Larry Steckling 10 a.m., July 30
- Community Blog
- The Abnormal Width of Normal Heights
The Early Daze, part 9
Fortunately, Mr. ESPN play-by-play man turned out to be a nice guy, and he was entertaining from the moment he plopped his plump and perspired butt into the passenger seat of the network’s white rental sedan. That he sat in the front seat next to me, and not in the back seat, I took as a sign that he didn’t view himself as above me, nor this trip a de-facto limo ride (and who really could in an Oldsmobile?). Perhaps I was naïve, and soon I’d wonder, but I was shuttling major league talent, even if only the broadcast booth variety, and all was good.
“Jon Miller,” he introduced himself in a surprisingly chipper tone, offering a sweaty handshake.
“David,” I replied, putting my wet hand in his.
“Good to meet you, David,” he added just as cheerfully, wiping with a napkin the many beads of sweat from his bald head. His dome was so smooth and round in the aftermath, like it had just been buffed at a bowling alley pro-shop.
This small celebrity rush relaxed my back, easing my psychosomatic episode, the pain subsiding. (Always interesting how that worked, and still works.) Miller seemed to exude the same enthusiasm to a lowly P.A. as he did to his television audience when calling games, and my frazzled brain appreciated it. As I pulled away from the curb, he immediately turned the air conditioning to its highest and coldest setting, aimed a vent at each of his oceanic armpits, then raised his arms to dry them. He remained in this pose all the way back to the stadium. I smiled at the sight, straining not to laugh. I guessed that was really why he was in the front seat. Pit maintenance. And I had the feeling it wasn’t the first time. One could only imagine what he must have endured during a July road trip in St. Louis or Philly. He was a front-seater, it seemed, out of cosmetic necessity. Oh well. He was still a nice guy. Yet the sight of him with those lambshank arms held high, his sodden pits being blasted by artic air, was hard not to be visibly amused by. And I did not want to appear to be.
To change the subject in my own head, I told him what a fan I was, my old roommate too, and that I loved his Vin Scully impression, having been a rabid Dodger fan as a kid in the 70’s. He thanked me, genuinely flattered. I told him my favorite player, besides Davey Lopes (whose batting stance had turned me into a slugger late in my Little League career), had been a somewhat enigmatic pinch-hitter named Vic Davalillo, an old player from the Mexican leagues with a funky leg hitch in his swing, whose actual age was always kind of a mystery.
Miller chuckled at the name. Then, to my surprise, he slipped into his Vin Scully voice. “And now, pinch hitting for the Dodgers, Vic Davalillo.”
I only wished he had added, “Brought to you by Farmer John. Wieners and luncheon meats, sausage and ham. Easternmost in quality, westernmost in flavor.” But one mustn’t get greedy. And, for lack of a less manly descriptor, I was tickled. It was the best Scully I’d ever heard. And a personal gift, no less, just for me. My own private Davalillo. Baseball cupid had found me with his bat and arrow.
I dropped off Jon Miller outside the players’ entrance, where he thanked me for the ride, and I said I’d probably see him again after the game. He responded to this last bit of information without the unbridled excitement for which I’d hoped. (Wow, this is sounding, intentionally or not [and I would like to assume not], sexual, even homoerotic. For the record: I liked Mr. Miller, found his company pleasant, but our relationship remained strictly professional, prostitution excluded. Any further questions on this matter should be handled via Twitter.)
“Did you make that reservation?” the producer asked me when I returned the rental sedan’s keys to him.
The producer offered yet another impatient huff. “Did you make the reservation at The Butcher Shop?”
“For Hall of Famer Joe Morgan?”
“Don’t be a smart ass.”
I had been a wisenheimer, hadn’t I? Must’ve been my attachment problems, I thought years later. Ha ha, I thought right then. Young Dadler was more correct, I now believe.
“Yep, the reservation’s all set,” I lied to him, having forgotten to make the reservation in the wake of Karen’s unexpected arrival. “Five o’ clock, party of four. Butcher Shop.”
“You’re brilliant. Now cancel it. Joe changed his mind. You can use the phone in the truck.”
