Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lee and Pearl

Lee ran the liquor store down the street from the old place on 36th Street, next to the 7-11. I met the guy shortly after moving downtown and losing my original underage liquor store, which was run by a guy of Vietnamese heritage, who got to know us at work because we played volleyball, and he'd played volleyball when he was with the S Vietnamese Army. Weird links...but he never questioned my age, and I tried not to make a big habit of visiting him.

Lee was a whole different kettle of fish. He was probably in his seventies or early eighties at the time, and a stereotypical bitter old man. Liquor was one of the few luxuries he allowed himself, as well as complaining about the government and shooting guns. His voice was hoarse but somehow still...sharp, unmistakeably military. He was balding and had a big ol' Sam Elliot moustache, yellowing at the lip.

Pearl was as sweet and helpful as Lee was curmudgeonly and bitter. He was tall and thin and walked with a pronounced limp, and as near as I could tell just hung out with Lee to have something to do. Most of the time he had a broom in his hand, and he would ask folks if they needed help finding anything. After some time pondering this oddity (the store was so small it reminded me of being on a boat), I realized that Pearl wasn't that interested in helping people--he was preventing them from shoplifting. Which was good, for everyone involved, because Lee hated shoplifters.

He never asked for my ID because I originally entered his store in the company of Jim, who was nearly 21 but possessed of the confidence of the truly mad. Thus, at age 20, I was incapable of buying crappy Oklahoma 3.2% beer from the 7-11, but could walk literally next door and buy all the liquor I wanted. Hence the taste for good beer.

We'd been visiting the store for a couple of months when we heard Lee and Pearl bitching about their pensions. Lee was roundly cursing the VA on behalf of Pearl, who nodded and swept and made the occasional exclamation of his own. Apparently his check was late, which was really putting his daughter in a bind, foodwise, and the VA had been less than helpful about the whole situation.

The whole situation was really pissing Lee off, though, and he said something that piqued both our interests: "Hell, government don't even pay me a pension, but I knew that goin' in! They're fucking you over!"

"Why no pension, Lee? That sounds kind of weird," I asked.

"CIA, boy! Shit, I worked in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Chile. Flew for the motherfuckers in the Greek Civil War in '47, didn't even know that's what I was doin' til I joined the merc outfit in Angola!"

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Boy, do I look like I'm kidding? I still got a price on my head for killing some prince or some shit in Angola!"

He reached beneath the counter, and pulled out a very large pistol. "This is what I got for those peckerheads if they come in here! They almost had me in '76, but I shot three of them with my hideout (here he shuffled to the end of the counter, and pulled up his pantsleg to show a derringer-like pistol strapped to his ankle) and got away."

Jim, as you can imagine, was fascinated. And, you know, I was as well. A real live spook, or former spook, living right down the street.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Minuard Foundation 7: Busted

The weekend after our foray down south to meet our potential adopters, Bob and I headed over to our friend Charlie's house to watch a boxing match. We arrived to find a dozen people already in stitches on the floor, and a livid Minuard standing by the fridge.

Charlie had been so taken with the flyer that he'd stuck it to his fridge with Cox Cable magnets, which were one of the many benefits he received for selling soul sucking television programming to the underprivileged (see also Terry Taylor). He'd promised to take it down whenever Jim was around, and since I actually had the term "Minuard Foundation" on my answering machine, I made a calculated guess and concluded Charlie's attention span regarding the flyer was roughly equivalent to Jim's mental acuity regarding my answering machine message.

I felt really bad for Jim, I really did. He had the flyer in his hand, and his face was going red, and everyone was laughing at him.

His mouth open. It closed. It opened again, and his fist crumpled up the flyer, then dropped it in the trashcan. Jim was very, very pissed.

"What...the fuck...was that?" he hissed at me, as he stalked past me towards the door. "Strippers..." is all I could manage in return, which caused further eruptions of mirth from the peanut gallery. They did their best to appear serious when he glared at them in turn--but eventually it was too much, and Jim stalked out the door, followed by hoots of laughter.

Which is what he does, when he's that mad, and I appreciate it for what it is: an attempt to not commit violence on my person. If you're still reading this, Jim, thanks for not kicking my ass.

I'm sure we all stayed around and guffawed as we watched the boxing match, but I don't remember much of it. I knew the other shoe was gonna drop, and it wasn't going to be pretty. Bob and I left around 1am, and he was back on my doorstep by 2:30. "They kicked me out," he mumbled as he shuffled past me to the fridge. "Said we were assholes."

Which, yeah, we probably were.

"Did you tell him about the strippers?" I asked in return.

