Last Chance Mercantile is this cool second-hand, perhaps fourth-hand store next to the dump in Marina, CA. I am a thrift store whore from way back and consider it quite nifty to be thrifty.
Besides, you can really do a make-over on a mobile with the treasures you find, especially on the free paint aisle or the outdoor open-air area which includes rock/ lumber/furniture/crap.
Anyway, I found myself there yesterday, buying scraps of high-quality Astro Turf remnants from some athletic field or miniature golf course I suppose. Hey, do putt putt golf courses still exist in 2011? I was a little golfer girl queen when I was a kid; kicked my bro’s ass at our town’s course which also included the popular skating rink (where I learned my cool backwards moves), the bowling alley and a run down motel. (Where I’ve never stayed, btw) So, I dig synthetic grass. Sweeping the stuff is quite therapeutic and takes me back to 29B, which then unleashes all these silly and dangerous thoughts that were born in that pre-fab province that will always be home.
So, let’s allow me to take you there! It’s either that or go ballistic about capital punishment and you probably don’t want me to go there.
This little ditty is part one of three; I suppose a trilogy of the most personal kind…
Might we not say to the confused voices that sometimes arise from the depths of our being:
“Ladies, be so kind as to speak only four at a time?”
In a little less than 2 months, I became so involved with the woman in space 17 at the trailer park that my drinking increased by 50 percent.
It took a significant length of time for me to figure out, what most of you would have figured out in a half second; that I was about to get in way over my pretty little head.
Perhaps I should have paid closer attention on that day she called my home for the first time in the 7 years I resided at and managed the park. When she phoned that day, she was seeking help in the advertising of her new cleaning service.
(To be read as fast as you can without taking a breath)
“Hello, this is Julie in space 17.” she began at a rapid, manic voice that hit me like a verbal locomotive. “Sorry to bother you... so sorry to bother you... but I am going to clean for everyone... I know these are hard times so, I wouldn’t charge anything, hardly anything... Maybe oh, I don’t know... maybe two dollars an hour... I just really want to do it because I really want to help people... I have Comet... lots of Comet and I have paper towels and I have all the cleaning supplies so I just want to know about these flyers and where I could put them and maybe you need some cleaning done and I know you are the manager and everything so you probably already have someone… someone who cleans your house but maybe I could help someone I really want to help someone.”
Me too, Julie, pathetic as it is.
That’s exactly how our friendship began; the first interaction I had ever had with a woman who evidently had lived in the trailer park for two decades, whose mother mailed her rent each month from out of the area; a woman who, in that moment, I couldn’t tell you what she even looked like.
When she paused to inhale, I heard myself saying, “Two dollars an hour would be selling yourself short.”
You see, compadres, I wear this f*@#ing bleeding heart liberal hat with a fat stamp on my forehead that says, “ I can help you, fix it, fix you, give you my heart, soul, cash and favorite pair of Doc Martens. Let me save the world and you too. Oh, and guaranteed, I’ll put myself last.”
When I finally got a word in “edge-wise” somehow I had invited her down to look over her flier, offered to make 34 copies and place them in each resident’s mailbox. I even offered complimentary, standard-size envelopes!
She arrived at my door just minutes later.
She had a nervous way about her; couldn’t stop fidgeting, combing her pixie hair, which she repeatedly tucked then untucked behind her ears. She wore boots from ‘the day’; perfectly shined and a lavender polyester sweatsuit with an appliqué of two kittens and a ball of yarn. Her attire and style threw me as to her age, but I guessed 48, which later I found I was only off by 3 years.
I noticed she rocked back and forth and spoke in pitches, ranging from high screeches to descending, low mumbles and the conversation took more roads than are in the entire state of California. Within 3 minutes, I had learned about her 7th grade teacher, her love for ponies except Brut; the one who bucked her off when she was 10, her Grandma Cooley, who had hair as long as the Ying Yang River, and of course, her new cleaning business.
All this before I had a chance to offer her a seat in our 12’x12’ living room; which felt like 6’x6’ box
at that point.
I made us both a cup of tea.
She seemed most oddly honored and excitedly uncomfortable, as if she were in a palace and I, the queen.
I took her ad, hand-written on a torn piece of lined binder paper, to our back office where I began making the copies. Her presence seemed to follow me down the hallway.
When I returned with her copies,
“Oh, you are so nice! You are such a nice friend! I am so sorry there is a rip in the paper... So sorry... I didn’t mean to rip it… Maybe I was in a hurry while I was writing… Grandma Cooley used to always say, “Slow down… Take your time… haste makes waste.” And she was right…haste does make waste… She was always right and then she died… She died and left me and she died and I was the only person in the house and I cried “Wake up! Grandma!”” Wake up!” but she didn’t wake up and I didn’t know what to do and I was all alone and I called 911…that’s when the ambulance came... and I cried and cried even though she was with Jesus.”
She paused to rest from the word marathon she just ran.
In some weird, dysfunctional way, I thought this was all “good for me.”
Maybe this person sitting in my living room, with the perfectly combed hair and the spit-shined boots, had entered my life for a reason.
Girls like me look for reasons in life; underlying meanings sent via people, places or experiences. Those that teach lessons, help us blossom, grow, become dynamic park managers or American saints.
Girls like me probably just need more therapy.
Before she left, a departure nothing short of over-the-top, she smothered me with gratitude and before I could see it coming, she wrapped herself around me on my front porch and with a hug that smelled of moldy camping gear, she sang (Yes, sang, as in musical), “Good-bye my new friend…thank you my friend, the manager!”
There was pep in her step as she headed down the street to her trailer.
I closed the door, still somewhat clueless as to what was to come.
The smell of mold on my collar remained.
It was early, but I tossed the English Breakfast and poured myself a stiff one.
To be continued…