He led me up the steel stairs and into the main production truck, then he pointed me to the phone. I was nervous as hell, was he trapping me here? Did he already know I’d forgotten to make the rez? Had he called on his own to check? On top of that concern, the inside of the production truck was intimidating: dark and almost blacklit in feel, all the monitors glowing on the wall, capturing every different camera angle, the board ops and video guys at their stations and focused on their pre-game routine. The producer watched me until I picked up the phone receiver, and he continued glancing at me as he talked to one of the board ops. It was at this point, utilizing many of the skills acquired during my days as a theatre major in college, that I pretended to call The Butcher Shop and cancel that foursome. But, feeling the need to make a more involving show of it, not only did I cancel the imaginary reservation for “HALL OF FAMER” Joe Morgan, but I also engaged the make-believe reservationist in a debate about who was the better second baseman, Morgan or then Chicago Cub second bagger, Ryne Sandberg.
“Gimme a break,” I said to this non-existent guy. “You Chi-towners are too much. Please, it’s not even close, Joe Morgan’s the best. Just cancel his reservation, alright?”
The producer looked at me again, and I gestured with the swirling crazy finger next to my temple: Cubs fan, what can I do? I continued “listening” for another few moments, reacting with amusement as, it surely seemed, my fake friend on the other end was ranting away about how much better his beloved Ryno was.
“Alright,” I finally ended it. “Whatever you say. But I have network business to attend to, for Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, the greatest second baseman in major league history. Have a nice day.”
The producer and the board op got a laugh out of my act, apparently buying it as legitimate. (There should be an Oscar Award equivalent established that honors the best in workplace dramatizing. Were there, I think I could have possibly, at the least, garnered a Best Acting nomination for this performance, or at least an Outstanding Achievement in Sociopathy nod.)
* * * * * * * *
As the sun began to set and gametime approached, I was told I could grab an early dinner at the stadium commissary. Free meal? I was there, following like a duckling again. I ate alone, however, feeling like I had at lunchtime in the cafeteria as a lonely kid. Everyone else was part of a larger team, I was just a temp. Mullet and his partner stayed to themselves, engaged in a heated conversation about something on a piece of paper on the table in between them. As surely as ever, thoughts of Karen entered my mind, and how upset with me she was, how it sounded like, once more, we might have hit the end. My lower back started to lock up again, my divided brain at war, but the thought of throwing out my back entirely, right there in front of everyone, and not being able to use that field pass – the real clincher – was harder to bear than the pain, and it forced me to suck it up as hard as I ever had. I ate my meat loaf and fries in a hurry, then stood up to exit and walk around, and hopefully loosen up my tortured lower vertebrae. As I walked a brisk lap around the stadium, all I could think about was Karen, and I soon found myself almost hunched over at a payphone behind the outfield stands.
“Hey Shauna, is Karen there?”
“No, David, sorry, she’s not here.” And here Shauna took the briefest of pauses, just enough to load the rhetorical gun and fire over the first syllable of my response. “She went out with her friend Brian. You know, her ex.”
It was a difficult task, but skin and bones Shauna had managed to find the strength necessary to literally stab me in the heart right through the phone line. And she drew real blood, as I started to chew my fingers raw.
Out with her ex. That was about the worst thing I could’ve heard. So bad I would never have even thought it possible. She’d talked about Brian before. I knew he was older than her by five years, successful, and still calling her every once in a while. My back locked so hard here, I literally held myself up by hanging onto the payphone. I whimpered, afraid I was going to be found there on the ground, unable to move, field pass removed from my neck and never to return. And that was enough, the thought of the humiliation, to again get me moving. With excruciating effort, I started jogging to release my stiffness and pain, and it began to work, so I increased to a sprint, as fast as I could.
Look out! Splat!
The ground hit me like the concrete it was. I had tripped over a television cable that was in the process of being taped down by a grip. I splayed out like a cartoon character run over by a steamroller and flattened. I heard much laughter, and I could only join in, it was pretty damn funny, though I’d scraped my elbow something fierce. More blood. This was getting violent. I wiped the blood with my hand, to no avail, then sprinted again, limping and aching, but determined to overcome it.
When I returned to the trucks, Mullet chewed me out because I hadn’t kept the coolers well stocked, and the last few people had been forced to settle for warm water to drink. Then he asked why I was limping, and why there was blood on my hand.
“Did you get mugged in the bathroom or something? Jesus Christ, what the hell have you been doing? Go to first aid and get a bandage for that, you can’t be bleeding all over the coolers and in the ice.”
