For those of you that follow Walter on Twitter and Facebook, you’re already familiar with Walter’s “Tales From The Lunch Counter.” They’re funny short stories about actual things that Walter experiences during his daily life. You can find all of his currently posted “Tales” on this page and they will be updated as he posts up his new ones up on Twitter and Facebook. Hope you all enjoy his stories!
Tales from the lunch counter: Eating dinner with friends. A small boy asks for an autograph. “Come back after dinner”. He smiles & leaves. A whoosh near my ear and a cane smashes the table. My fork jumps. A bite sized Colonel Sanders shouts at me in fury. “How dare you, sir. ..how dare you refuse my grandson! Who are you anyway? I’VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF YOU!” The veins in his neck and forehead collide. I expect an explosion. The cane violently crashes the table again. This time the spoon joins the fork. They may be in love.
Kentucky. Convention hall. Family of 3, mother, father and 10 year old daughter march past me in single file. Each carries a heaping plate of onion rings stacked to the eyebrows. In a deranged moment, I pluck the trop most ring from the 10 years old bounty. Better to clear her eye line so she doesn’t stumble, I tell myself. The mother springs at me pointing a cracked and splintered…finger nail at my throat.. “Jest cause you was on Star Trak don’t mean you can steal my babies food! “, she spits copiously. She inches up chin to forehead and puddling my naked dome hisses, “Rot in hell!” She’s not done. With a knife- through- the- heart- plunge she adds …”You’re shorter than you look on the TV”.
4:00 PM, downtown L.A. Frantically trying to find a film shoot location. Streets are deserted. Only mt box of Crackerjacks for company. Finally, a vision of a heavy set lady leaning against a fence and a little guy in a porkpie hat dancing to a noteless tune. “Do you know where Alpine Street is?” She peels herself off the fence like chewed Juicy Fruit stuck to a lampost and lumbers toward me. The little guy bops at her side. 6 feet away I see she is past 70 and probably responsible for the Crash of ’29. Porkpie guy stops in his tracks. “I know you! You used to be that guy who used to be that guy on that show!” Extra Large Size lady launches herself through the open wimdow and almost into my lap. The only thing between us is my box of candy….”You want ro play with my titties?”, she asks matter of factly. I have a knee jerk reaction and the caramel corn is dancing in the air doing a tuck and roll and landing in her hair. She hurls herself back out the window and I pound the accelerator like I’m tenderizing week old meat. Yhey’re disappearing in my rear view mirror. Last thing I see is the little guy with a sad floppy wave mouthing some words mouthing some words. “Bye, bye, Mr. Sulu” is what I think I hear.
In the 1980s George Takei and I were invited to open a new video store in Chattanooga. It was run by a family of mostly uncles and aunts. Everyone was very nice. More than nice. They started out congenial and very quickly climbed Jacob’s Ladder to respectful, reverential and deificational. (okay there’s no such word but the hallelujah choir which we may or may not have heard seemed to plead the case that we were special beings not of this plain.) We knew we weren’t from Ceti Alpha Six so… why the hell not? It was not hard buying into it. High praise is very seductive. Dinner was in the private room of a restaurant. Everyone took his seat. The space was thick woth gravitas. All the color had been sucked away. It was as if the room and all its patrons were bathed in sepia with maybe khaki trim. The peoples’ awe prevented them from more than a quick glance in our direction. Mostly they had their heads buried in the butter plates. The host rose with empty glass in hand and recounted our virtues. What fine young men we were. How decent and kind and honorable. We had made this long journey (by Delta 747) to be with them at this precious moment and they were humbled beyond words by our presence. It was something none of them would ever forget. With all their heads bowed it felt more like a prayer than a toast. I could almost hear someone whisper “amen”. George was totally captivated by the moment. He leaped to his feet and in that deep sonorous voice he spoke of Chattanooga’s undulating hills, the riot of color across its mountain tops and the plush verdant blanket of its valleys. George was in his element. He spread wide his arms and spoke so that all might hear him. There was a gloryun his rendition. Some wept while others grew silent contemplating the meaning of everything. Only thing missing was the two story pipe organ. It was my turn next and I rose apologizing that I had not the erudition nor the eloquence possessed by my compatriot. “So, I’d just like to say on behalf of the helmsman and myself that we’ve both had a pretty fucking good time here. The quiet that followed was much like that in a cemetery where the zombies have all dug themselves out of their graves and scampered off leaving behind the silence of empty pits with gaping wounds. Fortunately, it all lasted just a moment and then the house came down as everyone roared. The laughter went on and on. The weight in the room lifted and like a helium balloon it drifted toward an open window and disappeared. Gone were the prodigal sons and in their place was a couple more neighbors in straw hats and overalls just come from cooking yams. Roddenberry would have approved.
