Home of the Rusty Taco
On Tuesday I woke early at seven and wrote till eleven.
Really bummed and burned out on it. A fantasy western without fire so I torched thousands of worthless words on the typewriter yet the ideas lingered like embers.
There was traveling Bat bound for The Dodge to rebury his brother Bob. Dodging Destruction. There was the Queen of Cows battling the shape-shifting Crowkin and their Queen. There was Sanii the Psychopomp of Santa Fe and his grandson Gad the Thunderbird. There were Bison. Extinct? No.
I felt feeding time approach. I went to lunch. I drove to downtown Cooley, passing my Pub Church where drunks smoke cigarettes on the patio faking Myddle Anglish Axants.
Nice day, hot, bright. Lot’sa light folks out for some reason in Sunday dress, not so strange a sight in Cooley where all try to dress to impress I guess. They go in high-priced antique stores or Ma and Pa’s Popcorn Shop with Ma and Pa sayin put half-a-handful back to the kids. Can’t keep up with the Cavities ya know?
Getting out of my car I pass cool Cooley couples chewing cinnamon cheese chocolate drizzled popped corn. And the street smells great; gas waves spring from the gutter, effulgent energies, real social. Downtown Cooley’s good during the day. I wonder what would a non-day look like?
Passing Bubba’s Barbershop on Virginia Street, and past the Ski-Shop (Where’s Winter Weather? HERE) and to the Spanish Stucco Rusty Taco building on the corner.
Hobos hang around hammered down by the shell of sun stretching out in the parking lot across the street from the garage-style gas station where there’s full-service and beneath the covered Cooley Cart Station where day laborers wait to get picked up to toil dirt for dirt-pay.
Hey it’s better here than there some may say. But they’ve never been there, nor do they see here “Dat little water on the train track Bat.”
I went inside Rusty’s. Fine establishment. Cheap beer. I plucked a perspiring PBR. Counterman said next please.
Ricardo walked from the flat stove sizzling sirloin strips and browning yellow peppers then said Hell-o sir. What can I get for you today? Today? I thought, as opposed to tomorrow? Two Tacos for tomorrow!
Hmmm. Think I’ll get two Picadillo Tacos please.
Will that be all?
Yeah well no and this beer here…
Okay that’ll be-
You got chips ‘n salsa? Boy could I go for some chips-
Yes sir two tips.
Only two tips, very reasonable, you got jalapeños?
Yes sir you want jalapeños?
That’ll be ten fifty- Debit or Credit?
Name please? He asks. Ricardo, I answer internally.
Jim. I say actually.
Here or to go?
I signed and left a two-tip gratuity. It was slightly gratuitous.
Johnny Cash’s version of Big Bad John was on: if he ever spoke at all he just said hi.
Jim your order is ready, Jim your order is- that you sir?
She smiled a winner.
There you go, have a nice day Jim.
Yeah, you too Marcie!
I uncapped the beer with my teeth and tilted my head. Then I hit a chair. The guy in it said sorry, some relic from High School Varsity unvarnished. I nodded, wondering why he’d apologize. It was my fault but the guy didn’t want to risk an 8.0 seismograph reading: emotional earthquake, VACATE VACATE! Plates fall to their tables. I remain equanimous at the eating trough epicenter.
Crossing the dining area with my tray as people watch me pass, just like high school. I always walked like I was crossing a stage. I sit at the big window beneath the TV on ESPN. Prospects. Pure Sports. No games on. I sat on a swivel-stool and tried the salsa. Mild. Kinda sweet. The Picadillo tacos took a prize. Ground beef onions and cilantro. I recommend. They’re picante but only a pinch.
Down to the River to Pray played next. I forgot to pray over my meal, but no one was watching me now anyway.
And I watched the drive-thru.
Cool Cars. Not from Eastside Cooley but West-side Suburbans and convertible Mercedes Benz delivering their owner’s downtown all cell-phoning space to the Aliens wearing 300-pound Human-plated rings with names inscribed.
A guy in trash bag shoes goes car to car for spare change. Nobody rolls down his or her window. One woman waved. The bum with bumbling knees approached her car. She’s wondering why do I attract the bumblebees? Am I a pollinator? She was. Another bum ambled up behind the first at the scent. She lurches forward avoiding eye contact with the spare-change eating machines too hot for her gut I thought. Her PC politic was problematic: play nice; fuckin tip tease is what she was.