I got a bandage from first aid, my throbbing elbow now having eclipsed my back on the pain scale. The back had loosened actually, that’s how bad my elbow was now hurting. It was only then that I realized what time it was. The stadium gates would be open soon, and I could hear the first thwacks and pops of batting practice.
“Hey, writer boy,” said Mullet when I returned, “producer needs you down on the field. Take the elevator and find your way to the Padre tunnel.”
I stood there for a second, absorbing what he’d just said. I’d made it, my back had survived long enough, and I would soon be on the field for batting practice.
“Get moving,” Mullet told me, as he manufactured a six-pronged splitter of some sort at his worktable.
The next thing I knew I was on the elevator with the uniformed operator and another man, who was in his forties and wearing a suit, his tie loosened. I recognized him and quickly realized he was the Padres general manager, Joe Mcllvaine, who would later hold the same position with the New York Mets. He got off the elevator and headed for the field, or so I hoped, since I had no idea where I was going. I followed him at a distance down the hall, passing the Padre locker room, which made my skin tingle, but I couldn’t stop to savor it. The G.M. made a left, and when I made the same left I could see immediately that I was in the tunnel headed for the Padre dugout and the field, where the sounds of batting practice became louder with each step…thwack!! I was walking on air. Suddenly I saw a player turn up the tunnel from the dugout, heading toward me. It was second baseman Tony Fernandez. He passed me and nodded, and I felt like a rookie playing his first game, and I thought about the movie THE NATURAL, when an old Roy Hobbs walked down that tunnel toward the light of his long delayed major league career. Not that I saw myself as Redford, certainly not, but the light at the end of the tunnel was familiar, cinematic in its beckoning brightness.
I continued into the dugout, stepping slowly and cautiously, sure I’d be caught as a pretender and ejected. But I wasn’t, I had that glossy field pass around my neck, and I stood at the end of the tunnel, tobacco juice and seed husks already gathering on the ground, and I had to pause to catch my breath before I could look up. When I did, my breath stopped on its own: the entire stadium and field, now alive, were laid out before me, a green sea of major league baseball activity. Batting practice hits were rocketing from the cage, a bench coach was down the line hitting fungos to a few outfielders, another hitting grounders to the infielders between pitches. Press and other personnel mingled behind the batting cage and around the dugouts, interviews and off the record conversations in progress, and the gradually filling stadium itself was a looming and towering presence above and around us. My back was so loose I didn’t even think about it. Even my throbbing and bloodied elbow eased.
The Padres were just finishing up, and suddenly most of the team was filing past me, headed back up the tunnel toward the locker room. There was the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff! And Benito Santiago! There goes Andy Benes! The Aussie, Craig Shipley! And Bip Roberts! Bipper! Then, holy sh-t, there’s Tony Gwynn!! Mr. Padre himself. Maybe not like he is now, but still, it was Tony. He was hurt that night, I believe, and I don’t remember him playing. I thought about saying something to him, or extending a fist for a bump (or the day’s equivalent), but I couldn’t muster the gumption. And I had just caught sight of the mini-Rip Torn, the producer, and then he saw me and waved me over to him behind the cage. As I approached the batting cage, the black and yellow-clad Pirates began to take the field for their pre-game stint. Soon I was holding some cable for a cameraman, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan – the Hall of Famer himself, there he was! – interviewed a pre-controversy Barry Bonds (then a long and sinewy five-tool player, not the enhanced hulk he became) and third baseman Bobby Bonilla. The Killer B’s, both big and imposing and talented as hell. Miller and Morgan turned on the charm, and after the interview Bobby Bonilla got Joe Morgan to autograph a ball for him. Bonilla tossed the ball to an assistant and said, “Make sure that goes to the Florida house.” Ah, the major league life. A Florida house. Sweet.
I was just as awed by the Pirates players as by the Padres, if not more so, Pittsburgh was a powerhouse back then, though never able to break through completely for a title. Manager Jim Leyland was cupping a cigarette in the dugout, talking to a reporter, when Andy Van Slyke passed him and cracked a joke, the manager almost burning himself with the cherry as he laughed. The Bucs’ chunky little fireplug catcher, Mike LaValliere, stepped into the cage for his cuts and almost disappeared he seemed so short. There was starting pitcher Doug Drabek and his fireman/cop moustache, and lanky lefty John Smiley, their ace that year. This was a job I could get used to, I thought. If only it were lasting beyond that night. After the interview concluded, the producer gave me a small walkie-talkie and told me to hold onto it during the game, that he’d call me on it if he needed me.
