Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Damn The Torpedoes!

Southern Accents
Finally Fall, possibly my favorite time of year. At the very least, my favorite time of change. The temperature gets a bit cooler, the leaves alter their color before they dance to the ground, and our town's newest collegians start to wear thin of that "fresh from the vine" scent. Since we last met; we've celebrated birthdays and weddings, endured road trips and absences, witnessed the dalliances and break-ups of folks we care about, and spent too much attention on those folks that we don't. We can't actually rest, of course, as Christmas is waiting to clobber us around the next corner - but I'm definitely in the mood for a bit of "Ahhhh-Tumn."

I hate to sound like an old man -that's an old man's job- but I first came to St. Augustine some 20 Autumns ago. In the intervening years - a lot of changes have come about, although some things about this town (infinite road construction, local govt. ethic stance) forever remain the same. Of course, this is a Ghost town we live in - they are everywhere. After two decades, I have a few of my own following me around.

I am awash in memories every time I take a stroll. Some good ("That's where I found a hundred bucks!"), and some not so good ("That's where SoAndSo Silverton puked on my shoes.") I have, over time, managed to replace a few of the not so good with much better ones (i.e. turning "At this corner I was told by a classmate crush that 'We'd be better off as friends.'" into "That's the intersection where I had a really smokin' makeout session with my wife!").

Ghosts and change walk hand in hand, however, and often the latter begats the former. We recently saw the closing of our favorite local social spot. 'Twas a place where many of those aforementioned ghosts came to life. The first place the Wobbly Toms played a gig, a place where friendships were made and broken, as well as where Bess and I danced on the night we first kissed and the New Year's Eve we got engaged. The place developed it's own little community, where folks came in times of love, loss, and gossip. Many in that community are just ghosts now, some even literally - but change brings a new day, new places, and as always, a few new ghosts for future memories.

Long After Dark
I searched in vain for nearly an hour the other night, trying to find that well known antique- a pencil. Unfortunately, the office at my night job is slightly "modern," dating back to at least the mid 1990s. Therefore, there are no pencils to be found. I didn't need to write per se, but I did need a pencil for the one thing it contains which modern pens do not - an eraser.

Y'see, I had made a sketch earlier in the day and needed to clean it up before having it reproduced. Thus, I needed an eraser.

Alas, no one uses pencils anymore - which poses a number of questions; what happens to the overgrown supply of the worlds lead? If we have no more pencils, why don't we have more trees? And, what new-fangled pokey device are those CSI folks gonna use when they have to move stuff around crime scene evidence?

This is a shameful thing, America. Pencils made this country!
Or at least made it easier to correct.

Full Moon Fever
I don't ever expect much adventure from my night job, it's not too exciting. Heck, we don't even have pencils. We do get odd, bewildering folk or strange instances, once in a while (we're a hotel, not a Motel - those places creep me out). Such is the following:

It's a slow season (if you want to call 2009 a "season"), so we don't expect much on a Sunday night. I got a call at around 2AM, however, asking general questions about the lobby, and the computer we keep there. Standard guest queries, certainly, but odd coming at 2AM - when the lobby is closed.

I was then informed, without my asking, exactly why our guest was in the hotel and how he had come to his current lot in life. It's amazing how much information some people will provide, even unprovoked, isn't it? After 10 minutes of listening to his history of familial and physical troubles (oh, and throw in the terms "PTSD" and "ex-wife" every seventh word)- I began to think he may have some mental troubles as well. I did my best to quickly, graciously get off the phone - assuming that I'd heard the last of him that evening.
What a fool I am.

Four AM. A pounding on the door, locked since my earlier telephone conversation. As I open it, in stumbles a man in a swimsuit with what I perceive to be the glaze of concern over his eyes:

"Dude, you gotta call the cops!"
"What is going on sir?", I asked as I headed back behind the counter.
"Dude, there's a guy out here threatening my friends with a knife and he says he has some guns, and he's freaking us out"
"Has anyone been hurt?" I inquire, heading to the phone while looking for a phone book.
"Uh, no. But he's freaking us out and talking dangerous."

O.K. , I think. It's not a full alert emergency, but I can call the general police line and get someone over to check it out. I start looking for the number to the police station.
Regretfully, I tried to explain this to my panicked lobby guest.

"Dude, don't you know the number to 911?" his voice staggered "It's (loudly now) Nine- One-(pause)One."

Feeling a bit pestered, I picked up the front desk phone and dialed, but no answer. Having forgotten that you need to dial 9 to get out, I ended up using my cell phone out of frustration.
I got the dispatcher and explained that I had a situation at my hotel that needed investigation, or at least an officer to calm down my visitor and figure out the root of the trouble. I then gave my location.

"Oh" said the dispatcher, "You'll need the city department, hold please."

You got that right, I was put on hold by the 911 operator.

A second operator on line, I attempted to explain the situation - as I did so, I was approached by the man who had reported the incident to me. He asked if he could speak the the police dispatcher, and I asked the dispatcher if they would like to speak to him - which they agreed to. Yet another mistake.

It was in the midst of his explanation to the officer on the other end of the line that I realized this man was not exactly bewildered and upset - but drunk. This was displayed by his belligerent phone behavior with the police department. After a quick minute of blathering to the dispatcher - he handed my phone back to me:
"They hung up, dude."

Convinced that we'd just pissed off the police department, and that no officer was coming to check out the situation, I headed to the pool area, with nerves of steel. (ha!)
By this point, one of the other swimsuited guests had taken a seat next to our suspect and appeared to be chatting fairly amicably with him.

