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.  

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