David Emami waited eagerly for the return of the fabled McRib from McDonald’s. The rib shaped patty drenched in barbecue sauce on a bun was something that only came out of hiding every few years and only stayed around for a few weeks at a time. When he heard that they were coming to a location in West Linn, Oregon, which is just a few miles from Portland, he knew he had to jump at the opportunity or miss out for another several years.
The thought of missing the McRib troubled him greatly, and he knew he would have to call in sick for work if he was going to be one of the first to experience its processed deliciousness.
David put on his McRib McManiac shirt that he had purchased online and, at 3 am, drove to West Linn for the official unveiling which was to take place at 11 am. When David arrived, he was the only one there.
“Strange, I thought there would be more people for such a historic event,” said David while standing outside. He looked at the hours and determined that they were open 24 hours a day, so he went inside and sat down. The woman standing at the counter looked at him strangely.
“You gonna order something? You can’t just sit in here.”
David was offended by her tone. He stood up to show his shirt. “How dare you suggest that I’m a vagrant! I’m here for the McRib party at 11 am.”
“The McRib party is today at 11 am.”
“It ain’t no party,” she said, “we just start servin’ ‘em up at 11. It’s no big deal or nothin’.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ve just been misinformed. I’ll be waiting until the event begins.”
David sat back down, folded his arms, and aimed his back to her in an attempt to show his determination to end the conversation.
“Whateva,” she said under her breath.
The sun rose and the crowds began to come in. First the breakfast crowds, then at last, the lunch crowds. It was finally 11 am. David darted to the register.
“I’d like a McRib, please. Oh heck, make it 3. I’ll take 2 home for Fred and Barbra Streisand.”
“Huh?” asked the new employee, as the night shift had long since gone home.
David Emami could barely walk around in his apartment due to all of the various antiques and knick knacks he had accumulated over the years. Others might call it hoarding, but to David, everything had a place. However, even he could see that it was becoming alarmingly crowded, leaving very little room for him and his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand. They had such little floor space that they typically sat side by side near the sole patch of clear space in front of David’s couch. David, after much contemplation, decided it was time to have a small yard sale.
David grabbed handfuls of items that he truly didn’t want to sell, but could at least bear the idea of getting rid of them to make space. These items were of value to him, but weren’t irreplaceable. He started pricing the items with obscenely high prices because, deep down inside, he hoped they wouldn’t sell. He was like the alcoholic that said he was done drinking while sipping away whenever he was alone. David was addicted to antiques.
He set up a small table on a patch of grass outside of his apartment, and after only a few minutes, a few people showed up.
“Lovely day for a sale,” said the old lady that approached him. “What have we got here?” She picked up a ceramic Arthur Fonzarelli figurine from Happy Days then made a shocked face when she looked at the sticker price. “$400! Who in the world would pay $400?!”
David snatched it out of her hands, “Give me that! Someone with excellent taste would know that’s a bargain!”
“You won’t sell a thing with prices and an attitude like that!” She stormed off.
David placed the figurine back on the table and another customer walked up. The man was in his 20s and was skinny as a rail. “Whoa, old stuff! Retro! Cool!” He picked up a Mork and Mindy picture frame. “Dude, is that Robin Williams?”
“Yes, and please be careful with it. It’s not a toy.”
“How much you want for it?”
“Well, the sticker says $200, so I don’t know, $200 maybe?” replied David rudely.
“No one’s gonna pay $200. I’d give you $5.” He reached into his pocket, but David snatched the frame and held it like an infant in his arms. “Get out of here! Now! You know nothing of the finer things in life!”
“Whoa, dude, you’re crazy!”
David put all of his stuff back into the box and quickly ran up to his apartment. He would never subject his precious items to such ridicule again. They were indeed priceless.
David Emami was getting tired of the hustle and bustle of living in Portland, Oregon, and was looking for a break from the madness. He had gone fishing when he was a child and really enjoyed it, so he decided to grab the pole he used as a boy, then he picked up some bait from the local market and headed out to the Sandy River in Troutdale, Oregon, which was just about 30 minutes from him.
It was cold and crisp in the morning. David watched as the buildings disappeared as he got closer and closer to his destination. The air seemed fresher and the noise faded into the distance.
When he arrived, he had the whole place to himself. Not a single person was to be seen. David was giddy with joy as he envisioned an entire day catching fish while eating the tuna and peanut butter sandwich he had prepared the night before.
“Now this is the life,” said David as he opened up a can of diet grape soda, his favorite kind. “Not a person for miles! Not a care in the world!”
