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Tomato Soup Adventure

I knew it was going to be a terrible day when the Tercel wouldn't start.  Not sure what the problem is, but about once a month or so it just won't start in the morning.  Once you DO get it started, it runs great for the rest of the day.  No problem.  But that morning it was a problem.

It's embarrassing, but when it won't start I have to hang out on the wall next to the parking lot and wait for a neighbor to come out.  If I'm out early enough usually I can catch someone else going to work.  After nine, though, it gets tough.  And that morning it was already about 9:30 and I needed to get to Jerry's by 10:00 for the lunch shift.  But what can you do?  These are the sacrifices you make to drive a fourteen year-old Tercel in Los Angeles, especially when you can't afford a new battery.

Anyways, I finally got a jump from the guy downstairs when he left for his shift at Carl's Junior.  I haul ass over to Jerry's and get there about twenty after--not too late, I'm thinking.  And then wham!   Some idiot's in my spot, even though it's clearly marked "Reserved for Jerry's Deli Delivery Only."  A beamer, of course.  So anyway, I box him in just to piss him off if he comes out.  I run in the front and ask Jessica to roust his ass on the P.A., and then I run back out to the Tercel.  I get back just in time to see LAPD protecting and serving me by writing me a f@ckin' ticket.  I plead my case, but no dice.  So now I'm down $100 before my first delivery.

First run of the day is just off Sunset.  Two turkey platters and a tuna melt.  I think it was a production meeting of some kind.  There were three guys in there with a big white-board.  In one column they had listed a bunch of zoo animals: lion, elephant, rhino, tiger, etc.  And then in the other column was a list of things with dollar amounts after them: pressure washer $5, baseball bat $10, pepper spray $25, taser $50, and so on.  Somebody had written "Liability" with a big red question mark at the top of the board.  Not sure what was going on and I didn't ask.

I get back to my car and that's when it starts to rain.  They'd been warning about it on the news the night before, because rain is always a big deal here.  The whole city just loses their shit when it rains, and we were supposed to get 2 or 3 inches.  I remember thinking it wasn't supposed to start until later in the day--but here it was, straight up noon. So I get in the Tercel and head back to Jerry's, but my driver-side wiper is pretty shredded so I had to creep back at about ten miles an hour.

Back at the kitchen things had slowed down to a crawl.  No one coming in the front and no phone orders either.   And that was fine by me, because you have to be suicidal to drive across L.A. in a big downpour.  And it was really starting to come down.   Me and Chuck, the other delivery guy on shift, just sat on a couple of milk cartons by the back door and smoked a few cigarettes. 

After about an hour, though, Nick--he's runs the kitchen afternoons--comes in and tells me I'm "up."  I grab the slip and look at the address.  Unbelievable, it's someplace off Mulholland near Laurel Canyon.  The Tercel does not like the Laurel Canyon run, especially in the rain and especially coming back downhill.  Nick rings the bell for the order and I grab the bag.  But it's light as a feather, so I ask what's up.

"One order of tomato soup, no bread," he says.

"Fuck me running, are you kidding?" I tell him.  "Who the hell orders a single tomato soup in the middle of a hurricane?"  But Nick just shrugged his shoulders.  No skin off his ass, after all.

Chuck is laughing.  "Big tip on that one," he says.  I shot him the bird and went out to the Tercel.

Up we go.  Left, right, slow down, speed-up.  To the side, I can already see these little rivulets of muddy water pouring down from the hillside.  Great, all I need is a mudslide, I'm thinking.
To make matters worse, it was raining so hard by the time I got up toward Mulholland that I missed the turn and had to cross over on the Studio City side to turn around.  But finally, after about a half hour of this shit, I get to the turn-off.  And it's a real goat-path--one lane winding back up the hill with a river of water washing down.  I gunned it through a gully full of standing water to make sure the Tercel didn't stall out and then pulled up in front of this white house with big windows in the front.   Check the address.  Yep. That's it.

