I’m at Trader Joe’s, standing at the checkout waiting to be served, when a voice from behind me begins to count.
“1,2,3,4…yeh, you’ll be alright,’
I turn to see a very tall man wearing a golf visor, a white golf shirt with a golf logo on it, and a pair of golfer style chinos.
He has a gray beard and moustache and wire rimmed glasses and is carrying a basket which he tells me contains 11 items.
“I got 11 items in here, so if anyone should be in trouble it’ll be me, you’ve only got 4,’
Then he makes a joke about him being the aisle police.
‘Who do I think I am,’ he says, laughing, ‘the Trader Joe’s Aisle Police?’
I laugh at this too, and then, after standing there for a bit, exchanging a few words, he asks me where I am from.
‘So, where are you from?’ says the man, holding his basket by by the handles with 2 hands and swinging it slightly in front of him.
‘Melbourne,’ I lie.
‘I travelled to Sydney with Robert Goulet a long time ago,’ the tall man says, ‘remember him?’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘was he that chef?’
‘No,’ the man says, laughing and tssking, ‘a singer. Robert Goulet was a singer,’
‘Oh, shit,’ I say, ‘yes, I know who you mean,’
Then I tell him sorry.
‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘I got Goulet and gourmet confused,’
Then, as I am putting my items down on the counter to be checked out, the man continues to talk to me.
‘Do you play golf?’ he asks.
‘No,’ I tell him, frowning.
‘I played in Australia, says the tall golfer, ‘and the guy there kept asking me, “you want to play 9 or 18 holes”?
Then he starts mocking the nasal whine of the Australian accent and saying – ‘I said, whaaaaaaa? I just want a game of golf,’
I laugh at his imitation and so does he and then he says,- ‘Oh, I see you have the ‘F’ word on your arm,’ and I say yes and look at the back of my right arm where I have the word “fuck” tattooed.
Then I ask the man what his name is, and because I have already put my basket down, I shake the man’s hand when he tells me he is called Carl.
‘I’m a musician,’ says the tall golfing musician called Carl, ‘you should come hear me play,’
I say okay and he asks me if I like jazz.
‘You like Jazz?’ he says and I lie again and say yes, even though I think I would probably enjoy hearing Carl play it because Carl is very engaging, even in a supermarket.
Then, because I am interacting with the cashier by paying, and because he has overheard mine and Carl’s conversation, the cashier tells us he is a musician too.
‘I organise the open mic night over at the Tuning Fork, the restaurant right across the street,’ he says, pointing across the street.
Then Carl, who is smiling and still swinging his basket, calls open mic night karaoke, and the cashier isn’t happy.
‘Don’t say the “K” word around here,’ says the cashier who who has a wispy gray beard and moustache and gray hair pulled back into a pony tail, baring a sweaty forehead.
‘Oh, is that right?’ I say to the cashier as I pick up my bag of goods.
‘I’m a musician, too,’ says the cashier and then lists several pieces he has written, including an entire Country and Western musical.
‘Wow,’ I say to the cashier, who then lists a few more pieces of information about the open mic nights, times and so on.
And then, as I say thank you and start to leave the supermarket, Carl picks up his groceries which have now been bagged, and follows me out of the shop.
‘I’m going to give you my YouTube address so you can check me out,’ he says, resting his bag of groceries on top of a shopping trolley that is parked on the footpath, ‘have you got paper and a pen?’
I tell Carl that I do have paper and pen, and I take a small business-sized red card and a pen from the front of my dark blue Converse messenger bag and hand them to him.
After he has written his details I tell Carl I will now give him my details and I take another red card from my bag and write my phone number and website address on it and then hand it to him.
‘Have a look on the back of the card,’ I tell Carl as he takes it.
On the back is a drawing I have done of a small smiling man.
Written above his head is the word ‘Harmony’.
‘Appropriate for a musician,’ I tell Carl, and smile.
‘Yeh,’ says tall Carl, smiling now too, ‘very appropriate.’
I’m sitting on the top step, my body in the shade but my feet on the third step, in the sun, and I’m smoking my e-cigarette and reading a book about ‘shame’, when the woman in the apartment opposite me comes out and stands on her step.
‘Hello there,’ I say, ‘How are you?’
‘Well,’ says the woman who is dressed in a white muslin shirt, white linen trousers, a handbag and a Bandaid across the right side of her hairline, ‘I’m famished,’
‘Oh, dear,’ I say, ‘in that case you’d best get something to eat,’
‘Well,’ she says, turning back and closing her aqua coloured door with a metal number 4 stuck to it, ‘I’m on my way to the Tuning Fork. Do you know it?’
I tell her no, I don’t, and she tells me they have good soup there.
‘They have really good soup there,’ she says, ‘and they have 95 beers on tap,’
‘Well, I don’t drink alcohol,’ I tell her, ‘but I do eat soup,’
Then, as if she’s been given a gentle shove by an unseen force, the woman staggers.
‘Oh,’ she says, flicking her long dark hair back with her left hand as she rights herself, ‘I nearly fell over yesterday,’
Then she emits a high-pitched giggle.
‘It could be your ears,’ I tell her, ‘when your ears are waxed up you can lose your balance,’
She says ‘Oooh’ to this, as if I have just told her a great secret.
‘But it could also be those ear buds you have connected to your phone,’ I say, ‘take those out and see if you stop wobbling,’
And she does, she takes the ear buds out of her ears right there and then, lets out another giggle, and says thank you.
Then, because she has three cats that I hear her cooing to as an adult might to a baby, I ask about them.
‘They’re indoor cats now,’ she says, ‘because they kept getting beaten up,’
‘I was coming out of the bathroom the other day,’ I tell her, ‘and I had left the front door open and a bold ginger cat had come in and then gone running off when he saw me,’
‘That’s one of the cats who beat my cats up,’ she says, ‘and now my little cat has to stay inside because that ginger cat tore her cornea,’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘that’s gross and bad luck,’
Then she gives another of her high-pitched giggles and says thank you.
Then she holds out her hand for me to shake and says-‘What was your name again?’ as if I had already told her and she’d forgotten.
I tell her my name and she responds by telling me hers and we shake on it and then say good bye to each other.
And then she leaves for the Tuning Fork, where the soup is good and there are 95 beers on tap to go with it, and I stay on the step, my feet warming under a pleasant sun, and continue with my book on shame.