Monday, May 09, 2005

Overheard at Tony Frank's

We travel back to March 1997, when I was living in Madison, Wisconsin:

And payday today, and that's money in the bank. And so I decided to go out, flush with my money, and hit dinner (for the first time since last July) at Tony Frank's.

The burger and the fries and the Michelob were, as always, excellent. Last time, I forgot to leave the waitress a tip, and have been embarrassed to return since. But by now I have faded into the elastic plastic surface of the La Brea tar pits of memory, like many another sabre tooth tiger of times past.

But my chief find of the evening— say!— was a couple sitting two booths behind me, and their talk was such as to carry over all the way, loud and clear, even to a bohemian of forty who is starting to go just slightly hard of hearing. And clear, in meaning, even to one who demurs from the canons of pop psychology.

And the woman was clearly very much the embodied keynote of the duo. And the man, whom I heard call himself Thirty, was more or less a bearded case of Go Along to Get Along.

And many the tape clip of their express, while in memory yet green, I confide (via Kerouac verbal sketching technique) to this electronic medium.

She: "Well, that's one of the things I like about you, is how you are free to express your feelings explicitly."

She: "And then you know I was seven or ten before my father told me, he said well I'm not really your father, and you can't imagine, I think he said that just to hurt me, because I could look and see that I was a blend, in some ways I looked like my mom and in some ways I resembled him, and with my sister there was no question, but you know, with being stationed all around and, and, there were so many times, times he would tell me, and it becomes a form of conditioning, and it was with me and times I would suddenly find myself remembering more, and thinking, whoa, can all this be me? And it was still with me, I mean, I remember back when she was first born I was still thinking to myself, like, well maybe I should just get down on my knees and dye my hair another color, maybe that will help, there were times I had been told that and it was hard even to remember, but you know he would say well, but now, you know, I've worked all that out, but it took years to sort through my feelings."

She: "Now, when you reacted to me that way as when we left the house this morning, I myself sometimes get the anger so built up inside of me that it's like, but let's just say let that go, how you reacted, that's really not typical of you at all, if I really believed you to be abusive, it would be the end of our relationship, that's all— just kidding." (No she's not. Or rather, here's a message in a bottle, which should be extracted and decoded before discarding, bêche de mer.)

She: "Yeah, your father, I see how he reacts to your mother, and it makes me so angry, I mean like, she will talk, she will say something to him, and he will be like, he doesn't even acknowledge her presence, and now he's leaving her, I mean like, he chose her as his lifemate, so unless she has been severely abusive to him, then he has an obligation not to leave before he's tried to work it out."

She: "Oh, yeah, Annie, she was brought up to call herself a girl, well, so even though she's an adult, you have to call her a girl. No, I understand that, that's okay. Only even so, you don't."

She: "Yeah, it was like this dentist over in Iowa, he said, like 'You're nineteen, and you don't have a cavity in your mouth, but the inside of your mouth is only about half the size it's supposed to be,' that's why they had to pull my molars, but you know, I'm from Alaska, and I've been there and I've lived there and..."

She: "It's like, your father, we were over at your sister's for Christmas, and I was so angry, I didn't want to go over. And you could see, your sister, even trying to get him jealous and he just wouldn't react, and it's like, she's trying so hard for attention, she's even willing to get him jealous, and he just ignores her. And your mother, you remember that one time we were talking about intuition, and she was almost telling me I'm, and I wanted to say to her, but I just let it slide, but I just figure, you know, she's so much older than me, so I appreciate hearing that and I respect that accumulated wisdom of experience from an older person, but even so, she's wrong."

She: "And you know, the thing that really makes me furious about your father is, like when we're talking, and he's nodding his head at me and going, 'Uh huh, yes, sure, yes dear, you're right, you're right,' only there's this look in his eyes like a priest, like he's thinking to himself, 'Uh huh, well, you can talk that way, but of course I'm right and you're wrong,' and you know, it just infuriates me!"

She: "Well you know, and she's so worried that she's not really a sensitive person, and I told her, well those are your feelings, but you don't have to beat yourself with that, you're not an insensitive person just because you're harsh. That's acceptable."

She: "It's like, you know, Alvedo, functionally illiterate as he is, he's got a job working for Tommy Thompson, and I'm like, I really like to talk with truck drivers, you know, because when you deal with them you really get down to this level, I mean, when they discover how sincere I am with them they just open up to me and tell me the story of their life, even if, well you know, they spend all those hours and days on the road, they travel sometimes in pairs, but even so..."

She: "And this one truck driver, in the bar, he came up and was talking with me, and we were talking, and he was like, he told me that he'd been stationed in Guam, and all the women over there are so small, and here I was the largest woman in the place, and he appreciated that, I mean it's openness like that, and he wasn't coming up to the other women, well you could see, I mean they were charging the bar price for drinks with them..." (Huh? Was this a quadruple entendre with embedded fishhooks, or what?!)

She (to He, sharply, with no warning): "It really bothers me when you take a drink, and you're still chewing your sandwich, you know, there's no need for you to do that, you can chew it and swallow it down before you take a drink, those are my feelings."

She: "And then I knew her, you know, she had that lab job at the UW"— He: "On Science Drive..."— "Uh huh, and part of it was she had to kill those rats in that experiment, where they'd put them in that liquid..."

He: "It's like, Nutrasweet, that's pretty close to an antibiotic, that's aspartame, but you know people freak out if they call it aspartame, they think of rats dying of cancer, when in reality it has no relation, rats will always die of cancer if they live long enough, so it's all just nonsense..."

She: "Uh huh, and that's why she had to quit, it got to her, they would put the rats in the liquid to swim, and then of course they couldn't swim, and after a while she would have to kill them, that was her job, and they blamed it on what was in the liquid, when it was obvious, and I just thought well, that is wrong, I mean they can do this experiment with living human tissue from the labs..."

She: "And you know, after all that moving around all my life, here I am in Madison three months, you know, and I meet you at work, and I want to stay and work this out, and of course Madison is the kind of place but, this is the first time in my life where the place has said to me, where I feel that I'm in the right place and I'm..."

And as the conversation went on, it became apparent, after a long while, that there was a third party, Young Girl, who however was not permitted to speak at meals, because she has developed this trick of taking two hours to eat each meal (She: "Forty-five minutes is long enough to eat a sandwich"; He: "That's six hours a day, when you could be out riding a bike or doing something you like"), and so they forbid her to speak while she is dawdling over her food— Gee, I wonder where this strange igneous volcanic bollix of the id comes from, thrice daily hunger strike and all, Young Girl is after all not being asked to grow up in the midst of an emotional pressure cooker or weird pop psychology environment or anything now, is she?— and then when at long last done with her meal, Young Girl is permitted to speak...

Young Girl: "I got a question for you, and it's the most specialest question there is. You see, there was this Boy, there was this Boy, and he came rushing into my room, and he jumped on me, and he was actually a Man, and this Boy-Man, he came rushing in, he was abusive, he jumped on me, and he was a Cat, you see..."

She: "Well, Silly, I don't hear any question in that at all..."

And then Young Girl went on to speak, as permitted, only soon She was shushing Young Girl, and then He: "You see, Friday, you're speaking so loudly that everybody in the place can hear you, even way over to the door. And that's not acceptable."

Oh. So Young Girl was speaking so that everybody in the place could hear her? But the same could be said, several times over and beyond, about She and her dramatic soap-impactic pop psychology spiel, which came through loud and fifty-kilowatt clear channel clear even to Yours Truly, listening over in the corner booth...

...Ah, well, the Romans had a saying, Res ipsa loquitur: "The thing speaks for itself."



Post a Comment

<< Home