"Nope. Didn't have time. Looks like I'm stayin' with you."

For the rest of the summer, Jim refused to take our calls, see us, or go anywhere we might be. Initially, he refused to have anything to do with anyone who had been a part of it at all, but it soon became apparent to him that every single one of his friends had been in on it in some form or another. He was forced to back down from that, else he face a lifetime of having to make new friends, which is not an easy task for any of us. I received regular reports from mutual acquaintances of threats of bodily harm from Jim, but didn't worry overmuch about it. He was being a dick, but you sort of get used to that kind of behavior after a while, and I didn't really think he'd punch me if he saw me. Still, Bob didn't take kindly to being tossed out, and I got tired of hearing these threats as often as I did.

The rest of the summer was spent on the back porch with Bob. Whichever of us got home first would stop and get the quarts of beer, and we'd sit on the back porch, drinking out of paper bags and listening to the bums rearrange their pecking order on the other side of the fence.

Bob moved back to Tulsa early that fall, and soon enough another Oklahoma winter fell upon me like a think black blanket. I tacked plastic sheeting and quilts to the north windows, started cooking big pots of stew, and decided my winter project was going to be educating myself on the differences between merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The days passed quickly in my little apartment, and I busied myself with fish and wine and probably a girl or two, but I was alone (and a little lonely, I confess) when the knock came, just before Thanksgiving.

I opened the door, and there stood the Minuard, twelve pack in hand. I handed him my glass of wine, which he drained at a draught, then broke open the beer and handed me one, still on the cold kitchen step. "I have two things to say to you," he said. "Fuck you...and...I'm sorry...I guess...but you really are an asshole."

Which was more than I expected, or needed, but I guess it was something he needed to say. We retired to the living room, where the opening strains of the Star Trek theme were emanating from the tube.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Minuard Foundation 6: The Tour/DJ Tucker

We headed out of Norman and drove back towards the city, stopping only for Bob a soda and for me to switch places with him. I dozed (which is ALWAYS what happens when I smoke dope) for most of the way up to DJ Tucker's place, and woke up (disoriented and cottonmouthed) after the third circuit of a massive apartment complex on the city's south side. Bob was lost, but I was recovering well, so we hit a gas station and called the guy's number. Miracle of miracles, we were in the right place. I grabbed a quart of beer and soon we were knocking on another ratty apartment door.

Tucker was a skinny white kid of about 18 years, who looked like Moby with rickets. The boombox was playing some Nine Inch Nails stuff, and two other skinny kids were sitting in a corner arguing about who got to play the next CD.

"Hey, man," said DJ Tucker, "you're the Minuard dudes, right?"

"That's us, sir, fresh from our tour of points south. You interested in the Minuard?"

DJ Tucker tried to focus for a second, then waved us inside. He gestured vacantly at the floor, and I looked down to find piles of...poo...dotting the carpet like a minefield. Little piles of poo, everywhere.

The smell was oppressive, as you might guess. Bob and I sidled carefully in the door, and Tucker headed for the kitchen. "Babe, we got any beer?" he called, as I looked for a safe place to deposit myself. No response. Sound of fridge door opening, beat, rattle of cans on rack, beat, sound of fridge shutting. Sound of 18 year old ravers arguing about Prodigy vs Lords of Acid. Smell of poo. Inkling of a doubt about whether we'd wasted our entire Saturday afternoon.

DJ Tucker returned, still slumped in around his sternum like someone had caved in his chest during high school gym class, but holding two beers. Bad beers. Beers we knew all too well: The Beast. Light.

I heard movement from the next room, but his lethargy had overcome both my own determination to make something happen and the Prodigy that one of the other kids had succeeded in putting on the box. The smell, the leftover pot, and the beer all combined with his utter lack of personality or enthusiasm to suck all the color out of a room that was already drab. I began to feel a little dizzy.

A swatch of some slightly less faded color caught my eye, which I clung to despite my strange fatigue. It was blonde hair, I saw. I sat down.

The blonde hair was attached to one of the sweetest looking girls it's ever been my pleasure to lay eyes on. She was short, with sleepy blue eyes and a (dare I say it?) pouty little mouth. Her body was swathed in an ancient tshirt, washed out gray like everything else in the house, and a pair of boxes that offered hints of soft curves below.

One guy argued for a little bit, then noticed his partner wasn't paying any attention and turned around. She looked at me, and pursed her lips before gently parting them. I was entranced by the way I could see the suggestions of breasts beneath the tshirt--small holes offered oh-so-tiny glimpses of her skin, retreating from light to shadow, and back again as she moved through the room and into the kitchen.

