THE OLD TEAM
I WAS vacating a bar stool on October 11. The 49ers had been trounced
45-10 by the Atlanta Falcons. the third-worst home defeat in franchise history. But I digress…
The bar emptied quickly. I wanted to empty too, but my friend Marty A. grabbed my sleeve… “Tuck, let me buy you a final, final. I have a problem.”
What the hell, I thought.
Marty began. “Tuck, you heard about my divorce.”
“You know why you haven’t seen me in a while...?”
I didn’t. But I had a feeling the final, final, in my hand might be a semi-final,
Marty continued……. “Divorce can be ugly. Very ugly, Tuck! Cruel. Unjust. Spiteful. Vicious. Mean spirited. In the maelstrom of my divorce I called a friend. One of my best friends, Brian. A friend without benefits. Neither of us wanted to include benefits.” Marty joked and took a sip of his drink. “Ha, ha, get it?”
I got it.
“I was needy. Desperate. Brian, lives on a houseboat that smells like the inside of a seasoned jock strap. I've never seen rats, but it leaks a bit. It's semi-submerged in an undeclared toxic waste dump, two miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. But I really needed a place to live. Brian kept hammering out the attributes of the ‘HERON'S NEST.’ There weren't many. The view? The stern of a rusting tramp steamer and several piers laden with seagull guano. At low tide, a yellow, gurgling expanse of mud emitted geysers of noxious gas. When you walked out on the deck it twisted and bucked with the tides. Brian had nested in the ‘Heron's Nest’ for several years with a variety of houseboat mates. Mehadrana, a sensuous belly dancer. Malcom Fester the III, a cook for the state legislature and an attack-dog trainer named Albert Beal.
‘Great group of roomies,’ he bragged. ‘Out on the deck, under a full moon Mehadrana would dance, her silver platelets would ring across San Francisco Bay. And Malcom! Each dinner was an epicurean delight. Albert... Ah! When he wasn't teaching his dogs how to tear out a throat, or gnarl someone’s gentiles, Albert was a ‘neat freak.’ Fastidious. A human vacuum. He always had a dust rag or dust buster in his hand.’
‘Marty, you'll love the `Nest',’ Brian pleaded. ‘We'll be the `Old Team.’ The two us of back together. This is the 21st Century! Join the flow. Marty sipped his drink and looked at me. “What do you think, Tuck?”
“Here’s my dilemma. Brian and I were roommates, in the Haight Ashbury, back in the sixties. The `old team' was younger then. We were not part of the in-crowd. In a haven of hippies, we were a barber's delight. But most of the local barber's had closed shop during the reign of the ‘Flower Children.’ We didn't belong. We were outcasts. Brian was selling life insurance and I'd just gotten my discharge from the United States Marine Corps, complete with a complimentary ‘high and tight’ military haircut. We were the neighborhood curiosities. While tourists took buses to come and stare at the hippies, the hippies brought each new convert to come and stare at us. Not many of the love children loved us. Brian still insists that I moved out because I got married. Actually, I moved out because of the environment. It was hell to come home from work and be called a Nazi Narc. The final straw was the newspaper incident."
"The Newspaper Incident?" I wondered.
“Do you remember the free newspapers they delivered twice a week in San Francisco?” I did. “Brian didn't want the papers. He begged and pleaded with the paperboy to stop delivering the papers. The paperboy kept insisting that they were free. He even handed Brian a written list of things he could do with a free paper: clean glass; newspaper doesn’t leave streaks, shine your shoes, line a garbage can, potty train your dog, start a fire, roll a joint with it. The kid knew the neighborhood. Brian gave him a few suggestions of what he could do with the free paper, but they were all obscene. Finally, after much coaxing and some bribery, he convinced the newsboy to stop delivering our free paper. Then they hired a new paperboy. ‘They're free. What's the big deal?' The new kid said and so did Max Wilcox, the circulation manager of the paper, when Brian called.
" I listened into Brian's side of the conversation. ‘Let me see if I have this correct, Mr. Wilcox?’ Brian demanded. You say that because your papers are free, we shouldn't care? According to you if it's free...it's okay? Oh yes, I understand, Mr. Wilcox... Free is good. I got it.
Brian slammed the receiver. I was away for two weeks. When I returned there were two large, green garbage bags by the front door. Still groggy from Jet Lag I watched the next morning as Brian, singing and humming deposited the remnants of our breakfast into the open mouth of one of the green bags. ‘Today's my day; care to join me for lunch?’ He asked. " Sure," I had no idea what he had in mind. He told me to meet him at Fourth Street and Mission. He was right on time. With him were the two bags of garbage. I followed him around a corner into a newspaper building. We found the circulation office. Brian opened one of the sacks of garbage and began flinging garbage everywhere. Lettuce in typewriters, coffee grounds on desks. He tip-toed down aisle after aisle, from desk to desk, like Tinkerbell the magical fairy, reaching into his bag and sprinkling garbage like fairy dust. Then in a
high-pitched voice Brian cried out, ‘Mr. Wilcox! Mr. Wilcox are you here?’
Just as a secretary and a reporter mustered the courage to attack, a door opened.
’Who the hell are you and what the hell are you doing?’
Brian grinned. On the beveled glass of the door was written Max Wilcox Editor and Chief. ‘Mister Wilcox, I presume,’ Brian cried. ‘According to you, if it’s free it’s okay. It's no big deal. Free is good,' Brian tossed a handful of rice into the air. ‘Well. here it is. It's free, it's free, and, just like your paper I'm going to deliver it twice a week!’
We were booked for trespassing, invasion of privacy and inciting a riot. Twenty-four hours later, when we were released from jail, our charges were reduced to misdemeanor, loitering and littering.
Marty turned to me…. “I haven’t moved in yet… What do you think?”
I treated us both to a real final, final.