13 March, 2012

Wayward Sacredness Mount Carroll Reprisal, Intermezzo 2.1: The Arkansas Men's Social Club

Maybe you can suggest something. As a matter of fact, you do suggest something. To me you suggest a baboon. - Rufus T. Firefly (Grouch Marx) - Duck Soup (1933)

How many men does it take to make popcorn? Four, one to hold the pot, and three to act macho and shake the stove. - joke

So I had this whole other blog post planned for today... something about the sheer stupidity  of Daylight Savings Time, insomnia, packing books, performing at the open mic I helped start, and planning to go southbound and (after May 1st) go west

because that's what all men without permanent employment, home or social function do. Right?

But as I was sitting down at Brick Street Coffee -- the monosyncratic infidibulum** of Mount Carroll, particularly with the impending closure of Charlie's II on the corner of Main and Carroll Streets, which has been in more or less continuous operation for 50 years or better on various names, with maybe a year (but not more) of being closed in between proprietors -- a grand event occurred. I say grand not so much because it was supposed to be a big event with much falderal, pomp, hubbub, and hullabaloo -- the things that make for grand events in other parts of the world. No; I call it grand because of the Herculean effort, on the part of the Arkansas Men's Social Club*, to move a 500 pound commercial refrigerator from the back end of a semi-trailer parked in the middle of Market Street through the door and back to the recently enlarged kitchen of Brick Street Coffee, located in Main Street Commons -- or, as it is commonly referred to by  nearly everyone, The Kraft Building.

The Kraft Building, a cornerstone of the Historic Downtown, is called such because it housed a clothing store under that moniker, and several other things over the the years. A fire left it burned out for years before it was salvaged -- though the project itself ... not described here... proves that  no goo deed goes unpunished in a small town where some people have nothing keeping them alive but the care and maintenance of old grudges.

Now, there are often delivery trucks in the center of town -- usually liquor distributors -- but most of them don't stay parked in the middle of the street for approximately 10 minutes while a group of six men... well 5 men and boy... well, to be precise, one interloper (me) one boy and four men... decide how to unload a 500 pound commercial refrigerator from the back of a 18 wheel trailer and getting into the building without hurting the fridge ... which Brick Street Coffee owner/proprietor Sven procured at no small expense, and very quickly at that, since it arrived on a Monday after being ordered on a Friday, all the way from Madisonville, Kentucky... and without doing damage to either the door or the floor of the Kraft Building itself.  The door is a heavy, wooden framed door that was designed and built with the building in mind. On some days, when the wind is just right, opening the door feels like opening a heavy bank vault door. It stands approximately 36 hands high and 15 hands wide. More than once little old ladies have struggled against it and nearly lost, having only been saved by either an able-bodied son, another customer who has practiced, or Sven -- who, not wanting anyone to have a bad experience ever, would open the door for or close the door behind anyone he noticed struggling with it. That he did this with remarkable speed impressed everyone, leading some to suspect him a practitioner of magic or half of a set of twins named Sven who would simply appear to open and close the heavy door.

Because Mount Carroll is a small town, the first thing on anyone's mind is to help a friend in need. (The second is power tools. The third is stock car racing. After this comes family. God ranks somewhere around beer and beef jerky.) So naturally, when Sven announced to those of us huddling in the back corner of the coffee shop with nothing to do, everyone present jumped up to help. Or at least, to watch. And it just so happened that the other present were members of the Arkansas Men's Social Club... a cadre of men ranging from late middle to retirement age who alternately drank coffee, played pinochle, told lies, expanded on half truths, and, on rare occasion, Did Something.

Harry, a retired Wisconsin cop, offered the use of his truck. The idea was rather than try and build a ramp and slide the thing down to brick street level... which it was generally agreed upon would be a disaster for the appliance, potentially the street, and whoever would end up underneath it.

First, however the semi truck would have to be facing the other direction so the back of the trailer could be at least facing the general direction of the Kraft Building. To accomplish the, the driver -- who probably was starting to wish he hadn't gotten up that morning and had never heard of Mount Carroll, Brick Street Coffee, and that he had never been so unfortunate as to choose driving a truck for a vocation -- stepped wearily into the cab, put it into gear and... after several local cars squeaked by rather than bother to spend an extra 10 seconds and find a side street... whipped the entire semi into a tight-cricled u-turn in the intersection where Market and Main Streets meet.

This feat was done so easily and without effort that I'm almost ashamed to admit that I expected at least three different cars to be taken out in the process of loading the appliance in; luckily, no demolition was involved and the truck was soon facing outbound... which, I'm sure, was the direction the driver was prepared to barrel off into as soon as the cargo is unloaded and the appropriate paperwork signed.

Harry then backed his truck up to the back end of the trailer. At this point, however, the story begins to diverge as Slim, Donner, and Dion all began, along with Harry, to offer up suggestions as to what the best way to get the appliance from the back of the delivery semi to the bed of the truck was, since the new concern was to not damage the tailgate of harry's truck by dropping a 500 pound cardboard box on it -- unless, of course, there was no other option.

I was there to lend a hand if necessary, and so was my good friend Fred, a local entrepreneur who had found himself, quite accidentally, at the top of reasonably successful homemade fudge business. The fudge shop was originally intended to be less of a job and more of a time waster; enough to justify the space but not enough to turn into real work... which Fred, like all blessed creatures under the sun, abhors down deep.

Slim, another retired cop and Harry's pinochle partner, suggested getting straps and carefully guiding the behemoth appliance down. After some discussion as to the precise dimensions of the pallet and some trading of weaker straps for stronger ones -- and after Donner yelled at Dion at least four times for prematurely suggesting (in slightly different language) what the gray haired majority ended up doing anyway -- the group of them, as I stood there watching, to record it all faithfully and without bias, managed to finagle the 500 pound cardboard box that stood as tall as a normal man and as wide as an average man from Carroll County Illinois down and out of the back of the semi and onto Harry's lined truck bed without damaging the tailgate.

Once that step was complete the semi truck driver closed up the trailer, at which time both he and the entire truck disappeared without so much as a puff of smoke... no doubt heading back to the wilds of Madisonville Kentucky, where he would probably punch the warehouse supervisor in the face.

But that still left us with the problem of getting the fridge off the back of Harry's truck, through the large door, across the hardwood floor, and back snuggly into the space in the newly expanded kitchen -- without damage to any of the aforementioned elementals or the people involved.

*The reason for calling it the Arkansas Men's Social Club will become clear. In any event, names herein have been changed to protect the innocent, the weak, and the lazy. I leave it up to the reader to decide who is what.
**monosyncratic infidibulum, n. Epicenter.