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my dinner with myself


political graffiti – foto by smith

The night before the night before Xmas, I ate at the Dragon Inn. or Out. Same old odor: Tsingtoa beer, egg roll, pork fried rice (it always makes my foreskin tingle) when
! ! C ! R ! A ! S ! H ! !
someone threw 2 rocks through the dragon painted picture window, one rock breaking bar booze bottle.

I was alone. Only customer. Back to front window. Manager-waitress and cook in kitchen. They rush out shout WHAT HAPPENED at me thinking me did it because me only me there. I ponder. Point. They run out.

Across the street a drunken cop walks wrapped around a woman, the two stumbling towards her place. Middle-aged manager Chinese woman calls him over in broken English, says, “Someone broke window.”

Cop weaves, mumbles, “Wha? Who? Inside?”

“Yeah, inside. Someone broke window inside.”

Cop touches gun, squints through window at me standing watching. Starts to come in. I realize I am only one within. I am large. Standing. Male. Cop is drunk. Has gun. Thinks PERPETRATOR is within where I alone linger.

The last two months flash before my eyes lies – the Cleveland Police beating me up and breaking my rib; the pumpkin from the overpass smashing my car lights; falling down after completing the Art Behind Bars installation and breaking both elbows and both wrists; my loft stairs collapsing thrice; smashing my 1977 blue Saab into the foreign woman’s Cougar car . . . etc. I can see me being shot, and I find my innocence amusing: “SELF MADE DEGENERATE SHOT BY DRUNKEN KOP WHILE POSING AS CONSUMER” says imaginary Pain Dealer headline.

I immediately sit at table. Write with beer. Become CUSTOMER. See, me safe, me drink beer, me spend money – ME CUSTOMER ! ! Cop comes in. Walks by me back to bowels of kitchen. Feel safe. Cop emerges from bowels. Sees me. ! PULLS GUN !

Chinese lady grabs his arm yelling, “NO NO NOT HIM, HE CUSTOMER.” I smile. Raise both palms outward and shake my head no in gentle reinforcement, ready to run.

Cop asks for description. Start to say I only one out front back to front when I realize ain’t no way I’m going to draw his drunken attention to me, and drink my beer instead. He watches with Pavlovian saliva and says “I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to the bar, next door and check things out. If I’m not back in 5 minutes, call the Cleveland P.D.”

He leaves. Owner comes in. Screams at woman. Calls the Cleveland Police. Yells at them. They hang up on him. He calls back. Screams louder. They hang up faster.

Drunk cop comes back without his lost lady, saying “There’s no one fitting the description next door, so there’s nothing I can do … it’s not my beat anyway.”

While I’m wondering what description he’s talking about, he wanders back to the bowels of the kitchen.

Owner yells, “DON’T LET HIM GO BACK THERE WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM IS HE CRAZY ? ?”

Woman leads cop back front. Owner screams in cop face “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

Cop leaves. Owner verbally abuses employees awhile, then stares at me – me thinking he suspects me because here I am all alone and writing like mad in a wonderful socio-psychological experiment.

All this for $8.25. And I eat too.

– excerpt from CRIMINAL by Smith & Lady, from December 1985


restaurant wall mural – foto by smith

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