David Emami was craving Applebee's. He enjoyed their happy hour menu late at night not because he enjoyed drinking, but simply because he was quite fond of their artichoke dip and was always happy to purchase it at half price. He put on his finest black rubber boots, some baggy work jeans, and a Hall and Oates World Tour 1983 shirt he had purchased when he saw them live in Portland, Oregon. He was ready for artichoke dip.
To his surprise, the usually quiet restaurant was busy and loud. To his dismay, there were no tables left, so they asked if he would like to be seated at the bar. David rarely drank, but he didn’t want to wait, so he found himself a bar stool and waited for someone to take his order.
“All alone?” asked a hefty woman with a faint mustache and tightly coiled brown perm. She looked to be in her 40 and wore tight black yoga pants and sparkly t-shirt that said, “DIVA” on it.
Repulsed, David replied, “Yes, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
She leaned in and was immediately obvious she had just eaten the tuna on rye. “I love Hall and Oates.”
“Yes, they’re quite splendid.”
“This must be destiny,” she said as she put her beefy hand on his thigh, “Two star-crossed lovers meeting randomly at a bar who both just happen to love Hall and Oates. Care to know my name?”
“No, I’d rather not,” he replied as he pulled away and reclaimed his leg.
“And my name is Please Leave Me Alone.” He turned away from her and hoped she’d go away.
“I love me a cold shoulder,” she said as she began to massage his feeble, bony shoulders.
David pulled away. “Don’t you touch me! This shirt is priceless! Who knows what kinds of processed oils are on your fingers!”
“I was just trying to get to know you!” she said sadly.
“I just wanted some artichoke dip! You’ve ruined that for me!” David threw his menu down on the floor and started for the door.
“Can I at least get your number?” she pleaded.
“I wouldn’t even give you a cold, let alone my number!” He left the restaurant without his artichoke dip and decided to go home and eat a Hungry Man frozen dinner with his cats instead. Fred and Barbra Streisand were always good company.
David Emami sat in his big, cozy, green, antique easy chair with his feet on the ottoman. While his two cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand, licked themselves clean, David stared at his 59 year old feet and felt a little sickened. They were crooked, hairy, and scary looking. David was repulsed and knew that he had to do something about them or we would just have to wear socks for the rest of his life to save himself from seeing those offensive things again.
David pulled out his yellow pages (and he was quite possibly the one person in his entire apartment complex that hadn’t immediately recycled theirs the moment they were delivered the week prior). David found a spa that did pedicures, and though he was a little bashful, he made the appointment and was soon on his way to get his talons tidied up.
David sat down on the large chair and a Vietnamese woman quickly tended to him.
“Oh, we have much work to do!” she shouted. She then said something in Vietnamese to the other worker next to her and they both laughed hysterically.
“Are you talking about me in Chinese?” asked David.
“No. No Chinese! Vietnamese!”
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry!” he replied.
She began clipping, scraping, and massaging David’s calloused feet until they began to resemble something that belonged to a human and not a lizard. David laughed a little, but tried his best to hide the fact that he was childishly ticklish.
“Wow, this is lovely,” said David.
“You feet so bad!” said the woman, still working over an hour later. “Take too long! You pay more!”
David looked at the clock. He had been so relaxed that he hadn’t noticed how long it was taking. “I’m not paying you a cent more! You quoted me $25 and that’s all I’m paying!”
She threw his feet down forcefully and said, “You pay now! I do no more! Done! I done!”
David stood up, angry and confused. “Fine then!” He grabbed his money, still standing there in his bare feet. “Take your dirty money!” He handed it to her.
“Okay, $10 more and I finish!”
“We are finished here!” he said as he marched toward the door.
“You forgot you shoe!”
“Keep them!” he said angrily as he walked to his car barefoot. He had more pairs of boots at home and he wasn’t about to humiliate himself anymore by walking back in. That was the first and last time David Emami ever got a pedicure.
David Emami’s cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand, were both very moody and were getting on David’s nerves. “I guess I’ll just have to leave then. Is that what you want?” he screamed as Barbra Streisand looked at him through her single, gooey, oozing eye. “Fine then. Consider it done.” He got on his boots and headed out, slamming the door behind him. David needed some fun, and he knew just the spot.
David walked down the street several blocks to the local roller skating rink, and to his surprise, there was a large birthday group there consisting mostly of 11 and 12 year old boys and girls. David was easily the only person on the rink that was over the age of 13, and he was okay with that. David loved to roller skate as long as no one got in his way or threw off his groove. To his dismay, the DJ seemed set on playing nothing but modern trashy music that David despised. In order to truly enjoy his time skating, he had to have music he enjoyed.
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t play The Carpenters.”
“Well, why not? They’re phenomenal!”
