Friday, February 24, 2006

Today

“Are you going to the Neo-Nazi rally downtown tomorrow?” Tom asks as we cruise around East Colonial looking for a place to eat. Two thoughts enter my mind at this moment. One, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever been asked this question and, two, just how matter-of-fact Tom asked, as in, “are you going to the beach tomorrow?”

“Do you know if they’ll have any good floats or food stalls?” I respond just as matter-of-factly. “Because I do enjoy those types of things.”

“Why are they coming to Orlando, anyway?” he asks. "It's such a nothing town."

“Maybe they want to take in Disney World and thought they’d kill two birds with one stone.”

”Where do you think they stay?” he asks.

That’s a good question. As odd as it sounds, I’m a bit curious about it myself.

“I mean do they stay at the Hilton or Holiday Inn,” Tom muses, “or do they slum it at one of those flea-traps? How do they plan these things?”

We pull into the Beefy King lot, a local non-veggie favorite of ours.

“I’m throwing a sort of bachelor party for my buddy, Albert, tomorrow," he says, "and we were planning on going out downtown. I got all these shirts made up with Albert’s face behind bars on the front like he’s in prison, and something on the back saying that it’s his last night of freedom. It’s supposed to be kind of funny. And, well, my concern is that Albert’s black and I don’t want to have this party downtown if all these Neo-Nazi’s are gonna be down there. I mean, do you think they’re going to go bar hopping after the rally or something? What do Neo-Nazi’s do when they visit a new city?

I haven’t made any Neo-Nazi acquaintances in my lifetime and I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. But they are good questions. I realize the seriousness of this whole issue of the Neo-Nazi’s, but I can’t help but laugh at how ironical it would be to run into a group of skinhead Nazi’s while you’re wearing a silly shirt with a picture of a black guy on it.

Back at the office I find myself browsing the Orlando Library’s on-line catalog for the Erich Segal book, “The Class.” There really is no reason for me to be doing this as I’ve already got 7 books out from the library in addition to the two dozen I’ve purchased over the past couple of months and have yet to read and am currently in the middle of reading Douglas Coupland’s, “Hey, Nostradamus.” But I did a Google search earlier in the day on Java classes and a link popped up for "The Class." A former girlfriend read this book while we were dating in college and she really liked it. I remember sitting on the floor of her dormroom one afternoon reading the latest “Calvin and Hobbes” book while she read “The Class.” Looking back I think that moment said something about what direction we were each headed intellectually.

So I remembered this incident and searched the book on Amazon and they had one of those “click to look inside the book!” links and so I clicked and began reading the first couple of pages and before I knew it I was on page 23 and I was thinking, “what the hell, is this whole damn book on line?” and that’s when I stopped. So I went to the Orange County Library website to see if I could order the book for home delivery because the library here does that type of thing, and they had it and I ordered it.

But as the afternoon wore on I got to thinking about the book more and more and how much I was really enjoying reading it and I didn’t want to wait a couple of weeks for it to be delivered and decided to stop by the library on the way home from work. And of course this made no sense because of all the other books I have out and the one I’m currently reading. I wouldn’t even have a chance to read this new book for at least another week by which point it would probably already be delivered to my home. But at 5 o’clock I left the office and drove over to the library and found the book. And while I was there I got to thinking about this other book I once ordered, Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which took 11 weeks and I never actually did get it, just some card in the mail that said something like, “Sorry we couldn’t find this book for you.” I went over to the shelves marked "H" just to see if I could find it and it took all of 20 seconds before I saw it blatantly staring up at me. I wondered how “they” couldn’t find it in 11 weeks. Of course I had to take that book as well just on principle and so now I was checking out two books I couldn’t possibly read in the near future.

I’m finally making my way home when Sera calls and says I have no food in the refrigerator and she’s already eaten so if I’m planning on eating dinner tonight I’d better stop by the store and pick up something. I swing over to Winn Dixie, a supermarket chain here in Florida that I really hate. Being from the North I associate the word “Dixie” with “redneck” and “incest” and always find myself moaning in there because of how slow and unorganized everything is in that place, and of course I attribute that to their being incestuous rednecks. I pick up a packet of frozen chicken wings because they’re quick and easy to cook and I like them. With just the one item I’m thinking I can get out of this store real fast and back on the road home. I head over to the express line for five items or less but the Mexican couple ahead of me want to do a Western Union money order. This always takes a long time as there’s a lot of paperwork to fill out and on top of that the Mexican guy doesn’t speak English well and the guy behind the counter is having trouble understanding him. I move over to the next line which only has a couple of people on it but the old woman at the register is pushing 90 and is having trouble working the scanner and is asking for help on the intercom. I move over once again to the next line but as I do the guy turns the light out over the conveyor belt and says, “Sorry, I’m closed.” I turn to go back to the line with the old lady but now more people have jumped ahead of where I should have been standing. By this point I’m extremely frustrated I’m castigating myself for having done such a stupid thing like go to the Winn Dixie in the first place. So I go over to the baby aisle and carefully slip the frozen chicken wing pack in between some diapers and baby food because I don’t feel like going all the way to the back of the store where the frozen food section is and also because I’m thinking, “hey, they deserve to lose some money and be inconvenienced by the shoddy way they run this place.” And as I’m walking out I’m also rationalizing in my head that if enough aggravated customers do this maybe the store will finally get the idea and do something about it.

I drive over to a local Chinese restaurant for some take-out and it’s mobbed in there as well. I feel I don’t have a choice so I stand in line and eventually get to order my meal. There’s nowhere to sit and wait as the place is packed so I stand along the wall and begin reading “The Class.” There are lots of screaming babies running around and kids making all sorts of noise and Spanish families yapping in a language I mostly don’t understand. I’m sure they’re not paying attention to me but I think how strange it must look to see some guy standing by himself against the wall amidst all this chaos reading an Erich Segal novel.

Eventually a seat opens up and I take it and sit down and continue reading the book. The Chinese woman behind the counter is screaming out people’s food orders and I keep a close ear in case she calls mine. I really start getting into this book which disturbs me because I’m also really into “Hey, Nostradamus” and I want to finish that one as well. And now the woman is screaming out long strings of numbers and there’s a lot of confusion about whose order belongs to whom. I pull out my receipt to look for any group of numbers that might remotely sound like the one’s she’s screaming about but it only has my total and the store number. So now I’m wondering if she’s throwing my food away or giving it to someone else. I get to chapter 4 when I finally recognize my food order bellowing through the restaurant. I grab it and head back in my car and as I start the ignition and turn on the Coldplay tape that I’ve been listening to a question suddenly pops into my mind. “Where do the Neo-Nazi’s stay when they come to town?”

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