Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Broken Heart of Dale Holloway

Dale Holloway stood staring at the vast hole in his apartment wall. The hole had been created the night before, when his lover, common-law wife, and roommate Suzanne had flung a large cast iron skillet against it. Unbeknownst to either of them, the cheap fiberboard that was all that separated their apartment from the one next door, was indeed flimsy and cheap. And so, the fifteen inch wide gash (along with the twenty inch long vertical tear that accompanied it) left little to the imagination.

     One could see right into the neighbor’s dwelling. And while Dale didn’t care a fig for his neighbors, nor, any longer, for Suzanne, for that matter, he did care about his standing with the landlord. If he didn’t manage to call her first, it could be certain that Suzanne would, and that the story would have something of a reverse twist to it.

     So it was with great dread that he called the landlady and left a message on her answering machine.

     “Mrs. Plastigo? I am afraid there has been a terrible accident at our apartment. You might want to come see us about it, right away, just as soon as you can. We have been lucky that there has been nothing so far to cause you any bad feelings, but I am hoping once you come see and allow us to explain this you will surely understand. Dale Holloway, Apartment 9B, 791 Judah Street, 415-752-8209.”

     But Dale was not about to get out of this all so easily. Suzanne had preceded him in awaking that morning, had thrown as many of her possessions as she cared to into her suitcase, and fled with the dawn, leaving only a note on the dining table. The dining table where they had shared numerous fine home made dinners, bottles of wine, where they had struggled over their dual bills, student loans, and car payments. Where Dale had begun to write the great novel he thought would one day bring them both fame, acclaim, and steady income.

     The note read:

You stuckup, hopeless, helpless little boy. I have tried for six years now to make this work. When we started off, you seemed to me to be the kind of man I might be happy with forever. All this time I have given you everything of my heart and soul. And now, you have decided, I just have to be thrown under the bus, so you can run off and fuck your dainty new little dollymop. I am sick of this! I wanted so much for us, so much that you will never understand now, so much that we shared that now doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. You go and find your happiness with her. I am sick of giving all I could of myself to your stupid, vain, and self-indulgent fantasy. What am I, a squeeze-doll?
I have had it, Dale. I am taking some of my stuff now and will be back for the rest next week. Don’t you dare try to find me, trace me, stalk me or in any manner annoy me again.
I loved you.
     Dale had read the note, sat down on the couch with a sigh, fixed a cup of coffee, and shrugged. At least he knew that Lydia, his new love, would not have such a hard appraisal of him. For Lydia, he was new as a flower in spring, a fresh May-lamb, a kitten to cuddle. No, Suzanne had had her day. And last night, she had had her night.

     Of course, he could see some of the reasons she had gone ballistic. It never so much happened that he had met Lydia on a pure accident than Suzanne had become jealous of what (at the moment) had been only a beginning of a platonic friendship. But as Suzanne’s suspicions grew, then, so did Dale’s interest in Lydia. The fascination of the Other held him. It would be difficult to restrain himself. Impossible, actually.

     Most of Dale’s buddies understood. Half of them were caught in what he thought were similar situations. Or they were trying to get into them, somehow. Many of them were the sort of pseudo-hipsters who hung around the Zeitgeist bar and rode single-speed fixed gear bikes, and fancied themselves existential anarchists. Dale hung on the fringes with the, but somehow, his secure job with the bank kept most of them at arms length except the occasions he felt flush enough to buy the gang drinks.

     He had left the majority of his better buds behind, back on the east coast in Carolina, before he came west to go to college (how is it that the Academy of Art has the reputation the SF Art Institute once held?) Dave matriculated to the Institute after two years at the Academy- he was hungry for real ideas, real teachers, real collegial profundity. All he had picked up at the Academy was a little bit of pixel animation and drafting. He could have gotten that in high school in Carolina. Once he had graduated, he lucked out when a friend gave him a job lead as a teller at the Wells Fargo up in the Haight. It was a job that allowed him a lot of leeway- the branch managers were usually out at lunch for three of the eight working hours, so Dale got to do a lot of web-surfing, one of the nice perks . The other was the bank’s proximity to the nightclub up the block- where he had met Suzanne, one foggy morning –now another world away.

