My name really is DanOmanno Dingo. A name that caused me all sorts of trouble while growing up. You, dear reader, may call me DanO. And proudly, I’m now a duly certified and professional Dumpster Diver thanks to one man who you shall meet shortly! Now, truth be told, I’m not really sure on the exact date I decided I was cut for this sort of work, but I can tell you the year. It was early on in 2013 that a particularly nasty and prolonged sinus condition strangely helped launch a new found career into the depths of what was otherwise a very odoriferous environment. A world that, thanks to a perpetually stuffed nose, I could not sense very well at the time.
It was my first encounter with, and subsequent learning experiences from, a rather strange man that is the subject of this story. Like most major changes in life, Dumpster Diving (or DD) began by a chance encounter. Thinking back, I remember that it was a very warm early afternoon in June with the weather just beginning to show signs of the hotness of the summer that was to come. I had stopped at local eatery to escape the moist and tepid still air that is so often part of the Ozarks, even in the spring. Some air conditioning and a cold beer were foremost on my mind as I drove towards the parking lot. Even at such an early afternoon hour, a thin veneer of sweat had formed on my upper lip as I urged my poorly maintained, but still running, Jeep down the main street of town. A popup shower had just gone through and steam could be seen rising vertically from the pavement. This made my drive that day, even a bit more surreal than normal. As so often happens in south Central Missouri, you can get brief thunderstorms where winds blow the rain every which way and then voilá, it’s gone and you’re left with only a slowly rising mist as a reminder. Overhead, the sun was once again making its presence known as it peeked hotly through thinning clouds and already small spots of perspiration began to show through my cotton polo shirt. (A shirt I had bought on sale years ago and which now bore the many of the same signs of age as the rest of my 55 year old body).
“Great”, I thought to myself as I parked my Jeep, stepped out and headed for the front entry. “Memo to self”, I muttered. “I just gotta get that frigg’in AC fixed.” Jeeps were well known for two things in my book; great air conditioning – when they worked – and every penny you had when they didn’t.
As I walked slowly across the steamy lot, I wondered if there might not be a moral in there somewhere – bad AC and something about the government – and then the thought left my mind as quickly as it came. Another sign of encroaching senility? I headed towards the entrance while punching the lock button on my key. A chirping sound behind my back insured that my auto was locked. (Not that there was really anything inside it worth stealing). ‘Cold beer and colder air’, were my only thoughts as I walked slowly through a curtain of fog…
I’d selected this particular restaurant, café, food emporium (or what ever you might want to call it), because it was close to my home. You know, just doing my little part for the environment by saving on gas. (Actually, that was not true. I stopped there because of its name – Charlimpea).
Truth be told, from the outside the place appeared a little (maybe a lot) run down. The marquis indicated it to be a steak and ale joint (there was even a picture of a big slab of steak). The name was Charlimpea’s Steak House. That word ‘Charlimpea’, if I recalled correctly, was Indonesian slang for ‘smelly armpit’. I smiled as I wondered who had missed that connection when they named the joint). Hey everyone! We serve really bad Charlimpean steaks here!
As I sauntered in, I noticed that the establishment also supported a rather modest bar. I also immediately discerned that things here seemed just a little bit out of kilter. Nothing looked square or true. It was as though the builder had depended more on wishful thinking than in any actual skill with a hammer and saw. ‘T-square? He’d exclaim, what’s that?’
As I opened the door and crossed the threshold, the atmosphere went from overly bright sunlight to a subdued but much cooler murkiness. (The kind of bad light you get when looking for a lost sock under your bed). I stood there a moment as my eyes adjusted and took in what appeared to be a cheap painted plywood bar top that was only marginally complimented by a line of squat looking bar stools. I thought in passing that the bar itself was so poorly constructed, that even the stools looked a little out of place. As though even they didn’t really want to be there, but being as they were dead objects, they had no choice.
Now suddenly unsure of myself, my eyes quickly swept the rest of the establishment. While the eating section off to my left appeared brightly lit and modern, the bar area proper reminded me more of that smelly and dark hold in movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. A rather sinister place with wet, oily walls that Bootstrap Bill had grown into over time until he was now a part of the ship. After a moment’s hesitation, I thought what the hell. Charlimpea’s was, after all, still a watering hole. A man’s oasis where one could grab a cold one and enjoy some time out of the blessed heat.
Searching for an unoccupied stool, I took note that in spite of the early hour, the venue was occupied by three rather seedy looking men. Two of them sat close together, fingers clinging furtively to their beer steins. (A mannerism that somehow reminded me of condemned prisoners who are waiting for a last minute reprieve). One of the two turned toward me as I entered. I immediately noticed he had a rather bad tic that involved his left eyelid and that caused it to wink on and off. By the glint of it, I realized in all probability that eye behind the constantly blinking eyelid was made of glass. When he looked my way, winking at a really good clip, I was unsure as how to react. Was there some form of Morse code going on here? One winky-dinky if by land, two if by sea, three you get screwed by Blinky and Lee? The man next to him (Lee perhaps?) was just visible over Blinky’s shoulder. From the way his eyes were skewed at various angles, I was pretty sure his elevator was also stuck somewhere between floors. I quickly dismissed the idea of sitting by either one.
A bit closer to where I was standing, the third man sat with his back to me, head slowly bobbing up and down like one of those drinking toy birds. “What kind of place have I wandered into?” I thought candidly. I stood there for a moment, now unsure which end of the bar to move to. Life can be so perplexing at times.
