Friday, September 30, 2005

Someday

Someday is safe, far into the future.
I don’t have to face it’s problems today
Or know all of its details.  
I don’t have to have its blueprints laid out.

I just have to know it’s there.
The promise off possibility.

It is a place for my dreams
Out of reach and protected.
Maybe I’ll get there
Maybe I won’t
Someday…

Sweet Cytherea

I have spent all sixteen years of my life in Hannibal, Missouri and I don’t plan on ever leaving. It’s not the greatest city in the world, but it’s a sufficient place to live and I like it. I’m just your average high school kid with plenty of friends, who likes to go out on weekends and watch a lot of TV. There’s nothing abnormal about my upbringing or family life, and I’m not harboring a secret passion for anything strange like worshipping dogs. But a couple of things happened last summer that are worth sharing.
Summer, at last, was here. It arrived as uneventfully as it had left nine months earlier. I remember in my younger days (it was so long ago) we would run and shout out of the building on the last day of school. Now, all I had ahead of me was late nights and early mornings at my burger-flipping job. My parents decided that it was time I learned some adult responsibilities and started taking care of myself. I don’t have to tell you that I didn’t particularly like this arrangement, but at least this way I would be making a lot more than ten bucks a week. Though when I would find the time to spend all of my newly found income failed to present itself to me.
What a promising summer! Enough grease to choke a couple of arteries—junk food galore and a neat little visor to match my neat little polo shirt. Such excitement awaited me. Flipping burgers wasn’t my ideal job, but it did the trick. Actually I started out sweeping floors, wiping tables and cleaning the rest rooms, but I was sure that I would eventually get promoted to handling the food before it was prepared rather than after it was digested.
Working nearly everyday wore me out. I didn’t get enough sleep and I barely had time to eat. Yeah, sure I got an employee discount at Burgers-R-Us, but knowing what I know now about what it is that they actually put in the food, I wouldn’t eat it if it was the last edible substance on earth.
There were a few up-sides to working other than the money it brought in. I met a few new people who were potential friend material and I gained some valuable work experience. I am now an expert at filling paper towel dispensers. Work was even fun—especially when Jesse worked. He was a very strange person. Though strange isn’t the right word to describe him. Eccentric is a bit more suitable. He was very quiet, but not exactly shy. He had this look about him that said, “touch me and I’ll kill you.” I can’t really say that I didn’t’ like him because I didn’t know him well enough to pick apart his personality and put a tag on it. Very few people actually talked to him, but nearly everyone talked about him. Various rumors spread that he was s drug dealer, a biker, and even a devil worshiper. None of which were disproved or confirmed. There was a new one every day. It was rather enjoyable to speculate about him, particularly when we knew he could hear us and never said anything to save his good name—if it was ever good. In fact, I think he liked it when people made up things about him.
We definitely gave him a reputation. According to our sources, he was a convicted criminal of such charges as armed robbery, kidnapping and murder. He was definitely a pimp and a druggie, though the police have never been able to prove any of it. He had at least six children, all with different mothers, and he owned a bazooka. Pretty far fetched, wouldn’t you say? I think he was probably laughing at all of us behind our backs for being so childish.
I had only been working two weeks and my first day off I spend alone. Most of my friends were with their families on vacation and my own parents were work-aholics. I had already flipped through all sixty channels of modern cable television and there was absolutely nothing on. What was left of my life? How did teenagers ever survive before the invention of the television? Well, I was about to find out. I located the remote and turned off the set. It was a nice day and still early, so I thought perhaps I might try experiencing a little nature. A walk in the park might be just the thing. Quite a switch from television, but, I decided, much more educational and intellectually stimulating. I felt smarter with just the thought.
The park wasn’t far from my house, and I was there in a matter of minutes. It was actually quite pleasant strolling amid the trees and bushes. Various creatures of the woods such as squirrels, rabbits, birds and the over-abundant insect accompanied me. But there was also another creature, sitting high in a tree with a book in his face. Complete with sunglasses and combat boots, Jesse was perched high in an oak branch.
As I walked closer, I could hardly control my laughter. Jesse? Reading? I didn’t think he actually could.
I stood there, beneath the tree for a few minutes. He finally noticed me. I expected an arrogant statement such as “Whata you lookin’ at?” But he looked more embarrassed and rather than speak, he tried to hide the book.
“Uh, hi,” was all he managed to get out.
I let out a faint giggle that was impossible to hold back. It was rather amusing, seeing him sitting there, trying to hide what he was doing. When I laughed at him, he was even more embarrassed, tried further to hide himself, and consequently, dropped his book. As I stooped to retrieve it, Jesse scrambled from his sanctuary in the tree. Feeling a surge of bravery and mischief, I took the book to a nearby park bench and began to flip through the pages. Naturally, he followed.
As I glanced through the pages, I noticed something odd about the book. It was full of plays and written in something other than your average teenage lingo. I looked at the cover and was amazed by the title. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare read across the front in gold letters. Shocked is hardly the word to describe my feelings. He took the book from my hands. I was too astonished to say anything. First, Jesse was reading. That was enough to cause a massive heart attack. But Shakespeare? No. It just couldn’t be.
As he took the book from me, I asked, “Are you really reading that?” He looked almost insulted.
“Yeah. Don’t you ever read?”
“Sure I do. I just didn’t think you did. Well, I mean, at least not Shakespeare.”
“Why not?”
“I dunno. You just don’t seem the type.” He grinned.
“What’s the type? You?” I didn’t answer him. “Have you ever read Shakespeare?” I shook my head. “Hear, read this.” He sat next to me and opened up the book to a poem titled, The Passionate Pilgrim.
“Sweet Cytherea, sitting by a brook
with young Adonis, lovely, fresh, and green,
Did court the lad with many a lovely look,
Such looks as none could look but beauty’s queen.
She told him stories to delight his ear;
Se show’d him favours to allure his eye;
To win his heart, she touch’d him here and there:
Touches so soft still conquer chastity.
But whether unripe years did what conceit,
Or he refus’d to take her fugur’d proffer,
The tender nibbler would not touch the bait,
But smile and jest at every gentle offer:
Then fell she on her back, fair queen, and toward;
He rose and ran away; ah, fool too froward!”
I read the passage, but I understood none of it. “What does it mean?” I asked, hoping that I didn’t sound too stupid. Apparently he didn’t think it a stupid question and went on to explain the passage in more familiar language. A girl was sitting on a brook. There was a guy there who liked her, and they sorta flirted with each other. But after a while, she practically threw herself at him, and he didn’t want her any more.
“How’d you know that?” I asked in amazement.
“You just gotta know hot to read it.” He said simply. For another hour or so, I read and Jesse explained. I ever really liked stuff like that, but hearing him explain it to me made it seem like so much more than anything I had ever read. I don’t think I had ever been so interested in anything that required this amount of thinking.
I went to work the next day expecting more than what I got. Jesse had put up his tough-guy façade again and was carrying on as if nothing had happened. He hadn’t said a word to me but I didn’t exactly go to extremes to strike up a conversation either.
I’m not sure you could say I was upset by it; I was more confused. Though even that is too harsh a word. But hey, it wasn’t as if we had made some eternal promise to each other, but it felt rather strange, almost like we were avoiding each other. I suppose I wasn’t doing anything less than I usually did, but it just didn’t feel right.
