Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sam, Jas and I were in rare form yesterday

It's been a great weekend despite the nasty rain and chill.

Last night Linda and I showed our stuff at the Ballroom on High up in Pottstown, proving that we remembered the intermediate Rumba steps that Jas and Kathy taught us on Wednesday and that we practiced here at home on Thursday. It's always dicey when we learn a new dance or even a new step. If we're not careful the new can seem to write over our memory of a formerly learned dance or step. But last night we proved to our own satisfaction that we still retain the Waltz and the Foxtrot and a little Jitterbug. The Rumba has not replaced any of them. And, the Rumba turns out to be a pretty useful dance. Last night we danced it to a number meant to be a Cha Cha, and it worked very well. It also worked for a number meant for a Bolero. Very gratifying.

Linda was working the bazaar at her church yesterday and today, so she missed seeing me, Sam and Jas in rare form yesterday morning. As we do periodically we took a real trip down memory lane to the old neighborhood in Trooper and various events around it.

We remembered the beautiful warm and still summer nights when the delicate scent of lilacs and honeysuckle would compete with the smell of burning hair that announced Foulke was disposing of the sweepings from his barber shop by night. And we remembered the time Little John got a neat new BB gun and immediately shot out a bunch of windows in Ziggy's pigeon coop next door. Alas, Big John bent the barrel of the BB gun into a nice "C" shape the next day after Ziggy complained. And we remembered the way the tar would ooze out of the road at the corner where it went around Carl and Mamie's house, so much tar in a puddle that sometimes you would find a bird or a mouse mired.

Jas told the story of Little John shooting out the pigeon coop windows; but this time he didn't tell, as he usually does, about the way he used to lay on his back and shoot up with his slingshot into the flock of homing pigeons as they circled overhead. He never shot one down; but not for lack of trying. Jas did tell about his adventures with Louie Lonzo when they both worked for Paul at the sale up in Gilbertsville. When they arrived at the sale Lonzo would open the back of the truck and announce loudly and repeatedly that "The Jonah" was there. Why he called Paul M "The Jonah" Jas doesn't know.

I can imagine the scene Jas describes, and so can Sam; because we both worked the sales in our time. We both rode in the middle of the bench seat of the truck after loading the back with an amazing quantity of fruit and vegetables. And then we worked ten straight hours, some days seeming so busy that there was never a moment without a customer. When I worked for Gap B he had a fellow who was much like Jas's description of Lonzo. Gap's fellow was a career fruit and produce salesman who had been with Gap for twenty plus years. He was paid enough cash under the table to have a typical suburban house over by Trooper School in which I'm sure he was a normal suburban husband with his wife and a typical father to his kids.

But at the sale up in Gilbertsville which he worked with Gap three or four days a week he was a carnival barker, and a very good one. He had a whole repertoire of gags that he used to draw in the customers and make the men laugh and the women blush. It kept the day interesting; even to those of us behind the counter who had heard the gags a hundred times. The beauty was in the sheer artistry and sometimes the sheer nerve. And it was always interesting to see how people reacted. There were people who got the jokes and people who didn't, people who walked away shaking their heads, supressing laughter, and people who walked away shaking there heads in confusion, still trying to figure out what he had meant.

Most interesting was the way people acted as though all they had heard was the line on the surface. "Top quality fruit," he might say, after picking up and weighing at chest height two apples or peaches that corresponded roughly in size to attributes of a cute young wife with her husband in tow, "firm and sweet; at the peak of ripeness and flavor." Or he might pick up two honeydews and cup them low toward a young woman with a nice backside and say, "Nice melons, Lady, smooth as a baby's behind, sweet to hold, sweeter to the taste." And, of course the women primly pretend that there was nothing at all unusual about the line. On an especially outrageous day he might pick up a carrot in one hand and two onions in the other hand while he said, "It's a chilly day out there, a good day to stay in and make a nice soup, and you can get your husband to help you stir the soup." Then he would put the carrot in the same hand in which he was cupping the onions so he could use his other hand to point to other vegetables that the ladies might want to put in the soup. And the hand with the carrot and the onions was making stirring motions that were almost, but not quite explicit, in and out motions.

Best was when some prim matron would lose control and laugh out loud, only to quickly catch herself and put on a blank look. It simply wouldn't do to have understood the other possible meaning of what the man had said as he was selecting the cucumbers. Maybe he had said, "You look like you know your produce. You want a cucumber that's nice and firm, not too big and not too small." And it certainly would not do to react when he partially inserted a cucumber into the bag and then pulled it most of the way out again and held it forward to more closely show how its skin was lightly oiled. "These are the best you'll ever enjoy Lady. Look at that cuke, smooth as silk but hard as a rock." And then his final words as he handed over he bags. "It's been a pleasure waiting on you Ma'am. Come back anytime you need anything. We know how to take care of a customer. Satisfaction guaranteed!"

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