09 February 2011

A Nice Tie-Tac

Chico Bowden (not his real name) stood a lot taller than my father, and my father was not a short man. There were many things in Chico's closet, I am sure – things that we speak of figuratively as being in his closet, or perhaps more accurately as his “baggage” – but when I think of Chico (or “Mr. Bowden” as I knew him when I was a child) and I think of closets, I then think of polyester and I think of checked patterns and I think of leisure suits. You have that in the thinking part of your melon, now, don't you ? Polyester leisure suits in checked patterns. If I mention sideburns, glasses with large lenses and heavy frames and open collared shirts, I trust you will paint in very accurately all of the rest of the image of Chico Bowden that you might ever need.

Chico sold insurance. Or cars. Or real estate. Or time-shares. I don't think it could possibly matter what it was that he sold – he was a salesman, as it were. 'Nothing against salesmen, of course – I used to be one myself (perhaps I still am, in a way – aren't we all?). Chico sold. Chico sold himself as a product, and we all eagerly watched as he ran the commercials on the small screen of his life. “Hey hey...Ange the Man...Ange the Man,” he would poke at my father when he saw him, “badda bing...how are those kiddos of yours, you old Ange the Man?”

Dad had been called “Ange” in the Navy – contraction of “Andrews,” of course. Sometimes I think he hated being called “Ange the Man,” but I never asked him about that.

Chico was perhaps the only person I ever heard use the phrase “badda-bing” in real life, with no acting. The other person who might have used it was Kip, whom I knew in college, but he had begun using it as a humorous tool in speech, and it eventually just became part of his unconscious vocabulary. More on Kip later.

The Chico of my childhood aged over the years, of course. The grey, wrinkled man that I saw at my father's funeral was really not much different than the man in the casket, in fact, aside from the fact that he was still breathing and talking and doing all of the things that the deceased no longer bother doing. I got no "badda-bing” from Chico that evening, no sales pitch of any sort, and Chico was no longer in polyester. He wore a tasteful dark suit, a crisp white shirt and a rather tasteful tie.

As I marinated my liver in a second martini, wrinkled old Chico shuffled over to me. He spoke through his tears for a short time, and I longed all the while for this relic from my childhood and my father's youth to refer to my dad as “Ange.”

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