Chick’s Diner

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I’ve always been impressed that the apostrophe is in the right place on the old neon sign. It would have added to the cost, but I guess the original ‘Chick’ wanted everything to be just right.

Somehow, the old diner has continued in business with parking in rear, despite sitting on an expensive piece of real estate.

The block would have been on the edge of town when the diner opened, but these days it has been gobbled up by progress.

Steak and Chops are still on the menu, but I prefer the sausages and eggs.

Back in the day, it is said that ‘Chick’s’ stayed open twenty-four hours. These days, it’s open until two in the morning, which is okay by me. The opening and closing hours are flexible, and if the diner has customers at closing time, it stays open until they want to leave, which kind of makes you feel wanted, and I guess if you are up at that hour, you are in need of a bit of comfort.

When I can’t sleep, I wander down to ‘Chick’s’ and sit and write. As long as I buy coffee, they don’t seem to mind.

Taxi driver’s and emergency workers love the place.

The girl who works the late shift is friendly and knows how to listen in the same way that a good bartender does.

No-one messes with her because the short-order cook is a big bloke and rumour has it he strangled someone over a parking space.

Speaking of parking — I rarely drive to the diner, living as close as I do, but when I do arrive in a car, I’m allowed to park out the front. Someone said that it was like receiving a gold medal at the Olympics. Only me and the cops are allowed to park out the front. I don’t know what I did to receive such a high honour, but I have learned not to argue with good fortune. I park out front now and then to show that I can. It has raised my standing in the community.

I found a wallet on the floor of a booth once. I returned it intact even though I hadn’t sold a story in a long while. There was fifty bucks in that wallet, and I was sorely tempted, but I knew my mum would have been disappointed in me if I lifted the money. I remember the look on the bloke’s face when I banged on his door and gave him the wallet.

“Thank you,” he said, “I wasn’t supposed to be in that part of town that night,” he said, handing me the fifty. “Please don’t mention where you found it.”

“Who are you?” said an aggressive woman who reminded me of one of my aunties — the one I was still scared of.

“Just came to return a wallet,” I said, taking a step back.

She pushed her husband to one side and stared at me.

“Where did you find it?” she said.

I looked over my shoulder and noticed the flowers growing on the lawn.

“Just over there, near the footpath,” I lied.

The woman glared at me, and behind her, I saw the man give me a nod.

“Don’t think you’re getting a reward,” said the angry woman.

“No need for a reward lady. It’s enough to see your smiling face,” I said as I stepped back out of range.

I could see my mum smiling as I told her the story. She would be proud of me, and I wished she was still alive so I could see her smile one more time.

Making her smile was my greatest delight.

The Money Clip.

Version 3

“I’ve never met another man I’d rather be. And even if that’s a delusion, it’s a lucky one.”

Charles Bukowski

“Never chase a pretty girl or a tram, there will be another one along in a few minutes.”

My mum was trying to make me feel better, and it worked, up to a point. She would not be the last girl who broke my heart, but she was the prettiest.

My mum had a saying for most situations.

Her ancestors were Irish, and the Irish have an interesting slant on most human endeavours.

I’m no philosopher, but it seems that we do most things for love; trying to get some, trying to buy some, or trying to forget.

You cannot have love without money.

I know that about now, some of you are howling: ‘You don’t need to be rich to be happy’.

Bollocks!

“If you are poor, and you are happy you are deluded.”

My mum didn’t say that one.

She was one of those people who believed that money didn’t bring happiness, and therein lies a story.

I grew up in a household where the belief was that people with real money probably did something wrong to get it.

Therefore, people with real wealth were probably very bad people.

Can you see how my logic flowed?

I was just a kid, but I swallowed this thought pattern hook, line and sinker.

None of my friends was wealthy.

No, that’s not true; there was this one kid.

His dad drove a Jaguar, but his wife had died, and that seemed to even things out for me, at least, it did in my young mind.

