Let’s talk turkey .
As far as I know , I’ve used that expression only once in my life . [ Now when I say that I’ll have several people coming out of the woodwork to contradict that statement , perhaps ; but I’m sticking with it for the purpose of this post . Who cares anyhow ! Right ? Not to get political , but I could lie through my teeth day after day , month after month , and I could still be elected President , so who cares in my case . Right ? Sorry . Let’s move on . ]It was one of the times that I’ve been fired [ yes , one of the times . You mean to say that you’ve never been fired ? You lead a sheltered life , or what ? ] .
I was selling popcorn and candy at the Vista Theater in Hollywood . Some would call it East Hollywood , making it sound a bit more chi chi ; you know : swank . The place wasn’t so swank when I lived there ; it is now though . The neighborhood was waiting for me to move out , I suspect , before it went to all that trouble and expense and changed ; but I don’t take that slippery strategy personally .
The posh coffee places came in on Vermont Blvd and the local watering holes filled up with new crowds. I might call the newcomers sophisticates , facetiously . Bartender Lou , over at the Drawing Room , started taking credit cards and he stopped bringing pans of pigs’ feet to stash behind the bar to hand out to his friends . Someone even began to sweep the place out on a regular basis and the Drawing Room added a wine list . When I was going there after work for a beer they wouldn’t take credit cards — in fact they ridiculed the poor unsuspecting strangers who tried to use one . The beer list , I think , was Budweiser or Millers in a bottle . Pick one .
There was a place across the street , the Ye Rustic Inn , that got hit even worse with the frilly remake . In my opinion . Ye Rustic Inn , as you might glean from the slightly pretentious moniker , was a neighborhood dive bar trying to be grandiose . My friend Curtiss and I used to go over there rarely . The people were friendly , lots of locals , but never did the bartender bring any pickled pigs feet , for example . They weren’t open at six o’clock in the morning , either , as was the Drawing Room . A bit affected and pompous , you think ?
Now , don’t get me wrong . For one , I wouldn’t have eaten a pickled pig’s foot had I been wasting away in the final throes of starvation , and I never went for an early morning beer , certainly not at 6 in the morning , and I wouldn’t have been considered ” a regular ” at any bar [ except , perhaps , during the nine day teacher strike of ’89 , when Curtiss and I would hit the Drawing Room in the afternoons to blow off steam after picketing mornings around the school ] .
I’m not cool . Never was cool and haven’t ever had an itch to be cool . When these two beer places within a block of my former home were down-to-earth neighborhood beer joints , I felt comfortable there and would visit from time to time for a beer or two . My friend Virginia lived in a house next to The Drawing Room . She didn’t mind the place with the exception of the occasional drunks who puked on her lawn . Lou worked evenings and always was good for a good word or two . The Ye Rustic Inn people were friendly too , and usually a good source of local gossip . But then the two places became flashy cool . Cool people contacted one another by cell phone and met at one place or the other for loud binges of coolness , and unfortunately , the places lost my interest from that time on .
Luckily , I guess , I was on my way out of that neighborhood at about that same time . I escaped just before complete grip of gentrification , up-pricing , and up-gussying . My flannel shirts , which I wore almost exclusively back then , just weren’t fitting in anymore . Lou , the bartender at The Drawing Room retired , and my buddy Curtiss moved to Florida . Virginia sold her house and bought herself a cozy spot in an old-folks’ home on the other side of downtown .
I moved out to Sierra Madre , where there was only one bar , the Bucchaneer , which should have been avoided if at all possible at all times by everyone . Something about the Black Hole of Calcutta comes to mind. I was in there two or three times , nevertheless , over the years . One must do one’s research , after all . Go in early , if you go . The bartender is drunk by evening and he gets a bit bent-out-of-shape belligerent if you want anything from him , like change . Well , to be honest , I haven’t been there for years , and they may , by now , have a wine list and serve craft beers in fluted glasses ; but I don’t think so . The place , by the looks of the outside , seems not to have changed at all . There’s old -curmudgeon comfort in that cozy consideration , I realize .
But , Bless me Father , for I have digressed .
Back to the talking turkey theme . I worked at the Vista after school and on weekends , as a second job. Teachers do that kind of thing . The Vista , at the time , was owned by three gay guys . The new boyfriend of one of them took over management of the theater , and within weeks decided to fire all of the non-gay employees . About half of the popcorn and tickets crew were axed . For some of these people that was their only job . For me it was no skin off my nose , so to speak .
The reason given for firing us was that our work wasn’t up to standards , which was obvious nonsense , so I confronted the manager . I told him that I had come to ” talk turkey ” with him , and that the real reason for the nasty action was obvious , and had nothing to do with quality of work . I said my say and that was it . ” Talk turkey , ” I remember him repeating . ” Talk turkey ! Talk turkey ! ”
His romance with the owner , by the way , broke up a few weeks later and he was immediately fired . What goes around comes around . I can’t say I had much sympathy for that jive turkey .
So , as you have just read , I remember the one time ever that I’ve used that ” let’s talk turkey ” expression . It’s been documented here and will , I assume , be placed in the record .
The Vista theater is still there , too , but it’s been owned by a theater corporation for decades now . I wonder if the wallpaper I put up in the restrooms is still there . By the way , here’s a bit of inside scuttlebutt : that goo they squirt onto the popcorn in theaters isn’t butter . It’s World War I surplus used motor oil drained from Army vehicles . Just thought you’d like to know . Eating buttered popcorn with that “butter” is like turkeys voting for an early Christmas . Just saying ! Might as well talk turkey , after all !