Giant Robot Store and GR2 News

(Art by spoon+fork.) I used to love fishing.  I never got so deep into it that I would make my own flies or drift live bait in the water.  I was a sandworms-and-frozen-spearing kinda kid. It’s true what I told O’Keefe that I gave up on the filleting jobs on boats because they started making me nauseous.  But it was something else that stopped me from fishing altogether, and why the thought of baiting a hook made me feel sick for years. I really wasn’t thinking the day that it happened.  That’s my defense.  You can think fishing is fun because when you have a fish with a hook through its cheek, you don’t hear it scream.  Other animals are different. I went fishing at Island Beach Park, on the surf, with Al Lombardi.  We were about 14 or so.  Al was a guy who later got put into private school so this was one of the last times I ever saw him. I had a sandwich bag of sandworms packed in seaweed to keep them lively.  Sandworms would be scary if they were bigger.  They have two fringes of hundreds of feelers on either side of their body.  Those feelers would wriggle around a lot, especially when you cut up the worm to bait on your hook. Al brought a small pile of corn kernels from a can.  What the hell are you going to catch with corn kernels?  Nothing.  I let him use my worms.  I had to cut them for him, too, because he was such a pussy. We were trying to get kingfish.  Despite its name, the kingfish is actually pretty small and only weighs a pound or so.  Bluefish and sea bass were made by God to be caught by men.  The kingfish was made to be caught by kids. For whatever reason, nothing was biting that day.  No kingfish, anyway.  But we were pretty close to a cluster of evergreen trees and a squirrel was running in, stuffing his mouth with Al’s useless corn and then scurrying away with it.  He came back to refill a few times. For a joke, I stuck a kernel on my hook and put it in the middle of the corn pile.  I didn’t think the squirrel was actually going to take the bait.  He could see it, couldn’t he? Suddenly my line jerked.  The squirrel was rolling and flopping around.  It was screaming, too, like a mother bird when you’re too close to its nest.  I didn’t know squirrels could be so loud. I was scared and I couldn’t move. “What the fuck did you do?” cried Al.  He ran over and grabbed the squirrel.  He managed to get the hook out and released the squirrel.  Al’s hand was bleeding where he had been bitten and scratched.  I knew then he was way braver than I ever was. The squirrel ran off about 20 feet.  It stood up, turned its back to me and stroked its face....
Continue reading

(Art by spoon+fork.)

Work on Monday was going as OK as it could until this guy spazzed out on me when I told him we were out of tomatoes.

“Son of a bitch, let me talk to your manager!”  He had on a pair of insect-eye sunglasses, the kind that only California assholes wear.

“We’re out of tomatoes, sir,” Howard called out.  He was sitting on a milk crate and slumping against the freezer door, just out of view of the customer.

“A burger’s not a burger without tomatoes!” the customer yelled, sticking his face in the opened order window and looking around for Howard.

“McDonald’s doesn’t use tomatoes, and some people think they sell hamburgers,” Howard’s voice called out again.

The guy flipped the sunglasses on top of his head and rubbed his temples.  One eye was bloodshot.

“All events are neutral,” he said quietly.  “It’s our own values that we put on them that make them good or bad.”  Then he looked at me and said, “I’ll have two hot dogs.”

I walked over to the freezer and pried out two hot dogs from the frozen mass of what used to be the lowest shelf.  Because of a power outage, the freezer had melted and frozen again. The inside was one big discolored sheet of ice that looked like polar bear fur stained with piss.

“Can you just deep-fry them instead of grilling them?” asked the man.  That was the classic New Jersey way of cooking dogs.  Most tourists didn’t want them like that because frying them split the skin and the flesh would burst out.

“The dogs are frozen solid, they’re not thawed out.  They’re not going to turn out right,” I told him.

“It’s okay,” he said.  “Frying brings out the natural goodness in foods.”

He was right.  At least they looked pretty good, considering they expired a few months ago and that the oil in the fryer hadn’t been changed all summer.

I even cooked one for myself later on, but couldn’t bring myself to eat it, knowing that it was old meat.  I gave it to Howard instead.  He ate it and I watched for something to happen.

“Let me give you some more career advice,” he said when he was done.


“For the sake of practicality, get a shitty job in the city.  It will pay less than in Philly, but you only have to ride one train system instead of two and as the years go by, there will be more opportunities to advance than in Philly.”

“Going from NJ Transit to Septa for Philly does suck.”