     So he had to think up something to say that would get him off the hook. Of course he ought to blame all of it on Suzanne, but then, he thought, maybe her wrath would overflow if the landlady, Mrs. Plastigo, decided she’d file charges. Maybe she’d even file charges on him! Perish the thought.
     So he decided to blame the entire thing on Suzanne. We had a fight. She threw that darn thing so fast and nearly killed me. I was lucky enough to duck, first off. And she’s left me. I suppose I should find a new roommate, too. I don’t see how I can do otherwise.
I am very sorry about this…

     But when Mrs. Plastigo arrived, and heard his story, he was almost shocked to see it went over so well. Mrs Plastigo winked at him. “We can get this out of the way in a few hours. I will have the maintenance man come over right away.” She winked. “These things happen!” she said. She said it with such a brevity that Dale realized he had little need to fear her any  longer, but all the more reason to trust. So he could keep the apartment.
     Now, about a roommate… Lydia?  Of course, it was his very first choice, or thought, however, he didn’t know if she’d be all too willing to take him up on cohabiting quite so suddenly. After all they had only met three weeks ago, and had been hanging out at Zeitgeist the entire time, except for one afternoon when Dave had called her up and asked her to meet him- at the place he had met Suzanne, for a lunch. After all, being so closely situated to the bank, well, it was logical.
     It was also another way of unconsciously breaking his bonds with Suzanne, although he barely acknowledged it.

     He could take a little time, however, he was not quite in a hurry to grab another roommate. Perhaps he could for a short time, cherish the quietude of his own digs for once, again. At least today he could play his own guitar, without offending the rock star who lived next door. Dale was probably more one of those sorts of folks who can‘t bear to see others succeed at things he’s not so hot at- he had made a bad name for himself in the building (at least, with Mr. Roxtar) by banging on his door the first night he heard  Roxtar practicing. Roxtar loved to turn it up, around 7 at night, just when he and Suzanne might want to be eating dinner.
 “Turn that music down!”
     Roxtar opened the door, his black shades drawn low over his nose. “Talking to me?”
    “Yeh. Could you turn that music down? If you call that music, that is…”
     “Well, we’ll see, OK? I got a right to play until ten o’clock. I know my rights, jack.”
     “Dale. It’s Dale. Dale Holloway.”
    “Um, sure, dude. Like I’ll be forgetting that anytime soon.”
   Roxtar made sure Dale had scooted back under his own doormat before he closed the door, shaking his head. “Wonder what sort of bug crawled up that cat’s ass this morning. Shee-it.”
     Dale owned a nice, cherry red Gibson 335 he had bought with savings from the bank job. Well, disposable income, lets say. At $1500, plus another $800 for his dual-plex Marshall amp, he had tossed a good two grand into his guitar jones, as well as another thousand into effects. His next problem (the same problem he had had since forever) was to find people who wanted to play with him. If he thought being a banker had anything to do with that, he was probably right.
     And it wasn’t like Dale was a pure beginner, just that, he had never put the time and effort that a more serious musician and performer (like his erstwhile neighbor) might. His one garage band fizzled in his junior ear in high school- his father forbid them use of the garage after Dale’s buddies had been caught huffing solvents one afternoon when his Dad arrived home unexpectedly. Not only was Dale grounded, and his friends forbidden to practice, but the word got round that Dale’s father was just not cool. So by extension, the other band members decided, neither was Dale.
    Yet he had his art to solace him through the next few years. Every now and then, he’d go through his older canvasses, hem and haw and ponder them, and think of another idea he could work on. He was probably a better painter than he was a guitar player. But then, there were things that sound was good for that a canvas brush and paints just couldn’t work through at all.
     That night, Dale dreamed he was having lunch- a big fat turkey sandwich- on the side of a tall financial district building, when a skyhook from a tall construction crane hooked him by the belt and speedily hoisted him two hundred feet above the city streets. He had to yell and shout and scream for a full two minutes before he got the attention of the crane operator. By that time, a crowd of dozens had collected at the street below. The skyhook let him off on the top floor- luckily he could walk through the interior of the building (about eight stories) to get back to the street. And his sandwich, dang it, got left up there on the platform.
     Now he was going to get together with Lydia and discuss her possibly moving in. He decided to meet up with her at the little club where he met her and where he proposed that Suzanne move in with him as well. He figured he’d have good luck.

