Monday, January 12

breakfast of truffles

When I was twenty, I lived right next door to a very busy diner.  It was one of those classic greasy spoons filled with formica table booths, vinyl seats repaired with large weaves of duct tape, and a team of waitresses in matching uniforms the colour of baby poo.  I think they also may have worn those paper hats and had ruffled hankies pinned like a peacock tail behind their name tag, drawing more attention to the bustline than the stretchy polyester ever did - but that detail may be window dressing, care of my brain.  If they didn't have the hats and decorated busoms, they should have.  Trust me, it would have completed their outfits in ways that a coordinating handbag never could.

In the front of the restaurant was a row of stout vinyl stools along a counter where patrons could drink bottomless cups of coffee.  It was coffee brewed to a point that could only be referred to "chewy" if speaking in the positive.  There was also a large front window, greasy more than transparent, framed with curtains that never moved, and accented with wall-to-wall spider plants hanging on chains painted gold for extra class.  A real five-star place.

All I can remember about the menu is breakfast was cheap and the poutine was acceptable in a pinch.  The men who worked the grill looked the type that would say "No Coke. Pepsi" if you asked for a variation from their "speciality".  And if you get that dinosaur of a reference, you're my generation baby.  But that is neither here nor there because it was the diner that revisited me recently and not the oily men in hairnets or waitresses with heaving unibusoms.

I lived in a third floor walk up in a renovated row house.  The apartment was large, had a deep bathtub with claws (that was the clincher for the rental), and built in wall cabinets with glass doors.  My room was in the front, overlooking a busy street, and whenever the pizza delivery man pulled up to collect his next order from the joint across the way, the thumping of his techno music made my window rattle in protest.  My windows did not like his particular choice of fat beat, she preferred Nirvana.

That's all I remember about that particular apartment - well that and a roommate who was the first in a small, demented historical group of my roommates from hell.  She was the Hedy to my Allie a la SWF.  But she will be part of a future post, not this one.

Anyhow, I worked retail back then, so my mornings rarely started before nine.

*let there be a moment of silence for the days where I considered waking up before 9am a travesty and miscarriage of justice*

Once a week I would be startled and roused up at the unearthly hour of five a.m. by a loud truck pulling up in front of the diner.  Two men would jump out of the back of an open-back truck that looked like it was built from rust, gum, and popsicle sticks.  They would loudly roll out two huge empty metal barrels - without any consideration for my sleep - into the alley behind the diner.

BANG bang bang bang THUD.... roooooooooooooooool thud
BANG bang bang bang THUD.... roooooooooooooooool thud

And then, using a dolly, they would pull out of the alley two capped barrels.  They would grunt, swear, then grunt some more, swear some more, and eventually get these two obviously heavy barrels into the back of the truck.  Then one of the men would slap the roof of the cab to get driver's attention. He would spark the sparkless engine and off they would go.  Standing in the back among a group of like barrels.

Always at five a.m.. Always two barrels.

Being a city gal my entire existence, leading a charmed sheltered life, I had no idea what was in those barrels.  Nor did I care.  I only cared that these yahoos disturbed my precious precious sleep.  Something I still whine about to this day.

But one day, or should I say night... no, it was more like a night that morphed into a day, like it does, but without the benefit of my sleeping... I found out what was in the barrels.

It was a late night of partying, a night so long and prolific, cab fare was spent at an after-hours club - because a walk home seemed like a really good idea as a forked over my last five bucks for a double rum and coke.  A few of my party friends lived in the same 'hood, so we did the walk to sobriety together.

As we rounded the corner to my apartment, I saw that 5 a.m. truck coming up the street.  Waving my friends goodbye, I stood by the door to find out exactly what these men ferried in the barrels - even though up to this point, I didn't care.  Maybe I was feeling ballsy enough to tell them to be more considerate of my sleep, you know, being fueled with liquid courage as they say, but more than likely I saw this as an opportunity to learn exactly what was going on.  My intentions are always that pure, I'll have you know.  Anyhow, I stood in the doorway to my place, key in hand, trying to look casual and hoping I didn't sway too much as they pulled up to the curb.

And that's when it hit me.

The stench.

A stench akin to rotting flesh mixed with eau du the bottom of my locker which was always crammed with the rotting shitty lunches my Mom made (sorry Mom) is about as close as I can get to describing what eminated from this truck as it pulled up.

I couldn't stick around.  I fumbled with my key, trying to cease the need to inhale, and barely made it into the stairwell.  It was a rare weekday off and as I stumbed into bed, I heard the thump of a hand on the cab roof, and away they drove - without a doubt leaving their distinct perfume to hang in the air.

Not having a clue as to what these men were doing and why they smelled like that, I did what I always do when mystified - I asked my Dad.  Screw encyclopaedias - my Dad knows almost everything.  And of course, he knew.  They were pig farmers picking up slop.

