Dinner for three

August 21, 2022

Homeless people and the mentally damaged are almost everywhere, in any metropolitan area. Glance north, south, east, or west, and you'll see them, but it's the *lack* of bums and headcases that surprises me. You see merely hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands of the walking dead. I don't understand why.

Obviously, modern society itself is insane. From the ever-present racism, the corporate control of almost all aspects or art, commerce, and entertainment, our almost society-wide pledge to ignore climate change, millions of city-block sized parking lots to store our wasteful, toxin-belching metallic chariots of fire, worship of the military and police, everyone living their lives on social media, the fact that Republicans still win elections, and so much et cetera — our entire civilization is built on myriad little big and mid-size misconceptions and stupidities and psychopathies.

With all that nuttiness, it's bizarre that we don't have more homeless people, more crazed killers, and more sprawling lunacy than we do.

I try to do my part, though.

Usually I can hear it when Dean is in the kitchen, but Saturday afternoon all was quiet, and there was a clear path to the bathroom without conversation. Or so I thought, but tragically, when I opened my bedroom door, Dean was in the kitchen, dressed dapper as usual. He was simply standing there, doing nothing except, I guess, waiting for me to open my door.

He started talking, of course, but I excused myself and darted into the bathroom. While peeing, I remember that I hadn't been talked at by Dean in weeks — paying the Dean tax, I call it — so after flushing, what the hell, I opened the door and paid the tax.

Dean told me again about being a chef at the Hilton Park Hyatt Saint-Regis Four Seasons Marriott Ritz Carlton, or wherever he works. This was of no interest to me, but I listened and nodded and sometimes said something.

Our top story today? Same as our top story every time. Dean's fine cuisine has been complimented by the hotel's general manager, and his boss wants Dean to work four days a week instead of three, but Dean doesn't want to, because it would cut into his Social Security check, and also because blah blah blah.

Then he said something unexpected, which was unexpected in itself. Dean always talks too much and always says the same things, so you expect the expected, never the unexpected, but — "Once in a while I like to cook for my housemates," he said. "It's going to be beef stroganoff, and you're invited."

"Well, that sounds terrific," I said politely, and tried delivering the line with feeling, but my only feeling was nausea. I didn't ask for a date and time for this dinner, because already I was searching for excuses that might get me out of it. I would rather be a hermit behind my door than spend social time with almost anyone, and Dean is not one of the very few people I'd willingly mingle and chat with over dinner.

And also, I've seen Dean's food handling habits — uncooked and uncovered meat stored in our refrigerator for days, and uncovered leftovers too, abandoned in the Frigidaire for so long that they grown mold. It would be safer not to eat his cooking.

After about ten minutes of extensive talkity-talk-talk from Dean, I retreated into my bedroom, into myself, and forgot about beef stroganoff. He hadn't announced when this shared dinner would happen, and I optimistically hoped it would be some evening when I wasn't home. Tell me what evening, Dean, and I'll make plans not to be home.

Through the door of my room, though, I started hearing the clatter of cooking in the kitchen. Eventually the odor of it came creeping across my doorjamb, and it smelled good. Finally there came a knock at my door, and cripes I dearly hate a knock at my door.

"Just a moment," I groaned from my recliner, and then put on some pants, opened the door, and Dean was standing there smiling. "Dinner is served," he said, and I smiled as if I was happy.

My other flatmate Robert was in the chair behind Dean, and I kinda like Robert, and it's free food and it smelled good. The odds are against ptomaine poisoning, so instead of weaseling out of it, I said, "Let me dress for dinner," and covered my flabby nipples with a well-stained t-shirt.

my flatmate

Then I emerged from my hovel, and the three of us ate dinner together, and the damnedest thing happened. I had a fairly good time.

Dean isn't quite so much of a non-stop talker when he's talking to two people, as he is when it's just me and him. We talked about his 40 years as a chef in four-star restaurants, of course, and about how everyone at the hotel can't stop complimenting his cooking, but in another unexpected twist, some of Dean's kitchen stories were interesting.

The three of us also talked about Dean's ex-wife, and Robert's ex-wife, and my late wife, Robert's past mental issues (now under control), my time at bus driving school, Dean's love for unsalted butter, and Robert's love of video games.

my other flatmate

Using a hundred different words I lacked the glossary to decipher, Robert gave us a ten minute report about what he and his guild had accomplished in a recent game. It held my attention, though, just from Robert's enthusiasm in telling us about it.

