Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Lesson Learned


Must have been 1986.

I was working in Rockefeller Center. No fun to get to and from, but being there was terrific. We had the music stores on 48th. Diamond district right there. You could get a birthday or anniversary present at lunch and not be ripped-off. Street vendors everywhere you looked. Souvlaki. The best you ever tasted. Falafel. Hot dogs. Radio City just up the block. Never went, but it was cool just stompin’ on the avenue by it. Times Square and Broadway just a couple blocks away. Lunch time on a nice day was brilliant. You could grab something from one of the push-carts, sit on a wall and just watch New York. The best show ever. In that hour, you’d hear snippets of conversations in 10 different languages. You’d see the most beautiful women, the dirtiest homeless people collecting aluminum cans, punk-rockers, executives, wannabe executives, teenagers selling Onega, Bolivia, Cartien and Roldex watches to the unsuspecting shills, jugglers, magicians, mimes, everything. You could walk up and down 6th Avenue and more often than not there would be a band set up with the guitar-cases opened and sprinkled with cash, and many times the band would be fantastic.

That was lunch in Rockefeller Center on a nice day.

We could actually walk to Central Park, eat a quick lunch and walk back to the office in about 70 minutes. As long as we got our work done and didn’t do it every day, the bosses didn’t seem to notice.

One day, my friend stopped by my office. At that time, there were no cubicles at this company. We were two to an office. My roommate, straight as a yard-stick but a righteous hard-working dude had stepped away. My friend closed the door.

“I’ve got some kick-ass weed. I rolled one up this morning. What say we take a late lunch, walk up to Central Park, smoke it up and come back to work?”

I was a COBOL programmer at the time, and was in the middle of defining variables for a rather large program. It was a two or three day process, and not difficult work. I had some cassettes with me, and it sounded tempting. We could leave at 1:00, be back by about 2:10. I could get a cup of tea, turn on the tunes and rock out coding the file specs and working-storage variables until it was time to go home.

“I’m in.”

It was a beautiful day, probably about 70 degrees with a gentle breeze. We grabbed a sandwich, a couple cokes and some chips. I was still young and didn’t even think about getting a coke and a bag of my favorite Doritos to compliment my sandwich.

We skipped up 6th Avenue, laughing and joking all the way. We entered the park, found a quiet place and ate our sandwiches. I remember very clearly the squirrels. New York City squirrels had balls. On Long Island, which is where I grew up, you couldn’t get closer than 10 feet to a squirrel, unless the stupid thing ran in front of your car. In Central Park, we found ourselves surrounded by about 5 or 6 squirrels. I threw one of them a Dorito, and he held it in his little paws and munched on it. We were both entirely amused. I held out another Dorito, and the bravest one actually came up to me and I let him take it out of my hand. I ended up giving about half the bag to the squirrels that day.

Lunch was quickly consumed, and my friend lit up the joint. We sat there and smoked the whole thing. I had my Visine, and some Halls Ice Blue cough drops. My wife (now my ex ) had one day decided that “we” were no longer going to smoke weed. Being faithful was one thing that came easily to me, but damn it I wasn’t ready to give up getting high just yet, so I had gotten pretty good at hiding the evidence. The Visine worked really well, and if you’ve ever had a Halls cough drop, you know that you, your clothes and the room you are in all end up smelling like menthol.

We got up and started to walk back to the office. My older brother used to refer to being that stoned as “cartoons.” He would say, “we smoked up a bowl of some good ham and it was cartoons.” That’s the way he talked. Still does today.

It was cartoons all the way back. We were quiet, walking, taking in New York on an entirely different plane then we had about 45 minutes earlier. Subtle sounds were amplified. The sun was ultra-bright, glaring off of the cars. People seemed to be running everywhere. We were both a little concerned that we were a bit too stoned to return to work, but what could we do? We would lay low when we returned and ride it out.

We took the elevator back to the floor, stopped at the break room and I got my cup of tea. I floated to my office, feeling a bit paranoid, but eager to get behind the tube and start coding.

I glided by my roommate, sat down at the tube and sighed. As I reached over to turn on the music, my boss (Tony D.) and the controller came bursting into my office. Tony D. was a good guy. Viet-Nam vet, NY Italian kid from Brooklyn. Liked me a lot. Made me want to work hard for him by being decent, open and fair.

The controller, on the other hand, was a genuine prick. He used to like to make people squirm. I remember one time I was in line at the break room (we had a food service) and he walked to the front of the line, put his hand on me and bodily pushed me out of the way to get to the cash register before me. Like I said, a genuine prick.

“Hey Al! We have an emergency! We have to go to the boardroom. There is a meeting with the officers and I need you just in case. Get your suit jacket and let’s go!”

Oh.
My.
God.

At this point I am in a state of panic. I am at the peak of the buzz, in the space where after you say something, it echoes inside your head and you aren’t really certain if you said it at all, or if you just thought about saying it.

I grabbed my jacket and struggled into it as we ran up the stairs and pressed into the boardroom, a room I didn’t even know existed up until that day. Big oval mahogany table, leather chairs, and about 10 old men wearing black, blue and grey suits and dour grimaces on their faces.

We sit down, and one of the guys starts talking in a loud voice about something that happened the night before. Questions are being fired at each other. My boss looks at me and I look at him, and I think, “he knows!” I keep waiting for them to start asking me questions, but that never happens. They don’t ask Tony D. any questions either.