* * * * * * * *
He didn’t need me very much, it turned out, and after the sun went down I didn’t have any duties remaining at the coolers. The water was gone, the soft drink supply depleted severely, and the ice was mostly melted. There just wasn’t much for me to do at all after the game had started, the producer busy with the telecast, everyone else at their stations and doing their jobs. Mullet and his friend stayed at the trucks, Mullet reading a horror novel, his bulky blonde partner leafing through a game program. I was, I discovered, pretty much free to wander, provided I kept that walkie-talkie turned up if they called.
The first thing I did was head right for that elevator, and I took it down to the field again. Nervous, I managed to make that left turn down the tunnel again and I walked down it to the end. Watching a game from that position was magic, I was a kid again. Goose bump city. But I couldn’t enjoy it too long, maybe one batter, when I was called on my walkie-talkie, the producer needed me.
I shuttled some cable to one of the camera ops down the right field line, then returned to the truck, where the production was at full speed. The director was like the wizard, every screen in front of him, every angle on the game at his disposal. He was in a mental zone, feeling out and piecing together the unique pace and shape of this particular game, and he had to keep it all flowing for the viewer at home. The chatter was non-stop.
“Ready two. Go two. Ready six, get me that replay. Go six. Ready replay. Go replay. Follow the ball next time, six. Ready three. Go three. Ready graphic. That’s the wrong graphic, screw it. Ready two, go two. Goddammit, four, get your camera off that chick and watch the game, Jesus Christ.”
Cameramen, I found out, had a bit of a reputation for being pigs. Or at least a few on that crew. They seemed to spend a lot of time focusing their zoom lenses on the most scantily clad fifteen year old girls they could find.
“Here,” said mini-Rip Torn, handing me a folded piece of paper. “Take this up to Joe Morgan in the booth.”
I rode the elevator up to the press level, then made my way to the broadcast booth. When the inning and they had gone to commercial, I knocked and entered with the note. At that moment, Jon Miller was doing some of his spot-on Vin Scully, which seemed to get on Morgan’s nerves, like Miller had been doing it every commercial break and was driving him crazy. Morgan just rolled his eyes at his partner as he took the note from me.
“Oh,” said Miller as Scully, “So Little Joe doesn’t like Farmer John wieners. Imagine that. What a shame.”
Joe just shook his head in good natured disgust, reading the note from the producer. I lingered to enjoy the moment, but then the commercial break concluded and I was shoved out of the booth just before they went back on air.
I rode the elevator back down to the field level, where I wandered through the maze of hallways and passageways, ending up between the dugouts, under the stands, right behind home plate, peering out through a small square opening in the backstop. Sometimes, I assumed, they might have had a camera there, or a radar gun to clock the pitchers, but it was open and unoccupied that game. I could see both teams in their dugouts from where I stood, the Pirates to my left, the Padres to my right. It was the best seat I’d ever had, even if I didn’t get to sit down. It was better than the first-row corporate seats at Anaheim Stadium that J’s dad would give us. I watched three innings from that vantage point, listening to the chirping of players and managers, and umpires. Manager Jim Leyland was cranky about the strike zone afforded his starting pitcher, Zane Smith (a veteran lefty who possessed a face only a mother from the movie DELIVERANCE could love).
“You’re squeezin’ him, blue!” Leyland yelled at the younger home plate ump. “Stop squeezin’ him, goddammit!!”
The ump turned to him. “Tell him to throw a strike and I will!! Shut up!!”
Leyland appealed to veteran umpire Doug Harvey, who was working third base that game. “Come on, Doug, switch with the kid, he’s killin’ me.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. The crowd rumbled and roared just above my head.
“P.A. Dave! P.A. Dave! Get to the truck please!”
I made my way back up to the production truck, outside of which the producer met me with a bottle of water.
“Take this to Ollie, he’s the first base cameraman.” He handed me the bottle of water. “Go through the Padre tunnel. And after the game, if I forgot to tell you, you’re gonna give Miller and Morgan and a couple of us a ride to the airport. You know Jims Air?”
I did know it. It was a charter terminal on Pacific Highway, and I’d once delivered something there during my courier days. I’d be driving the network talent to their chartered LearJet. But first I was carrying water to a cameraman.
