Breakfast Of Champions

Then one morning I’ll wake up real early with a hunger in my belly and with my flask full of coffee I’ll drive down to Allyn to get some oysters. There’s a beach down there with a creek coming down from the hills, and at the mouth of the creek are the oyster beds. At low tide the beds are laid bare. High and dry. The beach above them looks like a bombing range. Spent halves and clams laid akimbo and cockles in pieces. You have to walk through all this to get to the beds.

Fortunately, the oysters are real easy to gather. There’s nothing to it. Just find some the size you like and pick them out of the sand. The oyster’s an intertidal grazer. She lets the moon bring the food to her. I can respect the oyster – She’s a lazy bitch. Doesn’t use legs, or limbs, or have abstract thoughts about the future of art. She just sits there and lets the tide bring her supper to her.

With a bucket full of oysters I head back to my mom’s house. Stopping at the store along the way for a lemon and a can of Guinness stout. I sit on my mom’s back porch at 8 in the morning shucking oysters and drinking stout and watching the poor fools drive over the Mannette Bridge all the way over in Bremerton. It’s the breakfast of champions.

‘Breakfast of champions!’ I yell to one of her neighbors who’s caught me lifting my glass of stout.

I don’t think she believes me. In fact I know she doesn’t. She shakes her head. She goes back in and pours herself a bowl of Health Nuts which she drowns in nonfat milk. Don’t I know that mornings are something to endure? I must be a fucking delinquent for enjoying myself so in the morning.

So I’m a delinquent. Might as well roll around in it, like a dog. I look out over the Sinclair Inlet. Three little puffball clouds are drifting northwest over the Kitsap Penninsula. A grey bank of them is hanging over the foothills between the Hood Canal and the Olympic range. Otherwise it is shaping up to be a beautiful, sun-shiney day. I rub my belly.

‘Breakfast of champions.’ I tell the dogs, pouring a little stout in their dishes.

Lapping up that stout, already dreaming of doggie naps in sunbeams, I know they at least believe me.

5 Neat Things About Selling Perfume On The Street

Two days after graduating from high school. I’d bought a car, a newly used Toyota Tercel, and now I needed a decent paycheck to make those payments. There was a help wanted ad in the newspaper. Temp office positions. I could do that. The lady I interviewed with was nice. She seemed really excited when I told her I didn’t have any real-world experience but I was ready to do anything. She gave me a test to take, easy peasy SAT-type stuff, and said they’d call that night with the decision, yay or nay.

The good news? Yay. I got the job.

The bad news? The job wasn’t an office temp position.

When I got to work on my first day, I was directed to a conference room where fifty or more of us sat in various states of bewilderment or bemusement. We overflowed the room, hirees spilling out into the hall.

“Welcome to orientation. We expect you to be here on time, every day, overflowing with enthusiasm. All we ask. If it’s a problem, there’s the door, don’t let it hit you on the way out.”

As the orientation got going, it became clear this wasn’t an office temp position. This was, well, it was selling designer knockoff cologne and perfume. Out of a box. To strangers on the street.

As it dawned on people what this was, quite a few made their way to the exits. Maybe half. The rest of us stuck around through and after the orientation meeting, the doubtfulness of the situation being trumped mostly by the idea that we’d been ‘hired’.

“Dress sharp. Guys, ties. Girls, skirts. Business attire. The illusion is that we just put on a fashion show and we’re selling the extras. That’s not entirely true but it could be and that’s how we do it. If it could be true, it may just be.”

Here’s a neat thing about selling perfume on the street: It takes a lot of guts. And the company knew that. So they had these chants we’d do to get motivated. Prep school stuff, pep rallies and all that. But you know what? It felt good to sit in a group and build energy like that. You write something like Oh shit, it’s hot in here, it must be the winners in the atmosphere and it sounds silly. You get together in a room full of people chanting that at each other? It’s got juju. Religion.

Here’s another neat thing about selling perfume on the street: You get to hear some great stories. He ran away from home, she dropped out of high school, he’s between jobs and just trying to grab some cash. I remember ducking into a bar with this guy, I’m 18, and he wants to have a beer. I couldn’t believe just having a beer like that in the middle of the day (I hadn’t been to Europe yet). But the story he told about his brother and how they’d had it out with razor blades one dark midnight and he’d bailed on his family and was crashing on a friend’s couch on Portero Hill. That’s what I remember. And I remember the gold ties. You’ve gotta have a gold tie. “Gets the gold”, like attracting like.

Here’s another neat thing about selling cologne on the street: You learn all about profit margins. You’re in control. You have to buy the bottle wholesale for $22. You can sell each bottle for $32 max. Beyond that, it’s up to you. Need to come down to 28? Do it. Need to say 4 for $100? Do it. Just need to move a bottle to get your numbers up? Do $24. Do $23. Hell, do $22. $21. Eat a dollar to make your numbers if you need to.

