The Red Dress Club theme this week was to go retro and share a favorite TRDC post from the past. I actually turned my favorite Red Dress Club post into a section of my novel, and since I’m not big on following the rules, that’s what I have for you today.
I created characters (for that TRDC post) named Iona Lardasse and Jackie (who never got a last name) and people really liked them. I changed Jackie’s name to Fran, because the main character in the novel is named Jack and I thought they sounded too similar. Here is what the blog post turned into. Enjoy.
The morning after the Moonbeam incident, I picked up Ashley from grandmas, took her to school, and then headed to the corner to visit my favorite donut joint for a pre-show sugar fix. About a half block up I heard a loud voice with a strong east coast accent. It was my neighbor, Iona. I took a deep breath and waited for what was coming next. “Hey Jackieeeeee boy,” Iona yelled. “You heading down to the corner?” I smiled and said, “I absolutely am. How may I be of service this morning?” We did the same shtick three or four mornings a week and I have to admit, I enjoy it.
“Ya wanna bring me a cruller?” She wheezed in between puffs on her ever-present cigarette. “Fran wants one too.” I asked if they wanted coffee and Iona told me her friend was in making a fresh pot and that I was invited to join them when I brought the donuts. Of course I was invited to join them. I was always invited to join them. Just as I was always invited to pay for their donuts. Rather than be upset about buying these two Buffalo transplants their breakfast, I looked at it as show prep—Iona was usually good for a story or two. “You got it, Iona,” I said as I headed towards the corner. “Always love bullshitting with you two.”
As I cruised up the street, I wondered if I could write off my morning donuts as actual show prep. I made a mental note to keep the receipt and try it. What did I have to lose, right? Either it worked, or I pissed off my producer. Either way I win. I entered the shop and was immediately smacked in the face with the smell of freshly fried morning treats. I got Iona and Fran their crullers and gazed at the diabetic coma in front of me before opting for a warm apple fritter. I also ordered myself a large coffee. Iona made great coffee, but Fran was kind of hit and miss. After last night, I needed caffeine and wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed the tasty pastries and headed back to see my two favorite neighbors. Iona Lardasse and Fran Salazar are widows from Buffalo who moved out West after Iona’s husband, Paulie the Butcher, passed away about six years ago. Iona is a very loud, stereotypical New Yorker while Fran is quiet in a very Edith Bunker sort of way.
I made my way up the walk and planted myself in my usual chair on the porch. “O.K. Jack,” Fran said as she hurried back out with a fresh pot of coffee, “Let’s hear about your date last night.” “Yeah,” Iona asked. “Did ya get some?” I assured them that I did NOT get some and re-told the tale of the previous night’s debacle. All Fran could do was shake her head and mutter, “Oh dear,” every few minutes. About halfway through the story, Iona chimed in and exclaimed, “She sounds like a real bitch. Where the hell did you meet this one?” I explained that I met her online and that I wasn’t too impressed with the women I was seeing there. “Of course you’re not,” Fran said as she grabbed my hand. “You need to go someplace like mass to meet a nice woman.” “Or a bar,” Iona chirped. “Either one will work.”
I politely explained that I appreciated Fran’s suggestion, but that I wasn’t Catholic. “Oh. That’s OK,” she explained. “Anyone can attend mass.” I pondered that thought for a moment as I sipped my hot coffee from the white Styrofoam cup. I never thought of church as a place to pick up women. I’ve often looked for women in the Ace, but they weren’t to date as much as take back to their place for an evening of crazy sex. I never did succeed. Also, I was pretty sure church chicks didn’t give it up right away, but I think Catholic girls might be an exception to the rule. This was definitely something to think about.
I took a long drink of my coffee and asked, “So. What’s up with you two?” It was a question I often asked and almost always dreaded, but as I said earlier, on occasion I get some great stories. “Did you hear about Louie?” Fran asked. “It was so sad.” “I could never have imagined it,” Iona cackled. “Who would think that Louie the pizza guy would just keel over like that? Now where am I going to get a slice with sausage?” Louie was a Long Beach institution from as far back as I could remember. His dad opened Malnotti’s back in the 40’s and Louie took it over in the 70’s. It was definitely my pizza joint of choice and with no children to take over the family business, it appeared Malnotti’s was closed for good.
“Louie’s dead?” I asked Iona. “Really? When? How?” I grew up in Malnotti’s and for three summers in high school I made pizzas for Louie. It suddenly felt like someone punched me in the gut and for a moment I had a hard time breathing. “He had a heart attack yesterday,” Fran explained. He was sitting in his backyard smoking a cigar and his neighbor found him there.” I looked at Iona, then Fran, then back at Iona and all I could think to say was, “Wow. Just…wow.” I needed some time to compose myself before my show, so I looked at my watch and excused myself. “I need to get to the station. You two have a great day. Catch ya this evening?” They both assured me they would be sitting right there and invited me back for “a stiff one” after work. I promised them I would be there as soon as I could, but the only stiff one I wanted was a drink. Iona laughed, while Fran looked confused.
As I made my way up the street, I thought about all the great memories I had from Malnotti’s. I snuck my first beer in the alley behind the pizza shop and I lost my virginity in the cooler after work one night. If memory serves me correctly, she was kind of sitting/laying on some bags of onions and boxes of sausage. I do remember that it was very uncomfortable, but I didn’t know any better. I was having sex for the first time and that’s really all that mattered.
I wanted to do something to remember my friend, but the only thing I could think of was to chug a few beers and have sex with someone in the alley. “Maybe I should take some time and come up with something else,” I thought to myself. “I can’t call a girl and say, “Hey. We’ve never gone out, but do you wanna go have sex with me in an alley behind a closed pizza place?” There has to be a better way of memorializing him. I would figure something out.
The first meal Liz and I shared in the new house was a pizza from Malnotti’s—sausage, pepperoni, hot peppers and onions on his New York style crust. I remember that pizza like it was yesterday. We were in the midst of unpacking boxes when Louie personally delivered the pie and refused to take a penny. He wanted to see the new place and said he was very happy for the two of us. That’s the kind of guy Louie was. Damn I’m gonna miss him. Iona was right. Where will I get a slice with sausage? It certainly isn’t gonna be from any of the national chains, that’s for sure.
I hopped in the car and headed to the station to meet with Spanky and Candy to see what they had for the show today. Probably nothing, but I wanted to tell them we’re going to talk about Louie at some point in the show and solicit stories about Malnotti’s from the listeners. I got to our office and found that (once again) I was the first one there. I sat down at my computer and looked over the schedule and spoke with our producer, Gary. I asked him to double check and make sure Louie really was dead. I may take some liberties with things I say on the radio, but broadcasting that someone is dead when they’re really not is over the line. Even for me. Gary assured me that Louie really was dead and that we were free to run with the story. He got really sarcastic and thanked me for checking the story before I ran with it. I fuckin’ hate Gary.