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1 a.m.


(A recent Google Maps picture of the place where this happened, with a red arrow pointing to the exact spot.
Stones Throw, center, is where Club Rainbow used to be.)

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We must go back now to 2002, I’m afraid, or I’m not afraid, really, not that, 2002 is not such a bad time to go back to as times go, and to Jamie (we’ve met her before, but later), all four-foot-ten inches of her, crouched in the darkness behind her Montrose-area loft apartments with a professional-grade camera in hand. It’s one a.m., which is something which happens every day, just like the “Lady Marmalade”Moulin Rouge version – booming out from Club Rainbow, the premiere club for, shall we say, recently released Houston lesbians, back-to-back with the aforementioned loft apartments, making sleep, for those residents with day jobs, a challenge.

Are you with me so far?

Jamie’s about to hang it up, she has her flashless photographs of Montrose night life for her photography class, when, she’s still crouched in darkness, who should come stumbling out but The Guy from 23, who probably possesses another name but is known universally, in these parts, as the Guy from 23, 23 being his apartment number. Reclusive to the point of rude anti-sociability, very blue eyes, tonight he is decked out in a Nader/LaDuke tee and carrying two bottles of beer. She can’t read the labels.

“Hey, buddy?” and had The Guy from 23 seen her – impossibly, her being invisible? – but no, he is moving towards a work bench, atop which blankets now move. “You awake?”

A dark hand reaches out for a beer.

“Look, my heater is on the fritz, flipping the breaker every ten minutes, and I’m trying to write.” The Guy from 23 pulls out his wallet. “Could you, just until you fall asleep, I’m not asking you to stay awake for me, flip this breaker here” – a lighter in the darkness, waving hither and yon above the bench– “just, you know, click-click, once in a while?”

Money, it seems to Jamie, changes hands, and newly-arrived police lights, for some fight at the club, flash against the balconies, against the walls and against the gate. Twenty-Three, he’s moving back towards the gate when, almost an afterthought, you can tell, Jamie hears an exhalation, a sigh she guesses, and he turns back. “What’s your story, buddy? Why are you here?”

The unsheltered breaker flipper smacks his lips. “I’ve got nothing in this world but AIDS, and cancer, and something deep down in my lungs, and this shit all over my face.”

And Twenty-Three reaches for his wallet, again, this time coming up with… with… a business card? “You got somewhere for Social Security checks to go, if they sent them?”

“Well, yeah, AIDS Foundation Houston will give us these box numbers, and-”

“OK, I’m Harry”- Twenty-Three, pointing down Hawthorne – “I run a law office down on the corner. Come by on Monday with this card. Tell them I sent you. We’ll get you Social Security and Medicaid.”

Twenty-Three, or, rather, “Harry” as he should now be known, probably, makes his way, which is a drunken way, Jamie can tell, but a way just the same, back to the gate from whence he arrived. Jamie stays in position on the off-chance he should return.

Click-click comes from the direction of the breaker box.

This is it. Jamie’s First Impression of Harry, complete with capital “F” and capital “I”. She’s most definitely going to have to write about this in her Livejournal. Obviously.

(In 2002, I would have been listening to this back in my apartment. Appropriately.)

Comments

  1. In 2002 was my first year of high school I think. Hated that. Didn't enjoy HS until 11th grade.

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    1. 2002 was sort of a mixed bag. I was out of school by then, of course, but still.

      My first year of high school was 1987. I think I liked my sophomore year best.

      Delete
  2. Damn, Harry, that was good.
    You never know who you'll find in places where people with nothing tend to go.
    When we moved from Dogtown to Fort Apache (the bottom floor of a building behind the MacArthur BART station that had the second and third floors damaged in a fire) we didn't expect to see much of the street denizens of Dogtown any more.
    That is, until we got a free piano and put it in the front room.
    None of us really played piano, but Jack's girlfriend was learning, so we jumped at the chance to get one.
    Also, we were trying to establish the front room, which had once been a store of some kind, as a place where music was played. Thus, the piano.
    One afternoon, the sound of someone playing that piano filled the whole space. Someone playing that piano very well, alternating between classical sounding stuff and red-hot ragtime.
    We all converged on the front room to investigate, and there he was, sitting on the bench and just BURNING like it wasn't nothing, as he would have said: (this happened in 1989, so the way I remember it his name was) Willy. The Dogtown shopping cart tramp who used to incessantly badger us for motors or any other weighty metal items he could take to the recyclers (that wasn't as odd of a behavior toward us as it might seem. Rob worked for A&B towing and bought cars and motorcycles in lots at auction, so we did usually have something for him.)
    He looked up at us as we filed in to the front room, grinned a big, toothless grin, and busted into "The Maple Leaf Rag" and after that wound down, he stopped just long enough to ask Jack and Rob whether they had any "weight" for him.

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. That's a great story. You've got to live in a certain kind of area of town to have stories like that. I manage a few such stories (though that is extreme), but my utter reclusiveness cuts off a lot of good story opportunities.