When Lydia showed up, she was somewhat preoccupied. Long auburn hair and big brown eyes, half curious, half languid. She liked Dale, but was so far, not convinced of much. If he were to begin this attack on her defenses he would need to begin by showing his trustworthiness… to her.
    “I had to take the 72 because there’s no 7 after ten” . She ordered a coffee and brought it back to the table. Dale couldn’t keep his eyes off her, but when he could, he’d stare down at the tiles and consider how much more he liked her than Suzanne, all things considered, anyway. 
   The big brown eyes flickered and blinked. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. Dale steeled himself for whatever was coming next. “I’ve been thinking, maybe, even though I’ve been going out with you a while, and you say things are kind of over with your friend Suzanne-
I’ve been thinking, I kind of what to get some space so I can thin about everything, myself. My family want me to come home – Mom is sick and all, and Dad has been trying to get me to split this City ever since I showed up- and my sister wants me to help her on her little farm, and-“
    Dale cut in. “Lydia, there is something I wanted to say to you for weeks. But now I can. I have this room available… you could move in and we could share the rent and you could see if we could really, you know, work out by being together…”
    “But how can I possibly when-“
    “Look, it’ll be easy. You get one half of the place and I pay all the bills. You can come and go as you like, we just chill, you know? We can hang at The 'Geist or we can go to flicks and shit. And maybe you can help me with my band…”
    “What band?”
   Dale hesitated. Indeed, what band? He’d have to start working on that one soon, too. These days at the bank he had his hands full. There was a lot of time that he would spend staring out the window at Haight Street and the different shades of lazy he could see reflected in the passerby only riled him. He’d show them all, one day, he would.
   “Um, the band that I’m starting. I’m going to call it “Regenerated Unresponsiveness.”
    “Or what about, Unregenerated Responsiveness- seems like all I am getting.”
    Ooops. He could see now that Lydia was going to be a little bit harder nut to crack. And in the meantime, then, he really ought to try to start a band. He would call it, Vegetative Redundancy Slip. Or maybe Albatross and the Heavy Links. “We play sausage-rock.” Or…
     The flashing and blinking of Lydia’s big brown eyes brought him back to earth.
   “Um, sorry, I got distracted for a minute.” He looked at his watch. Was there still time to save this idea before Lydia had completely shot it full of holes? Her own needs of course would take precedence in the situation. But Dale was never the type to take no for an answer. This was probably a big reason Suzanne was now history, too.
     “You should think about it. I think we’d be great.”
     Lydia, however, was good at keeping her inner thoughts to herself. If she liked Dale, it really wasn’t as if she were in love with him just yet, either. He’d have to do a little thinking about things and just what he was getting into. She might not enjoy the fact that he had just been broken off ith someone who’d been totally devoted to him – and didn’t feel that wonderful having been “the other woman” who’d caused it all to happen.
    So there Dale was, hoping he could get her into his life, and his bed, and there she was, on the fence, wondering if he’d ed up costing her more than just the price of a meal here and there…
    That was how it stood, and it was indeed something of a standoff. When they finished their talk and went separate ways, Dale headed downtown. There was  a demonstration going on he wanted to check out.
     Downtown at the Embarcadero he could see little more than a forest of tent canopies. A group of about a hundred people were listening to a speaker, declaiming about how this new movement would shake the bowels of the power structure. As if nothing ever had before, this new hope of the downtrodden, would carry the day by sheer weight of numbers. 
    “Nobody’s happy!” shouted the speaker. “It is time we came forward to Occupy The Status Quo! We're the 99 percent! Right on!” A chorus of ”Yeh!” and “Woohoo!” and “Power to the people!” came from his attentive listeners. Off to the side Dale noticed a pair of men, both holding musical instruments. The man on the left had a guitar and to his right was a guy with a banjo. He inched closer past the edges of the throng, until he stood in front of them. They were passing a joint, rather indiscreetly.
     “Hey man, wanna hit?” asked the guitar.
      “Uh, sure, OK: said Dale .
   Banjo took a hit off his beer and then watched as Dale toked the doobie. 
    “Isn’t this a little dangerous, smoking out here like this?”
    “Hell no, man I gotta card!” said Guitar.
    “What about that beer? You know the cops hate drinking in the parks.”
    “Fuck da po-lice!” said Banjo. “M’fuckers, they don’t give a shit about us today.”
    “No shit man, the Mayor his-self says nobody’s gonna get busted. So we’re just here hangin' out.”
     “You mean you guys aren’t part of this?”
     “Oh man, kinda, but shit, we been down here from Portland for a month now. We were staying out at Golden Gate. But this happened so we said, shit man, let’s go hang at Occupy.”
    “Yeh, brother, Occupy is cool. This is like, this is going to really fuck shit up.”
    “So you guys play music?”
    “Shit yeh. Let’s show him.”
    Guitar and Banjo stuck up a lonesome dirge. They started with Porter Wagoner’s “Satisfied Mind”. When they got to the part about how “money won’t buy back your youth when you’re old, or a heart that’s grown lonely, or a love that’s grown cold,” Dale reached in his pocket and handed them each a five dollar bill.
     “Shit, thanks dude!” Guitar and Banjo stopped, and then, Banjo passed Dale his beer. He took a furtive slug, looking about him every which way. He didn’t see any cops. It was cool.
    In fact it was all so cool that after another half hour of hanging around, listening to the boring speeches, Dale invited them home with him. They needed a shower he said (and it was true); they could use some breakfast they said (which wasn’t); and they dug his Marshall stack sitting there by his living room sofa. He tried playing with them that afternoon tentatively. They were making do.

