Thursday, August 19, 2004

Shoe Shine King

People who commute on BART usually carry something with them to occupy their time. Some people read. Some listen to music. Some sleep. And some play on their laptops or engage in some other sort of pretentious behavior...like knitting. I'm sorry my little patouli-soaked dirt surfer, but knitting scarves and hats for the homeless with your recycled bamboo needles and your organic, pesticide-free vegan wool isn't going to change the fact that you feel guilty about your privileged upper middle-class childhood or that you are bitter at your parents for still being happily married and sending you to private schools. GET OVER IT! We all know you're headed home for a Will and Grace marathon with the rest of your granola-eating, bi-curious, cutter friends. Anyway, I listen to music and read the paper on the train.

Being a writer and a BART-observing enthusiast, I am somewhat conflicted by this. I'm virtually certain I have foresaken hilarious conversations just behind me for AC/DC's Stiff Upper Lip and the cryptoquip in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Luckily, sometimes the funny just comes to you. Like Friday morning. When a youngish family of three boarded my car huddled together and cowering in fear; followed closely by a drunk, yammering black man in an olive-green pin-striped suit with a pea-green collarless dress shirt, green and gray gator boots, a gray fedora, and a briefcase. This is one of those brilliant moments on BART when you fold your newspaper, slide off your headphones, sit back and let the magic happen.

The family of three--a young boy, his good-looking, olive-complected father, and his short frumpy unremarkable mother--slid quickly into the seats closest to the door (the ones for the blind and disabled) with a visible sense of relief. One got the sense from looking at them that they felt like the seats offered some sort of security and respite from the drunk guy in the olive suit. Boy were they wrong. The family sat in the one place that had the most open standing room of any place on the traincar. It was a Friday morning, so the train was at its typical less-than-full Friday capacity. This meant the drunk black man in the olive suit had a whooooole bunch of open area to work with. He was going to play the jester, and this was going to be his stage. I was giddy with excitement.

I can't really say that Olive Suit ever started talking in the context of this story because I could tell that he probably had never stopped. What I can do, is start with the first full thing I heard him say as he boarded the train on the coattails of the family:

Olive Suit: Yous all married? I used to be married 10, 20, 30 years ago HAHAHAHAHAHA but I gave that shit up! I's a playuh! Straight up man, I ain't gonna lies to yuh. I's a playuh! Sheeeeeeiiiiit, I's with two a my hoes last night. Yeah I'm still drunk so what HAHAHAHAHA cuz I's a playuh cuuuuuzzzzz
Wife: Yep, we're married. And this is our son. How long were you married sir?
Son: I'm five and a half!
W: Do you miss her at--
S: I'm five and a half!
OS: Daaaammmmnnn, you's a big kid. You keep eatin the way you do and you be like big man over here (gesturing toward me). Inn't that right, big man?!
N: Yep, 20 more years like you're going and you can be big, unshaven and hungover too.
OS: HAHAHAHA you funny big man you funny.

The wife confused me at first. You would think as a mother of a young child you would try to shield him from someone like Olive Suit. You would cover his ears, ask Olive Suit to watch his language, move seats, something! Instead, the wife was actually sitting on the edge of her seat leaning forward and listening intently to what Olive Suit was saying. Her husband was slumped down in his seat the whole time either avoiding eye contact with Olive Suit or looking desperately to the other passengers trying to figure out what was going on. Her son was just bobbing up and down having fun with a big smile plastered on his face. I was waiting for him to tug on his mom's shirt and say something like "wow Mommy, this clown is funny. Do they have clowns on all the BART trains?"

OS: So this yo husband?
W: Yep, and this is our son.
S: I'm five and a half!
OS: Where you from brutha?
W: He's from Turkey.

The husband nodded in assent and gave Olive Suit a forced, awkward smile that belied the facts that a: he probably didn't understand half of what Olive Suit was saying and b: he just wanted him to go away.

