Here's part of the first chapter of Karl and the Kooltones. You're going to love this book!
…..oke up this morning and I got myself a beer!” rousted Karl at 5:15 this Thursday morning. The tinny, treble laden, classic rock alarm blared from the 1970’s vintage clock radio, a pre-LED model featuring numbered cards that flipped around a horizontal shaft like a Rolodex to show the time. A row of thin vertical dials controlled the AM radio. All were housed in a black plastic casing the size of a White Owl Cigar box. Square channels, maybe an eighth inch deep and wide, ran parallel across the top of the casing.
“Well I woke up this morning a….” rolling his wiry, 6’2” frame over on the roll out bed in the dingy studio apartment, he lightly tapped the snooze button and laid there staring at the clock radio. Perched on the crude, pinewood night stand he hand built as a 4-H project, also 1970’s vintage, he wondered in that half-awake-half-asleep mind set what purpose those channels had. Ventilation and dissipation of excessive heat generated by moving parts of the clock shaft? Protection for the mighty AM radio speaker? A form of antennae that transmitted subliminal messages in the night from The Man to control the dreams of Tax Payers, convincing them to pay up without dissent?
The channels became an interest when he was changing the roll out bed sheets, pouring the blue stuff in the toilet to hide the yellowish brown build up, and hand swipe dusting in preparation for a gal visitor in the unlikely event the Craig’s List date panned out. He noticed the hand swipe only cleaned the tops of the channels. They came out black and polished, like new. The channel troughs were unaffected, still the light, gray-tan color of dust, lint, and cigarette ashes stuck to coffee and personal lubricant drips.
Through bleary eyes from the edge of the bed, the top of the clock radio looked like a bowling alley for dust mites in The City of Tiny Lights. Only a damp bit of paper towel wrapped around a straightened paper clip or toothpick could polish the lanes. He could spend years watching layers of crud collect on a clock radio before thinking about fabricating a special tool much less using one, but most people didn’t have that high a threshold for dirt. Multinational Corporations intentionally incorporated flaws, making products prematurely undesirable, knowing lazy consumers would toss them in the trash and buy the latest model rather than live with the filth or go through the hassle of a proper cleaning. They were turning The US of A into The Throwaway Society he tried so hard not to be part of, though sometimes it was impossible. Consider the Dinnerware Conspiracy.
Through effective marketing in 1920’s vintage womens’ magazines, Ladies Home Companion, The American Home Monthly, Hostess and the like, The China Manufacturing Conglomerate convinced mothers that newlywed daughters needed at least twelve place settings of fancy dinnerware to establish proper, respectable households. The Conglomerate deliberately manufactured the china to favor form over function, to look dazzling in the finishing school trained hands of Society Gals that could easily afford the hefty price tag for fragile, elaborately hand painted cups, saucers, and plates to daintily sip Ceylon tea and nibble water cress sandwiches. In the hands of those outside Society, the people that needed sturdy, utilitarian dinnerware to cut tendons and gristle off bottom round steaks, the china crumbled. It couldn’t be used daily, so special hutches and cabinets were purchased to protect it between special occasions, all for the benefit of the Conglomerate and their cohorts, Advertisers, Department Store Wedding Registrars, and The Cabinet Makers Union.
The Vera Wang china, that used to be stockpiled in the walnut-veneered hutch in the corner of the apartment, was the only wedding gift salvaged from his second divorce. Jane wanted nothing to do with the china when they split, but his third wife, Ruby, used to bring it out when Mother came over for Thanksgiving dinner. When Ruby died, he regressed back into College Bachelor Habits, reusing or rinsing daily-use cups and plates without soap, licking or pants-swiping silverware, and putting it all back in the cupboard as clean enough. If the food was sticky, or dried on after being left on the living room coffee table when he passed out drunk on the couch, he piled the dishes in the sink. When the cupboards were depleted of the daily-use dinnerware and the sink was full, he mined the china stockpile in the hutch.
In June he was down to a couple salad plates, the gravy boat, a serving spoon, drinking water with lips pressed to the bathroom faucet, and a teetering pile of filthy dishes so rank he moved the coffee maker to the bathroom, ate out at George Webb’s, and only entered the kitchen to rotate the beer inventory. He was going to move the refrigerator out of the kitchen too, but he yanked the power cord so hard it ripped the outlet off the wall. It was all he could do to duct tape the mess back together without the landlord finding out.
The condition was still tolerable in July. The fruit fly population was under control, liberally sprayed air freshener disguised the smell from within, sauerkraut continually stewing in the apartment next door covered it from without, but come the dog days of August, when the neighbors from The Old Country went on vacation and the sauerkraut cookery shut down, the landlord’s complaints got insistent. The hallway outside the apartment stank like a dumpster behind a French Whorehouse, and he couldn’t deny the flies weren’t coming from under his door.
Rather than risking a confrontation, he snapped on a pair of blue latex gloves from the first aid kit and jammed the vile dishes, maggots and all, into a wash basket lined with sections of the Sunday paper so decaying remnants didn’t spill or smear on his last clean shirt. Giving the hallway and stairs a quick scan for neighbors, confirming the coast was clear, he did The Harlem Shuffle out the back door to the dumpster behind St. Vincent De Paul, three alley blocks north. After another quick scan of the alley and another clear coast, he deposited the dishes and wash basket in the dumpster, casually strolled around the side of building, and went in through the out door to purchase replacements.
St. Vincent had a wide array of slightly used dinnerware, and he found four place settings made of high quality, unbreakable Melamine for double nickels on the dime. Off white with blue decorative trim, the plates matched the 1970’s vintage placemats he made for Mother, another 4-H project she returned to him after he bought his first house. With plates that matched the place mats, Mother could enjoy eating his Thanksgiving dinners, and she wouldn’t have ammunition to deride his lack of color coordination skills. St. Vincent’s was happy because they had ten bucks to donate to the Sisters of the Mercy Mission of Burma. He disposed a nasty pile of bug infested dishes that were a constant reminder of Jane, and was glad to be rid of both. All parties were winners.