I went on break somewhere around one o’clock, and decided to spend it outside. After all, I didn’t have much of a chance to work on my nonexistent tan, so maybe if nothing else, I’d be lucky enough to enhance my watch line. After a few minutes, I watched Jesse come out of the building and walk towards me.
“Thanks for not saying anything,” he said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“About yesterday. I mean, it might…well…”
“Ruin your image?”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “I kinda like the way people think of me.”
“As a criminal?”
“No. Just that they pretty much leave me alone. I’m not exactly the social type. I like to be by myself.”
I felt insulted by that. Did he mean he wanted me to stay away from him? Well there was only one way to find out. I gathered up my courage and said:
“Well, I guess I’ll join my fellow Jesse haters. I wouldn’t want to interrupted you and yourself.” I started to walk away, but was abruptly halted by a powerful grip around my forearm.
“Hey, I didn’t mean you.”
“What’s so different about me?”
He smiled and said, “I like the way you read.”
I smiled back at him, not knowing what else to say. At that moment, I saw something in Jesse that I’d never recognized before. I don’t know what it was, maybe I never will. But it was then that I knew he and I would be very close in the days to come.
Each day that following week I met him at the park. I read Shakespeare while he explained it. I found that I not only liked what I was reading, but I was also growing quite attached to Jesse. I liked hearing his voice: soft and deep—his words chosen carefully. I could tell that each word I read affected him in a similar way. I’d often look at him between sentences and notice that his eyes were closed as if he were somehow lost in my voice.
At work, we were strangers. I didn’t participate in the daily gossip, but I pretended to be interested in it. It was near torture to see him for an entire grueling shift everyday and not so much as say “hello” to him. I knew I was starting to have strong feelings for him and it was tearing me apart inside.
Three weeks we spent like this. Meeting secretly every evening, ignoring each other during the day. But on one early July evening, things began to change.
We had stopped reading about an hour ago, and just sat talking. We didn’t say things that were incredibly important, maybe a few things here and there, but for the most part it was just casual chatting. One thing I realized was that Jesse was not one to reveal things about himself. Any and all emotion was bottled up inside of him. You could tell by the way he talked. He wasn’t exactly stiff, but every once in a while some piece of anger or happiness would creep out of him, and as soon as he recognized it, it would hide itself again in the protection of his body.
It was interesting to watch him talk. He rarely looked directly at me, but usually it was straight ahead. If I were the one talking, then he would look at me, but otherwise, no. I didn’t know if it was planned that way or not. But it seemed like he was trying to avoid my gaze.
When the sun had finally gone down, I figured I should probably be getting home. But when I stood up, a strange thing happened. He kissed me. I didn’t expect it, but I think in a way I had been hoping for it for a long time.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I watched him walk away and then left myself. It was the first real emotion I had ever seen in him.
Things were quite different after that day. We still didn’t speak at work and did much less reading when we were together. One night, things went too far.
I’ll never say that I regretted it because I didn’t. But I did get pregnant. That, I regret. My parents were not exactly thrilled with me at that point. I suffered through a lot of lectures and made a lot of apologies, but I was glad to have them with me. The whole thing was pretty scary. Jesse was very supportive. He came with me to all of my doctor visits and even seemed happy sometimes—like he was excited about the baby. We even talked about naming him Benvolio or Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet.
When school started back up, I got a lot of funny looks. No one could believe that I was pregnant. I started to get a reputation like Jesse’s—everyone was speculating as to whom the father was. It’s strange how no one ever asked me. I wonder what I would have said.
Jesse and I developed a relationship at school similar to the one we’d had at work. It got to be kinda fun. We’d listen to the various rumors going on about us separately and try not to laugh. It was like we knew something no one else did.
Jesse stayed with me through everything. I was afraid that he wouldn’t. There were days when I thought, “what if everything people say about him is true? What if he just walks away?” He never did. He took care of me and loved me.
In December we had a few ice storms. I was walking up the stairs to my house one day and slipped. I started bleeding very badly. I remember sitting on the frozen steps screaming at the top of my lungs—more out of fear than pain. Someone called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital. The first one there was Jesse. He was crying and holding my hand and praying that I’d be ok.
I was fine. I lost the baby, but I was fine. Jesse stayed with me in the hospital despite everyone’s urges that he should get some rest. He didn’t listen to any of them. He said he just wanted to stay with me and make sure I was ok.
That was the most frightening thing I’ve ever been through. Of course several more rumors began when I went back to school. Everything from abortion to alien abduction floated around the hallways. Then there was that annoying fear again that Jesse would leave me. Why should he stay? He didn’t have any obligations to me anymore. But he stayed. We started reading Shakespeare again. I had missed it. It reminded me of those summer days we spent sprawled in the grass analyzing literature. It made me forget the baby I’d lost and the fear that surfaced every now and then.
Things like this make life worth living. What if I had never gotten my summer job? What if I had never taken a walk in the park that day? What if… The unanswerable questions go on and on. There is no “what if?” Things happened. This is my life—wherever it takes me, it’s the only one I’ve got. I’m going to make the most of it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Construction

Things were going amazingly well for Crazy Angie and me that I could hardly believe it.  I kept waiting for something to go wrong.  Our liquor license wasn’t completely established yet, so that was foremost in my mind.  I must admit that it had occurred to me that Judge Larson might have agreed to help us simply in a drunken stupor.  This may well have been the case, and then we would quite frankly be in a bar without a license.  You can’t have a bar without a license!  That’s the simple truth of it!  I tried not to worry about it.  If nothing else, I would simply head over to Bill’s Bar and Grill and seek the judge out myself, and demand that keep up his end of the bargain.  Of course, if he refused, there was nothing I could do, but I wasn’t about to let that get in my way.  We had come this far.  I wasn’t about to give up so easily now.  
Aside from the liquor license, Crazy Angie and I had other things to deal with.  We’d gotten the blueprints back from Tuanna and we were expecting the construction workers to show up at any time.  
The foreman of our job was a Mr. Limony.  He was apparently a very experienced construction worker and came highly recommended to us by Tuanna.  I couldn’t wait to meet him.  I had gotten along so well with her that I thought anyone she approved of must be quite likeable.  
He finally showed up one day after school.  Crazy Angie and I were waiting for him at the bar.  She was inside practicing the phone.  We’d just had it hooked up and she was eager to get a few calls in before the construction started.  While she was inside, I was surveying the grounds.  (I say that as if we had an immense piece of property.)  I was walking around the rear of the building when I heard voices.
“Oh yeah, this will all have to come down.  No, there’s no way we can keep it up.”
“It’s really a shame.”
“Yeah, you don’t see artistry like this anymore.”  I followed the voices to the front of the building; curious as to whom they belonged.  What I found before me was quite possibly the strangest sight I’ve ever beheld—well, except for perhaps the authentic lunatic.  
There was a man bent over next to one of our walls with a tape measure.  A woman was standing next to him, watching.  They both had their backs to me.  The man, I could see, looked like a construction worker.  You know the type—long hair on the sides, no hair on the top, plumbers butt—typical construction worker.  However, their dialogue concerned me.  Tearing things down?  That would never do.  I decided to interrupt.  
“’Scuse me.  Can I help you?”  They both turned around, startled by my voice.  
“Yes, we were sent over by Zinger, Stringer, and Carpet-Bringer,” the man said.
“Oh, you’re the construction team!”
“Well, part of it.  I’m Al Limony.  This is my wife Sarah.”
“Did you say Al?”
“Yeah.”
I was a little taken aback.  Al Limony—that was an interesting name.  Unfortuante, too.  I overlooked it.  
