chapter 6


 -       -     -   -  – -  -  – -- downtown -- - - –   -  -   – -   -     -


So now it was sleep in the car, or walk downtown.

or hangout in the lobby with hotelnazi. but i can tell you right now that wasnt gona happen.

i chose the one that required the least amount of imediat effort.

the interior of the geo was basicly a sauna. and crackin the
windows didnt help.   i set the phone alarm optimisticly for 11:55,
put my glasses in my shirt pocket, and leand the seat all the way back.

as a person who s slept in cars a number of times under
a variety of circumstances, i can tell you that the essential ingredients
for good car sleep are darkness, quiet, and sleepiness. what you dont
want is the sun beatin down on you. you also dont wana be jackd u
on caffein and bull testosterone orwhatever

i woke up twelv minutes later, in a puddle of my own
sweat. i wouldve started the car and cut on the a-c, i was ready and
willin to sacrafice the environment in exchange for a few winks, but
geo, remember, would not start. me and my memry we actualy did not
remember. but like i said  geo has a better memry than me.

so here i am, exausted but unable to sleep, sweatin my ass off
in a broken down car with no money to fix it—

i coulda been in newyork, with claire. what was i thinking?

thats what i needed, was to talk to claire. its the one thing that would relax me enough to sleep.


thats how i calld her, thats how i always calld her cause she was always last on my recentcalls.

it went strait to voicemail.

Hello, youve reached claire.

[ should i tell her im already in athens? no. then shell know i drove allnight ]

i cant get to my phone right now,

[ definatly dont mention the car, dont mention yourself at all, you can tell her that stuff later ]

but if you leave a message, Ill call you back.

[ but what if shes in her meeting with the
gallery owner rightnow? i wouldnt want to interupt ]

thanks, and have a nice day.

[ when was her apointment? i should
know this, i do know this

b e e e e p



You know the south, in early june? those bright clear mornings at the beginning of summer, before the shit realy hits the fan? and the sky that morning— if you could figure out how to paint a house that shade of blue youd be a rich man.

hotelnazi was right, it was an easy walk, before i knew it i was downtown. it was cute, quaint, whatever, sidewalk cafes and such, and  sidewalks that featured actual pedestrians. kinda reminded me of austin, but more concentrated. i could see why there were so many good bands from athens. half the people in town were in a band, it lookd like. the dudes had a definat prediliction for facial hair, the bigger the better, and the chicks favord dresses, not fancy ones, just plain old dresses, which i aprove of wholeheartedly. yay for feminism ladies, but jobby-jobs and pants? thats like the two worst things weve got.

the first crosstreet i came to was calld lupkin, altho i should warn you,
dont get too hungup on streetnames or locations or anything else you
might think you are familiar with. theres something important which
i meant to tell you earlier but i think i forgot—

youv never been here.
you may think youv been here, some of you. but you havent.

trust me— you havent.

there was a restraunt on either side a the street, each of em doin good breakfast bisness, or brunch.

or actualy, i take that back. they werent restraunts, they were bars. the people were drinking, not eating.

now im all for debauchery [ realy i am, im a hedonist, im just not allthat good at it ] but under the circumstances i started to freak out a little bit.

especialy when on the next block it was the same thing. one bar, hopping, and evrything else closed.

ok, a bar then. . .

oh— this is where all the tatoos are.

made my way to the bar. found an empty stool.

the bartender came in less than a minute. neck tat and henry rollins hair, but he had kind eyes.

welcome to lunchpaper what can i getcha?

do you serve food?

sorry— what?

[ the music was blaring, plus im terible at projecting ]


nah man were a bar. we serv booze.

[ dont imagine the permanent smirk here tho,

this guy seemd sincere ]

i mightcould russle you up some peanuts.

no, i need real food.

at this hour? pepinos’d be your best bet. or
drunk sushi if you could findim. actialy nevermind, i saw aaron earlier, id
probly get outa the way if i saw him comin.

how do you get to pepitos?


i took out my notepad.

you dont gota write it down. . .

he laughd.

its just up the street, on the corner.