     Within a week Lydia called him back. She was wondering where he had gone. She came to Zeitgeist every night that week and there was no sign of him. She never felt quite like calling him on  his cell phone- if he were really interested, in her then he’d be calling her every night, to keep it all going. She was getting annoyed. But Dale never knew it. 
    In fact when she called, it was like a fog had lifted off his eyes. He had spent an entire week feeding Guitar and Banjo- not only feeding them but buying them beer, handing them off bus tokens, writing up fake rent receipts for the welfare office, and sending them out in the day time while he went to the bank and worked on stuff.
    Stuff. There was little else Dale could call it. The same thing every day, checking papers, someone’s loan, someone’s mortgage, someone else’s overdraft protection. A steady rain of Occupy dogma hailed forth from the mouths of Guitar and Banjo. They even had Wobbly pins to prove their Socialist-Anarchist bonafides. Dale didn’t really care much about that. All that he wanted to do, once he came home, was light up a bowl with them- because that was the way they made their rent no matter where- they were part time chippy pot dealers,  always looking for the angle, always  talking up the good nug.
As long as they lived there at his place they could get him high, he could buy their beer and groceries, and maybe, maybe, if he got things right with Lydia, he could even get some dough out of them.
     He took the phone call.
     “Yeh, Lydia, hey, how ya doing! Sorry I haven’t called you, No, I am not seeing someone else. I just ran into a couple of cool musicians. They’re from Oregon. Yeh. I know you might dig that. Hey they are staying over here and we are jamming and shit. You want to come over and have a drink with us and have a listen? No? Oh. I’m sorry. Right. Yeh, I really should have. Well, I suppose I can come see you tonight at 'Geist. What? Oh, you have? Shit. Well I’m sorry I don’t mean to put ya off… no, no no. OK. I will. Meet you there in an hour.”
    And he was making excuses to Guitar and Banjo now. He had learned their real names, too. Guitar was actually a Michael, and Banjo was a Pete. Mike and Pete had to hold the fort for him while he went to check out Lydia. It was a good thing he hadn’t lent them his keys, he’d find out later.
     At the Zeitgeist he bought a tamale from the Tamale Lady- two, one for her, one for himself – and a pitcher of Nolsen’s. For some reason he liked the stuff. Everyone in his crowd thought he was a little cheap for not springing for Flat Tire like the rest did, but he hated the taste of Flat Tire.
    Lydia came walking through, looking all about, and finally laid eyes upon him. If looks could kill, Dale was now a pile of ashes. 
    “Dale I wanted so much to get things straight with you and give you a little time to get it together, Instead, what are you doing with yourself? It’s like I don’t even exist. Come on, dude, I am too old for this kinda crap from my boyfriend. You have to man up about life sometime. Maybe Suzanne was right about you anyhow, wasn’t she?”