I grew up thinking that money had a soul, and it was as dark as night.

Naturally, with the passage of time, I worked out that this is a load of old cobblers. It’s the line that poor people feed themselves to make their failure seem noble.

After many years of struggle, we finally had a good year.

We had a bit of ‘spare money’ and it felt good.

We were a long way from ‘well off’ but we were certainly not living ‘paycheque to paycheque’ like we had been for so many years.

I read somewhere that money attracts money, and to feel successful, you needed to carry more money in your pocket.

More than would generally make you feel comfortable.

A hundred dollars seemed like a lot of money to me at the time, and I was sure that there was a neon sign on my back that said, “This bloke is carrying a serious amount of cash. Hit him on the head and take it. He’s a wuss; he won’t put up much of a fight.”

Screw that neon sign.

I stood in line at the bank, and when it became my turn I asked for two hundred dollars, “all in twenties, please”.

My voice sounded funny, but I don’t think that the girl behind the counter noticed. She was cute, and I had seen her around, but I doubt that she ever noticed me; my ‘attractive single male’ neon had been turned off for some time.

“There you go Mr Rainbow. I hope you enjoy your day. Is there anything else I can help you with today.”

“As a matter of fact, there is,”

I smiled at her, partly because she was smiling at me and partly because I did not want her to see how nervous I was.

“Is there a jewellery store nearby?”

This is something that I should have known, but my brain had gone into neutral, and she did ask.

“Yes, Mr Rainbow, just across the road. The White Box has beautiful things. Are you going to use all that money to buy your wife something nice? Birthday? Anniversary? She’s a lucky lady.”

“Probably, but firstly I need a money clip to hold all these notes. I didn’t realise how bulky it would be.”

The lovely young woman smiled at me, but I know that she thought that I must be a bit dim. Had I not held this much money before? Didn’t I know what two hundred dollars felt like? She handled large sums of money all the time. It was nothing to her. It might have been other people’s money, but it was money just the same, and if her plan worked out there would be a large pile of money in the shoebox under her bed, very soon. All she had to do was not get too greedy.

“Have an excellent day, Mr Rainbow, and please say hello to Mrs Rainbow for me.”

I looked at her name badge.

“I will Joyce. You enjoy your day also.”

I jammed the money into my pocket and walked unsteadily out of the bank.

I waited for the lights to change so I could cross the street.

Typically, I would have run across the street, dodging cars and enjoying my strength and speed, but today I had visions of being hit by some bozo in a van.

The people would gather around in horror, “He’s badly hurt”, one woman would say.

“He’s carrying a lot of money”, someone else would say.

“Don’t get too close, he must be a bad man to be carrying all that cash”, a small child would say.

The lights changed.

I noticed that a few other people had joined me in my quest to cross over to safety.

The old bloke with the walking stick was trying to stop the medium sized dog from sniffing his leg.

The dog seemed to like the old bloke, either that or the old timer had stepped into something interesting.

We all made it across safely and the dog was very disappointed when its owner went the opposite way to the old man.

The old bloke looked back at the dog, and the dog looked longingly at the old bloke.

Maybe they knew each other in a previous life.

As I reached the Jewellery store, I was nearly run down by three small children who were escaping from a frazzled mother.

“Quite a herd you have there,” I said as I deftly avoided being trampled.

“Give me that wad of cash you have in your pocket and you can have them,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?”

“I said, you can have them. I’m fed up.”

I smiled, but I suspect that I looked like I had swallowed a lemon.

The shop was exactly what you would expect a jewellery store to look like — all twelve-volt lighting and satin cloth.

The lady behind the counter was about twice the age of the girl in the bank.

It occurred to me that the shop owner had employed her because she gave the premises an air of maturity.

He was right, it did.

She was well dressed and had a sparkle in her eye that had nothing to do with the lighting.

“You look like a man who has a great deal of money in his pocket,” I thought she said.

“Pardon?” I said for the second time that day.

