Chapter 2 – Something You Can Depend On

“Livin' for the weekend,” thought Randy on Saturday morning as he nursed a hangover, sitting next to his window on the fourth floor corner room of the Taft Hotel, noticing someone's cigarette smoke, someone no doubt blowing smoke out the window (it was a non-smoking building), most likely someone in the band staying in room below. He had seen them moving in their guitars and other equipment and was pretty sure it was that band, Solid Oak, who played at all the music festivals. Was it them who do the “Livin' for the weekend” song—no, of course not, that was an old song, which he didn't particularly like, but hated that idea even more. Randy had quit drinking a quarter of a century ago, but still got hangovers, which he realized, after he quit drinking, were a kind of condition of the species rather than an individual problem; thus he still got hangovers. He really hated that expression, “nursing a hangover.”

The Taft Hotel was the last of the apartment-hotels; the upper rooms were apartments and the lower floors populated by hotel rooms. Randy loved the atmosphere of people coming and going, and was sometimes excited to see a famous actor or band who would stay at the Taft for the creative ambiance or because they liked older places but didn't want to pay $500 a night at the Algonquin, the Radisson, or the Pfister. Still, the Taft was $200 a night—when did hotels get so expensive? Oh, and the ghosts—it was famous for ghosts, and some people were into that—though Randy got tired of the slamming doors and other ghost nonsense—though not as tired of that as the car horns on the corner outside, which was apparently a “difficult” intersection to navigate (stop signs, and no stop signs, who could figure it out?) so there was a lot of honking, especially angry honking. Randy would often spend his morning yelling “fuck your horn” out the window, especially on mornings when cigarette smoke was nauseating him.

There were days when you, at some point, realize that maybe you should have just stayed in bed. But now that he was working a regular Monday through Friday job, Randy felt that pressure to make the most of weekend days. He figured what he would do was try out a new, gleaming, silver taco truck that had appeared out of nowhere (which was not that weird, seeing how it was a truck) and set up in a vacant lot that was certainly a welcome spot for tacos. He didn't even know the name of it yet, and rode his bike over, with a camera and notebook so he'd be able to do a write-up for an online Mexican restaurant and taco review blog he wrote for. “Well, I still don't know the name of it,” Randy thought, upon reaching the vacant lot, because the taco truck was gone (maybe not so surprising, since it was a truck).

Plan B, as it were, was a Chinese place called Ming's Garden's (sic) that he'd eaten at once before and really liked because they seemed to cater to a more Asian clientele and had some unusual dishes, at least compared to the usual Americanized Chinese fare. For some odd reason they were closed that day, for “re-stocking”—whatever that meant. Since he was on his bike, and halfway there by that time, Randy decided he may as well ride out to a nearby community called “Fox Point” where an odd, Indonesian restaurant had made the odd choice of a home, with the odd choice of a name, “Peking Chef.” Randy had been thinking about the delicious Laksa he'd eaten there on his first visit, and since he'd started a new Instagram account dedicated to gluten-free dining, he was excited to post a lunch from this place. They were closed, however, for the entire month of June (on vacation, apparently, which was okay—everyone needs a vacation).

From there, Randy figured he'd make the difficult bike ride to the nearby village called “Brown Deer” where a new Thai restaurant had opened that he was anxious to try. It wasn't a difficult bike ride because of the distance, but because he had to navigate roads and intersections made exclusively for car traffic; places that may have never seen a bicycle. Well, sure they had, it took all kinds, and a lot of cyclists were nuts. The place, called “Suit & Thai” surely would be open for lunch on a Saturday, right? Wrong. Not open until dinner-time, at this point still 4 hours away, which was 4 too many to spend at Ross Dress For Less and Bob's Discount Furniture, which shared the shopping plaza with S&T. At this point, Randy should have known better and just accepted the fact that lunch was not to be. But due to a stubborn determination and the luxury of a pocket GPS, he rode around through a few godforsaken industrial warehouse backroads and was soon able to reach a Mexican restaurant he liked called, “Dos Tacos.”