The boxers were silk, red and black paisley. It was the most perfect ass I'd ever seen, half hidden by the hem of her sleep shirt.

Sound of fridge door opening. Beat. Another beat. Sound of fridge door closing.

She turned and looked at me again, for a second. My heart faltered. I couldn't believe such soft innocence, such beauty could exist here in this feces infested, devoid-of-color apartment.

She glanced at Bob, then looked at Tucker. She said:


In a second, I understood what had happened to Tucker's chest. He'd been mauled by that voice, that horrid, horrid voice, and flinched until his chest had become concave in appearance.

A flash of blue told me Bob was downing his drink. I was still somewhat stunned by the whole disconnect between sylph and harpy, but at Tucker's implicit urging I choked mine down as well. She continued to berate him. The kids in the corner sat with their mouths open, as if they'd never seen anything like it before.

Bob drove to the nearest store, and we got two quarts of Budweiser and made for home. I kicked back the seat, unable to shake off the doldrums of that washed out apartment, and looked up at the gray ceiling of the car above me.

"Bob, you ever read Watership Down?"

"No, but I think we watched the movie a few years back."

"Yeah. You remember when all the rabbits get to this huge warren, with fat, sleek rabbits who seem to want for nothing, but don't really have any personality or rabbit instinct? The one where they basically give up their little rabbit souls to achieve what appears to be heaven? Only it's not?"


"You too?"


"Will you stop and get me another beer? I can't open my eyes."

"Too bad. I'm going home and getting a shower."


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Minuard Foundation 5: The Tour/Razor

One of the next messages I got was a couple of guys named Razor and Bobby, who thought my flyer was the funniest thing they'd ever seen. And, wonder of wonders, they left a return phone number. I called them back the next evening, and asked for Razor.

"Dude, this is Razor--this is so fucking funny, man, you're the flyer guy, right?"

"Yeah, hey, where did you get that thing, man?"

"Dude, me and Bobby totally found it on a bar in Deep Ellum when we were in Dallas last weekend. This thing's fucking great."

"Deep Ellum? But I didn't send any to Dallas!"

"Well, whatever," said Razor, as I heard the unmistakeable sound of Bobby hitting a bong in the background, "this shit rocks."

"Wow, that's weird."

"Hey, man, we're gonna have a party down here next weekend. You should bring the Minuard--we'll have lots of weed and barbecue, and my friend's band is gonna play. It's gonna rock."

"Well, shit, Razor, let me talk to his keepers, and I'll get back with you."

"Killer, dude."

Later that week I also got a call from a kid who called himself DJ Tucker, who invited me and the Minuard to his house for "tea." I got his address, and told him we were starting a tour, and we'd be back in touch.

I was joking, of course, but after some discussion, Bob and I decided we had to go investigate. After all, these were the only two people who were willing to have us come out in our capacity as adoption counselors, and even if they were weird, or obvious drug abusers, we felt obligated to give them a chance.

The next weekend, Bob and I loaded up a case of beer in the back of the car and headed south, to Razor's place. His directions were confusing, but after several beers and a couple of stops at payphones for clarification, we were stomping up a set of rickety wooden steps into an apartment building.

Razor met us at the door with a bong in one hand and and a cutoff baseball bat in the other. "Never can be too careful, dude," he mumbled as we passed him.

After getting a look at the place, I could understand. The living room was furnished with a love seat, a coffee table, and a television--and a garbage bag full of pot. Bobby was in the kitchen, making poptarts or some shit, and there was a football game being played (loudly) on the TV. A big dog ambled in and sat down next to Razor on the couch, so Bob and I sat on the floor while he loaded another bowl. I offered him a beer, which he declined ("too early, man, too early), and then an uncomfortable silence fell.

See, I get nervous around people. I don't feel comfortable just striking up a conversation with strangers, simply because I HATE it when strangers start talking to me for no apparent reason. I despise small talk, although it's a valid way to get to know someone--but in this case, I had already figured out that I didn't really want to get to know Razor (or Bobby) any better than I already did.

It just occurred to me that you're probably curious about what Razor looked like. If you're a long time reader, you're probably wondering if he was Samoan. Well, no, he wasn't. In fact, he looked and sounded just like Otto from The Simpsons. Remember when Otto gets Homer hooked on dope? Yes, that one.

Bobby I never actually saw...he puttered around the kitchen and meandered through the rest of the apartment, but I was never officially introduced. I always pictured him looking like Beavis, though...so use your imagination there.