I approached and asked the man at the table if there was anything I could do for him, or offer any assistance. As soon as he spoke, I could tell that he was my caller from earlier. I then made a plan to diffuse the situation if I could - as I thought that I could do this peacefully and appease everyone involved.

I began to speak as a police cruiser (in the form of a jacked up SUV) pulled into the parking lot. It was immediately followed by a second. Then a third. As well as a fourth. Four police SUVs, each of which contained exactly 1 police officer.

I attempted to explain the situation to the officers - who were already in the pool area and questioning the suspect. After a few moments of confusion, the officers come to find out that the three reporters were actually interlopers from a hotel next door to the one at which I am employed. The cops themselves were not impressed with this situation in the least. They questioned the man with the knife (which had been sheathed and attached to a belt the entire time, apparently our friends were frightened of the fact that it was merely present).

While I verified that the man at the table was in fact a guest of our hotel, we confirmed that the three others were not and the police instructed them to leave. It was at this point that our actual guest began to exert his inner crazy. He inquired about bizarre legal facts with the officers,
verified the difference between a concealed and an unconcealed weapon, bragged about his extensive home gun collection that he acquired while a member of special forces - you know, the usual. The police began to leave, leaving behind one officer to finish the questioning.

He verified that this man had no ID available, yet, confirmed to me that he was "O.K."

The officer then climbed into his SUV and left.

I attempted to apologize to our guest for any inconvenience - and to explain why the police had been called, due to the other mens "concerns." The man at the pool wasn't having any of it.
He had almost been arrested - and if he had been arrested: he would have had to go to jail and pay a lawyer 5000 dollars and would have certainly been kicked out of his parents house and that it would have been my fault and that the bible says that I should ask for his forgiveness for what I'd done.

Keeping in mind that he still had his knife, I stated that I would like to be forgiven if he felt I had made an error in judgment.
Forgiveness granted, the man headed back to his room.

I headed back into the front desk area, and had been there no longer than 10 minutes when the phone began to ring. Guess who?

He would call me thrice on the front office phone - twice to berate me, yell again about the trouble I could have caused him, and -one final time to apologize for the whole thing and ask if I though it would be O.K. for him to take a walk around the neighborhood. He ended the call stating that the only weapon he would carry on his walk would be a little bit of wire - "in case I get attacked by a pit bull."

I must say that the police officers themselves seemed rather calm and unruffled throughout this ordeal. As they were leaving, I noted the full moon and asked if they had been busy that evening. As one officer simply rolled his eyes - another got back into his vehicle stating "Aw, this guy is nothing - earlier tonight a lady put me under a voodoo curse."

Highway Companion
I was walking down a road the other day and was passed by a station wagon. The car had a number of republican party and "red state" issue bumper stickers slathered across its backside (Cool with me, this is America- please support whichever cause you wish, so long as you respect everyone else who does same).

I caught up to the car at the next stop sign, spotting a glimpse at the inside. The vehicle was of European manufacture, the drivers operative devices being on the opposite side of the standard American models. My general tolerance toward political neutrality was pushed aside by my first thought, which was: "My goodness, is this woman so conservative, that even her gas pedal is to the far right?"

Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
6 pairs of Converse Sneakers that I have owned (thanks to Bess for suggesting this one - originally posted over on the bookspace):

1-Candy Cane Striped - (Thanks, Dad! These are ultra cool in that, not only are they Christmas themed, but the stripes are actually made from crushed red velvet).

2-Super High Tops - These were created by Converse in the mid-80's, featured extra top length and an inside material so that you could flip down the tops to have a hybrid looking shoe. I had two different pairs at one point. One pair was gray on the outside with pink on the inside, but my favorite were the Denim outer/Flannel inner pair that I wore all the frikkin time.

3-Doubles - I am currently wearing a pair that looks like another pair tried to swallow them. The inside is hunter green, outside is black (with green star logo) - and there's enough lace holes to feed an army, if you were to feed an army with lace holes.

4-Pure Black- Black rubber, black canvas, and black embossed/raised rubber logo. First fashioned to be a semi-retro looking version -about 20 years ago, I think- now kind of a staple in the Converse canon.

5-The Standard - Black canvass with white rubber and logo. When comic strip artists actually have the opportunity to draw the clothed feet of their characters; 8 out of 10 times - they draw a variation on this particular shoe.

6-Christmas Cons - The second pair of Christmas themed Converse I ever had is in a tie with my #1 as a favorite Converse design. Green and red canvas, with a pair of jingle bells attached to the top spine of each - I drove people in my high school crazy with those things, until somewhere around April when - due to wear and tear, the bells popped off.

Hard Promises
There's a house in my neighborhood that has one of those supposedly threatening signs, stating "I can make it to the fence in 3 seconds, can you?" with a picture of a dog above it. The only problem is, the dog that lives at that particular house, is a chihuahua. I've seen it - and I don't care how fast it can get to that fence, it ain't stopping nobody.

I'm going to go and stand out in front of that dog one day wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm 100 times your weight, and could punt you across the bay." Just to taunt that miniscule monster.

Into The Great Wide Open
So, I think we're gonna be doing some changes around Escalatorville as well. You'll start to see postings more often, probably shorter and more direct pieces, with the usual claptrap occasionally thrown in. Then again, as always, time could prove me a liar.
Of course, you can always keep Escalatorville informed of any interesting tidbits, advice, or places that still have double coupon days by writing to!

Thanks for reading, take your Escalator "TO THE EXTREME!" every now and then,
Z.F. Lively, Wildflower
Escalatorville Ink.