Normally I just leave the car running.  But here I was stopping on about a 30 degree incline, plus with all the rain, I didn't want it slipping gears and ending up over in Encino.  So I killed the ignition, pulled the parking brake all the way up, and banked the wheels.  I grab the soup out of the thermos-box and run like hell to the front door so that I don't get completely drenched.  But half way up this little path of concrete tiles, my cell phone drops out of my pocket, bounces off a rock, and lands right in the middle of a puddle.  Goddamn it!  I fished it out as fast as I could but too late.  Dead as doornail.

So I'm cursing to myself, walking the rest of the way up the path shaking out the phone and balancing the soup.  Then I see this woman looking out the window.  She's got on these stupid pink pajamas, even though it's almost one in the afternoon already.  And she's talking to someone on her cell phone.  At any rate, I figure she sees me, so I run up to the porch and wait for her to open the door. 


A minute or two goes by.  Nothing.  So finally I ring the bell, and after another minute, pink pajamas finally opens the door.  She's got the stereo on, playing some old R 'n' B song from the fifties.  "Honey Hush," I think.

But rather than say anything to me, she talks into her phone.  "How far is the nearest Jerry's Deli's?"  She's looking straight at me now, just holding her phone up between us.  Just then this robot woman on the phone says, "The nearest Jerry's Deli is 1.2 miles away.  Would you like me to call them for you?"  Then pink pajamas glares at me and shuts the phone down.

She's pissed, obviously, mad I didn't launch her cup of tomato soup up the hillside with a slingshot, I guess.  So I apologize.  You know, the rain?  The sheets of water coming down from the sky?

"This is ruining the dance party I had planned today," she says.  Which is weird, because as far as I could see, no one else was there.

Just then I realize I've seen her on TV somewhere.  I'm trying to figure out where while she's signing the charge slip, but I couldn't quite place her.  Anyway, she grabs the bag of soup and slams the door.  Decent tip, I guess, at least as much as you could hope for on an $8 order of tomato soup.

So I hop, skip, and jump back across the tiles that are still above water and get back to the Tercel.    Crank the ignition.  Nothing.  Crank it again.  Still nothing.  I slumped over on the wheel for a couple of seconds and then,  I don't know, I guess it was the combination of all the crappy stuff that day--the car not starting, being late for work, the ticket, having to sherpa one measly cup of soup up the hill for Miss prissy pants pink pajamas, the car not starting again--anyway, I just lost it.  I punched the seat and dashboard for about 30 seconds screaming my head off.  In fact, I screamed so long I almost hyperventilated.  But finally I calmed down.  Took a couple of deep breaths.  Tried to figure out what to do next.

So I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone to call Chuck for a jump.  And that's when I remember--the cell phone is soaked.   And that sets off round two.  I punched the dash for another minute or two.

Well, what else could I do?  I got out of the car and hopped back over the stones to pink pajamas' front door.  I ring the bell and start getting my spiel together.  Sorry to bother you, my car seems to have stalled, can I please borrow your phone to call for help.  I'm rehearsing this in my mind when, after a long while, I realize no one is answering.  That's weird, I think, because I know she's in there sucking down that bowl of tomato soup.  It hasn't been more than five minutes.  So I ring again.   Nothing.

So I walk around to the front window again and there she is.  She's whirling around in the living room playing this weird banjo--one of those that has a metal front.  Round and round in the pink pajamas.  The stereo's still playing, and it sounds like she's picking out the melody to "Tears of a Clown."   And then suddenly she stops dead in her tracks and looks right at me.   She pulls her phone out of a pajama pocket.

"Remind me to buy banjo strings tomorrow," she says.

"Okay, I will remind you," says her robot phone.

And then she comes to the window and closes the curtains with me standing right there in front of her.

I ended up walking back over to Laurel Canyon and hitching back to Jerry's.   Chuck drove me back up and we jumped the Tercel.  Went home.  Next day I had a cold.

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