Monday, January 21, 2008

bumsagne -- an urban legend in my own mind

for over twenty years, when i hear lasagne, i think yum, yum, bum-sagne.

it's a lot like lasagne, and tastes just as good as mine, but some props are necessary: a chilly, fog drenched san franciscan morning, a cherry '62 ford galaxie, a pocket knife and some bums.

i was late for work and decided to drive the car that my brother (a fledgling mechanic) and i were holding for a friend. it was parked outside the rented town home i shared with my brother and the intended of my first, ill advised marriage. a sweet 1962 Ford Galaxie, fully automatic everything -- a car that when the accompanying owners manual implied 'finger tip' steering, they weren't kidding; a car that could could careen across three lanes of commuter traffic with slightest break pressure applied while driving on wet pavement. this was a car that ensured a vicious and certain death in case of head on collisions. more or less, the car of my dreams.

also a car whose gas mileage averaged somewhere in the 8-12 mpg range for city driving. not a good car for poor working stiffs such as myself. nor is driving into downtown san francisco. finding a metered parking space is just a ridiculous thought and garages usually started at 20 bucks a day and that was years ago. But hop behind the wheel i did, with a lovely pan of perfectly prepared lasagne in the back seat. my recipe had delighted a number of folks and i had promised to provide lunch at whichever lame ass temp assignment i was working .

i made it downtown, coasted down the off-ramp of I-280, stopped at the red light on the corner, noticing the Chronicle building to the left and three seedy bars surrounding me just as the car wheezed it's last cloud of gas vapor and refused to budge as the light turned green. apparently, the gas gauge was not so cherry.

being a victim of child labor, i mean growing up on a ranch complete with our own gas tanks even during fuel crises i knew how to deal with cars without gas. i got out and started pushing the behemoth to the curb in full office drag -- regulatory hair-bob, heels and hose. now if i saw anyone doing such a thing, i'd get out and help, instead i had mr beamer behind me getting antsy with his pesky little horn. i considered laying on the galaxie's three tone air horn for shits and giggles, but continued pushing and steering. i parallel parked that mother by myself, hoofed it to a nearby gas station, bought a gas can, filled it, brought it back to my thirsty friend and heard a peculiar resonance as i poured gas into the tank. i got in the car, turned the key, and like any loser on 'the price is right' i got no action whatsoever.

damn. i was at a loss. in every possible way. i was broke, i was sure to lose my temp job for being late in the first week, and my friend's huge ass car was in it's own private traffic standstill in a tow away zone. i scrounged throughout purse and car and found enough change for phone calls and a beer.

conveniently, there was a bar just to my right and for the first time, i set foot inside a bar at 8 AM. i called my temp job, pretty sure they'd no longer need my services, to let them know i'd be later than expected. then i called my ever so slightly younger brother for help and bought a guinness on draft as any smart woman would. the neighborhood, while not exactly 'rough' wasn't pleasant either and a bar was as good a place to be as any. my brother had told me to sit tight, he'd be there when he could. i had no idea this would be a three hour proposition.

after a while i got bored, grabbed a paper and headed outside to attend to my ward. i sat on the hood, because the bench seats of a '62 anything are not comfortable and read the good old boys who wrote their columns just down the street from where i was sitting -- Art Hoppe, Herb Cain, Jon Carroll. i loved them all and was enjoying my moments of solitude with the newspaper when a motley trio headed into the bar i had just exited and somehow they caught my attention. they all looked like they'd seen better days, probably back in '65 before they got drafted. they were already drunk when they hit the bar, arms over each other's shoulders, singing. i nodded to them knowing i probably looked just as peculiar.

Quite some time later, they staggered out of the place and one of them, the most well kept or least unkempt depending on perspective, looked at me and asked if i needed help. well that was about the kindest thing anyone had done all day, but i said 'no thanks, i'm waiting for my brother' Sailor told his friends to go on ahead, that he was going to wait with me amid my protestations that i didn't need help. he told me he'd been estranged from his family for years, but that he had a younger sister and he hoped that if she were stranded in a bad part of town that some nice man would be a gentleman and help her out. it occurred to us simultaneously that he was just the sort that the mythical gentleman would be protecting from but obviously neither of us had anything better to do.

that's how i found myself chatting with a bum about life, liberty, and thus began my education of the devastation of the viet nam war. it began to get cold and i offered up the galaxie as shelter knowing my judgment was questionable, but at least it was broad daylight and this car wasn't budging.

Sailor and i looked at the lasagne between us, i thought, what the hell and asked him if he was hungry. he said yes and the desperate search for proper utensils was on -- because even if i was in a broke dick car, in a scuzzy part of town, in the back seat with a bum and unrefrigerated italian food, i wanted utensils, dammit.

realizing somewhat belatedly that i always had a trusty pocket knife my dad had given me as a child in my purse, i pulled it out and began to divvy up the goods as well as craft plate-ettes out of tinfoil. Sailor allowed that it was the best thing he'd eaten in a long time and i didn't disagree. his friends showed up (coincidentally cold and hungry) so i invited them in for lunch. we began to have a rather good time. they were celebrating their good fortune of food, i felt great for being able to feed the hungry and the downtrodden -- and that was exactly how my brother found me.

my brother can intimidate almost anyone with his size and the strain of his biceps against his shirt left no doubt who alpha male was in this group. suddenly the bums felt quite sheepish until i assured my bro that they'd been cool. brother thanked the bums kindly and motioned them out of the car. he took me by the hand and walked me and my new gas can to the 76 station, bought as much gas as we could with cash on hand (not much) and headed back to the galaxie where i was instructed on the fine art of priming a carburetor in front of an admiring crowd of bums.

as if by magic, the galaxie roared to life and while i'm waving to my new friends and saying good-bye, my brother is stuffing the last of the bumsagne into is mouth as he peeled out of their sight.

such was the last of the bums and the birth of bumsagne.

submitted for your approval,


  1. Holy cow, Faux-baby -- no matter how many times I've heard this story in person, it just gets better and better. Good thing I know it's true, or I'd think you were making it up outta whole cloth.

    Hey, when ya gonna make ME summa that there bum-sagne?

  2. It's like straight out of one of all those films that makes me want to see SF one day. Or rather, one month, at least. Keep writing!

  3. Hi I am Foolery's MIL-loved your story. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts!