Not too long ago, I wrote about the sublime experience that was the summer of Dirty Fred’s. To be sure, there has never been another place on the planet like it, thank God.
And yet, here’s the funny thing, and possibly even a bit of insight into my brand of insanity: I got to live the dream twice. Even more telling, the Summer of Dirty Fred’s was the second time around for me.
What can I say? I’m a card carrying Red Bird.
On the other hand, if you thought Dirty Fred’s was special, you should have seen the place we almost moved into.
I forgot who found this place, another fine example of vernacular architecture -- that vernacular being the classic singlewide fire trap -- but we thought we had died and gone to heaven. It was one of those random trailer parks you can find in urban areas which don’t worry about such concepts as planning, zoning or public health. Nestled picturesquely between a strip club and a jungle themed putt-putt course, this place was all about location, location, location. As I recall, the kitchen porthole had an unobstructed view of the south end of a northbound rhino. On some days, the smell from the golf course hotdog stand was such that you could make a pretty believable case the rhino, particularly his south end, was real.
Alas, this summer seraglio was not to be. The day we went to clean the place, a pair of parents showed up to check on our progress. While they certainly approved of our willingness to work hard for our dreams -- indeed, it had taken us some four and half hours just to remove the first few layers of grime, mold and insect carcasses from about 3 square feet of kitchen counter -- for some reason they weren’t quite comfortable with our choice of housing.
As I recall, their opinion, calmly and subtly stated, was as follows: “Oh, hell, no!!!!!”
While we were disappointed this diamond would remain firmly ensconced in the rough, it turned out to be a blessing, because we wound up living in the legendary Dirty Fred’s Gigolo Trailer.
Of course, all this luxury was not free, but we all had jobs. I was a kitchen knave in one restaurant; they were waiters and busboys at another restaurant. They made more money but my job was more interesting. You just haven’t lived until the restaurant owner strolls into the kitchen at the height of the dinner rush, a dining room full of hungry, budget-conscious tourons and their broods of screamin’ demons wearing out plate after plate of all you can eat popcorn shrimp and a veritable regiment in reserve waiting impatiently in a smelly, petulant queue around the block, and announces the following: “Surf’s up!”
That was the summer I learned to surf because paddling through a riptide during a small craft advisory was infinitely safer than being the only guy in the kitchen left to deal with a restaurant full of PMS-ing homicidal maniacs and their equally good-natured customers.
Then there was yet another gentleman named Fred, no relation to the owner of our bachelor pad. An elderly retiree -- or perhaps parolee -- Fred was the head dishwasher and I his assistant, with all the glory it entailed.
Fred was a character. He could have been 47 or 97 -- no one really knew, because he had been drinking and smoking from the moment his mother brought him home from the maternity ward. He had a number of endearing personality traits, all of which would manifest after he had spent the first couple of hours of each work shift drinking discarded cocktail remnants from the bus trays.
Given enough time and free booze dregs, Fred might pop his false teeth out of his mouth and yell “Wuggah Wuggah!” at the broiler cook, a huge, Rastafarian named “Slick” who was always stepping out back with the head platter dresser, a hippie known universally as “Chong.”
On truly special evenings, Fred might grab at his crotch -- regardless of whether he was actually wearing pants at that moment -- and yell, “Right here, chickie, chickie, chickie!” whenever one of the waitresses came into the kitchen.
Alas, all things -- including intestinal gas and kidney stones -- must pass, and that first magic summer was no exception. But is it any wonder I signed up for a second hitch?
We Redbirds fly high, even if we do fly into the same windows over and over again.