[ orient yourself. point ]

so, outa here i turn. . . left?

yeahman. left.

At the enda the block was a restraunt, i guess pepinos tho i never saw a sign. the menu offerd two choices— slices and pitchers. the pitcher was the more popular item, altho a few folks wanted to eat too, dude right infronta me orderd—

two pieces of food.

the counterguy turnd around and yelld—


the guy at the oven was brooklyn-italian, back sweater
and a mario mustache, exacly who you wana see back there. i watchd
him slide a pie in the oven, come out with four slices, slip them onto
four plates, snatch up three new slices and throw em in the oven,
all in one fluid motion.

when it comes to new york style i am a purist. i orderd the only sensible thing— slice of cheese.

got my number, 43.

filld a cup with water to clear my pallet.

found a table near the door and setteld in for some people watchin. i love people watchin. im good at it. so good that sometimes i forget they can see me, one time a girl came over and askd me to stop, it was prety embaressing.

there was a t-v in the front and a t-v in the back, both of em turnd up. the one in front was famly guy and the one in back was southpark. you had to talk prety loud to make yourself heard over the t-vs, so people were talkin loud, and evry so often the oven guy would yellout somethin like


without assistance of microphone, but
you could hear im loud an clear. or i could. other people not so much.
some numbers he had to call two or three times atleast, each time
he had to call your number, hed let you know how much more
disappointed he was in you—


come an get it or its goin in the TRASH!

i had a thought then that i want to mention, only because this was the first time i had it but it would later come to seem like a pattern. you know how oven guy yelld when drunk dude didnt come get his slice? at first i thought he was bein obnoxious. but when i thought about it, he already had drunk dudes money, who gives a shit if his slice sits there gettin cold? there was plenny a room on the counter for new slices, that wasnt it. the only person who benefited from his tirade was drunk dude. what im saying is that while it seemd like he was bein an asshole, he was realy bein compassionate.

numba foddy-THREE!

i husseld up there, ready to show that id been paying attention.

got to the counter just as he slid my slice onto a plate, cheese drippin off it like gold.

he lookd at me and said—

number foddy three slice a cheese.

thats me.

[ where was my number? dont tell me i left it ]

dont worry boutit, i trust ya.

he trusted me!

i expected him to get right back to the oven, but he held me with his eyes.

this your first slice a pepinos?


bet it wont be your last.

he winkd at me in this way that was not anoying at all, then he transformd back into oven warior.

if looks were any indication, he was right. the smell was that oregano-sweet-tomato thing, and the cheese was positivly molten, not burnd or the leastbit dry. i couldnt wait till i got back to my table, i took a bite right there and tho it burnd the roof a my mouth, goddam it was good, better than anything ive had in newyork except one random place near pratt i could never find again. quality mozarella, not too much sauce, just enough to taste the oregano, crust soft with a crisp finish. the secret to a good slice is simple— undercook the pie. that way, when you reheat the slices, they finish cooking instead of overcooking.

i did what i always do when i discover a great slice, orderd another one. the second one was almost as good as the first, maybe a litle less fresh but still amazing.

midway thru the second slice, i had two thoughts— what if me and claire moved here? and, i should call claire.

the second one overshadowd the first. infact once id thought of it, i couldnt think of anything else.

Lupkin street was—i think this is an apropriate time to say it—rowdy. If i calld claire from anywhere on this block, shed think i was at a party.

at the end of the next block there was a bank. it was closed, but atleast the parkinlot was quiet.

took out my phone.

anticipating. nervous. remember to ask about her trip.

you know that little battery icon in the corner of your phone?
you know how it flashes when the batterys almost dead?

and no, i didnt have the charger with me. im not even sure i rememberd to pack it.

if you have a good phone you can still talk a while. my last phone was like that, but my new one even tho it has more bells an whistles its actually a much shittier phone. the battery especialy sucks. it went from two bars to this in an hour. now i had about two minutes of talk time, if the call even went thru.