Continue reading
(Art by spoon+fork.) Before we got started, I offered Andrea Conti a joint. Despite the close brush at JJ’s, I couldn’t stop smoking pot.  It became even more exciting.  Pot stayed in your body 90 days, as long as a warranty if you wouldn’t buy the extra protection. “No way, get that shit away from me,” she said, as she continued to roll up her sleeve. “Would you mind if I smoked?” “No, it’s disgusting.  Don’t do it.” Andrea was getting fussy, but wasn’t any less enthusiastic in what she did, even when it took me longer sometimes. The rules were set pretty early on.  I couldn’t touch her and she wouldn’t take off any of her clothes.  All she was going to use was one hand. “Andrea, do you have a boyfriend on the side?” I said, as she unzipped me. “I’m married, I don’t need a boyfriend!” “If I were your boyfriend, you’d have sex with me, right?” “I don’t like sex.” “This is sorta sex already.” “This isn’t sex, this is like my service.  I like to make people feel good.  I would never cheat on Michael.” “He doesn’t know about this, does he?” “Who do you think set the rules?” Suddenly I wondered if there was a camera somewhere in the truck.  Was this going out live on the Internet?  I was distracted and went a little limp. “You want me to talk like a black girl?” Andrea asked.  “Would you like that, boo?” “No, don’t do that,” I said.  I closed my eyes but the thought was in my head. I imagined Nadine from the bar. “There we go,” Andrea said. Nadine looking sideways at me.  Slowly she changed into Mrs. Angrywall.  The view moved from her face and down the groove in her calf to her dark brown feet with toe rings. I wondered what Mrs. Angrywall would be like in bed, with those toe rings jingling around my ears.   When I was up on the roof with Mrs. Angrywall that afternoon, I noticed that she was wearing a pair of low-cut Converses. “How come you’re not wearing your sandals?” I asked. “Oh, the damn strap broke.  I drag my feet too much.”  She took a drag on the joint and passed it back to me.  “Now I have to wear these evil Western shoes.” “They’re probably made in China.  They’re still Asian so you should like them.” “Ah, yes, because China and India are such good mates.  We’re all Asian, aren’t we?  That’s like me telling your people that the English are your brothers.” “From what my father told me, Irish killed more Irish during the troubles.” “Could be true, but the provos are far more intelligent than they’re given credit for.  There was no random violence.” “How do you know about the IRA?” “My boyfriend in college was Irish.  From Ireland.”  She took the joint back from me.  “Oh, don’t mention that to my husband.  I’ve never told him about it. ...
Continue reading

(Art by spoon+fork.)

For no practical reason I laid out five rock-hard frozen patties on the grill like the die face for “five.”

The customer had wanted some of them medium and some well done, but I was going to cook them all the same and put pickles on the plates of the “well done” ones.

Howard was slowly peeling off lettuce leaves and putting them on the open buns.

“I could have gotten into Ridderman,” Howard said to his shirt collar.  “I could have transferred there after I was done with Sack.”  Ridderman was the four-year college next door in Monmouth County. It was private and was Whole Foods-expensive.

“Why would you want to go to Ridderman?” I asked Howard.

“I’m just saying I could’ve gotten in–I didn’t want to go.  After my first year at Sack, I had a summer job at Ridderman, in the bookstore.  I even went to a few classes.  I didn’t register or anything, I just dropped in.

“It made me depressed.  All those professors are there to train you how to get a job up in an office skyscraper, take a train there and back everyday.  There was no nurturing of entrepreneurship.  Colleges just train students how to be good employees.  Bill Gates had to drop out of Harvard to become the richest man in the world.  And he did it right where he wanted to, back in Seattle.  When I have my own business, it’s going to be within walking distance to the ocean.”

I didn’t say anything because I had the opposite goal.  I had the “office job” sign above my bathroom mirror.  I nodded and pressed the spatula hard against the hamburgers on the grill to help them cook faster.  Howard kept talking.

“Now Sean, I don’t see the entrepreneurial spirit in you. That’s fine. Being a boss isn’t for everyone, otherwise who would we hire?  But let me give you some advice.

“You don’t have to work in the city or Philadelphia for a full-year job.  Probably the best jobs–in terms of pay–are in automotive repair because we’re in the 50-50 zone.  Everybody has to use their cars.”

The 50-50 zone ran across Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer counties.  It got its name from being about 50 miles from New York and 50 miles from Philadelphia, so you got the best of both worlds.  But it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have a car, like Howard and me.

“Automotive repair’s too hard. It would be more fun to work on the boardwalk,” I said. Howard shrugged.

“If you want a job at one of the stands you pretty much have to marry into the families.  Those skill stands like Frog Bog and the spinning wheels are like in the third and fourth generations running them.  The food and souvenir stands don’t want to hire Americans because they’re too unreliable.  They hire Mexicans and Bulgarians.”

Continue reading