adventures in cooking

Gary, an urban legend

To understand Gary, you have to know a few things about him. Gary’s voice was a cross between Mushmouth from Fat Albert and a sloppy French accent. Add in his use of very localized Ebonics and speaking at a high rate of speed and the gibberish is something that takes years of practice to translate. I didn’t have years, we didn’t go to school together, except for a short period of time we didn’t hang out regularly. We worked together at the local supermarket for two years and we weren’t close. Everyone knew Gary, that was one thing you quickly learned about him, the man knew how to get around.
By the time I had met Gary at Meijer he was already a bit of a legend but not in the way that he would have liked. There were dreams of becoming a professional football player but in his words, he was never given the chance to show his skills. He took steroids and swelled up so fast he had stretch marks covering his biceps. Football was a dead-end road at the end of high school and Gary had no plan B. His athletic abilities showed in the classroom though.
At St Monica’s I went to school with another kid named Cam. He was overweight like me, came from a white trash family, and didn’t have the best of luck in life. His dad was a biker and both of his parents were insanely large people who could have produced the next Andre the Giant. As two white trash fat kids in the same prep school there wasn’t room for the two of us. We had a feud those years and it would be years before we ran into each other again and buried the hatchet. After St. Monica’s Cam transferred to Loy Norrix and he was in a place he wasn’t familiar with even though he should have fit in. Switching from a private school to a public school after having only one black classmate in eight years was a bad idea.
Cam and Gary detested one another right away. The two would go back and forth and one day Cam slipped calling Gary a stupid nigger and that was when all hell broke loose. Nate and Rob were in class that day and as they described it, Gary soared through the air, over five rows of desk, colliding his fist with Cam’s face. The desk tipped over pinning Cam on the ground and leaving Gary towering over him raining down punches with the teacher unable to react. The teacher stood in front of the room panicking, asking Gary to “stop it” and the assault continued until Gary was finished. Cam never called Gary a nigger again.
I ran into Cam at the local strip club one of the nights Nate was paying Jordan’s rent. We talked for a bit and he was working as a tow truck driver. We laughed about the fights we used to get into and he asked what I was up to? He made fun of me being a cook and I asked if he knew Gary. Cam instantly tensed up and pretended the two of them were friends. That was the last time I ever ran into Cam.
All four years of high school Gary had the same girlfriend. As far as I knew he never cheated on her but things went down hill senior year between the two of them. When Gary was born there was a birth defect. The doctor had told his mom that he would never be able to have kids and that was the end of the story. However senior year his girlfriend, a short blonde that adored his dumb ass, found herself pregnant. Every bad way of handling the situation happened. Gary accused her of cheating, starting fucking other people, and for nine months tormented her at school letting everyone know she was a cheating bitch. Then the paternity test came back. Gary, you are the father!
He tried to make amends and wanted her back but after the hell he put her through she wanted nothing to do with him, except child support. Gary never received a football scholarship, he wasn’t drafted to the NFL, he was lucky to receive his diploma after being kicked off the football team for failing classes. Gary’s mom decided to sue the doctor for child support saying it was his fault that Gary got a girl pregnant thinking it wasn’t possible. As you can imagine that was thrown out of court.
When I ran into Gary again, two years after Meijer, he was living in the same apartment complex as me. There was the free pipe tobacco from the cigars he would dump out while rolling blunts. He would eat anything you had in the house but his own fridge was a toxic waste dump of micro bio experiments that had gone wrong. His television sat on top of his old floor model television. There was one chair in his apartment and the mattress sat on the floor by itself. He worked down the street at Summit Polymers, he had no car, was behind on child support, but he always had weed. There was a long line of girls that he was seeing at the same time. The list of things wrong with them was just as long. Drug addicts, obesity, anorexia, cursed with falling down the ugly tree, shitty human beings, and depressed psychos were among the list. Gary made them sound like the most beautiful women in the world and when you saw them your body shuttered.
“Gary, how the hell…”
“Matt, ugly girls need love too. Besides they all look the same in the dark.”
And that was how Gary made sure he was always getting some love somewhere. Over course he never learned his lesson and the 16-year-old redhead two buildings over was pregnant. She needed $300 for an abortion and Gary pawned his Play Station 2. Three months later she was pregnant again. Gary tried doing the same stupid shit of accusing her of cheating then quickly changed his tune. He liked this redhead and they would try to make things work. The girl quickly smartened up and left Gary to have the child on her own and filed for child support. Then Gary lost his job at Summit.