The meeting lasts about 15 minutes, and suddenly it is over. Everyone gets up and files out of the room. The controller thanks Tony D., ignores me and walks back to his office. Tony and I walk downstairs and he says to me with a grin that may or may not have been informed, “Thanks Al. That was a close one."

Indeed.

I have long since abandoned that particular avenue of pleasure, but that was the last time I ever indulged on company time.

15 Comments:

Anonymous daveminnj said...

really enjoying your writing.

8:26 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Thanks so much.

8:58 AM  
Blogger cali said...

Al, you are now my favorite doobie brother. And, a darn good teller of stories.

10:27 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Al, you are now my favorite doobie brother.

Retired.

And, a darn good teller of stories.

Thanks so much!

10:31 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Excellent stuff, Al. You know what? I bet you would have killed them if you'd had to answer a question. You might not have known it at the time, but I bet you would have been so ultra-focused that they all would have been impressed. You probably would have gotten a promotion, and your whole life now would be very different.

Good thing they didn't ask you anything, eh?

vpuwgibs

3:11 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Oh, man. I have so been there that this hurts. Oh, man. Great story. Nicely spun. I know right where you were in th' Park.

Boy. Yeah, I used to get sideways for work sometimes when I was a technogeek in California to support my music "career".

You really have to be a paranoia junkie. Or, like me, always trying subconsciously to get canned so you'll man up and live in the van with your guitar.

Weed and music sure is fun. When you're sitting in The Man's lap it just somehow isn't cartoon time.

It's good when you're young to have work- that way you get a daily reprieve to being fucked up.

vgime

vgime?

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Alberto Gonzales said...

Gather all the things you need, kids - because you're all going to be spending a few days away from home -- on the government's dime. I've got a nice 5' x 8' room waiting for each of you.

And that should make all you dope smoking, bleeding heart liberals happy.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Wonderful story, Viscount! Sounds like Lord Thundering Jesus to me.

6:37 PM  
Blogger M.T. Vanus said...

Deyood,


The flickering flash cards speed through time, slice through space, and fall into other realities. Think of it, Viscount. Right now you are still in your blue suit and brown shoes, (don’t make it- he was a genius) sitting under the shadow of Radio City, and an afternoon of Cobol.

Your friend rummages through his pockets for a light. His thick fingers fumble with the last match. A gust of autumn wind threatens but you prevail, you’re hands surround the flame…and the red-hot head of the splif dangles in your mouth.

Puff. Nice taste. Puff. This stuff is good. Puff. Was that woman wearing a feather? Puff. Got to get me some more. Puff. Excellent. Puff. We’re too stoned to go back to work. Puff. We don’t care.

You open your eyes and instead of seeing 6th Ave in New York City, you find yourself wearing a fez in Azerbaijan, Iran. You're a cabby and your camel doesn’t want to walk under the scorching sun.

Normally you’d be able to reason with your beast of burden, coax him, perhaps threaten to turn him in for spitting, but you are under the influence and your camel make you laugh.

He slowly cranes his head toward you and you feel yourself getting silly. He winks at you and says, I like Spock’s beard. Spock doesn’t have a beard you want to say but you know if you stare into your camels eyes you will laugh, fall off his hump, and the army will shoot you. You laugh anyway.

Puff. Where is your friend? He is behind you, sitting on the second hump, sporting a rooster’s comb for hair and reading the Glass Bead Game Persian. His eyeglasses have the fins from the 1967 caddys.

Puff. Don’t look now, you say to your friend. But we have to go back to work and you might not believe this but you look a cross between a barnyard animal and a librarian I know named Missy. It’s the…you point to his hair. Also, where is all this freaking sand coming from?

Yeah right, he says, laughing and looking at a cop riding a horse across the street.

Puff. Your friend taps out the last of the splif and sticks it into an old yellow and brown Anacin tin.

Don’t look now, he says to you, but soon we’ll be back in the Middle Ages, science will retreat between the cracks in the cold and wet stones of dungeons and hell holes, and religious fervor will rain acid and burn our children.

Yeah right, you say.

You and your friend stumble or straggle (as the case may be) back to work.

A bum sits where you sat. He used to be king. He clutches a deck of cards and is ready to toss them in the air.

6:48 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Hey MT,

I think maybe you had something a bit more potent that day.

Don’t look now, he says to you, but soon we’ll be back in the Middle Ages, science will retreat between the cracks in the cold and wet stones of dungeons and hell holes, and religious fervor will rain acid and burn our children.

I went for my Steel Umbrella just in case, but even that couldn't protect me.

Seriously, my friend (from the story) and I often spoke about Reagan and what he was doing to our country, and we weren't pleased. Still, we had no idea how bad it could really get...

6:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Great story, Al, and a good thing you write as well as you do because I only understand the "feeling" from your description. I've only indulged a few times in my life and never experienced cartoons.

I used to work in NYC, lower Broadway near Wall St, and could walk to Battery Park to take my lunch. Didn't like my job but still remember those times fondly.

Sometimes, just for the hell of it, I'd walk Broadway up from work to Times Sq - there was so much to see and it so pleasant, especially around the holidays.

7:10 AM  
Blogger jemison said...

"stompin' on the avenue by Radio City..."

Nice oblique SD refereence.

11:20 AM  
Blogger fuckstick2020 said...

My brother, a partaker of the herbs on a large scale, smoked only once before work. He said it was too intense and he has never done it since. I wouldn't know I am too boring :-D

12:23 AM  
Blogger fuckstick2020 said...

By the way, great story.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Tree Nymph said...

Squirrels with balls hey? Cool!

9:53 AM  

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