When I first started working in Boston nearly 8 years ago little did I know of the cast of characters that would eventually cross my path.
At the cigar store where I work I have come to believe that every day is just like Halloween.
There were people like Bill the tobacco eater.
His name will tell you all you really need to know about him. And no, I’m not lying.
Bill has always been partial to McClelland pipe tobaccos.
Don’t know why but I guess they just taste great.
Not sure how the people at McClelland would feel about that.
Bill also had the facial pallor of a year old corpse.
Maybe you’re not supposed to eat this stuff.
Then there’s Snuffers, a strange ogre-like man that snorted more nasal snuff than any human being on the planet.
During the summer months he would come into the store wearing sandals on his feet displaying brownish toenails that were not unlike box cutters.
I remember thinking that the guy could climb trees with those toenails.
There’s Mr. D who depending on the day of the week would speak with a slow southern drawl, ala Colonel Cornpone (even though he had a regular Boston accent)
On his Colonel transformation days he would call me, ‘Maakul’. [Michael]
Sounds almost exotic, doesn’t it?
D has admitted to us that he sometimes wears panty hose around the house when he’s alone.
Bet that does wonders for the property value of the neighborhood should some unsuspecting eye see him traipsing around the house wearing a sexy pair of black fishnets.
I know, TMI.
If I really thought about it I could come up with many more names of folks that should honestly be living in the Odd Fellow Home.
There’s Bucky the gap toothed hooker, Head Wound Harry and Creepy Fedora Boy and on and on.
This brings me to Mr. B.
I met him in the first month while working at the cigar store. He was an older gentleman in his mid eighties by the looks of him and was an avid pipe smoker (of the meerschaum variety), a ladies man (really) and one great joke/story teller.
On one particular visit he pulled out a magnifying glass from his old leather satchel, winked at me and said, “Watch this.”
He stepped outside of the front door of the shop into the sunshine and proceeded to light his pipe with the magnifying glass as curious passersby pointed and smiled at the most peculiar Mr. B.
There was something really likeable about the guy, endearing even.
If you didn’t know him you would swear he was deaf as a haddock but it was usually because he often forgot to turn his hearing aids on.
Before he would leave he would always tell us a joke.
In his later years he would pull out a tattered wallet for his ‘cue cards’ as his memory was slowly going south.
A Mr. B joke he once told me:
A woman comes out of the shower and looks in the mirror.
She’s real flat-chested and says to her husband ‘What can I do to make these bigger?”
The husband says, “Get a little piece of toilet paper and rub it up and down between your boobs for a month and they’ll get big.”
“What makes you think that will do it?” says the wife.
The husband says, “It worked for your ass . . . “
I wish this little story had a happy ending and who knows, maybe it does.
I found out the other day that Mr. B died a year ago in December.
He was 91 years old.
I hadn’t seen him in a while a thought about him the other day.
Google confirmed my suspicions when I found his obituary still online.
I’ll remember him for many things but mostly because he never failed to make me smile.
I have a sneaking suspicion that many people felt the same way.
Funny that I’m not calling him by his full name.
He has more videos telling his jokes on YouTube than I will ever have. [Truth]
Farewell, Norris, my old friend.
I tip my baseball cap to the ever present one on your head.
Heaven just got one hell of a cool guy.
Rock the white clouds, you sweet bastard, rock the clouds . . .