“Yeah, um, there’s a bunch of like 12 year olds out there that have no idea who they are and they’d flip out if I played them.”
“That’s just unacceptable. How about Barry Manilow?”
“Not gonna happen.”
“No, but I could do Justin Bieber.”
David made a disgusted face. “Please kill me instead! How about Cyndi Lauper?”
“Dude, for the last time, I’m not playing that old stuff. Come around on Tuesdays at 10 am. We have a senior skate and play that crap for 2 hours.”
“Crap?! How dare you insult those legends!” screamed David as he roller skated away. “I’ll have you know that I won’t support this establishment anymore! Good riddance!” David yanked his skates off though he had only been there for 5 minutes, marched them to the return desk, and without even asking for a refund, he tossed them across the counter, got his shoes back on, and walked out. His skating days were over.
David Emami was delighted when his new neon pink shoelaces arrived in the mail. He had seen a flashy pair of green Converse shoes on television, and after picking up a pair of his own, knew that the laces would make his already beautiful shoes even better. He pulled off his typical black rain boots and slipped on his new shoes and laced on his new laces. For the first time in nearly 40 years, he went out wearing something other than his signature boots.
David was feeling rather showy, and decided that the best place to show off his new kicks and laces was probably the Lloyd Center Mall in Portland, OR. David took the MAX train, which stops just outside the mall, and was a little annoyed when a drunk man wearing nothing but his underwear took all the attention during the trip. Still undaunted, David entered the mall and hoped someone would take a gander at his new shoes because he was dying for validation over his new purchase.
While going up a rather long escalator, David smiled proudly and prominently displayed his shoes for all to see (though most people just looked at him like he was a total freak). As the escalator topped off, David started walking forward toward the food court, when suddenly he felt a tug at his shoes. To his dismay, the shoelace was caught in the escalator and was pulling tightly against his shoe. Several people bumped into David as he frantically yanked at his shoe, but it only made the problem worse.
“Help me!” he screamed. “I’m at the brink of death!” People looked at him with grins of their faces, which greatly irritated him. “Oh, you calloused fools! Can’t you see I’m in need of assistance?!”
Finally, a large man with a full beard said, “Here, let me help you with that,” and with a tug of his shoe, the pink lace broke off and David was free.
“Look what you’ve done to my beautiful laces, you big oaf!” screamed David as he knelt down and assessed the damage.
“You’re welcome, jerk,” said the man in an annoyed tone.
When David came home that evening, he put his foot up and iced it. He decided that tomorrow would be a perfect day to call in sick, and he vowed to only wear his trusty black rain boots until the day he died.
David Emami had chores to do, but when Superman, starring the great Christopher Reeves, began playing on television, he stopped what he was doing and watched it with the wide eyes of a child. During the commercial breaks, he dusted and folded laundry, but whenever it started back up, he was quick to come back.
When the movie was over, David felt strangely patriotic and felt that he should do more good in his community. Though he wanted to wear a red cape, he knew that he could be a superhero without wearing a costume at all. He put on his clothes and went outside, certain he would find some injustice that he could correct through his own strength and intellect.
David began walking around Portland, looking for some wrong to right, but nothing seemed amiss. No one was being mugged. No one was injured. Everything seemed just fine. Still, David knew that there was someone out there that needed help, and he wasn’t going to go back to his apartment until he had found that person and helped them.
Suddenly, after walking around aimlessly for over 4 hours, David heard a woman yell. He looked at the end of the road near an intersection and noticed a lady frantically grabbing tiny papers that had fallen out of her purse. David jumped into action and ran as fast as he could. He snatched up the papers before they were completely overtaken by the wind and proudly brought them back to her.
“Here you go, ma’am,” said David.
“Oh, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Just some coupons, but thanks anyways.” She grabbed them and stuffed them back into her purse. “I just didn’t want to litter everywhere.”
“That’s why I’m here, ma’am. I keep these streets clean from garbage and thugs,” said David in a deeper-than-usual voice.
“Well, that’s cool I guess,” she replied as she walked away.
David returned to his apartment with a sense of pride and purpose. It was as if he had been reborn. No longer would he be a passive observer: he would be Super David.
When David Emami was younger, he had been invited to a birthday party at Portland, Oregon’s only amusement park, Oaks Park. He loved his time riding the rides and eating his weight in cotton candy, and so, after seeing a commercial on television for a discount day at the park, decided that his 50 year absence was too long. He felt it was at last time to return.
When David arrived, he was annoyed to see that the main parking lot was completely full on that beautiful June day, so David was forced to drive down the street several blocks until he at last found a spot. He hiked back to the park in the heat and was unhappy before he even entered. He paid his admission and was soon surrounded by screaming kids and long lines everywhere. It was nothing like he remembered.
