Saturday, April 14, 2007

I went to a museum, doggs!

At first, it didn't seem like I was gonna go to a museum today. I got up at like 5am so dehydrated that my eyelids took literally three seconds to open or close (the eyelid pulled slowly across the gummy eyeball like a slug), then I went down to the kitchen and guzzled at least a pint of ice cold Pellegrino. Man, never do that. I nearly fell over as all of my blood dropped like fifty degrees and my organs started lookin' around on medical websites to see if they could find someone who would take better care of them. I swear, I think I almost bit the dust.

After that I played it cool in bed for about six hours, just on-and-off sleepin' and tryin' to mentally plan my Saturday brunch feast. The usual calamari and bloody, of course (fish is mad-good for the brain), but maybe English chip-cut fries this time, along with my Eggs B. Nice, right? Little newspaper goin' on, some French jazz on the Bose...heaven. I got up, zipped into my dope new Fila coveralls (they even got slipper feet sewn in), and padded on down to the kitchen.

I cooked that action up BY MYSELF, HELLLOOOO FOOD NETWORK, and, on a whim, picked up this cheese-ass local paper that I never read. While flippin' around in all the ads about sleep dentistry, Pink Floyd-enhanced LASIK, and eight dollar halibut specials at 3pm, I found this little "local interest" article about a general store from the 1850s that had been preserved in its original state and turned into a museum. It hit me, you know? I was like, I had this sense of if I went there, I would get an idea of how similar folks always been. They wouldn't have iPods, or even disco roller-sluts headin' south on ten kinds of Marky-Mark, but they'd have their own kind of fun. Pretty soon I was in the Escalade, and I even used my XM satellite to tune in the 1850s channel (Millard Fillmore, reprahZZZent!)

First up, the building was in this hilly, pretty dense area with a ton of ancient oak trees, and not a lot of folks were around. It seemed very 1850s, except for this one, like, two story Lexus LX (ugliest SUV on the market, all) with a Vuitton-sportin' mom wrestlin' a half dozen brats into various types of kiddie seats. Already, just in the presence of this old structure, I thought of how it would have been in the day, some pioneer mom named like Clarabelle shovin' twenty-six kids into their two story CUS (Catholic-Utility Stagecoach) and lashin' wooden crates of groceries onto the roof.

I stepped up onto the walkway that skirted the building, and it creaked in this mad-dusty Clint Eastwood kind of way. It was large, and I felt like I was there to shoot whoever was running the museum. Amazing how powerful squeaking wood can be. Eventually I found the front door (back then, front doors of shops were just like regular house doors, so to the modern eye they seem like you should not just open them at random), and it squeaked as I walked inside. That ancient smell of varnish and dusty wood filled my nose as I walked across the squeaking floorboards to the nearest display, which was a tray of old extracted teeth that the town dentist-grocer had removed for a dollar each. Not even a glass case over them! Very cool.

I looked around the empty place to see who was in charge, and there was this young dude with like a real forced smile on his face, a real tight squint, standing behind some kind of counter. I smiled at him, his own tight smile intensified, and he nodded like a half-millimeter. Real strange energy from that dude. I looked at a display of old lumberjack saws (again - just mounted bare on the wall, not even any ropes keepin' you out of arms' reach), and some ancient pictures of handlebar mustache dudes cutting down a tree twenty feet wide. I could feel the guy squinting from the other side of the room, so I went into another room, floorboards squeaking like crazy, where there were all these ancient bottles of whisky and local wine on open display, not even behind a glass shield. There, I thought. Even before the transcontinental railroad, when San Francisco was just a few muddy streets thirty miles north, you could buy at least ten varieties of booze in this small room in the middle of nowhere, a spot that was on the way to nowhere. History, you're just like me.

I perused a set of framed ledgers, but I could still feel the dude squinting, and kind of squeaking in place on a noisy floorboard.

It was starting to get on my nerves, so I briefly looked at a display of historical pants, slipped a fiver into the old wooden barrel that said "donations," and squeaked my way across the threshold. I looked back and said "thanks" to the dude, and he just shot me the most intensely squinty-eyed smile I have ever seen. Really confusing. Why would anyone hire a guy like that? A museum should be a mellow place.

I walked around the building, since there were more outdoor displays, and real delicately the dude came out a side door and kind of wince-walked a few steps before noticin' me. When he saw me he pretended to check the axle of this old ox wagon that probably hadn't moved in a hundred years, and then carefully let himself back inside.

It hit me. The dude, workin' alone, had been in there for hours with all those bratty kids and dangerous displays, and hadn't taken a leak since god knows when. Every second I had been in there had been agony for him. There was only one right thing to do.

I squeaked my way back up the front walkway, squeaked the front door open, and stood in front of his counter, arms crossed.

"I've been thinking," I said. "I want you to tell me everything there is to know about this building. We can go room by room, piece by piece."

This broke him. His squinty grin melted into a pleading, begging face, one he couldn't control.

"First," I said, "let's start with the pisser."

I smiled, and let myself out again.

He got me, and as I was headin' to the Escalade I saw him walkin'—with his knees essentially together—to a modern outbuilding. I'll imitate it for you sometime if I ever see you at a Friday party.

As I was drivin' away I saw that his car, the only other one in the lot, was a pretty bad ten year-old fake Pontiac sports sedan, all havin' some stickers about the government holding a bake sale to buy a bomber, so I slipped another fiver under his windshield wiper. I wronged the dude—didn't read the signs—and even though I was kind of interested in the museum, basic protocol always comes first. Any Smuckles will tell you that.