OS: From Turkey!? Naaahh, yous a turkey girl? Why you give up on 'merican men? Whas wrong wit 'merican men? You don't like em no more? C'mon sweetheart, I'm all man and I am definitely allllll-'merican!
N: Ohhhh shit. That's awesome!
OS: You know it big man. You know it big man.

Olive Suit stumbles over to me and runs me through his intricate Olive-Suit-Is-The-Man-And-Just-Banged-Two-Women-And-Is-Still-Drunk handshake.

W: American men are fine. We met when I was in Turkey when I was 21 and we fell in love. Then he came back to America with me and we had a little boy.
S: I'm five and a half!

That's when it hit me. SHE'S A MORMON! It all fit. Upon a second glance, she looked like Lazy-Eyed Mormon's younger sister. Bad, pasty white skin. Ratty hair. Squat, lumpy body. All she was missing was the lazy eye and the graying snaggletooth! I figured it all out in a span of like 30 seconds.

She went to Turkey for her mission. She met a guy. He was receptive to her mission and to her advances. She saw in him God's plan for her. He saw in her GREEEEEEEN CAAAAAAAARRRRRD! It made perfect sense. He probably did understand everything Olive Suit was saying, he just didn't care. I mean look at her...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA.

There was a bit of a lull at this point in Act 1 of Theater on the BART Tracks. Olive Suit was swaying gently and drunkenly with undulation of the moving train. Suddenly, he drops to his knees, flattens his briefcase, flips the locks--I see this and I'm getting ready to jump behind my seat Boyz n' the Hood style--and he pulls out a fabric swatch (his briefcase had 3 Sports Illustrateds and the fabric swatch. That's it).

OS: This is gonna be my next suit. You like it? I think it's HOT! I gotta question fah ya though. What color fedora you think I should get? (the swatch was royal blue with thin silver and purple stripes running vertically and horizontally, respectively)

This is one of those instances where, if you are uncomfortable in a situation with a stranger, you beg off by showing no interest and saying something like " I don't know, whatever. I'm no good with that kind of thing." Instead, Mormon Wife TAKES THE SWATCH AND STARTS EXAMINING IT! When she showed it to GreenCard Husband my eyes lit up with glee like a 6yr old on Christmas morning. THIS IS GREAT! YOU COULDN'T MAKE THIS UP IF YOU TRIED!

W: Well why don't you get a blue one like the color of the suit
OS: HAHAHAHAAHA. No bayyyy-beeee, you can't get blue wit dis! You gotta get a purple one, like the stripe in there. I was testin' you, girl! Yo man can dress, he look good. Ask him to teach you what's up.

Olive Suit had been standing a good 15-20 minutes at this point and I think he was getting a little tired of bobbing and swaying everytime the train took a turn or slowed to enter a station stop. He picked up his briefcase, sat it down on it's bottom edge, and took a seat on it. Unfortunately, his weight wasn't centered and the briefcase fell to one side. He went the other. Hard. Everyone in that part of the train stopped. Everyone but Olive Suit

OS: Come ooonnnn big man, help a brutha up! I know you been drunker'n me befo' big ass white motherfucker. Shit.

I helped him up in spite of his disgustingly sweaty hands and the forcefield of Eau-de-Degenerate-BudLight-Swiller perfume he was shrouded in.

OS: I used to be a boxuh! Over in Oakland, 'n Hunters Point 'n shit. You could be a boxer one day too little man. Show me you jab!

Olive Suit leans forward toward the family with his hands extended. The little boy's eyes light up. His parents--both of them this time--recoil in horror hoping he either doesn't fall on them or puke on them or both. Well Olive Suit is having a hard time keeping his balance at this point. He's leaning forward in an awkward position, the train had just entered the underwater tunnel connecting Oakland to San Francisco, and the conductor had just accelerated the train to it's 71 mph cruising speed.

Olive Suit is a problem solver. He grabs the kid under the armpits, lifts him up from between his now petrified parents, and plants him in the middle of the open floor space. The kid is loving it. Olive Suit puts his hands out:

OS: Okay little man, show me yo' jab. Gimme a combination. Hit me wich yo lef' now da right now the right again now da lef'

Little Man is doing everything he said and swimming in the attention. I've seen Special Olympics medalists look less happy. Olive Suit wasn't pleased with how Little Man was punching though

OS: Naw, naw, naw you got no balance. You gotta setcho' feet. Drive witcho' hips and bring yo hands through.