Here’s yet another neat thing about selling cologne on the street: You go to East Oakland and you walk up to the hardest group of guys you’ve ever seen and you spit your spiel? You learn a lot about the world. Especially when those guys turn out to be your only customers of the day.

Here’s a final neat thing about selling anything on the street: It’s something you never forget. The way it gave you the authority to walk streets of your city like a predator on the hunt. The way you were able to make connections with people, no matter how tenuous. The way you bounced back after hundreds of ‘No’ answers to make that big sale on the last pitch of the day. The time we walked into the police precinct to pitch the cops, and the way the lady cop said “I order you to cease and desist” over and over again until we left.

Here’s a bad thing about selling anything on the street: The money? There’s no consistency. One day you come home with a wad of cash. The next, you break even, or even lose money after buying gas and lunch.

I needed consistency. Car payment to make. Tuition at community college due in a few months. So after two weeks selling perfume and cologne on the street, I said thanks but no thanks (I think I outlasted 18 of the people from my ‘class’, most of whom bailed in a day or two) and found a job through another San Francisco Chronicle ad at the Woodside Bakery and Cafe. Counter boy, barista, bus boy at the restaurant when I wanted extra hours. $6.75 an hour to start.

Poetry Scrap

ocean from 30k

your blue field mottled with cracks and crinkles

furrowed by rows and rows to oddly

distant horizons, a sudden island in the

Channel chain rising like dragonland amid

a regular spotting of white whispy

west coast marine layer caused by

cold ocean / hot Imperial Valley dyad

the usual May relationship and San Diego

fogged into the middle and me

flying above it all towards Seattle & home.

Poetry

Port Orchard, late morning

Draft 1 here.

The town ‘Bucks is packed at eleven AM

they’re in, in their three and fours

clucking away, loud and boisterous

as last midnight’s Bay Street pub

each has her cardboard full of

sugar and caff : chemical UP

made for slurping and perking –

I take mine outside where I hear

the lunchhorn blow from across the Inlet

in the yard today the USS Carl Vinson

and the USS John C Stennis

are in and their men are crawling in them

fueling, repairing, provisioning

having their own chemical brunch –

grease and uranium,

concrete and jet fuel,

acetylene and Grade D beef.

Apartment Living

I would like to have a bell.

More like a great bronze chinese gong that i’d strike at meal times and first thing in the morning and at other important times. You know, ceremoniously.

Needless to say the neighbors would get upset, not being privy or understanding the ceremony, only hearing that ‘god damn gong!’ day in and day out, driving them loony, and calls to cops, and evictions, and all that.

So my gong (or even my bell) will have to wait until I have my ranch.

Poetry

Bremerton Blues

I started this poem last year on my annual memorial day trip to Washington – here’s the first draft. Every time I go up there I’m shocked at two things –

  • The staggering natural beauty of the place
  • The staggering ignorance (original connotations – ignore + ance) of the locals towards that beauty.

I greatly admire Gary Snyder’s ability to stay ever-positive when writing about nature. Many times I find myself slipping into negativity. I find redemption in the idea of polarization – by setting the ignorant viewpoint in repose, I make easier light of the Right – what I presume to be right, that is. Follow me if you will…

They grow into their ugliness here

an ascendancy through adolescence

it’s nothing to do with skin or senescence

it’s early onsets of apatheticness;

eyes averted from the velvet greeneries,

purple mineralities, worn blues of Sound

lapping at rotting dock-wood hollows

– mom’s soft curves outfoxed by the Box

i sit on the sundown dock decking

another damn californian

sipping at his espresso – Olympics

make backdrops for homes lit by Tube glares and

tourists cannot conjure affections for infections –

so I just sit solo seeing for myself

high pines over miles of deep waters,

a grey crane over mudflats,

a full commuter ferry

chugging locals towards home.

Literary Concept – Becoming a writer

I remember the first poem I ever wrote. I mean the first serious poem, the first one where I sat down and said to myself ‘I’m going write a poem now!’. I was 20. 20 going on 14 because I’d sat out my adolescence on a sideline called self-pity. I sat there in my room under that fluorescent light with Wordpad open on my Windows 95 rig and said to myself ‘I’m going to write a poem about gardening, only what I’m growing is memories’. I can’t remember any of the poem, but I’m sure it was gloriously, naively terrible. At least I hope so.

I do remember though going outside to think about the poem. It was a good foggy Montara night, and real cold, and I’d never done anything like that before – gone outside in the middle of the night just to think about something. My mom probably wanted to know if I was alright. There I was, out in the cold, pacing around the lawn, for no good reason. What the hell!

It was the beginning of my life.