Last month my new apartment building had a summer social of sorts and I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet my new neighbors, even though I know that some always turn out to be the weirdest people you can ever meet and I’ve regretted it many times.
The building management supplied the burgers, beers and music, and some of us brought along wine and spirits. When I was younger I would have stopped at Binny’s to pick-up a 30-pack of whatever beer was on sale and a bottle of cheap whiskey, and started the countdown to when it was time to take off my shirt and sing along with some Pearl Jam. But, in all fairness, I wasn’t too concerned about making good impressions with those that sipped wine or anyone else for that matter.
During the first ninety minutes or so, the five or six people I met seemed to be normal, which caused me some concern because I knew that with the more time that passed before I met the scourge of the building, was more time I spent drinking. And as time was fleeting, the Jameson was going down smoother than my ex-wife, which meant my common sense could soon enough only be described in the past tense.
Over the next hour I met more people who might have some reason to beat on my door or slice my tires over the next twelve months. There was Mark the Real Estate Appraiser, Miguel the Teacher, Courtney the Store Manager, and Gary the Weekend Cross-Dresser.
Within five minutes of talking to Gary, he felt the need to let me and anyone else within an earshot know that during his lifetime he has been beat up several times, doused with gasoline once, arrested in Mexico twice (both times at movie theatres), shot and left for dead once, stabbed a few times, and raped twice… Ok then, don’t hold back, man. I haven’t done it yet, but I bet if you Google “TMI”, you’ll see a picture of Gary.
Next I spent a few minutes talking to Robby and Kaitlin, two of the happiest, most upbeat people you’ll ever meet. I suspect they’ll leave this place wearing purple warm-ups and new Nikes, and so since I was all set with gym clothes, I went over to get a better read on the building manager, Burke. About the only thing I’ll say about this guy is that he looks like he knows his way around a golf ball and garden hose, and playing hide-and-go-seek with his hamster… at the same time.
Walking away, I thought it would be a good idea to see if anyone had discovered the bottle of apricot wine I brought, and much to my dismay, the back gate had been left unlocked and Rock Star, the income–challenged-urban-Russian-outdoorsman, was enjoying it. Instead of calling him Ivan or Drago (which would be too un-P.C. these days), they came up with something that sounds sort of like what he says is his name. I say that because most of the words coming out of his grey-haired, Rasputin-looking face are unrecognizable. His legend includes fifteen years in a Russian prison, having a pony as a kid, being fluent in five languages (including sign), and being an Engineer back in the Motherland. Yet, as smart as this guy claims to be, he can’t tell you how or when he entered the U.S.
He’s the building’s cause célèbre. As such, they give him lots of spare change, food, new shoes and underwear, etc. In exchange, he sells the shoes and underwear, and urinates behind the building. Personally, the only thing he’s gonna get from me is the finger. I met him the day I moved in, when he asked for my extra change like it was a toll for using his alley to unload the truck. After I instructed him to go have sexual relations with himself, he went away for about twenty minutes or however long it takes to start a fire and heat up a coffee can, and came back with three fried eggs in a cheap, red plastic bowl. Anyway, I knew this wasn’t the time or place to mess with him (at a later date I might go to the Goodwill and buy him a stained Detroit Pistons jacket to complete his look).
By this time Burke gathered everyone around and announced that he planned some special games for everyone to play. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t let a guy who wears face glitter plan my fun time, so I grabbed what was left of my Jameson and went back upstairs.