I made it back down the Padre tunnel and put the bottle of water in the cameraman’s hand. I decided to hang out at the end of the tunnel, just outside the dugout itself, to watch some more of the game. Hanging out nearest to me were two Padre reserves, infielder Paul Fairies and outfielder Thomas Howard. Fairies was short and white (with a name I thought must have been a burden to grow up with as an American male), Howard bigger and black. I listened as they talked shop, Fairies about his fruitless at-bats against John Smiley a few nights earlier, while Howard spoke of his pending decision about whether to play winter ball in Venezuela or somewhere else. My last real memories of the game are here, when I was watching from the dugout and eavesdropping on their conversation. The two reserves were talking about winter ball in South America when…THWACK!!! …Padre third baseman Tim Teufel launched a ball deep into dark left field sky. It landed almost four hundred feet away in the bleachers. Tim Teufel, who’d have guessed. I’d never seen a home run from that perspective, and it was impressive. The ball just seemed to go up and away forever and vanish into the night air, until, way out there, miles it seemed, the tiny fans in the bleachers were scrambling for it.
I don’t remember any of the game after that. Mostly I wandered around the bowels of the stadium, behind the backstop, under the stands, as I had many in small theatres in Los Angeles when my actor-father would pick me up for a weekend. He’d invariably be involved in a play, and I’d spend hour upon hour sitting through rehearsals. I’d explore every nook and cranny of those theatres to kill time. I’d hide in costume racks or, in the prop room, imagine myself a knight or a king with a sword and crown. Or I’d just disappear and explore the neighborhood, always smart enough to return before anyone had noticed that I was gone. But not now.
“P.A. Dave! P.A. Dave! Where are you!? Get up to the booth!”
The game had ended while I was wandering and exploring, the Padres having recorded a victory. It was time to limo the talent in the rented Oldsmobile. I took the elevator up to the press level, where I was to retrieve Jon Miller and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and escort them down to the rental sedan. The producer and someone else would join us for the ride to their private flight to San Francisco, where they were doing a game the next night at Candlestick Park.
When I got up to the booth, Joe Morgan had just taken off his headset, the shape of it clearly impressed into his afro, while Miller was accepting a couple of hot dogs to go from a stadium waitress. As Morgan used a pick to fix his hair, I told them I’d be driving them to the airport. With the headset impression fluffed out, I ushered both broadcasters down the elevator and to the sedan, where the producer and another guy joined us. The other guy sat in the front with me, while Morgan and the producer sat in the back on either side of poor Jon Miller, who found his rotund self wedged in the middle, a hot dog in each hand. But he was so squeezed in that his arms could only extend out, his hot dog hands were just kind of stuck there, and he couldn’t moved them to any useful degree. So there he sat for the length of the drive, squished like a middle child in the family station wagon, licking his chops at the hot dogs in his hands, which he just couldn’t quite move enough to bring to his mouth. So close but so far away. The frustration on his face could not be masked. He was really hungry.
Then entire drive I was nervous as hell that I’d get in an accident. I didn’t want to go down in history as the loser P.A. who got two baseball greats killed. On the other hand, no one remembered the name of the pilot of Buddy Holly’s plane, so my family’s reputation might survive reasonably intact. But we made it to the airport just fine. I dropped my foursome off at the private terminal and saw the chartered jet on the tarmac, ready to go. They walked right onto it, welcomed by a toothy and fair-skinned brunette flight attendant. Jon Miller was happily munching on one of those hot dogs when he stepped aboard.
* * * * * * * *
I returned to Jack Murphy and dropped off the keys with an assistant producer. He handed me a check for a few hundred dollars, which I needed desperately (but which would be deducted from my unemployment, I realized). The stadium looked like a frathouse after a party, trash overflowing the cans, lining every row of seats, the night crew drowsily marching along with brooms and garbage bags.
I drove home from the stadium at about eleven, still on a little high from the experience. Parking in front of the house on 32nd Street, I got out of the car without the slightest stiffness, not even the noise and smell of I-805 aggravated as they usually would. Because I wasn’t thinking about Karen (and now her ex, too), but about the game, the field pass, the Hall of Famer, the entire day and night. I was hoping Sandra and her boyfriend would be home, so I could talk about it and make them laugh. But when I walked to the front door, I realized the house was dark. Sandra and Chris must be at his place for the night, I thought, as I entered without turning on a light, the house probably ninety degrees inside. But where was the new roomie?
