I remember as a boy sitting in the kitchen and my mom handing me a Klondike bar. It was my first time seeing one and when I asked what it was, my dad with all of his class just chimed in, loudly stating “SHIT ON A SHINGLE”.
He was just making a joke and all, but I still wouldn’t discover what “shit on a shingle” was till almost twenty years later when I lived and worked on sixth st in San Francisco. One of the places I worked was a Bar called the “Arrow”. I worked at night, but we had a bar tender during the day who lived in one of the SRO’s on the block, and his building was conveniently located right next door.
You know, I can’t even remember this dudes name, but he was a little fellow, bout 5’2, in his 50’s who when he was younger, was a cook in the army. Jim…. his name was Jim…I think, anywho.
Me and Jim would get to talking bout this and that and one day…some how, shit on a shingle came up… I may have mentioned it, he may have, who knows. Jim said he could cook this for me. How?
He lived in a fucking eight by ten room with only a sink. I lived in one of those SRO’s when I first got to the city. No kitchen, bathroom/shower down the hall, and at 2am when you couldn’t be bothered to go down the hall, you used the little sink you had in the corner. Since there was no kitchen you had a hotplate, or a little toaster oven. I remember in the winter round six in the evening when everyone was coming home from work cranking their heaters and cooking up dinner on a hot plate, the building’s fuse boxes would just start cutting out. You would be in the middle of cooking so you run down the hall, flip the switch knowing full well that you would probably be back two or three times before the evening was thru.
This was the environment the man had to work with. You could scramble eggs, heat up soup or tea, but biscuits and gravy from scratch? I was skeptical. According to Jim, shit on a shingle is white gravy with bits of sausage or beef, over biscuits or wonderbread. Jim kept shit classy with a preference of sausage gravy over biscuits that he made himself. In fact he claimed to make everything from scratch in his little eight by ten room.
Well hell, Jim wants to slave away in that closet of a room and make shit on a shingle for me, who the fuck was I to stop him?
So one slow night at the bar me, Big Dave, and Terry son were throwing back several shots of Cuervo. If ever there was a physical embodiment of Marv from Sin City, Dave was him. Dave was a mixed latino dude who worked the door. He was wild and aggressively friendly, but not to be played with, and the drunker he got, the better he fought.
Terry was a low profile black dude who was real close to me. He was an MP in Desert Storm, quiet and chill, he could sit next to you for hours at a time without giving you so much as word or even a glance. That was just how he crept, but if you were out of line, he was swift.
Earlier that night Terry was working the door at the bar down the street when some crackhead tried pushing past him to come in. We all knew this crackhead from the block. She would strut around with her skirt so high you could see her bush hanging out. She was currently pregnant and you could smell the alcohol on her breath as she opened her mouth wide screaming bloody murder, and waving her arms as to shoo Terry out of her way. Terry just turned around and punched her in the face so fast, I didn’t even think he saw it coming, so you know the woman had to be surprised. You know how on Happy Days, Fonzy would just bang the jukebox to turn it on and off? Well thats what Terry just did. A quick POP!, and the whole ruckas came to a grinding halt as she stood there for a second, frozen and staring right at him.
She was still in the doorway when she started yelling “YOU WRONG, YOU WRONG!!”. She couldn’t even get another move in as Terry wanted to wrap this up; asap. He pushed her out the door hitting her in the head again making her spin before she finally fell flat on her stomach on the sidewalk. Terry quickly locked the door behind her and we both went to the door’s windows looking out at the sidewalk. There she laid still not moving, I just look at Terry and said “isn’t she pregnant?”. Terry responded “I don’t know, but if so, then it sucks to be her”. We looked each other in the eye and started laughing as I offered the next round on me.
We weren’t laughing at what just happened to the lady, no that’s terrible. Our blood just got pumping so fast, from 0-60 in a split second. One minutes it’s another quiet and without any warning BAM!, surprise bitches!!! I wasn’t the one do the fighting, but I felt all jacked up so I knew Terry must had been feeling it in his chest.
I didn’t like what just happened any more than the crackhead. But that block was fucked up, and if I was to maintain any sanity, I had to come to the understanding that we are all adults and if someone chooses to ruin their life, that’s their business, and it does come with consequences. Keep in mind that we were just a couple of kids then, and we just reckoned that she’ll be alright, and if she loses the baby, it was probably best for everyone.
So after work was done we were back at the bar I worked at drinking with Big Dave. Just the three of us sitting around acting unfazed by the events of the evening. Just then Jim came in with a tupperwear container, and walked up to me with a grin on his face. “What the fuck is this?”. He gets serious, like he’s offended that I dont already know. “that is shit on a shingle boy”.
I smile big and open it up, and it is; it’s shit on a muthafuckin shingle. Before I can even turn around Dave is right at my shoulder insisting to try some. I share with Dave and Terry while Jim just smiles proudly at the site of us eating with pleasure.
Living on that block made you numb to the day to day horrors that you ran across yet at the same time made moments like this seem like a god send.