Things were never good for Gary. He dreamed big and the payout never happened. With Nate and Rob, he was the token black guy that you could count on to always have weed and would be your wing man taking the ugly friend home while you hoped to score with the hottie. When it came to helping Gary out when things went bad there was never anyone there for him. He was always on his own and that only made things worse for him.
The military seemed like a good option for him. Making order out of chaos and paying his child support, it appeared to be a good idea. Gary signed up for the Marines and filled out all the paperwork. He went out and had a tattoo of the marine corps seal put on his shoulder. This was going to be the rest of his life. In Lansing, Gary and a group of men were staying at a hotel waiting to be sworn in the next morning. The recruiter had gathered everyone into a hall and played Saving Private Ryan on a projection TV.
“Pay attention, this is what you have to look forward to.”
The opening scene was the invasion of Normandy. Body parts flew in the air. Men tried to push their intestines back into their bodies. A man walked around carrying his arm looking for other body parts. Medics were shot trying to take care of the wounded.
Gary and a few other men said “fuck this” and snuck out in the middle of the night. Gary was never sworn in and he went into hiding. I don’t think the Marine Corps considered him much of a loss.
I ran into Gary a few years later. My wife and I were leaving for our honeymoon the next day and Gary had seen us outside of a shop called Scone Zone. He stopped in and we chatted for an hour. Gary was living with his mom on the northside of town. He had just bought a new car before seeing us, a ten-year-old Cadillac that looked good but when I asked how the motor ran…
“Matt, let me explain something to you. You know I’m black right?”
“I had no idea.”
“Matt, as a black man we do things differently. We fix our cars from the trunk to the front. If it doesn’t have tunes, it broke. If it doesn’t have speakers, it broke. If it doesn’t have bass, it broke. If it doesn’t have rims, it broke.”
“Gary, if the engine doesn’t run the rest of that shit doesn’t matter.”
“Matt, you ain’t listening. From the trunk to the front. It’s a good car I checked it out myself.”
Gary was in the middle of a law suit against the last people to sell him a car. A dodge Neon that had a bad transmission and stopped running after a week.
“Those mother fuckers had to know. There is no way they didn’t know.” He lost that lawsuit and the one for the Cadillac he just bought. A month after I saw him the transmission went out and his boombox on wheels was a pile of crap sitting in the parking lot.
I ran into Rob a year later at the quarter bin in the only local comic shop in town. We flipped through thousands of comics looking for those rare gems that somehow made it into the bin.
“Have you heard from Gary?” I asked.
“He’s in jail.”
“Child support?”
“No, well that too.” We laughed.
Rob went on to tell me about how Gary was still living with his mom at one of the low-income housing complexes on the northside of town. One night, while his mom was at work, Gary ran out of the house with his gun after the car alarm went off. He kept the theft there until the cops showed up. The only problem was that nobody could understand Gary. The man had tried to get into his car after leaving a party and owned the same year, make and model of car that Gary owned. The only problem was that he went to the wrong car and the key didn’t work. Next thing he knew a crazy man speaking gibberish was aiming a gun at him. The cops pulled their guns on Gary until he put his down. They tackled him and cuffed him while he screamed the other guy was trying to steal his car. Gary had an unregistered gun and was behind on child support for all of his kids. Gary was arrested for being a black man on a Friday night. That’s not true. He was a dead beat. I wouldn’t trust him with my wife. You couldn’t rely on him for anything. He couldn’t have avoided everything by joining the military but I’m sure that would have been screwed up in some way as well. Plus 9-11 happened less than a year after he was supposed to be sworn in. He thought he had dodged a bullet, but in prison the military looks like a vacation.
That was the last time I had heard anything about Gary. That was the last time I heard a lot of things. He was always spitting out new terms like “slinging deals” which of course sounded like “slingin deas” and I had to have him repeat it five times until somebody else translated. I have never met anyone to this day that could speak the mush mouth gibberish that he spoke. It was his own language and it didn’t serve him well. Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to him but I’m scared to find out. I’d like to think that he still has his harem of girls that only he could love. Maybe he landed a good job that he would be able to keep without flunking a drug test. There aren’t too many options for a man like Gary. The best he could hope for is being the urban legend that he is. He’s no Luke Cage but to the women who like him he was an iron man and unlike the comics Gary was real. That was Gary’s talent, keeping it real and sometimes a little too real.