Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Knights In Sanitary Service

I see a bowl scrubber, a roll of tp, and four pairs of eyes staring at me. The black light in the bathroom at the KISS Coffeehouse gives them an eerie glow. Can't quite make out the black toilet, but I feel around until I know where I'm aiming.

The Myrtle Beach coffeehouse is the latest in a long line of Gene Simmons-thrusted marketing ideas to keep the 70s rock band relevant 30 years after their heyday. (While the KISS Kasket is no longer featured on their website, you can sample a bottle of the KISS cabernet, uncharacteristically spelled with a 'c.')

My photog buddy, Art, shot KISS a few times in full regalia.

The closest I've gotten to them was the Karamel-flavored frozen Rockuccino that set me back almost six bucks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


"All my friends are hairdressers."

"That's funny."

"No, seriously. All my friends are hairdressers."

-Liberty Taproom, Myrtle Beach

She had long blond hair and a few tattoos. If you're keeping score at home, you might deduce from one of my previous Myrtle Beach Overheards that this town--full of neon and all-u-can-eat seafood buffets--wears its own superficial mask as comfortably as one of the Conquistadors from the late 80s WWF. But I assure you that Myrtle Beach still grasps multiple redemptive qualities, including the ever-present roll of the Atlantic Ocean onto its beaches.

Unintentionally Unisex

I pulled into a Pilot truck stop off I-85 yesterday to use the bathroom. The door was propped open, so I peeked in, and a woman was there cleaning. She said, "Oh, come on in." So, I did. But she never left. I stopped and looked at her for a second, so she motioned back to the stalls with the doors. She said, "You can use those." I really had to go—could no longer suppress the bottle of water from a few hours before—so I went.

She was still in there sweeping when I walked out.

Cleanest bathroom I used all day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Now He’s Relaxed

“Are you okay?”

The TSA ID-checker in the Philadelphia airport, his long, braided hair cinched by a rubber band, noticed the young woman’s red, watery eyes.

“No. Not really.”

“What’s wrong?” He looked at her boarding pass then glanced over his glasses at her face. “Are you leaving someone you don’t want to leave?” A question he believed he knew the answer to. I’m sure he’s seen plenty of teary girls kiss their boyfriends goodbye.

“My father died.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

I was eavesdropping, and she sensed it, so she looked at me. I gave her what I hoped was a sympathetic smile. Something I thought to be appropriate, because I didn’t know what to say. I hoped to communicate two things with that gesture, though. First that I was sorry about her loss. But I was also sorry to have intruded into her business.

She sniffled and attempted to smile back. The edges of her mouth fought their way up against the rest of her face; her furrowed brow, her quivering lips. She understood. She accepted my sympathy and apology.

But the security line crept with small steps. Short starts and long stops. And I felt compelled to add an audible leg to our silent exchange.

“Had your father been sick?”

“Yes. But now he’s relaxed.”

She had a strong Spanish accent. Relaxed. I’m not sure why she chose that word. Maybe the translation tripped her a bit. Maybe that made sense; “relaxed” was the perfect descriptor for his situation. Maybe I was glimpsing her raw and honest state of shock. Witnessing that period after a loss when one says the real things before one settles into the death march of rote expressions such as “He’s at rest” or “Now he’s at peace” or “He lived a good life.”

“Did he live a good life?” I took my place in the march.

“Yes. He did.”

I nodded and looked away. Knowing that’s really all I could offer.

She looked back over her shoulder and waved slowly at a young man just beyond the security entrance leaning on the wall. The ID-checker was correct. The woman was leaving someone she didn’t want to leave.

After the metal detector, she gathered her bags from the belt, looked up at me and said, “God bless you.”

I said, “You too," although I thought to myself, “He has.”

Overheard #15

“I don’t see how Bob--you know, St. Louis Bob--does it. He’s always out drinking at sports bars until late. Then he’s up and roaring the next day.”

—woman in her 40s donning a navy blue business suit speaking with a man in his 40s in a white button-down and a bolo tie at a gate in the Houston Love Field airport

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blame Your Parents

Palace Florists, right off the Dupont Circle Metro stop in D.C., has a name game. If your name is Veronica on Veronica Day, then you get a free flower. I walked by there two days in a row, and the sandwich board out front read "Veronica" both days. Now, either some petunia pusher inside is slacking, or the "game" is not really a game, but a pull-you-into-the-shop gimmick based on probability laws. I mean, how many rose-loving Veronicas could there be?

And how successful is this marketing strategy? Florists surely can't thrive on impulse buyers. "My name is Veronica, and I came in to get my free rose! Hmmm. While I'm here, I might as well stock up on vases. And I need a spare oasis."

Their website has a link to their Name Game and as of this post, today is Kristy Day.

Kristy with a "K." Brilliant move, Palace. Brilliant.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Overheard #14

"Dude. You have to get some mustache wax for that thing. They sell it at CVS. It's not hard to find."

--The outdoor tables at On Tap sports bar in the Lakeview District of Birmingham. I agreed with the speaker. The dude in question had an enormously long mustache that lacked a certain style.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Characters of Natchez, MS: Buzz Harper

Antiques magnate and interior designer Buzz Harper works every room like a politician. And decorates every room like he's French nobility. This is his favorite room in the Prentiss Club, a turn-of-the-century gentlemen’s club in downtown Natchez that was in complete disrepair when he bought it. Buzz renovated and decorated the entire building and even lived here for a while before selling it in a deal that was too good to refuse. He calls the Prentiss Club his masterpiece. His zenith.

As a side note, before I met Buzz, I was warned that he was a vampire. He lived in New Orleans for years, and was the neighbor and close friend of Anne Rice. He is almost 80 years old, but he’s in great shape and looks at least 20 years younger. He eats all his beef raw. Not rare. Straight out of the fridge with a little salt and garlic. (I know, but stick with me.)

So, in one of my conversations with Buzz, he told me that he once loved collecting antiques. He realized that they were just things, though. Now he collects people. “I am a vampire,” he said. I have witnesses. Of course, what he meant was that he feeds on the energy of creativity of his friends who surround him. But those words still came out of his mouth.

Characters of Natchez, MS: John David Montgomery

The first thing John David Montgomery ever gave me was a pair of red chopsticks. To be fair, they were the only things he ever gave me. To be even fairer, he tried to give me a Bud Light when I saw him last week, but I politely passed. I still had a ways to go on the bottle in my hand.

Back to the sticks. Some call John David “J.D.” Some call him the mayor of Under the Hill, a commercial section of town that backs up beneath the town’s bluff. If Under the Hill had toes, they would always be sticking in the Mississippi River. Some call him the head bartender at the Under the Hill Saloon, a place about which I’ve previously posted and gushed. A handful of people have determined that John David looks like Mr. Miyagi (not Pat Morita—rest his soul—but Pat’s character from the beloved Karate Kid Trilogy), and those few began calling him such.

Thus the sticks. Yes, yes. Back to the sticks. Remember the scene when Mr. Miyagi, in teaching Daniel focus and patience, catches the fly with chopsticks?

John David has a party trick where he “catches” a cigarette, a Marlboro Red in fact, with chopsticks and smokes it.

With focus and patience.