Then, David felt something tug on his line. He pulled it, but it wouldn’t budge. “My goodness! Gee, by golly, gosh!” He kept pulling and reeling, and at last, it seemed to moving.
As he pulled and reeled, he noticed that the end of his line was not attached to a fish at all; it was attached to a dead deer. David dropped his pole out of fright, and the current pulled the deer back down the river, right along with David’s childhood fishing pole. “My pole!” He jumped into the water and waded up to his knees, but nearly lost his footing on the slimy rocks below. He watched as they both disappeared around a bend in the river. “Well, that’s just typical,” he said angrily.
David went back to the shore, shivering from the cold and soaking wet. He sat down on a rock and ate his tuna fish and peanut butter sandwich while sipping his soda. “This is by far the worst day of my life,” said David with a frown on his face. Actually, there were many more to come.
Since David Emami was a substitute school janitor, he occasionally had to pretend to be social. David liked his solitude and prefered to not talk to people, but sometimes, there was no way around it. Sometimes, he just had to talk with people.
One day, while substituting at an elementary school in Tualatin, a town near Portland, Oregon, David was mopping up vomit in the hallway while listening to his cassette tape player and humming the beat to “I’ve Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher. David was in his own little world until some little kid interrupted his groove.
David felt a tug on his Care Bears shirt, then looked down to find a short boy with curly blonde hair, thick glasses that sat perched on the tip of his nose, clothing that was not properly fitted, and a large, green booger that went in and out of his nose with each breath. “Hi, I’m Dillon,” said the little boy.
David couldn’t hear him over Sonny and Cher, so he pressed stop and and said, “What did you say?”
“Hi, I’m Dillon,” said the little boy.
“Good for you, now please leave me alone so I can continue working. Unlike you, I’m actually employed and contributing to the world.” David pressed play and belted out the line, “When I’m sad, you’re a clown, and if I get scared you’re always around.” Suddenly, the little boy tugged again at David’s shirt. Annoyed, David pressed stop again and said, “What on earth do you want, tiny human?”
“I like your shirt,” he said with a smile on his face.
“You should really blow your nose. It’s disgusting.”
Dillon wiped his nose on his sleeve, leaving a slimy trail behind.
“Good heavens! Were you raised by wolves?” David pulled out a wet rag and cleaned the boy’s sleeve as well as he could.
“Thank you, Mister.”
“My name’s David,” he replied rather annoyed.
“I like your name.”
David couldn’t fight the boy’s charm any longer. “Well, thank you. And thank you for noticing my shirt. It’s my favorite. Well, it’s my second favorite actually. My favorite would be my Betty Boop shirt that I got while in Indiana in 1979.”
The little boy just stared at David, then said, “I gotta go now. Bye.”
“Have a lovely day,” replied David. David smiled as the tiny human walked away.
David Emami loved Christmas shopping. Each year, he showered himself and his cats with curious gifts and novelty items that varied from priceless antiques to gag gifts. This year, David went to the Lloyd Center, a large mall in Portland, Oregon.
It was bitingly cold out, so David wore his large black trench coat, an orange scarf, and his winter beanie which read, “Where’s the Beef?” from an old Wendy’s promotion in the 1980s. David never cared what he looked like, even if he looked rather odd.
The mall was crowded and the lines were long everywhere. David looked at the enormous Christmas decorations hanging and said, “What a delight! This is just gorgeous!” David went straight to Nostalgia Time and, after browsing a bit, decided to buy himself a t-shirt with Sherman Hemsley on it from The Jeffersons, some ALF slippers, and a backpack with the Happy Days logo on it. David couldn’t wait to try them on, but knew he would have to unwrap them on Christmas morning before he could enjoy them.
He then went to the Fancy Cats store, a favorite of his. He remembered that when he wanted to have a formal dinner with his cats the month before, he didn’t have evening gowns for them, so that’s what he wanted to buy. He bought both of them matching red, flowing gowns, and imagined having a candlelit dinner over the table with his best friends. Fred and Barbra Streisand would love their new gifts, he thought.
He then decided that he should probably get something for his daughter, Becky, and his granddaughter, Laura (though he rarely saw them anyway). He was less enthusiastic about their gifts, and simply got Becky a teal fanny pack and Laura a pair of pink socks.
With his arms full and a smile on his face, David walked back to his Toyota Previa minivan, went home, wrapped the presents, and placed them lovingly under the tree. “Just wait till you see what what you got,” he said to his cats as they slept.
He looked at his gifts, and couldn’t resist the urge, so he ripped the paper off of his slippers and quickly put them on. “I deserved that,” he said as he turned on A Charlie Brown Christmas.
