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The Last Hoorah
Episode #4 (Updated February 18, 2017)
by Charles Reuben
Edited by Linda Schwebke
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Next morning Manuel was up bright and early though somewhat hung over, as I was. I felt like I was still onboard the Elation; the floors were rocking, and I had a bit of a headache.

After Manuel left, I checked out his selection of videos and discovered that he had Stanley Kubrick’s last movie, “Eyes Wide Shut.” I had always wanted to see that movie but didn’t go because of the mediocre reviews. I stuck the DVD into the player and watched the entire film.

“Eyes Wide Shut” turned out to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. The acting, the script and particularly the overall message of the movie hit me hard and strong, leaving me in tears. Lately, I have been feeling that sex is the most important thing in a relationship, even though deep down I have learned that by far the most important thing is the loyalty your partner shows you when things get tough, real tough.

In “Eyes Wide Shut,” Tom Cruise gets himself in a situation that not only threatens his own life but the lives of those close to him. In the end Cruise is taught a lesson that most guys have to learn the hard way. If we are smart, we learn to be grateful for what we have, even though it may not be perfect.

Later, Manuel and I met up at noon and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then he returned to work.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town and getting my bearings. Manuel returned at 5 p.m. and a friend of his, a fireman who was preparing to take a lie detector test for a lifeguard position the next morning, joined us.

Now this was an interesting situation. Manuel, a firefighter and I were sitting around all night, drinking beers and discussing recipes, food preparation and cooking. That was a major part of our conversation, and it was all very enlightening. The main course of our dinner was pork  tenderloin  which Manuel filled with onions, yellow bell peppers, and tomatoes. He contained the vegetables within the tenderloin using wood skewers and baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Really brilliant preparation that he assured me would work with a nice cut of salmon as well.

I told Manuel about my success with shrimp cooked in coconut milk, and he encouraged me to send the recipe. The firefighter told me that I should consider getting a smoker to cook my food, and I listened intently. Whoever said guys aren’t interested in cooking? Believe you me!  The pendulum is shifting and we single guys are learning to rely on ourselves and not women to fill our stomachs.

The evening ended relatively early. Manuel had to work the next morning, his friend had to take a lie detector test, and I was tuckered out. Next day, I was allowed to sleep in, and when I awoke, I had the house to myself. I rode Manuel’s bike to Doheny Beach, only four miles along a concrete-lined canal. Manuel said he was working with the Army Corp of Engineers to make it look more natural and judging from his previous successes, I have no doubt it was going to turn out great.

Doheny beach is a well-manicured park whose employees were busy picking up trash from the weekend. I rode around it, noted the signs that warned people to stay away from the water, grew bored, and headed back to town. As I drove past an intersection, Manuel saw me and honked. I was astonished by the coincidence of seeing him. We made plans to meet for lunch at noon.

We ate lunch at an Italian Restaurant near the center of town. I ordered a gorgonzola cheese sandwich but was disappointed by the fact that they had no focaccia bread, as the menu promised. It was pretty good, but I wish these people would get on the ball.

I spent the afternoon walking around town and ended up at an absolutely fabulous library just a block from Manuel’s house. It has a lovely fountain in its middle courtyard (unfortunately it was shut off) and an Internet system whose speed rivals anything I have ever seen. I was disappointed to discover that my mail service was down, so I could not contact friends and family.

That afternoon I was determined to listen to Genesis because it is one of Manuel’s favorite groups and the reason he was going to Montreal see a reenactment of their classic “The Lamb Lies down on Broadway,” performed by a group called The Music box. Unfortunately, I totally screwed up Manuel’s stereo system by messing up his remote control. I was not sure what I had done to it, but I knew, deep down that it could not be very serious. The words of my digital electronics professor echoed in my ears, “Software cannot damage hardware.” Also, I knew that although I had created a software conflict, it could conceivably be much worse.

So Manuel returns from a hard day at work to discover that his old pal had totally fucked up his stereo system. Try as hard as he could, he could not find his way out of the problem that I had caused and was he ever pissed. I told him that I took total responsibility for the problem, that I would gladly pay for its repair and that I was very, very sorry, which I was. That really did not help the situation. I even threw in the thought that it was entirely possible that it the power supply had coincidentally blown out after it had worked so well the night before. “You would say that,” he retorted.

I asked him for permission to keep messing with the remote, and after about an hour, I figured out the problem. I had set up the remote to receive a digital signal when it should have been receiving an analog signal. I corrected the problem, and an ear-splitting blast of sound crashed through his speakers, one of the most blessed, vindicating noises I have ever heard. I had managed to fix  the havoc I had created and turned to him and said, “Friends again?”

He turned to me and said, “Chuck, we’ll always be friends. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get mad at you every now and then.”

Later he said, “You know Chuck, I think you do these things on purpose, just to get my attention.”

I assured him that he was wrong. That my IQ was on the low side and  that I had a tendency to mess with things I did not understand. But deep down, I thought, maybe he's right. Maybe I don’t know myself that well. Maybe he knows me better than I know myself. Maybe, just maybe, my need to be recognized and to get attention is so ingrained into my psyche that I do these things subconsciously.

So everything was now OK, and we could get on with life. I suggested that I would like to make up for my transgressions by going out for crab legs on me. He gave the matter some thought and suggested we make dinner at home and that we buy the crab legs at Albertson’s.

So off we went to Albertson’s where I bought three Alaskan Crab legs for both of us including a mountain of mussels. Total cost around $65 but I figured that if he could show me how to cook them, that would make it all worth my while. So I whipped out my gold card and we walked up to the cash register.

A word about the lines at Southern California cash registers. Everybody seems to be in a rush in the Los Angeles Area, except when they finally make it to the cash register. At that point, time stands still. If the shopper is frugal, they will check out every single purchase price and make doubly sure they did not get ripped off. This may require intense scrutiny of the newspaper flyer. It may require price checks. Suffice it to say that nobody is in a rush, no matter how many people may be waiting in line. To make matters worse, there is usually only one cashier tending to the hordes of buyers.

I didn’t help matters out much. I could not figure out how to run my gold card through the damn machine and finally blurted out, “We don't have these things in Albuquerque, “which was a blatant lie and everybody knew it. Manuel told me to just read the instructions on the machine, and the cashier walked me through it. I must say the people behind me were not that sympathetic.  Perhaps they were somewhat intimidated by the sight of a scattered individual buying a huge sack of crab legs.  Somehow I made it through.

Thank God Manuel’s friends stayed away that evening so we could enjoy all that seafood by ourselves. It really doesn’t take much to cook crab legs because they’re already cooked. Just throw them in the oven at 350 degrees and warm them up. Heat up some butter and crack ‘em open and eat. God, it was delicious.

Mussels are equally simple. Just heat up some butter, throw in chopped up onions, tomatoes and whatever,   and let them cook with a lid on it till they open wide. Then open wide and enjoy. I do believe I redeemed myself for my sins that evening and even though Manuel offered to pay half the cost of dinner, I refused and told him to forget it; he had been through quite enough.

The next morning, I woke up very early, got myself together, made the coffee, gave Manuel a hug and headed back to Sun City to spend the next couple days with Mom.

This marks the end of the fourth installment of "The Last Hoorah." Please click this sentence to view the fifth installment.

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