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Monday, October 7, 2002

A Pizza Man

Red Dixon


Red Dixon moves from city to city, county to county. Eight houses and three counties in less than five years. Pizza men and gypsies, they got something in common.


Zach and Red are looking for an apartment, but only one has any money.

”Zach do you have enough for a deposit?”

”Yeah, I’ll have enough.”

”Have enough? What do you have now?”

”I’ve got like $100 and I get paid next week, quit worrying about it.”

They apply all over the place, Red even has his roofing boss write up a letter saying he makes $1,200 a month on that day job. He could, too, if he could stop smoking out every night and dragging himself through the day, sweating and trying not to fall to the ground.

Red takes a pizza over to the pool where the apartment manager and her friend are tanning while their boyfriends swim. She’s Hawaiian or something, smooth brown skin and long limbs.

”How hard is it to get into this place?”

”Not too hard; you should apply.”

It’s not too hard, but it’s too hard for a couple of 18-year-old pizza men.

... “So, do you like the place?”

”Great, it looks great.”

”Let me tell you about the neighborhood watch program.”

Red sees the machine gun mounts on the roofs. You need that kind of stuff in Stockton. The whole setup aims to keep drug dealers and gangbangers at bay. Red figures it might be kind of a nuisance for his crew. None of them are really dealers.

”A large snake would be OK, right?”

Red’s getting kicked out of his first pad for corrupting the children. After months of getting up early to take them to school, in exchange for a $100 off the rent, months of listening to the scream of the alarm, saw through sheet metal. He figures it might have something to do with the couch or perhaps the vomit stains on the carpet.

The biggest problem at the first house party was that bottle of Cinnamon Schnapps. It was an optimist’s half full before anybody got there. Fifteen minutes into the role of host Red lost track. He remembers Jon pushing him across the room, stumbling and falling over the glass coffee table and cracking the back of the leather couch. He remembers waking up in a pile of scarlet filth and the stain that wouldn’t come out of the carpet no matter what he tried.

The couch was even more a problem. He couldn’t find anywhere that could fix it before the weekend was over so he put a bunch of tiny nails into it and hoped whoever plopped down next would take the blame.

”Zach, how’s that money situation?”

”Don’t worry, I’ll have it.”

”That’s what you said last week. How much do you have?”
”At least $50. I had to buy some new clothes.”

Red couldn’t hate Zach. He had it hard, parents divorced. Dad didn’t want him hanging around too long with the new wife and son. Mom was marrying some rich guy and Red is supposed to do the valet parking for the wedding. Zach buys clothes when he’s depressed. He smokes no weed, drinks very little.

A week earlier, Red’s cousin said “if you ever need a place to stay ...” so he calls him up, moves on in. He finds out his cousin’s wife smokes, has for more than 30 years. She smokes maybe two, three hits and keeps the stash in a little mint tin.
Red smokes out in the second bedroom, smokes until he can’t move and just lays back on the bed staring at the spackle ceiling.

Red pays no rent, but he loans them $50 which become a gift.

He keeps looking for a place to live, finds a bunch of little studios lined up near Patterson Road, up against Highway 99 and just behind McDonalds. He puts in some calls, but nobody calls him. The cousins’ place is great, until they ask him to leave.

Red knows there is a God. On the first day of newspaper production class at Delta College, he’s sitting next to this guy who’s got to be a stoner.

”Where do you live?”

”In Modesto, with my cousins. They’re kicking me out though. I’ve got like a week.”

”No way, man! I could really use a roommate to save some money.”

So the next day Red is loading his stuff into Jon’s truck. He runs into his cousin’s wife in the kitchen while he’s washing the dust off his hands. She tells him they wanted him out because he never helped around the house. He’s a teenager. They never asked. What did they expect.

”I like to smoke a little weed,” Red tells Jason, his new roomie.

”Me too,” Jay says. “I quit for a while but I just started up again last week.” He pulls out a bag of really cheap Mexican dirt and a glass pipe. After a few minutes, they start unloading the truck into the little two-bedroom house out by Oak Park.
Then AA turns Jason into a big pain. He sleeps light, barging in on Red and the guys in the middle of the night to tell them to shut up and complain about the smoke.

So Red’s first apartment is in a pink complex called Rose Garden, only blocks from UBT, the University Behind Target. Local lore has it a Vietnamese gang once took over the apartment of a rival leader’s grandmother here, holding her for days. There is an underground economy the next block over, where you can buy shots of Jack for $1, six packs, cigarettes and maybe even a dozen eggs, all of it available in every apartment building, every night and every day, every floor or more.

When Red moves his girlfriend in, he starts paying more rent out of the kindness of his heart. Roomie Dennis still acts weird, maybe because his sex buddy just graduated and took her ass up to Humboldt. Pledging never to room with anyone he isn’t screwing, Red packs it up for Lodi.

He marries her a few months after they move into their first place, but she gets mad every time he visits their neighbors. Troy’s got a Japanese wife, too, and a friend who brings over an ounce of bud every two weeks. It’s way more than Troy can smoke but he doesn’t want the friend to stop coming so he always pays and he tries to get rid of the stuff before it dries out. Red goes over there for five minutes while his wife entertains the guests at his birthday party.

He can’t maintain, she knows he’s been Bogarting that joint.
Cal Berkeley writes him a letter and they move again, this time to El Cerrito, just to one side of the BART tracks. She only really hears the trains’ thunder when she calls her family back in Tokyo.

© Red Dixon PizzaManDixon@aol.com