I hadn’t finished my raisin pudding when the dish was whisked away by the attendant with the flushed face. The captain’s voice came over the P.A. ” We have a console light that’s flashing red. One time in ten it means a defective bulb…” “..The other nine times it means the landing gear is not locked in place and we prepare for a crash landing.” I looked out the window. We were circling the field at about 400 feet. The tarmac was lathered and foaming. An ambulance and fire truck were standing by. “Everyone lean forward and grab your ankles. Remain so until told otherwise”. Some people giggled nervously. “This is not a training exercise!” came the stern reproach. We were descending rapidly our backsides high in the air. A deadly silence. You could hear a neutron drop. 300 hundred feet…200 hundred feet…Then a whispered voice across from me…”Hey, Chekov, what’d you do on rhe Enterprise when this happened?” “We beamed down, nummy nuts!” Needless to say, this was the one time in ten.
I phoned Mario at “Two Guys From Italy”.and ordered a turkey sausage pizza. Mario called me “Mr. Star Trek” . My order wasn’t ready when I arrived. In fact, they couldn’t find my name. Then they told me that they didn’t carry turkey sausage. I was getting upset. I asked to speak to Mario. “Mario died ten months ago” I was told. There was a movie called “Gaslight” where the husband tried to drive his wife insane. “God Damn it,” I said, let me talk to Mario!” “God, damn it”, came the reply “Mario is dead and we don’t have turkey sausage!” “Do you know who I am?!”, I shouted. “Some whacko short guy!” came the rejoiner. I grabbed the menu determined to find the turkey sausage. Before I could thumb the pages I saw the name of the restaurant on the cover “Little Tony’s” it said in bold script. I had phoned in my order at one place and had gone to another to pick it up. What an idiot! A waiter came by. “Hey, aren’t you the guy from that Star Trek show?” Not me”, I said lunging for the door.
A demure young lady sat at a table next to mine primly reading from a paperback. Glimpsing the Star Trek title I felt an immediate bonding. Then, two women, recognizing a chum, appeared in simultaneous screech. With uncontained joy they extolled her beauty, her glorious hair and her nifty clothes. She looked up at them doe eyed …and with a smile all the more charming for the blush in her cheeks. And then, just as quickly as they had appeared they were gone. Emboldened by our Star Trek kinship I leaned over and said with grace “You know, you might have told them how nice they looked too.” Her face twisted into a sneer worthy of both Noonan Khan Singh and Genghis . Her eyes narrowed into the slits of a jungle predator and she snarled with supreme malevolence,”WHAT ARE YOU, MY MOTHER?!” About then, I abandoned the impulse to tell her I had played Chekov.
3 student actors were arguing virtues of Picard vs Kirk. I stormed their table. In my best Dr. McCoy voice I said, “For god’s sake, man, this is an eating establishment, not the thitrd deck behind the boiler room!” Eventually they laughed. I couldn’t tell if it was with me or at me.
I frequently eat lunch alone. The waitress asked me what I’d have. I told her a bowl of tribbles and two action figures. She didn’t blink. “Do you want that with salad dressing or Mayo?” That’s what I get for being a smart ass.