“Good heavens,” he exclaimed, “is there anything without a line?!” David walked around and couldn’t find anything that was worth more than a five minute wait. Then he saw it: the big pink slide that every good amusement park has, complete with burlap sacks to ride on. David’s heart raced with the thrills of childhood, and he immediately jumped at the chance to ride.
“One burlap sack, please,” he said proudly to the 16 year old acne ridden boy in charge of the slide.
“They’re just over there. You grab your own,” he replied.
“Oh,” said David, who was rather unimpressed with the boy’s lack of enthusiasm. He was, after all, in charge of the world’s best amusement park attraction.
David grabbed his sack and headed up the stairs. He was the only person over 12 years old to climb those stairs in the park’s history. Once on top, David placed his sack down and said to the nervous 5 year old chubby boy sitting next to him, “Here goes nothing! Hope we don’t die!” And away he went until he reached the bottom. His smile never left his face.
“Mind if I go again?” he asked the attendant.
“Whatever dude,” he replied
David spent the rest of the afternoon riding the slide over and over again. In total, he rode it 67 times. Needless to say, his legs were quite tired when he was done. On his way out, he purchased 3 bags of cotton candy: 1 for him, 1 for his cat, Fred, and the other for his one-eyed feline, Barbra Streisand. It had turned out to be a perfect day.
David Emami considered himself to be a connoisseur of fine art. His apartment was decorated from top to bottom with priceless antiques and memorabilia and he figured that he knew more than most people about good taste. When he heard that his childhood friend, Benny Lelong, had recently opened his own art gallery, David was eager to drop by and see what wonders his friend had created.
David drove to West Linn, a city close to Portland, Oregon, and arrived on opening day. The gallery was well-attended and David had to park across the street in an Olive Garden parking lot. He had expected to see beautiful paintings of roses, bouquets, fields of tulips, and landscapes, but what he saw instead was something he wasn’t quite prepared for.
The walls were lined with crudely drawn nude bodies of all shapes and sizes in all sorts of contorted poses. David nearly left, but suddenly, a hand slapped him on the shoulder. “David Emami? Is that you?”
David turned around and saw Benny Lelong standing behind him. “Yes, yes it is. Nice to see you, Benny. I heard you opened a gallery and wanted to check it out.”
“It’s great isn’t it? I did all of them myself. Let me show you around!” Benny ushered David around the gallery as he explained the details behind his paintings. David felt as if he was listening to explicit R-rated movie and felt very uncomfortable at the casual mentions of private parts as Benny pointed out the features on each painting. “And the best part is, I painted all of them with my feet.”
David looked down at Benny’s crippled, twisted hands. “What happened to your hands?”
“Severe arthritis. I wanted to keep painting, so I started using my feet.”
David didn’t know what to say. “Wow, well, they’re lovely.”
Benny smiled and announced, “You know what? You came out to support me, so I’m going to send you home with one for free.”
“Oh, you don’t have to,” said David.
“I insist.” Benny grabbed a painting of a male and female prancing naked through a valley of wildflowers. “This one is for you.”
David turned red. “Oh, thanks.”
“I have to get going. I’m doing a presentation for a group in 5 minutes. Thanks for coming by. Display that piece with pride. It’s very special to me.”
David thanked Benny and ran to his car, trying his best to cover his obscene painting. When David arrived at his apartment complex, he threw the painting in the dumpster to save himself and others from having to see such atrocities.
David Emami was hungry and didn’t want to wait until he was home to prepare his food. After work, he pulled up to McDonald’s in the drive-through lane and looked at the menu.
“Can I take your order?” asked the unenthusiastic worker.
“Yes, I would like a Quarter Pounder with cheese, minus onion. Please, for the love of God, do not put onion on my burger!”
“You want that in a meal?”
“Of course I do. I’ll have a diet orange soda.”
“We don’t have diet orange soda.”
“Oh yes, I forgot. Oh, dear. Hmm…” David looked at the menu despondently. “I guess I’ll have a Cherry Coke.”
“We don’t have Cherry Coke. Just regular and diet.”
“What a sad day this is turning out to be! Fine, I’ll have a regular Coke.”
David was told to pull forward and when he arrived, he paid for his meal and awaited his food. After only a minute, he was given his order and he drove off. The smell of processed, greasy goodness enveloped his nostrils and he even drooled a little, causing some saliva to become trapped in his long, stringy goatee.
When he arrived at his apartment, he ran inside, desperate for a morsel of food. He sat on his couch and unwrapped a burger that looked nothing like the picture on the menu, then took a big first bite.