After a couple of beers, Razor handed me the bong. I declined. This was anathema to the guy, and I could tell I'd lost a great deal of respect, just by the look in his bleary red eyes.

"What? You don't smoke weed, man?"

"No, sorry. Don't ask me how I managed to avoid that bad habit, because I've got just about every other one in the book, but I just never took to it."

[I must say that I have, at times, partaken of the herb, but it affects me really strangely and I didn't feel comfortable being all fucked up in some strangers house miles away from home.]

"So, like, you really don't smoke weed?"

"No, really. Sorry, man."

Razor pondered this for a bit, allowing this new idea to percolate through the wrinkles in his frontal lobe. He nodded to himself, apparently intent on the football game.

"So, you guys did this flyer without smoking dope?"

"Well, yeah, pretty much. But we did drink a lot of beer..."

That fell completely flat, and I was beginning to wonder if he was going to summarily kick us out for not smoking pot when the door opened and a crowd of six or seven people came in. Razor's eyes lit up, and he furiously started packing another bowl at the same time as he introduced us.

"Hey, Ray!! These are the flyer dudes! The Minuard Foundation guys!"

"Oh, wow, man, you guys are fucking great. That thing was funny as hell! Where's the Minuard dude?"

"Well, see, he really doesn't know we've done this yet. It's kind of...a...surprise."

I thought Razor was going to choke on his tongue.

"You mean, dude doesn't know you're doing this?"

"Right, not exactly. I mean, we are going to tell him, but not just yet."

"Dude, you fucking guys rock. Here, hit this shit."

At this point, I figured there was no point in arguing, especially since I appeared to have validated his earlier high opinion of me. I took a big hit, then coughed up a lung for the next few minutes. Chugged a beer. Looked for a clock. It was halftime.

The rest of the visit passed in a haze of pot and cheap beer. By the time we left, Razor and Ray and some girl with skintight jeans and a Judas Priest half shirt were making plans to come up and visit us--in fact, I'm pretty sure we decided there was going to be big Minuard Foundation benefit party, on the day we decided to fill him in on what we'd been up to. I'm not sure. The next thing I can recall was heading downstairs, waving cheerful goodbyes to various muppets and cartoon characters as we hustled towards the car.

It was a weird afternoon, and we still had to go by DJ Tucker's place.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Minuard Foundation 4: Nationwide

By the middle of the second week, Bob and I were having so much fun that we couldn't help but let our friends in on it. I'd confirmed my hypothesis that people would call strangers if those strangers came up with a good enough gag--my next question was: would they call LONG DISTANCE?

I ordered a second run of flyers, and we spent the week stuffing envelopes and addressing them to everyone I could think of. We also addressed some to various record labels (Moonshine and Wax Trax, if I remember correctly) and people we didn't know in cities like Cincinnati, Des Moines, and Omaha.

My friends were thrilled, and promised to distribute them as widely as they could.

I woke early on Sunday morning to the phone ringing again. Bob was asleep on the couch, so I grabbed it. Immediately I could tell something was awry.

"Minuard Foundation, how may I direct your call?"



"...yesh...how much for the Minuard?"

"I'm sorry, you must be mistaken. We want to have the Minuard adopted--not sold."

"...well, I want to adopt him. now."

I couldn't tell if it was a woman or a man. The voice was deep for a woman, but too...soft...to be a man's. I flashed to Pat on Saturday Night Live. And began to get a knot in my stomach.

"I'm sorry, uh, there's a certain process, certain rules we must adhere to. We're determined that the Minuard have the best home possible, and that means we'll have to interview you, and inspect your home. He needs a large yard to run around in, you understand."

"I want the Minuard, now. You will bring him to me."

A soft grunting began in my ear, as I desperately tried to regain the situation:

"Ma'am," because at this point I was really hoping it was indeed a woman, "these things take time."

"Oh, fuck it," she said, moaning gutturally in my ear, "you'll do. How big are you?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"How big is your...cock?"

"I'm sorry, I don't really feel comfortable answering that question. Is there a number at which I can have my supervisor contact you tomorrow?"




I took a shower before going back to bed.

Minuard Foundation 3: The Phone Calls Begin

I was awakened by the phone ringing in the next room. I looked at the clock. 3am. Time to make the doughnuts. Shit. But it was the phone call I'd been looking for-the first one.

"Minuard Foundation, how may I direct your call?"

Female laughter in the background, then "is this Minuard?"

"No ma'am," I replied, "I'm Minuard's caseworker-on-duty, though, so I can probably help. Are you interested in adopting him?"

"Is this the cute guy with the blonde hair?"