So you ask, why tell this ever so exciting flashback from the annals of my mind?  I say "why not?"

Oh and recently I found a bag in my daughter's school backpack - a knotted plastic bag from the grocery store that had something wet inside.  When I opened it up, for a split second I was once again standing on that street, inhaling the stench of the pig farmer's slop in barrels - albeit on a small scale.  A small pair of three days wet underwear, left to ferment in plastic and pee had taken me on that trip back in time.

Ain't life grand?


for a different kind of girl said...

I was killed by that very same odor yesterday while peeling open a plastic bag buried in the bottom of the laundry hamper. We're grown women. We should know without a shadow of doubt, that nothing good ever wafts from a mysterious plastic bag found in the most nefarious of places.

Also, this comment comes to you from the beyond. It smells like cotton candy here.

Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, mah god, the fermented pee bag! Why do they do that to us?

kittenpie said...

I hope you wrote off the one pair of undies and just threw that shit out.

Nap Warden said...

Oh no...not a good place to be taken back to:(

Mary G said...

Ew. Every mother's nightmare discovery.
Evocatively (choke) written.

Heather said...

So here's the really sad thing: I worked at a Fleet Farm store for several months in high school. You can probably guess the clientele from the name of the store. The pig farmers would come in and it would be ALL I COULD DO to muster a smile through the gag reflex of the stench eminating off these men.

Wow, I'd really hoped to not remember that. Thanks bunches Katie! ;)

Mandy said...

oh girl, you opened the bag?! what on earth were you thinking?

April said...

i was wondering where you were going with the 'truffles' reference. ick.

TwoBusy said...

There are occasions when having a badly-stuffed nose is the best possible thing that can happen to you. You just named two of them.

Michelle said...

Oh dear. That's pretty bad... not the worst I've seen but ew. (I'll post my grossest story ever one of these days... and it doesn't involve a toddler!)
Oh, and thanks for the PSA. I'll be checking Peanut's bag regularly after school...

Mac and Cheese said...

I'm just glad that the barrels didn't contain anything gross enough to make me heave. You'll have to figure out the internet version of smellevision to make that happen.

My whole laundry room often smells like that pee bag.

Naomi said... coke, pepsi. *giggle*

Oh, that bag should have gone straight into the garbage. Ick. We encounter those bags often enough, with our use of cloth diapers. Ick!!

Haley-O said...

Oh I know that pee bag...I know it well! Loved your story. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was in the barrels. :)

Baby in the City said...

Mickey Rourke, circa Diner. Rawr. The first boy I ever crushed on so hard I thought I was in love was a ringer for Mickey Rourke (or so I thought in my love haze). And the Pope of Greenwich Village? When's the last time you watched that? We're old.

Oh, and I love (and miss) those type of apartments. We're old. Did I say that?

Kyla said...

That was masterful. I love the way you used that entire, intricate memory to explain the scent of fermenting undies. It was art.

The fermenting undies? Well, I've had that experience, too, and my nostrils are burning with nostalgia.

mamatulip said...

When Dave and I first started dating we went bowling with my brothers. We offered to give them a ride home on our way out of town, an offer they eagerly accepted, knowing that the back seats were out of Dave's Pathfinder and that they'd have to lie in the back.

They got in the back and within seconds they were complaining of a stench, a very stank and rotten stench, and I laughed and laughed and told them to get used to it, Dave was THE ONE.

It wasn't until about six days later that Dave discovered the source of the stench: a pot roast that had fallen out of a shopping bag and had gotten wedged between under the tire well.

rudecactus said...

Happy DL Day, by the way :)

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I love your stories, because they're true. Three day old pee in a knotted bag? *shudder* I think we need a moment of silence for your olfactory nerve.

fidget said...

dear god, why did you open the bag!?!!? You know nothing good comes out of a bag like that!

jen said...

ok i totally want to hang out with you.

Jana said...

Funny how our youth stays with us like that--even in the form of fermented undies (which, btw, I no nothing about because Al still "just wants a diaper, ok?"

Anissa Mayhew said...


I love you and you know what? Try finding that bag right after Christmas break, the morning back to school...2.5 weeks of yummy fermentation. I think I hallucinated a little. It was almost fun.

Caffeinatrix said...

Ahhh yes, the pee clothes bag, tied up all nice and tight so when you finally find it, it reeks like a Port-o-let. But what was the pig slop exactly? Leftover food?

Kelley said...

Yeah, thanks for the reminder. I haven't checked Boo's school bag since school let out for the summer holidays (I am in Australia) in December.

I think I might just go and buy a new bag.

Can't wait to hear your roommate story. I have a similar tale of SWF. *shudder*

Don Mills Diva said...

I can smell it now.

Awesome trip down memory lane...