“Nice to meet you.  I’m Robin, the owner.”  Now it was their turn to be taken aback.  
“You are?”
“Yes.  Well, co-owner really.  My partner, Cr—, uh, I mean Angie is inside working with the phone system.”  I didn’t think it would be wise to alert them to the mental instability of my partner.  
We stood there in an awkward silence for a few moments before I asked,
“So, what’s all of this about tearing things down?”
“Oh, well, your outer walls aren’t in great shape.  It would be a good idea to tear them down and start with fresh materials.”
I frowned.  “Wait a second—are you telling me that basically you’re going to tear down the walls and build new ones?”
“Uh, yeah, that’s pretty much it.”
“No no.  I don’t think that’s going to work at all.”
Now, Al and Sarah were frowning.  “Why not?”
“Well, I asked for renovations—not a new building.  If you take down the walls I won’t have a building anymore.”
“That’s true, but it’s just not a good idea to have walls like these.  They’re not in great shape.”
“Not in great shape, you say?  Are they going to fall down?”
“Well, no, but it’s just not a good idea…”
“Al, Sarah, let me fill you in on a few things.  My partner and I are fifteen and we own a bar.  We’re not really concerned about what is or is not a good idea.  Also, being such young women, we are not as stupid as we may look.  Well, I’m not anyway.  I’m not about to pay for you to tear down my walls and build new ones.  Let’s just work with what we have.”  I was proud of myself for being so direct.  I was quickly learning that in my situation, I had to be aggressive and confident.  Everyone would be skeptical of my business abilities, and therefore, try to take advantage of me.  I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Al and Sarah seemed unsure of my response, but in the end, I think they realized that they really didn’t have anything to say in the matter.  It was, after all, my building.  Besides that, I knew that Jim Silo would never have sold us a building that was in any danger of falling apart.  If he had, Ned would be after him.  I was confident in my decision.  
The Limonys and I went over the plans that Tuanna had drawn up (which, by the way, did not include knocking the walls down) and worked out a tentative schedule.  They would be building us a bar, a stage, a lab, storage room, tables and chairs, bar stools, and a nice glass cabinet in which to keep our glassware.  It was all very exciting.  
Within a day or two, an entire team of construction workers swarmed around the inside of the bar.  The banging and drilling was enough to drive me insane, but given that we already had one crazy owner, I did my best to stay away from the noise.  Crazy Angie, Tuanna, and I worked on the details of the lab.
“We’re going to need some kind of secret entrance.  I think the best place for it would be behind the storage room.  No one but employees would be going into the storage room anyway, and we could put the door somewhere conspicuous.”  My suggestions were welcomed but we were running out of space.  The storage room would take up most of what was left of our little building.  We would need a rather extensive lab to do the kind of work Crazy Angie was planning.  
As we toiled over designs, we were suddenly interrupted by a loud scream.
“Aahhhh!”  The three of us turned toward the sound, startled.  
“What was that?”  I asked.  Al came running over a few seconds later.  
“Uh, slight problem.  Aparently the floor isn’t too stable—atleast not under the storage area.  I had a man fall through.”
“Fall through?  You mean there’s no ground under this building?”
“No, seems to be some kind of basement or something.”
“And you say he fell through the floor?”
“Yeah.”
“Wow!”  Crazy Angie added.  “That’s great!”
“Great?!  Whaddaya mean great?  A man has fallen through the floor!”
“Yeah!  And we have a basement!  That’s perfect for the lab!”  
I opened my mouth to scold, but then thought better of it.  She was right.  This meant more room.  “Quite right!  Let’s move the lab to the basement.  Can we do that Al?”
“Yeah.  Shouldn’t be too much trouble.  We’re gonna need to fix this floor though.”
“Naturally,” I said sarcastically.  What kind of a construction worker was this Al Limony anyway?  Of course you’re going to have to fix the floor first!  
Tuanna, Crazy Angie and I got back to our plans for the lab.  This would change everything.  After further inspection of the basement, we discovered that indeed we did have quite a bit more room.  We planned to have an extensive kitchen for all of Crazy Angie’s creations.  She also insisted on something akin to an industrial sized chemistry set.  
“I need it!  You wouldn’t want to stifle my creativity would you?”  She sounded like a two year old.  
“Well, no, I suppose not.  But you’d better have some pretty good stuff in that head of yours or all of this is going to put us out of business.”
     The lab was the most involved part of the reconstruction of the bar.  As such, we left it for last.  The Limonys had done a great job on the interior of the bar.  Their work was very professional and thorough.  Aside from my first impression of them, I liked them very much.  They seemed quite interested in our little project, and, I suspected, would become patrons once everything was finished.  
     One evening, while the construction team was working on the lab, Crazy Angie and I stood behind our bar, looking at what we had created.  
     "I like it, " Crazy Angie said.  "It looks much better than when we started."
     "Well, yeah, but it still needs something.  What makes it original?  What makes it ours?  What makes it not boring?"  We both thought for a few moments.  It really was boring.  This was terrible!  Here we were, creating an atmosphere that was supposed to cure any and all boredom, and we were bored looking at the place.  
     "You're right.  It is boring."
     "We need to decorate.  We need someone who can come in here and decorate the place."
     "Yes," Crazy Angie said.  "A real arteest!"
     "A what?"
     "An Arteest.  You know, one of those French people."
     "You mean an artist?"
     "Well, that's not what they call them in France."  
     I shook my head in frustration.  In reality, she had the right idea.  We did need a decorator of some type.  We needed someone with great artistic vision, and extensive experience in decorating bars--and it needed to be cheap.  We didn't have much money left.  The construction of the lab was pretty expensive.  I really wanted to avoid unleashing the Authentic Lunatic if I could.  But where to find such an arteest, as Crazy Angie put it?  I supposed we could advertise for one, but that would cost more money.  That would mean another show for the Authentic Luantic.  I wanted to keep that as my last resort.  I decided to sleep on it.  
     “Let’s call it a day, Crazy Angie.  We can worry about decorating tomorrow.”  Maybe by then I’d have an idea about it.

Creating a Boredom-Free Atmosphere

The bar needed a tremendous amount of work.  I hardly knew where to begin.  Even after all of the cleaning, the building was in horrible disrepair.  The windows were cracked, the floorboards were creaky, there was no water into the building, there was no actual bar (which is kind of important in this line of work), and various other odds and ends that needed fixing up before we could even think about opening.  Given that this building was just walls, I decided that Crazy Angie and I needed to formulate some type of design.  We needed to decide how we wanted the place laid out.  
“Ok,” I began.  “We have to figure out just what we need in this place.”
“Whaddaya mean?”
“Well, we can’t just have a bar and stools.  We need to decide if we want to have a kitchen, a bathroom, entertainment facilities, stuff like that.”
“Oh.  Yeah, I think all that stuff sounds good.”
“Ok, well it takes a little more work than that.  We have to figure out where we want to put everything.”  We hashed it out for a while and finally came up with several things that we both agreed were absolutely necessary.  We of course, needed a bar, stools to go with it, and the complimentary tables and chairs.  We thought live entertainment would be nice, so that meant we needed a stage and a sound system.  What bar is complete without a bathroom?  Where else would patrons go to regurgitate everything they’d just spent their money on?  
We wanted a kitchen, because what’s beer without pretzels?  And for those who don’t like pretzels, we wanted to offer other appetizers.  We had finally laid everything out when Crazy Angie brought up another requirement.
“I need a lab.”
