VIEW FROM THE STATIONARY BIKE #7: "GORDON'S GOOD DEALS"
BY DELL FRANKLIN
Occasionally my riding partner, Walt, refers to Gordon as “Lumpy,” and I chastise him as being cruel for calling attention to the lumps accumulated on Gordon’s arms from a nerve disorder that Walt explained to me. But Walt doesn’t seem to feel any guilt about his sly digs at other people’s physical defects, and I suppose he has a license to do so being that he’s badly stooped from scoliosis and walks in little mincing steps from a childhood battle with polio.
Gordon is a retired high school teacher and a really positive optimistic well-meaning harmless person who doubtlessly does not size people up in this gym in the snide way Walt and I do. Gordon spotted us and came over, glancing at my T shirt, which had a Laker logo on it, and he said, “How’re your Lakers doing this year?”
“That’s what I hear. Guess you can’t win all the time.”
“They stink because their owner, Jim Buss, sabotaged the team with stupid trades. They oughta take him out and shoot him.”
“So how’s it going, Gordon?”
Gordon is mid-size and works out hard and in good shape even if he is sort of round with a big belly to go with his lumpy arms. He wears an old butch hairdo and still has some brown in it. “Pretty good. I’m building a new deck at the house…well, not exactly a new one, but replacing the floor with pine and the railing with redwood.”
“They charge an arm and a leg for redwood, but my wife wants it, so I got a pretty good deal on redwood from a friend who’s a contractor. I’d never pay for what they charge at Miner’s.” Miner’s is the local hardware store.
“When I rebuilt the fence in the back yard I decided against redwood, though. I just used the standard lumber, because nobody sees your backyard fence anyway, but I did get a good deal at Miner’s, and I’ll tell you one thing, you buy a lot of stuff from those guys, like I do, because they know I have a lot of projects, they try and give me a good deal.”
“Yeh, I know you’re pretty busy with your projects, Gordon. Me? I got none. When something goes wrong around my place, I call in my friend Ethan, a carpenter, and he fixes it. For instance, I had a huge problem with mice after my cat died, and so I got a couple hi tech mouse traps at Miner’s, and within 2 days I got about 20 mice, they were snapping all night, keeping me awake…”
“You didn’t use cheese, did you?”
“No, peanut butter.”
Gordon nodded emphatically. “Always use peanut butter.”
“Anyway, Ethan came over and built a flap under a door where the mice were coming in, and screened off some holes in the side of the house, and that put an end to the mice problem, and I only had to pay for material, a good deal.”
“Well, by God, we don’t have a problem with mice. My wife, she always has a cat, and by God even though I’m more a dog man than a cat person, I’ll tell you one thing, that cat drags in a dead mouse just about every other day.”
Walt’s head went back and forth, listening in. Gordon addressed him. “Got any problems with mice, Walt?”
Walt shook his head. “Nah, we always have cats. We got dogs and cats. We don’t have any kids, so we always adopt pets.”
“Yeh, I got kids. They’re all long gone, doing well. I got grandkids, the whole ball of wax. They sure do keep me going. I thought I’d relax when I retired, but I’m busier than ever.”
“Not me,” I stated. “I’m hardly ever busy, and I love it.”
Walt said, “I’m never busy, either. I don’t know if I like it or not, because I simply can’t do a lot of stuff anymore because of my infirmities,”
“Well,” I said, “You clean your Mr. Coffee every morning after using it—that’s keeping busy.”
Gordon said, “You use vinegar, Walt?”
“No, I just clean it with hot water.”
“I use vinegar,” Gordon said. “I take my Mr. Coffee completely apart once a month and scrub it down with vinegar, and I’ll tell yah one thing, you do that, and the damn thing’ll last ten, twelve years.”
“Mine lasts about that time when I wash it every day,” Walt told him.
“Well, that sounds like a good deal to me,” Gordon maintained, “but I’m too busy to take my Mr. Coffee apart every day.”
“I don’t have much else to do,” Walt admitted.
I said, “I just pay three bucks for a used top brand coffee maker, like a Bunn or a Braun, that these rich folks leave at the thrift store in Cayucos, and don’t do anything to it, and it lasts me three, four, sometimes five years, Gordon.”
“Well, that sounds like a good deal, but I don’t think the coffee tastes as good if you don’t maintain the coffee maker. But I get what you’re saying about thrift shops. You get good deals. But the wife, she draws the line at my bringing stuff home from those places, but I do get a lot of my tools at yard sales and at that swap meet every Sunday in San Luis Obispo at that drive-in theater.”
“I don’t have many tools or need for them,” I told Gordon. “Just a hammer and screw driver.”
“I don’t have much more than that,” Walt admitted.
“Oh hell, I get deals at that swap meet, why, I’ve gotten a damn good roto rooter snake, nail gun, power saw, up-to-date tools to work on my cars, you wouldn’t believe the deals I get there, especially if you get there early, and in season you can get ten big fat beautiful avocados for a buck! Why, I’ve got so many tools I can hardly fit ‘em in my garage, and my wife, she complains, because we can’t put the car in there anymore, so I got everything pretty much organized, with cupboards and stuff, so I know just where to go…why, I got a post-hole digger last week at the swap meet for two bucks! How can yah pass that up? Tell me!”
When Gordon gets enthusiastic, he’s sort of animated about his deals, stepping forward, raising his voice, a happy man indeed. Walt was looking at him.
“What do you need a post-hole digger for, Gordon?” He asked. “I thought only cowboys and farmers used those things.”
“Oh hell no, I’ll tell yah one thing, you build a fence, you better have a post-hole digger, unless you want to start digging with a common shovel.”
I nodded. “Yeh, years back, I was drunk and mowed down my mail box with my old pick-up, and my neighbor, a ninety year old, came over and told me I shouldn’t leave the mail box leaning against my fence, so he made me dig a new hole with HIS post-hole digger and re-plant it, even if it was short where I mowed it down. That post-hole digger definitely made it easier than a common shovel, but it was still hard work.”
“Yeh, well, yeh.” Gordon said. Sometimes Gordon went on about growing up in Pittsburg and playing hockey and working at Westinghouse at 19 and making big money but realizing they had a policy of only letting you climb so high if you weren’t educated, so he went on to college and got a degree and came out here to teach, but he missed hockey…
He realized that Walt and I were just about done with our workout and sort of backed off, waved, smiled, and walked over to chat with this fat guy who had one of those operations where they cut out half your intestines to keep you from eating—like Governor Christie from Jersey.
Walt and I sat on our bikes, finished pumping. Walt sort of leered at me, and said, “I’ll tell yah one thing, old Lumpy, he sure gets good deals.”