Picking what I felt was the lesser of two evils; I elected to choose a stool next to the solitary man on the left. Being careful to keep both eyes wide open as I didn’t want a careless blink to go noticed by Blinky, I sat down next to the person I now thought of as Mr. Bobblehead. On closer inspection, I was able to tell that he too was a little misshapen in that one shoulder was definitely and inch or so higher than the other. As a result, Mr. Bobblehead had a bit of a natural lean to him that brought him closer than I would have liked. I squirmed around in my seat and tried to take stock. It was at that point that I also discovered a rather annoying sound coming from his vicinity. Faintly at first, then not so faintly, I could hear him as he nursed his beer. Every time he took a long slurp, his head would bob up a bit and then go back down for another go. I stood there for a moment just watching. His head would go down, then up, then back down again. Each cycle punctuated by a loud slurp! I quickly found this to be very annoying…
As I tried to settle into my bar stool, a very slight breeze coming from his direction gave me my first whiff of what could best be described as ‘eu-de-dumpster’. A sickeningly sweet smell that was a serious miasmal onslaught to even my impacted nasal cavity. Even with an allergy, the smell that got through was akin to sticking ones nose into a diaper gone really bad. I’ll admit right now, I did not find that first encounter with this strange man very pleasant and made a mental note, then and there, to move a few more stools down when the first opportunity presented itself.
Still, trying my best to be sociable (this due to my stellar upbringing), I turned and tried to exchange pleasantries with a man I had begun to think of as Mr. Diaper Doo Doo Bobblehead. In actually, I learned his real name was Denny. (I made a mental note, though to hold the other name in reserve, just in case].
Denny, it seemed, was a regular ‘barfly’ at Charlimpea’s. (A fact that was also visually confirmed after I observed six or seven real flies buzzing around his head). He was also definitely the source of the diaper gone overboard smell. I surmised that the poor man must be down on his luck and was intrigued in spite of myself.
“Howdy there partner”, I threw out in a lackluster attempt at cordiality. As I was talking, I slowly edged as far to the right of my stool as I could.
“Let me guess. You’re in what? Waste management?” As I asked this, I could not resist sporting a lope-sided grin while holding my nose between the tips of two fingers..
After no answer was immediately forthcoming, I shrugged and turned to order a top of the shelf beer. The bartender, who had been standing patiently across from me, immediately brought me the selected libation. Her name, I learned, was Brandy. (As Brandy timidly presented my cold brew, I surmised her to be something of a local strumpet. I also surmised she was not used to a high roller like me). Beer now firmly in hand, I gave her a quick, (yet disinterested) smile without trying to appear rude.
“My name is DanO, but you can call me Dan Oh-Oh-Oh”, I said as I stuck my finely toned right arm her way and visually contorted my face. (This subtle play on words and the cute way I visually faked an orgasm was usually a sure ice-breaker). Not so much this time, though…
Brandy took my hand in hers and shook it up and down. (Actually, I felt her handshake was a little too mechanical and was strangely reminded of a robot with a short circuit somewhere deep in its cold metallic depths).
Up and down, up and down. I’m sure hoping this lady runs down, I thought laconically. As she continued to vigorously pump me for all she was worth. I also noticed her eyes hungrily taking in the full expanse of my rock hard and tautly-tanned biceps. Inwardly, I smiled as I was used to this kind of response from girls like her. I gently disengaged my hand as quickly as I could. (As a practicing Adonis, I do take good care of the finely tuned corvette that is my body. Most women, poor creatures that they are, were always eager to consume my precious fluids. Something I had to be constantly on the alert for.)
“Thanks for the Samuel Adams”, I offered and then turned my eyes downward while waving one hand in casual dismissal. Brandy, now no longer needed, walked down the length of the bar to do whatever it is that people like her do when they can no longer converse with people like me. I took a sip of beer and then looked over to my new found, if somewhat septic, bar companion.
I’ll admit, much later, that my interest was peaked by a number of this man’s unusual attributes. There were those flies for one thing, and that all pervasive smell. Finally, one had to consider the unique way in which he consumed his beverage. It was a moist sucking sound. A sound like nothing I’d ever heard before. A sound I could imagine a mosquito would make if you could somehow amplify it as it went about its business of sucking a person’s blood. A slow, wet hungry sound like a straw makes as it probes, in vain, the bottom of an empty glass. It was a sound that could easily drive you nuts.
In an effort to make him stop for a moment (or forever), I asked Denny what he did for a living. He raised his hand an angled it towards me in a wave off motion. The slurping noise stopped and as his head turned towards mine, he belched loudly. A new odor wafted my way causing my eyes to water briefly. I turned in his direction.
“I like diving into dumpsters and the one out back is a real favorite!” He made that statement as though I would instantly understand and agree. Then, he eyed his now empty glass of beer. “Hey bud, you want a buy me a beer?” A bushy eyebrow went up with the inquiry. He was now turned fully towards me with an empty glass held out in front of my face as though challenging me to fill it. All the while, flies made slow orbits around his head.
“Like yeah, that’s just not going to happen”, I thought as I mentally considered my options. I knew that if I bought him another drink, that horrible slurping noise would resume! Did I want to even endure that? I wasn’t sure. I also wasn’t sure if I wanted him to be anything other than a stranger. As the silence stretched on, a couple of his flies must have decided that I too looked pretty good and headed my way.
“I got a better idea” I said, avoiding the issue altogether. “How’s about we check out that dumpster? You said there’s a good one here?” I asked somewhat flippantly.
“I’ve never seen anyone go through garbage before.” A grin spread across my face as I was sure the odd fellow would decline the invite. To my surprise, he got off his stool and headed for the door. “Sure – follow me, bud” he said over his shoulder. I shrugged, finished the last of my beer and ambled on over to the door.
[End Chapter One] – more to follow