A look behind me revealed slick suited scenester spiders: Gaunt Hipsters! What Gaul. I see them; hour-lunch breakers, the forlorn failing artists with bushy beards, the slim kids that counterculture fired, the fortune 500 wannabe wax figurines, a hot zone of hipster and ex-hipster activity. Trapped like a mummified fly. No. Eat your meal you goddamn peer definer. They’re only spiders you snake! Hep Cats. Jitter Buggers. Hippie Horses. Go with the flow Disco goers. Punk n’ Funkers then the Gothic Goats. Hardcore Nematodes. No. We’re the post-something Generation.
Scrunched to one side of the shop is everybody except a hoary hobo and me confined to one corner. We nurse beers. At his feet a big felt blanket with plastic bags wrapped inside: a hobo hotdog. He strokes his long white beard with blotches of black. He finishes his beer. He wears a rainbow serape and faded torn jeans with muggy hems. He picks his hematoma nails and grinds his popcorn teeth. His shoes are wrapped in translucent Walmart shopping bags. Where were the pious pied-washers? Jesus, I thought.
Johnny Cash’s Boy Named Sue: Well my daddy left home when I was three and he didn’t leave much for ma and me just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze. Now I don’t blame him cuz he run and hid but the meanest thing he ever did was before he left he went and named me Sue.
I wondered what the homeless guy’s name was. Maybe once he’d changed it a couple times. I wanted to ask. But I didn’t want him to ask me for money. I named him Sue Lucio Antilles Allen Rockefeller. Then ate my second taco. Behind me somebody used the word differential. I saw the loudspeakers: two mouth-breathers in matching blue business garb and crew cuts with cold demeanors. Quickly their talk transitions to sports, something stony, less abstract.
I abstracted away.
Faces trapped in the window. Man. This guy waits to order. Sees me observing his lack of movement. I’m the mirror. Unlucky. I stare at the statue in the heavy-haul truck. Guy’s got tools he’ll probably never use. Bull Ball hitch. What a rhyme the word. Guy won’t acknowledge my scrutiny. What a tool. He knows he’s not interesting. Suddenly he shifts his attention from his dashboard to a black business-skirted blonde walking to her Lexus. She’s got a good body. A bombshell. Disguises it well. The guy gawks. The guy sneezes. He’s scared of himself or the sun slanting. He bends his baseball hat bovinely. He sneezes again saying something probably God bless me. He drives forward checking out the brunette in his rearview mirror then fixes his hat hair. She can’t see him.
A woman in an Escalade bites her nails as she speaks at her cell-phone and she’s wearing shades. My eyes are on her. I eat my chips and salsa. She hangs up. Starts texting. Twirls her hair then gnaws at her pinkie finger grinning and tickling her neck. A hot message I guess. She shrinks in the seat as a man in blue jeans and a white t-shirt with a Cowboy hat comes too close for comfort. An All-American. Aren’t we all? All American. Even Peruvians.
I finish my chips then gulp the last droplets of my PBR. As I walk to the trashcan the hobo says How’ya done? He’s at my right elbow.
Good, thanks. And you?
He stares straight ahead.
His glass’ bridge and lenses are covered in clear tape and sit lopsided on his ears. He’s got a big mole under one eye. The mole holds his glasses up. He stares at the ceiling a million miles into spaces no one sees or faces or places.
I think, how’ve I done? I don’t know, really.
A Rusty Taco worker is at the trashcan. Can I leave this here? I ask.
I’ll take that, thank you sir.
On my way out I waved to the hoary hobo. I was right in front of him. I was invisible. I was the Man in Black. His eyes dart everywhere but at me. I went out crossing the parking lot. I nodded to the other hobos and day laborers in the lot. Some of them shivered even though the sun was out. It was summer, invisible again in the heat waves.
I drove through downtown without that wit I’d writ.
I’d written 1400 words or thereabouts sitting in that taco stand, and for the life of me I couldn’t feel the fire anymore in my fingers. Only embers at the rough tips, crackling gray like the hobo Sue Lucio Rockefeller with his hotdog blanket and shopping-bag shoes, and others going car to car, door to door, looking at the floor, looking at the ceiling, what are they, what is he, feeling?
And I don’t know. But I will.
Where going? Wherever Wanderlust.
What doing? Whatever needs doing.
And I will try to write about it today. But I know I may not be able to accurately. And yet...