“A what?”
“A lab.  I need a place to create.”
“Create?  What are you talking about?”
     “Well, I have a few ideas on different types of drinks.”
     I thought for a moment on what Crazy Angie was suggesting.  If we were truly going to be an original bar, we couldn’t be caught doing things the ordinary way.  We needed to be completely different.  We needed to create and invent our own drinks.  This would give us exclusivity.  People could only come to our bar to get our drinks.  It was a great idea.
     “I think you’re right.  A lab would be a great idea.  We need to get working on those drinks as soon as possible.  As soon as our liquor license comes in, I want you to start inventing.  Think you can handle it?”
     “Yeah!  Yeah, I just think I might be able to do that.”  Crazy Angie was happy with the confidence I was showing in her.  After all, we were partners.  And if she could get people to pay to see her act like a loon, I had no doubt in her abilities to create wonderful drunken masterpieces.  
     The first thing we needed for the construction of our bar was an architect.  I had no gift for building design.  Crazy Angie certainly didn’t.  This was clearly a job we needed to contract out.  I was hesitant about re-visiting Ned.  We’d given him too much information already.  My second option was simply checking the phone book.  
     I called around to a few places, but most of them hung up on me when I told them the type of work I needed done.  It seemed that my voice gave away more of my age than I thought.  I tried to sound older, but that only seemed to make them more suspicious and they hung up faster.  I suppose I couldn’t blame them.  If I was an architectural firm and I received a call from a young sounding female, I would most likely assume that someone was playing a prank.  How could they know that I was completely and totally serious?
     Finally, a string of luck!  I came across a strange sounding firm at the end of the list.  Zinger, Stringer, and Carpet-Bringer was the last listing in the book.  I had come this far, and decided I might as well call them.  I had just spent the last several hours berating various unknown people for being so judgmental.  How could I become a hypocrite and dismiss this very strange sounding firm on simply their name?  I called.
     “Zingerstringercarpetbringer, thisis Jackie?”  Jackie had strung all of the names together which made the whole thing sound like one unidentifiable word.  She was chewing gum, which probably didn’t help.
     “Hello Jackie.  I am in need of architectural services.”
     “Well, that’s what we do.  What sorta work are ya needin’?”
     “I need a little rehabilitation work done on a bar.”
     “Uh huh.  What’s the location?”
     “6710 Grand Boulevard.  It’s in pretty rough shape.”
     “Uh huh.  You need blueprints for your construction team or ya wanna use ours?”
     “Well, to be honest, Jackie, I’m not sure yet.”
     “Uh huh.  Business or residence?”
“Business.”
“Uh huh.  Name?”
     “Well, we don’t have a name yet.”
     “Uh huh.”  I had just realized that Jackie had started every sentence with ‘Uh huh’ and it was starting to annoy me.  “You wanna have someone come down for a quote?”
     “Oh, yes!  That would be fabulous.”
     “Uh huh.  I’ll have one of the architects call you to set up an appointment.”
     “Great.  Thank you so much Jackie.”
     “Uh huh.”  With that, we both hung up.  
     I didn’t dwell too much on Jackie or her strange phone manner.  Who was I to criticize?  I hung around with a total nut case—a real authentic lunatic.  It wasn’t long before Tuanna Carpet-Bringer called me.
     “Yees, I’m tryin’ ta reach a Miz Shlic—a Shleech—uh…”
     “It’s Robin.”  I had one of those impossible German names that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  
     “Raht.  Sorry ‘bout thayat.”
     “Oh, it’s no problem.  No one gets it on the first try.”
     “Uh ha ha.”  She had a perfectly charming southern accent.  “Mah name is Toowanna Carpet-Bringah.  I’m an architect with Zingah, Stringah, Carpet-Bringah.”
     “Oh, good!”  I said.  “I’ve been expecting your call.”
     “Wundahfull!  We need ta git tagethah and discuss youhr buildin’, raht?”
     “Yes, that’s right.”
     “Wundahfull.  When is a good tahm fuh me ta come on down theah?”
     “Well, anytime really is fine.  We’re not really working on a schedule yet.”
     “Wundahfull.  How about I come on down tamarrah, say, ‘roun 3:00?”
     “That sounds fine.”  I was having a hard time not laughing at her accent.  She said “wundahfull” almost as much as Jackie had said “Uh huh.”  We hung up after the complimentary farewells and I actually felt good about Tuanna.  She was the first person Angie and I had dealt with who wasn’t hanging up on us or looking down their noses at us because we were young.  
     I think we ought to be commended for our determination.  We were really attempting the highly unlikely.  We were doing a service to mankind.  Years—no, decades from now, people would be singing our praises for finding the cure for boredom.  We would be celebrities.  Perhaps even win the Nobel Prize.  I smiled at the thought.  But it would all have to wait.  There was so much to be done!
     I summoned Crazy Angie away from her broom and told her about Tuanna.
     “You say she’s southern?”
     “It sure sounds like it.  She has such a neat accent.  It’s, well, it’s kinda sweet.  I don’t really know how else to put it.  Anyway, she’ll be here tomorrow around three.  We have to make sure to come right over after school.  
     How are things coming with the sweeping?”
     “Uh, not so good.  I’m not getting up any actual dirt.”  She looked confused and disappointed. I looked at the broom, making sure there were no defects, and asked Crazy Angie to demonstrate for me.  At once, I saw the problem.  She was sweeping correctly, but the broom bristles were about three inches off of the ground.  I instructed her further as to how to place the broom actually on the floor, and she seemed relieved when a small pile of dirt began to form beneath the bristles.  I just shook my head at her and smiled.  It was Crazy Angie’s little quirks that made her such a joy to be around.
     The next day, Tuanna arrived promptly at 3:00.  She was just as charming as she sounded.  She was a very young, pretty, woman, with chocolate skin and soft wavy hair.  Her face was brightly painted, while still remaining tasteful.  She was very pretty and not at all what I expected in an architect.  
     “Ha theah!  I’m Toowanna Carpet-Bringah, yor architect.”
     She didn’t seem at all taken aback by our ages.
     “Hello!”  I said and introduced Crazy Angie and myself.  Tuanna was wonderful.  She was one of those people who just made you want to smile.  She was so cheerful and motivated.  
     Tuanna was an excellent architect.  We told her what sort of things we wanted and she was full of ideas.  She made preliminary sketches and mumbled as she thought out loud.  Crazy Angie and I just stood by as she worked, answering questions and approving ideas as she asked for input.  She had wonderful ideas for the lab.  It would be in a secret location with a secret entrance.  Crazy Angie agreed that this was essential.  I went along with it.  It seemed like a fine idea to me.  I was sure Crazy Angie had all sorts of weird things she was going to be doing in the lab and the less our customers knew about it, the better.  
     Tuanna spent about three hours with us, just looking things over.  I must admit I was really surprised that she didn’t take one look at us and get back into her car.  As she was getting ready to leave, I thought I’d bring my concern to her attention.
     “So, tell me Tuanna, how is it that you’re ok with working for a couple of teenagers?”
     She laughed.  Such a charming laugh!  “Oh, honey, I’ve worked fuh strangah folk then yoo.  I figuh if yoo need work ta be dun, I might as well be the one ta do it.”  What a refreshing point of view!  
Tuanna left, promising to have blueprints for us by the end of the week.  Once that was done, and everything was approved, she’d send them over to the construction team and they’d get to work on everything.  