Heidi had moved to New York for her residency in neurology, and she’d been replaced by a tall and requisitely blonde Swedish young man named Ulf. Everything about him was blonde, it seemed, he even wore blonde shoes. Ulf knew nothing about baseball, but we could’ve gone to get a beer and finally hung out a little. But it wasn’t meant to be. I’d never really spend any time with him, it would turn out, I only lived with him in the house for a few months. He was a fine human being, and I have no unpleasant memories of him, but for some reason the only significant thing I remember about Ulf is the way he answered the phone. He wouldn’t offer the customary American “Hello?” Instead, he would simply pick up the receiver and exclaim, “ULF!!” He practically yelled it. The greeting may have been Swedish custom, but the volume I doubted. One of my friends said he sounded like he was coughing up a hairball.
Alone in the dark and sweltering house, my mood seemed to morph insidiously quickly. Those old flat-roofed houses with no attics are like ovens that time of year, heating up all day and staying hot all night, which was no help to my mood that night, and there was never enough of a breeze in Normal Heights to generate relief. I still hadn’t turned on a light because of it, the extra heat from a single bulb dissuaded me, and there was something comforting about the darkness. I called Karen again by the moon’s illumination, only to get their machine. My heart sank, she was still out with Brian, I knew she was. A real man, a responsible man, the kind of man she really wanted, and was having again no doubt. Love was gone, it had left me, disintegrated like everything always seemed to. I was alone. I felt sick and dizzy. Once again the past met the present, the caveman brain collided with the rational brain, and my back started to stiffen and bite on cue, so I laid down on the floor in the front room. Our cat, Puddy, came up and bumped his furry head against mine, petting himself and trying to get my attention. He tried again, and then licked my face with his sandpaper tongue. The cat breath was horrid. But I needed the companionship, and I lifted him onto my chest, where he curled up and purred as I petted him.
I was unemployed, sure to be dumped by Karen, in a town I should’ve left at least a year earlier. Exactly the position I had hoped to be in. Outside, the police helicopter approached and thundered overhead, another constant feature of life in Normal Heights. The spotlight from the helicopter briefly illuminated the front room, and on my back the cracked ceiling flashed a cobwebbed white above my eyes. (Just once, I thought [and still do], I’d like to see someone actually running down the street with that spotlight following him, an actual suspect. Then it might have felt like all those nights of being awakened by Apocalypse Now were worth it.) Puddy was spooked by the helicopter, but he remained on my chest. After it had passed and moved on, the cat continued purring, the vibration moving through my chest and down to my raging spine, where it seemed to soothe the beast. I fell asleep right there on the floor.
I was awakened in the morning by a smell. Cat breath. Puddy was licking himself next to my head. I don’t think I’d ever been roused from sleep by an odor before, or thought an olfactory alarm possible, but it worked disgustingly well. A traditional alarm clock I could sleep through easily, or I could hit the snooze button, but not with that feline halitosis. It was up there with earthquakes.
The house was cool in the summer mornings, but it would heat up soon enough. I stared at that cracked ceiling, still alone in the house. I wondered if Karen were in bed with Brian. She had to be. My guts churned and my back stiffened. I tried to reason with myself: I’d had my Cat thing (not Puddy, but the gal on Ward Road), now Karen was having her dog thing. But that calm rationalization numbed me for all of a few seconds. My chin was quivering, my lumbar and sciatic nerves spasming. I stayed on the floor the rest of the day. Karen never called, and I never tried to call her. And neither of my roomies returned. In the afternoon, I’d finally move around a little. Mostly to retrieve the half a joint I remembered Hank having left a few nights before, and to see if beers were still in the refrigerator. The pharmacy was open. I was going to feel better. Or feel nothing at all.
* * * * * * * *
Nine or ten months earlier, in October or November of 1990, I’d found myself sitting in the office of Frank Moe, a three-martini man in his early to mid sixties, who’d apparently had a nine-martini lunch just prior to our meeting. I could smell the gin from across his desk, his face a spider-veined red, his eyes on the sleepy side. He was the co-owner, along with his partner Bob Gosh, of M.G. Electric, a small but successful electrical supply company in Kearny Mesa, and they needed a delivery driver. The way I saw it, they had a stake-bed truck with my name on it.