“How can I help you, sir?”

The smile that came with the question seemed real. I liked that.

“I need a money clip. Something nice. Something that says I’m not a wanker.”

I wasn’t sure whether I had said that out loud, but the woman didn’t blink. She brought out a small tray.

“We don’t get a lot of call for these. Our customers don’t seem to appreciate such things.”

That sounded vaguely like a compliment to me.

The limited selection was predictable and a bit garish with the single exception of the brushed steel clip with a shiny leaping jaguar. I’d always wanted to own a Jaguar, ever since my mate’s dad had driven us to football practice, all those years ago.

“I’ll take that one, please.”

“Do you have the car to go with it?”

“Not yet, but it’s on the list.”

I removed the wad of twenties from my pocket, and the woman behind the counter reacted as though people did that every day. I peeled off a couple and handed them over. I took my change and slid the notes into the clip and put it into my pocket. I imagined some rich bloke in a good suit, with Martini stains on his tie from the three-hour lunch he just had with the bloke from Mad Men.

The book said that you should treat money as a tool.

It has no magic powers; it’s just a tool.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a slightly scruffy looking bloke selling The Big Issue. He was standing near the pedestrian lights. I reached into my pocket and got out my money clip. I peeled off a twenty and gave it to him. He gave me a magazine and fumbled for the change.

“Keep the change mate; it’s been a good day for me.”

He looked at me and grunted, but I know that he thought I was a wanker.

Only wankers have a money clip.

I didn’t care.

When I got home that night, the kids were in the backyard playing. Our dogs met me at the door, and they sniffed me all over. There was something different about me, and they were determined to sniff it out. They followed me around for ages, trying to work out what had changed.

I told my wife what I had done, and although she looked a little bit concerned, she was aware of what I was trying to do, and she had always been very supportive of my hare-brained schemes.

“Can I see the money clip?”

I’m pretty sure that it was the wad of money that she really wanted to see, so I handed over the clip and the money.

I tried to look nonchalant as I took it out of my pocket.

She held it for a moment, then removed the money and proceeded to count it.

“Two hundred dollars is a lot of money to be carrying around Brett Rainbow. Weren’t you scared?”

“A bit, but I felt better after I spent a bit of it. I know it sounds funny, but it seemed lighter, and that made me less concerned.”

“How much did you draw out?”

“Two hundred dollars. All in twenties. Just like the book said.”

“You said you spent some?”

“Yep. Bought the money clip and gave this scruffy bloke a twenty for a Big Issue.”

“I’ve counted it twice, and there are exactly two hundred dollars here. Did you have other money in your pocket?”

“No. Just the money I drew out.”

She handed me the clip, and I counted it.

Two hundred dollars.

It didn’t make sense.

“Did you include the twenty that’s on the floor?”

“No, I didn’t.”

It must have fallen off the bed when Betty was counting it the first time.

I pulled out two twenties and threw them on the floor.

I slid the clip over the remaining notes.

I took the clip off and counted again.

Two hundred dollars.

The two twenties lay at my feet.

The book was right.

Money attracts money.

I looked at my amazing wife who had stuck with me through all the bad times.

She had that sparkle in her eyes.

I was pretty sure that there was a neon sign on my back, but it did not say “this bloke is a loser.”

Whatever it said and wherever this was leading us, I was pretty sure that it was not going to be boring.

NUMBERS

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My dad was a whizz with numbers.

He was comfortable whenever he was around them. He wasn’t a patient man but I can remember him helping me in my later years of high school. He was self taught because he had to leave school at the end of year ten because his father died suddenly and his family needed his income.

He was one of those people who can compute in their head and occasionally we would compete. I was almost as fast as him but I had to work very hard, for him it was second nature.

In a world of uncertainty and betrayal, it is comforting to know that numbers will NEVER let you down.

Two plus two ALWAYS equals four.

No ifs no buts, always equals four.