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    2. Briana just read this and tells me that she thinks his name was Charles.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    3. It's good to have a rememberer. I've never had a reliable rememberer.

      Delete
    4. Oops, I misspelled "Houston", try again:
      Off topic, but is the "Houston 19" winning their elections as judges a big deal?

      -Doug in Oakland

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    5. It's great to have some diversity on the bench, but for me, the Houston judicial races in general are something that's going to have an impact. Every county-wide seat went Democrat on Tuesday, including all 75 judicial positions. After about two decades where no Democrat was in any county-wide seat.

      For me, the fact that all of the family law judges will switch in January is huge. I mean, I voted for some Republicans in those seats because, well, some are decent judges and only ran as Republican because in 2006, it's the only way they could have been elected.

      On the criminal court side (granted, I don't practice criminal law), Harris County used to be the death penalty giant, the pipeline to the Great Texas Death Chamber. The DA went Democrat two years ago and now the criminal court judges have switched. That's going to have an impact on a system that used to be horribly rigged against defendants.

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    6. Thanks, I kinda thought you could tell me what was up with this story.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    7. I was at the Harris County courthouse on Wednesday and saw soon-to-be-former county employees openly weeping. It's a weird time around here.

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    8. I quoted from your answer in a comment I left at Driftglass' blog, with attribution and context of course. I hope you don't mind.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    9. Of course not. Hadn't been over to that blog before tonight, though!

      Delete
  3. Back in the spring of '69 we went to the City to visit some friends we hadn't seen in a while. We partied with stuff to drink and smoke. The beer was Pfeiffer and it was less than $3.00 a case for bottles if you had an empty case to turn in. We attempted to wake up the next morning and found the water to the building had been turned off. Not unusual for the neighborhood. We were hungry, but had little food and no money. We found some pancake mix and needed liquid to make them so we used the beer. Kind of grainy tasting, but very edible. We didn't starve.

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    1. So much more fun that way than when we get old and respectable and do things the right way.

      Well, I don't know how respectable I am even now, but I'm not sure whether I could live like I did when I was 22.

      Beer pancakes could turn into a thing.

      Delete
  4. >“OK, I’m Harry”-

    It's like you're flip-flopping the breaker switch, resetting to a state with a *ton* of new context.
    This seems fun already! Now I actually have to wait for a new post again though. ):

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    1. Thanks, fang. I suspect I'm going to switch gears with the next one, but I hope I can keep coming back to this storyline.

      Delete
  5. "She can't read the labels" - now that's the extra flavoring that I probably never think of adding to a story. Good story.

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    1. Thank you. I don't often say this, but I liked this one. Which probably explains why it's the lowest-traffic post I've ever had.

      My next one will just be pictures of Kim Kardashian, though, so it will all equal out, I suppose.

      Delete
    2. I'm not entirely sure I could identify a picture of Kim Kardashian if I saw one. I'm not going to claim complete ignorance, it's just that I can't tell the difference between her and Eva Longoria or, because of a picture I once saw of KK with the President, Melania Trump.

      Delete
  6. A lot of us will always remember the year 2002, Harry.

    And, the music video was rather refreshing!

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    1. Thanks, Renard. I've never used the blog for trips down memory lane as much as I have lately. But I rather enjoy that!

      Delete
  7. We live in a small town with a Cider George who is a fairly normal alcoholic. Every year (at least since 1995 when I moved here) he is rumoured to have died but I saw him yesterday. Makes me think perhaps we should all be drinking more cider - it's survival juice.

    I prefer this story to Kardashian related anything.

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    1. My grandmother is 94 and refuses to drink water. No water, no juice- just caffeinated coffee all day long.

      It's amazing the sorts of counter-intuitive things that can power some people seemingly forever.

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    2. Death before decaff!
      Also need to add that preferring your writing to some shallow pictorial is much fainter praise than intended. Drink whatever is required and keep typing please :-)

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    3. If I could drop in a picture post once in a while to balance things out, I probably would. No matter how I try, things always end up getting away from me. Which is fine, I guess, because the people who stick around long enough to actually read are a fantastic bunch.

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  8. A trip down memory lane! In 2002, I went to Alaska and moved into a new home. I guess you could say, many of things started at that moment, that got me here now! Good story Harry!

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    1. Thanks, Stacy. I rarely write from anyone's perspective but my own, and here, I'm writing about someone observing, you know, me.

      Someday, I'll make it to Alaska. My parents went a few years ago and loved it.

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  9. First meetings are wild sparks, a second (or three) from bursting into story-flame... I love those sparks, and they story they burn into being. I also love the POV and tone of this telling.

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    1. Thank you! Whenever it feels like I'm about to write a story that is too straightforward, I try to shake it up into some more unexpected form.

      I think Jamie had a high first impression of me because of this sighting, and over the next ten years, it was all downhill from there.

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