‘Wow,’ I thought.  We were actually doing this.  We were actually remodeling a building and turning it into a business.  We were actually finding the cure for boredom.  Just wait until our doors opened to the public!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Formality

Crazy Angie and I went back to Jim Silo’s office and paid him for our building.  I signed the title, given that there could be no meeting of the minds with someone like Angie, since she had no mind.  It was all completely legal.  We were now the proud owners of 6710 Grand Boulevard—a bar.  
The place was a wreck.  It was pretty much just four walls and a roof (bonus!).  We got to work sprucing the place up right away.  I did most of the work.  Crazy Angie had one task, sweeping the floor.  She had quite a bit of trouble.  I now know what a mistake I made in putting that request upon her.  She couldn’t figure out which way to hold it or just how to coordinate the actual sweeping.  Then there was the dirt—what on earth to do with it?  She was absolutely pitiful.  Needless to say, I did the sweeping—and the mopping, scrubbing, cleansing, scouring, disinfecting and any other task that involves removing unwanted germs and dust particles from an old building.  But it was clean and it was ours—well, mine really.  Crazy Angie may have made most of the money, but we both agreed that it would be best if I were the official owner.  
“Well, we’ve got the building.  Now what?”  Crazy Angie asked.  
“We need liquor, furniture, a license to sell this stuff, and of course, customers.”
“Right.  How are we gonna do that?”
I thought for a moment and then realized that I had no idea.  The furniture was relatively easy.  If nothing else, our customers could stand or sit on the floor.  We could even have a promotion—bring your own chair night!  But how did one go about getting a liquor license?  That was just to sell the stuff.  How would we purchase the liquor to sell?  
“Crazy Angie, I hate to admit it, but I’m stumped.  I have no idea how we’re going to do this.  It’s getting pretty late.  Maybe we should call it a night and head home.  We can come up with a new plan tomorrow.”  As we headed home, I was beginning to think that our age might really be a problem.  To be honest, I didn’t think we would have made it this far.  I mean, we had bought a building—with cash!  Just the thought that we had come so far made me all the more determined not to quit.  We were on the verge of a breakthrough here!  A cure for boredom!  We’d be famous.  People would be lining up to come to our bar.  Any and every bored person in the country would be making pilgrimages to 6710 Grand.  No!  The dream must not die here!  I wasn’t going to let a little thing like the law get in my way.  
The next morning, I told Crazy Angie to put on another performance of the Authentic Lunatic.  We were going to need a little more money.  I went to City Hall to obtain our liquor license.  
When I got to the licensing office I asked for the judge in charge.  
“I’m sorry. You’ll have to give me the name of the person you want to speak to,” the clerk told me.  I put on my best annoyed face.  
“Well, if I knew his name I’d give it to you.  Do you mean to tell me that you work here and you don’t know who’s in charge?  What kind of an office is this?  What kind of a clerk are you?”
“Ma’am, you’re going to have to tell me who you want to speak to.”
“I’ve already told you who I want to speak to.  You’d better get him out here pretty quick or I’ll cause a scene.”  I had already been causing a scene and the clerk seemed to realize this.  Several people had gathered into the hallway to see what all the commotion was about.  
“Ok, so you want to see a judge?”
“Yes!  I believe I’ve made that plainly clear.”
“Just a moment.”
Before long, an older man came out from an inner office and said,
“What seems to be the trouble here?”
“Trouble?  Where do I start?  The lines are too long, the clerks are rude, if you step out of line and you’re number is called, you have to take another number.  There’s a funny smell in the hallways, there are too many stairs, and I can’t find a parking spot anywhere.  That enough trouble for you?”  I asked, clearly annoyed.  
“Well, then—is that why you’re here—to address issues with City Hall?”
“No, no!  I need a liquor license.”
“Oh, you do, do you?”
“Yes I do.”
“How old are you?”
“Much older than I look.”
“Just what would you possibly want with a liquor license?”
“Well, to be quite honest, my best friend, Crazy Angie and I have recently purchased a building that we would like to convert into a bar.  We can only do that with a license to sell liquor.”
“I see.  And you think I’m going to give you a liquor license?”
“Well, you’re capable.  Quite honestly, you’d be a fool not to.  We’re on the verge of a breakthrough.”
“Really?  What sort of breakthrough?”  He had a sarcastic tone in his voice, which I found to be rather discouraging.  
“Well, I’ve found the cure for boredom.”
“You have?”  He was definitely skeptical.
“Yes I have.”     “So what is it?”
I thought for a moment.  I could tell him that I thought the cure for boredom lied in the establishment of a bar owned by two sixteen year old girls and consisting of various legal entertainment, but then he might try to monopolize on my clever plan and reap the rewards himself.  
“You know,” I began, “I don’t think you’re going to help me even if I do tell you.  So I’ll just take my business elsewhere.”  With that, I stormed off, pausing to turn down the hall to look at the man and the clerk snickering and shaking their heads.  Fine.  They could just be that way.  I’d find some way to get us going.
I decided to walk over to our building on Grand for inspiration.  On the way, I came across Bill’s Bar and Grill.  ‘Hmmm,’ I thought to myself, ‘it’s a bar and grill, it’s the middle of the day, they have to let me in.’ I ventured forth in search of a Diet Pepsi, my drink of choice.  I sat down at the bar and waited.  Before long, a 40-something man came over to where I sat.  
“Can I help you?”  He asked.  There was that skeptical tone again.  What was with everybody?  
“Are you Bill?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, Bill, I wonder if you might have time to chat with me over a Diet Pepsi.”
“Well, gee, I dunno.  Are you old enough?”
“That’s cute Bill.  Really cute.  Seriously though, do you have a minute?”
“Sure.  Just a sec.”  Bill trotted off after my Diet Pepsi and got one for himself before returning to my barstool.  “So, what’s on your mind?  Boyfriend troubles?  Lost your job?  Can’t get a later curfew?”
“You know Bill, you sound a little condescending.”
“Sorry.  It’s just not every day that a kid comes in here, orders a diet soda and asks the bartender for advice.”
“Well, maybe not but is that any reason to shove your old age in her face?  Besides, who said I needed advice?  What I need is a liquor license.”
“What?”
“Oh, ya heard me.  A liquor license—you know, a piece of paper that says that I’m allowed to sell liquor to persons over twenty one as long as I’m so far away from churches and schools and all of that other stuff.  Surely you know what that is.”  I was trying my own luck at condescension.  It seemed to be working.
“Yes, of course I know what a liquor license is.  I’m just wondering what you want one for.”
“Duh!  To sell liquor.  Isn’t that what one typically uses a license for selling liquor for?  Geez Bill, I dunno what kind of bar this is, but as far as bartenders go, you’re not too bright.”
He frowned at me.  “Ok.  No more kid jokes.  So you want a liquor license.  I’m guessing the traditional way of applying at City Hall is out of the question.”
“Precisely.  Been there.  Done that.”
“Well, I’d say you’re up a creek.”
“Thanks Bill.  You’ve been a great help.”
Just then, a loud voice came booming into the bar demanding a beer.  A large, yet old body followed it.
“Bill!  Where the crap are ya?  Where’s my beer?  And don’t gimme one a them stinkin’ drafts this time.  I want the good stuff.”  The old loud man sat himself down on the bar stool next to mine.  
“Sure Judge.  It’ll be right up.”
Judge?  Did he just say judge?  I assumed my ears had not deceived me and approached said judge.
“’Scuse me, sir.  Are you a judge?”
“Darn right I am.  What of it?”
