Salt & salt

At Black Sheets, I prepped the outbound mail, and then swept and mopped and scrubbed everything that needed sweeping, mopping, or scrubbing.

After that I tacked up a few of my "I'll do anything" flyers in four different laundromats, came home to pack a few peanut butter and vanilla frosting sandwiches, and walked to the Roxie for a double feature:

In Downstairs (1932), a wealthy family hires a new chauffeur, and he's a cocksure charlatan who soon boffs the cook, seduces the butler's bride, and blackmails the master's wife.

John Gilbert, who also wrote the story, is all too believable as the cad. The script is gritty, mature, sexy, and offers wickedly keen observations on class, along with a few deliciously modern surprises. The only thing dated about Downstairs is a brief but moving monologue from the head butler about taking pride in one's work.

When Ladies Meet (1933) starts off as a screwball comedy about high infidelity. Myrna Loy stars as an author whose next novel is about a woman having an affair with a married man, and coincidentally the author is having an affair with a married man. It's a ribald, funny sex farce, until Myrna meets her lover's wife.

At that point, the movie turns suddenly serious, a shift of mood and pace and point that can't work, but does. Everything becomes so different, When Ladies Meet feel like a double feature all by itself. The conversation between wife and mistress is stirring, and it's one of those rare old movies that's such a masterpiece, I wonder why I'd never heard of it.

If you're lucky enough to have a theater in your town that books this pre-Code series, Downstairs and When Ladies Meet are two movies not to be missed.

♦ ♦ ♦  

I don't do much cooking, and at my old place in Berkeley, Judith kept the kitchen stocked with incidentals. That's why I've had no salt & pepper in my room at the hotel.

Today, though, eggs were on special at Jose's Produce, so I bought two dozen. And you can't do eggs without salt & pepper, so I also bought one of those super-cheap disposable sets of cardboard shakers, manufactured by Morton.

At home I microwaved an 8-egg cheese omelet, or at least I call it an omelet, but it's just microwaved eggs. They get tall and fluffy.

Then I was ready for my delicious eggy dinner, but disaster struck. I unwrapped the salt & pepper to season my marvelous meal, but it was salt & salt — two shakers of salt.

The omelet was good, but not as good as it would've been with pepper. And I was annoyed, so after eating, I walked back to the store to trade Morton's mistake for salt & pepper.

Calmly and politely I explained what had happened, but the clerk wouldn't let me exchange it, because I hadn't kept the receipt.

A receipt? I had opened the egg carton in the store, so I knew none were busted, and surely nothing could go wrong with a factory-filled salt & pepper set wrapped in plastic. I don't keep the receipt for anything unless it's a big-bucks purchase. Why does the store need a receipt anyway? Is Morton gonna quibble over 79¢ when the store wants their money back?

Most of this I said, first to the clerk, then to the manager, and also to some jerk working behind the meat counter who kept nosing into the conversation. The angrier I got, the softer I spoke, but the answer remained no.

Fuck you, you fuckers, but I didn't say that on my way out. Already a plan was percolating, and I didn't want to make myself too memorable.

There are four small and three big bodegas within very easy walking distance, and for 79¢ Jose's has lost me as a customer. I will be back, though.

Instead of killing the roaches in my room, I'm now trapping them. It's fairly easy, and I've done it before. You take an old, empty but not washed jar of peanut butter, and wrap strong tape around the mouth of the jar, making a short sticky walkway that leads to the PB residue. The scent of the peanut butter attracts the roaches, but the tape snags their tiny feet on the way to their supper.

My little homemade roach motel now sits next to the toaster, where the bread crumbs already attract roaches. In a few days, several will be stuck on the tape.

In the past, I've then microwaved the roaches, but this time they get to live. I'll shake the captured cockroaches into a baggie, and discreetly deliver them to Jose's Produce, somewhere near the meat counter.

From Pathetic Life #24
Monday, May 20, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Captain HampocketsMay 23, 2023 at 6:05 AM

    Out of curiosity, do you remember which store was "Jose's Produce?" In my memory, the closest produce place was about 1/2 block down 16th, across from the Sincere Cafe. But maybe there was one on the corner of 16th and Valencia, across from what was then the donut shop?

    1. I'm pretty sure it was Jose's Produce. They annoyed me so much I used their real name.

      It was across the street-ish from the Roxie, as I recall.

    2. Captain HampocketsMay 24, 2023 at 8:11 AM

      I kinda maybe remember it? Most of the storefronts blend together after all the years.

    3. Do you remember roaches crawling in the pastry display? That was the place.

    4. Captain HampocketsMay 25, 2023 at 5:05 AM

      I remember you writing about the roaches, but don't remember seeing them. Right now, you're transcribing PL from ~4 months before I got to SF, IIRC.

    5. I look forward to your arrival, sir.

      Did I know you were coming?

    6. Of course. We sent letters back and forth. I think you even told Mr. Patel, to be sure there was a room for me.

    7. Jeez, what a great guy I was.

    8. Captain HampocketsMay 26, 2023 at 10:44 AM

      You still are, despite how strenuously you deny it.

  2. Unrelated to the post, but I wanted to share.

    Just got home and settled down from seeing my mom in Trenton NJ. Got her hooked up to WiFi. Ordered her an iPad on Amazon at about noon today. She sent me a text at 5:17 that she received it. That's insane.

    1. Amazon is evil but *amazingly* efficient. Microsoft and Google should try it.


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