Little man didn't get it. He's five and a half, what the hell does he know. Like I said though, Olive Suit is a problemsolver. He picks up Little Man again, spins him around, plants him in the floor, bends over, moves his legs how he wants them, grabs Little Man's balled up fists, tells GreenCardHusband to put his hands out, and starts guiding Little Man's punches firmly into the outstretched palms of his father.

IT WAS AWESOME! Combine the visual with the now overpowering stench of sweat and Bud Light oozing from his suit-sheathed pores and you have quite possibly the most tragically funny commutes in the history of BART.

The train started to slow as we approached Embarcadero Station--the first San Francisco stop. It's where I get off everyday and, apparently, where Olive Suit gets off everyday

OS: Well, dis me. Yeah I got my own business. 17 years. I'M DA SHOE SHINE KING! I got me a little stand right at the top of Embarcadero by the Hyatt wit the turnin' restaurant on top. Dat's MY business. I own that shit. Remember that...you too big man. Dat's MY business. I'M DA SHOE SHINE KING!

43 Comments:

Blogger Malt said...

I guess I just never found drunks to be very funny. This is quite possibly the worst post you have written.

August 19, 2004 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no way. still great. love the 5 year old kid.

August 19, 2004 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

The shoeshine king sounds like a plaintiff who had a wrongful death suit against our client in Oakland, except that guy was homeless. He was in the car when his best friend died in an accident. The funniest thing ever was when he talked about going to clubs to hit on women during his deposition.

August 19, 2004 at 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quite hilarious....why is it that Green Card husbands can't find better looking wives??? my aunt married some douche from Canada and it's a total green card situation. she's an oversized hippie and he's definitely a JAMES.

August 19, 2004 at 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its highly amusing to hear stories of characters and places I deal with every day (had a few shines from the 'king').

I'm just waiting for you to tell a good story about the raspy-voiced crazy guy that sits on the bench at the Hyatt by the end of the cable car line and yells at everybody.

Also, if you're looking for more character-material, just hit up Columbus Cafe any weekday after work.

August 19, 2004 at 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH DUDE! I have one about Crazy Bench Guy. I'll have to write it up this weekend. I need to talk to some people first who were with me to get the full breadth

August 19, 2004 at 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Crazy Bench Man commutes from Marin. He takes the ferry every day, and is shockingly lucid while aboard. I actually carried on a relatively normal conversation with him about physics and politics one day (as normal a conversation can be while thinking the entire time, "I'm talking to the Crazy Bench Man!")

August 19, 2004 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger NP said...

crazy bench guy story comment was me

August 19, 2004 at 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greencard business is always funny. You wonder what the Turkish dude is thinking. "A couple more years and I will be eligible for citizenship. Thats when I bail"

Speaking of religious headhunters, there is nothing worse that being stuck next to a Jehovahs Witness for 15 HOURS!!! I endured the pamphlets, attempts at conversion, and how I would be saved.

August 19, 2004 at 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malt - never found drunks to be very funny? are you kidding me?

at least you qualified your opinion making it easier to disregard.

great post NP....

August 19, 2004 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger NurseVal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 19, 2004 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger BrianH said...

"I guess I just never found drunks to be very funny. This is quite possibly the worst post you have written."

That's funny... even if this was his worst post, which it isn't, it's still funnier than 99.9999% of the trite, nescient crap on the web.

The beauty of blogging is feedback... both positive and negative. However, you'd think that someone like yourself would be able to discern that NP is both a) a talented writer, and b) only interested in criticism if it is reasonably cognizent.

Simply posting "this sucks" isn't very constructive, now is it? Just food for thought.

August 19, 2004 at 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malt said...
I guess I just never found drunks to be very funny. This is quite possibly the worst post you have written.

