This is going to seem like it’s coming out of left field, but we have a new janitor at work. And his name is Rico.
Every time I hear his name it takes me back to winter 1996. Picture it, if you will. Chuck and I had just gotten our first apartment together in Portland, Maine. I had a job as an editor at a gourmet food magazine, which is pretty surprising since I once tried to use turkey breasts to make chicken parm. Chutney? What the hell is chutney?
We got an apartment on a hilly street in Portland (if you’ve ever been to Maine and have experienced ice storms, you know that this was a bad idea). The rent was cheap, only $375, but there were concessions. Not only did we have plastic on the windows, we had Styrofoam under the plastic. We could see the basement through the floor boards in the living room, which was actually convenient because I didn’t have to walk downstairs to see whether or not the washing machine was free. The next door neighbor liked the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz so much that she jimmied little men out of aluminum cans and hung them on her porch. A fleet of them. Cold, clanging tin = really fucking annoying.
Chuck hates the winter, so he bought himself a few LLBean thermal underwear suits (you know the kind where you can unbutton the ass?), and I would torture him with my cold hands. Amazingly, he stayed. Ah, young love.
Our landlords, who lived above us, were Carol and Rico (aha, so here's where Rico comes in). They were both chefs at a restaurant downtown, and when they stayed in and cooked, the smells that used to waft down their stairs were amazing. Chuck and I would sit by their door with our mouths wide open and wait for morsels of food to blow across their kitchen floor.
Fine, that’s an exaggeration but not by much. Remember how I said I wanted to birth a banana nut bread? That’s nothing new. Our cupboards were stocked with fancy sauces and rubs (I was the new products editor so people sent me samples all the time) and I didn’t know what the hell to do with them. We were so close to being culinarily satisfied. So….close…
Thankfully, wine saved us.
Rico also liked wine. And gin. And vodka.
And every Sunday night, Carol would let him go downtown and get as hammered as he wanted, as long as he took a taxi home.
So there’s me and Chuck our first week in the apartment, quivering under blankets, looking out our only non-Styrofoamed window, and what do we see? A drunk Rico sliding down the driveway, cursing the ice and snow, tripping on shovels, yelling at the tin men to “shut the fuck up already!”
I’ll never forget his bobbing head. Chuck and I would just stop and stare. After a few months though, it wasn’t such a sight. It started to feel like, this is the way things are supposed to be. Like the fog horn and annoying tourists and rocks through the new Starbucks’ window (remember when people actually hated Starbucks?): It became part of the Portland landscape.
So today, as my boss was telling the office that we have to dress up as reindeer for the company Christmas party (oh fricken joy!), I was looking at Rico as he emptied my recycling bin, and all the while I was trying to think how the following conversation might go:
“I knew a Rico once…”