“Well, sir, I wondered if I might buy you a round.”  He peered at me curiously.  
“How old are you?”
“Well!  How rude!  Didn’t anyone ever tell you that it’s not polite to ask a lady her age?”
Suddenly, aware of his manners, the judge apologized.  “Oh, beg your pardon ma’am.  I’m afraid I’m a little intoxicated.”
“Well, we should all be so lucky.”  I remarked.  
He looked at me confused.  “Huh?”
“It’s unfortunate that those who wish to be drunk are unable.  Don’t you think?”
“I don’t follow.”
“Are you married, sir?”
“Your Honor.  And yes I am.”
“Oh, pardon me Your Honor.  Is your wife like so many other wives?”
“Ya mean does she nag me an’ hound me an’ holler at me ta ‘take the garbage out!’?”  He said the last remark with a high-pitched scraggly tone and scrunched up his face.  
“Precisely!”
“Don’ git me wrong.  I lover an’ all—she’s my wife.  I jus’ sometimes wish she’d leemee alone.  Thas why I’m ‘ere.  I needa drink.”
“I know just what you mean.  Now, think of those poor souls who are unable to find such an escape.  They may wander into an old pub or a karaoke bar but nothing quite eases their pain.”
“Oh!  It hurts jus thinkin’ ‘bout it!”
“How do you feel about this place?  Does Bill’s Bar and Grill satisfy your needs?  It seems a bit dull to me.  It’s really…what’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Boreing?”
“Yes!  That’s it.”
“I know whatcha mean.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a bar that cured that awful feeling?”
“Boredom?”
“Yes!”  Oh, this was way too easy.
“Well, I suppose that’d be real nice.”
“It would, wouldn’t it?  I just wish I was older.”
“Older?  What for?”
“Well, if I was older, I could get the license I need to build just the place.”  By now, the judge had had about four beers on top of whatever he’d had when he got in.  His words were slurring together so badly I could hardly make out what he was saying.  
“Ohyeah.  That age thing.  It’s kinda a painintheneck.  Yoo reallythink yoocud builda place likeat?”
“Absolutely.  I just need someone to give me the license.  Unfortunately, judges with your understanding are hard to come by.”  I paused.  “Hey, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me out?”
“I could do ‘at, couldn’t I?  I’m a judge.”
“Fabulous!  I really appreciate it Your Honor.”
“Sure.  No prollem.  I’m sure yerra gonna doo jus swell.”  With that he passed out right on the bar.  I barely noticed.  I was so excited!  I had to find Crazy Angie.  I headed off to the Central West End in search for an authentic lunatic.  
When I reached the site where Crazy Angie was performing, I found her surrounded by a crowd of people.  I could barely see her above the heads of the crowd.  As I pushed my way through, I could see that she had somehow bent herself into a pretzel shape and was lying on the sidewalk bolting out her own rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  
“Ee eye ee eye oh!  And on that farm he had a rhinoceros.  Ee eye ee eye oh!  With a—“
“Crazy Angie!”  I yelled into the crowd.  She halted, mind rhino squawk, searching the group for my familiar face.  Finding it, she ended her performance.
“All right people, show’s over.  The farmer’s packin’ it up for the day.”  As the crowd dispersed I heard several expressions of
“Brilliant!”  and “Such artistic genious.”  One even exclaimed, “I wish I were that talented.”  I merely stared in disbelief.  Perhaps this was the ultimate cure for boredom.  
“Any luck with the liquor license?” she asked.
“Unbelievable luck!  I actually found a drunken judge who fully supports our entrepreneurial spirit.  He’s going to get right on it as soon as he regains consciousness.”
“Are you serious?  That’s great!  Amen hallelujah chunky peanut butter!”
“Um, yeah.  How’s your fiasco going?”
“Fiasco?!  What do you mean?  I’m an artist.  People love me.  I’m a modern day poet.  Did you see me?  Could you hear my singing?  I’m incredible and I have the cramps in my back to prove it!”
“Oh whatever.  We have lots to do.”
“Right.  But what about my show?”
“The farmer’s retiring, Crazy Angie.  Deal with it.”
She let out a humpf.  
We headed back to her house to organize our plan.  Actually, we needed to formulate a plan.  We now had our building, a license, and at least one customer.  I was thinking of advertising that the authentic lunatic would now be seen exclusively at our bar.  That would bring in a few people, but then I remembered our purpose—to cure boredom.  We had a mission.  We would not depart from it.  We were determined to cure mankind of the plague from which it suffered endlessly.  We would stay on task and in the end, succeed!  I had so motivated myself that I needed a moment to let it all sink in.  But, there was such work to be done.  

Oh My Lord, How the Money Rolled In

I hate big banks.  They seem to find every possible way to charge people to access their own money.  I mean, don’t they make enough money on interest from loaning out my money?  Why should I have to pay to make a cash withdrawal from the teller line when the ATM is out of order?  That just doesn’t seem right.  Why should I pay them for not keeping enough money in my savings account?  Shouldn’t they be paying me to let them loan out my money to other people?  I won’t go on any further about banks, but I will say that it was my dislike for large financial institutions that led me to the local credit union.  
I already had a very miniscule savings account there so I thought it would be most convenient for me to remain their customer.  
I walked in the door and waited at the receptionist’s desk.  The receptionist was a young woman with big hair and long nails.  She was chewing gum very loudly and talking on the phone.  She didn’t even glance at me when I approached her.  I waited patiently for a few minutes but she still paid me no attention.  I thought perhaps this phone call she was on must have been very important for her to be so engrossed.  However, the minute she belted out “I can’t believe you didn’t tell him where to stick it!”, I knew it must have been a personal call.  I didn’t dare speculate as to what whomever she was discussing might be sticking anywhere.  Instead, I decided to quietly clear my throat.  
“Ah hem.”  
“I mean, really!  The nerve!  What is it with men?”
“AH HEM.”
“You should have told him to get his grubby mitts off your—“
“Excuse me!”  I didn’t want to wait for the exact location of his “mitts”.  I was a minor after all.  
“Hold on a sec.  Yeah?”  She asked, clearly annoyed.  
“I’d like to see someone about opening an account.”
“Uh!  How old are you?”
Now I was annoyed.  “I’m sixty-seven.  How old are you?”  I was not having luck with receptionists today.  She raised her eyebrows at my remark, but told me to sign my name on the register and wait on a nearby couch.  
Thankful to be out of earshot of the risqué conversation between the receptionist and the recipient of Mr. Grubby Mitts, I relaxed into the sofa and browsed the selection of outdated magazines scattered on the end table.       I had just found an interesting article on how to remodel your bathroom on a $50 budget, when my name was called and I was summoned to the desk of one of many bankers.  
“How can I help you today?”  Marylyn, the banker, was a heavily made-up woman probably in her early forties.  She was pretty, but slightly artificial.  Her tone was very calming and sincere.  She was pleasant.  I thought for certain that I might find her most helpful in my quest for the cure for boredom.  
“Well, Marylyn, I need to open a second account.”
“I see,” she said with delight.  “What type of account do you need?”
“Checking, I think.  I’m going to be depositing a large sum of money into it in the next few days and I want to make sure those funds are readily available.”  I tried to use my best banker-talk.  I’d seen enough commercials and read enough of my own bank statements to know a few terms that were supposed to be important.  
Marylyn looked confused.  I thought perhaps I’d used the wrong words, but then I realized that she was more concerned with the fact that I, a very young lady, wanted to open a checking account.  Her brows wrinkled together and her face held a slight frown.