(I confess to a twitch of a smile there--hey, it was 3am)

"Yes ma'am, are you one of the ladies I spoke to this evening?"


"Well, we want you to come over."

"I'd be more than happy to set up an appointment with you to look at the household you'd provide for little Minuard, but at this time I'm the only one manning the phone."

(notice the subtle insinuation of my own virility--smart, huh?)

More giggling. Whispering. How OLD were these girls?

A different voice:

"Hi, this is Cindy. We'd love for you to come over and inspect our...facilities...when can you come over?"

"Well, ma'am, I don't have my calendar in front of me at the moment. Would you mind leaving me your number so I can return your call another time? Tomorrow?"


"We'll call you back tomorrow, sweetie."

Hell yeah. Score one for the Foundation.

Ten minutes later, the phone rang again. "Minuard Foundation!"

A man's voice, lisping: "Hi, listen, we don't really want to adopt Minuard, so much. But can we talk to you about renting him? Like, an hourly rate?"

"I'm sorry, sir, we're doing our best to find Minuard a stable, loving home. I don't think what you're suggesting would be amenable to him. However, I'll do some asking around, and see if there are any of our other clients who might be able to help you."

Raucous laughter. A whiff of Judy Garland, and they were gone. I went back to bed.

The next evening, I had a message on my machine:

"Hey, man, this is Alex, and we really dig your flyer. We want to meet the Minuard, man. Call us."

Between 2 and 3 am, my phone rang twice. Both strippers (or groups of strippers) who wanted to either meet me or the Minuard. I flirted for a bit, always maintaining the caseworker persona, but found I was always able to end the conversation by asking for a phone number. This was kind of fun.

By the next weekend I had taken about 15 calls, and was about to pass out from lack of sleep. We hit the strip bars again Friday night, hoping to find some of the girls I'd been talking to on the phone during the week. We did--but they were on the way out the door to go to Dallas. A really cute girl with dark eyes and black hair asked for one for her friend. I gave her 20 or so, then headed into the mix for more converts.

Later, we drove through the Paseo, past a drum circle full of hippies. Bob got out to dose them. I fell asleep to the sound of beating drums and a stuck lifter in his motor.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Minuard Foundation 2: The Foundation

I had a couple of thousand of the flyers printed up by my friend Lexi, who thought the idea was hilarious. She snagged a hundred or so and put them in a stack at the closest body piercing shop.

My first priority, I knew, had to be to collect as many calls as possible before Jim found out and killed us. I figured that if I could actually get him adopted by a houseful of strippers, or at least fought over by a few of them, then he'd be unable to get too bent out of shape at us. If you looked at it that way, we were doing him a favor, right?

So in order to collect as many leads as possible, I needed an answering machine message that kind of led people further into the snare. And this presented me with a quandary--how to link my phone to the flyer, without tipping Jim to what was going on? After a few days of mulling it over, I lost patience with the whole thing and recorded the following outgoing message:

"You have reached the offices of the Minuard Foundation. Currently all operators are conferencing with other donors. Please leave your name, number, and reason for calling, and the next available representative will return your call as soon as possible."

Thus was the Foundation born.

Over the next three weeks we distributed two thousand flyers to branch offices coast to coast (that is, people we knew in different cities) and around the city. Our friends were urged to tack them up wherever they thought appropriate (one dear, disturbed friend of ours just got a friend of his to put a stack of them by the outprocessing center at Chino, the maximum security prison in California). We had to admonish our local friends to keep this strictly under wraps from Jim, lest they ruin the surprise before it was ready.

We papered quite a few telephone poles with pleas to the better nature of whatever metalheads went there looking for the next hot band. We hit the other body piercing places, and I'm pretty sure a few of them made it to the bondage/head shop next to the strip of gay bars a couple miles away from the house. And to meet our goal of eventually raffling him off to a gang of bleached blonde strippers, we started spending a lot of time in those types of bars.

These were probably the best nights--I'd get off work around 9pm, Bob and I would shower, then hit two or three strip clubs. After a couple of nights of this, the girls from some of the bigger clubs knew us by sight, and would drag their girlfriends over to snag a flyer or two and sit in our laps. Around midnight, we'd cruise the areas closer to our house, and stick flyers under windshield wipers of cars til about one. At that point Bob would split and I'd head home to shower (again) and wait for the phone to ring. Soon enough, it started.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Flyer

minuard, originally uploaded by houdinisblind.

Here it is, folks, the last Minuard flyer in existence, as far as I know. I realize I just completely outed Jim, but I trust those of you who know him will keep yer traps shut.