Seems he heroically saved the day in a digital battle, picking up a two-sided axe and swinging it well, and somehow finding or buying or building a suit of armor that has mystical powers.

Robert is retired, and almost any time he's awake, he's in his room playing World of Warcraft, mostly, or other games occasionally. None of that is my thing, of course, but everyone needs a thing.

I stay away from video gaming, but not because it has no appeal to me. Don't tell anyone, but I looked over Robert's shoulder once when he was gaming in the kitchen, and it actually looked like great fun.

I know me, though —  if I gave gaming any serious attention, I'd start liking it like Robert does, and soon it would become my thing, same as it's his, and I can't let that happen. I like the thing I have — writing — and especially now that a job is eating 40 hours a week, I don't want to reduce my writing time any further.

Can't quite believe this, but I yielded an hour and a half of what could've been writing time to eat dinner with Dean and Robert, and I don't regret it. Robert might be a potential or borderline friend, and to my surprise, I don't dislike Dean as much as I did yesterday.

He didn't ask for any payment for dinner, but always he brags about the praise his cooking gets, so I knew that was the payback Dean would prefer. I didn't even need to lie, simply told him the truth:

"My wife was a very good cook, and beef stroganoff was one of her favorite dishes to prepare. It was always great, but her stroganoff had something somewhat musty buried deep in the flavors, and I never cared for that odd savory/squirrely aftertaste. Yours doesn't have that," I said to Dean, "so I gotta say, apologies to my late wife, but this right here" — pointing at my plate — "is the best dang beef stroganoff I've ever eaten."

Saying so earned me seconds, plus leftovers, now stored in a lidded container in the fridge. Dean's own leftovers are in an uncovered bowl.

What the guy lacks in sanitary practices, he makes up for in flavor. That stroganoff was terrific, and no intestinal distress followed.

And now, the news you need, whether you know it or not…    

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The Berkeley Theater (no, I will never call it "the Regal UA Berkeley") was built as an enormous movie palace, with a tall tower (long-since removed), murals, art deco interiors, and steep diagonal seating in the balcony. It must've been marvelous, but by the time I lived in SF and Berkeley, it had been mercilessly multiplexed into a weird place with seven or ten auditoriums, including one that seemed to have originally been a large broom closet.

It was always sad seeing movies at the Berkeley, which was just the skeletal, dusty, barely-maintained remains of a building that had once been spectacular. Whatever replaces it will be shit, of course, because that's all that's architecturally allowed, but it's hard to be sad at the building's looming destruction. It's a corpse that's been defiled for decades. Please, put it out of its misery.

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A tool that monitors how long kids are in the bathroom is now in 1,000 American schools 

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This ugly corporate-designed logo wins for sheer indecipherability. Unless you've seen it before, you'd have to study it like I did to even guess what brand it badly identifies.

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Home appraised with a black owner: $472,000.
With a white owner? $750,000.

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Google Maps is misleading users searching for abortion clinics… and Republicans are threatening the company if it fixes that 

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New Texas law requires schools to display 'In God We Trust' signs 

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Anger as Lisa LaFlamme dropped as Canada TV anchor after going grey 

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The 1-point safety is a football play so rare it’s never happened in the NFL 

Almost nothing about pro football holds my attention for even an itsy bitsy bit, but weirdities like this are intriguing.

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The futuristic sounds of the distant past 

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Ugly law 

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Lawsuits against God 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...

 The End
Tom Palmer
Wolfgang Petersen
Bill Pitman

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. Bill Pitman (RIP) was a long-time member of TheWrecking Crew (along with Seattle’s own Carol Kaye), Glen Campbell, and a couple of others.

  2. If those are actual photos of your flatmates, they're exactly as I had envisioned them from your writing.

    1. I'd never use actual photos of me or the people I describe. Imagery is usually found and swiped off the internet, but there's definitely a resemblance.

  3. It's sweet to discover that Dean is more Charles Winchester than simply Frank Burns.

    I don't know what that pink logo is. It looks like an accident at a drafting table.

    1. Your MASH flashback seems apropos. The logo is for KALW, an NPR station in San Francisco.


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