Sam's Humor

These essays were written in 1995 and are still funny to this day. Enjoy them! Don't steal them!

Monday, December 05, 2005

So, how’s this spot?

by Sam Palahnuk

We had just decided to paint the interior of the house ourselves. “We’ll save some money,” we thought to ourselves. Homeowners know that the phrase “save some money” usually translates into “spend a lot of our precious time.”

At the time we were renting a beautiful house in West Los Angeles. Please note that I said “house” not “home,” a house is a structure that you can rent, paint and rebuild after an earthquake. A “home” is what a house turns into when you furnish it and a bunch of people live there. When I see an ad for “spectacular hillside home” I wonder what kind of furniture and family is included. Anyway, this HOUSE had been a rental for many years, and had suffered the usual rental unit type problems - stained carpets, broken plaster, evil spirits of prior tenants, etc. Even though we weren’t being compensated for it, we decided to paint the interior ourselves.

Since I was going to be covered with paint by the end of the day, I didn’t bother shaving or combing out my hair. I put on my most grungy pants and “holy T-shirt.” I didn’t own overalls or anything of that nature, so I just put on old clothes that I didn’t mind getting paint on. As I put on my ancient bell-bottomed jeans I marveled that at one time I thought I looked “cool” in these bizarre clothes. Who invented bell-bottom jeans anyway? What inspired the exaggeration of the cuffs? Did the designer have really fat ankles and huge Popeye like feet? (Please note that Popeye, obviously a fashion template, has been wearing bell-bottom pants since the 20’s!)

Is this exaggeration of one garment feature the trick to fashion design? If exaggerating the cuffs was such a hit, what would happen if we exaggerated the groin? Imagine jeans where you could easily store a watermelon behind the zipper. What about the back-pockets? Imagine huge pockets in back where you could easily stuff a LA phone directory. What about a really high waist-line. Imagine jeans where they kind-of double as a shirt. You tie the belt just below your arms. “Ridiculous!” you might think -- but no more ridiculous, I assure you, than the pants I was wearing at that moment.

I also dawned an archaic “tie-dyed” T-shirt. I remember that in elementary school we actually had a project where we made our own tie-dye shirts. In fact, this might have indeed BEEN that shirt I made in elementary school. Moths fluttered about as I pulled the rusted hanger out of the very back of the closet.

The fact that we tie-died shirts in school was remarkable for two reasons: Firstly, the fact that the LA school system did anything of an extra-curricular activity was as rare as walking to school without being rolled for your lunch money, and secondly, why tie-dying? If I had the extra cash for some sort of activity, I think I would have taken the class to the zoo, or to a museum -- but, no -- there we stood dipping shirts into toxic colored chemical baths on the playground. Why we did this was then, and is now a complete mystery to me.

The school was to provide the toxic chemical baths and the buckets to contain said chemicals. Each student was to bring in a “white T-shirt” and the ability to tie knots. Now, you have to keep in mind that my family never bought anything new. Honest. The only shirt I was going to get, that is IF I was going to get a shirt at all, was some bizarre hand-me-down. This was to be done despite the fact that I was the oldest of five kids! What I ended up taking to school was a yellow XXXL T-shirt (yellow is “close” to white, my mother reasoned) with an “Ametron” logo on it. This was a shirt my dad had gotten free for buying some number of vacuum tubes at the local electronics supply store.

Needless to say, I was humiliated. I was the only kid with a non-white T-shirt. I was the only kid with a T-shirt large enough to double for a car-cover. The only consolation I had was that there was one other kid who’s shirt had a logo on it. Whew! His shirt had the words “Keep on Truckin’” printed on them with a cartoon of a guy with big feet “stepping” towards the viewer. At least I wasn’t the ONLY kid with cheap parents.

The teacher, Mrs. Hitler, took one look at me and rolled her eyes.

Mrs. Hitler: “I said bring in a WHITE T-shirt!”
Sam: - Immobilized by shame, unable to speak -
Mrs. Hitler: “Weren’t you paying attention?”
Sam: - speechless and about to pass out -
Mrs. Hitler: “O.K. Go ahead and dye your “yellow” shirt, but I’m sure it won’t work out right.”
Sam: - glad to be away from the teacher, shuffled, head bowed, toward the first chemical bucket -

Days later I remember turning in a “current affairs” report complete with newspaper clippings taped down with shiny silver duct-tape. We simply had no transparent tape at home, and I risked life and limb sneaking into my father’s tool box to steal the duct-tape as it was! The teacher was less than pleased and gave me an “F” on the report. I think she should have given my parents an “F” on providing their kid with supplies, if you ask me.

Shannon (my wife) and I painted away at our soon-to-be-beautiful house. The only problem we had was a mysterious shadow of an old woman in a wheel chair that no amount of paint would cover -- very strange. After hours of work we decided to get some cold drinks at the local supermarket. We grabbed the dogs, who at this point had paint all over them as well, and walked over.

As was our tradition, I sat down on the floor outside the market with the dogs while Shannon went in to buy the groceries. I enjoyed the people watching, and the dogs enjoyed having me at their level for some canine “quality time.”

While Shannon shopped, I watched the world go by. There was the usual parade of people who would walk and comment on the dogs. The comments I got on Honey the husky fell into two basic categories: “What beautiful blue eyes!” and “Is that a wolf?” The comments on Albion the sheltie were usually “Oooh, look, its Lassie!” or “Is that a miniature collie?” Albion usually responded to this ignorance with a low growl.

One time, a nine-year-old asked if the husky was a wolf. I said no, and he looked at me like I was lying. So, I told him that she was indeed a wolf. I told him that I had been camping in the mountains and a wolf had snuck into our camp during the night and stolen my dog. I then tracked the wolf, climbed into it’s den, and stole one of it’s cubs in revenge. Honey was that cub, now grown up. The kid believed this story completely. Looking back I probably should have told him that I was lying. Oh well.

As I sat outside the supermarket petting the dogs a grubby looking guy walked up to me. His hair was unkempt, his jeans stained, his shirt shabby.

Grubby guy: “So, how’s this spot?”
Sam: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
Grubby guy: “You know, do you get much business here?”
Sam: “Oh, I don’t work here.”
Grubby guy: “Come on, you know what I mean, PANHANDLING -- is it a good spot for panhandling?”
Sam: - mind racing, looking down at my clothes -
“Oh, I’m not panhandling! I’m waiting for my wife, she’s inside!”
Grubby guy: “Yeah. Sure thing.”
Sam: “Honest! I’ve been painting my house.”
Grubby guy: - walks away with a look of disbeleif on his face -

I sat there in a complete and utter state of shock. Did he believe that I was actually a panhandler? Did he think that I was a panhandler that was in a state of total denial -- pretending I had a wife? Did he think I was lying to him to protect a really good panhandling spot to keep it for myself? Did he believe that I was actually who I said I was? Was he planning on “working” this spot himself later? And most disturbing of all, did I look that messy that EVERYONE who walked passed me thought I was a panhandler? My mind reeled.

As Shannon and I walked home I asked her:

Sam: “Do I look like a bum?”
Shannon: “No. Why do you ask?”
Sam: “A guy thought I was panhandling. He must have made that assumption based on what I was wearing.”
Shannon: “What was he wearing?”

Then I realized, he too was wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt. Then I remembered the shirt bore the words “Keep on Truckin’.”

Word Count: 1528

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.


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