At least DREX always has something funny/interesting to write about. I just glanced over your blog and from what I read all you talk about is some comic book idea that only a James would read, and what color your shit looked like this morning. Let's take a look at some of your gems:
"I had just spent 20 minutes writing down some thoughs on my comic ideas. I went to spell check, but it was stopped by the pop up blocker. "
Wow. That was seriously the highlight of half of an entry.

August 19, 2004 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if BrianH can possibly suck more e-cock. First Tucker, now Nils--who's next BrianH? jojo? Sippy?

Get a life, you pretentious fuck.

August 19, 2004 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger BrianH said...

"I'm wondering if BrianH can possibly suck more e-cock. First Tucker, now Nils--who's next BrianH? jojo? Sippy?

Get a life, you pretentious fuck."

I didn't realize the wait for my iron to heat up would be quite so entertaining.

E-cock? Did you come up with that yourself, or plagarize it from the same people you are attempting to insult?

Keep e-watching the e-drama that you've e-loved for so e-long. It's your so-called e-life.

August 19, 2004 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Halmustdie said...

The magic of public transportation.

My best was riding during "Mega fest" the national conference of black churches.

"Ain't no train like a holy ghost train, 'cause this holy ghost train don't STOP"

August 19, 2004 at 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BrianH - you're becoming Biscuit.

before she hooked up with Tucker.

and without the looks and ivy education.

August 19, 2004 at 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"E-cock? Did you come up with that yourself, or plagarize it from the same people you are attempting to insult? "

He was insulting you dumb fuck. Not them. Get a fucking life.

August 19, 2004 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"E-cock? Did you come up with that yourself, or plagarize it from the same people you are attempting to insult? "

He was insulting you dumb fuck. Not them. Get a fucking life.

August 19, 2004 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

NP - fantastic work. I love it all.

Brian - they're a little right. We understand you love these guys but pulling out your big guns in an attempt to mock the idiots only brings you to their level. They have already made themselves look like jackasses on their own, pointing it out just makes them post more asinine shit. That should have been TMMB 101 for you. And, hate to say it, but you need to brush up on your funny. Your insults are recycled.

The rest of you - This isn't fucking TMMB. Get over it. It's gone. Let NP stand on his own writing skills without all these annoying as fuck references to TM.

August 20, 2004 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is a great piece of writing, regardless of what you think of the humor in the actual situation.

We all see crazy shit like this on a daily basis - I've had adventures in downtown SF that put this event to shame - but how many of us can tell a story that makes everyone else feel like they were right there, laughing along with us? It's one thing to recognize the funny and tell someone else about it, but doing it so well on the page is another challenge entirely. It's something I could never quite master when I used to write a lot. Well done, Nils.

August 20, 2004 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger LC Greenwood said...

DREX... it's Swellgrlchicago from the old board... honey, I love your shit. If ONLY the commutes on the Chicago EL were this entertaining...May I have the honor of linking you on my blog?

August 20, 2004 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger NurseVal said...

You can fucking write, man. I love your posts. Hilarious.

How the hell do you remember conversations so vividly?

August 20, 2004 at 9:04 AM  
Blogger Emptymoneyclip said...

Oh no.....it's a E-BATTLE! Whooooooo Hoooooooo!!!!!!

August 20, 2004 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger xcaducusx said...

"We all see crazy shit like this on a daily basis - I've had adventures in downtown SF that put this event to shame - but how many of us can tell a story that makes everyone else feel like they were right there, laughing along with us?"

I think that this is the key point people miss when they write such novel statments as "this sucks". Anyone whos drank large amounts and ever had a social life (or even rode the BART apparently) has a story that could topple the Shoe Shine King. It's the ability to write about it in a manner that brings the reader into it that makes the differance. Good writting Nils, keep it up.

August 20, 2004 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger The Lovely S said...

"The rest of you - This isn't fucking TMMB. Get over it. It's gone. Let NP stand on his own writing skills without all these annoying as fuck references to TM."

I think I'm in love with you.