When Thanksgiving ends, Christmas time begins for David. The very next day, he grabbed all of his boxes which were neatly stacked in his closet and began opening them up excitedly as if it was his first time seeing them.
He lovingly pulled out antique glass ornaments, garland, and enough gold and silver tinsel to cover a forest. Each and every year, David Emami added a treasure to his Christmas display, and this year, it was a glowing ceramic tree that he had purchased from an antique fair for $200. For David, it was money well spent.
David placed the lights around the house and began flooding his apartment with lights and decorations. He shook the dust off of his fake tree and put it up, scaring his cats away in the process. Quickly, his apartment was becoming a winter wonderland while the Perry Como Christmas album played on his record player. It was absolute bliss for David.
Suddenly, David’s apartment door flew open unexpectedly, and a crazed woman with wild hair ran inside, darted across his living room, and found refuge hiding in the corner next to David’s television. David nearly had a heart attack and thought for sure he was about to be murdered.
“They’re after me! They’re coming to take me away! Please help me, sir!” She was probably in her 40s and looked ragged and weary. She cried and screamed uncontrollably.
“Who the heck are you? Why are you in my apartment?” Even the cats were hissing at her. David walked toward her and stared at her while she sobbed. “You can’t just barge into someone’s apartment like that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”
“The FBI wants me dead! Don’t tell them I’m here! Please!”
“You’re crazy, lady! Now get out before I call the police!”
“No, please, no! They’re just going to take me back and do experiments on me! Like this!” She pulled her gums back to show her rotting teeth. “They put trackers in my teeth! They won’t leave me alone!”
Suddenly, 2 police officers ran into the apartment and one yelled, “She’s in here!” They ran up to her while she was screaming and kicking, and David just watched in horror. “Come on, Shirley! No one wants to hurt you!” She reached for David’s new ceramic Christmas tree and threw it, shattering it against the wall.
“Sorry, sir,” said the other officer as they yanked her out of the room. “Might want to keep that door locked in the future.”
And then the room was quiet, save for the cool sounds of Perry Como. David looked at his newly purchased antique, which was in pieces all over the floor. He angrily picked it up, feeling as if his perfect evening had been ruined.
David received a call for substitute work at a local elementary school, so he quickly got up and hopped into the shower. David usually showered after work, but since he hadn’t showered in nearly a week, he decided he should do himself and others a favor by giving himself a good rinse.
To his shock, the water was freezing cold and the water heater was clearly not working. David jumped out completely naked and screamed, “What is this?! A third world country?!” He shivered as he dried off, then decided to call up work to tell them he wasn’t coming in.
“There’s been a terrible emergency. I just can’t come in today.” He hung up the phone, then quickly dialed the repairman, Pablo. “You need to get over here now!” He argued awhile, then said, “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll be expecting you in an hour.”
David reluctantly put on some clothes, then waited until Pablo arrived an hour later.
“You water heater not work?” asked Pablo.
“Good heavens, Pablo. Speak English!” David wasn't the most sensitive of sorts.
“I try to learn,” he said meekly.
“Well, try harder!”
Pablo went and tinkered with the water heater while David watched over his shoulder, completely invading Pablo’s personal space.
After a minute or two, David asked, “Well, can you fix it?”
Pablo stood up and announced, “We need buy new one. This one old and not work no more.”
David was irate. “What am I supposed to do until then? Die in my own stink?”
“Warm water on stove. I do that in Guatemala.”
“This isn’t Guate-whatever you said. This is Portland, Oregon!”
David was thrilled when he found a coupon in his mail for $5 off of a Hungry Man frozen dinner 12 pack at Costco, and he immediately jumped into his car to go and claim this incredible bargain. David Emami usually tried to stay out of the Portland Costco on a Saturday because it was always insanely busy, but when a good deal is at stake, David wastes no time.
David showed his Costco card proudly as he went inside, and was immediately bombarded with people, huge displays of technology, and the smells of food samples. David went straight to the food section because he couldn’t go into a Costco without trying all of their samples.
His first sample was a corn dog, cut up into small, bite-size pieces. “Why would you offer samples on frozen corn dogs,” asked David with his mouth full of food. “It’s not like we don’t know what they taste like,” he added.
“They’re on sale today! 40 of them for $10! Right down the aisle to my left!”