“You need a checking account?  Are you sure?  How about a savings account?  I think that might better suit your needs.”
“No, no, I have a savings account already.  Besides, I need something separate from my personal funds that I can keep track of my business spending with.  I think a checking account would be perfect.”
This seemed to confuse Marylyn further.  
“Your business?”
“Yes.  I’m an entrepreneur.”
“I see.”  She clearly did not.  “Well, then, I’ll need to see proof of your age.   You need to be at least sixteen to open a checking account.”
I had that covered.  I pulled out my drivers’ license, which was valid, though brand new.  I really had no use for it.  Crazy Angie and I walked everywhere and I didn’t have a car or the use of my parents.  It worked out fine for me.  Everything I needed was within walking distance anyway.  
Marylyn examined my license with intense scrutiny, but in the end decided that she really had no reason to deny my request.  
“Tell me, what sort of business is it that you have?”
“Oh, I’d rather not say.  It’s  (ADD IN HERE.  FILE ON COMPUTER AT WORK)
That evening we met back at Crazy Angie’s house.  I was anxious to see how she’d done.  I did all right, considering my audience.  I’d spend about six hours playing the same five songs to an audience of twelve.  Of the twelve, only eight could actually hear.  All in all, I collected about twenty bucks.  Five of those dollars I found in my mothers clothes dryer.  Hey, that’s what she gets for asking me to bring up her laundry from the basement.  
Crazy Angie did much better than me.  We dumped our money out on her bed to count it.  There was, of course, my small fortune and then there was her, much larger, jackpot.  I watched, amazed as Angie pulled several thousand dollars from various places on her person.  (I mean pockets!  You are SICK!  Absolutely SICK!)  Just when I thought she was finished, she pulled out her wallet and emptied it.  
“What is all this?”
“It’s money.  Duh.  Even I know that.”
“Well how did you get this?  Is it legal?”
“Uh…I’m not exactly sure.  But it’s untraceable.  I didn’t steal it if that’s what you mean.  It’s mostly gifts.”
“Gifts?  Just what did you do to get these gifts?”
“I told you, modeling.”  
“Modeling what?”
“Myself.”
“Ok, you’d better explain this.”
“Well, it works like this:  I went down to the Central West End.  You know all the nuts they have down there.  All of those artsy people will pay to see anything they find artistic.  Anyway, it’s more posing than modeling.  But I set myself up as a tourist attraction.  People pay to see me.  I call myself the authentic lunatic.  See, I’m not just a lunatic, but I’m authentic.  That means I can charge more.  I have a big cardboard box that I sit in and wait for customers.  I charge them about five dollars to view the authentic lunatic, ten dollars to take my picture, and fifteen if they want to be in the picture with me.  It worked really well.”
“I’ll say.  What did you do, just stand there?”
“Well, no, of course not.  People won’t pay for that.  I was more of an art exhibit—dramatized.  I did authentic lunatic things.  You know—shouting and screaming, pulling at my hair, drooling, the whole bit.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Sure it is, but it’s the Central West End.”
“I guess.”  
I was truly amazed by Crazy Angie’s ability to raise so much money so fast.  I didn’t exactly understand the principles or the ideas behind the Authentic Lunatic, but I am certainly not one to argue with her obvious talent for schmoozing the public.  
After a few days of my piano concerts and the showing of the Authentic Lunatic, we had plenty of money for the building we wanted.  Once all of the money was gathered and counted, I took it over to the Credit Union for deposit.  

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Research

Research
     Crazy Angie and I often found ourselves amused by visiting the unemployment office.  People there were so interesting.  I had thought that perhaps it could be a step in curing boredom, but decided against it when I realized that the people who were there without jobs weren’t nearly as amused as we were.  Aside from the amusing nature of the U.O., we had several friends there; one of whom we thought would be most helpful in our quest for the cure.  
     We needed to keep things confidential, though.  We couldn’t very well broadcast to the neighborhood that we were planning on starting up a bar.  That would likely lead to suspicion and consequently, investigation.  I could not be bothered with a strategy on how to defeat such an investigation, so I thought it best to conduct our research in such a manner as not to attract attention, thus, keeping things on the proverbial down-low.  We’d have to go about this with some finesse.  Given Crazy Angie’s state of mind, I knew I’d have only myself to rely on for such finesse, since it was unlikely she knew anything about it other than the hair products.  
     We walked through the front door, waving to a few of the regulars, and marched up to the receptionist.  
     “How’s it going Gert?”  Angie asked.
     Gertrude was a stern looking woman who detested me.  Honestly, I’m not sure why.  She always had a scowl for me, but she loved Crazy Angie.  
     “Angie!  How are you?  We haven’t seen you in so long!”
     “Hey, check this out!”  Crazy Angie walked behind the desk, picked up Gertrude’s phone, and dialed the weather line.  
     “That’s great!  Pretty soon you’ll be ordering a pizza.”
     “I don’t know,” Angie said modestly.  “That’s pretty complicated.  I leave the tough stuff to Robin.  She’s the smart one.”  Gertrude frowned in my direction.  I returned her glare with a toothy grin and a wave.  “So, Gert, is Ned around?”
     “Yeah, he’s in his office.  You can go ahead back.  He’s not busy.”
     Ned Quartermeyer was an agent at the U.O.  He was supposed to find people jobs.  We were hoping he could help us find a real estate agent.  We needed a location for our new business venture.  After all, what’s getting drunk without a building in which to do it?  
     “Ned!  How are ya?”  I asked.  Ned, unlike Gertrude, thought I was swell.  
     “Hey there guys.  What can I do for you?”
     “Well, Ned, we need a little help,” I began.  
“Sure.  What sort of help?”
I tried to think of how best to begin this conversation.  I could have taken the sly approach and tried to cover up our plans.  After all, we didn’t want the law involved and this was a government office.  But then, even just spitting it out would probably confuse Ned.  I decided to go with the direct approach in hopes that it would so throw him off that he’d be too bewildered to connect the dots.  
“Are you a frequenter of bars?”
     “Bars?  You mean, like drinking bars?”     “Yeah.”
     “Why?  What have you heard?”
     Crazy Angie and I looked at each other, puzzled.  “Nothing.  We just want to know how you like them.”
     “They’re ok, I guess.  Most of them are pretty much the same though.”
     C.A. and I exchanged knowing glances before continuing.  “We’ve been thinking of creating a totally new alcoholic experience.  We need a real estate agent.”
     Ned looked confused.  “What does real estate have to do with bars?”|     “We can’t give you the specifics Ned.”
     “Yeah.”  Crazy Angie put in.  “If we told ya, we’d have to kill ya.”
     I frowned at her.  “Well, nothing that drastic.  We were just hoping maybe you’d found some young idealistic real estate agent a position recently and would call in a favor.”
     “This is sounding a little too bizarre.  You want me to find you a real estate agent?  Why not just pick up the phone book?”
I leaned forward, towards Ned.  “Look, Ned, do we look like ordinary buyers?  No, of course not.  Would any respectable real estate agency take us seriously?  Could we, for that matter, pick up the classified ads and start calling land lords?  Not likely.  Sure, we can dial a phone—“
“Both of us!”  Angie piped in.  
“Right, but would any of those things get us where we needed to be?  No, of course not.  We need your help Ned.  We need a real estate agent.  We can’t give you all of the details.  You probably wouldn’t get it anyway.  We just need you to make one little phone call.”
