilla ! Whats goin’ on” questioned Cocoa to the dog who looked equally if not more surprised by the yelp she issued from down in the clover over by the Ginko dwarf tree.
“Hey, it looks like this package is somehow attached to the dog” I wondered and posited aloud.
“What?” said Cocoa.
“This package that you dragged me out to see. It has this weird filament attached to it and it is attached to the dog.” I explained confidently between sips of still steaming coffee.
“What?” she said, thrusting down the funnies, Zippy flying by in a weird super hero costume, revealing Cocoa’s new topless bathing suit, her belly smeared with funny page red and blue. Hot out, indeed.
“Look.” I implored as I lifted up the package, with a bit of effort and dramatic huffing, displaying the glinting filament in the sunshine.
We followed the braided filament down to the dog, who had now started to gnaw at this cord-thing wrapped around her narrow short haired tail. Godzilla was a Manchester Terrier, so she looked like what you would imagine a miniature Doberman to look like, but she actually looke more like a Mini Dobie than Mini Dobie’s look like Dobies. Which is to say, she’s got all the muzzle and ears and disposition of Dobie shrunk down by two-thirds. Attitude to match the regular size Dobie, intact though. A real piece of work, Godzilla was. We often joked that when we rescued her, we should have called her Buttons, maybe that would have imparted the niceness we continued to delude ourselves into thinkin’ she harbored…
Like a giant piece of floss wrapped around a shiny black tail, as threatening as saber tooth, Godzilla was making zero progress gnawing the package’s entanglement from her tail. As I continued to drink my coffee Cocoa started to unravel the dog from the cord.
“Hey this stringy stuff is really weird. Its like really super strong and almost feels like silk. Hey did Spiderman drop this package off or something?”
“Uh, actually you’re not that far off!” I said as I gaped up at the ninety foot Red Pine at the edge of the woods, about forty paces from were we stood.
“What?” Cocoa said as she just about finished unwinding the dog from the filament.
“Look, there is a parachute up in the Red Pine. It appears that the package was dropped in!”
It was a sunny Sunday morning but my head felt like Monday. I had been fighting a cold or flu or something downright heavy for close to a week and it was already the first of June. This isn’t supposed to happen. This was a winter type sickness and summer had already begun what with the Memorial Day parade having passed the studio weeks ago.
I slide out of bed and slide open the French pocket door the hecklin’ nude cat was waiting on. I had installed the door a couple of months ago, replacing a hollow core slab door that the cat could open easily with his monkey-paw ways. The warm velvet cat would never be able to move the heavy glass door with no swing. This French space saver and old world idea was shaping up to be a feline-meow-maker of demanding proportions….
Coffee. Black. Thank heavens for this German made one-shot coffee maker. It was called Korriagaus or something with tricky syllables. I just called it Corriga. Thought of her as a long tall barista always available for a quick one: Dark Magic with double water, gluten-free donut with white icing. God my head is stuffed like a bear stuck above an Adirondack hunter’s cabin fireplace. I get to the couch. Position the breakfast. Grab Mac, start to write.
“Hey Honey, will you be having any….cereal this morning ?”
“No,” I huff back. “Can you gimme another coffee?”
“Oh….too much information. Lady’s choice.”
“Thanks doll, you’re a peach. No wait, not in season yet…..You’re a damn fine Lilac. You really get to my nose.”
“Nothing. Hey you got the funnies?”
“Got the funnies! Why yes I do. I do and I am reading them on the back porch as you speak. You’ll really like Zippy. Why don’t you come out here and join me and the sun and your dog?”
“Aaah, you got that coffee?”
“Yup, you’ll find it on the deck. Hey did you leave this brown paper package out here or did we get a delivery this morning.”
“What. A package?” It’s Sunday I wondered as I typed and licked the icing off my lower lip stubble.
“I can’t hear your mumblies from the other room. Come on out it’s beautiful.”
“Aaaah. Ok. I’m comin’ ” Beautiful package or beautiful day? I wondered as I gathered me in my robe and began the already long slow shuffle to the outside world.