“No one could possibly eat that many corn dogs!” David walked away, eager to try something more exotic. He stopped at a station offering frozen tuna melts. “Now that looks delicious!” David popped a piece into his mouth and was immediately disappointed. Like a child, he bent over the trash can that was only inches from the man serving them and hacked and coughed until it all fell out. He then grabbed a napkin and scraped his tongue, trying to get the taste out. “That was putrid! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“I just heat up the food, bro,” said the man, who was clearly not happy to be there in the first place. “No need to make a scene.”
“Oh, I’ll make a scene if I want! Someone has to warn these sheep that this food is inedible!” David shook his head in disgust and then heard the sound of a blender in the distance. His mouth watered as he saw a demonstrator blending up a smoothie and he knew he had to try it.
The man told the audience all about the product, but no one really cared, as they truly just wanted a free smoothie. When David got his tiny cup, he gulped it down and swallowed. He winced and exclaimed, “Is there urine in this? It’s terrible!” He threw his cup away, grabbed his frozen Hungry Man meals, and then waited for nearly 30 minutes to check out. He promised himself he’d never step foot in a Costco again.
David’s daughter, Becky, and his granddaughter, Laura, decided to spend another Thanksgiving day at the home of David’s ex-wife, Rita. This left David alone for the holiday yet again, which was exactly how he liked it.
David despised cooking and almost just threw a turkey Hungry Man frozen meal into the microwave as he had done in previous years, but when he saw a special at his local grocery store for a complete Thanksgiving dinner for 4 people for only $59, he decided to splurge.
His mouth watered as he picked up his turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie from the store just before they closed on Thanksgiving Day. When he came home, his cats, Fred and Barbra Streisand, were very interested in the new smells, and David was happy to accommodate them.
“Not until you’re properly dressed for Thanksgiving Day,” he said sternly. David put fancy cat dresses on them, and even put his prized sparkling ruby red shoes on Barbra Streisand. “You’re a diva, so you should be dressed as such,” he exclaimed as he put the shoes on his cat while she bit at his hand and hissed at him.
David prepared the table and carefully placed all items on it in an orderly fashion. He used his finest silverware, napkins, and plates. It was one of the few days of the year that he actually sat at a table instead of the couch.
He placed a little bit of everything on the plates for his cats, then dished up his own plate. His cats nervously sniffed around, and settled on the turkey alone. David took a big first bite, chewed it a bit, then spit it out onto his plate. He fished around his mouth with his tongue, then, with disgust, pulled out an entire fake fingernail that had fallen off into the gravy.
“Disgusting! This ruins everything!” David wanted to vomit. He looked at the rest of the food and knew it was of no use. “To hell with it, then!” He grabbed all of the containers, some still sealed, and promptly dumped them into the trash. “Happy Thanksgiving to the garbage can!”
He looked outside with anger in his heart and noticed the homeless man that lived in the vacant lot next to his apartment complex, Lonny. David scraped the food out of his trash can, put it on a plate, and walked outside toward Lonny.
“Want some food?” he asked.
“Sure! Thanks, man! God bless!” Lonny couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’m sure you’ll enjoy it more than I did, said David as he walked away.
David went inside and heated up his frozen turkey Hungry Man meal and enjoyed it on the couch while his cats fell asleep at his feet, fat from their hearty feast.
David Emami’s car was getting old. It was a rusted white 1983 Datsun station wagon with 400,000 miles on it. David received the car as an inheritance from his father; the only thing he received from him of value.
David had been meaning to get a new car for years, but the thing kept moving, so he kept putting it off. Finally, after having to put a new quart of oil into the car each and every morning, he decided it was time. He got into his vehicle for the last time and puttered away toward a dealership down the freeway in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
When David pulled up, a man in a spiffy suit and perfectly parted brown hair greeted him. David was very impressed by his professional appearance and was quickly convinced that this man could be trusted.
“Welcome to Pronto Auto! What can I do for you today?” David felt as if he had just inherited his own personal butler.
“Well, I’m looking to trade this old gal in for a better car. I’d pay the difference, of course.”
The salesman looked at the Datsun, which was dripping oil by the spoonful all over the parking lot. “Wow, that thing has a few miles on it, doesn’t it?”
“And lots of great memories. Lots of antique shows, I tell ya!”
“Well, let’s find you something else that can continue to take you to many more antique shows for years to come.” The salesman walked David around the lot, showing him the bells and whistles of all the new models.
“I actually want something simple and cute,” he said. “Like an old lady all dressed up for a night on the town.”
The salesman smiled and said, “I know just what you mean.” He walked him to the back of the lot, far beyond the allure of the shiny models in the front. It was basically the abyss of the lot, where all the cars they were ashamed of were parked.
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