     His reply was rather offhanded. He didn’t even really quite comprehend her last sentence seriously .
    “Shit yeah Lydia, I mean, we’ve slept together what , seven or eight times?”
    “Nine. And none at all the last three weeks. I think time is running out, if you aren’t going to make a more serious turn here then let me go. I have other things I want to do.”
    “Such as?”
    “Such as maybe meeting somebody who gives a shit about me! That’s right! Do you know what’s been going on in my life this week? The cat has had to go in for swallowing a hairball, they had to scrape him inside out. The apartment is almost up so I am really thinking, Dale said he wanted me to move in, well, can Dale do it? And now you are sharing your house? I guess? With your guitar buddies? Over me?”
     “Give me a little more time, Lydia, I’ll kick them out soon.”
    “You better, I could have some other things to say, but if you’re willing to go that far, then OK, there might still be a little hope for you. And consider US not just yourself OK?
   Dale had to admit she had him hung to rights on that score.
  So it was by that means he was able to gain access to Lydia and her kindnesses, at least, for another evening’s pleasure. After they had downed the pitcher of beer at Zeitgeist they wended their way to her place, where she cast her arms about pointing at all the things she now needed to find a new home for. Dale could only sigh. He sighed even harder when she had pulled him to her bed, and they had cut the light.

     Back at Dale’s apartment, however, the night was taking on a different aspect. Mike and Pete had discovered several of his wage stubs from Wells Fargo laying around where he had carelessly left them. 
    “Shit, Pete look at this! The guy’s a fucking banker!”
    “No shit, really?”
    “Really. Look-“ Mike handed Pete the check stubs. 
    “You think he really gives a shit about Occupy, man?”
    “Well, he was nice enough to us, he brought us home, fed us…”
    “He’s just trying to win favor. Man, he’s one of the 1%.”
     The fact that Dale was not even part of the 2% probably didn’t figure into what they did next.
    “I say let’s rip the motherfucker off. He’s living big. We don’t have shit.”
    “Fuck the rich! Fuck the pigs!” and with that outburst, Mike took from a shelf in the living room an ancient miniature Etruscan statue worth hundreds of dollars, and smashed it on the floor. He walked over to Dale’s Marshall amp and shoved his foot through it. Pete took a spray can out of his backpack, and spray-painted an IWW Black Cat logo on the patched-up hole in the wall. He sprayed a big X over Dale’s favorite original painting in the foyer. He went to the refrigerator and loaded his backpack with dozens of jars, bottles, and articles comestible.
    Mike for his part pulled down all the other paintings looking for a wall-safe. When he didn’t find one, he ransacked Dale’s drawers. He came up with a fistful of dollar bills and small change. That not satisfying him, he packed Dale’s Gibson 335 into its case, and gave a nod to Pete. They were ready to ride. As the exited the apartment and left for the Avenue, to make their way back into Golden Gate Park, they left the front door open and swinging.

     It was a chastened Dale who arrived the next morning and found the apartment robbed. He immediately thought of calling the police, but something stopped him. He decided to call the Department of Social Services, who would have had an idea perhaps, just where Mike and Pete might have been headed next. The social worker told him he sees guys like this all the time. He suggested Dale call the police. Eventually, he did. He surveyed the apartment. That Marshall stack would have been easily repaired- just one speaker, and the grill cover. But- his guitar! And that damn black cat on the wall!

     When Mrs Plastigo came over, herself, to view the vandalism, she was shocked.
     Her own great-grandfather had been a Chicago police officer, and had died in the Haymarket Riots in Chicago, killed dead by a Wobbly bomb. She knew them for what they were or at least, what they meant for her own side of things. So it was with some self-confidence she stood up to Dale and said:
    “You brought these no-goodniks into this place. You can pay this time. You will pay me for these vandalisms and you will be evicted. I will go draw up papers. You will see them tonight on your doorstep. Good day, Mr. Holloway.” She departed with a frozen face that was every bit the antithesis of the mood she had left on her last visit.
Just like that, Dale’s life had become ultra-complicated. For the very first time in his life he faced uncertainty and doubt. Now there would be no Lydia to court and now there would be no means of placating Mrs. Plastigo. The Guitar and Banjo had wreaked their havoc. It was going to be some interesting days ahead for Dale.

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