“Ugh! Yuck!” He spit it out onto the floor and his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand, quickly ran up to him and devoured it. “Onions!” He pulled back the bun and it was worse than he expected. The bun was covered in diced onions so thick that he couldn’t even see the cheesy meat patty beneath. “It’s as if they sabotaged me on purpose! This isn’t an accident! This is terrorism! This is intentional hate speech!” David threw his burger on the floor and his cats went to town on it. “Go ahead, my feline friends. I want nothing to do with that garbage.”
David pulled out his french fries and devoured them while sipping at his Coke. He wanted to pen an angry letter in red ink and deliver it to the restaurant, but he began watching a very interesting documentary on PBS about the history of shoes and completely forgot about it.
After a long day at work, David Emami was driving home in his Toyota Previa minivan. As usual, he was stuck in traffic, but up ahead, he noticed a limo that was stuck on the side of the road with its flashers on. David didn’t usually stop to help anyone in Portland, Oregon, due to stories he had heard of people getting mugged or killed, but something caught his eye: the lady standing outside of the limo was none other than Liza Minnelli, David’s favorite actress of all time.
David felt weak and flushed. He pulled over, knowing he had to help. Not only was it the right thing to do, but it was Liza Minnelli, so he truly had no other options. He got in the right lane and pulled to the side, then got out and approached Liza and her driver.
“Need some help?” asked David bashfully. He wanted to jump on her and give her hugs and kisses, but also didn’t want to spend the night in jail. He had a million questions for her, but he didn’t want to alarm her. He wanted to keep his cool.
“Oh, thank goodness. Yes,” she replied, “my incompetent limo driver can’t seem to get the damn thing going and I’m freezing out here.”
“I’d be happy to give you both a ride,” replied David.
“Just me,” she said, “he’s going to stay with the limo. Besides, I’ve spent enough time with him. I need a break.” She looked at the driver. “Stay here and wait for a tow truck. Make sure my bags are at the hotel when I arrive later tonight.”
They got into David’s minivan and were off. “Where are you headed, Ms. Minnelli?”
“Downtown. The Imperial Restaurant. I’m meeting an old friend there for dinner.”
“You got it!” David couldn’t believe his luck. “It’s an honor to meet you, ma’am. I’m David.”
“Lovely to meet you. Thank you for saving me back there.”
“I’d take a bullet for you,” he admitted.
She laughed. “I hope that won’t be necessary.”
They talked and giggled all the way to the restaurant. David pinched himself a few times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Finally, they arrived and David jumped out to open her door.
“I hope you have a lovely day,” said David.
“And you as well,” she replied.
“You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever met,” said David.
“You’re too kind,” she said as she leaned in and kissed David on the cheek, leaving a big lipstick mark on his face.
She went inside and David promised to never wash his face again. He had just been kissed by an angel.
David Emami had never been to a spa. He had often been curious about getting a massage, but he had always decided against someone touching him so intimately. David liked his privacy and felt that such an invasion would be detrimental to his well being. However, after seeing a commercial for a local spa, David decided to splurge and try it out.
He arrived at the spa early in the morning, long before the crowds of the day would arrive. He was nervous and skeptical, but also excited. His 59 year old body needed some attention because it hadn’t been touched by someone other than himself in over 30 years.
David was escorted to a room in the back and was instructed to take off his clothes and lay a towel over his manhood.
“Take off my clothes? I’ve never heard of such a thing. What kind of establishment is this?!”
“Well, we use essential oils and that would be impossible with your clothes on.”
David was intrigued. “Are they expensive?”
“Very,” replied the young masseuse.
“Fine then. Leave the room so I may disrobe without being watched.”
The woman left the room and David removed his clothes. He positioned himself on the massage table and awaited for the massage to start.
The masseuse entered the room and said, “Comfortable?”
“Absolutely,” said David.
“Then let’s begin.” She started rubbing his shoulders, which David enjoyed greatly. After some upper body work, she began massaging his lower back, dangerously close to his butt. When her reach became uncomfortable, David’s head darted back.
“What are you doing back there? I’m not that kind of man!”
“I’m massaging your lower back. Nothing to worry about,” she assured him.
“Bologna!” David stood up, attempting to hide his nudity with the tiny towel given to him, but doing a poor job to say the least. “I will not be violated in such an obscene manner!”
“Leave the room so I may put my clothes on and leave this den of harlots!”
She threw her hands up in the air. “Whatever, dude.”
David quickly put his clothes back on, embarrassed and ashamed. He darted down the hall without saying another word and ran outside to his car. He would never receive another massage in his entire life.
David Emami is Alone in Portland is a collection of stories that peer into the life of a middle-aged curmudgeon with a fondness for cats and antiques.
Playfully illustrated with Bitmoji characters, his story comes to life as each day brings a new adventure.
He was obsessive compulsive and mad about antiques. The apartment was covered, top to bottom, in decor that would be more aligned with that of an old woman that peaked in the 1960s. david-emami-takes-on-portland.html
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