August 20, 2004 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Nothin4U said...

"The rest of you - This isn't fucking TMMB. Get over it. It's gone. Let NP stand on his own writing skills without all these annoying as fuck references to TM."

This may not be the TMMB, but it's what we've got right now. YOU may not like all those references to TM, but if it wasn't for Tucker and the message board how the fuck did you hear about NP and his blog? IF this WAS the message board BrianH would mop up the floor with your ass, you E-Whore!

August 20, 2004 at 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I didn't realize the wait for my iron to heat up would be quite so entertaining.

E-cock? Did you come up with that yourself, or plagarize it from the same people you are attempting to insult?

Keep e-watching the e-drama that you've e-loved for so e-long. It's your so-called e-life"

Wow, yet another unfunny, unoriginal comment from BrianH. Will it ever end?

By the way, if you talk like you type in most of your posts (except for this one, it was unusually void of words of which no-one, probably including yourself, knows the meaning), then I truly feel sorry for you.

"Look at me! I'm BrianH! I use big words in order to impress my smart(er) friends! Tell me I'm smart too! Love me! Validate me!"And just so ya know--it's plagiarize. You do it often enough, I just thought you should know how to spell it.

August 20, 2004 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Nothin4U said...

Look at you, all grown up and can read the dictionary too! Here's one for you:
(pay close attention to definition #2)

anonymous

adj 1: having no known name or identity or known source; "anonymous authors"; "anonymous donors"; "an anonymous gift" [syn: anon.] [ant: onymous] 2: not known or lacking marked individuality;

I like that, it suits you.

August 20, 2004 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger Emptymoneyclip said...

Arguing on the internet is like the "Special Olympics." Even though you win, you're still retarded. How's that for plagiarism.

August 20, 2004 at 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt if BrianH needs to use big words in order to make himself feel more intelligent. I for one feel like a goddamned genius after reading through this mindless babble. Oh, and that special olympics comment... so true. Its a bit hypocritical I know, but this is supposed to be a comments section for NP's blog.

August 20, 2004 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have your own stories that you feel are worth saving for future generations why don't you start your own blogs and post them there instead of dragging it all here?

It seems that some of you have tons of stuff you need to get off your chest - so get your own blog and post it! Am I the only one who feels that there's a low-level attempt at hijacking the comment section of NP's blog? I mean, more and more it feels as though people want to write about themselves than about NP's posts.

Though I too found the Shoe Shine King to be less amusing than some of the other stories I still found it to be very well written. Then again, you can't really blame NP for not having funnier material to work with. I guess he could provoke a "funnier" situation, but I think that would prove to be less challenging for him as a writer than just trying to describe a "natural" event that he observed.

August 20, 2004 at 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last one was me.

/The Swede

August 20, 2004 at 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should all e-gofuckyourselves.

August 20, 2004 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's with every person suddenly coming out of the woodwork to pick on BrianH? Have you guys been saving this up since the board went down? Plotting in the secrecy of your mother's basement? You're all a bunch of Glens. All of you.

August 20, 2004 at 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be time to block anonymous posters?

August 20, 2004 at 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny shit, I swear I've met the Shoe Shine King before. Also, could we please move all the "my internet cock is better than your internet cock because it shoots lasers and has read Niche somewhere else"?

August 20, 2004 at 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"BrianH - you're becoming Biscuit."


I really thought the first few of these posts were jokes. The fact that you fuck-ups are taking shots at Brian for writing about a relevant and moderately amusing encounter with PEOPLE FROM THE STORY while simultaneously showing off your knowledge of where Biscuit goes to school is astounding. And by astounding, i mean retarded.

To borrow a line from SLF -- it seems anonymity does wonders for JBeers and Proctor's testicular fortitude.

That said... Brian, dude... is there any way you could dumb it down a little? Using 'excrescence' or 'eructation' or 'ensorcell' or whateverthefuck in a sentence is all well and good -- but I'm reading stories and looking at porn, not studying for the LSATs.

- CaptCapital

August 23, 2004 at 2:10 AM  
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