Dad was ambitious to a fault. Acquiring a newspaper dealership in a brand-spanking-new suburb was great (honestly, I don’t recall any more than the usual amount of spanking). But it would be some time before enough customers lived there to put gas in our two cars and tuna in our three cats. Newspaper dealers were expected to not only hire paper boys and collect subscriptions, but continuously build up their territory.
So, along with sending “Welcome” letters and knocking on doors (I write about that here), Dad sought other ways of expanding his business in brand-spanking (or at least stern-talking-to) new La Mirada.
Result? He took on the local “rack route.” This consisted of placing newspaper racks at outlets like drug stores and coffee shops. Every day, Dad would stock the racks with papers, put new headline cards in them (“Space Race Heats Up!”), and empty their cash slots of shiny new dimes and nickels!
For a while, I snagged rare me-and-Dad time by riding along on this rack route. We’d talk, sing “My Friend the Witch Doctor” along with the radio, and shout “Tequila!” each time the sax solo stopped. And then I’d help Dad restock the racks, and get a cold Dr. Pepper (my drug of choice) as a reward.
But my absolute favorite stop was “Gus’s liquor store.” Dad would greet the owner while I talked to Pretty Boy the mynah bird, who blithely greeted customers as they entered. But the titular event would come when anyone asked Pretty Boy, “Where’s Gus?” and initiate the greatest recurring comedy bit in cross-species history!
Pretty Boy would screech, “Here, Gus!” in his best mock-human voice. And a moment later, Gus the hound dog, dubious protector of all things hooch, would come loping in, and look groggily up at the owner. The owner would say, “Don’t look at me, Gus, I didn’t call you.” And then Gus, who to his dying day never dreamed that birds could talk, would–after a sympathetic head pat or two–lope lazily back into the storage room. At which point, Pretty Boy would guffaw “Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” till the cows (and other gullible species) came home.
No one will ever convince me that bird didn’t know exactly what he was doing. And so did I when I spent time with Dad, Pretty Boy…