Thursday, September 9, 2010

Story Story

Harry B. Sanderford

It was one of those sweltering afternoons that San Diego endures only several times a summer. I’m riding on El Cajon Boulevard, with my friend John in his old Chevy pickup. John is a lifelong San Diego resident and fanatical Charger backer. He's talking up some pre-season game taking place somewhere in the world, between some team and his beloved Bolts.

The six months between the Super Bowl and the first pre-season games seems interval enough for most Charger fans to forget the bitter humiliation of the preceding season and throw themselves headlong and hopeful into the promise of a new and as yet unsullied season. John’s jacked about his beloved team’s prospects this year. This off-season the Chargers have acquired a couple of veteran quarterbacks in Jim Harbaugh, and Eric Kramer. B-guys for sure, but any change in this post would seem an improvement over the tandem fiasco that was rookie Ryan Leaf, and veteran bench-warmer Craig Whelihan last year. They have a new coach and a clean slate. It is undoubtedly the best time of the year to be a Charger fan.

Pre-season of course means nothing. Air conditioning however, can only truly be appreciated during temperatures of at least Floridian severity; a situation only rarely encountered in the agreeable climes of San Diego. The idea of luxuriating in the air-conditioned, dimly lit, confines of a local watering hole, drinking ice cold beer and watching football, even just pre-season football, well it’s the San Diego adult equivalent of a snow day. John is going on about Junior Seau, the Chargers schedule this season, and so forth. “You had me at air conditioning,” I say to John. The sign in front of the Nite-Life tells us all we need to know: NFL, GIANT TV, COLD BEER, AIR CONDITIONED. We pull in.

Stepping from the stark daylight through the heavy curtain that serves as a door into the cool darkness gives the sensation of entering a cave. After a moment our eyes adjust and we move to a table near the TV. The air conditioning, its nip exaggerated by the sweat drying on our skin, is Frigidaire frosty. The bar itself is practically vacant, our own little oasis. We order up, pour our beer and toast our good fortune. Here we sit, 97 degrees on the street, cool as your mythical cucumbers, happy as your proverbial clams, inside. And this is where we meet Jane.

She approaches us inquiring, “Would you guys like a table dance?” The NiteLife is, to use their terminology, a gentleman’s establishment. John and I decline the offer. We're saving our money for more beer during the game. But given the hour and the pace of things in the bar, we’re really the only patrons and so are engaged by Jane in conversation. It turns out that this is in fact Jane’s first day on the job. She is working part-time as a table dancer but does not intend to dance on stage where she would be required to remove her top. She is also working fulltime as a public librarian. The stereotypical notions regarding either occupation do not escape us and after much joking with Jane concerning the obvious disparity in her chosen career paths, I suggest to her that her experiences might well make for a good story.

Jane sees me coming from a mile away. Suspecting my motives to be less than genuine, she reminds me that she really doesn’t have any experiences. “My first day, remember?” she says excusing herself presumably to greener pastures. Her instincts, possibly correct, do not deter my interest. Though suddenly, I have renewed interest in football.

John, being the only one obsessed enough to realize that football is even occurring so early in the year, has dialed in via satellite what he thinks should be an awesome confrontation between some second string, and another. And you know what? He’s right. Damned if we don’t have the Chargers VS the Broncos. Here are the Super Bowl champs, squaring off against John’s Chargers. Live from down under. That’s Australia mate. Pitcher, please.

I am not without sympathy for John and the minions of annually allegiant Bolt Backers. Having served my time as a Bronco fan however, I cannot help but espouse an air of superiority under the circumstances. Elway, god love him, has himself gone on to even greener pastures than Jane. But the machine that Mike Shanahan built can easily be driven by Bubby Brister, or Brian Griese, or in a pinch, me. Give me Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, and Ed Mccaffrey, and in the immortal words of Steve Martin, “I don’t need nothin’ else.”

The Chargers look good in the early going. It’s preseason, so I’m not worried. But they look pretty good. They’re up 17 points. It's preseason. Preseason doesn’t count.

“Jane! Where have you been, any new experiences?” Jane has no new experiences to report but has gotten the hang of pretending to be amused. She drains the last two inches of our pitcher equally into our mugs asking, "More beer fellas?”

"Well, yeah!"

The Broncos are coming back, but it doesn’t matter, the real game happened in the first quarter. Like I said, it’s preseason. It doesn't count.

The Bronco’s second and third teams come back to nullify the Charger’s 17 point lead. They win by 3 against the Charger’s number 2 and 3 guys.

Still, based on the early play of their starters the match is scored as a win among the Charger faithful. And so a new season, full of promise, begins.

John and I retire to the smoking room for victory cigars. Actually, it’s a twelve by ten smoke filled closet with tables behind the rear stage at the NiteLife. Across the table from me sits Jane. She is small and slender, delicate really. She is in her mid to late twenties. Her features are Asian though her hair is blondish or light brown. She is on a break and so dutifully smokes a cigarette as we talk. Jane is pleasant but still she's not buying my story story. It’s getting late and she indulges my attempts at sending the two of us into over-time. But just like preseason, it doesn’t count.


Sugar said...

I can't imagine anything more fun than you talkin' football, Har. The 'off the cuff' comfortable feel of this makes me want in on the conversation...makes this gal want to dance on a table for ya! :)

Kevin Michaels said...

Excellent story. Love the flow and the feeling - you can visualize every detail, from the neighborhood to the heat to the bar, and the details of each team give a real authenticity to the story. It pulls together beautifully at the end. Great read and a great story! Well done Harry.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Great good ol boy feel to this story, Harry. I really felt your relief in the coolness of the bar; loved the interaction with Jane – she was a bright light in the darkness of the bar and a bright light in your story.
Oh man, I don't think I could survive living in Florida's heat... give me a good old Canadian winter any darn day!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Excellent pacing to this, and the 'voice' is very natural and unaffected. Good job!

Susan Cross said...

I can certainly relate to the temperatures outside and the relief of AC. This was an easy narrative and Jane a perfect 'character'.

Daniel said...

Jane was right to avoid the story story, It's a time honored way of getting the lap dancer into you, no sexual pun intended, or actually upon reflection, even physically possible without, uh... well I digress, I totally could relate to the whole story, it's a guy story, a girl story, a football story, and a story story. Nicely done.

Madam Z said...

Football? Table dance?? I didn't know tables could dance. Cold beer and air-conditioning sound good though. And the way you tell a story is always good, Harry. It's a real story story and preseason or not, it counts.

Pamila Payne said...

Your voice is so comfortable and natural. I love the wry tone. And as others have said, the football talk and interactions with Jane really bring us right into the bar with you.

Gita said...

Whether you are a football fan or a deer hunter, pre-season is the best time because nothing can tarnish your hopes. Really enjoyed this and just between you and me, Harry, the Janes of this world are always more likely to give you a story if you pay for that table dance.

Harry said...

Hahaha Gita! Yeah, you might be on to something there! Thanks so much everyone for looking in! Love you guys!

Michael Solender said...

yo dude, welcome to the blog-o-sphere! a fine tome

Anonymous said...

Dude, I don't even care for non-SEC football, but I love how you structured this and came 'round to what's really important: interaction. Great circle and clever phrasing, my friend.

Olive Rosehips said...

I liked how you said "gotten the hang of pretending to be amused" and I think Jane should get a huge tip for that =)

Hi Harry, nice blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Har,

Sorry it took so long to respond. This is a great blog. I loved the story and when I have more time I will be back.

Jay C.