Considering this magnificent certainty, I find it amazing that so many people dislike numbers; or should I say they dislike Maths. This is probably more a reflection of the deficiencies of the Maths teachers, but fortunately, I had a few good ones along the way.

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31 emails and a dog’s paw.

Our entire world is made up of numbers. 

Even the stuff you cannot see can be described in numbers.

The computer you are reading this on now is heavily reliant on numbers.

The way that people use written numbers is interesting to me.

Because I like to take photographs I am constantly on the lookout for interesting things to shoot.

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For example; when I was sweeping my back deck before heading to the cafe that I’m sitting in now, I noticed that the young man who had done some work for me recently (the same young man who rebuilt the deck) had written some computations on one of the railings. He rubbed it out when he was finished but I could still see the faint outline of the numbers. I’m not sure what he was working out, it just seemed interesting to me that this post was rattling around in my head and for the first time in nearly a year I notice these numbers.

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This house has changed hands three times since the ‘no junk mail’ sign went up. I wonder if the current owners feel this way?

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House numbers are probably the most obvious example.

In our society as numbers are rarely used here (Australia) as street names. I follow a WordPress person who is posting a house number a day for 365 days. The whole 365 days thing is not really for me but I still like this idea.

You will find that a few of my numbers will be house numbers but not in any particular order. They will be there because I liked the look of them or because of their location.

It’s the way that people use numbers that makes it interesting, boring, sinister or scary.

On the way here I dropped off an old tape of an interview I did in the 1980s. The bloke in this ‘really interesting shop’ is going to clean it up (literally and acoustically) and make a digital copy. I promised to send a copy (if I ever found it) to the National Film and Sound Archive*. When I dropped the tape off I noticed that the arcade had two number 13s, and no number 15. The owner of the shop said that he constantly gets mail for number 15 and there is no number 15! You hear a lot about the number 13. Some building don’t have a thirteenth floor, but this arcade has two shops with the number 13 on them and to make it worse they are opposite each other!

One wonders how long this has been going on and how much longer it will continue. Things like this, where no one in particular is in charge, tend to keep on keeping on.

More numbers: the aforementioned tape was an interview with a man who was involved in the manufacture of Pianola Rolls. All piano rolls have catalogue numbers as well as the name of the song. It’s similar to the way that books have a number as well as a name. Sometimes you have to look inside to find this number and other times it has a different number on the outside when it is in a library.^

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I’ve also discovered that light and telephone poles have numbers, which makes sense.

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Most electronic gear has some sort of a serial number. 

They do this so that you can write it down and quote it to the police after some a***hole has nicked it from your house. The police will probably quote you a number to represent your chances of ever getting your stuff back and it may look like this; about a 1000000 to 1, which is a little disheartening.

One of my favourite numbers is the one that appears on money. 

Interestingly, when my country switched from cotton to polymer for the manufacturer of money it was decided that the largest denomination would be $100. The reason being that larger denominations would encourage the cash economy. Those of you who know what the ‘cash economy’ is will know that it does not need any encouragement!

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It’s also interesting to note that the $100 bill is now worth slightly more than $60 some twenty plus years later. (I just read this post to my wife and she said that she thought that the $100 note should be worth more not less…………. I give up!)

*  The interview is with a man who worked for Broadway Music Rolls in Collingwood. He worked for the company (he was it’s sole employee) until the founder of the company, Len Luscombe, died in the early 1950s. Luscombe was a talented musician and very well known in Melbourne. The gentleman I interviewed was very old at the time and I was excited that I had tracked him down. He was very sharp and was also excited that someone was interested in his past. He was a living time capsule of a time long past. He was living with his son and daughter in law and they were bemused as to why I was so keen to speak to this old-timer. As often happens with old people, those around him never thought that he would have something to say that anyone would be interested in.

^  In the olden days people used to read books and sometimes they were gathered together in places called libraries.

On another subject altogether; what do you think it looks like?

http://barcaupthewrongtree.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/looks-like/