[ thanks for the phone globecap ]


[ its prety cool you can talk to anybody anytime you want,

in the old days they woulda calld it magic ]


[ altho sometimes i wish we could just give it back ]

Hello, youve reached claire.

[ her voice, it sounded like home but it also sounded sexy.

i wanted to curlup inside it and fall asleep ]

I cant get to my phone right now, but if you leave

a message

thats when my battery died.

I had a feeling this town wasnt exacly teeming with payphones.

on the other hand, i could walk back to my car and maybe find my charger, if id rememberd to pack it. or, it would be eleven by then, who knows? hotelnazi might even let me in a room.

i went with the path that required the least amount of imediate effort— kill time. walk around checkin shit out. i mean, thats what i was doing, esentialy.

as i mentiond, im a dedicated people watcher. and this
place provided plenty of fodder. between the drunks and the crazies
and the ladies—

now ive never cheated, or even almost cheated, so
understand this was harmless lookin, but there were some foxes out.
if this was the twenties theyd of been at Gatsbys place in furs and
pearls, but this is the twothousands so theyre downtown athens in
salvation army dresses.

but rather than make me wish i was single, it just made me miss claire more. remember how her voice sounded like home but also sexy? that was awsome. id been so busy worryin she might be mad that i forgot how amazing she is. how lucky i am. i couldnt wait to get back to her, to getback to us, to start bein a famly. i mean i was psyched.

i took a left at the next street, washington, atleast thats the way i read
it, the sign actualy said

West Washintong Street

. these were regulation
street signs by the way. it wasnt a joke. or it was an official joke.

washintong was prety dead, it lookd like, i thought maybe id reachd the end of downtown.

but no, there was one last block. and it was definatly not dead. there were three bars on this side of the street alone. you could easily spot a bar cause they all had patios and the patios were always populated with drunk people, it was so distracting i forgot i was even lookin for a payphone. until i saw one on the corner.

it was an oldschool phonebooth, the kind with the folding door.

i opend the door, stept inside—

there was no phone in here.
not even a trace of one. where the phone shouldof been someone
had written in black magicmarker

self-phone booth

as soon as i stept outa the booth, this guy appeard outa nowhere. friendly-lookin, sweaty, earnest, kinda reminded me of a dog. he had on a t-shirt that said—

How many tiems have uyou spellchecked todya?

how many tiems have you spell checked todya?

you need a make a call? [ he askt ]

oh . . . no thanks.

[ am i really afraid to accept the kindness of

strangers? ]

coolman. if you change your mind

come find me, ill be around, im jesse.

he profferd a paw. i shook it.


new to town?

nah, im just here for the day.

you mean you just got here?

[ somethin about the way he said that ]


happy firsday!

happy what-day?

firsday. first day.

[ ? ]

welcome to athens.

he bowed with a flourish. i felt welcome, in spite of myself.

so can i ask you a question? [ i said ]

nock yerself out.

why is evrybody at the bars at elevn in the morning?

you remember what summer was like when you were a kid,

you just kinda did whatever you felt like doin?

yeah, it was awsome.

well here its still awsom.

he started to walk off, but i stopt him.

actualy d you think i could borow your phone? i can

be realquick.

no dude, take your time.

he gave me his phone like he was lettin me borow a lighter.

i closed myself in the self-fone booth.

diald, without much hope.

it went strait to voicemail.

this time i left a message.  i didnt want claire to start worryin.
i hope i didnt sound insane, probly somethin along the lines of—

Hey, its me, im in athens, but my phones dead, thats
why im callin you from this weird number,   or you probly cant
see that, since it went strait to your voicemail. anyway, ill try
you again when i get to my hotel. . .

[ sigh ]

i miss you. im sory weve been fighting, its
stupid, i love you so much claire, i cant wait to see you, i wish i
could talk to you now, i wish i was there, i hope your kickinass in
newyork, im sure  ya are

but the beep cut me off before i could finish.