Ned looked slightly puzzled, but somehow, inspired.  He had heard my speech and it was appealing to his “I want to help people in need” side.  I was hoping to take advantage of that.  
“Ok.  I can probably handle that.  But why all the mystery?”
     “Can’t tell ya Ned.”  Angie further dramatized her statement by making a slashing motion across her neck.  
“Ok, just gimme a minute to find something here.”  Ned turned to his computer and started typing.  After a few minutes, Ned gave us the name and address of Jim Silo, a real estate agent near Angie’s house.  
“Ned, we really appreciate this.  But there’s something else you need to understand.”  I lowered my voice for emphasis and dramatic effect.  
“Ok.”
“Ned, we need this visit to remain completely confidential.  No one can know what we’ve discussed and no one can know what you’ve done for us.”  
“Yeah, it’s gotta be top secret.  As far as you’re concerned, we were never here.”  Crazy Angie’s voice was thick with feeling.  She was really laying it on.  
“Sure.  No problem.”  Ned said with a frown.  “Hey, it was nice seein’ you guys.  Lemme know what happens with—your business venture.”
“No problem Ned.  Thanks for all your help,” I said as we walked out of his office.  Crazy Angie and I walked the few blocks to the real estate office.  
Jim Silo’s office wasn’t far from the U.O., so we walked.  It was neat and respectable, but his receptionist gave us curious looks when we walked in.  
“May I help you?”  She asked with a frown.
“We’re here to see Jim Silo.  It’s very important,” I said, trying to sound professional and business-like.  
“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.  Jim’s receptionist was one of those women who looked over the top of her glasses when she saw something she didn’t like.  She clearly didn’t like us.  She was a tall thin woman who reminded me of Olive Oil—you know, from those Pop-eye cartoons.  She was young, but looked old.  Her dark hair was pulled tightly into a bun at the nape of her neck.  
“No.  Do you think he can fit us in?”  The office waiting room was empty.  Unless Jim was with someone, it didn’t look like he was busy.  His secretary, however, gave the impression that Jim was terribly busy and we’d be lucky if he had five seconds to spare.  
“I’ll see if he’s available.”
“He will be,” Crazy Angie said with a sinister tone.  “Just tell him Ned sent us.” I elbowed her in the side and smiled at the receptionist.  
“Will you cut out the drama!”  I said when the receptionist had gone.  “You’re embarrassing me.”  
“Sorry.  I’m just trying to build curiosity.  If people are curious, they’ll want to come to our bar.”
“Well, tone it down a little.  You’re sounding suspicious.”
The receptionist came back looking further annoyed.  “Apparently Mr. Silo is available.”  She said.
“Fancy that!”  I said in mock surprise.  We were ushered into his office and offered refreshments.  
“Uh, do you girls drink coffee?” the receptionist asked.  
“Of course we do,” Crazy Angie remarked.  “All respectable people drink coffee.”
“Right.  I’ll be right back.”
“So, Ned sent you huh?”
“He did.  He told us you might be able to help us locate a piece of property for our business.”  I said.
“Oh, sure.  What sort of business are you looking into?”
“We can’t tell you that Jim.”
He looked puzzled.  
“Well, how am I going to know what sort of facility you’ll need?”
“We’d be happy with one big room.  We can fill in the rest.  Just four walls.  And cheap.  That’s all we need.  A roof would be nice but if it costs extra it’s optional.  Just give us everything you’ve got.”
Just then, the receptionist came back in with coffee for us.  As she was leaving the room, Crazy Angie sprayed coffee from her mouth all over the floor.  “Ughluh!  Plehth! Petooie!”
“What?  What?”  The receptionist asked frantically.  “Too hot?”
“Ugh, no.  This tastes like a boot!”  Crazy Angie yelled in disgust.  The receptionist frowned and slammed the door behind her as she went.  “How do you drink that stuff?”
Trying to contain my laughter, I focused on Jim.  “So, anything?”
“Well, let me check.”  Jim did a little searching on his computer.  “I’ve got a building on the south side, 4756 Chippewa; something in the Central West End but that will be expensive; this one’s a little further north so it will be cheaper, 6710 Grand; I’ve got—“
“6710!”  Crazy Angie and I shouted in unison.  “We’ll take it!”  
“You don’t even know how much it is.”  Jim frowned.  He clearly didn’t approve.  
“Doesn’t matter.  It’s a sign.  We’ll take it,” I said.  
Jim looked further perturbed.  
“O.K.  How are you going to pay for it?”
I paused.  We hadn’t thought that far ahead.  No bank would give us a loan and I had about fifteen dollars to my name.  I’d be luck if Crazy Angie had fifteen cents.  Before I could answer, she cut in.
“Just leave that to me.  I’ll get the money.”
“What are you gonna do?”  I was perplexed.  
“It’s better if I don’t tell you.  The less you know, the better.”
“Oh will you quit!”
“Jim, we’ll be back in a few days.  Don’t let anyone else buy that property.”
“I don’t think it‘s going anywhere,” Jim said.  
“Great.  We’ll be in touch.”
Crazy Angie and I left Jim’s office.  I was dying to know what she was planning.  
“So?” I asked.
“So, what?”
“So, how are you planning on getting the money we need to buy that building?”
“Not telling.”
“What do you mean, you’re not telling?  I’m your best friend.  You tell me everything!”
“Don’t take it personally.  I have to tell you, though; I’m going to be making quite a bit of money.  I don’t think I should be managing that myself.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.  We need a banker or an accountant or something.  We should have asked Ned about that while we were there.”  I thought for a moment.  “I guess we could just go to the bank and open a separate account.  We need something to open it with though.  You go ahead with whatever you’re doing and I’ll worry about the money management.  How much time do you need?”
“This will probably take me the rest of the day.  Why don’t we just plan to meet tomorrow?”
“Sounds great.  Are you sure you’re going to be ok?”
“Absolutely.”
“Can you at least tell me what sort of work you’re going to be doing?”
She paused.  
“I guess I can tell you.”
“Well?”
“Modeling.  Well, posing, really.”
“What!  Are you crazy?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Ok, well, that’s not what I meant.  I know you’re crazy, but are you out of your mind?”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“No.”  I sighed.  “I’m just wondering why you think you’ll be able to raise money by modeling.  I mean, I think you’re beautiful.  It’s part of your personality.  But the cold, cruel, boring world is full of those who appreciate only the beauty of the Cindy Crawford types.  Unless you’ve been wearing a disguise for the two years I’ve known you, you don’t look a thing like her.”  Crazy Angie was about 5’4, frumpy, with long brown hair that hung in her eyes.  She always wore jeans and t-shirts—nothing else.  
“Well, I just happen to know of a place that would have me.  I don’t want to get into the details.  I’m trying to keep a low profile.”
“Ok.  When do you start?”
“Better not tell you that.  I know you.  You’ll worry about me and ask me all kinds of questions.  I’m going to keep this all to myself.”  I was quite skeptical, but I wasn’t one to discourage Crazy Angie, especially when she’s motivated.  Secretly, I planned to pursue my own form of fundraising.  I’d been playing the piano since I was three.  I’d spent some time at a local nursing home playing for the elderly there—you know, spicing up their day.  They were all excited about going to “a concert.”  Some of them even threw money at me.  I was hoping to monopolize on that, but I had to worry about the money management first.  
So, Crazy Angie and I went our separate ways in search of money.  She went to her mysterious modeling job and I went to a local nursing home by way of a bank.