Chicagoland cop and freak fetishist Bubs has turned the tables on me after my award-winning interview with him last month. As is the custom these latter days, Bubs provided me five interview questions. Today we start with Question Number One.
Bubs: I found several mentions of a character known as "Poor George" throughout the CPW archives, but I'm not sure when, exactly, he appeared in your life. Did you two, as they say in Hollywood, "meet cute"? Or is it just a boring story that you don't want to bother us with?
CP: Although he is certainly a character to speak of, Poor George is not simply a figment of our collective imagination as some of you may expect, but is in fact a real person who lives and breathes. Whether he is a bonafide child of Mama Gin or, as he claims, the long-lost heir to one noble Anastasia Beaverhausen is still a matter in dispute.
I don't know what it means to "meet cute," although I can tell you that PG and I were "properly introduced" by my cousin Michael - which is probably the first "proper" thing that whore has ever done in his life. Our heartwarming tale begins at Christmastime in 1997, shortly after I had moved to the East Coast to attend law school in Washington DC. Michael had invited me to come up to New York to go on a road trip with him and his friend George for the holidays. I graciously accepted.
After my last final exam at Georgetown, I rode up to New York on the train and stayed overnight with a former flame of mine, where we succumbed to temptation and rekindled our extremely stale romance just for that evening. What can I say; the cocktails at dinner were strong.
The next day I hung out in the East Village where my friend lived, did some sightseeing, and in the late afternoon took the subway out to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where Michael's friend George lived. This was my first time in Brooklyn, and I enjoyed my walk from the subway to his house where I passed various groups of people speaking their thick Brooklynese: "Whaddyatawlkin 'bout?" and that sort of thing. Charming.
I approached the brownstone that George shared with his parents - he in one apartment and the parents in another. I had no idea which apartment was his, so I just picked a doorbell and rang it. A nice looking Chinese-American man opened the door.
"Hi, are you George?"
He looked at me kind of weird and then said "I think so."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know which bell was yours. I hope I didn't disturb your parents."
"It doesn't matter. God, you sure brought enough luggage," he said, referring to the two reasonably sized black bags at my side. "Come on in. I'll take one of these for you. Here, you carry the heavy one." He thrust my rolling suitcase at me and proceeded into the dark entryway.
"We have to go down these stairs. Watch yourself, some of them are a little tricky."
I saw what he was talking about as we started down the narrowest staircase I had ever seen. I almost fell forward three times due to the extreme downward slant of several of his steps.
"Nice place you have here," I said as we entered a long narrow room almost completely devoid of natural light. Probably because he had a 26 inch TV squarely blocking one of the only windows in the room.
"Take your shoes off. I just installed these tiles and I don't need you getting black streaks all over them."
"Ok." Reasonable enough request, although I might have simply suggested removing the shoes rather than throwing about thinly veiled pre-offense accusations. I opened one of my bags and extracted a nicely wrapped box, which only I knew contained delicious Frango Mints from Marshall Fields that my mother had sent me for Christmas.
"Here George, this is for you to thank you for your hospitality." He took the package, briefly glanced at it and tossed it down on top of the radiator.
"Thanks," he replied. "I'm busy making dinner for my father. You can come up to my parents' kitchen if you want." I complied, and followed George back upstairs.
We entered his parents' apartment and went into the kitchen where my cousin was sitting at a small round table with George's father, Johnny. George walked over to a large cooking stove with an enormous wok built right into it and resumed his dinner preparations.
"Georgie cook like me!" his father said proudly. "He don't cook like mother. She terrible. Everything he learn, because of me!" He cackled loudly, and I decided I liked Johnny immediately. He got up from his seat and said "come, you follow me, I show you my house."
He hobbled into a living room just off the apartment's kitchen. "This my wife, Georgie mother. Her name 'How Gin.'" He was referring to a diminutive woman sitting on the end of a crumpled futon sofa. She appeared to stare at a blank TV screen about five feet in front of her.
"Hello, my name is Tom. It's very nice to meet you." Mama Gin looked up slightly confused and limply accepted my outstretched hand.
"Where you mother and father?" she said.
"They're at home, in Chicago. I'm just here on vacation." She made no reply, and resumed staring into the blank screen.
Johnny ushered me back into a carpeted sitting room near the front of the house. "Here, I show you picture. Last year we celebrate, we marry fifty year." He opened a photo album containing pictures of an elaborate banquet with Mama Gin and himself seated at a large round table surrounded by ten other people and mounds of delicious looking food. Mama Gin had on makeup in the picture and looked somewhat normal. Boy was I in for a surprise.
"This restaurant, I know them well. I deliver food to them years ago. They do very good banquet for me." He continued to turn the pages, offering random comments to describe various photos.
"You know, I have cancer. Prostate cancer. But it no get me. I a survivor!" Johnny laughed again, beaming with enthusiasm and energy.
"Well I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad you have George here to help you with that."
"Right. Now, I rest. You go talk Georgie now."
I went back into the kitchen. George had gone back down to his apartment to get something, so I sat down at the table to talk to my cousin.
"Careful, don't spend too much time talking to his parents. They're really weird," Michael said.
"Just weird, you'll see. How was your trip?" George returned from downstairs. Michael and I continued talking to catch up, making an effort to include George in the conversation. I told them about finishing up my final exams, riding the train up to New York, writing all my Christmas cards on the train and about the amorous reunion with my old friend the night before. George snorted and remained silent.
When dinner was prepared, George called his parents into the kitchen to eat with us. Johnny appeared in the doorway, unaccompanied by Mama Gin. "Georgie mother no eat now. She eat later. She never like eat with people." He sat down with us.
George placed a small bowl of rice in front of each of us, and then at the center of the table a chicken and vegetable stir fry, a plate of sauteed leafy greens and a large poached ocean bass covered with ginger and scallion. My mouth watered at the mere sight.
George and Johnny carefully instructed Michael and me on the procedure for eating the fish, which consisted of reaching onto the serving plate with your chopsticks and using them to loosen the fleshy white meat before transferring it to your own bowl of rice.
"George, this is absolutely delicious!" I exclaimed, reveling in the strange and wonderful new flavors. "How on earth did you learn to make a fish like this?"
"I tell you, from me!" Johnny replied. "I have to teach him everything. Mother not cook." He giggled again before sucking an entire stalk of juicy greens into his mouth, barely assisted by his chopsticks. "Georgie cooking very good. He learn from me."
We proceeded through the remainder of George's wonderful meal. At one point I dropped one of my chopsticks on the floor, and picked it up to wipe it off. George grabbed both chopsticks from me and threw them into the sink. "You never replace just one chopstick, it's bad luck." He reached over into a drawer and handed me a fresh pair. "Here, and stop eating all the fish. Save some for the rest of us, please."
He was cute, but he sure had a mouth. He also didn't seem to care for me very much.
I am Coaster Punchman and you have just entered my world. I rule it with an iron fist, so if you're looking for First Amendment protection, you will not find it here. I have a now deceased crazy Chinese mother-in-law, and sometimes I wear Crocs around the house. I don't like flip-flops or Mormons. I'm also a cyberstalker by trade -- so I could look up all sorts of random shit about you if I wanted, but I probably won't because I'm pretty lazy.