Randy didn't speak Spanish, but he was pretty sure that meant “two tacos”—and by now it was 2 o'clock p.m., which as it turned out was three hours before “Dos Tacos” opened—who may as well be called “No Tacos” if they weren't going to be open for lunch on a Saturday. Randy literally cursed (the “f-word” extended, the vowel sound drawn out for nearly five seconds). He was now hungry enough for four tacos, plus rice and bean. And flan! The long bike ride back home was fueled by negative thoughts, entitled and sub-headed with expressions like, “What a Fiasco,” and “My Life is a Roast.” Should he try one more place, perhaps Kopp's Frozen Custard, or Baker's Square, or Benji's—all of which were on the way? No. Randy finally decided that lunch was not to be, and upon reaching home, tore open a bag of Durian flavored Thai Coconut Roll snacks he had been saving for a special occasion, along with taking pictures to post on his new Instagram account which was dedicated to odd soap, food, and beverages. He ate too many at once and fell into a coma.

Upon rising, then, the day now almost gone, Randy decided to take a bath, usually a fool-proof way to feel better. On this day, however, the fools were writing the script. He had just started to relax when there was frantic knocking at his door. There must be a fire!—was his first thought, and he quickly wrapped himself around a towel and opened the door a crack. It was the maintenance man, who told him that his bathtub was leaking badly down into the room below. The bath was over before it was barely started, and worse, he had to bail out the tub with a metal bowl usually used for making delicious food. Now he was hungry again, so he decided to make tacos. He had a couple of ripe avocados, which unfortunately had passed onto that sad phase where they are partly black and musty inside. When did avocados, he thought, as a food, devolve to have this like 15 minute window between: too hard to eat and rotten? From delicious to disgusting in the blink of an eye. Hey, that was a pretty good description, or phrase! “From delicious to disgusting in the blink of an eye.” That would make an excellent tagline for something. For what, he had no idea, but Randy made a mental note to file that in his tagline file.

If all that wasn't enough, Randy found out, the next morning, that the band, Solid Oak, who were staying in the room below him, had, upon arrival, stowed their equipment in the bathroom. He supposed it was because the maids always overly air-conditioned the rooms, which were then very dry, and a band like Solid Oak traveled with a lot of very fragile, vintage equipment which liked a bit of humidity, thus the bathroom. But not as much humidly as was produced with Randy's bathtub leaking on it all. He found all of this out at breakfast in the hotel coffee shop, which was called, “An Urban Cafe.” Since when did places use what would have formerly been a description of a place as the actual name for the place, thought Randy, with disgust. That was exactly the kind of stuff they were always trying to get the “creatives” to come up with—names like that—at ThribbleSpec. Though he was not a creative, thankfully. His days there, at that cliché-factory, were numbered.

Sitting at the lunch counter, at the cafe, he told the members of Solid Oak that he recognized them, but was unable to attend their show because he was working. They told him about how the some moron had let his bathtub overflow above their room and had ruined all of their beloved, vintage equipment. Randy didn't let on, of course, that it was his bathtub (even though it was the plumbing's fault and not his), and he commiserated with the band. “Well, you can't take it with you,” said Randy, which was not what the band wanted to hear. “We're like 25 years old,” they said. “We've got like our whole lives ahead of us, unlike you, old man. That gear was irreplaceable. We'll never be able to get our sound without it.” Randy wanted to tell them that he realized that at their age they thought everything was set in stone, but everything they felt they could count on was all a house of cards that would collapse a lot sooner than any of them could possibly imagine. And be rebuilt, too, and collapse again, and on and on. Loss was the one thing they could depend on. He didn't say any of that, of course, and just wished them luck. They didn't wish him luck in return. In their eyes, he supposed, he was a guy whose luck had run out long ago.